I recently have read the unfinished series "In the Name of the Wind" by Rothfuss (awesome by the way) and have a new appreciation of the bard character. Yet I am no musical talent nor have the foresight or initiative to come up with anything for the various tavern's visited beyond, "there is a bard" which, when it comes down to it, sort of sucks. Would be nice to throw this at them.
I am a huge fan of subs like this that add depth and flavor to the world without commitment. You can slap this in any campaign without affecting it on the macro scale while still adding to the world beyond the PCs.
Also would be fun if you had a bard in the group. When the DM has this in his toolbox then when the PC bard says "I sing for gold" the DM counter and ask, "OK, give me an overview of what you will do and a couple lines because you have to try out against this other bard that already asked to play here."
Not that one needs to make such a banal distinction among flowers as to have favorites but if I did it would be #11 is my favorite, then followed by 24-26, you were really on a roll there. And I think #6 was the most interesting of the mini stories. I think this is a very useful, well organized, well written and hard laborerd sub. I have read it more than once, more than twice and really wrestled with varying opinions about what to say about this, but for some reason I have been reluctant to comment and vote on it. I am going to offer a critque, but i just to say clearly that I have a generally positive view of this piece.
This write up is first and last a genre piece. It seems written for that iron age, culturally European (for the most part-scorpion sword and clumsy emperor may be from different setting), literate, semi-magical, gold coin economy that represents the expected standard of all DnD worlds. I am not knocking works of genre, genre is what makes role-playing games possible AND wildly accessible, but the cultural baggage of this particular genre has been something that I have always tried to resist. And this piece seems to rely on what was packed in that baggage, for example take #20, this offers up a lot about the world. We learn that there is a money economy, that peasants are taxed directly, that there is a king who agents are resented and you might be right to say that is true about the worlds of most games. (though I would wish that your average player would not make such assumptions). In some of the songs you even discuss what types of instruments are used and the proper names of people or place. There is a lot of cultural baggage in most of these songs and you do not discuss the archetypal themes of the song. Thus all the entries seem discrete and specific to a defined world, which is fine and good but not utilized to the full potential in this post.
If I were to take 30 Bardic songs from England in 1065 AD, and 30 Bardic songs from Greece in 1065 BCE, I would get a very different but informative take on the material cultures, their mytho-historical experiences and their values. I may pick up on some universal themes, but I might also learn a little about what it meant to be Greek or English at those times. (Or I might learn what it is they wanted it to mean.) The songs listed in this post are not songs that will be recited by a rapping bard with a lyre in the halls of Thebes or played before the Minion court. Yes GM could adapt them, #30 could shift settings quickly by taking out the anachronistic references to chain mail and tossing the word Bronze in there. But if the GM does this then he loses what is really great about “30 Bardic tails”, and that is the detail of each song. My point is not that you should change these songs to make them more general or adaptable. My point is that you have already paid the price of cultural specificity with each of these song and if feels remiss that you are not drawing any conclusions or even giving us suggestions about how these songs tell the story of people. (You have bought the cow, why not let us have some butter)
Even if you don’t want “30 Bardic Tales” to draw the conclusions implicitly, you may as well give the songs some level of connection with regard to the people that championed, sometimes reviled and more importantly wrote these songs. I know I am taking up the cause of imaginary people, who perhaps you have yet to imagine, but I think Strolen’s Citadel is the place were the rights of fictitious are championed. And if you don’t want the whole post to be window into same culture then perhaps you can discuss the people that wrote each one. You get at that a bit in some them, but not in all and never get very much. Writing 30 Bardic Tales was very ambitious and I think you succeed in writing 30 interesting song summaries (kind of like an iron age TRL). In writing 30 specific songs the way you have, you have created a lot of cultural and intellectual weight, and for the most part you aren’t reaching the full potential of what you’ve wrought. If you brought that cultural and intellectual weight to the surface more effectively this could be a transcendent piece. Right now it is just a very good piece.