The first major project on this blog is finished: the Bardic Art series. The goal of this series of posts was to:
1. Provide a framework for bards to create artwork meaningful on a mechanical level.
2. Provide a list of medium-specific effects to make different kinds of bards have different effects upon the world, reflecting the differences in their medium.
At 1st level, a Bard is considered an Apprentice artist, 3rd a Journeyman, 7th a Specialist, 12th a Master, and 18th a Grandmaster artist. The table below shows the general duration of effect for a piece of art at the given quality level as well as how long it takes a bardic artist of the indicated skill level to create a piece of art at each level of quality.
More profound artwork are capable of expressing more supernatural effects and sustain them for longer, since they are by nature more complex and deep. Except in a few cases, the artwork itself is not magical; the magic lies in the response of people/the world to the artwork. Because of this, the effects generated by bardic artwork are not permanent - a Grandmaster work of art loses its potency after 10 years of exposure - it ceases to inspire in the same way it once did and thus can no longer conjure the same magical response.
I think that about 50% of the effects generated by a given piece of art should be under the control of the artist, while the other 50% are random - art does not always do what the artist expects or asks of it. Apprentice artists can trigger 2 effects, Journeymen 3, Specialist 4, Master 5, and Grandmaster 6.
Alternatively, and I think I might like this approach better, each bard has a list of 6 or 8 effects they can draw upon for their art, taken from their medium's table. When they use an effect in a piece of art, it is replaced by another one, determined randomly from the larger table. In fact, the size of their effect list could increase with their skill level as well, perhaps 2 for Apprentice, 3, 5, 7, and 9 for Grandmaster bards, and they would be able to choose all but 1 of the magical effects of a work of art (which would be rolled randomly from the larger list).
Furthermore, bards are able to copy other artworks, duplicating their effects. Copying from within the same medium produces an identical artwork, but all effects are reduced by 25% (their numerical effects or, if no numerical aspects, there is a 25% chance the effect will not manifest). Copying from a different medium entirely has a 50% reduction on efficacy.
Now for the list of mediums and concentrations. Each bard must choose one concentration within the medium. They are able to produce artwork with another concentration within their medium as though they were a bard 25% lower level (so a 4th level Drawing (Charcoal) bard could produce paintings as though they were 3rd level), but they cannot produce artwork from a different medium (they can only copy it using their own, as described above).
Ceramics (Hand-building or Throwing)
Drawing (Charcoal, Painting [Ink], Painting [Oil], Printmaking, or Tattooing)
Literature (Poetry or Prose)
Music (Court [Instrumental], Court [Opera/Vocal], Regional Folk, or Liturgical)
Performance Art (Dance or Theatre)
Sculpture (Bone and Wood, Glassblowing, Metal, or Stone)
I will say that this is only a first draft of all of these tables - I'm done with this project for now, but I'd like to at the very least double the size of each medium's table sometime in the future.