Yesterday one of the regular members of my Dungeons & Dragons group had to cancel, so the rest of us decided to roll some new characters for a one-off campaign. Shortly before our gathering, one of them texted to ask if it was alright if we all played as bards. “We’ll be like a traveling pop punk band!” they said. As longtime emo trash, I was excited at the prospect. It was an incredibly stupid idea, and it was a ton of fun.
Playing as a party made entirely out of one class of character is a very silly idea, and playing as just bards is the silliest variant of that. Bards are support characters. They can do damage, but usually you’d want to pair them with character classes that are more combat focused, like a warrior or a mage. As we rolled our three characters—a half-elf named John on the guitar, a human called “The Artist Formerly Known As Jessica” on the bagpipes, and me as a dragonborn named X on the drums—our Dungeon Master eyed us with some suspicion. “So, no one has any intelligence on this team?” he said. Of course not.
The point he was trying to make was that we didn’t have any characters who knew anything about magic. We were armed with rapiers and crossbows, but for the most part we only had two attacks that could really do damage: Thunderwave and Vicious Mockery. Thunderwave creates a percussive wave that knocks characters and items back 10 feet. I always imagined that X was doing an extremely righteous drum solo whenever I used it. Vicious Mockery is when your character insults someone so badly that literal psychic pain causes them damage. This is definitely hilarious but not always useful. The first enemy we faced was in fact a half orc who was immune to magic, and that encounter was the first of many times my character almost died.
Our gimmicky one shot really only had a few elements, but since we were a band it meant we also had gigs. At the start of the game we ran into a wizard who had been magically enchanted into a goose, and he told us to go steal back his wand from another wizard to make him a human again. We played a gig at the tavern in the town we went to look for it in. The barkeep wasn’t incredibly jazzed about the idea of taking care of our angry goose while we investigated this wizard mess, but we were able to convince him that he was part of our act. That evening, after we dropped by the mayor’s house to charm some information out of him and played an unforgettable show, except for the goose. Our weird, bagpipe-oriented three piece pop punk group completely slayed, except for the goose with a tambourine bleating on stage.
Playing unusually or improvising our way through scenarios was a refreshing change from our normal, more serious campaigns, especially because we knew that there was no chance we were going to complete our campaign as intended. We were able to make it into the wizard’s house to steal the wand without incident, for instance, but once we started a combat encounter I knew almost right away it was all going to go to shit. I had been keeping watch while Jessica and John went inside to steal the wand, but that also meant that when the two of them started fighting, I was the only person outside to deal with the three ape guards with swords. I think I spent about as much time unconscious as I did conscious. The tension and desperate nature of this battle meant that when I had a chance to grab the wand and try to turn our goose friend back into a human, I took it.
As you may recall, none of our characters had high intelligence, which was the stat needed to use the wand. Instead of turning the goose human, I turned him into a Gibbering Mouther, which is a 20-foot tall mass of limbs, flesh and mouths. Once you turn something into a Gibbering Mouther, they’re stuck that way, so suffice it to say I really fucked this one up. After being knocked unconscious two more times, we managed to kill the Gibbering Mouther, solving the problem I had created and completing the quest. Sure, we did not successfully return the goose to human form, but he wasn’t a goose anymore, and that’s kind of the same thing.
I asked our DM to put on “Anthem Part Two” by Blink 182 as we rode off into the sunset. I don’t know if we’re going to revisit our traveling pop punk band for another one-off, but we did all decide that they got some sick material for songs out of this little adventure. Playing D&D in this dumb and weird way was fun, and it yielded the kind of story that I’ll be telling to my tabletop RPG-playing friends for years to come.