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The Hype Man Bard

An Unusual Character Concept

By Neal LitherlandPublished about a year ago 4 min read

"Did I hear you right just now, friend?" Cerise asked. The gnome had to hop up onto a chair to be seen by the rest of the taproom, but her voice was as big as the rest of her was small. "Did you just issue a challenge?"

The bent-nosed farm boy with the nasty sneer seemed like he was used to being the top dog in this neck of the woods. And with a neck as thick as his, there probably weren't too many people around who could best him if it came to grips. He rubbed at his nose, and slammed down his glass loud enough to silence the whispers from the back tables.

"I think you heard me just fine, pint-sized," he said.

"Oh my brother, you know not what it is you do," Cerise said, shaking her head, her blue hair making a shushing noise. "Strangers receive a single chance, by law and custom. Withdraw your words, and we can all go back to our meals."

Behind Cerise, Gwend stood up. The half-orc was draped in a muted red cape, and she hadn't taken it off since they'd arrived. Tall and broad-shouldered, her face was impassive, her amber eyes catching the firelight and holding it like a cat. The ox hadn't gotten a good look at her before, but now everyone was watching him. Cerise schooled her face into a serious mask, but her eyes glittered with mischief. This was her favorite part.

"I ain't taking back nothing," the man said, folding his arms over his chest as he puffed it out to try to look bigger than he was.

"As it please you," Cerise said, heaving a dramatic sigh. "Know then that you stand before Gwend Hammerhand, the Breaker of the Iron Mountain, Ravager of Tol'thundu, and the last of the Bone Eaters."

Cerise let a little magic slip into her voice as she spoke, and Gwend tossed aside her cloak to reveal her rippling physique. And her scars. She was embarrassed by them, the same as she'd been embarrassed by the titles Cerise kept using. But she got used to it... and it really sold the presentation!

Bring The Hype

Oh trust me, commoners, you ain't ready to roll with this!

A hype man is, generally speaking, a role you find in hip hop and rap. They play a supporting role, getting the crowd ready for the main act, handling call-and-response with the audience, and giving the MC time to breathe while ensuring the flow never so much as stutters. The term has grown to encompass other roles in other venues, though, such as "managers" in professional wrestling who big-up their already larger-than-life talent, or boxing promoters who stir up interest and reaction both before and during a bout.

This is an archetype that is tailor-made for the bard... as long as they have a friend in the party to act as the other half of this duo.

Consider the barbarian. They may be loud and brutish, or quick and deadly, but to hear them list their own accomplishments sounds like bragging. Coming from someone else, though, they can sound like a warning. While the paladin might be humble regarding their capabilities and their deeds, a herald might list their titles and accomplishments, giving them just enough inflection and gravitas that it swells them up with inspiration, and frightens foes who may not be as confident as they were a few moments before. This character might even fulfill this role for the party as a whole, whether they're a gang of brigands, an infamous mercenary company, or a team of heroes, their name and legend might be polished as a way of building up their allies and cowing their enemies.

This concept doesn't require any special subclasses/archetypes, or any unique abilities from specific editions. Rather, this kind of bard is a character performance that creates a unique personality that can improve a game. It helps a lot if your fellow players have figured out the Small Legends for their characters (more on that in Character Reputation in RPGs: The Small Legend), giving you the necessary story components to work with.

The Hype Man, as an idea, is a loud kind of support character. They might be center stage, but they're directing the story and spotlight onto their companions to create synergy. And if you have players at the table who might be reticent, or feel like they've got a hard time getting involved, this might be a good way to help them step up.

Also, for additional tips and tricks, don't forget to check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Bards!

Looking For Even More Content?

That's all for this installment of my Unusual Character Concepts series! Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a game master.

For even more of my work, check out my full Vocal archive. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, or my most recent collection of short stories The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider either Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

Or if you want to get all of that in one place, check out my LinkTree instead!

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About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.



Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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