Guides

Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition): How to Build a Bard – A Combat Guide

Want to play a bard? Check out our guide down below.
Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Image credit to eberron5e.com

Dungeons and Dragons has been around for a solid four decades. With that in mind, the famous role-playing game has undergone several iterations. The latest fifth edition offers a bevy of interesting classes for every player to choose from. With that in mind, we have crafted a detailed build guide for one of D&D’s top tier classes.

Overview

Dungeons and Dragons is complex. Some players try to avoid combat, as they prefer the role-playing aspects of the game. Meanwhile, other players like to use their dice to raid dungeons and fight monsters. Our guide is oriented towards maximizing a class’s combat effectiveness, making this article likely more useful to players of the latter category.

If you would like to learn how to play one of D&D’s other top tier classes, check out our guides down below.

Warlock

Barbarian

Paladin

Fighter

Monk

Wizard

Bard


Image credit to dndbeyond.com

The bard is perhaps one of the strongest classes within Dungeons and Dragons. Highly adaptive, the bard is capable of assuming almost any role as the need arises. Consequently, you can’t really ever go wrong by having one of these characters on your team.

As the bard’s strength pulls from the character’s incredible versatility, this build will be somewhat more complicated than some others. The end result, however, is a character that is capable of tanking, dealing single target damage, dealing AoE damage, healing, buffing allies, crowd control and utility outside of combat. Yes, it’s a lengthy order. But, the bard is just that good.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Race: TieflingThis race offers a +2 bonus to your charisma, which is your most important ability.
Bard College:College of ValorThis archetype grants an extra attack and proficiency with martial weapons, shields and medium armor. Consequently, this is a great way to boost your bard’s melee ability.
Feat #1:War CasterThis feat is paramount for a melee spellcaster. Many of the spells you will be using require concentration, making it incredibly useful to have advantage on concentration checks. Beyond that, you will be able to wield a sword and shield and still cast all of your spells.
Feat #2:ToughThis feat grants you an extra 40 maximum health level 20. This is a great way to increase your sustain in combat.
ASI #1Charisma +2Take an ability score improvement so that you can boost your spellcasting modifier and spellcasting DC.
Feat #3:SkilledBards are wonderful at skill checks. That being said, you can boost your character’s utility out of combat even more with this feat. The end result is an even more well-rounded warrior.
ASI #2Charisma +2 Take an ability score improvement so that you can boost your spellcasting modifier and spellcasting DC.

The tiefling race is a great choice for the bard, as it grants an additional bonus to your charisma score. The gnome and halfing races are classic choices for bards. However, these races are also smaller than other races. Consequently, your damage output will be negatively affected from having to use smaller weapons.

College of Valor is a really great bard college for spellcasters that are looking to really up their ferocity in combat. Rather than a classic bard, your character will transform into something more closely resembling a Viking skald. The college of lore is also a great choice, if you want to take advantage of the two bonus spells granted by the “Additional Magical Secrets” ability. That being said, the College of Valor more effectively helps the bard’s ability to become a significant melee character.

The bard’s feats are largely dedicated to improving the class’s skill utility, sustain and damage output. If you do not want luck, then consider picking up the “Spell Sniper” feat and learning the “Eldritch Blast” cantrip from the Warlock spell list. This is a great way to get some force damage down range if you feel the need to up your range damage dealing.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Weapon:RapierThis is a finesse weapon. Consequently, you can circumvent the need for a high strength bonus in order to deal significant damage.
Armor:Studded Leather and ShieldStudded leather is the heartiest of the light armors. You will still be able to take full advantage of your high dexterity bonus, making this the optimal armor to use. Beyond that, the shield will provide an additional +2 boost to your armor class.
Skill Proficiencies: Intimidation, Acrobatics, StealthThese three skills are all highly useful both in and out of combat. Beyond that, each of these three skills will rely on ability bonuses that will be quite high for this build.

You are going to want to use a rapier for this build. The “Finesse” property of the weapon will allow you to be able to apply your dexterity bonus to your attack and damage rolls, which will allow strength to be a dump stat for you. The studded leather will also take advantage of your high dexterity score, making dexterity an important ability for this build. The shield offers an additional AC bonus, which only improves the bard’s sustain.

As far as skill proficiencies are concerned, you really have a great number of options. The three choices provided above are three skills that see consistent use in most games and each depend on either charisma or dexterity bonuses.

AbilityAbility Point AllocationDescription
Strength:10This build depends on dexterity for melee effectiveness, making strength a dump stat.
Dexterity:15Dexterity is an incredibly important ability for this build. The ability provides skill utility, armor class, initiative, an important saving throw and melee effectiveness.
Constitution:13Constitution is a must for many builds. This ability will improve an important saving throw and will greatly increase maximum health.
Intelligence:8Like with many other builds, intelligence is a dump stat for you. Unless you are playing a wizard, this ability will often be left at the wayside.
Wisdom:12
Wisdom is an important saving throw. But, this ability has been made a dump stat in favor of strengths provided by other options.
Charisma:20 (14+6)This is your most important ability. This ability will determine the effectiveness of your spellcasting, as well as the effectiveness of many of your skill checks. Note that this value is being boosted by a +2 racial bonus and two different +2 ability score improvements.

Warning: Concerning your ability scores, the graph above is using the standard 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 ability allocation that players can use if they do not wish to roll their stats. That being said, your dungeon master will likely have you role for your stats rather than allocate your ability points manually.

Either way, you are going to want to make charisma your primary focus. The next most important ability is dexterity, with constitution being a close third. Every other ability is a dump stat for you.

If you want to up your damage output, then you can sacrifice some points in charisma for more points in dexterity. However, the true power of a bard is the class’s versatility. Consequently, you will likely want to keep your charisma bonus high. This will come in handy when you are casting your powerful assortment of spells.

Speaking of which, here is a quick list of many of the spells that will help you in combat. This is not a complete list of your known spells by level 20. However, this can work as a quick reference for some powerful spells to add to your disposal.

SpellDescription
Banishing SmiteThis is going to be one of your go-to spells. This will make up a majority of your melee damage output, while providing some unique crowd control on the side.
BlurThis will be another go-to spell for you. This spell will make it much more difficult for enemies to hit you, greatly increasing your sustain in combat.
Mirror ImageThis will be another go-to spell for you. This spell will make it much more difficult for enemies to hit you, greatly increasing your sustain in combat.
ShieldThis will be another go-to spell for you. This spell will make it much more difficult for enemies to hit you, greatly increasing your sustain in combat.
Chain LightingThis spell is a wonderful way to get some punishing AoE damage on the field. Beyond that, this spell is less dependant on enemy positioning than many other AoE spells.
SunbeamThis spell is another great way to perform AoE damage. The spell is concentration, which allows you to get damage off on a large turn after turn.
Hold Person/Hold MonsterThese two spells are each phenomenal forms of crowd control.
Cure WoundsWhen it comes to keeping your allies alive, it’s hard to beat the cure wounds spell.

It is important to note that many of the spells listed above are not actually on the bard’s spell list. Rather, they belong to the lists of other spellcasting classes. The wonderful thing about a bard is that the class’s “Magical Secrets” ability allows the bard to learn up to six spells from any spell list of their choice. If you want to add another two additional spells to that total, then trade out the college of valor archetype for the college of lore.

Either way, these are the type of spells to look out for when playing a bard. Rather it is dealing AoE damage, boosting your sustain in combat, buffing your melee damage, healing an ally or dishing out some crowd control to your enemies, bards can do it all.

For all your D&D needs, check out Dungeons and Dragons Guides Portal – Anything and Everything D&D.

Author

Hunter Boyce is a writer, which probably seems pretty obvious with "author" prominently displayed. He mostly writes about video games. However, he was previously a mixed martial arts news writer. When not writing about people pelting each other in the face or about leveling up in the latest RPG, he tends to spend his time as a web producer in Atlanta. You can shout all of your MMA and video game related quandaries at him at @SomthinClever on Twitter. Feel free to make your demands to him in ALL CAPS. He loves that.

Write A Comment