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Thrasos' Bard Guide
The Bard is always referred to as the "Jack of All Trades," which can make learning the class rather difficult. Learning how to play a Bard well requires knowing all your songs, knowing the strengths of others in your group, and having a rather advanced knowledge of P99 mechanics including aggro and threat. I learned most of this through experimentation, through playing other classes including enchanters, monks and necros, and by reading other guides and tips assembled on this wiki and on the P99 forums.
I write this guide and I hope it will be helpful for new and experienced Bards alike. I hope people will correct me wherever I am wrong, and I hope I will continue to learn more about the most interesting class I have ever had the joy to play. I especially hope someone with more skill at editing the Wiki comes along and makes my page easier to read!
Bards can be Humans, Wood Elves, and Half Elves. Their stats are roughly similar. Wood Elves and Half-Elves get infravision, which is certainly helpful for seeing around when you are on a corpse run. Humans are night blind but gain +5 fire resist. You really can't go wrong picking any race. I rolled a Wood Elf in Kunark, but switched to a Human in Velious because I like the Human Dragon Helm graphic.
For stats, I allocate enough Dex to get to 100, then I will normally split between Charisma and Strength. I find that 100 dex leads to less song fizzles, but I have not tested this formally. You want Dex and Cha as high as possible for your soloing, and enough Strength to not be overweight all the time. Some people may want to allocate to Stamina. Again, it doesn't really matter too much for Bards where you put your starting points.
How Bards Work
Bards are plate-wearing casters. Bards can dual wield, but they never get double attack, and their melee damage will never be significant in a raid situation. Bards CAN do more DPS in a group role that most people realize, but more on that later. Also, due to a lack of defense skills, low mitigation and low returns to stamina, Bards do not efficiently serve the role as a group tank after the mid-40s. They will never be an efficient target for CH. Of course, if you have a shaman slowing, a wizard could probably tank, and Bards can hold aggro better than almost any other class.
What Bards get instead are their songs. Every level, Bards get at least one new song (rarely 2 and 3 at 60). A few songs are upgrades to earlier ranks. Most often each new song is something entirely different added to a Bard's arsenal. Some of these songs you will likely never use. Some you will use only once you start raiding. Some will always be on your casting bar, and some you will swap in and out depending on whether you are soloing and what role you are filling in a group.
The unique thing about Bard songs are they all take 3 seconds to cast, they all can be cast while moving at full speed, and they all cost no mana (with two exceptions). Most Bard songs last for 3 ticks (18 seconds). You can cast as many songs as you are able to with your computer, connection, and ability in these 18 seconds - up to 5, but in practice I usually run 4 or 3 at a time. Playing multiple songs is known as "twisting", and your "twist" depends entirely upon what you are doing at that moment. Often you will need to adjust your twist during a fight to deal with a new situation.
Bard's ability to play a song without it fizzling references their ability score, just all other casters. For a Bard, these skills are Singing, Brass, Wind, Percussion, and Stringed. Each Bard song has one of these skills assigned to it, which means two important things. The first one is that if you equip that instrument while playing that song, you will somehow improve its effects, which depends on the modifier on your particular instrument. You can play almost all your songs without an instrument equipped, but they would simply be more effective if you had the correct instrument equipped. The exceptions are some Wind songs like invis and water breathing, and the Velious mana/hp regen song you receive at 34 which requires a Lute equipped. The second thing to know is that, even though you can cast these songs without an instrument equipped, your fizzle rate still depends on the instrument skill of the song. You want to keep your instrument skills maxed whenever possible, which can easily be done by sitting afk somewhere safe, equipping the instrument you want to skill up, and playing a song that references that instrument. Failing to keep your instrument skills up means more fizzles - which for a Bard can be life or death.
So what makes Bards unique is the sheer arsenal of songs available and the ability to cast on the move. Remember two things: (1) You need to know your songs (2) Your mobility is your biggest advantage. A good Bard avoids taking hit where other classes are forced to stand still.
Setting Up to Bard
Choose whatever UI you like. The first thing you need to do is to set up your song macros. I set up on Hotbar 1. Under keyboard settings, Hotbar 1 slot 1 is linked to button #1 on my keyboard, Hotbar 1 slot 2 is linked to #2 on my keyboard, Hotbar 1 slot 3 is linked to #3 on my keyboard, etc. This should be the default setting. You ALSO want to make sure that "Tab" is set to "Target Nearest NPC" and that "Control+Tab" is set to "Cycle through NPCs." This will become important when you start charming.
Open your macros page and create this macro:
Drag and drop that to Hotbar 1 slot 1. Repeat so that all 8 song slots have their own macro. You need to do this to avoid double-tapping. It will increase the speed of your twist.
I put autoattack in Hotbar 1 slot 9, and Assist in Hotbar 1 slot 10. You can put something else in slot 10 if you want, perhaps an incoming message (which I have linked to a different button).
The way that I set up my songs is to put my normal twist in slots 1-4, and my CC/utility songs in slots 5-8. I switch around 1-4 depending what I am doing, but I almost always keep up:
Song 5: Snare
Song 6: Charm
Song 7: Mez
Song 8: Selos Accelerando
Selos, Mez, Charm and Snare saves lives. A Bard's biggest fear is being rooted, and if you are, you will be very happy you have Mez up. I try as often as possible to keep AOE Fear up as well, which has saved my life more than enough to justify its place on my song bar.
After your song macros are set up, you need to figure out an efficient way to be able to swap instruments. Bards get to dual wield, but there are very few Bard instruments that you can hold along with a melee weapon. That means that, if you want to equip a drum, you need to take off both your weapons, which requires an additional inventory slot. On my Bard, I only carry 4 bags. In the other 4 slots I have a Greater Lightstone (until I get a worn item), and 3 empty slots that I fill with whatever two instruments I am using at the time (usually a lute and a drum). I have a horizontal hotbar on which I drag my primary slot, secondary slot, and the three slots in my inventory that contains the two instruments and the blank space. This way, I can swap out an instrument without opening the inventory screen or a bag. On my horizontal hotbar I also have all my worn utility clickies, which I will discuss more in the gearing section.
Bards are often called upon to pull. This is most often because the average EQ player is really lazy. But it is also because Bards have a set of skills that make them quite good pullers. In outdoor zones, Selos and Track makes bards good pullers, but this requires no special tricks. Really, any class with SoW can pull in most outdoor zones.
By pulling we almost always mean splitting - taking a scenario with too many mobs, and pulling in less than the total amount that would otherwise aggro.
Before beginning, it is important to understand a little bit about how aggro transfers in EQ. Assume the below X's are mobs:
X1 X2 X3
The way aggro transfers in EQ on pulls is that the aggro range is based on the mob you initially aggroed. If you aggro mob X1, and it is close enough, you will also aggro mob X2. However, if mob X3 is far enough away from X1, and X1 DOES NOT PATH INTO X3's AGGRO RADIUS, then by pulling X1 you will only get two mobs (X1 and X2). If, instead, you pulled X2, then you would also aggro mobs X1 and X3.
Different abilities lead to different sized aggro radius. By playing with the aggro radius of mobs, Bards can create some nifty pulls.
Bards get a Lull spell at level 8 (Keling's Lugubrious Lament). Lull is a pretty easy ability to understand: it makes the aggro radius of the Mob smaller. In the example above, if you were able to Lull X2, then you could successfully pull X1 single. Bard Lulls only last for 18 seconds, so you need to move quickly when you are Lulling more than one mob in a split.
Lull has a resist check based on the level difference between the Bard and the Mob, and the Charisma of the Bard. I believe it also checks to mob MR. If you play to lull pull a lot, you want to get your charisma up, or at least carry around a crude stein to use while lulling. A succesful lull reduces the mobs aggro radius. A resisted lull simply means the lull was not successful. But on a CRITICAL resist, the mob will become aggroed and run at you - and potentially aggroing nearby mobs.
So, Lulling as a splitting technique, especially for crowded rooms, can be a dangerous proposition. A major benefit of Lulling though is that it does not require Line of Sight. One way this can be used it to give the Bard additional distance from the mobs they are trying to lull - perhaps getting closer to the group or a zone line. Another way to use this LOS mechanic is that either by binding sight (lvl 34 spell) or by assisting a rogue, the Bard can get lull targets, and try to lull them, without actually having to get into aggro range.
Lull crit resists have a smaller aggro radius than a DD song or a throwing weapon. In some cases, a lull crit resist may actually result in a single pull, or at the very least allows the Bard to pull mobs through walls or locked doors. For this reason, some bards carry around a set of negative charisma gear in order to make lull crits more likely.
(2) Aggro pull
As mentioned above, some songs generate smaller aggro radiuses than a thrown weapon or a body pull. One is a crit lull resist, but waiting for a crit lull resist is like watching a pot for it to boil. Another low aggro radius spell is your level 40 single target magic dispell. Another item with a surprisingly low aggro radius is the bracer that drops off Ragefire. There are times to use all three.
(3) Sneak pulling
Bards get sneak! Sneak pulling is the safest way to split pull when you can do it. The problem is Bards don't get FD. So unless the mobs are facing away from you, you can't sneak pull safely as a Bard. use it when you can.
(4) Snare/Mez pulling Refering to the diagram above, the Bard simply snares or mezzes X1. X2 will come charging at full speed, which the Bard brings back to the group. Then X1 will arrive a little bit later. This gives the tank time to pick up X2 before having to worry about CCing X1. Of course, if there are respawns, then X1 will aggro them on the way back.
(5) Charm pulling
This is my favorite way to pull for most XP groups. The tactic is simple: Charm mob X1, and have it attack mob X2. In most cases, mob X3 will still aggro due to how aggro mechanics work with charmed pets. Bring X3 back to the group, then wait for X1 to have a charm break. Those two mobs will run at the group, but you can either recharm it or otherwise CC those mobs when they arrive.
XP groups are all about killing fast, and there's nothing better than having 36 seconds of charm soloing built into a normal 3-pull.
Bard Solo Tactics
There are some great gearing options for Bards, but Bards can do all these tactics with very minimal gear. I will discuss Bard solo tactics, many of which you will (or should!) apply in groups
(1) AOE Swarming
This is where a Bard runs around in circles with a giant pack of mobs, and plays a PBAOE song (usually his lvl 18 song) just out of range of the mobs. There are lots of other guides to AOE swarming along with youtube videos. I won't spend any more time on this tactic as it is pretty simple and well covered elsewhere. It's a fast way to XP, but you don't really gain any useful Bard skills applicable to grouping.
(2) Chant Kiting
This is a version of Aggro kiting. The Bard gains a number of DD chants that use drums, with the first at lvl 30 (MR check), one at 41 (FR check), and another at 46 (CR check). A Bard can literally just play these three songs and kill it, expending no mana in the process. This works best if the mob is not a caster and cannot summon, and is not totally immune to MR, FR, and CR. In order to keep your distance from the mob, you can either (1) Cast Selos, (2) Snare the mob and back up from up, or (3) Get a Sow. Easy, simple, and safe as long as you don't run into other mobs, but slow XP. For obvious reasons this only works if you have space to work in.
Note that chants are dots, and on unfeared mobs that are moving, dots only do 2/3 of their normal damage. This makes chant kiting slower than fear kiting in most cases.
(3) Fear Kiting
You can begin fear kiting as soon as you have snare (level 23) and aoe fear (level 26). It works exactly how fear kiting always works: snare the mob, then fear the mob. You turn on autoattack and stay in range of the mob, and gradually beat it down. Fear CAN break early (it is based on an MR check). It is extremely helpful to acquire a Journeyman's Walking Stick or an Orb of Tishan, both of which proc a MR debuff. This makes fear kiting safer at higher levels, and allows you to more comfortably do a 4-song twist without having to worry about either snare or fear resists.
Fear Kiting is great for casters especially. You don't take any damage when you're fear kiting, so it's non-stop killing, especially if you twist in HP regen to keep yourself topped up.
Pre ~45, a recommended twist is Snare - Fear - Jonathan's Whistling Warsong (self haste) -> HP Regen (assuming you took some hits). Post~45, I find I do more damage from using dots with my drum than with melee (pre-epic). A recommended twist is then Snare -> Fear -> FR dot -> CR dot. On feared mobs dots deal full damage, no 2/3 penalty.
I fear kite ALL the time. Starting at 26, an untwinked bard can fear kite mobs at Mistmoore Pond and solo the entire Pond area before respawns....safely. You will need to Lull in order to split. Just keep Selos up, try to lull, and zone out if you get a critical resist. Once you have a single, drag the mob back to the zoneline with snare on, and fear it when it reaches you. Start attacking, and don't renew the fear if the mob is starting to get close to other mobs. Just back up, keep it snared, and wait for fear to drop. The mob will run back to you, and then fear it again. I sometimes call this "yo-yo" kiting.
Another place I do "yo-yo" kiting is if I am soloing Lord Bergurgle in Lake Rathetear. He's a nasty caster, there are adds around the room, and fear-kiting is a pain underwater. It's much easier just to fear him, snare him, use Chant DDs, and wait for fear to break. If he starts casting on me, I will charm him - Bard charm only takes 3 seconds to cast, far shorter than most higher levels spells. I'll then have him return to me while charmed, and I will snare/fear him when it breaks.
Again - I fear kite all the time. I do it solo for named mobs. I do it to farm Seb keys. I sometimes do it in groups against a nasty caster or if my healer's mana is a little low. Use it a lot.
One last tip: before you start fear kiting, pull the mob where you want it and mez it. This was you can snare and fear the mob safely, and avoid a hit while you are trying to land two spells. Now technically the range on the PBAOE fear is larger than the melee range on a mob, and once you figure this out, you can snare/fear safely without taking a hit.
(4) Mez - Melee
Sometimes you need to fight in close quarters. When you camp your Dark Elf mask in LGuk, you don't have room to fear kite. Mez-Melee is super easy. All you do is twist a DPS rotation, and when you get low on HP, keep the mob mez-locked and twist in HP regen. Your DPS rotation will depend on your level, but probably Self Haste -> HP Regen -> Slow/Snare (lvl 23) -> Damage Shield (like lvl 25 Psalm of Warmth)
Bard Single-Target Mez lasts 18 seconds, and it checks to MR. You get your first single-target mez at 28. Once you Mez the target, you can refresh the Mez without the target ever waking up to damage you - as long as you land another Mez before 18 second is up. Normally, I will twist Mez -> HP Regen -> Mez -> HP Regen, just to be sure that I don't get a series of Mez resists. I also, whenever possible, Tash the mob to reduce resists (seriously, buy an Orb of Tishan ASAP).
Remember when you Mez-Melee that dots break mez. So if you are using any dot songs, you need to stop them about 18 seconds BEFORE you need to mez the mob.
One last note: if after level 35 you want to mez/melee a caster, you can mez him, play your lvl 35 mana drain song, and remez until he is totally OOM.
I could write an entire guide about Charming. Read enchanter guides to learn more than I can summarize here. But here are the basics of Bard charming.
Bard charms last 18 seconds max, and checks to MR. Unlike mez, it CAN break early, and you CANNOT refresh charm before it breaks. This means that at the most, every 18 seconds you will have a charm break. While at lower levels you can tank two mobs while you refresh charm, at higher levels this is an easy way to die. The mobs hit harder, they can quad, and they will bash interrupt you.
The ideal way to charm is an area with space to move (BARDS ARE MOBILE) where mobs can be pulled in twos. After you have two mobs alone, charm one, and have it attack the other mob. Then play Selos and keep your distance, and perhaps HP Regen. After awhile you develop an intuition for when Charm is going to break. Start recharming your target, and if you are too early, just hit your charm macro again (it will stop the song and cast the new one). I normally recast charm if my casting bar hits 50% and the mob hasn't broken charm yet.
When charm breaks, they both run at you. Keep your distance by backing up - Selos should be on, and you have time to recharm, even with a resist or two. If you can't run straight back, run in a circle, charm doesn't require you to be looking at the mob, just to have LOS. So run in a safe area and keep your space til you get them recharmed.
A few more comments about Bard charm. First, Bard charm serves as a partial mem-blur. The Bard's charm will 'forget' all previous damage dealt to it, and all previous aggro caused. This is extremely useful and is a huge advantage. In order to gain full xp from a mob while soloing, you need to deal over 50% of the damage to that mob. But charming erases all memory of that damage dealt! You could have a charmed pet deal 99% of the damage to another mob, and as long as the charm breaks prior to the killing blow, you will earn 100% of the xp.
Ideally, you want to charm mobs in pairs, and get them both as close to 0% hp as possible before you kill them both. If one mob is decisively winning, you can try to assist the weaker mob. One way to do this is to charm the weaker mob and dot the stronger mob. Then, when charm breaks, charm the stronger mob. You have to charm the stronger mob because you dotted it, and if you charm the weaker mob, it will likely be unable to gain aggro. Once your charm on the stronger mob breaks, it will forget you ever dotted it, but it will take full damage. The same can be done my DSing one or both mobs (with a Singing Steel Bracer or Ragefire Vambraces), slowing one mob, or meleeing a bit with the other mob charmed. You will need to experiment with these tactics a bit to get it right.
At the end, you need to finish both mobs. Assuming only one mob is low-HP, then all need to do is charm the other mob, and the low-hp mob will start running away. You DON'T want the high-hp mob to finish it, because you will only gain 50% of the xp. Instead, just snare the low-hp mob, and wait for charm to break. Once charm breaks, mez the higher hp mob. Then, finish the low-hp runner at your leisure, and just refresh mez once every 18 seconds on the high-hp mob. Then finish the high-hp mob, either by fear kiting, chant-kiting, mez-melee, or by finding another charm target.
A normal twist while charming is just Charm -> Selos -> Hp Regen, with some dots maybe thrown in. If you get an add, you can either Lull it (if you are quick) or Mez it and deal with it when you are done with the first kill.
Bard Duo/Group Tactics
All of the Solo techniques besides AOE swarming can be used in duos and groups.
Role: Aggro or Fear Kiter
Both of these are simple. You snare the mob, then either keep your distance or fear it.
Aggro and Fear kiting is a great basis for any duo because you can do it with anyone. If you don't have a tank or a healer, these are methods to xp with very little risk of taking damage. It's especially good with charm pet classes or rogues. As noted before, you can also selectively aggro or fear kite in a traditional group, if the healers mana is low, or if a particularly hard caster comes along.
Role: Dot Damage
This is actually an efficient way to duo with any class that can root. The caster simply roots the mob, and you chant it down. Easiest with singles. If they pull is two or more, you can root and DD, or try to root them on Ideally, you have the mobs rooted on top of each other so you can charm one on the other, or use an AOE spell instead of a DD. The only situation in which you'd use it is if you don't have the space to fear kite and you have an unbalanced group (no tank or no heals).
Role: Slower or Slow-Tank
You might have an Enchanter doing CC, and no one on slows. Or maybe you have no enchanter or shaman. In any case, a Bard can mitigate damage by using a few songs. For most of your career it will be your lvl 23 Selo's Constant Chain, which at lvl 60 is a 35% slow. It is also the best snare in the game. The problem is it generates a HUGE amount of aggro.
If you plan to slow with someone else tanking, you need to wait until the mob is at around 80% Ideally, don't be in melee range. Mobs are far less likely to attack you if you are out of melee range. Even if you generate enough aggro for the mob to come at you, the snare component means you can basically just aggro kite the mob until the Tank regains control. This avoids the Bard taking hits and saves the healers mana, which in some cases is more beneficial than your melee dps.
Your slow is only 35%, far lower than higher level shaman slows. You can improve the damage mitigation by twisting in a few other spells in the twist, for instance:
-Slow/snare (lvl 23)
-Shield of Song (lvl 49, a very underrated song for xp groups imo. 20 damage and magic damage absorb per pulse, which can more than double with a lute equipped)
-Shield of Song again
Equip a lute when slow-tanking or slowing. With that twist, you mitigate up to 80 damage every 18 seconds to ALL group members, in addition to slowing the mob by 35% and Regen 20+ hp to all group members. You can easily tank in Solb and COM with this setup, and probably even KC through 60 if you have sufficient heals and dps.
Sometimes you don't have a defined role. Most likely your group has a Tank, Enchanter, and a Healer. Your role will depend on what it needed most. These are the songs I keep up when I am working in a pure support role:
Charm - If you can work it out with the enchanter, charm one of the first mobs that come in, and have him CC the remaining mobs. It adds a lot of DPS. Also in panic situations, I prefer to charm BEFORE I mez additional mobs. Melee's can't break mez by hitting it.
Mez - On a rough pull, you may want to mez too. Also in case the enchanter dies, or if the enchanter's pet breaks it is considered polite to mez his mob while he recharms.
Snare/Slow - Stops runners and can taunt mobs off the cleric/enchanter. If the enchanter is AOE mezzing, i often snare his mobs once or twice to take aggro off him. If he forgets to refresh mez or they resist, the mobs run at the Plate wearing Bard snared, not at the squishy enchanter at full speed
Selos - If outside.
Mana Song - duh
Hp Song - duh
With the other two slots, my spells depend on the situation. Sometimes it is haste, sometimes a resist song, sometimes a DS, or sometimes one or two chants if I'm really just dealing dps.
Role: Crowd Control
Here it is, the big one. Bards are the only class besides Enchanters that can CC, but very few Bards do it well. You have two main spells for CC. Charm and Mez. You will also use Snare and Selos. You want to utilize what is known as Tab Targeting. For my setup, "Tab" selects nearest NPC. This will only select NPCs - not other players, not their pets, and not charmed pets. The other button you need is "cycle through through nearest NPC." This allows you to cycle through mobs you want to mez / snare / etc.
Your Charm spell lasts up to 18 seconds and you can control the mob during this period. When Charm fades, the mob is aggroed on you, but very lightly, meaning it will run to your healer if he is sitting and near the mob when charm breaks. You want to be careful about where you are standing relative to others when charm breaks. Also note: If you charm a class that has a bet, it destroys the pet.
Your mez spell lasts 18 seconds, and can be renewed before the time is up to keep a mob locked down.
When I CC, I prefer to charm the first mob incoming. If there is a caster with a pet, I charm that one. If there is not, I charm the first caster. Then I hit "tab" again and make it attack another mob. This accomplishes a few things:
(1) It takes two mobs (the Charm and its target) out of commission until charm breaks, normally 18 seconds. This lets you CC the other mobs.
(2) It gets rid of an annoying caster pet
(3) Casters, when charmed, will spend their mana nuking your target. That is less magic damage it will deal to your party.
If the pull is 3 mobs, two of them are fighting each other. The other one continues to run into camp for the tank to pick up. Then, simply mez the other mob, back your charmed pet up right before mez lands, and have it attack the mob your tank is on. If there are more than 3 mobs, then you just have more to try and mez.
Before your tank breaks mez on a mob, it helps to have it either rooted by another group member, or snared. This gives the tank time to pick it up before it damages the Bard. Getting stunned while CCing multiple mobs can be a problem, and Bards don't have an AOE stun to buy time like an Enchanter. Your goal is to keep distance from mobs and to ReMez/ReCharm before they hit you.
If you decide to join a raiding guild, your role as a Bard is either playing Resist songs, playing Mana regen, or kiting. Unless your guild's enchanters are on strike, don't even think about mezzing a mob: enchanters get very mad at Bards that try to CC in Hate/Fear.
You will eventually learn which resists are needed for which fights. If you don't know, ask a Raid Leader what resists are necessary. Always turn walk on before fights with dragon fear, equip your drum, and good luck on the pixels!
Because of the multiple roles that Bards can play, there will be different optimal gear sets depending on the role at the moment. I won't bother going through every item. I will put things into four categories: procs, clickies, instruments, and stat gear.
The only thing that really matters is an Orb of Tishan. It procs a MR debuff at 40, and you want it. Period. It's dropable and pretty cheap.
At 50, you can charm the OT skeleton and get a free OT hammer.
There are some other procs you might find helpful. Symphonic Saber has nice stats and procs a aggro reducer, useful if you are slowing mobs while meleeing. Harmonic Dagger procs a stun, which can be helpful for Tanking or Fear Kiting, but you really don't need help generating aggro. Melodious Truncheon procs an irrestible 'mez' that lasts a fraction of a second, which is useful for interrupting casters. For low levels, the Venomous Axe of the Velium Brood comes with a nice DD proc useable at level one. Of course, if you can get an epic, get it!
There are some raid weapon drops that Bards can use as well, mostly of the DD proc variety.
Starting at level 50 a Bard can use the click effect on Breath of Harmony. The click is an inst-cast Bard song that stacks with HP regen song and adds some Str, HP regen and damage absorb.
Goblin Gazughi Ring is useful for insta-breaking charm. Hide is unreliable, and there are times when you want to break charm immediately - either to prevent your pet from dying, or to release your pet for the group to kill. I really like having one, and it can be camp easily by a bard in his 30s. It's a long camp, but safe.
A Pegasus Cloak is really useful for a Bard, just like it is for all other classes. The only thing that sets Bards apart is that Selos you run really fast, and you will take a lot of fall damage without levi. Bards get two levitate songs, but you really don't want to use them most of the time. One requires you to hold a flute, and another (selos song of travel) is problematic because it includes an invis component. If you take any damage or try to cast another song, Selos, Levi, Invis and see invis ALL drop, leaving you pretty vulnerable. I almost never use travel song: I use Selos with my Levi cloak when outdoors.
The Ragefire Armor set has two useful clickies. The Vambraces have an 8-pt DS (identical to the SS Bracer, but the RF arms are insta-cast) which you can use on charmed mobs to make charming go faster. Of course, you can use it on yourself or your party, and it stacks with your damage songs. The bracer is a low-damage nuke, but it has a very small aggro radius, making it easy to single pull.
The Bard Kunark Armor has some nice click effects. The SS bracer is an 8-pt DS. With Velious, the SS greaves cast AOE fear (4 second cast time), which is a good way to always have AOE fear available without taking up a song slot. The SS Breastplate is a clicky 100-point self heal (6 second cast time) which can be useful but is not a game breaker. I personally prefer to wear a fungi for passive regen. The SS helm summons an eye of zomm, which can be used by the bard to pull while he stays in camp playing regen songs...a fun toy, but not essential.
A Bracer of the Hidden is nice for a junk buff and having see-invis without a song up. More useful for PVP server, but still nice to have. Bards really don't need junk buffs nearly as much as other classes since they can stack songs to occupy the top slots, but you may want either Bracer of the Hidden or a Goblin earring for junk buff purposes.
The other main clickies that Bards get are their illusion masks. The DE mask drops from LGuk, is free, and has nice stats in addition to an illusion effect that gives you a junk buff AND ultravision. There are many other illusion masks out there, but I never bother getting any besides the DE mask.
The Lute of the Howler clicks a werewolf illusion, which if you have never killed named mobs in Velks, allows you to move around without aggro.
There are a few consumables you want on you at all times. The main one is an IVU potion for getting around certain areas. You won't use it often. mainly when camping your DE mask, but it is good to have. You will also want a SOW potion that you can use when you need to pull indoors, since you have no indoor run-speed boost songs. A few Stinging Wort potions are a good idea and necessary for certain raiding guilds to keep yourself alive (or a Soulfire). Finally, a few gate pots and a WC cap are a good idea for fast mobilizations.
If you are poor, then all you truly need to buy while leveling is an Orb of Tishan and the best instruments you can afford. There is a comprehensive list on the Bard wiki page.
The most important instrument is your Drum - it improves the speed of Selos, the damage of your chants, and the amount of resist added while playing resist songs. For soloing and raiding, the drum is really the most important thing. Also, all the best drums in Kunark and Velious are droppable. The Velious Drums of the Beast is amazing because it is main-hand, allowing you to equip a weapon or a resist shield in your offhand, and generally reduces the need to swap instruments.
Flutes don't matter at all except for faction song. Brass doesn't matter at all except for AOE kiting and occasionally to mana drain. It would be great to upgrade your Lute, but the only Lutes with good modifiers are no-drop (one from Maestro in Hate, the other from VP).
The Bard Epic acts as if it was a 1.8 instrument for ALL instrument types. This is lower than even starter instruments, but it requires no insturment equipped. It is also the only item that modifies your singing abilities. It is amazing, and looks amazing, and god I want one. It is one of the harder Epics to get in Kunark and Velious though, requiring 3 raid drops.
Bards want MR to be effective on most raids and to resist roots, Dex and Cha to get weapon procs and CC/Lull effectively, and HP/AC/STA to survive. If you can find pieces that have a ton of any one of these stats, or multiple stats, then get it. I'll list a few items here. Worn Haste is not a priority for Bards, but some pieces (especially cloaks and velious belts) have Bard stats or resists and the haste is simply a bonus.
The Ragefire no-drop armor is great for dex and cha - a Bard's most important stats. The armor has a lot of FR and very low AC, which is why most tanks don't want it (except the pants, which I believe is BIS for warriors in Kunark). The Boots and Gloves will be hard to replace.
The Hate Pants have +10mr and better stats than Mithril Legs.
The Crown of King Tranix is great for bards and enchanters - +20 MR, +15 charisma, worn infravision for you Human bards, and it serves as a worn greater lightsource. Nothing replaces this until Velious raid drops. A cheaper alternative is the Skull Shaped Barbute from LGuk, which only has +10mr and no charisma but a little HP.