Hello! I’m working on the background for my Bard character, which also to some extent describes and fleshes out not just my character, but also how “show business” operates in my D&D world (subject to final approval by our dm of course). I’m looking for people’s input in fleshing out my idea, and ANY help is appreciated!
Essentially, show business in the world is very competitive/cutthroat, with performers having to deal with other performers (both “real” bards and regular performers) using various tactics, magical and otherwise, to get ahead and/or to sabotage others. For example, my bard (more of an actor/standup type of bard instead of dancing or musical) is young, not in a college yet, and pretty naturally talented, thus getting both the attention, and envy, of other performers who feel threatened by him.
I’m envisioning my character to have dealt with (and/or to deal with in the future) things like other performers doing things like using their connections, lies, gossip, etc., to make it difficult to get gigs, but then DURING my performance, bards using various cantrips or spells to distract me, make me look bad, or perhaps even using spells on the audience to try to change if they like my act or not.
Long story short, essentially my character recently humiliated a rather well-known performer mid-performance after finding out that this guy screwed my character over, and decides that, while he is going to try to join the College of Lore for protection and to, as the PHB says, “expose corruption,” he has also decided that he is tired of this type of “paying dues,” and is going to both defend himself and fight back against performers who mess with him.
This is my first time playing D&D, and while I’ve done a lot of research, I don’t have the playing experience and I want to make sure that I do things in line with how this game works, that I don’t make any incorrect assumptions or decisions regarding how certain spells work, etc., and I want to do this in a way that doesn’t make things overly complicated or confusing for me, the DM, and the other players. Therefore:
Lore-wise, (and not that there’s a right answer to this stuff, I’m just asking for your input from your experience or creativity) what overall/general laws, common practices, or cultural aspects govern how things like this type of stuff would be handled in D&D? For example, there has to be some sort of limit on this kind of behavior, otherwise there’s the potential for every bard’s performance to turn into full-out battle, and I don’t want that. Do these various cities and villages have police that deal with magical crimes, or is that left to the Colleges (and/or the innkeepers and nobles who book and house the performers)?
What kind of spells would work/not work for various forms of “magical heckling?” (For example, one idea that came to mind would be Bard A, sitting in Bard B’s audience, using the Message cantrip to distract Bard B while Bard B is onstage. Is that still in line with how Message works, or is it generally assumed that Message only works if the 2 people know and/or aren’t hostile toward each other? In other words, is the above situation possible, or would Bard B be unaffected and wouldn’t hear Bard A as he doesn’t know or isn’t friends with Bard B?)
What would be some good spells/cantrips, both bard and non-bard, to have my character seek to acquire to prevent/protect himself and/or the audience from being affected by his enemies’ magic? Obviously things like counterspell, suggestion, etc., but what about random spells used perhaps differently than normally intended? Could I use Leomund’s Tiny Hut onstage, choose no color for the outside and thus prevent any spells from anyone outside it to affect me but still allow me to perform? What about non-bard spells/cantrips that could be acquired via Magical Secrets?
Since one of the challenges I’m setting up for myself includes the possibility of others making it hard for me to get gigs, could I/should I make any changes to the “By Popular Demand” feature that would acknowledge I may not “always find a place to perform,” but I could get something else that could help me?
On the off-chance anyone has played or DM'd any games that dealt with a scenario similar to this (even as vaguely similar as just a character dealing with competition from other people in the same class/profession), do you have any tips?
Any questions, concerns, recommendations, etc. about my idea?
Very neat idea! Sort of like modern day Hollywood, but with magic, I'd think. When it comes to lore and what works in the world, you'll have to work with your DM on this. Maybe you have enemies in a single town and it's only an issue when you're in said town. Or maybe a diva wants your act cancelled for good and has goons after you. It's all up to your DM on how involved they want things to be. Don't forget, there are other PCs' stories that have to be fitted into the campaign. The same thing can be said about your background feature--work with your DM until you have something you're both happy with!
Now, for spells. This I can weigh in on. To sabotage others message used creatively is a good idea. I can see mage hand (moving things behind stage), prestidigitation (you can soil anything within 10ft, so why not your rival's pants?), or vicious mockery would also help achieve this effect while also being helpful while you adventure. Really, I'd just choose cantrips you like and use them creatively to achieve the desired effect. Same with the spells you start with!
You have a solid concept for a character so just do what seems fun and is allowed by your DM!
100% behind this idea. You seem to have gotten yourself a good start, and I think letting your DM riff on things from there would be the best way to go. Inevitably there will be opposing factions, people caught in the middle, and high drama that will ensue. Just let things start happening, and as they do maybe talk with your DM after the game about where you'd like things to go, suggest how YOU think it could go. Maybe there's bars that prohibit interference under harsh penalty (fine halls might have guards that protect the performances magically even). Maybe there's people who get fully blacklisted and have serious negative consequences.
As for spells: Dancing lights is great for improving your performance, and also having "BOO!"(assuming your DM allows for the "orbs" to take the shape of a letter) flash in giant neon letters behind someone you hate. Friendswill charm someone for one minute. They'll hate you afterwards, but if you're using it to mess up their performance, they were going to hate you anyway. Make them befriend you, invite you on stage, and then they sit down in the crowd while you rock out (fully knowing they're going to turn ALL their powers against you) Message: For when you want to heckle someone, but not let anyone else know you're doing it. Minor Illusion: Make a small illusion. Seems pretty helpful.
All of the above spells are also great for your own performances getting enhanced as well.
Thanks so much for the responses and support so far! I really appreciate the recommendations!!!
One of the things I'm focusing on now are spells to counter anyone trying to mess with my performances. What would be some good spells/cantrips, both bard and non-bard, to have my character seek to acquire to prevent/protect himself and/or the audience from being affected by his enemies’ magic? Obviously things like counterspell, suggestion, etc., but what about random spells used perhaps differently than normally intended? Could I use Leomund’s Tiny Hut onstage, choose no color for the outside and thus prevent any spells from anyone outside it to affect me but still allow me to perform? What about non-bard spells/cantrips that could be acquired via Magical Secrets?
What are some good ways to protect from the spells and situations you guys mentioned?
It depends on what you're countering. I'm going to work with the assumption that you won't be hit with obvious damage (like weapon or spell attacks). Just think about the effects you would try to inflict on your rivals and how you would counter that.
If you want to stop light physical objects (tomatoes come to mind) from getting to you, mage hand and unseen servant may be able to run some interference.
For magic effects, I want to say Bless for a buff vs saving throws, but the bard doesn't learn it without Mystic Secrets. You do learn bane, but it's more helpful in offense than defense, especially if enemies may force you to roll saving throws. Guidance may be helpful if you get hit with any debuff on performance checks.
I would also have some illusion spells. Someone puts a bad illusion on your stage? Upstage it with your own!
Hmm...your character concept seems VERY suited for the College of Whispers, since it's a subclass designed specifically for sabotage. Impersonating or imitating other individuals, infiltrating and undermining groups...perhaps a tad sinister, but effective.
Mage Hand, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, and Vicious Mockery are perfect cantrips for messing with sight and moving around objects...if you take the Actor feat, you can imitate other people's voices. Coupled with Vicious Mockery, you could both disadvantage target while deflecting the blame to someone whose voice you're imitating.
Of course, the bard-iest spells tend to be in line with your concepts, such as Tasha's Hideous Laughter, or Otilukes Irresistible Dance.
Make 'em dance and laugh at the worst moments. Multi-class to sorcerer for metamagic, and use Subtle Spell so they don't know where the spell is coming from.
Great ideas! The thing with me is that I only want to do the sabotage stuff as revenge/self defense, which is why I was thinking College of Lore over College of Whispers. So for spells I'm looking for stuff that focuses on negation and blocking, so I don't "backstory my way into a corner" and make performing impossible.
For example, if someone tries to use the Message cantrip on me as a distraction, is there any way I can NOT hear the message and/or block it? Until I get like Antimagic Field, I suppose I could "Hold" the action of using Dispel Magic until a spell like that is cast on me, but I just want to make sure I'm not forgetting other defensive spells or rules about how spells work if used in this way (sabotage/countersabotage).
I just thought of a new possible counter: Sleep and Blindness/Deafness. Besides canceling the spell itself, you can try to make it so the spell cannot target you. Some spells (many divination spells) are blocked by substances, like lead. Others require the target (you) to be seen by the caster or that the target hear the caster's words (the command spell). If the saboteur is blind...any spell requiring them to see you cannot be cast. Same if they're asleep. Both require you to be able to identify the saboteur, though. Alternatively, you can always cast deafness on yourself, blocking a lot of spells that require command words to be heard. That has its own drawbacks.
Things like message can be blocked with items such as a ring of mind shielding. Using counterspell on a cantrip seems kind of like a waste.