In the Awakened Fables, words and music are not just vibrations of air, but vocalizations with power all their own. The bard is a master of song, speech, and the magic they contain. Bards say that the multiverse was spoken into existence, that the words of the gods gave it shape, and that echoes of these primordial Words of Creation still resound throughout the cosmos. The music of bards is an attempt to snatch and harness those echoes, subtly woven into their spells and powers.
The greatest strength of bards is their sheer versatility. Many bards prefer to stick to the sidelines in combat, using their magic to inspire their allies and hinder their foes from a distance. But bards are capable of defending themselves in melee if necessary, using their magic to bolster their swords and armor. Their spells lean toward charms and illusions rather than blatantly destructive spells. They have wide-ranging knowledge of many subjects and a natural aptitude that lets them do almost anything well. Bards become masters of the talents they set their minds to perfecting, from musical performance to esoteric knowledge.
True bards are not common in the world. Not every minstrel singing in a tavern or jester cavorting in a royal court is a bard. Discovering the magic hidden in music requires hard study and some measure of natural talent that most troubadours and jongleurs lack. It can be hard to spot the difference between these performers and true bards, though. A bard’s life is spent wandering across the land gathering lore, telling stories, and living on the gratitude of audiences, much like any other entertainer. But a depth of knowledge, a level of musical skill, and a touch of magic set bards apart from their fellows.
Only rarely do bards settle in one place for long, and their natural desire to travel—to find new tales to tell, new skills to learn, and new discoveries beyond the horizon—makes an adventuring career a natural calling. Every adventure is an opportunity to learn, practice a variety of skills, enter long-forgotten tombs, discover lost works of magic, decipher old tomes, travel to strange places, or encounter exotic creatures. Bards love to accompany heroes to witness their deeds firsthand. A bard who can tell an awe-inspiring story from personal experience earns renown among other bards. Indeed, after telling so many stories about heroes accomplishing mighty deeds, many bards take these themes to heart and assume heroic roles themselves.
College of Eloquence
Adherents of the College of Eloquence master the art of oratory. Persuasion is regarded as a high art, and a well-reasoned, well-spoken argument often proves more persuasive than facts. These bards wield a blend of logic and theatrical wordplay, winning over skeptics and detractors with logical arguments and plucking at heartstrings to appeal to the emotions of audiences.
College of Lore
Bards of the College of Lore know something about most things, collecting bits of knowledge from sources as diverse as scholarly tomes and peasant tales. Whether singing folk ballads in taverns or elaborate compositions in royal courts, these bards use their gifts to hold audiences spellbound. When the applause dies down, the audience members might find themselves questioning everything they held to be true, from their faith in the priesthood of the local temple to their loyalty to the king.
The loyalty of these bards lies in the pursuit of beauty and truth, not in fealty to a monarch or following the tenets of a deity. A noble who keeps such a bard as a herald or advisor knows that the bard would rather be honest than politic.
The college’s members gather in libraries and sometimes in actual colleges, complete with classrooms and dormitories, to share their lore with one another. They also meet at festivals or affairs of state, where they can expose corruption, unravel lies, and poke fun at self-important figures of authority.
College of Valor
Bards of the College of Valor are daring skalds whose tales keep alive the memory of the great heroes of the past, and thereby inspire a new generation of heroes. These bards gather in mead halls or around great bonfires to sing the deeds of the mighty, both past and present. They travel the land to witness great events firsthand and to ensure that the memory of those events doesn’t pass from the world. With their songs, they inspire others to reach the same heights of accomplishment as the heroes of old.
College of Creation
Bards believe the cosmos is a work of art—the creation of the first dragons and gods. That creative work included harmonies that continue to resound through existence today, a power known as the Song of Creation. The bards of the College of Creation draw on that primeval song through dance, music, and poetry, and their teachers share this lesson: “Before the sun and the moon, there was the Song, and its music awoke the first dawn. Its melodies so delighted the stones and trees that some of them gained a voice of their own. And now they sing too. Learn the Song, students, and you too can teach the mountains to sing and dance.”
Dwarves and gnomes often encourage their bards to become students of the Song of Creation.
College of Swords
Bards of the College of Swords are called blades, and they entertain through daring feats of weapon prowess. Blades perform stunts such as sword swallowing, knife throwing and juggling, and mock combats. Though they use their weapons to entertain, they are also highly trained and skilled warriors in their own right.
Their talent with weapons inspires many blades to lead double lives. One blade might use a circus troupe as cover for nefarious deeds such as assassination, robbery, and blackmail. Other blades strike at the wicked, bringing justice to bear against the cruel and powerful. Most troupes are happy to accept a blade’s talent for the excitement it adds to a performance, but few entertainers fully trust a blade in their ranks.
Blades who abandon their lives as entertainers have often run into trouble that makes maintaining their secret activities impossible. A blade caught stealing or engaging in vigilante justice is too great a liability for most troupes. With their weapon skills and magic, these blades either take up work as enforcers for thieves' guilds or strike out on their own as adventurers.
College of Glamour
The College of Glamour is the home of bards who mastered their craft in the vibrant realm of the Feywild or under the tutelage of someone who dwelled there. Tutored by satyrs, eladrin, and other fey, these bards learn to use their magic to delight and captivate others.
The bards of this college are regarded with a mixture of awe and fear. Their performances are the stuff of legend. These bards are so eloquent that a speech or song that one of them performs can cause captors to release the bard unharmed and can lull a furious dragon into complacency. The same magic that allows them to quell beasts can also bend minds. Villainous bards of this college can leech off a community for weeks, misusing their magic to turn their hosts into thralls. Heroic bards of this college instead use this power to gladden the downtrodden and undermine oppressors.
College of Whispers
Most folk are happy to welcome a bard into their midst. Bards of the College of Whispers use this to their advantage. They appear to be like other bards, sharing news, singing songs, and telling tales to the audiences they gather. In truth, the College of Whispers teaches its students that they are wolves among sheep. These bards use their knowledge and magic to uncover secrets and turn them against others through extortion and threats.
Many other bards hate the College of Whispers, viewing it as a parasite that uses a bard’s reputation to acquire wealth and power. For this reason, members of this college rarely reveal their true nature. They typically claim to follow some other college, or they keep their actual calling secret in order to infiltrate and exploit royal courts and other settings of power.