Masterpieces are special performances for bards that represent the abilities of a grand master in a given bardic talent, and were first introduced in Ultimate Magic. Generally taken in place of a feat or spell known, masterpieces serve two useful functions for bard players. First, they give bards some flavor that makes them different than just “banjoplaying sorcerers with a lot of skill points,” and second, they increase a bard’s overall flexibility. GMs can gain similar benefits from adding masterpieces to a campaign or creating brand new masterpieces. Perhaps only the Choirsters of the Church of the Celestial Music have access to The Lullaby of Ember the Ancient, or the minotaur-dancers of Tarse are famed for their defensive cape dance the GM creates as a cultural option.
Of course, the ability to use a new option either for increased flexibility or as a backgroundappropriate flavor element is limited by how many examples of that option exist. Since Ultimate Magic had to cover all the spellcasting classes, it had only limited space to explore the idea of bardic masterpieces. It did give guidelines for GMs to create their own but that often takes time a GM may not have, and with only a few examples a GM might not be sure what kinds of things make good masterpieces.
To help expand the options available to bard players and GMs, Ultimate Options: Bardic Masterpieces presents a selection of new masterpiece options. At least a few options are given that will work for each of the Perform skills, and a few are listed that can be used by a bard focused on any type of Perform. In addition to typical performance masterpieces, there are several masterpieces for social skills—things learned as the pinnacle of a bard’s ability to understand, communicate with, and manipulate people. Although these masterpieces are often extraordinary abilities rather than supernatural (and carefully state this when it is the case) and represent a different kind of advanced bardic skill, they otherwise follow the normal rules for masterpieces.