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9/22/2019 RPGBOT - DnD 5e - The Bard Handbook

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Dungeons and Dragons 5e › Characters › Classes › The Bard Handbook

DnD 5e - The Bard Handbook

Last Updated: June 14th, 2019

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to
understand and easy to read at a glance.

Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.

Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
Green: Good options.
Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that
your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not
finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

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The Bard is fantastically versatile. With access to every skill, expertise, full casting, and a decent set of proficiencies,
the Bard can fill essentially every role in the party. The Lore Bard is more of the classic supportive Bard, with improved

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magical options and support abilities, while the Valor Bard is a decent front-line melee character who can bring their
spellcasting and support capabilities into the heat of battle.

Strangely, the Bard's emphasis on the Performance skill from previous editions has wholly vanished. There is literally
no reason to take the skill.

Bard Class Features

Hit Points: d8 is fantastic for a full casting class, but you're not going to survive rushing into melee all the time unless
you go for Valor to boost your AC.

Saves: Dexterity is great for avoiding fireballs, but most spells which call for Reflex saves won't outright disable you,
and Charisma saves are extremely rare.

Proficiencies: Light armor and a handful of weapons won't give you a ton of options, but it's enough to get by, and
Bards rely mostly on their spells and special abilities. You do get three skills of your choice, which opens up a lot of
really great options.

Spellcasting: The Bard is a full caster like a Cleric or Wizard, and casts spells based on their Charisma. Bards use a
"spells known" mechanic similar to a Sorcerer, so your abilities are limited to the spells you know. You can replace one
spell known every level, so don't worry if you choose a spell at low level and it doesn't remain useful as you gain levels.

Bardic Inspiration: It's tempting to throw this up before every fight, but since the duration is only 10 minutes and you
only get a handful of uses per day, it's important to be conservative with them. When you know that your party needs a
bit of help, like on a difficult save or on a crucial attack roll, give them an inspiration die. Since it can be used after
rolling the d20, the inspiration die can be a fantastic option when you're a point or two short of a save DC or your
enemy's AC. At fifth level the uses recharge on a Short Rest (see "Font of Inspiration"), so you can afford to be much
less stingy, but you still don't want to burn through them too quickly.

Jack of All Trades: Ability checks include Initiative (which is a Dexterity check), all skill checks, and all checks involving
the use of tools, vehicles, instruments, gaming sets, etc.

Song of Rest: A little of healing is always nice. The DM rules for balancing encounters suggest allowing no more than
two short rests per day, so you'll apply this three times per day at most: two for the short rests and one for the long rest.
Your allies need to regain hit points at the end of the rest, which means that they need to spend a hit die or use some
other ability which specifically heals at the end of a rest.

Bard College: See "Subclasses - Bard Colleges", below.

Expertise: Expertise is always fantastic, and it's especially good because Bards get any three skills of their choice at
first level.

Font of Inspiration: This allows you to use your Bardic Inspiration ability up to three times as often in a single day,
assuming two short rests.

Countercharm: Very situational, and eats your action. Unless your enemy's abilities are almost entirely composed of
fear and/or charm effects, this isn't terribly useful.

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Magical Secrets: The Bard spell list is great, but excludes a lot of extremely potent options from other spellcasters spell

Superior Inspiration: Good motivation to use your last remaining use of Inspiration immediately before starting a fight.

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Subclasses - Bard Colleges

College of GlamourXGtE: An interesting combination of abilities. College of Glamour is great for a bard looking to
play a support role.
Mantle of Inspiration: Reposition your entire party and grant temporary hit points. You won't need to use this in
every fight, but certainly don't hesitate to use it if you think it will be helpful.
Enthralling Performance: Similar to Charm Person with a 1-minute casting time, during which you need to
somehow hold that target(s)'s attention and during which you can't be interrupted. Charm Person is a 1st-level
spell and it will have the same DC, and creatures don't know that you attempted to affect them with a spell
unless the spell explicitly says that they do, or if there is some visual effect (like a ball of fire).
Mantle of Majesty: There are a number of spells which charm a creature, including charm person. By charming
a creature and using command to prevent the creature from using their turn (Drop and Grovel are great
options), you can mostly paralyze a creature. Unfortunately, since you don't use a spell slot command is cast at
its minimum spell level and will only affect one creature. This will work great to lock down strong single
enemies, but in a fight against a group you probably don't want to use this.
Unbreakable Majesty: This is an amazing option both defensively and offensively. Make sure to buff your AC or
look for other defensive options so that you won't get killed, but you should strongly consider drawing attacks
specifically to force this effect on enemies. Disadvantage on saving throws against your spells in the following
round means that a well-chosen save-or-suck spell can immediately take the creature out of the fight.
College of LorePHB: College of Lore is for magic and spellcasting-oriented Bards who don't plan to use weapons.
The abilities are fantastic, and really play to the Bard's function as a Jack of All Trades, and to the Bards abilities as
a Support.
Bonus Proficiencies: 3 more skills of your choice brings your class total up to 6. You also get Expertise at this
level, so level 3 represents a considerable jump in skill.
Cutting Words: This excludes saving throws, so you can't force enemies to fail save-or-suck saves, but you can
use it to protect allies from attacks which barely hit, or from things like the Shove action.
Additional Magical Secrets: Even more spells from a different class! This is especially nice because you get it
four levels earlier than other Bards.
Peerless Skill: This has a lot of applications. Combined with Superior Inspiration you could take an inspiration
die on every initiative check. You'll want to be careful about using this for skill checks, as that can eat up your
uses per day very quickly, and won't be as useful as potentially saving the life of one of your allies.
College of SwordsXGtE: Thematically similar to College of Valor, College of Swords places more emphasis on
offense than College of Valor, offering access to Fighting Style and some interesting options with Blade Flourish.
Blade Flourish is the subclass's signature ability, and it's awful. It eats your Bardic Inspiration dice for pitifully weak
abilities. If you want similar capabilities, consider a College of Valor Bard with the Martial Adept feat or a few levels
of Battlemaster Fighter. This subclass might be viable in games that start at 14th level or above once Master's
Flourish comes into play, but in a normal game I don't see this archetype being useful for anything except maybe a
gimmicky option in Expertise builds.

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Bonus Proficiencies: Medium armor is nice until you get to 18 or 20 Dexterity, but you don't get shields, so your
AC won't be as good as a College of Valor Bard. Scimitars are useful if you plan to use two-weapon fighting,
which becomes a viable idea thanks to Fighting Style. This class feature also allows you to use weapons in
which you are proficient as a spellcasting focus. This is extremely useful when you need to cast spells in the
middle of combat.
Fighting Style: An excellent improvement to your offensive abilities with weapons, but it largely locks you into
melee combat.
Dueling: Bards are spellcasters first, and having a free hand to hold a spellcasting focus and to perform
somatic components means that you don't need to constantly juggle one of your weapons. If you plan to
use spells with material components, you'll need a free hand to use a spell component pouch or an
instrument because you can't sheath a weapon and draw a spellcasting focus in one turn without wasting
your action.
Two-Weapon Fighting: While this presents a considerable boost to your weapon damage output, but bards
already have several abilities which consume their bonus action, including Bardic Inspiration and some
Blade Flourish: Every flourish applies the Inspiration die roll as extra damage to the creature, but the damage
feels like it was thrown on to make this feel more appealing, and I don't think it worked. The effects just aren't
good enough to justify spending a Bardic Inspiration die.
Defensive Flourish: You never roll more than one die for your Bardic Inspiration, so it's entirely possible that
you'll roll a 1. The 1-round duration means that you're spending one of your most scarce resources for an
unpredictable, unreliable, and short-lived bonus to AC. If you're desperate for AC, take the Dodge action.
Slashing Flourish: It's nice that this applies damage to two creatures, but the damage just isn't good
enough to justify spending Inspiration.
Mobile Flourish: I would just assume that you won't get more than the base 5 feet of pushing. Generally if
an effect doesn't move you a full 5 feet it gets ignored because most people use combat grids.
Extra Attack: A considerable improvement to your damage output with weapons.
Master's Flourish: Blade Flourish is mostly fine, but is hugely limited by your tiny pool of Bardic Inspiration dice
in a single day. Allowing you to use it every round, even with a smaller die, makes it a reliable and meaningful
part of your actions in any given turn. Unfortunately, you've spent 13 levels limping along before Master's
Flourish came along and made you useful.
College of ValorPHB: The warrior Bard will prefer the College of Valor. By improving the Bard's ability to wade into
melee safely, the Bard can fill nearly every role in a party. If you're in a small party, this is an absolutely fantastic
option. However, in a party of 4 or more the Valor Bard's lack of focus will make it hard for the Bard to truly shine.
Bonus Proficiencies: Medium armor and a shield will significantly improve your AC. With 14 ore more Dexterity,
a breastplate, and a shield, you're looking at a respectable 18 AC, enough to match a fighter in full plate. Half-
plate will get you more AC, but you might prefer to avoid the Stealth Disadvantage. If you eventually get to 18
Dexterity, consider switching back to light armor. You also get access to all martial weapons, but you're
probably going to want to stick to a Rapier, and all Bards get proficiency with rapiers.
Combat Inspiration: The ability to add the inspiration die to damage is very wasteful. You'll have much better
results using it to prevent attacks. This isn't quite as good as the Coolege of Lore's Cutting Words ability, but it
allows your allies to make the decision to use the die themselves, which is a nice mental load off of your
Extra Attack: Most of the time you'll still want to stick to spells, but with a decent Dexterity your weapon attacks
may outpace your Cantrips in terms of reliable damage for a while.
Battle Magic: An excellent use of your Bonus Action since Bards don't have a lot of ways to use them. If you
pick up Magic Initiate, and take Booming Blade and/or Green-Flame Blade, you can still manage to make two
weapon attacks in a single turn.
College of WhispersXGtE: I wouldn't consider College of Whispers for a normal adventuring campaign, but if your
game is heavy on roleplaying and light on traditional things like dungeon crawling, College of Whispers offers some
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potentially useful options.

Psychic Blades: Notably, this works with ranged weapons, so you're not forced to go swing a rapier. However,
the damage is pitiful compared to how useful a Bardic Inspiration die is.
Words of Terror: I'm having trouble thinking of a way to use this with any frequency.
Mantle of Whispers: Situational, but it's notably better than options like disguise self due to your ability to glean
mundane information about the person you're impersonating. I can't think of how many times a disguise has
been foiled by something as simple as the assumed identities associates attempting to make small-talk.
Shadow Lore: Once per day you get a somewhat diminished version of Dominate Monster with a 8-hour
duration. Charm bosses and force them to give you their treasure. Charm NPCs and force them to reveal plot
secrets. Get creative. Unfortunately you need to share a language with the target, so be sure to cast Tongues

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Te bard is heavily reliant on Charisma, but with a bit of Dexterity and Constitution the Bard can survive an occasional
dip into melee combat.

Str: Dump stat. Even in melee, the Bard can rely solely on Dexterity

Dex: In light armor and with no shields, the Bard needs Dexterity to boost their poor AC. It also helps when you must
occasionally resort to using weapons.

Con: Everyone needs hit points, and things which target Constitution saves tend to be nasty.

Int: Several interesting skills rely on Intelligence, but if you don't take any of those then its worthless..

Wis: Good for important saves and a handful of skills.

Cha: The Bard runs on Charisma. Get as much as you can, as early as you can. Even if you're splitting your time
between using weapons and relying on your other bard abilities, too many of the Bard's abilities are tied to your
Charisma modifier to let it fall behind.

Point Buy Standard Array

Str: 8 Str: 8
Dex: 15 Dex: 14
Con: 13 Con: 13
Int: 12 Int: 12
Wis: 8 Wis: 10
Cha: 15 Cha: 15

Charisma is crucial. Other abilities are nice, and can inform your build choices, but generally you just want to max
Charisma. College of Valor Bards can be built very similarly to a Fighter, so races which work as a Fighter will work
reasonably well as a Valor Bard, but won't excel with the Bard's spellcasting and special abilities.

AarakocraEEPC: Flight is great, but nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

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AasimarVGTM: Bonus charisma is excellent, and any of the subraces work well for a valor bard.

Fallen: Excellent for an offense-focused valor bard.

Protector: Bards have little use for Wisdom.
Scourge: Tempting for a defensive valor bard, but you'll want to pick up something like Sentinel to keep enemies
inside the area of effect.

BugbearVGTM: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

Dwarf: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

DuergarSCAG: Decent for a Valor Bard, but even then no better than any other race.
HillPHB: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.
MountainPHB: Decent for a Valor Bard, but even then no better than any other race.

Dragonborn: Great for a Valor Bard if you want to be Strength-based, but I would probably pick up heavy armor
proficiency unless you can manage 14 Dexterity without detracting from other ability scores. The Dragon Hide racial
feat is tempting for bards seeking to dive into melee, but you'll be better off in real armor since Dragonborn typically
build around Strength-based weapons.

Elf: Dexterity helps since so many Bards are built to use Finesse weapons, and Perception is always nice to have
despite the Bard's lack of emphasis on Wisdom. Most of the subraces don't work well for the Bard, but Eladrin are a
fantastic option.

Drow: The bonus Charisma is nice, but Sunlight Sensitivity is difficult to handle in most games.
EladrinMToF: Dexterity and Charisma is a perfect mix for bards, and Fey Step is an extremely powerful ability.
High Elf: The Cantrip is tempting, but the bonus to Intelligence is totally wasted.
Sea ElfMToF: Nothing particularly useful for the Bard.
Shadar-KaiMToF: Nothing particularly useful for the Bard.
Wood Elf: Nothing particularly useful for the Bard.

FirbolgVGTM: Everything works except the ability increases.

GenasiEEPC: Nothing useful for the Bard.

Air: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

Earth: Nothing useful for the Bard.
Fire: Nothing useful for the Bard.
Water: Nothing useful for the Bard.

Gith: Nothing particularly useful for the Bard.

GithyankiMToF: Strength is nice, and the additional proficiencies will close the armor gap between Valor bards and
other bards, but to make use of the Strength you'll probably be going College of Valor anyway.
GithzeraiMToF: Nothing particularly useful for the Bard.

Gnome: Bards don't do a lot with Intelligence.

Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Nothing useful for the Bard.

Forest: Dexterity helps since so many Bards are built to use Finesse weapons, and the free cantrip is nice.
Rock: Nothing particularly useful for the Bard.

GoblinVGTM: Excellent for a Dexterity-based valor bard who is filling in as the party's rogue. Nimble Escape duplicates
most of Cunning Action, which gives you one less reason to take a class dip.

GoliathVGTM/EEPC: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

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Half-Elf: +2 Charisma, and two free skills. Even ignoring the other racial abilities, this is already the best option. The
Prodigy racial feat offers even more proficiencies and Expertise in another skill, which is wonderful if you're handling
the majority of your party's skill checks.

AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.

DrowSCAG: The free spells are nice, but Bards can already cast those spells, and the additional spellcasting can't
compete with extra skill choices on a class which is so dependent on skills.
High/Moon/SunSCAG: A Wizard cantrip can be a tempting damaging option since the Bard's best damage cantrip
only deals d4's of damage. Lore bards should consider options like Ray of Frost for the slow effect and damage,
and valor bards should consider melee options like Green Flame Blade for the improved melee damage output.
Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of
Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving
up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
WoodSCAG: The bard doesn't get a lot of benefit from these options. Mask of the Wild is tempting for a stealthy
Bard, but not enough to justify sacrificing two skill choices.
VanillaPHB: Two skill choices are crucial on such a highly-skilled character.

Half-Orc: Decent for a Valor Bard. Intimidation for free is nice since the Bard is typically the party's Face.

Halfling: Dexterity is helpful since Bards have light armor and tend toward Finesse weapons, and Lucky is always good
to have. The Bountiful Luck racial feat is a fantastic way to support your allies and fits well with the Bard's role in the

GhostwiseSCAG: Nothing helpful for Bards.

LightfootPHB A bit of Charisma is great, and Naturally Stealthy works well for a sneaky Bard.
StoutPHB Nothing useful for the Bard.

HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing specifically useful forthe Bard.

Human: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

Vanilla: Since Bards get access to every skill, decent scores in every ability can improve your function as a Jack of
All Trades.
Variant: Feats are always excellent. Magic Initiate will get you access to good cantrips like Green-Flame Blade for
the Valor Bard, and Eldritch Blast for the Lore Bard. If you choose Bard for the feat, the bonus spell known will
improve your versatility with your leveled spells, but if you lean toward better cantrips from other classes you'll need
to stick to a utility option for the 1st-level spell. Bards are already fantastic at skills, and get a ton of them, but one
more never hurts.

KenkuVGTM: Excellent if you want more skills, but without a Charisma bonus you'll likely be shoehorned into college of
valor or college of swords. Unless you're dead set on being a kenku, the Tabaxi is a better option.

KoboldVGTM: Kobolds are fine, but their traits don't offer anything specifically useful for the bard.

LizardfolkVGTM: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

OrcVGTM: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

TabaxiVGTM: Good ability increases, two free skills, and some other fun traits. Perfect for a bard of any kind.

Tiefling: Not quite as good as the Half-Elf, but the bonus Charisma is still great, and the Tiefling's other racial abilities
are a lot of fun. The Infernal Constitution racial feat is really tempting for a melee bard, as it gives you three damage
resistances and makes you able to withstand a great deal of damage. With so many Tiefling subraces to choose from,
you have a ton of room to really customize your character.

AsmodeusMToF: A solid choice.

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BaalzebulMToF: A useful option if you plan to depend almost entirely on spellcasting and hope to avoid drawing fire.
DispaterMToF: The same ability spread as the Asmoedus Tiefling (the generic version), but the spells center more
on trickiness and utility.
FiernaMToF: A good option for a Face. You can get these spells from the Bard spell list, but they're still useful.
GlasyaMToF: The same ability spread as the Asmoedus Tiefling (the generic version), but the spells center more on
illusions. You can get these spells from the Bard spell list, but they're still useful.
LevistusMToF: Despite the lack of Strength or Dexterity, this is a tempting option for a Valor Bard.
MammonMToF: The leveled spells are useful utility options that aren't on the Bard spell list.
MephistophelesMToF: Burning hands is nice at low levels but will stop mattering by mid levels. Flame Blade is great
for a Valor Bard, but the ability score spread doesn't fit well.
ZarielMToF: A fine option for Valor Bards, but you still need Dexterity to fill out your AC in medium armor. The smite
spells are fun damage boosts while you're swinging a weapon.
Variant: FeralSCAG: The Vanilla ability scores are better for the Bard.
Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: The bonus spells are from the Bard spell list, and you absolutely need to have Vicious
Mockery, so this will save you some spells known.
Variant: HellfireSCAG: Essentially the same as Vanilla, but a better option for Lore Bards because you don't need to
be hit first to use the burning hands.
Variant: VanillaPHB: Some interesting utility options, but they may not be as useful for a Bard as the spells offered by
Devil's Tongue.
Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight is always great, especially if you're not a Valor Bard.

TortleTP: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

TritonVGTM: Fantastic ability increases for a valor bard, plus some innate spellcasting and some other stuff.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: The intentillegnce bonus won't see much use, but the rest of the pureblood's racial traits make
it extremely powerful.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the
core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica
aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.

Races of Ravnica
CentaurGGTR: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

GoblinGGTR: See above.

LoxodonGGTR: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

MinotaurGGTR: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

Simic HybridGGTR: The flexible ability increase will almost certainly go into Charisma, but that means that you won't
have an increase to put elsewhere, so you'll likely want to stick to College of Lore. Simic Hybrid is in no way a bad
choice, but there are numerous choices which are better.

VedalkenGGTR: Nothing specifically useful for the Bard.

Bards have no pre-defined skill list, and can select their class skill] proficiencies from any skill in the game. This means
that you're free to focus on whatever group of skills best complement your party's existing skillset.

Acrobatics (Dex): Too situational.

Animal Handling (Cha): Bards are not Druids.

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Athletics (Str): Tripping enemies is pretty great, but most Bards lean more toward Dexterity than Strength.
Arcana (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
Deception (Cha): Helpful for a Face.
History (Int): The least important and most situational knowledge skill.
Insight (Wis): Helpful for a Face.
Intimidation (Cha): Important for any Face.
Investigation (Int): Very important, but you really only need one person in the party to have it.
Medicine (Wis): Medicine is best done magically.
Nature (Cha): Good knowledge skill, but not as crucial as Arcana or Religion.
Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game.
Performance (Cha): So this is really weird. In 5e Bards don't actually need Performance, so you can completely
skip it. 3.0 was my first RPG, and Bards are indelibly fused to the Perform skill in my mind, so I'm having a little bit
of a mental freak-out as I write this.
Persuasion (Cha): The king of Face skills.
Religion (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
Sleight of Hand (Dex): Too situational.
Stealth (Dex): Essential if your party lacks a dedicated Scout.
Survival (Wis): Too situational.

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options
which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class,
or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

Bards typically want skills which will help them as a Face, a Librarian, or a Scout, and fortunately there are lots of
options. Bonus languages are always helpful for a Face, but remember that you will get access to Comprehend
Languages and Tongues. If your party lacks a rogue, it may also be helpful to get proficiency with Thieves' Tools.

AcolytePHB: Decent skills for a Bard, and the bonus languages are nice until you can handle languages magically.
CharlatanPHB: Good for a stealthy Bard, and plays to a similar skillset to the Actor feat.
Cloistered ScholarSCAG: Two knowledge skills. With no bonus Face skills the languages won't be super helpful.
Plays very well to the Lore Bard concept.
CourtierSCAG: Two Face skills, and two languages with which to use them.
CriminalPHB: Fantastic if you are replacing a Rogue in your party.
EntertainerPHB: Conceptually perfect for the Bard, but in actuality it's completely useless.
Faction AgentSCAG: Customizable to a degree, and plays well to the Bard's strengths.
Far TravelerSCAG: Two Face skills, a language, and a great theme for a Bard. Since Bards don't need any more
instruments, Courtier is technically better, but Far Traveler has a great theme for the Bard.
Guild ArtisanPHB: Great skills for a Face, but artisan's tools are largely useless.
InheritorSCAG: Great, except that Survival is largely useless.
Knight of the OrderSCAG: Two great skills for the Bard, an insturment, and a language. Since Bards don't need any
more instruments, Courtier is technically better
Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Passable skills for the Valor Bard, but not great.
NoblePHB: Decent skills for a Bard, but gaming sets aren't particularly useful, and only one bonus language.
SagePHB: Two great knowledge skills. With no bonus Face skills the languages won't be super helpful. Plays very
well to the Lore Bard concept.
Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: Fantastically customizable, and a great set of options for the Bard.
UrchinPHB: Fantastic if you are replacing a Rogue in your party.

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Waterdavian NobleSCAG: Two Bard skills, a language, and a great theme for a Bard. Since Bards don't need any
more instruments, Courtier is technically better.

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which
don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the backgrounds recommended in the "Quick Build" section of
the class description, as well as other backgrounds which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be
tempting but poor choices. The possibility of custom backgrounds also means that it is literally impossible for me to
provide comprehensive analysis of every potential background in existence.

AlertPHB: Going first is nice for getting buffs set up, but you're not as dependant on it as a Rogue or a Controller.
ActorPHB: In a highly social game, this opens up some interesting options and allows you to further capitalize on
your excellent Charisma.
ChargerPHB: If you're at a distance which requires this, you should fall back on your spells instead.
Crossbow ExpertPHB: Valor Bards get Extra Attacks, but even then this doesn't get a lot of mileage.
Defensive DuelistPHB: Valor Bards typically rely on Dexterity and Finesse weapons, and this can be a nice way to
boost your AC. However, it quickly falls apart if you are outnumbered.
Dual WielderPHB: Two-weapon fighting isn't really in the Bard's skillset. Valor Bards need a shield to boost their
lousy AC, and Lore bards don't use weapons enough.
Dungeon DelverPHB: If you are your party's skill monkey, and the game involves lots of dungeons, this can be very
DurablePHB: Bards can heal magically, so hit dice are less crucial than they are for characters who can't.
Elemental AdeptPHB: Bards don't have a big list of offensive spells like a Sorcerer or Wizard.
GrapplerPHB: This feat is questionably good at the best of times, and you really need to be Strength-oriented to
make it work.
Great Weapon MasterPHB: Valor Bards really need to use a shield, and probably won't have the Strength to make a
two-handed weapon viable.
HealerPHB: Bards can heal magically.
Heavily ArmoredPHB: A strength-based Valor Bard can make use of this, but you won't be able to take this until 4th
level so levels 1-3 are going to be very dangerous.
Heavy Armor MasterPHB: You need Heavily Armored to take this, and if you're tanking enough that you feel like you
need this than you should probably be playing a different class.
Inspiring LeaderPHB: This provides a big pool of temporary hit points which can dramatically reduce your party's
need for healing during combat.
Keen MindPHB: I would allow Intelligence checks to do any of these things.
LinguistPHB: Use magic.
LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
Magic InitiatePHB: Two cantrips from other classes opens up some great options. Lore Bards may want Eldritch
Blast, while Valor Bards may want Booming Blade and/or Green-Flame Blade. Shillelagh is tempting for valor
bards, but you'll probably want enough Dexterity that it's not a significant advantage. Consider selecting Bard if you
want to expand your list of spells known, but the cantrips may be more useful than knowing one more 1st-level
Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
Medium Armor MasterPHB: Very few Valor Bards will care enough to require this. Disadvantage on Stealth is a big
invonvenience, but it won't make or break you, and the extra +1 to AC isn't enough to make this a decent feat.
MobilePHB: Valor Bards don't get any special advantages for moving around during combat, so this doesn't get you
anything useful.
Moderately ArmoredPHB: Valor Bards get medium armor already, and Lore Bards shouldn't need it.
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Mounted CombatPHB: It's hard to play a mounted character without a special mount ability of some kind.
ObservantPHB: Very helpful, but Bards don't have enough Intelligence or Wisdom to be especiall
Polearm MasterPHB: Martial Bards are typically Dexterity-based, and there are no Dexterity-based polearms.
ResilientPHB: If you were going to be good at a save, your class would have given it to you.
Ritual CasterPHB: Bards can already do this on their own.
Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per
SentinelPHB: Important if you are the party's only front-line character, but you really shouldn't be.
SharpshooterPHB: Bards don't do a lot with ranged weapons. Use spells instead.
Shield MasterPHB: The primary usage is shoving creatures with your shield, which is fun, but only works if you use
your Action to attack instead of doing something cool like casting a spell and using Battle Magic.
SkilledPHB: More skills is always good.
SkulkerPHB: This only matters if you have Sneak Attack.
Spell SniperPHB: Bards don't have enough offensive spells whcih require attack rolls to justify this.
Tavern BrawlerPHB: Bards typically don't have the Strength to make grappling viable.
ToughPHB: This goes quite a way to address the Bard's low hit dice, but remember that you can heal yourself if your
hit points become a problem.
War CasterPHB: Valor Bards will get a lot of use out of this. If you pick up Booming Blade from Magic Initiate, you
can use it with your opportunity attacks to nearly gurantee the bonus damage when enemies attempt to move away
from you.
Weapon MasterPHB: You get all of the weapon proficiencies that you need to function.

Crossbow, Hand: Light Crossbow does more damage and has better range.
Crossbow, Light: Bards don't get Extra Attack, so the light crossbow if your best ranged weapon option. Of course,
Bards can cast spells which will deal considerably more damage.
longsword: Rapier has the same damage, and is a Finesse weapon.
Rapier: The Bard's best melee weapon option.
shortsword: Rapier deals more damage, and Bards don't get anything from two-weapon fighting.

Leather: Starting gear.
Studded Leather: Most Bards will live in Studded Leather.
Half Plate: The Valor Bard's best armor. May double as a percussion instrument.
Shield: Valor Bards will want as much AC as they can get, so a shield is an obvious choice. Unfortunately, it can
cause issues when you're trying to cast spells and use Battle Magic at the same time.

Bard Spells
This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a
brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiate are also excluded;
for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.

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FriendsPHB: This is hard to use. 1 minute is not a lot of time, and you generally need to put distance between
yourself and the subject of the spell before they turn hostile. You could use this to intimidate a creature into fleeing,
but in most cases you'll probably be using this quickly talk your way past a creature blocking your way like a guard
at a gate. You generally won't need this; between high Charisma and a long list of skill proficiencies it's easy to
cover all of the Face skills.
Minor IllusionsPHB: Not quite as broadly useful as Prestidigitation, but it allows for all sorts of interesting
PrestidigitationPHB: Too useful to forgo.
ThunderclapEEPC / XGtE: Damaging every creature within 5 feet of you is great if you're in melee facing numerous
enemies. Even with Extra Attack you will deal more damage with this against three or more foes than you could
with a weapon. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee
cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
Vicious MockeryPHB: Easily the most iconic bard spell, Vicious Mockery is unique, flavorful, and mechanically
fantastic. It is the only cantrip which deals psychic damage, and it adds a helpful debuff.

1st-Level Spells
Comprehend LanguagesPHB: You can't learn every language in 5e. It's simply not possible. Eventually you will want
to replace this with Tongues, but Comprehend Languages does fine until then.
Cure WoundsPHB: More healing than Healing Word, but the action economy is considerably worse. Save this for
when you need hit points and you're either out of hit dice or don't have time to rest.
Detect MagicPHB: Someone needs to have it in every party.
Dissonant WhispersPHB: Surprisingly good crowd control. This only requires verbal components, so you can use it
while grappled to force the creature grappling you to run away. The damage isn't spectacular, but honestly you
don't need it to be.
Faerie FirePHB: The lowest-level option to deal with invisible creatures. Hopefully you won't run into any at 1st level,
but but it's important to have some way to deal with invisibility just in case.
Feather FallPHB: You don't need to get this at 1st level, but eventually you'll want it. You may only use it a couple
times in your character's whole career, but when you do it will save someone's life.
Healing WordPHB: More important than Cure Wounds, especially at low levels. As a bonus action you can heal an
unconscious ally enough to get them back into the fight, and you still have your action for Vicious Mockery.
HeroismPHB: At low levels where your tank might only have 12 hp and enemies are only doing something like 5
damage per turn, this is a big enough buff to win a fight for you. At higher levels it will be less appealing due to the
Concentration requirement, but it will always remain a solid use of a 1st-level spell. Compare it to Cure Wounds:
Cure Wounds will heal at most 11 hp (1d8+Cha with a +3 Charisma modifier). If you have 16 Charisma and can
keep Heroism running for four rounds you can prevent up to 12 damage and still have 6 levels to enjoy the spell.
When you use higher-level spell slots Heroism continues to outpace Cure Wounds. At 2nd-level, Cure Wounds
heals 2d8+Cha (maximum 19 with 16 Charisma), while Heroism can prevent 18 hit points of damage in just three
rounds, then continue functioning for another 7 rounds. Remember the old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure.
LongstriderPHB: Even with a hour-long duration, this isn't especially appealing. Movement in 5e is really easy, and
you can use other options to get away from enemies or to get enemies away from you.
SleepPHB: At an average of 22.5 hp worth of creatures, you won't be able to affect many creatures while they're at
full hit points, but you can wait to wear down their hit points before finishing them off with Sleep. Sleep notably
doesn't require a saving throw, making it a powerful and reliable way to incapacitate with relatively few hit points
even at high levels.
Tasha's Hideous LaughterPHB: Single-target save-or-suck. It won't work on unintelligent creatures, but otherwise
you can easily compare this to Hold Monster. Both have the same duration, require Concentration, and allow

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Wisdom saving throws both to resist the initial effect and to end the effect at the end of the target's turn. Paralysis is
a more lethal effect, but if you just need a creature to sit out of combat for a while they're functionally

2nd-Level Spells
Blindness/DeafnessPHB: A 1-minute duration is usually longer than an encounter. Targeting big melee enemies
seems like an obvious use, but the best targets for this are actually enemies who rely on spellcasting. Many spells
simply don't function if the caster can't see the target, and the Constitution save is more effective against relatively
frail enemies like spellcasters.
Cloud of DaggersPHB: It's hard to guarantee that this will deal damage unless you have a good way to keep an
enemy in the area of effect. An ally who likes to grapple will work, but that's hard to guarantee, and it's an extra
point of failure. The damage will roll reliably because it's spread over multiple small dice, but even then the damage
won't be great unless you can hold a single target in the area for several rounds. If you want single-target damage,
go for something with more damage up front. If you want area control, go for something with a bigger area.
Crown of MadnessPHB: This spell is borderline unusable. The creature must attack before it moves, so you may be
able to make it attack an ally once immediately after the spell is cast, but it retains control over its movement so it's
free to walk away from its allies. On top of that, you need to spend your own action to maintain the spell rather than
simply concentrating, so you're eating your own turns for the remote chance that the target will wander up to
another of its allies.
Heat MetalPHB: Against enemies in metal armor, this is absolutely horrific. The target doesn't get a save to resist the
effect, so they're trapped taking the damage unless the spell ends or they can resist fire damage. Even with a 2nd-
level spell slot, you can do a total of 20d8 damage with this. Triggering the damage again as a bonus action means
that you can cast this early in a fight and slowly wear down the victim. Even the scaling is great; an extra d8 per
spell slot level doesn't seem like much, but remember that you're getting up to 10 times that extra damage. Even at
20th level, against an enemy in metal armor I would consider Heat Metal as a 9th-level spell to be a go-to option.
Admittedly this option is situational because it requires an enemy with metal equipment, but it's a situation that
occurs frequently.
Hold PersonPHB: You can get most of the same benefits from Tasha's Hideous Laughter.
InvisibilityPHB: An essential scouting and infiltration tool, and as you get higher-level spell slots you can affect more
of your party.
KnockPHB: The primary reason to have proficiency with Thieves' Tools is to handle lock. Knock doesn't require a
check. It just works. Make aggressive eye contact with your party's rogue while you cast this just to rub it in.
Lesser RestorationPHB: Situational, but a situation that comes up often. If you don't have a cleric in the party you
may be the only one with access to this spell, so you'll want to take it at some point.
Locate ObjectPHB: Too situational, and too easy to counter. Anyone with any knowledge of magic that's trying to
hide something will wrap it in lead.
Phantasmal ForcePHB: Adventuring tends to involve running into a lot of things that aren't very smart. Beasts,
ogres, etc. all have terrible Intelligence saves. This spell is a great counter to those creatures, and its flexible nature
gives you a lot of room to really mess with the target. Unfortunately, it also requires that your DM be creative
enough to simulate how a creature would respond to whatever nonsense you come up with. If your DM has trouble
with illusions, this spell may not work out well for you.
PyrotechnicsEEPC / XGtE: Not always useful, but always an option. The amount of flame required to use the spell is
unspecific, so as far as I can tell you can use something as small as a candle. Use Mage Hand to float a torch or
something over to where you want the effect, then hit it with Pyrotechnics.
See InvisibilityPHB: With a 1-hour duration and no concentration requirement, See Invisibility is a great way to
handle invisible creatures.
ShatterPHB: Decent AOE damage at range.

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SilencePHB: Verbal components are extremely common in spells, including many that spellcasters frequently use to
escape dangerous situations. If you can trap an enemy spellcaster in place (such as by having an ally grapple
them) and drop Silence around them, they're usually trapped with no hope of escape.
SuggestionPHB: Flexible with a long duration, but it can be hard to spare 8 hours to concentrate on Suggestion
while you're actively adventuring and the subject might be off somewhere not demanding your attention.
Warding WindEEPC / XGtE: A decent buff for melee bards. Making the area around you difficult terrain makes it hard
for enemies to move toward or away from you, and disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks keeps enemies with
ranged weapons from picking you off from afar while you're closing the distance.

3rd-Level Spells
Bestow CursePHB: The effects are versatile enough that you can easily bring this into play in a variety of situations,
and the scaling mechanism works well enough that this remains a viable option for higher-level spell slots. Use the
third option against big tanky enemies with poor Wisdom, or use the first option against enemies that like to
CatnapXGtE: A Short Rest is typically one hour. In most campaigns, that will be fine most of the time unless the DM
is deliberately creating a time crunch which prevents resting or otherwise sitting about wasting time. In those cases
you might be able to squeeze in a Catnap, but more than likely the 10 minute duration will still be problematic.
ClairvoyancePHB: With a 1-mile range and the ability to place the sensor in place you can't see, this is a fantastic
way to safely scout dangerous places. If you have enough time to sit around and cast the spell repeatedly you can
scout whole structures from the outside by gradually learning about more interior locations through previous
Enemies AboundXGtE: Astoundingly few enemies have good Intelligence saves, especially big scary melee
monsters. Throw this on something tanky and horrifying that's there to protect squishy enemies from you and your
friends, and watch it freak out and kill its buddies for you. The duration is only a minute, and obviously this only
works in an encounter with multiple enemies, but that doesn't make the spell less awesome.
Glyph of WardingPHB: I'm really glad WotC was smart enough to add a 200gp consumable material component to
this spell. If they hadn't, I would solve far too many problems by delivering scrolls with a Glyph of Warding to hostile
Hypnotic PatternPHB: AOE save or suck.
Leomund's Tiny HutPHB: Tiny Hut is a great place to rest, and if you have time to set it up it's a great defensive
Major ImagePHB: If you don't like to use illusions frequently, consider picking this up later when you can cast 6th-
level spells so that you can create permanent illusions.
SendingPHB: Not especially glamorous, but messaging over massive distances has a number of uses. Also, due to
the wording of the spell, you can use it on creatures that don't understand your speech and they'll still understand
your meaning, allowing you to use Sending in place of Tongues if you only need to convey brief messages.
Stinking CloudPHB: Constitution-based save or suck in an AOE. Hypnotic Pattern may be more reliable, but you can
still attack the targets of Stinking Cloud without breaking the effect.
TonguesPHB: You are almost certainly your party's Face, and language can present a serious barrier. You may not
want to pick this up when you first get access to 3rd-level spells, but consider picking it up later when using a 3rd-
level spell on a utility option is less daunting.

4th-Level Spells
Charm MonsterXGtE: A great nonlethal way to deal with enemies. It doesn't require that the target be able to
understand you, but otherwise has the same complications which Charm Person does: the target is only friendly
toward you, and when the spell ends they know that they were charmed.
CompulsionPHB: This is technically situational, but if you can get a group of enemies to all run one direction and
bunch up against a wall or something, they're very easy to hit with a big AOE. You can't run them into something
like a Wall of Fire, unfortunately.
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ConfusionPHB: I've hated Confusion since 3rd edition. It's unpredictable, unreliable, and makes combat take twice
as long as it would normally. It's great that it's an AOE, and you might be able to make creatures attack their allies,
but there are too many points of failure for it to be a reliable option.
Dimension DoorPHB: Misty Step isn't on the Bard's spell list for whatever reason, and having a way to teleport out of
a terrible situation (like ropes or a grapple) is extremely useful.
Freedom of MovementPHB: Nice, but situational. If you need to get yourself out of restraints or a grapple, cast
Dimension Door.
Greater InvisibilityPHB: Invisibility in 5e is really good, and running around for a full minute being almost impossible
to target is a huge advantage.
PolymorphPHB: Fantastic and versatile, but also very complicated. See my Practical Guide to Polymorph for
detailed advice on how to get the most out of Polymorph.

5th-Level Spells
Animate ObjectsPHB: Provided that there is sufficient fodder for the spell, this can work in a variety of encounters.
Tiny and Huge are notably the most lethal options, so generally you'll be animating one big thing or a bunch of tiny
things. Suitable objects should be easy to find: even random debris should suffice. However, the duration is short is
the animated objects are frail and don't get stronger as you gain levels, so you may want to retrain this after
enjoying it for a few levels.
Dominate PersonPHB: If you don't face many humanoid enemies, this may not be worthwhile. But if you do,
dominating an enemy and turning it into a temporary ally is very effective.
GeasPHB: This is too situational to spend a spell known. It's great for spellcasters like Clerics and Wizards, but it's
usable too rarely to waste scant resources learning it in hopes that it will be useful someday.
Greater RestorationPHB: If you don't have a Cleric in the party, you need this.
Hold MonsterPHB:
Mass Cure WoundsPHB: You shouldn't need this. It doesn't do enough healing to justify the spell slot, so the best
use case is to cast it when you have more than one ally at 0 hit points. If you reach that point, things have gone
very seriously wrong. Healing Word is a much more efficient way to get people conscious, and considering how
little healing you're getting out of Mass Cure Wounds your allies will probably go down again anyway if anything
looks at them funny.
MisleadPHB: Situational. Not a great option in combat, but out of combat this provides a passably safe way to scout
an area or to trick other creatures.
Raise DeadPHB: This is an odd thing to find on the Bard spell list. Death is part of the game, so eventually you'll
need this, but it's no fun to spend one of your limited spells known on a spell you might cast once or twice ever.
Skill EmpowermentXGtE: Expertise for everyone! You won't be throwing this on the Fighter for them to shove or
grapple everything they meet (you have better combat buffs), but you can put this on a character before sneaking,
before an important social situation, before investigating something important, or basically any other time that
there's an important skill check to be made and you have time to buff yourselves beforehand.
Synaptic StaticXGtE: Good AOE damage on a save that's usually really low, and it applies a good debuff to those

6th-Level Spells
EyebitePHB: A fantastic use of a spell slot: spend one spell slot, and every round for a minute you get to pick a
creature and put it to sleep.
Mass SuggestionPHB: Tell a potential fight to go take a pleasant stroll somewhere far away.
Otto's Irresistible DancePHB: Hillarious, but Hold Monster is more effective, works on the same save, and has the
same duration.
Programmed IllusionPHB: Situational, but really abusable. It's permament and resets on its own, so you can do all
sorts of hillarious things with it to mess with other creatures. The 25gp material component is nothing by this level,
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so you can throw up programmed illusions all over the place for a pittance. As far as I can tell, you can cast the
spell with otherlapping areas, so you could cast it three times to make the illusions trigger each other and have a
perpetual illusion running. Unfortunately, the spell's language restricts what you can depict to "an object, a creature,
or some other visible phenomenon", so you probably couldn't create a room of illusory guards. Still, you could have
a permanent illusory bard playing a 15-minute loop of songs.
True SeeingPHB: Situational, but largely unbeatable in situations where it applies.

7th-Level Spells
EtherealnessPHB: A profoundly effective scouting/escape option. Unless you're fighting ethereal enemies, you're
untouchable. You can see and hear into the material plane (albeit at limited distance), allowing you to spy on other
creatures in person without their knowledge.
ForcecagePHB: An absolutely amazing way to isolate either your party or your enemies. The duration is long
enough to take a short rest, and there's no save for enemies to resist it. Have an ally drop an AOE damage over
time spell like Hunger of Hadar, then drop a Force Cage on top of it and you're playing a magical game of "Will it
Mirage ArcanePHB: This is a difficult spell. The affectable area is huge, the distance is Sight (go climb a mountain
on a clear day), and the effects of the illusion are tangible enough that you can physically interact with them,
including picking up sticks or stones. But it's unclear how far that goes: Can you burn the illusory wood to keep
yourself warm? Can you smooth over difficult terrain in the same way that you can make smooth terrain difficult?
Could you place stairs in the side of a clear cliff face? How far up and down does the effect stretch? The closest we
have is these two tweets which indicate that you have a lot of leeway, and that the effects are real enough that a
creature could drown in illusory water, brun in illusory lava, and climb illusory trees. Your DM will be the abiter of
exactly what you can get away with, but the spell itself is a wildly versatile toolbox.
Mordenkainen's Magnificent MansionPHB: In the real world, learning to cast this spell would mean that you could
comfortably retire. Each day you would walk out of the mansion, cast the spell again to recreate the house for 24
hours, then you would return to your invisibile extraplanar abode to enjoy another 24 hours of abundant food,
comfort, and nearly-invisible servants. The size of the mansion amounts to 5000 square feet, which is plenty to
accomodate a part of adventurers and a sizeable retinue. The suggested 100 banquet guests would each have 50
square feet (a 5x10 area) of space to themselves, but a cleverly layed out mansion could easily turn that space into
a large common area for feasting and a collection of small rooms with bunk beds for sleeping off a magical 9-
course meal. However, in purely mechanical terms this is a spell that the Bard can't afford to learn. There are many
less costly options for solving the same problems, and you're strictly limited in the number of spells which you can
Mordenkainen's SwordPHB: This is an objectively bad spell. Compare it to Bigby's Hand, and it's pretty clear. Bigby's
Hand isn't on the Bard spell list unfortunately, but that's what Magical Secrets is for.
Project ImagePHB: Mislead with a longer duration and better range. The language used to describe the copy's
capabilities is nearly identical. The extra range makes it a bit more versatile, but it's still fairly situational.
RegeneratePHB: Too situational to select as a spellcaster with a limited number of spells known. DnD doesn't have
injury rules which lead to limb removal except in very specific circumstances, so it's not like characters are losing
fingers and toes despite spending potentially years being sliced and diced by all manny of oponents.
ResurrectionPHB: If you learned Raise Dead you might replace it with Resurrection, but I don't think Resurrection is
a meaningful improvement over Raise Dead.
SymbolPHB: While many of the effects are wonderful, the inability to move the symbol and the high casting cost are
TeleportPHB: Every party needs a way to get around magically, and teleport is one of the better options.

8th-Level Spells
Dominate MonsterPHB: Arguably the best save-or-suck spell in the game.

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FeeblemindPHB: Wisdom-based and Charisma-based casters are extremely vulnerable to Feeblemind. Even
creatures who cast spells as a supplement to their other abilities can be seriously inhibited by suddenly being less
intelligent than many animals.
GlibnessPHB: Charisma checks include skills like Persuasion, but they also include thing like the ability checks for
Counterspell and Dispel Magic. Throw this up before going into a fight with an enemy spellcaster and enjoy
countering everything that they cast with minimal effort.
Mind BlankPHB: Situational, but hillarious if you have a Berserker Barbarian in the party.
Power Word StunPHB: Gambling on a creature's current hit point total is hard, especially since you get so few spell
slots at this level, but if you can time this to hit a wounded enemy it can take them out of the encounter long enough
for you to win largely unopposed.

9th-Level Spells
ForesightPHB: This is, without a doubt, the best buff in the game. With an 8-hour duration you can throw it on the
lucky recipient and watch them laugh their way through nearly any challenge for a full day worth of adventuring.
Mass PolymorphXGtE: You sacrifice the absolute power of True Polymorph for the ability to affect up to 10 creatures.
The rules for handling creatures with no CR (your party) are written to make this really unappealing compared to
True Polymorph. Compared to turning one ally into a CR 17+ dragon, turning up to 10 of your allies into
Tyranosauruses (Tyranosaurs? Tyranosauri?) simply isn't as effective, even if the phrase "I turn us and our horses
into tyranosauruses" is one of the coolect things I can think to say during a game. You can use the spell offensively
and the targets don't get additional saving throws, so turn your enemies into slugs or something and pitch them into
the plane of fire or somewhere equally unpleasant.
Power Word HealPHB: Full healing and removing a bunch of status conditions in one spell is really tempting, but
preventing all of that damage and all of those conditions wtih Foresight will work much better.
Power Word KillPHB: 100 hit points is a very low cap, but it's hard to argue with how effective it is to outright slay a
creature with no rolls involved. As an example, a 20th-level wizard with 12 Constitution will have 102 hit points
(6+19*4+20), so basically nothing which is scary at this level will be immediately vulnerable, but if your allies can
deal a bunch of damage quickly you may be able to use this in round 1 of a fight.
Psychic ScreamXGtE: Intelligence saving throws tend to be poor, and this affects up to 10 creatures. The damage is
decent, but it is absolutely not the primary appeal of the spell. It's the fact that you can make creatures' heads
explode. Or if that's not appealing it's the ongoing Stun effect which again targets those low Intelligence saves. The
stun has no limit on its duration, so creatures are stunned until they get a lucky roll, leaving your plenty of time to
deal with them and their allies.
True PolymorphPHB: Powerful, versatile, and it lasts an hour. This is a spell that really rewards thorough knowledge
of 5e's monsters, so go sit down with the Monster Manual etc. and do some reading. You'll want a go-to combat
form at CR 17, 18, 19, and 20 for when you need to turn yourself or an ally into a monster, but you should also look
for a good CR 9 in case you need to polymorph an object into a pet. Remember that the spell becomes permanent
if you keep it running for an hour, so you can also use this to permanently turn yourself or someone else into a
monster or a dragon or something. You'll lose all of your Warlock stuff because you assume the creature's
statistics, but honestly a CR 20 dragon is much more powerful anyway. The spells final option allows you to turn a
creature into an object with no save. Turn them into a flower pot, then either drop them from high enough to deal
maximum fall damage (the extra damage carries over to their regular hit points when they revert), throw them into a
demiplane, plane shift them somewhere unpleasant, or dispose of them in some other permanent and irrevocable

Fighter: Can't decide between Lore and Valor? Take a level of Fighter on a Lore Bard, and you get all of the Valor
Bard's free proficiencies. Fighting Style is nice, too.

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Paladin: A tempting alternative to the Fighter, depending on how many levels you intend to spend multiclassing. If
you're only going one level, Fighter will get you better stuff. If you're going for two levels, you'll get access to the
Paladin's 1st-level spells, including several smite spells, and Divine Smite. Divine Smite is a tempting option for a
full spellcaster like the Bard.
Rogue: The ultimate skill build combination. One free skill (limited to the Rogue list, unfortunately), thieves' tools,
and Expertise in in two skills. Bards don't actually need anything that the Rogue provides unless you're serving as
your party's Rogue-replacement, but if you really need to cover a ton of skills, Rogue is a fantastic choice for a 1-
level dip.
Sorcerer: Much of the same appeal as the Wizard, but since the Sorcerer is also Charisma-based you don't need to
invest in Intelligence. You'll still face issues with access to high-level spells, but at least you won't be MAD.
Warlock: A single level of Hexblade gets you medium armor, shields, and you can use your Charisma with a
weapon so you don't need any more than 14 Dexterity and you don't need to spend a magical secret to learn
Wizard: Gets you access to some Wizard cantrips, but long-term multiclassing for full casters doesn't work well
because you get such limited access to powerful high-level spells. Wizard also imposes a dependence on
Intelligence, making the Bard very MAD. Magic Initiate and Magical Secrets will get you everything you really need.

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Example Build - Half-Elf Bard (College of Lore)

I'm running out of impolite things to say when I cast Vicious Mockery.

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options
which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class,
or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

While this build is conceptually simple, it's complicated due to the Bard's high number of decision points. Between a
long list of skill proficiencies, Expertise, and Magical Secrets, there's a lot of room for customization. This can make the
Bard difficult for new players to approach, but players who can manage the complexities will find that their character is
uniquely tailored to their tastes and a capable contributor to the party in any situation.

We will assume the 25-point buy abilities suggested above, but the other suggested abilities can also use this build
without any problems.

Base Increased
Str 8 8
Dex 15 16
Con 13 14
Int 12 12
Wis 8 10
Cha 15 17


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Half-Elf. Half-Elf is a safe, solid bet for any bard. We'll put the two flexible ability score increases into Dexterity and

Skills and Tools

Between the Half-elf racial traits and the Bard skills, we get our choice of any five skills. 5th edition has 18 skills, so we
obviously can't get everything, but fortunately we'll get two more from our background and three more at 3rd level when
we get College of Lore's Bonus Proficiencies. That's a total of 10 skill proficiencies, which is a lot to decide. At 1st level
you only need to pick 5, but remember that you'll get two from your Background, and intentionally selecting redundant
proficiencies doesn't help you because you can already pick any skill.

I recommend tailoring your skills to your role in the party:

Role Face Librarian Scout

Skills Deception Nature Acrobatics
Insight Perception Insight
Intimidation Performance Perception
Perception Persuasion Performance
Performance Religion Sleight of Hand

Bards also get proficiency in three musical instruments. Bard use instruments as a magic focus for spellcasting, so
generally you want something portable like a flute, a lute, or a hand-held harp, but which specific instrument you pick
has little or no mechanical impact.

If your party lacks a scout (someone with proficiency in Stealth and Thieves' Tools), select the Criminal background.
This gets you Thieves' Tools proficiency and some helpful skills.

If your party lacks a librarian (a wizard, etc.), select the Sage background. Two knowledge skills goes a long way, and
with your other open skill proficiencies you've got plenty of room to pick up other skills.

If your party lacks a Face, there is no one more capable of filling that role than you. Select the Noble background.

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1 Spellcasting Even at first level, you're extremely effective. 7
Bardic Inspiration (d6) skill proficiencies, a robust and well-rounded
Cantrips Known: list of spells, and you're good enough with
Prestidigitation weapons that you can fall back on a bow or a
Vicious Mockery rapier if you absolutely need to.
Spells Known:
Try to find yourself a shield as soon as
Detect Magic
possible. With leather armor and 16 Dexterity
Healing Word
your AC is just 14, and with 10 hit points that's
not a lot of protection. You can use a shield in
one hand and a musical instrument in the other
so that you can boost your AC and still cast
spells. Vicious Mockery won't do nearly as
much damage as a weapon, but the debuff
may prevent large amounts of damage to your

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Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics

2 Jack of All Trades 2nd level increases your utility. Jack of All
Song of Rest (d6) Trades gives you a bonus to all ability checks,
including Initiative check and the rest of the
skills which you haven't managed to pick up.

Song of Rest provides a small, but meaningful

boost to your party's healing resources. At low
levels, 1d6 may be the difference between life
and death. Of course, allies need to spend hit
dice to heal themselves in order to get the
bonus die, but even at 2nd level you can
manage that twice in a day. You just need to
convince your allies that they need to save
their second hit die for a second rest even if it
means finishing your first short rest at less
than full hit points.
3 Bard College (College of Lore) This is a fun level. Pick three more skills, then
Bonus Proficiencies pick two skills in which to gain Expertise. I
Cutting Words recommend Perception and two of the role-
Expertise based skills I recommended above.

Cutting Words introduces a new usage for

Bardic Inspiration. You're still limited to three
uses per day at this level, so you need to be
really conservative. I recommend keeping at
least one use of Bardic Inspiration in reserve
specifically for use with Cutting Words so you
can turn save yourself or an ally at the last
possible second.

3rd level also brings 2nd-level spells, which

opens up a whole new pile of options. If you
find that you're not using one of your 1st-level
spells you can retrain it into a 2nd-level spell,
but remember that you only have two 2nd-level
spell slots so you may not get a lot of mileage
out of two 2nd-level spells known.
4 Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 17 -> 19) 4th level is a little bit dry, but a Charisma
New Cantrips Known: increase does a lot for the Bard. Your weapon
Dancing Lights attacks are going to start lagging because
you're a point behind the attack vs. AC curve,
but 55% chance of hitting is still decent, and a
weapon may be more useful than Vicious
Mockery in some cases.

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Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics

5 Bardic Inspiration (d8) 5th level is as good for the Bard as it is for
Font of Inspiration anyone else. Your Bardic Inspiration die
improves, and with Font of Inspiration you've
got much more freedom to spend inspiration

Cantrip damage increases at 5th level, so

Vicious Mockery now deals 2d4 damage (avg.
5). Weapon attacks will deal slightly more
damage, but I think the added utility of Vicious
Mockery is still better.
6 Countercharm Countercharm is situational, but there are
Additional Magical Secrets many effects which are based on the Charmed
condition that go well beyond charming a

Additional Magical Secrets is a confusing

name because you get it four levels earlier
than Magical Secrets. Choosing spells can be
very difficult because the options are so
numerous. Choose spells which complement
the makeup of your party. For example: if your
party lacks a blaster, consider fireball. If you
need a go-to ranged damage option that's
more lethal than Vicious Mockey, consider
Eldritch Blast, Firebolt, or Toll the Dead.
7 Nothing new at this level except 4th-level
8 Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 19 -> 20, Dex 16 -> 17) We're still one point behind the attack vs. AC
curve with our weapon attacks, but by this
level you've got enough spells that making a
weapon attack should be an occasional

With our Charisma maximized at 20, you now

have 5 Bardic Inspiration dice to throw around,
and you get them back on a short rest.
9 Song of Rest (d8) Increasing the die size of Song of Rest does
basically nothing. The difference between 1d6
and 1d8 is an average of 1 hit point.
10 Bardic Inspiration (d10) Bardic Inspiration continues to improve, and
Expertise now that you have 5 dice to use, every tiny
Magical Secrets improvement goes a long way.
New Cantrips Known:
Two more Expertise choices is great, and by
this level you should have a good idea of what
skills are being used frequenty in your

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Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics

11 11th level brings 6th-level spells, and it's the
last level at which you learn at least one new
spell every level.
12 Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 14 -> 16) At this point you're free to do what you like with
your Ability Score Increases. More Dexterity
means more AC, and more Constitution means
more hit points. If you're ready to go beyond
the SRD, consider a feat.
13 Song of Rest (d10) More Song of Rest, and 7th-level spells.
14 Peerless Skill Peerless skill allows you to benefit from your
Magical Secrets own Bardic Inspiration, though only on ability
checks. That's great for social situations, but I
still wish we could use Bardic Inspiration for
our own saving throws.

More Magical Secrets at this level is great.

With access to 7th-level spells, you have a
massive list of options, and since spellcasters
get so few spells known at high levels you can
really diversify your skillset.
15 Bardic Inspiration (d12) Bardic Inspiration maxes out at d12, and you
get 8th-level spells.
16 Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18) Another chance to boost your ability scores or
get a feat.
17 Song of Rest (d12) At this level the tiny amount of extra healing
provided by Song of Rest will frequently feel
pointless. But you also get 9th-level spells at
this level, which is pretty great.

Cantrips also get their final damage increase

at this level.
18 Magical Secrets At this level you learn two bard spells and two
new Magic Secrets for a total of 4 new spells.
You have access to every spell list in the
game, and with access to 9th-level spells you
can select literally any spell in the game. That
makes the decision very difficult. I don't have a
great answer for you yet, but go looking at the
Spells sections of all of my other class guides
for anything that looks good.
19 Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)
20 Superior Inspiration One use of Bardic Inspiration may not seem
like much, but when it comes up you'll be glad
to have it. It also significantly reduces the need
to hang on to one die to get an ally out of a
bad situation since you'll get one die at the
beginning of every fight.

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