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Bard 5e DnD Class Guide

The Bard is my absolute favorite character in Dungeons & Dragons. They have magical abilities, sneaky tricks, musical talent, and are all-around fun to play. We’re going to show you why I enjoy playing them so much with our detailed guide to DnD 5e’s Bard.


My life was saved today by a musician. How did that even happen? 

The watch was called in to stop a group of cultists. The religious zealots had gone to the streets in their weird robes and chanting. There were only 15 guardsmen able to get there in time and there were over a hundred cultists.

People were shouting, steel was drawn, and the crowd was getting agitated. It almost turned into a full street brawl, but out of nowhere, an elf hopped up onto the statue in the middle of the town square. 

She started singing in elvish. I had no idea what she was saying, but it had an immediate effect on the crowd. Their chanting and shouting were drowned out by her voice, and the imposing figure of 100 cultists in matching robes marching suddenly looked childish and silly.

The crowd just moments before was about to sign up and march on the palace, but after a few verses, they were laughing and mocking the cult. It didn’t take long for them to disperse afterward. 

I don’t know how she did it, but I swear it was that woman’s song. It was like magic. 

—From the journal of Captain Vyes 3rd precinct, city watch, 13th of Flamerule, 1379

Read our detailed class guide to DnD 5e’s Bard below.

MORE CLASS GUIDES: ARTIFICER | BARBARIAN | BARD | CLERIC | DRUID | FIGHTER | MONK | PALADIN | RANGER | ROGUE | SORCERER | WARLOCK | WIZARD

Overview of 5e Bard

D&D Bard Dungeons & Dragons 5e

The bard is my favorite class. They’re the true wild card of the classes and as of 5e, have a host of new abilities and magic that make them incredibly powerful and versatile characters. 

The bard can be an agile fighter that spins through melee combat, a supporting character with a bag full of tricks, a scoundrel who pilfers and steals, or a mystical musician whose music has magical properties. 

They can be anything from sneaky or punchy to magical. The more focused classes will be more effective at one, but the bard can do it all. 

Notable Bards in DnD

Deekin Scalesinger

A relatively peaceful Kobold Deekin turned away from his tribe to pursue adventure. Known for his loyalty to his friends he traveled the world on quests and adventures before settling down in Neverwinter where he put his exploits into songs and poems.

Davil Starsong

Davil is a renowned bard residing in Waterdeep. He was part of the Zhentarim mercenary group and can be seen in the 5e adventure book Waterdeep Dragon Heist.

5e Bard Class Features & Abilities

D&D Bard Dungeons & Dragons 5e

Hit Dice: 1d8

The Bard’s hit die is a d8 which puts them squarely in the middle when it comes to health points. They start with a few standard proficiencies like light armor, simple weapons, rapiers, longswords, short swords, and hand crossbows. 

Their most important ability scores are Charisma and Dexterity. Their spells are reliant on their Charisma modifier, so if you plan on using a lot of magic with the Bard, then you’ll need to have a high Charisma. Nobody likes a boring entertainer right?

Dexterity is also going to play a large role for the Bard. With light armor and less health than a Barbarian or Fighter, they’re going to want to avoid getting hit altogether instead of trying to mitigate damage. Having a high Dexterity will allow them to avoid hits more, use finesse weapons for attack, or safely stand back from a distance and help control the battlefield with magic or ranged attacks. 

Abilities

Bards can fill a variety of roles in a DnD campaign. Whether they’re healer, tank, or damage dealer, they can do a bit of everything, but the Bard really shines when they’re playing smart and with a plan in mind. 

GameCows Ranking System

There are a lot of abilities and class features, and it can get rather confusing. Here at GameCows, we’re going to use a simple ranking system. 

  • GameCows Ranking: 1  
    • This ability or feature is extremely useful and a must-have ability. 
  • GameCows Ranking: 2
    • This ability is ok and generally useful in most situations.
  • GameCows Ranking: 3
    • This ability is only going to be useful in certain situations. You’d only get it or use it if you personally think it’s cool. 

Inspiration

GameCows Ranking: 1

Bards have quite a few different abilities at their disposal which makes them great support characters, but it’s their bardic inspiration that sets them apart. 

With inspiration, all things suddenly get a little bit easier, and the better the bard, the better the effect. When a bard inspires a character they can use a free action to give a player that can hear them a die. For the next 10 in-game minutes, that player can add that die roll to any ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. They can’t use it to add damage. The best part about inspiration is that they can decide to use it after making the initial roll and can choose to add their inspiration die after seeing the result. 

Bardic inspiration gives players a little bonus that’s always useful and can be the difference between life or death. 

Inspiration dice start as a d6 and Bards can use it the same number of times as their charisma modifier. This resets every long rest. 

At 5th level, the bard’s inspiration dice become d8, at 10th level a d10, and at 15th level a d12. 

Jack of all Trades

GameCows Ranking: 2

Part of the great thing about Bards is that they’re good at a little bit of everything. To show that, at 2nd level, players can add half their proficiency bonus to any ability that doesn’t already have it. It lets them do things just a little better than the average joe, but not as good as a trained expert. 

Song of Rest

GameCows Ranking: 2

There’s no doubt that a Bard’s ability comes with their ability to perform. At 2nd level, it takes on an almost magical quality. Players that rest with a Bard in the party get a little more out of each rest period due to a Bard playing some music to lighten the mood or a bedtime story. Each ally that can hear the bard regains an additional d6 worth of health points. This ability also increases with the bards level.

  • 9th: d8
  • 13th: d10
  • 17th: d12

Bard College (Subclass)

The Bards subclass kicks into effect once the player hits 3rd level. The Player’s Handbook only has 2 choices to start, the College of Lore or the College of Valor. 

Each one provides a different play style depending on how you want to customize your character. 

Expertise

GameCows Ranking: 2

Expertise is the advanced form of its Jack of All Trades ability. At 3rd level, the Bard chooses to become an expert at 2 skill proficiencies. The proficiency bonus is now double for those 2 skills. This is further improved at 10th level where they can choose an additional 2 skills to become an expert in. 

Ability Scores

GameCows Ranking: 1

Like most of the other classes, Bards get 2 points to add to any of their ability scores (max 20). This happens at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19th level.

Font of Inspiration

GameCows Ranking: 1

At 5th level, the Bard’s inspiration uses are reset after every short and long rest instead of just long rests. 

Countercharm

GameCows Ranking: 3

At level 6 the Bard’s music or words take on an even more mystical quality. Bards can now use their turn to start a performance to give everyone within 30ft who can hear advantage against saving throws for being frightened or being charmed. 

Magical secrets

GameCows Ranking: 1

Bards are tricky characters and as they gain more experience they gain access to magical secrets that are not common knowledge. At level 10 they can choose to learn 2 spells from any class. It follows all the same limitations with spell levels and numbers. They also learn an extra 2 more spells at levels 14 & 18. 

This is incredibly powerful and versatile. You could choose to make your Bard do something useful to round out the party or something crazy that your enemies will never expect. All of the spells learned this way are considered Bard spells.  

Bard 5e Subclasses

The Bard’s subclasses activate at level 3. Bards can choose from several different official Colleges to specialize their skillset. 

Player’s Handbook

  • College of Lore
  • College of Valor
D&D Player’s Handbook 5e
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09/26/2022 09:00 pm GMT

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

  • College of Glamour
  • College of Swords
  • College of Whispers
Xanathar's Guide to Everything (D&D 5e)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Wizards RPG Team (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Tasha’s Cauldron

  • College of Creation
  • College of Eloquence
Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (D&D 5e)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Wizards RPG Team (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Playing as a Bard in 5e

There’s no getting around it… Bards are supporting characters

That doesn’t mean that they’re not the main character. Wizards and Sorcerers have more spells, Barbarians and Fighters are better melee fighters, but the Bard can be all of those things and more.

In the beginning, their abilities will be simple and focused mainly on inspiring their fellow adventurers. Their strength is their ability to do everything, though. They have a ton of proficiencies and only gain more as time goes on. When they start to gain levels, they gain access to a ton of abilities including ones that aren’t typically available to a single character. 

They have a ton of spells and abilities that allow them to sow confusion on the battlefield, do damage, and even heal. 

They’re incredibly fun to play and really work well with players who like to think outside of the box, and for DM’s who typically don’t have just a party of Murder Hobos slaughtering their way through a campaign. 

We hope you enjoyed this Bard 5e Guide, why not check out our Warlock 5e Guide or our full DnD Races List.

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