Overview – Bard

Before I start, I made a supplement page for things made by myself (or others, if I find it helpful and they shared it openly) which might help you in one way or another. For now there is only a DM-tool which re-calculate the PC-level into a XP-Budget, so if you make an encounter by yourself you only need to know the PC-levels and the amount of monsters you want to send in.

Now to the main-point: Another Overview. The next one in the alphabet is the bard and spellcasters are much more difficult to overview, since that means to get a hang of their spell-lists in their entirely. I won’t go further into special spells, etc. but will use these to estimate the bard’s grading.

I’ll just copy-paste the words I already said before, for the people who didn’t read my barbarian post (I just altered the subclass thing a bit):

This is an overview, so I’ll just categorize each class in certain categories to see how it cuts and give a personal grading. The end-grading won’t count the multiclass-strength in (for obvious reasons) and is more like an overall impression than a mathematical derivation.

Any feature in italic is from a subclass and a abbreviation will say which one (in the bard’s case LO for Lore and VA for Valor). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.

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Multiclass-Strength:

  • A main-caster, so every level bard is progression in a 1:1 rate spellslot-wise.
  • The first three levels brings some solid choices in the skill department, while Song of Rest and Bardic Inspiration are nice picks. Here I see the Lore Bard superior, since you can make more use of more skills proficiency and Cutting Words than the Valor-stuff; again 4th level for Ability Score Improvement isn’t a bad choice.
  • 5th is only good if you use Bardic Inspiration often, since the spells are not that spectacular (useful, but not a great yelp of joy here). 6th is good at Lore and most likely bad at Valor, 7th have an interesting spell-variety. 8th for improved ability again and 9th doable, but not recommendable, unless you aim for higher or need the basic stuff a healer should offer (Raise Dead, Greater Restoration, Mass Cure Wounds). 10th level might be worth to get some good spells from another class to expand your versatility
  • The levels from here on will make the bard better at what he does and Magical Secrets might provide some spells you want to have, but in the end aren’t really providing anything new.
  • A capstone which is ignorable unless you’re on an encounter to encounter adventure without even a short rest.
  • All said, if you want to multiclass, use the Lore bard

Offensive:

  • Weapon Proficiency: Even without two-handed weapons, you get the best finesse weapon in the game, the rapier or shortswords for two-weapon fighting. This means you can actually be offensive for a bit while boosting DEX fpr defensive purposes.
  • Spellcasting: Not the bard’s forte, but he has some spells which makes damage and give a debuff at the same time (like the Cantrip Vicious Mockery).
  • Bonus Proficiency (VA): If you’re more of a STR-build, you can get the best weapons.
  • Extra Attack (VA): More attacks = More damage.
  • Battle Magic (VA): While supporting others with a spell, you can attack. Or while using that really mean high damage spell of the wizard list, you can dish out some minor damage afterwards. Practical.

Resource-Management:

  • Spellcasting: Especially the debuff spells of the bard are going to manage your resources (like hp) more efficiently, since a enemy who have problems hitting, won’t make damage, etc.
  • Bardic Inspiration: Since it’s not only a bonus action but the target can choose after seeing the result, this makes it easier to manage the resources of yourself and others (like the difference between a hit with a magical attack and a miss/waste).
  • Song of Rest: Saves hit dice, spell-slots for healing and the only thing you have to do is a short rest and using hit dice. Practical.
  • Font of Inspiration: The only reason I will not count the day uses of Bardic Inspiration negatively is this feature, which comes early enough to integrate regular Inspiration uses as a standard tactic and late enough to hurt multiclassers.
  • Superior Inspiration: Even though it’s a capstone, it only comes in handy, if you won’t see a short rest, And Bardic Inspiration isn’t even that much of a vital class feature. Helpful and at the right time great, but not something which would define the bard class this edition.
  • Cutting Words (LO): If you can guess that a nearly hit will get a miss or makes it harder for enemies to break free, etc. Using wisely it’ll help you manage resources quite well.
  • Peerless Skill (LO): Harder to put in a category, but in the end you’ll use it to save a resource, be it time, hp (in cases of trap disarming or something like that) or your live (like a Dexterity (Acrobatics) roll when balancing on a quarterstaff which stands in the water, while bloodthirsty sharks are swimming around).
  • Combat Inspiration (VA): A hit which got avoided, doesn’t need often more valuable resources to get healed.

Support:

  • Spellcasting: The bard’s spell-list is almost everything about support in one way or another. Healing, buffing, debuffing
  • Bardic Inspiration: A bonus to an attack roll, a saving throw or an ability check after seeing the result is a great way to support others.
  • Countercharm: Good if you know something will come. Works reliable for dragons or the tarrasque, since they have a frightful aura. But without knowing, this feature might provide nothing.
  • Combat Inspiration (VA): Even if you’re not as offensive, your allies can be.

Survivability:

  • Spellcasting: You can heal yourself, which can help a great deal in self-sufficiency, but most likely wants to heal your allies, too.
  • Bonus Proficiency (VA): Shields. Saved lives even before the antique. And medium armor is much better, when you can’t afford to raise your DEX to the cap.
  • Armor Proficiency: Light means that you have to take care of your DEX. You can, no question, but it’s kinda restrictive, which makes it a flaw.

Utility:

  • Skills Proficiency: Getting 3 skills of your choice? Great!
  • Spellcasting: Some out of combat uses and Ritual Casting, which makes it even better.
  • Jack of All Trades: Be the star of ability checks (which includes skills), which makes you an all-rounder without even much work.
  • Expertise: Bring the utility of having great skills to the next level!
  • Magical Secrets: This can be everything: Offense, Support, Survivability, just choose what you want!
  • Bonus Proficiencies (LO): More skills!
  • Additional Magic Secrets (LO): Even more spells from other classes.
  • Known Spells: More like restrictive, but with 22 (plus 2 more on LO) you’re better of than others. But still not as good as most clerics, druids and wizards.

Grading:

Multiclass: Decent
Offense: bad (LO) to decent (VA)
Resource Management: great
Support: good (VA) to great (LO)
Survivability: bad (LO) to decent (VA)
Utility: great (VA) to fantastic (LO)

Overall: great

Every stat can be heighten by using the right spells due Magical Secrets, this is why the bard seems to be kinda lackluster in some categories but gets some bonus points in the overall. Having access to any spell he likes and transforming them into bard spells is that strong and makes so much of that class’ utility.

A bard might stand in in melee for a round or two, but without shield and some other precautions he’ll be in great danger afterwards, unless he uses high resources for healing himself. Unless he got high DEX, which is entirely possible, but here I don’t take non-primary attributes into account. The Valor Bard could stand in as a standard-cleric-replacement (means not counting domains in), but even though his innate offense potential is more like meh. Feats are needed. Or stick to ranged support, since you’re at least decent and use the Battle Magic feature with more ease.

For multiclassing you should take the Lore bard, since the Valor bard only functions as he should as a pure-class build. His improved fighting abilities aren’t cut to be mixed with other classes, since they can do either better or focus the bard on its magic or utility side.

The bard just got to be a great class in 5e. Making him a main-caster was most likely a way to ensure his supportive and resourceful nature without throwing too much features in, which would be harder to overview and most likely brings some rule-holes within. So using the known basics, spells up to 9th level and some quirks made this class most likely even more powerful than intended. Especially considering that a bard player had to be great to be useful in combat outside throwing buffs. In 4e you saw the new trend and in 5e it’s still here: Bard’s aren’t the best class to kick ass, but they’ll become fast core-members of any party.

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4 thoughts on “Overview – Bard

  1. I find it odd that you didn’t mention at level 18 with magic secrets, the bard can choose the spell “wish” which literally gives the character access to every magic spell in the book up to level 8. I would think this would be an extremely powerful end-game utility worth mentioning.

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    • I thought about it, but in the end this is an overview and personally I would think twice about using a magical secret for wish. Of course it brings a lot of utility and such, but in the end wish is a very special spell, which comes down to either using it only for ‘save’ but somewhat lesser extend, or putting a lot of trust to your DM. Since this is not given, I don’t see it as a thing for an overview, but it’s definitely in for an in-depth or ‘powerview’ or things like that.

      You should definitely ask your DM beforehand, how he handles wishes in general. In my campaigns, you have to say your wish loudly and if the effect can be made by lesser spells, these will be used. Punishment for those, who either try to break the plot or taking too much time to find a loophole-free wish (after spending half an hour of player discussion to make a somewhat decent wish). And of course, if the wish-caster is really making this easy, like: “I wish our fighter will be half in the positive plane (which heals you constantly, so he can take on a very tough monster).” How could I not half the fighter and send one half to the positive plane back then?!

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    • Ops, copy-paste-error. Edited it, is:

      Support: good (VA) to great (LO)

      Mostly because I personally think, that the debuff of the bardic inspiration makes a better supplement to the basic functions, since sometimes you definitely want to lower some attack rolls by a few points.

      Liked by 1 person

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