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Dirk Strider: I'm obviously no expert, but that sounds like a pretty odd thing for a Bard to do.
Calliope: maybe! it's a qUirky class. somewhat like a wildcard role for a hero. very Unpredictable.

Ah, the much-maligned bard class...for some reason, when game makers want more splats, bards are the way that everyone tries to make their game "different". Bards provide an entirely new role that falls outside of those standard four roles of Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and Priest, which lets players who want to try something different have a way to support the party in a way that is (questionably) new and (possibly) unique.

The problem is that this is often handled poorly, so bards are very frequently unable to ever become anything useful. They are the butt of jokes, they are often beaten by old men with canes, and sometimes their friends use a mountain of bard corpses as convenient cover. Bards usually run into one of three major problems:

  • Often bards can be an attempt at a jack of all trades. This may seem nice on paper, but in practice the bard is often left with abilities so weak by comparison as to make them completely useless. The Bard fails to become even a "jack" at all trades, only managing to become a Master of None.

  • Many bards can be built to specialize in status effect abilities. This can often be a wonderful way to add a new role to the game. However, this often falls flat because the status effects in many games are actually useless useful spells that take too long to cast for short mook fights, have the wrong elements for boss battles, and/or simply aren't useful enough to justify using a bard instead of another character. This is especially true if the enemies can remove your newly added status effect abilities.

  • Frequently for bard-type characters, the game makers simply didn't think things through when they made the class and didn't do proper balancing. Typically, when a class is "weak and worthless," especially in MMORPGs, other classes will be nerfed, or the bards will get additional beneficial gimmicks which will change the game balance and draw the ire of players even more.

The class doesn't need to be called "bard" to count: any character class that specializes in messing with status effects in a game where status effects are useless or giving ability point bonuses or penalties that are too minor to make up for not simply making another fighter can count. Keep in mind that simply having a "Bard" type class is not sufficient - they have to be characters with useless abilities that typically nobody will want to use a party slot on.

If a bard is a generalist with magic, but is actually powerful at spellcasting, they may instead be The Red Mage. See also Mechanically Unusual Class, What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? and Master of None. Contrast Game-Breaker, Lethal Joke Character, and the occasional Heart Is an Awesome Power.

"Spoony Bard" used to redirect here. If you're looking for the Internet personality going by that name, see Noah Antwiler. If you're looking for actual bards, see Wandering Minstrel and The Bard. If you're looking for the bard who's a shameless sex maniac, see Horny Bard. If you're looking for the Bard, see Robert Burns if you're Scottish, or William Shakespeare throughout the Anglosphere in general.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fairy Tail: Vijeeter Ecor, whose primary magic is dancing, though not Dance Battling, it's more of a Buff/Debuff magic.

    Fan Works 
  • Averted and sort of played straight in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. Terb the bard plays horrible music and is also an idiot, but his lute's subtle magic can enchant a whole roomful of people after a few hours, and only professional musicians can hear that the music's bad and resist it.
    • Then, of course, there is the massive aversion of the four....

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Returners Final Fantasy Roleplaying Game practically inverts this trope, especially in relation to the Trope Namer. They can endlessly throw around group affecting buffs and debuffs for free while still doing decent magical damage and they can use Hide to avoid predictable attacks, making them very valuable against both tough mobs and bosses. Their main weakness, just to further separate them from Edward, is a tendency to go last.
  • Magic: The Gathering gave us kobolds, a tribe as weak as physically possible without going straight to the graveyard, but cost nothing to play. They can be upgraded with other kobolds, but these tend to come out on turn three or later, and the bonus isn't that much. And they're all in red, a color known for winning fast, or not at all.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has the Bard base class, of which mainly is a versatile jack of all trades, often played as a support class. Its precise abilities and effectiveness have varied a lot over each editions, although the earlier edition version are usually seen as underpowered or even outright useless, due to a perception that their attempt to be decent at multiple roles instead ends up making them barely effective in any of them.
    • In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, where it was introduced, the bard was a high-levels-only class that could only be accessed by playing a human fighter to level 5-8, then dual-classing to the thief class and reaching level 5-8, and then finally tri-classing as a bard, which here was a variant druid.
    • In AD&D 2nd edition, the bard made its first debut as a base class. Part of the "Rogue" category, it was a variant Thief with lessened thieving skills, but access to the ability to play "Bardic Music", which could be used to grant a number of social and combat bonuses per day or counteract sound-based enemy attacks, and also the ability to cast some low-level wizard spells once its level grew high enough.
    • In 3rd edition, the bard gained a significant power boost. Now armed with a completely unique set of bardic spells, it became a jack of all trades, master of a few, being able to take up a few roles to extremely high power (adding huge bonuses like 10d6 damage per hit to become a very strong support, or dual wielding rapiers and then going Snowflake Wardance to be a melee monster, or a good caster with powerful battlefield control and debuff spells). Plus, at the end of the day, Bards were still spellcasters in the edition that codified Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, so while they'd never rival an equally well played wizard, even with only the core rulebook, they can still prove far more potent than more mundane classes, it just takes a lot more effort and understanding of the game to achieve it. A 3.X Bard has been described as "the ideal sixth party member," because once you have your Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, Cleric, and literally anything else, a Bard won't bring anything unique to the table... but will make all those characters more effective than they would be without a Bard in the party.
    • In 4th Edition, bards were delayed until the 2nd "Player's Handbook" to receive further testing and development. Designated as Arcane Leadersnote , they now doubled-down on the Magic Music theme, with a huge array of potential spells to choose from, allowing them to throw around buffs and debuffs like candy. They also have the unique ability to multiclass more than once, an exclusive trait that allows 4e bards to gain an incredible arsenal of mixed combat and utility abilities.
    • In 5th Edition, Bards received a frankly terrifying increase in power compared to previous editions, most notably the ability to cast spells up to 9th level, and learn spells from other classes (including spells exclusive to Paladins and Rangers, which are enormously powerful for their level). This is in addition to their wide variety of Bardic Inspiration powers which can affect themselves, their allies and enemies: if there's a number attached to it, chances are that the 5e Bard can expend a use of Bardic Inspiration to increase or decrease it. The Lore Bard in particular is considered one of the best builds in the entire game.
    • Eberron: This is largely averted as part of the setting's habit of using PC classes only for the truly exceptional. A quirky bard is typically going to have the NPC Expert class and some Perform skills. Every described archetype for the actual Bard class is important and respected. Phiarlan bards are basically rock stars, and Dhakaani dirge-singers are some of the most important military and cultural leaders of what was once the greatest empire on the continent.
  • Star Warsd 20: Various stabs at the Noble class, with Saga Edition (something of a testbed for rules and concepts that would be incorporated into 4th Edition D&D) is the most blatant. There's not much a Noble can do on their own, but with the rith Talent selections, they can make the party far better overall. Prestige Classes like Officer require talents only found in Noble talent trees, and increase one's ability to support other party members while generally being less effective on their own.
  • The 13th Age Bard is less of a Jack of All Stats, and more of a Jack of any stat, as they can base their spellcasting off of any mental ability, and their combat abilities off of either Strength or Dexterity. They can also borrow spells from other classes, trigger battle cries off of their melee attacks, and garner the favor of the powerful Icons that rule the setting.

    Video Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons based game Baldur's Gate, bards tend to be bad fighters and bad magic users, but get more bonuses toward identifying items through the "Lore" statistic than any other class. If your party loadout includes a specialist wizard who can't cast the Identify spell on an item, having a bard can help avert spending large amounts of money identifying the magic items you frequently encounter, but their utility usually stopped there.
    • The sequel, Baldur's Gate II, introduced class kits that would allow bards to beef up aspects of the class. Picking a Blade, one of the DPS oriented kits, and combining it with some defensive mage spells potentially made characters which could outpace other fighters in terms of armor and damage output.
    • Very much an underdog, a plain Bard can actually solo the entire game from the beginning of BG1 all the way to the final fight in BG2:ToB (including Watcher's Keep) and do it more easily than most other single class characters (a min/maxed fighter with all the best equipment set up for maximum DR is a little easier, but only slightly and nowhere near as fun to play, as melee is all they do). The Blade greatly improves the melee presence but isn't at all required. The Thief xp table, ridiculous equipment versatility (and this BEFORE getting Use any item), and majority of the available mage spells (not the most game breaking ones, but the ones that matter the most), EPIC thief traps (Time stop traps, Spike traps) make for a ridiculously powerful character. Even their pickpocket (which on a non-blade Half-elf easily reaches 110 at the beginning of BG2) allows for tons of easy equipment that non-thieves would probably never see. They're almost a F/M/T in a single class, who levels up stupidly fast.
      • Note that the Bard is a good choice for soloing the game for the exact same reasons that they're pretty useless if the game is played normally: with a party, anything the Jack of All Trades Bard can do someone else can do better (either who is in the party already, or could be swapped in for the Bard). But if one character is all the player has, it helps to be able to do everything, even if not quite to the level of a specialist, as it avoids having any obvious weaknesses.
  • The Final Fantasy series has several examples:
    • Final Fantasy III has a nice variety of classes, but there are several that are either only useful once in the game or are so useless that they can be totally overlooked. Its version of the Bard class is even worse than FFIV's Edward, with little attack power or defense and only one command ("Cheer") that has any use whatsoever. Geomancers not only have no control over what abilities they use with their Terrain ability, but the abilities they have are rarely useful anyway and can painfully backfire.
      • A number of the more useless jobs in III had their status almost completely reversed in the DS remake, turning into Lethal Joke Characters if you get enough job levels in them. Particular notes are the aforementioned Scholar (on top of the weapon effectiveness boost gets a lot of charges for low-leveled spells, and when dual-wielding the higher-leveled books can output insane damage given they're a support class) and the Geomancer (their spells don't backfire and the damage scaling puts them on par with other magic classes, not to mention Shadowflare can be cast almost anywhere and will usually break the damage cap).
    • Prince Edward Chris von Muir from Final Fantasy IV is singularly useless, employing a harp as a weapon and possessing the special ability of "singing" at enemies — a skill that's supposed to inflict status ailments but which frequently does nothing at all. Edward's other special ability, unsurprisingly, is to run away and hide for a turn. As Game Informer so aptly summarized, "His special command is Hide, which allows him to run away and leave a twelve year old girl to take his lumps for him. Classy, Edward." In "hard-type" he's slightly more useful because he can also spread potions amongst the whole party. Slightly.
      • The DS version buffs him considerably, and his Bardsong becomes far more useful. You can pick the song you want, and one Edward learns actually heals your party while he isn't interrupted. And then you can give Bardsong to someone that isn't Edward....
      • Late in the GBA version of the game, Edward becomes one of the fastest characters in the game. Equip him with the Apollo Harp, and he can easily dish out 2000+ damage every few seconds. And woe unto any dragon-type enemies you run into, as Edward will regularly dole out anywhere from 8000+ to max damage per hit. Then he gets his ultimate weapon Loki's Lute, which does that much damage to ANY creature that has a racial flag (like dragon, demon, or giant). His only glaring weaknesses are his defense and lack of hit points, making him more of a Glass Cannon — but even then, he deals full damage from the back row, so defence is less important for him. There was also an accessory that changes his useless sing command to a Mighty Guard Spell. There was also his other much-upgraded ability, Salve: in previous versions, all it did was to take a potion and split it between the party members for a whopping 25 HP of healing. In the DS remake, it instead allows you to take any item and use it on the entire party at once with full effect, although it does use up as many of the said item as there are party members. Like the previous skill, it can also be later given to another character as well.
      • Seems like poor Edward just can't seem to catch a break. While he's shown to be less wimpy storywise and he still retains his Salve ability in After Years, his Bardsong is again randomized. At the very least you can still choose whether you want to target your party or enemies with it, including being able to choose from a single/all party members/enemies and the negative statuses it can cause have potential to at least be useful this time around since the game follows the DS version trend of making Useless Useful Spells less useless. While he's not the Glass Cannon he was in the GBA version anymore, his damage output isn't that far behind from the other characters, he's still decently fast, the aforementioned Salve can be even more useful than the White Mages' healing spells both because of the buyable X-Potions and Elixirs and an item that doubles the effectiveness of items in battle and his ability to hide can still be useful against enemies who telegraph their Total Party Kill attacks. And seeing how Edward is still moping over his beloved Anna 17 years after her death, such that his kingdom is without an heir, he apparently still fits the literal definition as well. That said, he's much more confident and assertive now, and is one of the only heroes to get the better of the villains, if temporarily, so far.
      • On the topic of Edward using a unconventional weapon. The Loki Harp in the PSP rerelease of Final Fantasy 4 if under the right conditions can to the maximum amount of damage you can deal in the entire game. Spoony or not that's impressive.
    • Final Fantasy V has somewhat Spoony, yet not so Spoony Bards. Their strength lies in their Sing skillset: Aside from increasing Strength, Magic, Speed and LEVELS, they can deal tremendous damage to the Undead, Confuse all enemies, Stop all enemies and cast Regen on the party. For free. Oh, and Harps as the weapons? They suck. With the exception of the Apollo's Harp. That weapon has decent attack, deals damage based on Magic stat and deal 8x damage to Dragons. Now, who is the Spoony Bard here?
      • The Dancer class from the same game is a straighter example, as its signature ability is completely random, much like the aforementioned Geomancer.note  It has a 1/4 chance to do massive damage to a single enemy, but its other three effects(Charming the enemy, absorbing HP, and absorbing MP) aren't as useful.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 has the Songstress dressphere (class), which, despite being plot-important, is almost completely useless. There are some redeeming features to the Songstress, such as the MP Mambo (which causes all spells to have 0 MP cost) and Magical Masque (which reduces all magical attack damage done to your party to 0). Though, both dances can only be gotten late in the game, and neither one can come even close to touching the Cat Nip.
    • In Final Fantasy XI the Bard is an example of the Gamebreaker side, it is so popular (due to its completely free buffs) that most people say that you can get offers for Level Grinding parties without raising your invite flag (to signify that you are looking for a party); this gets to the point to which some people have to go into anonymous mode (which hides what job and level your character is) to avoid getting invites. Though this has happened with other jobs, bards are pretty much the only one that has always been like this. Summoners, traditionally one of the most powerful jobs in Final Fantasy games, fits this trope on the other side due to being able to do useful things less frequently than any other job.
    • Final Fantasy XIV averts this with the actual Bard class, which is a Ranged DPS class that tends toward supporting the party but is still plenty capable in combat. Similarly is the Dancer, which leans much more towards support but is still quite able to destroy things just fine. A straighter example is the Blue Mage, a Job that starts with only weak water spell, but through their unique progression and spell-learning system can grow powerful enough to solo entire dungeons and have access to status effects and instakills that no other Job has or ever will have. This powerful gimmick comes at a big price, however: Blue Mages are considered officially as a 'Limited Job': they cannot reach the same level cap as normal Jobs, and thus are disallowed from any current expansion content, and are completely unable to queue into normal content of any kind, meaning if they want to do any raids or dungeons they have to create a pre-made party or attempt to solo it. For this reason, most players consider levelling and using Blue Mage more of a side activity or minigame than a 'true' Job.
    • The Dancer and Bard classes in Final Fantasy Tactics. Dancers can use their weakest dance to enormously powerful effect in a properly tweaked party (three Dancers and two Mimes with strength boosted as high as possible). This is generally the second most powerful party possible in the game. Given them all the Ninja class's Vanish skill as well, and they'll turn invisible after getting hit, which normally lasts until the character takes another action...except that continuing the dance you're already performing doesn't count as a new action. Thus, your Dancers and Mimes will keep whittling away at the enemy, who will be incapable of retaliating.
      • Bards at the same time, also have varying issues. The HP and MP regenerating abilities are guaranteed, but can also raise the speed of your units (One Bard Raising and one Dancer Lowering could tip the scales very quickly), increase their attack and magic attack, as well as dish out random beneficial status effects. And because the songs/dances are affecting the actual stat — rather than casting Haste or Slow — the effects never wear off and can't be dispelled. The real magikarp effect is because each class relies on the stat that gender is weaker in. Dancer uses Physical Attack to determine damage effects, and Bards used Magic Attack. Since the abilities can be passed off to other classes though, a singing Black Mage can restore many HP, and a Dancing Knight could whittle down enemies in no time flat.
      • Tactics also has two characters, a brother and sister named Rafa and Malak. Their unique ability hits 2-5 random squares in a 5 square, cross shaped area, making their attacks frequently do nothing at all. And while Rafa's spells does a fixed damage depending on her stats (as opposed to the usual Faith-based magic system of the game), Malak's functions better if he has a very low Faith; Rafa is almost useful if you train her as a white mage due to her high Faith, or as a move-find-item holder due to her low Brave (a must for getting the rare items in the Deep Dungeon), Malak can do excellent magic damage while being almost immune to magic himself, making him an excellent faith-based magic counter if used right.
      • The FFT remake for the PSP has been more forgiving for the siblings, as it made their spells more reliable, upping the number of times it can theoretically hit to nine, and raising the chance it can hit the center tile target, so that one can center the spell on an enemy and expect it to hit at least once.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has an actual bard as a unique character ... but unlike Final Fantasy Tactics unique characters, FFTA2 has absolutely terrible stat growth in unique classes. His bard songs aren't of much help, since only his MP boosting power offers something another class can't already do with a better range of alternate actions, and dedicating a unit to boosting MP would only be of use if you had multiple mages trading out Halve MP or Blood Price for Geomancy or Magic UP while staying in formation. Fortunately, he can learn from other classes, like Juggler or Time Mage, but depending on what level you were when you recruited him, his low stats will ensure he never can quite compete with a generic specifically leveled for certain stats.
    • In Final Fantasy Dimensions, the Bard and Dancer classes initially fit this. However, Bard and Dancer skills are needed to learn some of the more powerful Fusion Abilities, and both classes can learn unique abilities in optional events that make them more effective. A Mastered Bard can learn a powerful song that grants multiple buffs at once, and the Dancer can learn two optional dances, one that grants Image to everyone in the party at once and another that is a powerful attack.
  • Any of the Bards of the Romancing SaGa trilogy. The first was actually the Crystal Dragon Jesus in disguise as the bard. The second one retold the tales of your empire at the start of the game, and had 5 important instruments needed to acquire a character class, and the last was recruitable and was pretty decent in all stats, only problem was that you could only ditch him after clearing one of the Abyss Lords.
  • The Bard/Clown/Minstrel (for Males) and Dancer/Gypsy/Wanderer (for Females) Classes from Ragnarok Online. While they come from the Archer Class tree and can use bows and all their Archer Skills, they're more often equipped with a Musical Instrument or Whip (depending on the character's gender) in order to allow them to preform songs or dances to buff allies or debuff enemies. They also work best when paired with the opposite gender equivalent as this allows them to preform Duets with improved abilities. Their songs/dances are near useless without a party to protect them as well.
  • The Bard Class in EverQuest is stated as a "Jack of All Trades, Master To None" in that it's sort of like multiple classes combined together. Unlike normal buff spells, the bard had to constantly keep "singing" almost non-stop and keep refreshing the songs over and over again every few SECONDS. Most players can successfully juggle 4 song buffs up at once. They can also wear Plate armor, and dual wield weapons (but not Double Attack.) Among the song types they have, they can increase run speed to being the fastest in the game (faster than the most powerful mounts), charm enemies, stun them, deal damage over time, and heal over time.
    • Bards have been changed in EverQuest. They no longer have to press the singing keys every few seconds (this led to wrist problems for some players). They also have some pretty awesome abilities. A well played bard can be one of the most powerful classes, they can solo many mobs at once and in groups they can boost damage output by a huge amount. They also can single mobs from a pack of them with ease.
    • The Bard classes in EverQuest II are broken down into "Orderly" and "Chaotic" versions. The Troubadour and Dirge, respectively. Each class has different types of buffs. The Troubador focuses more on defensive buffs such as raising defense and health, while the Dirge class is more offensive, who's buffs enhance attack speed and double attack damage, among others. Due to the game's Archetype system, both bards are classified as Scout classes, who are restricted to wearing Chain armor (unlike plate in the first game), but are designed to deal significant damage when facing behind an opponent. Literally backstabbing them. Also unlike the first game, however, they don't need to constantly "sing" their buffs for the group. Once you activate them, they stay that way until canceled.
      • Dirges are considered especially useful, as their ability to increase melee attack speed and power, which half the classes in the game and all of the pets benefit from, guarantees them a slot on almost any raid or group. When there are 24 different classes in the game and the largest raids in the game have 24 people with typically a few repeating classes, being pretty much guaranteed a slot is a big deal.
      • Among the 6 scout classes (Ranger, Assassin, Swashbuckler, Brigand, Troubadour, Dirge), the two bard classes are supposedly the "weakest" of the 6 in terms of sheer damage output, but when comparing the bards to classes outside the Scout archetype, that's not saying much. They still do more damage than most fighter, priest, and a couple of mage classes.
  • Accordion Thieves are probably the weakest class in Kingdom of Loathing. They have the least number of combat skills, meaning you mostly just hit them with music, where a muscle class does a better job of basic weapon attacks. They mainly rely on buffing themselves with some marginally useful songs. As a plus, they can sneak into the League of Chef-Magi and the Brotherhood of the Smackdown, letting you shop at all 3 guild shops and, if you have permed the skill, let you use the Wok of Ages and Malus of Forethought.
    • Ironically, once you've permanently learned most of the other classes' skills, Accordion Thieves become the best class for speed-ascending. They're the only class that can use all the guild shops and special guild tools, many of which are extremely useful, on top of being able to pickpocket and having other handy advantages associated with Moxie classes.
  • Dungeon Explorer has a bard class which is considered one of the most useless classes in the game.
  • Many, many, many Pokémon fall into this category, having gimmicks that showcase unique game mechanics. Because any player can choose from all of them, many tend to get ignored completely. This tends to lead to Magikarp Power when you realize that damn near any Pokémon can be used effectively if you raise them right and throw on some TMs...Okay, ASIDE from Magikarp.
    • Speaking of, Magikarp is one of the original gimmick Pokémon; its shtick being that it's utterly useless until it evolves into Gyarados, at which point it's a force to be reckoned with.
    • Ditto is the other major one from the original game, as its only move was to turn into a copy of the opponent. Once breeding was introduced in Gold and Silver, it also had a non-battle use in being able to breed with anything. Black and White eventually made it a viable battle choice by giving it the Imposter ability, letting it copy the opponent immediately without having to use a turn.
    • In Gold and Silver, Unown is particularly noted for its gimmickry. They mimic letters, and there's one for each from A to Z (plus ? and ! in later games) for you to collect - but in battle they only have one move, Hidden Power, and their stats are pretty bad across the board.
    • Wobbuffet learns no offensive moves of its own, it can only cause damage by counterattacking. In the hands of the right trainer, it could be Difficult, but Awesome.
    • Smeargle only learns one move, Sketch, over and over - but Sketch lets it copy any one move used against it permanently, allowing Smeargle to potentially know any move in the game. Of course, to counter this ability, Smeargle's stats aren't that great.
    • Delibird also has only one move called Present, and the amount of damage it does is random - it can even go negative and heal the target.
    • Ruby and Sapphire introduced several of these Pokémon, as it gave them passive effects called Abilites thereby opening up a new way to add quirks:
      • Slaking has the Truant ability, meaning it is extremely lazy and only attacks every other turn, but to make up for that its stats are through the roof for the times when it does act. Savvy players can figure out ways to nullify the ability and get a real powerhouse.
      • Shedinja is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, able to go down with a single hit but its Wonder Guard ability blocks all direct damage from non-super-effective attacks. Too bad it has so many weaknesses. And there are ways abilities can be nullified. And indirect damage (like from poison or confusion) also works. The way to get one is pretty quirky, too, as you need an open slotnote  when Nincada evolves because it becomes two Pokémon; Shedinja being the cast-off shell of its other evolution, Ninjask.
      • Plusle and Minun were used to highlight the new Double Battles. They have abilities that increase their special attack when they battle together... but their movepools and stats suck, so no sane man would ever use them both in one team. In short, they are a bit less useless in double battles. A bit.
      • Feebas is like Magikarp in that it's a useless little fish that evolves into something much more formidable. However, unlike Magikarp, Feebas is insanely hard to find, only spawning in a tiny handful of randomly-chosen tiles. Even evolving it was a chore, since it depended on maxing out the Beauty stat for Contests, which had nothing to do with battling and could only be accomplished if the Feebas had the right Nature. Later games starting with Black and White stripped the quirks from it, making it more common (still rare but not ridiculously so) and providing much easier ways to evolve it.
      • Castform's unique Forecast ability changes its form based on the current weather condition, altering both its type and its signature move Weather Ball. Unfortunately, mediocre stats and a shallow movepool prevent Castform from making much use of this gimmick.
      • Kecleon is a Hollywood Chameleon whose type changes to that of whatever attack hit it last. Its stats are respectable, but its ability is a bit too easily abused by clever opponents. However, it later got the Hidden Ability Protean, which instead changes its type according to the attacks it uses, which means Kecleon gets STAB on any move and can additionally choose its own typing - the only other Pokémon which currently have access to Protean are the borderline Game-Breaker Greninja and its pre-evolutions.
      • Finally for Gen III, Deoxys has multiple forms and movesets that depend on which game version it's currently played on (for instance Attack Forme in FireRed and Defense Forme in LeafGreen). Later games gave players access to meteorites so they could change its forms manually.
    • Diamond and Pearl has almost as many:
      • Burmy can take different forms based on where it battled last (grassy, rocky, or urban), but this doesn't have a gameplay effect until it evolves into Wormadam, where the form is locked and affects its secondary typing and moveset - unless it's male; then it evolves into Mothim instead with its own typing and moveset.
      • Cherrim changes form and gives its entire team a stat boost when it's in strong sunlight. This ability is best used for Double Battles, but it does give itself a boost too, and additionally learns several other moves that are boosted by sunlight as well.
      • Chatot basically exists for its one unique move, Chatter, which is a recorded message that has a chance to confuse which is higher the louder the message. It's also only catchable near the end of the games it debuted in, never evolves, and is generally useless. (Unless the player is into using RNG for catching/breeding, where it's practically a requirement to use Chatot pitches to find the right stuff.)
      • Spiritomb has a particularly weird condition to catch it; requiring players to interact with 32 other players over local wireless first. The reward is a fairly strong Pokémon with no elemental weaknesses (until the Fairy type was added in X and Y).
      • Rotom is based around Haunted Technology and can possess appliances, with each one providing a unique move and, as of Black and White, also affecting its type.
      • Regigigas, like Slaking, has massive stats offset by a bad ability; in this case those stats are halved for its first five turns. Again, if you can manage to nullify the ability, you're golden. The poor golem has it even worse than Slaking - at least the sloth has the excuse of not being legendary, which explains why its enormous stats need to be balanced out with a detrimental Ability. Regigigas, meanwhile, is widely considered to be one of the worst legendary Pokémon ever, since most of them are Purposely Overpowered.
      • And Arceus is Normal-type by default, but it and its Signature Move Judgment can be changed to any other type by equipping it with a "Plate" item.
    • Unlike the last few generations, Black and White only introduces a couple quirky Pokémon, despite introducing the largest batch of new species to date.
      • Darmanitan's Hidden Ability, Zen Mode, transforms it from a Glass Cannon Fire-type into a Mighty Glacier Fire/Psychic-type when it falls below half health. Unfortunately, this ends up being Awesome, but Impractical, as preparing it for one form leaves it underequipped for the other, and Zen Mode's defenses don't help so much when Darmanitan has to be badly hurt to begin with.
      • Zorua and Zoroark are Masters of Illusion and enter battle disguised as another Pokémon in your party. A lot of factors go into determining how long other players will be fooled, as Zoroark's type and attacks don't change and an opponent behaving oddly could tip players off to the ruse. Sadly, Black and White also added the ability to see your opponent's team at the start of a match, undermining much of the potential behind this gimmick.
      • Meloetta is a fairly literal example, alternating between two performance-themed forms whenever it uses its signature move Relic Song. Its Aria Forme is all about singing and leans more towards special moves and defense, while its Pirouette Forme focuses on dancing and emphasizes physical attacks and speed.
    • X and Y don't have as many as the others, probably due to not having as many Pokémon to begin with, but it does have:
      • Vivillon have one of 20 different wing patterns; 18 depending on the physical geographical location of the player when caught and 2 promotional. This coincides with the introduction of Wonder Trade, enabling players to trade Pokémon with a random person without knowing what you will get in return. Vivillon collecting has become quite a thing among players.
      • Aegislash is the Glass Cannon to end all Glass Cannons, with massive Attack stats but very poor defenses. Its signature attack, King's Shield, reverses this, causing it to sheath its sword and become a Stone Wall. In this particular case, despite its quirk, Aegislash is not weak by any means and sits comfortably in the Uber tier together with legendaries!
      • Amaura and its evolution Aurorus have Freeze Dry as their signature attack; an Ice-type move which does Super Effective damage to Water-types, which normally resist it.
      • Hawlucha is a Masked Luchador bird whose signature attack, Flying Press, is the only attack in the game with two types: it counts as both Flying and Fighting, enabling it to do double damage to Pokémon weak to either type. However, Flying Press is usually seen as Awesome, but Impractical and other attacks are used instead.
      • Pumpkaboo and its evolution Gourgeist come in four different sizes, with the larger ones having larger Health and Attack stats but lower Speed. They can also turn other Pokémon into Ghost-types in battle with their unique move Trick-or-Treat, allowing their other Ghost moves to hit harder.
    • Despite not introducing very many new species, Sun and Moon managed to cram in a lot of quirkiness.
      • Oricorio is a dancing bird that has a different form for each major island in the Alola region, which alters its type, the type of its signature move Revelation Dance, and its dancing style. Melemele Island's Pom-Pom Style is an Electric/Flying-type and a cheerleader, Akala Island's Pa'u Style is a Psychic/Flying-type and a hula dancer, Ula'Ula Island's Baile Style is a Fire/Flying-type and a flamenco dancer, and Poni Island's Sensu Style is a Ghost/Flying-type and a traditional Japanese dancer.
      • Rockruff is a Precious Puppy that evolves into one of three different forms of Lycanroc depending on the time of day and game version, each of which gets slightly different moves and different stats. A daytime evolution in Sun or Ultra Sun results in the Fragile Speedster Midday Form, while a nighttime evolution in Moon or Ultra Moon results in the (relatively-speaking) Mighty Glacier Midnight Form. If the Rockruff has Own Tempo, evolving it in a certain one-hour window in Ultra Sun or Ultra Moon will instead result in its Dusk Form, which predominantly takes after the Midday Form in terms of stats and appearance.
      • Wishiwashi is yet another fish Pokémon that starts out incredibly weak but turns powerful under the right circumstances. Unlike Magikarp and Feebas, however, this power surge doesn't come from evolution but rather its ability, Schooling. If Wishiwashi is below level 20 or down to a quarter of its health, it's stuck in the weak and unimpressive Solo Form, but when neither of those conditions is true, it summons more of its kind to assume the intimidating School Form.
      • Wimpod is a cowardly arthropod that automatically flees or switches out when brought below half health, thanks to its unique ability Wimp Out. Upon evolving into Golisopod, it gains a massive power boost much like Magikarp and Feebas — but it still runs away after losing half its health because of its ability, now rebranded Emergency Exit. That said, this also gives it more opportunities to use its signature move First Impression, which only works the first turn it comes out.
      • Pyukumuku follows in Wobbuffet's footsteps, since it can only attack by countering its opponent's moves. What sets it apart is its unique ability, Innards Out, which returns returns any fatal hit it took to the attacker.
      • Silvally is an artificial attempt at reproducing Arceus, and as such alters its type and the type of its signature move Multi-Attack based on a special kind of CD that it can hold.
      • Thanks to its ability Comatose, Komala is effectively always under the effects of the Sleep status condition. The only real differences between Comatose's effect and the actual status condition are that Komala can still use moves normally and it can't be cured like a normal status effect.
      • Dhelmise is a possessed, seaweed-wrapped anchor that effectively gets a third type for STAB through its ability Steelworker, which boosts the power of its Steel moves.
    • In Sword and Shield:
      • When Cramorant uses Surf or Dive to enter the water, it comes up with a fish (or occasionally a Pikachu) stuck in its gullet. If it's attacked in this state, it'll automatically cough it up and hit the opponent with it.
      • Toxtricity has two different forms based on its personality; outgoing ones have Amped Form while more reserved ones get Low Key Form. The different forms have slightly different movepools (and potential Abilities, but they're the same only-good-in-duos ones as Plusle and Minun).
      • Sinistea and Polteageist are teacup and teapot Pokémon, but only a few are authentic antique teaware. The only difference is that the actual ones have a hard-to-see mark of authenticity, and in gameplay they need a different item to evolve than the common versions.
      • Milcery are milk Pokémon, and evolve into Alcremie by having the player literally whip them into cream by spinning in place. Not only that, but their appearance can be customised by four different factors at the time of evolution (item held, length of spinning, direction of spinning, and time of day).
      • Morpeko changes appearance every turn between being full and hungry; and this in turn affects the Type of its Signature Move Aura Wheel.
      • Kubfu can evolve into two different types of Urshifu; Single Strike style is part Dark-Type and focuses on powerful blows while Rapid Strike style is part Water-Type and quicker multi-hit moves.
    • As far as types go, for a while, the Grass and Poison types shared this niche. Neither type has many Pokémon designed to score huge amounts of direct damage the way types like Fighting and Normal would, nor do they have a lot of moves for such a purpose. Instead, the Grass-type is more designed to inflict a variety of status effects, and the Poison-type is meant to erode away the opponents' HP, at the expense of the Grass-type having a lot of types that can deal super-effective damage against it and the Poison-type not having many options to deal super-effective damage itself. This was undermined by how Grass Pokémon, being based on plants, tend to have low Speed and would often get knocked out by said super-effective attacks before they can do much, as well as the inability to stack most conditions; and Pokémon battling progressing too quickly for the Poison Pokémon to effectively use their strategy. note  The Grass-type situation has been slowly getting remedied with each generation, however, with fast Pokémon like Shaymin-S, pairing it with types that negate its super-effective weaknesses like with Ferrothorn,note  and increased accuracy for status moves, most notably Spore, a guaranteed Sleep move. The Poison-type, on the other hand, climbed out of the pit all at once in Generation 6 when another type weak to Poison attacks was introduced.
  • These types of characters have appeared in various Dragon Quest games.
    • Dragon Quest III featured the Gadabout/Goof-off/Jester, who is either a clown (male) or a bunnygirl (female). An NPC will outright tell you that they're useless. Their stats are below average all across the board (except luck), and they will often waste a turn doing something silly rather than attacking. On the other hand, Gadabouts are the only class that could become a Sage without the use of a special item.
      The SNES and GBC remake made them a little better, giving them the Whistle ability that calls a random battle, saving some time when level grinding.
    • Dragon Quest IV:
      • Torneko. Once you got him in Chapter 5, he started goofing off just like the Gadabouts in III. He's something of a subversion, though, because while he's an underwhelming fighter, he isn't useless, and unlike the Gadabouts of III, his goofing off will almost always result in something useful. He's still more useful for what he can do outside your party rather than in, though.
      • Laurel, a bard who joins you temporarily in Chapter 2, might make a decent healer, if he'd just stop spamming fire and sleep spells until his MP runs dry...
    • Gadabouts made a return in Dragon Quest VI, and are given a few more abilities to make them more useful, but remain below average. There are also Dancers, who can use a variety of dances to do bad things to the enemy for no MP, up to and including instant death, although you don't get the good abilities until you've mastered the class. Both of these classes, however, must be mastered in order to get the much more useful Luminary class which does not follow this trope, as it gains very useful abilities, including Hustle Dance which can heal the entire party for no MP!
    • In addition to Gadabouts and Dancers, Dragon Quest VII includes an actual Minstrel/Bard class that, while not totally useless, deals mostly in status and curing songs, and is an underwhelming fighter. As before, you need to master this class (as well as the Gadabout and Dancer classes) in order to get the Luminary/TeenIdol class.
    • Averted in Dragon Quest IX, as the Minstrel plays more along the lines of the Jack of All Stats and is a decent fighter and spellcaster all around, which is a good thing, because you start out as one!
      And then played straight with the Luminary (Dancer). Not only is it a pain to unlock (the quest requires finding a random dungeon with a specific Mook in it, which is a pain if you do not even know what type and what level dungeons they're even found in), which can take hours or even days if you're particularly unlucky with the random dungeons. Upon finally unlocking the Luminary, you are treated to a class with terrible stats(baring speed and charm, they're among the worst of all the available classes in the game), useless abilities, and awful equip options. And if that weren't enough, you don't even get to unlock the class until you beat the main story and start doing postgame content; making the effort put into getting the class that much more obnoxious.
  • The Bard follower Sven in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim isn't very useful, mostly being good for being a meat shield. However, it's actually justifiable - he's a Bard. He makes his money by standing in an inn and entertaining people, what combat proficiency does he have? The most use most players ever get out of him is sacrificing him to Boethiah for the Ebony Mail to avoid losing a more useful follower.
    • The Bard's College is also rather odd compared to the other factions you can join, like the Companions, the College of Winterhold, or the Thieves Guild. They only have one trainer (for Speech) and three quests other than the initial quest to join up. In exchange, however, each quest gives you a substantial increase in skill points, so it's not entirely pointless to join up.
  • Ricardo in Shadow Hearts: From The New World is a bard but not only does he have ballistics inside his guitar, but he is one of the best mages in the game and plays a great support since he plays songs that buff allies. (Sadly, he is near-useless against the Final Boss due to its ability to instantly dispel any buffs and get a free turn when it does so.)
    • His spiritual predecessor, Lucia in Shadow Hearts: Covenant is the same, substituting aromatherapy for songs. However she also has a tarot card system as she's a fortune teller.
      • Though her aromatherapy requires a lot of experimentation to find which mixes have any effect, let alone a useful one. When you do, or head to GameFAQs, it turns out that some of her higher level perfumes have completely game-breaking effects, like duplicating the effect of a Third Key (a rare item that triples the number of physical attacks a character gets) on all party members for one turn.
  • The Bard-like class in Guild Wars may not play music so much, but they shout and support allies (or debuff enemies) while putting pressure on enemies with their ranged weaponry. They have about as much armour as a warrior (And by default use shields) so they can certainly take several hits.
    • They tend to be...different when it comes to PvP though. People often ignore paragons and save them for last in Random Arenas, but in different PvP modes (such as alliance battles) Paragons are much better.
  • MMO Lineage 2 has Sword Singer and Blade Dancer classes, both are absolutely necessary in a competitive 9-man party. Except for their bard-related buffs, they are low-tier tanks. Annoying, but mostly harmless, they have low to mediocre DPS and can shift targets to themselves to disrupt focus fire.
  • Yurist in Lufia: the Legend Returns joins when you already have nine members (the max you can have in your combat party), and his mediocre stats make him seem unimpressive. But he's more of a Jack of All Stats than a Master of None—he's one of only three members who can use multi-target healing spells, he's the second of two members who can the martial-arts IP abilities (including Energy Punch), and he can equip the Bunny Sword to make up for his sub-par attack.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The recurring Dancer class, as well as the Bard class in the GBA games, which functions identically, and the Heron class, which modifies the mechanics a bit but fills the same role. True to trope, none of these units can fight well (if at all), they usually join around the midpoint of the story, have stats entirely focused around dodging, and will likely die in two hits to anything that can attack them. In spite of this, they universally have a very high position in Character Tiers, as their signature ability is to give an adjacent unit (or sometimes units) an Extra Turn, which, in a strategy game, opens up all manner of possibilities.
    • The Freelancer class, which only popped up in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and its sequels, is generally accepted to be an early attempt at a Dancer—rather than giving another unit an extra turn, its gimmick is to copy another unit, which has a similar effect.
    • Funnily, the Bard class in the two Jugdral games wasn't quirky at all, being essentially a mage class. It seems to be identified as a bard solely because both Lewyn and Homer are identified as "wandering musician" characters in the story.
  • In the TurboGrafx-16 game Dungeon Explorer, the Bard has weak stats and even worse spells. His white magic teleported you back to the castle, and his black magic just changed the background music.
  • Karyl/Johnny Sheeden of Tales of Destiny is one of, if not the only bard in the entire Tales Series thus far, exclusively using a lute in battle and singing songs with various effects to help the party out, although one scene in story unexpectedly proves that he happens to be the best swordsman in his home nation of Aquaveil (and beneath his lively personality hides some emotional issues bottled up as well). He joins you sporadically throughout the game and only permanently joins upon Hugo Gilchrist's defeat. Unlike most examples though, he eventually could become pretty damn powerful when used and powered up correctly, his sonic-based artes are a common weakness for endgame enemies, and his Revolving Rondo arte, which he learns last and is also sonic-based, can endlessly juggle and combo even the likes of Superboss Barbatos Goetia to death. It got to the point where the final boss would actually immediately use a Mystic Arte to counter Revolving Rondo itself. Additionally, one of Karyl's mystic artes summons modern day-style music amps to blast his victim to shreds with.
  • Initially played straight with the Jester in Darkest Dungeon, whose stress-healing and bleed inflicting attacks were outclassed by the Houndmaster, and the Man-at-Arms having better buffs to give to the party, making the Jester a Master of None that still remains useful enough to fill in a niche now and again. In time, the Jester was reworked into giving more consistent stress heals, more reliable bleeding, and mobility. This, along with the debatably Game-Breaker Finale attack, he ends up subverting this trope.
  • The Pianist in Elona is a fairly straightforward example in complete uselessness in combat, except for the fact that Charisma (the Pianist's main stat) allows you to recruit a lot of followers.
  • The protagonist of Wandersong is just a regular Bard with no destiny who decides to try saving the world because it's better than sitting around and waiting for everything to end.
  • Save the Light: Greg Universe is a playable character in the game, and instead of regular attacks like the other party members he can use his "Tune Up" ability to switch between several songs that do damage, heal, or apply buffs over time.

  • Elan from The Order of the Stick is as Cloudcuckoolander as they come. His bard songs are pretty much useless, his motivational speeches have a tendency to horribly backfire, and the only weapons he can use can be Sundered by someone cursing too loud. However, his real talent is a result of his bardic training: he's as Genre Savvy as they come, and sees damn near everything coming. Whenever he works close enough with the smart leader Roy, he exploits it, too. And that training perfectly synergizes with the Dashing Swordsman Prestige Class he literally took a level in — which turns entertaining quips and drama into badassery. His leveling up hasn't drowned out the endearing aspects of his character: optimism, extraordinary loyalty to his friends, and a certain bumbling charm that makes him what he is. Elan's progression from a simple Bard to Dashing Swordsman isn't just about getting more/useful class powers, but him developing the chops to be a genuine hero. As part of this growth he also is slowly shown to be learning how to properly use his regular bardic spells. It's also worth nothing that Elan is the only member of the party who has a smart class build. Everyone else in the party made some of the worst possible character class choices.
  • Julie, the protagonist of Our Little Adventure. She's good with a bow and she's the only group member with any sort of healing powers but seldom ever kicks ass and takes names. Julie's dislike of fighting might play into it, but she's got no problem with boosting her groupmates' killing skills using silly musical numbers.
  • Homestuck:
    • Gamzee subverts this. Despite being a Stoner Love Freak and having the title of Bard of...Something (exactly what it is, he forgot), he takes down the Black King of the Trolls' session with frightening efficiency and brutality. Subverted even more when we find out that he's actually the Bard of Rage.
    • Turns out that all Sburb Bards are a subversion of this. The Bard class is described as one that allows others to destroy their Aspect or one who invites destruction through their Aspect, as if by the will of the Aspect. (e.g. Rage) Seems unintuitive from the name, but useful.
    • However, this makes the Bard class a Wild Card who often single-handedly causes improbable victory or spectacular downfall (or both), so it's played straight in that the person who tells us all of this is of the opinion that the kids are probably better off without a Bard.
  • Prince Sid of FeyWinds gets double classed after revealing this to the gang.

    Web Video 
  • In 1 for All, the Bard is the worst fighter in the party, and the others make fun of him for being useless. However, the others: a Fighter built exclusively for combat and a Sorcerer who only knows fire spells; are massively overspecialised and the Bard is the only one who can do anything requiring stealth, deception, etc. As such, he is very useful whenever they run into a problem the others can't just kill.