Humming as she traces her fingers over an ancient monument in a long-forgotten ruin, a half-elf in rugged leathers finds knowledge springing into her mind, conjured forth by the magic of her song—knowledge of the people who constructed the monument and the mythic saga it depicts.
A stern human warrior bangs his sword rhythmically against his scale mail, setting the tempo for his war chant and exhorting his companions to bravery and heroism. The magic of his song fortifies and emboldens them.
Laughing as she tunes her cittern, a gnome weaves her subtle magic over the assembled nobles, ensuring that her companions’ words will be well received.
Whether scholar, skald, or scoundrel, a bard weaves magic through words and music to inspire allies, demoralize foes, manipulate minds, create illusions, and even heal wounds.
Music and Magic
In the worlds of D&D, words and music are not just vibrations of air, but vocalizations with power all their own. The bard is a master of song, speech, and the magic they contain. Bards say that the multiverse was spoken into existence, that the words of the gods gave it shape, and that echoes of these primordial Words of Creation still resound throughout the cosmos. The music of bards is an attempt to snatch and harness those echoes, subtly woven into their spells and powers.
The greatest strength of bards is their sheer versatility. Many bards prefer to stick to the sidelines in combat, using their magic to inspire their allies and hinder their foes from a distance. But bards are capable of defending themselves in melee if necessary, using their magic to bolster their swords and armor. Their spells lean toward charms and illusions rather than blatantly destructive spells. They have a wide-ranging knowledge of many subjects and a natural aptitude that lets them do almost anything well. Bards become masters of the talents they set their minds to perfecting, from musical performance to esoteric knowledge.
Learning from Experience
True bards are not common in the world. Not every minstrel singing in a tavern or jester cavorting in a royal court is a bard. Discovering the magic hidden in music requires hard study and some measure of natural talent that most troubadours and jongleurs lack. It can be hard to spot the difference between these performers and true bards, though. A bard’s life is spent wandering across the land gathering lore, telling stories, and living on the gratitude of audiences, much like any other entertainer. But a depth of knowledge, a level of musical skill, and a touch of magic set bards apart from their fellows.
Only rarely do bards settle in one place for long, and their natural desire to travel—to find new tales to tell, new skills to learn, and new discoveries beyond the horizon—makes an adventuring career a natural calling. Every adventure is an opportunity to learn, practice a variety of skills, enter long-forgotten tombs, discover lost works of magic, decipher old tomes, travel to strange places, or encounter exotic creatures. Bards love to accompany heroes to witness their deeds firsthand. A bard who can tell an awe-inspiring story from personal experience earns renown among other bards. Indeed, after telling so many stories about heroes accomplishing mighty deeds, many bards take these themes to heart and assume heroic roles themselves.
Creating a Bard
Bards thrive on stories, whether those stories are true or not. Your character’s background and motivations are not as important as the stories that he or she tells about them. Perhaps you had a secure and mundane childhood. There’s no good story to be told about that, so you might paint yourself as an orphan raised by a hag in a dismal swamp. Or your childhood might be worthy of a story. Some bards acquire their magical music through extraordinary means, including the inspiration of fey or other supernatural creatures.
Did you serve an apprenticeship, studying under a master, following the more experienced bard until you were ready to strike out on your own? Or did you attend a college where you studied bardic lore and practiced your musical magic? Perhaps you were a young runaway or orphan, befriended by a wandering bard who became your mentor. Or you might have been a spoiled noble child tutored by a master. Perhaps you stumbled into the clutches of a hag, making a bargain for a musical gift in addition to your life and freedom, but at what cost?
You can make a bard quickly by following these suggestions. First, Charisma should be your highest ability score, followed by Dexterity. Second, choose the entertainer background. Third, choose the dancing lights and vicious mockery cantrips, along with the following 1st-level spells: charm person, detect magic, healing word, and thunderwave.
The Bard Table
|Level||Prof. Bonus||Features||Cantrips Known||Spells Known||-Spell Slots per Spell Level-|
|1st||+2||Spellcasting, Bardic Inspiration (d6)||2||4||2||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|2nd||+2||Jack of All Trades, Song of Rest (d6)||2||5||3||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|3rd||+2||Bard College, Expertise||2||6||4||2||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement||3||7||4||3||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|5th||+3||Bardic Inspiration (d8), Font of Inspiration||3||8||4||3||2||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|6th||+3||Countercharm, Bard College Feature||3||9||4||3||3||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement||3||11||4||3||3||2||—||—||—||—||—|
|9th||+4||Song of Rest (d8)||3||12||4||3||3||3||1||—||—||—||—|
|10th||+4||Bardic Inspiration (d10), Expertise, Magical Secrets||4||14||4||3||3||3||2||—||—||—||—|
|12th||+4||Ability Score Improvement||4||15||4||3||3||3||2||1||—||—||—|
|13th||+5||Song of Rest (d10)||4||16||4||3||3||3||2||1||1||—||—|
|14th||+5||Magical Secrets, Bard College Feature||4||18||4||3||3||3||2||1||1||—||—|
|15th||+5||Bardic Inspiration (d12)||4||19||4||3||3||3||2||1||1||1||—|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement||4||19||4||3||3||3||2||1||1||1||—|
|17th||+6||Song of Rest (d12)||4||20||4||3||3||3||2||1||1||1||1|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement||4||22||4||3||3||3||3||2||1||1||1|
As a bard, you gain the following class features.
Hit Dice: 1d8 per bard level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per bard level after 1st
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) a rapier, (b) a longsword, or (c) any simple weapon
- (a) a diplomat’s pack or (b) an entertainer’s pack
- (a) a lute or (b) any other musical instrument
- Leather armor and a dagger
You have learned to untangle and reshape the fabric of reality in harmony with your wishes and music. Your spells are part of your vast repertoire, magic that you can tune to different situations. See Spells Rules for the general rules of spellcasting and the Spells Listing for the bard spell list.
You know two cantrips of your choice from the bard spell list. You learn additional bard cantrips of your choice at higher levels, as shown in the Cantrips Known column of the Bard table.
The Bard table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your bard spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell’s level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.
Spells Known of 1st Level and Higher
You know four 1st-level spells of your choice from the bard spell list.
The Spells Known column of the Bard table shows when you learn more bard spells of your choice. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots, as shown on the table. For instance, when you reach 3rd level in this class, you can learn one new spell of 1st or 2nd level.
Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the bard spells you know and replace it with another spell from the bard spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.
Charisma is your spellcasting ability for your bard spells. Your magic comes from the heart and soul you pour into the performance of your music or oration. You use your Charisma whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Charisma modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a bard spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.
Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
You can cast any bard spell you know as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag.
You can use a musical instrument (see the Tools section) as a spellcasting focus for your bard spells.
You can inspire others through stirring words or music. To do so, you use a bonus action on your turn to choose one creature other than yourself within 60 feet of you who can hear you. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6.
Once within the next 10 minutes, the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes. The creature can wait until after it rolls the d20 before deciding to use the Bardic Inspiration die, but must decide before the DM says whether the roll succeeds or fails. Once the Bardic Inspiration die is rolled, it is lost. A creature can have only one Bardic Inspiration die at a time.
You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once). You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Your Bardic Inspiration die changes when you reach certain levels in this class. The die becomes a d8 at 5th level, a d10 at 10th level, and a d12 at 15th level.
Jack of All Trades
Starting at 2nd level, you can add half your proficiency bonus, rounded down, to any ability check you make that doesn’t already include your proficiency bonus.
Song of Rest
Beginning at 2nd level, you can use soothing music or oration to help revitalize your wounded allies during a short rest. If you or any friendly creatures who can hear your performance regain hit points at the end of the short rest by spending one or more Hit Dice, each of those creatures regains an extra 1d6 hit points.
The extra hit points increase when you reach certain levels in this class: to 1d8 at 9th level, to 1d10 at 13th level, and to 1d12 at 17th level.
At 3rd level, you delve into the advanced techniques of a bard college of your choice: the College of Lore detailed at the end of the class description or another from the Player’s Handbook or other sources. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 6th and 14th level.
At 3rd level, choose two of your skill proficiencies. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of the chosen proficiencies.
Ability Score Improvement
When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.
Using the optional feats rule, you can forgo taking this feature to take a feat of your choice instead.
Font of Inspiration
Beginning when you reach 5th level, you regain all of your expended uses of Bardic Inspiration when you finish a short or long rest.
At 6th level, you gain the ability to use musical notes or words of power to disrupt mind-influencing effects. As an action, you can start a performance that lasts until the end of your next turn. During that time, you and any friendly creatures within 30 feet of you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened or charmed. A creature must be able to hear you to gain this benefit. The performance ends early if you are incapacitated or silenced or if you voluntarily end it (no action required).
By 10th level, you have plundered magical knowledge from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Choose two spells from any classes, including this one. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Bard table, or a cantrip.
The chosen spells count as bard spells for you and are included in the number in the Spells Known column of the Bard table.
You learn two additional spells from any classes at 14th level and again at 18th level.
At 20th level, when you roll initiative and have no uses of Bardic Inspiration left, you regain one use.
The way of a bard is gregarious. Bards seek each other out to swap songs and stories, boast of their accomplishments, and share their knowledge. Bards form loose associations, which they call colleges, to facilitate their gatherings and preserve their traditions.
College of Glamour+ -
College of Lore+ -
College of Swords+ -
College of Valor+ -
College of Whispers+ -