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A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"SlashTHEM is generally de-SLEXed - retool accordingly"

Bard v0.9
Author André Bertelli Araújo
Download link
NetHack PatchDB 76

The Bard is a role created as part of the Bard patch, and is included in dNetHack and notdNetHack, where it is known as the Troubadour role as of dNetHack 3.10, as well as SlashTHEM. dNetHack and notdNetHack refer to the role as the Troubadour because the letters b and B were already taken in the role selection menu (for Barbarian and Binder).

One of the distinctive features of the Bard patch is the option of casting enchantment spells as songs, performed on a musical instrument. The musical versions of the spells have some advantages and disadvantages over their regular versions. The patch gives several roles this ability, but the Bard excels at it. This feature has been carried over into some of the variants that include the Bard role.

For an explanation of the role by the patch author, see here.

For a discussion of the role, see here.

Starting inventory

Each Bard starts with the following:

From the start of the game, the Bard can recognize all musical instruments, including the magical ones.

In dNetHack, Troubadours' lore also includes the appearance of all 5 enchantment spellbooks (although they don't know the spells) and 5-15 random magical objects, as well as knowledge of several basic wards: Circle of Acheron, Hamsa, Elder Sign, Elder Elemental Eye, Sign of the Scion Queen Mother, Cartouche of the Cat Lord, the Wings of Garuda, and the Toustefna and Dreprun staves.

Drow Troubadours will get droven chain mail, a droven cloak, and 6 shadowlander's torches instead of a leather cloak. Half-dragons will always get a leather drum as their starting instrument. Orcs will get a bugle or a tooled horn as their starting instrument (with a 50% chance of each), plus an orcish short sword, 4 orcish daggers, an orcish shield, and an orcish helm.



Bard skills
Max Skills

Bards start with Basic skill in Musicalize Spell and bare hands. In dNetHack, they also start with Basic skill in beast mastery, dart, and dagger.

In SlashTHEM, the Bard's special spell is sleep, and spell success is determined by charisma. In dNetHack, the Bard's special spell is create monster (-24 bonus), and spell success is determined by intelligence.

In SlashTHEM, escape spells are replaced by body spells and crossbow skill is removed; otherwise, the maximum skill levels are the same as in the patch.

In dNetHack, the Bard gains unicorn horn skill up to Basic, spear skill up to Skilled, saber skill up to Skilled, enchantment spells up to Expert, and the new beast mastery skill up to Expert. Half-dragon Bards also have their bare-handed combat upgraded to martial arts. Orc Bards also get dagger and short sword skills up to Expert.

Musicalize spell

The Bard's distinctive advantage is mastery of a skill called Musicalize Spell, which gives the character the ability to perform magical songs. For the most part this is just a special way of casting enchantment spells, by (a)pplying a musical instrument instead of using the spell menu (though there is one song, "Inspire Courage", which is unlike any regular enchantment spell). For roles who can reach at least Basic in the skill, this will bring up a menu with the option of casting a spell in addition to the existing options of improvising or playing a series of notes.

Spells performed as songs have two advantages over spells cast in the usual way. First, songs require no energy to perform, and second, songs affect all monsters in an area, instead of all monsters in a specified direction. However, the advantages of using songs are balanced by several disadvantages:

  • The performer must have an appropriate musical instrument. For every magical song, there are two instruments that can be used: one that is "preferred" and less likely to be resisted by monsters, and an alternative that can be used if the preferred instrument is unavailable, but with a lower chance of success.
  • The performer must have learned the spell corresponding to the song being used.
  • Songs take several turns to perform, and can be interrupted.
  • The effects of spells cast as songs tend to be less powerful than their regular forms. For example, the Lullaby song, if successful, puts monsters to sleep for a shorter period of time than the sleep spell.
  • At Unskilled or Basic, songs affect pets as well as hostile monsters, though the effects on pets are milder. At Skilled or Expert, tame creatures are not affected—except by "Inspire Courage", which only affects pets.

Songs in SlashTHEM

Song Description Spell Preferred Instrument Alternative Instrument Duration
Lullaby Puts enemies to sleep sleep wooden harp wooden flute 4 turns
Cacophony Confuses enemies confuse monster leather drum tooled horn 5 turns
Drowsiness Slows enemies slow monster wooden flute wooden harp 5 turns
Despair Causes enemies to flee cause fear tooled horn leather drum 6 turns
Friendship Temporarily tames monsters charm monster wooden harp wooden flute 6 turns
Inspire Courage Increases the damage done by pets cause fear bugle leather drum 6 turns

Note that "Inspire Courage" does not mimic an existing enchantment spell; however, the character still needs to know a specific spell (cause fear) in order to use it.

In the patch, Monks and Priests can advance the Musicalize Spell skill to Basic, while Tourists can advance it to Skilled. In SlashTHEM, Musicians can also reach Expert in Music, and characters can perform any song without having to know the corresponding spell.

Songs in dNetHack

Song Description Spell Preferred Instrument Alternative Instrument Duration
Lullaby Puts enemies to sleep sleep wooden harp wooden flute 4 turns
Meditative Healing Heals pets, at the cost of immobilizing them extra healing wooden harp wooden flute 4 turns
Lethargy Slows enemies (including sleep-resistant foes) slow monster wooden harp wooden flute 5 turns
Friendship Permanently tames single adjacent monster charm monster wooden harp wooden flute 6 turns
Rally Teleports pets to you, heals pet status ailments teleport away bugle tooled horn 1 turn
Charge Pets move and attack faster while the song is playing haste self bugle leather drum 5 turn
Disruption Interferes with monster spellcasting while the song is playing cancellation tooled horn bugle 5 turn
Inspire Courage Increases the damage done by pets cause fear bugle leather drum 6 turns
Fear Causes enemies to flee cause fear tooled horn, leather drum <none> 6 turns
Cacophony Confuses enemies confuse monster tooled horn leather drum 5 turns

In dNetHack, in addition to Bards being able to advance the Musicalize Spell skill to Expert, Monks and non-Drow Priests can advance to Basic, Tourists and Valkyries can advance to Skilled, and Elves of all roles can advance to Expert. Binding the spirit Orthos permanently unrestricts Musicalize Spell, and both Orthos and carrying the Water Crystal each increase the skill cap of Musicalize Spell by one level. Bards and characters binding Orthos already know all songs, but other characters must know the corresponding spell before they can perform the song.

Success chance in dNetHack

Success chance is calculated as:

ATTRIBUTE x 2 x MUSICALITY_SKILL + experience level


  • ATTRIBUTE is strength for drums (either leather or of earthquake) and dexterity for all other instruments.
  • MUSICALITY_SKILL is 1 at unskilled, 2 at basic, etc.

Bonuses are applied (in the following order):

  • If the instrument is an artifact or the instrument is the song's preferred type, increase the chance by 50%.
  • If your health is lower than 30% of your maximum, increase the chance by 100%.
  • If the instrument is a drum or a harp, and you are wearing a shield, decrease the chance by 50%.
  • If you are blind, increase the chance by your experience level.
  • If you are using the Lyre of Orpheus (Bard's quest artifact) and you are not playing one of: Rally, Meditative Healing, Lullaby, or Friendship, decrease the chance by 50%.

Note: The chance is only capped to 0/100% after all bonuses have been applied, so you can still get to 100% success chance with the Lyre of Orpheus.

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"Update dnh success chances. Pets helping with singing, enemies countersinging."


In SlashTHEM, the Bard gains techniques at the following experience levels:

The Booze technique allows the Bard to simulate the effects of drinking booze without needing the potion ("You procure some refreshing drinks.") This provides some nutrition.

  • SlashTHEM tech.c line 148

Abilities in dNetHack

Half-dragon bards gain one unique ability at level 14, which they can use via via #ability:

Sing an Elemental into being

This ability costs 45 energy. You create an adjacent tame elemental. Its level is the average of its base level and your experience level, and its maximum HP is equal to 8 times its level, minus 4. The type of elemental produced depends on the type of your half-dragon breath weapon:

Breath weapon Elemental
Fire Fire elemental
Cold Ice paraelemental
Lightning Lightning paraelemental
Acid Acid paraelemental
Poison Poison paraelemental
Sleep Dream quasielemental
Random breath
Magic missiles Energy vortex

(The "Random breath" and "Magic missiles" cases are not currently possible, because those breaths/colors are only available to non-bard half-dragons.)

Since this ability requires breathing, it cannot be used while you cannot breathe.

Special rules in dNetHack

Half-dragon bards start the game with an extra 30 maximum energy.

If a figurine comes to life, and would otherwise be peaceful or hostile (not tame), if the new monster is intelligent, then a Bard has a second automatic chance to win them over and make them tame. This has a (charisma - 1)20 chance of success.

The Singing Sword is an artifact weapon that can be named by Bards, elves, and anyone who has ever bound Orthos. Any long sword, rapier, or saber is a valid base item for it. It uses and trains the Musicalize skill instead of the normal weapon skill, and it can learn and sing its own songs - see its page for details.



Early game

Early game is all about training up your musicalize skill by spamming it as much as possible, with the ultimate goal of getting Musicalize up to expert as quickly as possible. Use Lullaby on every enemy your pet fights to limit damage to your pet, and heal your pet with Meditative Healing as much as possible. As you begin to progress deeper in to the dungeon and find slightly stronger monsters, consider using Lethargy and Friendship to slow them down and capture them. Keep your eyes peeled for a magic whistle as this is essential to keeping your pets in position as you travel through the dungeon. When possible, upgrade your Beast Mastery skill to maximize your pets' effectiveness.

Exercise your dexterity as much as possible in the early game to build up this trait. As increased dexterity decreases the chance of failure from your Musicalize skills, most importantly the Friendship spell, you will need this trait at maximum as quickly as possible.

Keep a lookout for a long sword, rapier, or saber that you can name to become the Singing Sword, which is essential for the mid game.

Mid game

Rushing the castle so you can get a few wishes, if you haven't received any already, is a good idea - that will allow you to take your time on the other quests once you're better equipped.

As you get stronger in the mid game, you should be constantly recruiting the most dangerous monsters you can find as pets, and you may have to lure strong monsters into isolation from other nearby monsters to capture them as nearby monsters may interrupt your musical spellcasting. During the Gnomish Mines, the Minetown Watch can serve you well, and Cerebus in Vlad's Tower will carry you for a quite a while. Mind flayers, dragons, orc kings, and even a few elementals are all good pets in this part of the game. The master mind flayer on throne at the start of the Neutral Quest is particularly good if you can get him - just make sure to surround yourself with enough disposable pets that you won't get hit with every attack. Metroids will also work well mid game, but as they level, they will eventually turn into an untamable metroid queen, so this is not a viable long-term option.

The mid game is a good time to consider using scrolls of genocides to exterminate monsters that will instakill your pets. Purple worms, trappers, and cockatrices should all be eliminated if you're not going to use them yourself.

Keep an eye peeled for smart situational branches that could help you in creative ways. For example, if the Sunless Sea is the sunken city variant, you can recruit a few deep ones and then kill the constantly spawning horde of deep ones to create massively overpowered deepest ones that will help you tremendously in the mid and late game.

Late game

In general, as you progress deeper towards the late game, more and more monsters will shout down your Musicalize spells, making it difficult to heal monsters or recruit new monsters. All but the strongest of monsters should be considered disposable, and you should be constantly using your pets to protect you with their lives. When you actually complete your own quest, make sure to ring the Bell of Opening once to teach it to your Singing Sword - the five percent change of instantly killing monsters will be essential for killing demon princes and other strong monsters.

Demon princes in Gehennom will be a problem, and should be avoided as much as possible. Archons and other strong pets (like Lady Oona or Tulani Eladrim) that have lasted you well will not survive demon princes in a toe-to-toe fight. If you have to fight, ward a square, as a scared demon prince often won't attack either you or your pets. Good monsters to keep an eye out for include master mind flayers, orcs of the ages of the stars, Angband orcs, and ancient nagas. Ancient nagas particularly can be useful in Nessus, as these can kill Nessian pit fields quickly without triggering their summon nasties spell, though they may turn on you. Be careful in capturing pets that might turn traitor, but don't be afraid to include a few in your entourage - traitors will distribute their attacks against other pets as well as yourself, at which point you can just heal your pets with Meditative Healing.

Most likely, your staple troops will be a supply of dragons. Higher level dragons can take quite a lot of punishment.

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"Does this page need a new strategy for fighting the elder priest, now that the Wizard of Yendor won't do it for you?"

Rank titles

The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:

  • XL 1-2: Bard
  • XL 3-5: Lyrist
  • XL 6-9: Sonneteer
  • XL 10-13: Jongleur
  • XL 14-17: Troubadour
  • XL 18-21: Minstrel
  • XL 22-25: Lorist
  • XL 26-29: Well-known Bard
  • XL 30: Master Bard


Main article: Bard quest

The Bard quest sees the Bard traveling to the island of Anthemoessa to fight the siren Aglaope for the Lyre of Orpheus.

In dNetHack, when calculating whether your experience level is high enough to proceed beyond the Home level of the Bard quest, instead of using your level alone, the game adds up the monster levels of all your pets (halved and rounded down, except for your highest-levelled pet), and adds half of your level (rounded down). This total is then compared against the minimum level to proceed into the quest (14) as usual.


Main article: Religion

In SlashTHEM, the Bard's pantheon combines music-related gods from Greek and Roman mythology:

  • Lawful: Minerva
  • Neutral: Apollo
  • Chaotic: Linus

The dNetHack Troubadour's pantheon is Greek, perhaps Thracian (Thrace was the home of Orpheus):

  • Lawful: Apollon
  • Neutral: Pan
  • Chaotic: Dionysus


The Bard is inspired in large part by the bard character class in Dungeons & Dragons, and similar characters.

The quest and mythos also draw on Greek mythology, including the myth of Orpheus.


  • SlashTHEM role.c line 147
  • dNetHack role.c line 450
  • dNetHack u_init.c line 1613

See also