JoshuaD’s New Bard Handbook
Handbook Version 87 – 2022/11/30
View Changelog on on Github.
About the Bard
This class is AWESOME. I think bard is one of the most balanced, dynamic, and fun classes to play in the game. I didn’t appreciate how many options and abilities were available to it until I dug into the various source books. Sure, you don’t have the raw power of the nuclear classes, but you can be in a party with other tier 2-5 classes and really shine. The bard can be adapted to a bunch of different play styles: caster, gish (sword-mage), arcane archer, face, crowd control, skill monkey, and healer. He can usually fill a number of those roles at the same time, and does so effectively.
I have played a lot of different characters, and the bard is by far the most fun I’ve had. Wizards and things like the DMM Cleric possess campaign shattering nuclear power, but where’s the fun in that? The DM is pissed at you, the other players are pissed at you, and the campaign ends early. The bard is what D&D should be: dynamic, rewards creative play, powerful without being over-powered, and his abilities are friendly to other PCs. I cannot recommend the class enough, especially for your next low- or mid-powered campaign.
Why I Wrote this Handbook
Dictum Mortuum wrote a really good handbook for the bard, but I felt it didn’t go deep enough, so I wrote this handbook to be a bit more comprehensive. That being said, the original handbook is great, and I recommend reading that one as well as this one to get multiple view points.
Other Resources and Thanks
Here are some of the resources that helped me build this handbook. They are all very good, I recommend that you read them as well:
- Dictum Mortuum – The Bard’s Handbook – The original handbook. Very good stuff here.
- Endarire – Breaking Down Inspire Courage . A handbook dedicated entirely to maximizing inspire courage, one of the best features of the Bard’s class. Definitely worth a read.
- Cards’n’Dice – Bardzilla – An interesting take on the bard. Not comprehensive, but a few good angles.
- Treantmonk – Guide to Being God (A wizard) – This doesn’t directly apply to the bard. However, he talks a lot about crowd control, area effects, and spell use, so this is a good read.
- Relentless Imp – Metamagic and you Very useful reference for metamagic feats.
- Dictum Mortuum – The Familiar’s Handbook A good resource for bards who are going to get a familiar. Worth reading if you’re thinking of going that direction.
- Caedrus – The Fear Handbook For those bards who want to terrify their opponents, causing them to cower in the corner and cry like babies.
- IMarvinTPA’s spell database – A comprehensive searchable database for spells. For closed content it only gives book references, but it’s awesome anyway.
- The Unoffical Tome of Battle Tools Page – Very easy-to-navigate reference for the book of nine swords, which we can gain access to via the martial feats. Not a common choice, but strong.
Some people have commented here with some really nice observations. Additional thanks to Gold the Gnome Bard, Malcom Towner, William Wordsworth, Davide, Stuart, Aion Haruno, Xethik, Psycho Mantis, Toteca, and Elmer, as well as a bunch of others (see their comments below).
Color / Symbol Legend
- Best – This is a very strong option and is almost always the best choice, or one of the best choices.
- Strong – This is also strong, but you may or may not want to take it depending on your build.
- OK – This is a reasonable choice.
- Weak – This is either mechanically weak, or has a very narrow application. I don’t recommend taking this feature.
- Terrible – This is absolutely terrible or nearly unusable.
Source Books Used
I used all of the official source books and also included some items from dragon magazines. The Dragon Magazines are a little more difficult to review comprehensively, so I included the peaks I could find, but may have missed some items. You should be warned that Dragon Magazine features are typically unbalanced and should be reviewed with a critical eye before being accepted into your campaign.
This Handbook’s Length
This handbook has gotten long. I don’t think you should try to read it straight through. Instead, use it as a reference.
I had a choice between only including the best or more stand-out items, or trying to be inclusive of all reasonably possible options. I chose to be inclusive. I think this will help more people and help people create diverse builds that I might not have considered.
A Note on Ability Evaluation and Character Optimization
When designing characters, people often focus on only level 20. I recommend doing more than that.
If your campaign is anything like the games I’ve ever played, you start at low levels, slowly progress through the mid levels, and, if you’re lucky, you get to play some teen levels before the game falls apart.
Even if you have a dedicated play group and make it all the way to level 20, the abilities you get at levels 1-5 are going to get a lot more play than the abilities you get at levels 15-20. Keep that in mind while designing your character. I recommend that you look at the build every four levels (or at specific key levels, depending on your class) and consider how you’d like the character at each of those level.
If you know you’re going to start playing at a high level and continue to play after reaching level 20, then of course this does not apply to you. But for most people, level 1-10 are much more important than levels 11-20. Make sure you keep that in mind while developing your character. Remember: the goal isn’t to optimize some theoretical mechanic; the goal is to optimize fun.
- Archer – The bard makes a fine archer. The only problem he faces is the 3/4ths base attack bonus. It’s a feat-intesive thing, but definitely doable.
- Blaster – The bard does not make a good blaster. He has a few direct damage spells on his list, but not many. If you really want to go this route, look at Lyric Thaumaturge and the Sonic Might class feature. I have a section on it below.
- Buffer – This is the bard’s best role (and easiest to fulfill). Inspire courage is very strong, easy to make much stronger, and it’s one of your core class features. Your spells can support this role as well. Buffing is something the bard is always going to be good at (unless you actively work to make him bad at it). The bard has access to a poor-man’s version of the Cleric’s Divine Metamagic Feat, so 24-hour persisted buffs are also an option here, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
- Caster – The bard has a really solid selection of spells, particularly crowd control and social spells. He also has good access into the illusion school, which opens up a world of possibilities. The Sublime Chord prestige class lets the bard get access to 7th – 9th level wizard / sorcerer spells, so an optimized Bard is capable of being as strong as an unoptimized sorcerer pretty easily.
- Debuffer – Aside from the good list of bard spells that debuffs opponents, the bard is a solid class for going into fear effects (see the fear handbook link above). The bard also gets access to Doomspeak (although at later levels) which is one of the strongest debuffs in the game.
- Healer – The bard is the only arcane class that gets access to heal spells. If your party is light on healing, you can get the job done. The bard should carry some wands of cure wounds to help heal between fights (he can activate them without chance of failure since the spells are on his class spell list) or a wand of lesser vigor (once he’s high enough level to succeed on the Use Magic Device check). The alternate class feature “Healing Hymn” can really buff up the bard’s healing, but mostly out of combat because it’s not action-efficient. I also think Cure Light Wounds is a fine spell to pick. Note: Healing Hymn was errata’d, and the errata’d version is garbage, so if your DM insists on the updated version, it’s a bit harder to be a healing bard.
- Melee – You can become a pretty big powerhouse in melee, surprisingly. There are ways to get into full plate mail, dual-wielding can be good, and you can output a lot of damage using feats like knowledge devotion and snowflake wardance. Your hit points aren’t great, so you have to be a little careful not to get squished, but you can definitely develop your character to output a ton of melee damage. This direction really benefits from Metamagic Song and Persist spell, too.
- Social / Face – The bard makes an amazing social manipulator and face of the party. He can pump all of the social skills (except intimidate) he has a lot of social-related spells (charm, fascinate, suggestion, detect thoughts, etc.) and has some social related class-features. The more creative you can be in social situation, the more fun you’ll have playing this class.
- Stealth / Skill Monkey – The bard has three-quarters the skill points of a rogue, and a lot of good class skills. He makes a great stealther / skill monkey. His most natural use of skills is for social stuff, but he can easily be sneaky, and the two aren’t exclusive.
- Summoner – Bards make amazing summoners, maybe the best in the game. Savage bard + Greenbound Summoning + Sublime Chord + Greensong + Bardic Music. Yes please.
- Tank – The bard doesn’t make a great tank. Generally, you can leave that to the fighter classes. You can output damage or manipulate the battlefield; let them get beat up while you play chess. That being said, a melee bard can build a little tanky if he goes deep into the crusader class (It has a d10 for hit points).
- Weapon and Armor Proficiency – Getting access the longsword and shortbow is nice. The best thing here is the Whip, which can be used to trip opponents from a distance with some special advantages. Also, the Arms and Equipment Guide (P10) has a “Whip-Dagger” that you can use with no additional proficiency required, that does real damage rather than subdual. You should definitely carry one and look for opportunities to use it. At higher levels, this will probably lose its appeal. At lower levels, it can be a really solid option. Also, a bard doesn’t suffer Arcane Spell Failure in light armor, which is very nice. (Elven Chain is a good idea once you can afford it, or halfweight drow armor [Forgotten Realms – Underdark source book] ).
- Spells – A Bard’s spells are, of course, his strongest class feature. He has limited spells know and limited spells-per-day, so it is important to choose your spells wisely.
- Bardic Knowledge – This is OK. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but I think there are better options if you’re taking alternate class features.
- Bardic Music – Along with spellcasting, this is the core of the
bard class. There are many different kinds of bardic music:
- Countersong – Because it takes a standard action to activate and only protects against sonic or language-dependant magical attacks, this is very weak. It’s possible to go an entire 20 level campaign and never have a situation where this is the right choice. It will be also virtually impossible to get this to protect against instantaneous effects. The one place it has some value is to try and break the effect of a continuous effect, but even then, it has to be a sonic or language based attack. I recommend swapping this out if you can.
- Fascinate – Fascinate gives -4 to spot & listen, and keeps the target from taking any actions as long as they are not threatened. The ability is limited to one target per 3 levels. This feature isn’t that great, but it has some fun in-game applications. It is most useful as the pre-requisite for suggestion or mass suggestion. A creative bard with a reasonable DM can find some nice tricks with this ability.
- Inspire Courage – This is one of the best reasons to play a bard. +1 to attack and +1 to damage doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you do the math across an entire party, it adds up to a lot of extra damage. When you use feats, magical items, and additional bard levels to get this bonus higher, it becomes responsible for a metric ton of damage. Obviously, this ability is stronger in a party of physical combat characters, and weaker in party of casters. The best part about this is it makes your fellow players happy, because their characters are more effective. Win-Win.
- Inspire Competence [Requires concentration] – This is pretty weak. A +2 to a single skill for a single ally, for maximum two minutes. There are better things if you’re using alternate class features.
- Suggestion – This is an OK feature. The big limitation it has (compared to the spell) is that you can’t use it in combat, because fascinate is a pre-requisite and you cannot fascinate in combat. On the other hand, the DC to resist this is almost certainly going to be higher than the spell’s, which is nice. Half-elf bards (or other bards with generous DMs) will want to look at getting the spell Suggestion (so you can use it in combat) and swapping out this feature for Command, which is a little weaker, but less restrictive in how it can be cast (and also not on the bard’s spell list).
- Inspire Greatness – This is a solid feature, if you manage to stay bard for 9 levels. It gives extra hit dice, a small fort bonus, and a bonus to attack rolls that stacks with inspire courage.
- Song of Freedom [Requires concentration] – You’ll probably want to multi-class out before getting this ability, but if you get up here, it’s nothing special. It will be useful occasionally.
- Inspire Heroics – Again, you’ll probably be out of the class before you get up here. If not, it is an alright ability that grants +4 to all saving throws.
- Mass Suggestion – This is OK. Unfortunately, the requirement that the targets be fascinated is very limiting, both because it means this can’t be used in combat and because it limits the number of targets. “Mass” really means “handful” in this case.
Alternate Class Features
The bard has some really nice options for alternative class features.
Bardic Knack (PHB2, p 35)
Lose bardic knowledge, gain the ability to use half your class level in place of skill ranks
This is solid. I used to like Lore Song better, but if you’re going to take the level 1 spell instant of power (I recommend that you do) then those two overlap. This thing can give you a ton of skill points. I like this better now. It’s worth noting that if you’re going to be multi-classing early, the benefit of this ability is more limited, because the bonus is calculated based on bard level. I would rule that any Prestige Class that advances Bardic Knowledge would also advance this feature, but you will have to check with your DM for his ruling.
Bardic Sage (UA, p 49)
Adds additional spells and bonus to knowledge in exchange for a higher need for intelligence and reduced duration of Bardic music abilities.
This is interesting. If you can have a maxed-out charisma and a 16 intelligence, this might be worth pursuing. The big upside is an extra spells known, which is typically a hard limitation for bards. If you go into sublime chord, you can switch to charisma-based spell casting for level 4+ spells.
Bard College (DrM332 85)
Get a +1 bonus to two skills and make two other skills cross-class. The Blackburn college gives you +1 to diplomacy and gather information, and makes knowledge (dungeoneering) and knowledge (the planes) cross-class. Yes please. There are a few others here, too, benefiting climb, knowlege (nature), knowledge (history), knowledge (the planes), decipher script, and knowledge (arcana). Those aren’t too exciting. But the Blackburn College is a nice clean upgrade.
Drow Bard (DU, p 57)
Gain poison use; lose bardic knowledge and 1 bardic music use/day.
If you are a Drow and want poison use, this is a fine way to get it. The cost isn’t too steep. I don’t typically go this route, but I think it’s an OK option. Don’t forget that you’re actually losing Lore Song (not bardic knowledge), which is bonkers good.
Divine Bard (UA, p 50)
Wisdom used to determine if you can cast a spell, Charisma used for all other factors, some spells added to the bard spell list.
This makes the bard have to pump wisdom to 16, and wisdom is his one easy dump stat. However, you do gain the ability to cast in full armor (letting you dump dex) so this might be worth looking at for a melee bard. The spells you gain are not exciting. In addition, your spells become divine spells instead of arcane spells. This could impact some prestige class options (and open up some options in the divine prestige class options that I haven’t explored in this handbook). The biggest loss is Sublime Chord, which is tremendous.
Fey Bard (UA, p 58)
gain animal companion, nature sense, resist nature’s lure, and wild empathy as a druid. Lose bardic knowledge, inspire courage, inspire competence, inspire greatness, and inspire heroics.
Mechanically, this is a big loss. This is an interesting way to roll your own ranger/caster, but I don’t endorse it. The animal companion is pretty solid at low levels, but falls off at higher levels.
Gnome Bard Substitution Levels: (RoS, p 147)
- 1st level: Gnome Cantrips
Effectively gain extra level 0 spells
Gnome Cantrips effectively net you one free level 0 spell known. I normally recommend taking all three spells you are granted by this ability (prestidigitation, dancing lights, and ghost sounds) anyway, so this 3-for-2 trade is really a 1-for-nothing trade. That is, free!
- ..and Counter Fear
This will have some real value at later levels. This is a solid feature. You can choose to keep it, or you can swap it out for another alternative feature. It’s a clear upgrade to countersong all by itself.
- 3rd level: Inspire Defiance
Lose Inspire Competence, gain resistance to mind-affecting stuff
+2 to saves against illusions and mind-affecting spells and effects is better than inspire competence, but this probably isn’t the best option.
- 6th level: Phantasmal Song
Lose Suggestion, gain a Fear-like Song
The low distance and limited effect makes this nothing exciting.
- 11th level: Secrets of Bardic Trickery
lose a 4th level spell known, get three spells known
Phantasmal Killer is ok (save-or-die targeting will then fort) but two chances to save on a mind-affecting spell is just too narrow for me to be excited. In addition, neither color spray nor touch of idiocy have much value at this level, in my opinion. If you are a gnome and you like phantasmal killer, then this is a no-brainer; get two other spells for free. In general, I would pass on this ability.
- 1st level: Gnome Cantrips
Half-Elf Bard Substitution Levels(RoD 157)
- 1st Level
Lose Countersong, Gain Soothing Voice
This is an amazing upgrade. If you are a half-elf, do it. If you’re not a half-elf, see if you’re DM will let you do it anyway.
- 6th Level
Lose Suggestion, Gain Command
I think this is very strong. I recommend doing this and picking up suggestion as a spell. This way you can use suggestion in combat, and you also gain command.
- 8th level: Secrets of the Diplomat
Lose a 4th level spell known, gain bonus spells
I don’t think this is worth doing. Sending is a pretty underwhelming spell. I’d like to pick up command, but not at the cost of a 4th level slot. If you like sending for some reason, then this becomes great.
- 1st Level
Lightbringer Bard(EtCR 206)
- 1st Level
Lose Bardic Knowledge, +5 to specialized undead knowledge
I don’t think this is great in general. But if you have an undead-focused campaign it’s worth looking at.
- 1st Level
Lose Inspire Competence, Gain Inspire Turning
Interestingly, the book lists this as a first level ability. Does that mean you can take it at level 1 even though you don’t normally get inspire competence until level 3? In either case, I think this is a bit better than inspire competence, but not particularly good. Give an ally +2 CL for turning purposes for as long as they hear us perform (and we concentrate). In an undead focused campaign in a party of clerics, maybe this could be pretty cool.
- 6th level: Repel Domination
Lose Suggestion, gain mind affecting resistances
Untyped +2 vs mind-affecting spells or abilities from undead. Also, if you suceed, on the save, the enemy is shaken for the rest of the encounter. A fear escalator can look at this.
- 1st Level
Harbringer (DrM#337 93)
Lose Fascinate, Countersong, Inspire Courage, Inspire Competence, Suggestion, Inspire Greatness, Song of Freedom, and Mass Suggestion, gain fear-based abilityes.
I think this is pretty cool, especially for a fear bard. Unfortunately, it’s an all-or-nothing approach. You can’t pick and choose which abilities to swap. Instill fear is about as good as inspire courage, encourage failure is a little better than inspire competence, I like dishearten better than inspire greatness, Dirge of Binding is very strong, and Drain Prowess is definitely cooler than mass suggestion. We did lose fascinate, countersong, and suggestion without any direct compensation, but the other stuff is pretty cool. I would definitely look at this for a fearmonger bard.
Spellscale Substitution Levels(RoD 110) You can pick and choose which of these substitution levels you take.
- 1st Level
Lose Bardic Knowledge, gain Draconic Bardic Knowledge
A straight upgrade to bardic knowledge. Gain bonuses on konwledge checks related to dragons, as long as you maintain knowledge (arcana). It’s not bad, but there are better alternative features for bardic knowledge.
- 3rd Level
Lose Inspire Competence, gain Inspire Arcana
Activate to Give your casters a +1 to Caster Level. Inspire competence is weak, but this is also pretty lackluster. The big downside is that it requires concentration to maintain.
- 6th level
Improve Suggestion at the cost of one second-level spell-per-day
This is pretty solid. Not amazing, but solid. I like getting +2 to DCs on things like suggestion; when I cast a spell or activate an ability, I just want it to work. That being said, losing one spell per day is a little sad. Definitely worth considering.
- 1st Level
Healing Hymn (Pre-Errata) (CC 47)
lose fascinate, boost natural healing and healing spells
Fascinate is needed for suggestion. If you’re swapping out suggestion (via half-elf sub levels or some other method) this is really good. I underestimated it at first, but I really like it now. Pair it with cure light wounds as one of your spells known, and you get a lot of out-of-combat healing ability. It’s not great in combat because you can’t stack it with inspire courage and the action economy isn’t great, but still awesome. It’s also great to dump a bardic music at night to double healing. Really, this feature is easy to overlook, but it’s very good. It’s also great to dump a bardic music at night to double healing. Really, this feature is easy to overlook, but it’s very good.
Healing Hymn (Post-Errata) (CC 47)
lose fascinate, boost natural healing and healing spells
The errata ruined this alternate class feature. Check with your DM if he’ll let you take the pre-errata version. If he won’t, just pass
Hymn of Fortification (CC 47)
lose inspire competence, use bardic music to generate protection from evil type effects.
This is a clean upgrade to inspire competence. This would be good except for the fact that it requires concentration to maintain. Y U C K.
Inspire Awe (DrM 13)
Lose Inspire Courage, Gain Inspire Awe.
Opponents become shaken, with a chance at saving. The debuffs are strong with a wide-range of harm and the save DC is pretty high. This is good if you don’t want to go deep into inspire courage, or if your party doesn’t have very many melee characters. This is also a core feature of a fear-escalation bard.
Lose inspire greatness, gain inspire hatred.
Cause an opponent to hate and attack his ally unless he passes a will save? Sweet! I love the flavor, and it seems like a better use of a standard action than inspire greatness.
Inspire Turning (ECR 206)
Lose Inspire Competence with the ability to boost an ally’s ability to turn undead by spending a bardic music attempt they gain +2 levels on their turn check.
If you are in a party where this is relevant, I think it’s definitely better than inspire competence.
Lore Song (DS 8)
Lose Bardic Knowledge. Once per day (per two bard levels, i.e. lvl 1, 3, 5, 7, etc.) immediate action, add +4 bonus to an attack, save, or check roll.
I like this a lot. It overlaps with the level 1 spell Instant of Power. If you’re taking that, probably take bardic knack instead. If you’re not taking that spell, probably take this.
Mimicking Song (DS 8)
Give up countersong. Use bardic music to give allies a +2 bonus on move silently.
This is probably an upgrade. In-character, it’s a little funny to imagine, but I think of it as the bard generating a magical sound-cancelling wave (two sounds can theoretically cancel one another). In either case, if you don’t have somewhere else to dump countersong, this is probably an improvement.
Music of Creation (ECS 34): (You can also take these as feats)
- Haunting Melody
Level 6+, so Replace Suggestion, Inspire Greatness, Song of Freedom, Inspire Heroics, or Mass Suggestion
This is either very strong or below average, depending on DM’s ruling. The text isn’t super clear on whether this requires an action to activate or whether it “piggy backs” another perform. I think RAW definitely piggy backs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some DM’s house ruling that this is a standard action to activate. It’s strong if you can piggy back (inspire courage does a lot then!) and it’s not very exciting by itself. You can see discussion on this topic here: http://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/63506/does-haunting-melody-use-a-standard-action/
- Music of Growth
Level 9+, so Replace Inspire Greatness, Song of Freedom, Inspire Heroics, or Mass Suggestion
– This is generally bad, but it is a nice alternative to Augment Summoning for a savage/greenbound summoning bard. Saves a feat.
- Music of Making
Level 6+, so Replace Suggestion, Inspire Greatness, Song of Freedom, Inspire Heroics, or Mass Suggestion
Doubling the duration of conjuration spells is nice. If you have a lot, you may want to consider taking this.
- Song of the Heart
Level 6+, so Replace Suggestion, Inspire Greatness, Song of Freedom, Inspire Heroics, or Mass Suggestion
This is a good replacement for Inspire Greatness if you get up there. A passive +1 to inspire courage, plus other conditional benefits. It’s a shame this requires inspire competence as as a pre-req. I almost feel like that’s a typo. If it didn’t, this would be an amazing swap for inspire competence.
- Soothe the Beast
Level 3+, so Replace Inspire Competence, Suggestion, Inspire Greatness, Song of Freedom, Inspire Heroics, or Mass Suggestion
This is pretty cool. Being able to diplomacy wild animals fits the bard really well, and the mechanics (roll a perform check) are naturally maximized. I think this is the best option to replace Inspire Competence.
- Haunting Melody
Planar Bard(PlH 29) – This is the sort of ability could be good in a very particular campaign. The things you give up aren’t exciting, so if the gains are something your DM tells you want, then go ahead.
- 3rd level: Planar Inspiration
Lose Inspire Competence, Use music to protect people from planar effects
- 6th level: Planar Dissonance
Lose Suggestion,Temporarily redirect portals to new locations.
- 12th level: Planar Discordance
Lose Song of Freedom, use bardic music as a precipitate breach spell
- 3rd level: Planar Inspiration
Repel Domination (ECR 206)
Lose suggestion, gain a +2 bonus on saves vs mind affecting spells and abilities of the undead, if you succeed in the save they become shaken.
This is weak. Suggestion is a solid ability; don’t give it up for this conditional, passive, and small advantage.
Savage Bard (UA 50)
Must be chaotic, good fortitude and will save, poor reflex. Modified skill and spell list. Illiterate.
I think this is the right base for a summoner’s bard. As pointed out by Elmer below in the comments section, this will give you access to the Greenbound Summoning feat, which is really really strong. Aside from that, Illiteracy is sad. Gaining fort instead of reflex is nice. Losing prestidigitation is absolutely miserable. Losing read magic is sad. On the whole, not a choice I’d take in general, but it seems very strong for a summoning-oriented bard.
Spellbreaker Song (CM 35)
Lose countersong, can use bardic music to disrupt casters, giving them 20% spell failure chance.
This isn’t much of an improvement over countersong. The fact that it disrupts all casters is a big advantage, though, especially if you can sustain it throughout the combat (it doesn’t require concentration to maintain). 20% against two or three spell casters over a handful of turns is pretty nice.
Undead Bardic Knowledge (ECR 206)
Replace Bardic Knowledge with specialized knowledge about the undead
Works like normal bardic knowledge but with a +5 competence bonus. Only good if you’re going to be in a campaign that’s all about undead. The big advantage to bardic knowledge is diversity, and this takes that away.
Your choice in ability scores is going to depend a lot on what sort of bard you want to be. A caster/face/control bard doesn’t need strength or dex, where a melee or archer bard is going to want some.
A Bard generally wants a high charisma, a low wisdom, and a good balance between the other four abilities, depending on the direction you are going. Melee bards can skim on the charisma a little, if they want, to pick up some additional physical stats.
- Strength – Depends on the build. A bard will do combat damage sometimes, so a 10-14 here, when possible, is nice.
- Dexterity – This is highly build-dependent. AC and ranged attack is nice, and you have a lot of skills that get bumps from Dex, but economy will probably not let you dump a ton of points here. 10-12 feels about right, generally.
- Constitution – Extra hit points are always helpful. 10-14 here seems good.
- Intelligence – This stat is a sponge; give it everything you can that you don’t need in the other slots. Extra skills are really great.
- Wisdom – This is the bard’s easy dump stat. The primary benefit a bard gets from wisdom is will saves and a bump to spot / listen. Weak.
- Charisma – At least 16, preferably 18. Charisma is the stat bards use for casting, giving the bard bonus spells per day and a higher DC for spells that have a save (many bard spells). It also pumps the two best skills in the game: Diplomacy and Use Magic Device.
No Level Adjustment
- Aasimar, Lesser (PGtF template applied to Aasimar) – +2 to Wisdom, +2 to Charisma, Darkvision, and a small bonus to spot and listen. Not my first choice, but a solid race.
- Aasimar (Web) – +2 Charisma, darkvision, light, spot and listen bonuses, some resistances. Not bad.
- Azurian (MoI 7) – A modified human. Lose extra skill points, pick up a point of essentia. I haven’t researched essentia a ton (I probably should) but if you’re using it, this is probably better than human for your character.
- Dwarf (PHB) – Not a good pick for the Bard. Nothing we’re excited about, and it reduces our most important stat. If you want to be a dwarf, you should look at some of the other options (listed below) which at least don’t dump CHA.
Dwarf [Desert (UA 11), Dream(RoS 88), or Gold (DMG 171)] – No big upside here, but if you want to be a dwarf, none of these offer CHA penalties, which is nice.
- Elf, Star (UEast p9) – +2 Cha, -2 Con, Favored Class Bard, Normal Elf Stuff, Can ghost touch weapons at night.
- Gnome (PHB) – This is a pretty good choice, especially for casters. The +1 boost to illusion DC is solid and I love the extra cantrips per-day. Small size is a mixed bag, but on the whole advantageous for a non-melee oriented character. This is a strong choice if you’re building core-only, but it falls off if you’re playing with all the splat books. It’s 4 stars in core-only, and 3-stars if you include all the splat books.
- Gnome, Stonehunter (DrM 8) Dragonblood subtype! If you want to play a gnome and use the draconic auras or dragonfire inspiration, check this out.
- Gnome, Whisper (RoS 94)- +2 Dex and Con, -2 Str and Cha. Silence is a nice spell like ability, but not for -2 CHA. Pass.
- Goblin, Bhuka (Sand 39) – Not an exciting race in general, but the best way for a bard to be a goblin (if you want/need that for some reason) because of no CHA loss and no level adjustment.
- Gruwaar (DR317 p25) – +2 to Dex and Cha, -2 Str and Wis. Small, 4 legs, fey, can cast disguise self 1/day. Darkvision.
- Half-Elf (PHB) – Half-elves are really strong, assuming you have access to the alternate class features from RoD. The +2 to diplomacy, low light vision, and other minor race features are also pretty nice. I wouldn’t take this race without access to RoD, but I would seriously consider it in the context of those alternate class features.
- Half-Elf (Jungle) – Same as half-elf, but you ca +2 to bluff and sense motive instead of diplomacy and gather info.
- Half-Human (DMG 171) – Same as half-elf, but you lose the diplomacy bonus to gain longbow proficiency (Bard already grants longsword). I think this is a worse option, but something you can look at. You’ll have to get the DM to approve getting the alternate class features from RoD, but he really ought to.
- Half-Orc (PHB) – There’s really nothing here for us.
- Half-Orc (Desert) (UA 12) – No CHA penalty half-orc. You lose the strength bonus, but get a con bonus. If you’re in a point buy system that’s probably a wash for you, so this is good. You also lose darkvision (in favor of low-light vision) which is sad. If you’re trying to go half-orc, perhaps for a fear bard, this is your best choice.
- Halfling, Strongheart (FRCS 17) – Bonus feat and a lot of the typical halfling fare. Effectively a small-sized human (but no bonus skill points).
- Human (PHB) – As usual, human is the best option. Bonus feats, bonus skills, and free multi-classing. It’s got everything.
- Human, Silverbrow (DrM 6) – Gain dragonblood subtype, featherfall 1/day (and more at higher levels), +2 to disguise, but lose bonus skill points. Solid.
- Illumian (RoD 52) – A really interesting class, especially for melee rogues. If you take the Aeshkrau word, you can dump charisma as a stat. You lose a lot of the social skills this way, but it’s an idea.
(RoTD 39), Arctic (UA 10), Desert (UA 13), Earth (UA 17)] – A way to get the dragonblood subtype, which can help with draconic aura. Take a look at all 4 to see which you like best if you go this route, all four are about the same strength. Another trick is to take this race and start with the dragonwrought feat. Be an old man and get +3 to all mental stats without the normal penalties to the physical stats. A little cheesy, and it effectively costs you two feats (compared to being human.)
- Other Dragonblood Races
- Magic-Blooded Template (DM 306 p65) – This is stupid strong. You get +2 CHA for -2 WIS, Low Light Vision, +2 to Knowledge (arcana) and spellcraft, and gain 4 cantrip uses per day. The only downside is you get favored-class: sorcerer and lose any other favored class. Unless you’re a strange build or a melee-multiclass bard, this doesn’t matter at all.
- Raptoran (RotW 68) – No level adjustment and gain the ability to fly via race. Flying is cool.
- Spellscale (RotD 26) – Can transfer into spellscale race by undergoing a rite after level 1. +2 to Cha, -2 to Con. Low light vision, A cool “blood-quickening’ ability that lets you get a range of race-based benefits each day.
- Unseelie Fey (DCV1 222) – Get a fly speed, some pretty good special powers, damage reduction, low-light vision, +4 to intimidate, +2 Dex, +2 Cha, -2 Con, -2 Str. It’s pretty good.
With Level Adjustment
These are generally only worth looking at if your DM will allow you to do a Level Adjustment buyoff. Otherwise, losing levels of class progression just can’t be justified. Usually, these are most useful to look at when you’re starting a campaign in the teen levels and don’t mind being a little behind the rest of your party for a while.
+1 Level Adjustment
(RoD 92, MM209)– +2 Wis and Cha, Darkvision, some other small benefits.
- Catfolk (RotW 92) – +4 dex, +2 cha, 40′ move, low light vision, +2 to listen and move silent, and +1 to AC. Not a bad package for a bard.
- Celadrin (DR 350) – Bonuses to Chrisma and Dex, +4 to Sing, Dark vision, bonus to diplomacy, normal elf stuff. Not bad.
- Draconic Creature Template (Dr 149) – +1 AC, +2 Str, Con, and Cha, Dark vision and low light vision, +2 to intimidate, two claw attacks.
- D’hin’ni (DR351 p54) – +2 Dex, +2 Cha, -2 Wis. Darkvision 60′, +1 bonus to saves, +2 to some sneaky skills, prestidigitation at will! I love prestidigitation.
- Dvati (DrC) – This is a pretty cool option for a bard. The key idea here is that you can maintain two bardic musics at once (inpsire courage, inspire greatness, for example). Concentration requires both twins to concentrate, so it’s only good for the non-concentration musics, but still. I can definitely imagine a cool character here. A combat-oriented build might be interesting, given that having two characters attacking doubles the benefit of inspire courage.
- Gnome, Chaos (RodS 86) – +2 to Cha and Con, -2 to Strength. Some cool spell-like abilities. Not great.
- Jaebrin (MMV 93) – +2 Cha, -2 Str. Low light vision. Immunity to enchantment spells and effects. +1 bonus to DC for enchantment spells she casts, +2 on perform, bluff, diplomacy, and appraise. A bite that does will damage. Not bad.
- Mephling, Air (Planar 10) – Gain flying, small size, favored class bard, and a weakish breath weapon. +2 to Dex and Cha, -2 to int. Not bad, but not worth 1 LA.
+2 Level Adjustment
- Adu’ja (DR317 p22) – Be a plant. +2 to Charisma. Some other cool abilities, like +4 to diplomacy and perform (although minuses to bluff and sense motive). Heals fast when in sunlight and well watered.
- Domovoi (Frost 122) – +6 Cha and bonuses to most other stats. Get some spells. Interesting.
- Dragonkin (Dcn 151) – Might be an idea for a melee bard starting at higher levels. You get fly, +8 to strength, bonuses to other stats, are large, detect magic at will, 7AC and some other cool things.
(MM 103, Und 10)– +2 to Charisma, Int, and Dex, -2 to con, spell resistance, spell-like abilities, and darkvision. You also get the normal elf stuff and sensitivity to bright light.
- Phrenic Template (EPH) – +2 to int, +2 to Wis, and +4 to Charisma. As you level up, you pick up a bunch of psionic abilities. This is definitely very strong for a bard, if you’re comfortable with the level adjustment.
- Half-Fey (FF) – +4 to Cha, +2 to Dex, +2 to Wis, and -2 to Con. A pretty fast fly speed with good maneuverability; and a selection of useful spell-like abilities, including charm person at will, which is pretty fantastic.
- Satry (MM 219) – +2 to all stats but Strength. Bard is favored class. A lot of nice benefits, including +4 to perform and damage reduction.
- Shadow creatures (LoM) gain shadow blend, which gives you total concealment in any illumination less than full daylight. Basically, it’s permanent greater invisibility. It’s kind of insane. You also get to choose from a laundry list of powerful special abilities like fast healing, evasion (good combo with invisibility), and plane shift (to or from the plane of shadow only) as a spell-like ability.
- Yuan-Ti Pureblood ( MM 262) – +2 CHA, Dex, and Int. Darkvision, some feats, special attacks, spell resistance.
+3 Level Adjustment
- Witchknife (MM3 112) – +4 to cha and other stat boosts, sneak attack damage, psionic effect spell-like abilities. Maybe worth looking into if you’re starting the campaign at high levels.
+4 Level Adjustment
- Doppleganger (MM 68) – +2 to all stats, and a total of +4 to wisdom. Darkvision, extra bonuses to everything, detect thoughts as a special ability, and change shape as a special ability. If you’re playing a high-level campaign and can do LA buyoff, this might be worth looking into. Would be absolutely miserable at low-levels.
- Pixie (MM 236) – +6 to Cha, bonuses to other stats (but dumps strength) . Can fly, some Damage Reduction, gain Greater Invisibility.
+9 Level Adjustment
- Gloura (Under 88) – +10 dex, +4 con, +2 wis, +6 cha, Darkvision 60′, low-light vision, DR 10/Cold Iron, Fly 60′, light armor proficiency, simple weapon proficiency, CHA bonus to saves and deflection AC. I think You have to take the Fey template, which is +7, plus this which is +2, so a total of +9.
+10 Level Adjustment
- Firre Eladrin (BoED 169) – Unlimited uses of bardic music. This is absurdly broken, especially if you can do a level adjustment buy off. Take a Firre Eladrin, go into Bard / Sublime Chord, pick up the feats Metamagic Song, Persistent Spell, Quicken Spell, and Lyric Spell. Now you have unlimited spells per day and you can make every single one effectively permanent. The only real limitation here is that your list of known spells is narrow. Spend the rest of your feats on additional spells, and you’ve got yourself a monster. I think this build makes a better NPC villian than PC hero.
A bard has a relatively high number of skill points per level, and has access to a wide range of skills. The bard’s best skills are the social skills, but he also has some other interesting things going on:
- Appraise – Not really worth getting. You can prevent NPCs from taking too much from you on sales / buys with a very stingy DM, but not really exciting.
- Balance – I don’t recommend putting any points in this. It may come up occasionally, but it’s hard to get a lot of value from points here.
- Bluff – This is a very strong skill. I like taking this, along with the other social skills, and maxing it out as much as possible. Five ranks grant a +2 synergy bonus to Diplomacy, which is great.
- Climb – If you like this for flavor, it gives the DM opportunities to give you cool dungeons. It doesn’t tend to give you the ability to beat general encounters, so I don’t recommend picking it up.
- Concentration – Since you’re a spellcaster, this is essential (unless you pick up the feat Melodic Casting, in which case you can ignore this one).
- Craft – I don’t like using finite skill points to generate gold (a DM-controlled resource). For that reason, I don’t recommend taking this skill.
- Decipher Script – It’s less expensive to take read magic as a cantrip and learn all of the languages through “Speak Languages” than it is to get this up to a level where you can get any practical use out of it. Pass.
- Diplomacy – Arguably the best skill in the game, I recommend maxing this out. It gives you so many opportunities to resolve conflicts and get allies. Very dynamic, very strong.
- Disable Device (Cross-class) – This is an OK skill, but its cross-class for the Bard. I think there are better places to put your points.
- Disguise – This has some cool role-playing opportunities, and can add a lot of flavor to a campaign. The downside is that the mechanics aren’t super favorable to the player, and the times you’ll be able to apply it in a regular campaign aren’t too often. It’s OK.
- Escape Artist – Being grappled sucks, and Escape Artist can help you get out of that. If your DM is good at the rules, he’ll probably send a few grapplers at the casters. This can help mitigate that.
- Forgery (Cross-class) – Because this is cross-class, it’s hard to get much out of it. It’s a cool ability in theory, but I’ve never had much luck putting it to use in my campaigns. If you’re doing an intrigue type campaign and like this flavor, it’s not terrible.
- Gather Information – This is a fine ability, and fits right in with the other social-skills I recommend. It might overlap a bit, but with a good DM, I think each social skill has its own realm.
- Handle Animal (Cross-class) – Not really worth putting points into.
- Heal (Cross-class) – Not really worth putting points into.
- Hide – This is an OK skill for every class. You can go on espionage missions with the rogue, if you’d like. Not amazing, not bad.
- Iaijutsu Focus – This is a wierd skill. It’s only in the 3.0 Oriental Adventures book. If you draw and attack a flat-footed opponent, you can get extra damage for that attack. You also can do an “iajutsu duel” with an opponent that accepts. For the most part, I think this isn’t worth going into (both because it’s a bit narrow and because your DM is going to have to be invested) but it’s not bad.
- Intimidate (Cross-class) – It’s a shame this skill is cross-class, because it’s a strong skill and fits in well with the bard’s social package. It overlaps with diplomacy a bit, but it has some unique uses, and is really cool for roleplaying. There aren’t any easy ways for a bard to get a class skill. For fear-monger bards, this is a key component. For non-fear-mongers, you can take it or leave it. You can get access to this as a class skill with the feat “Apprentice (Soldier)” from the PHBII if you need it.
- Jump – Five ranks gives a bonus to tumble, and there’s a nice skill trick which can be good. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s much here worth pursuing this one.
- Knowledge – Knowledges are a good skill in general, and become absolutely insane in conjunction with knowledge devotion and the skill trick Collector of Stories. If you’re going pure caster, this can be a dump. If you’re going archer or melee, this seems like something to really consider.
- Listen – This is a good skill that will get a lot of use throughout any campaign. Wisdom is our dump stat, which is sad. I usually want more active things (and leave the listening to the barbarian or rogue) but this is definitely worth considering. If you’re going into the Sublime Chord prestige class (one of the best for a Bard) you’ll need 13 ranks here, so keep that in mind.
- Move Silently – Same as hide. If you and the rogue want to be buddies (or if there’s no rogue) this is maybe worth taking. It has some application, but not as many as you might like.
- Open Lock (Cross-class) – This might be worth taking one rank in, if you get bardic knack. Otherwise, leave the locks to the rogues, wizards, or barbarians to solve.
- Perform – Essential for a bard. Keep this near max for one type, but there are some levels you can skimp on maxing out if you need, based on what bardic musics you’re gaining access to. I recommend doing something that doesn’t require an instrument, like singing, whistling, or oration.
- Profession – The intended use of this skill is boring. If you want to say to your DM “I spend a year making money”, then go ahead. Not something I’m interested in doing. Kill monsters and fight bad guys. That’s more fun. Professions are for real life. That being said, NRCody pointed out some cool ideas for this skill below. Look for his post on December 5th below, but in summary, he pointed out that Profession (Sailor) should make it easier for you to talk to other sailors, and profession (Lawyer) might help get you out of a jam with the local authorities. I doubt your DM is ever going to say “everyone roll me a Profession (Lawyer) check”, but you might be able to assert one yourself in some key situations.
- Ride (Cross-class) – Dump this skill and avoid horses. Q E D.
- Search (Cross-class) – It’s a good skill, but it’s not our strong suit. I usually let someone else in the party cover this ground, and just assist when I can.
- Sense Motive – Five ranks gives a synergy bonus to diplomacy. That’s great. Otherwise, it does help protect the party from being bluffed. It’s a solid skill, but not amazing.
- Sleight Of Hand – A lot of the bard’s spells are social based, and being caught casting can really a limiting factor. Sleight of hand enables you to cast secretly in two ways (using the skill and using a skill trick) which I’ll outline below in a special section. For that reason, I love this skill.
- Speak Language – A lot of the bard’s skills and spells are language dependent. The more languages you speak, the more opportunities you have to use those skills. There is a strong argument that this skill is not subject to the normal “Max level + 3 ranks” limit, which means you can pick up all 19 learnable languages at a pretty low level.
- Spellcraft – Lets you identify magical items with a high enough check and detect magic (MIC 217). That alone is a good enough reason to get into this class. It’s also required for some of the better prestige classes.
- Spot (Cross-class) – A good skill that I leave to other PCs.
- Survival (Cross-class) – Cross class and limited application. It will only really solve problems by the most difficult and strict DMs. Leave this to the ranger or rogue.
- Swim – This skill can save your life, but you don’t typically need a bunch of points to get value from it. As DM, I like to make encounters that reward multiple types of skills, and swim is easy to do that with. But it’s not something you need.
- Tumble – If you’re a melee bard, this is great. If you’re an archer bard, it might be OK. If you’re a face / caster bard, pass.
- Use Magic Device – One of the best skills in the game, I also recommend maxing this out. However, you can probably ignore it completely for the first 3-4 levels.
- Use Rope (Cross-class) – This skill is just bad.
Skill tricks are a game feature from Complete Scoundrel. They let you spend 2 skill points to pick up “skill tricks”, which are effectively mini-feats. Due to the high number of skill points and many roles that a Bard can play in a party, skill tricks can be a nice resource for a bard. Typically, you want to choose skill tricks that suit your character. Two skill points aren’t a large investment, so if you’ll be able to get some use out of the trick, it’s generally worth taking. Here is a list and my opinions on each:
- Acrobatic Backstab – This is best for a rogue, but if you’re a melee bard who uses tumble a lot, it’s not a bad use of skill points.
- Assume Quirk – Usually, if you’re using disguise, someone who knows the person you’re pretending to be is going to be in your line of fire. Getting a +4 to +10 on disguise in this scenario is a pretty good investment of two skill points. This will typically be best for someone who maxed out disguise and wants more points.
- Back on Your Feet – Really strong vs trip attacks. If I’m a melee / tumbler class, I’m taking this.
- Clarity of Vision – I think this is a fine pickup at higher levels. A nice trick at swift speed.
- Clever Improviser – This one just doesn’t get enough bang for the buck, especially for a non-rogue.
- Collector of Stories – This is solid if you don’t metagame. It’s especially strong if you’re a combat bard who takes knowledge devotion (and your DM rules that the +5 bonus improves your Devotion roll.) I take this as a combat bard and pass as a caster bard.
- Conceal Spellcasting – I think this is solid. Most of our spells are going to be social spells, and being able to cast without detection helps a lot. You should also look at Races of Stone (Page 133) for additional info on concealed spellcasting with sleight of hand. (Additional info here).
- Extreme Leap – This is a fine pick up for any tumbler bard. No skill entry cost (because you almost certainly have 5 jump for the synergy) and you get a little extra move when needed as a swift action. Not amazing, not bad.
- False Theurgy – I don’t typically run into counterspellers. If you do, this can be good to make sure a spell gets through.
- Group Fake-Out – I don’t think feinting is terribly good. For that reason, I also pass on this. If you’re into feinting, this is a fine upgrade for a low cost.
- Healing Hands – A mini-heal spell when dealing with dying characters. Can really help in a low-magic campaign, but this gets eclipsed by a Wand of CLW pretty quickly. Not great, and not really for a bard.
- Hidden Blade – Don’t take quick draw as a feat. If you have it, I guess you can take this feat. But I have trouble seeing this come up more than once in an entire campaign.
- Leaping Climber – I have trouble thinking of a scenario where speedy climbing is necessary, and where a few feet is the difference that matters.
- Listen to This – The best use of this is to bring non-understood languages back to the guy who can understand them. But you ARE the guy who can understand them. Spend the skill points on speak languages, not this.
- Magical Appraisal – This is OK. It’s a good trick for only 2 points. You can also gain this ability by pumping spellcraft, so lots of options here.
- Mosquito’s Bite – Most bad guys act like they didn’t get hit anyway, and why would a bard be using a light weapon? Pass.
- Never Outnumbered – We don’t have intimidate, this range is low, and demoralize opponent isn’t a great use of a standard action. Pass.
- Nimble Charge – This seems pretty good for a melee bard. A little narrow, but no real downside. The way its worded makes it sound like a passive always-on ability, but the general rule for skill tricks is once-per-encounter. I would want the DM’s ruling on that question, but it seems OK.
- Nimble Stand – Not bad, butI’d get Back on your Feet instead.
- Opening Tap – Not for the bard. Not even great for a rogue.
- Point it Out – A high entry cost, a bard isn’t typically the Spot guy in the party, and the effect is pretty limited. I’d pass.
- Quick Escape – Getting out of a grapple or pin at a swift action is really nice. This ability isn’t worth 14 skill points, but if you have the escape artist already, this is probably worth picking up.
- Quick Swimmer – I have trouble imagining a scenario where this matters at all.
- Second Impression – If you’re all about disguise, this is good. In general, it seems a bit loose for 2 skill points.
- Shrouded Dance – Turn your move action into concealment (20% miss). This is good.
- Social Recovery – This isn’t too strong, but it pumps your diplomacy a little if you also have a maxed out bluff. The main problem is the interpration of “fail”. If you’re aiming for friendly, and you land at neutral, can you use this to push it a bit higher? If so, maybe it’s worth taking. Otherwise, someone who has a maxed out diplomacy is never going to flat “fail”, making this useless.
- Slipping Past – The problem this skill trick solves doesn’t happen often enough to matter.
- Speedy Ascent – Same as quick swimmer and jumping leap. Unless you’re simulating a climbing competition, when is this going to make an actual difference?
- Spot the Weakness – Not a bad skill trick. It helps vs the big armored guy a lot. Bards don’t tend to have a good spot skill, so this might not be great for you unless you picked up spot as a class skill from somewhere else. If you did, it’s worth considering at least.
- Sudden Draw – Don’t take quick draw. If you did, and you imagine this scenario will ever arise, you can spend two skill points for a really cool story. Mechanically, this is very weak.
- Swift Concentration – This is strong with any bardic musics that require concentration (Hymn of Fortification jumps out to me) or if you have spells that require concentration to maintain. It effectively gives you one more standard action, if you like those spells otherwise.
- Timely Misdirection – So many ifs and conditions. Pass on this please.
- Tumbling Crawl – This is a good ability; anytime you can get out of reach of AOOs safely is nice. I just have trouble seeing it come up often.
- Twisted Charge – This is solid for any melee bard. Not amazing, but just solid.
- Up the Hill – Like the swim and climb skill tricks, I just don’t see this making an appreciable difference.
- Walk the Walls – This has such cool visuals. I don’t know when you’ll get a good use out of it (you need a perfect scenario) but man its super cool.
- Wall Jumper – I have trouble finding a use for this.
- Whip Climber – I’d love to be Indiana Jones, but 15′ reach on a whip plus a 7 skill point dump feels rough.
Prestige Classes and Multiclassing
An optimized bard is a multiclassed bard. There are a lot of options here, especially considering the different roles it might want to be. I’ve tried to make as large of a list as possible, but there are a lot of options out there, so I may have missed a few of the more obscure ideas.
There aren’t a ton of great base-class dips for a bard. That being said, there are a few worth considering, and there are others which aren’t bad and might be fun for flavor, or fit a particular character you’re trying to build.
- Beguiler (PHB2 6) – Same as rogue, but instead of sneak attack you get some cantrips and level 1 spells. Not worth setting back all of your bardic class features. Pass.
- Binder (ToM 9) – This is a cool class, but I don’t see any benefits to cross-classing into it.
- Cleric (PHB 30) – Probably the best general single-dip base class in the game. You get a bunch of really cool effects. There is a handbook for this: http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=2773.0
- Crusader (ToB 8) -Strong for a melee bard. You get access to a white raven stance, which you can use to pick up Song of the White Raven feat, giving you Inspire Courage as a swift action. You also get maneuvers, can delay taking damage to yourself, and you gain some extra damage output tricks. You get a lot of punch from in a single level dip into this class.
- Dragonfire Adept (DrM 24) – This class is similar to the warlock in mechanics. I don’t see any advantage to going into this; it doesn’t directly synergize or amplify any bard class features.
- Dragon Shaman (PHB2 12) – A one level dip gets you 3 draconic auras, and +2 to fort and will. Not good, but if you really like draconic auras this is OK.
- Fighter (PHB 37) – Not worth going into for the bonus feat, IMO. Progressing your bardic music or going into crusader will be better.
- Hexblade (CW 5) – There’s a lot of cool stuff here, but it’s a solid downgrade from the bard’s package because we don’t get spell progression.
- Marshal (MH 11) – Nothing exciting here. It has some bard-like abilities, but they don’t stack at all.
- Monk (PHB 39) – Unless you’re doing this for flavor reasons, pass.
- Paladin (PHB 42) – Definitely weaker than progressing bard alone, or going into Crusader / Cleric, but there is one feat that supports this build, so it’s a little stronger than something like Monk or Ranger.
- Ranger (PHB 46) – There’s really nothing here for a bard. Not worth dipping for combat style (you’re better off doing that with fighter and it’s not good).
- Rogue (PHB 49) – Sneak attack is nice, but its only 1d6. I don’t recommend dipping this class, and multiclassing for a number of levels will just set back your bardic music and casting.
- Swordsage (BoNS 15) – Doesn’t give access to White Raven stances, which is a big benefit to going into this book. I recommend Crusader or Warblade instead.
- Warblade (BoNS 20) – Also good for a melee bard. You get access to white raven stance (opening up the feat Song of the White Raven, letting you inspire courage as a swift action) and some bonuses to reflex saves. Not as good as crusader for the bard, but still strong.
- Warlock (CArc 8) – Not worth dipping into. You just get an eldrich blast, which is a flashy long-bow. You have much better things to do with 1 level.
Bard Specific Prestige Classes
These are going to tend to be the strongest prestige classes available, because they are designed to continue to improve or enhance your bardic musics.
- Battle Howler of Gruumsh (DrM311 69) – A really good class for the melee bards out there. You lose some good skills (diplomacy, UMD) but you do pick up Intimidate. You continue to progress in bardic musics and bard spells, you get a +1 to inspire courage, you gain the ability to rage! and you gain the ability to activate bardic musics while raging.
- Chorister (WoL 27) – This requires the divine bard alternate class feature. 1/2 spell progression. Gain an alternative inspire courage (doesn’t stack) that also debuffs evil enemies. The debuff is kinda cool. Also a few other things like boosting ally’s saving throws, cheating into some metamagic, cast two spells in one round(!). This is more of a way to convert a cleric into a bard than it is a boost for the bard class. Probably a pass, but cool to look at. I wonder what an optimized cleric-bard using this class would be like.
- Dirgesinger (LM 43) – Become a bardic necromancer. Lose bardic spell progression, get access to five new songs across five levels, all undead related. Some of the songs (Sorrow, Grief, Horror, Awakening) are pretty strong. Losing spell progression is sad, but this is cool to look into, especially for a fear bard.
- Dawncaller (RoS 103) -Must be a goliath. No spell progression. Pick up some barbarian-like bardic musics. Not great, maybe worth considering as a two-level dip to get another +1 to inspire courage and darkvision.
- Divine Prankster (RS 107) – Must be a gnome. Get full spell progression, good reflex and will saves, wizard BAB progression, and some cool additional bardic musics. Definitely worth looking into for the gnome bards out there.
- Dwarven Chanter (Web) – This class is underwhelming. It increases your bardic music count which is nice, but otherwise there’s not much. The +2 to bonus to class level to skills (max +20) is interesting, but difficult to take advantage of in-game because of the very long daze afterwards. War chant would be good, except the ally side doesn’t stack with inspire courage. The rest of the stuff is really flavorful, but difficult to apply to an advantage in-game.
- Evangelist (CD 39) – Lose bardic spell progression. Pick up some OK bardic musics and skill abilities. Has a bad feat entry cost, and no spell progression. Mechanically, this is weak.
- Hafling Whistler (Web) – This class is OK. Full spell progression of any bard class (looking at you, sublime chord) and a lot of cool spell-like abilities. It does not increase any of your other bard class features, though, which is sad.
- Harper Agent (PGtF 58) – Continues to progress bardic knowledge, and increases spells levels 2-5. Otherwise, the abilities it is granted are pretty weak and it requires a crappy feat to get in. Pass.
- Heartfire Fanner (DM314) – Give allies feats, give a little bigger boost to an ally under inspire courage, and get full casting and full music progression. It would be pretty good if not for the steep feat entry costs, especially because the feats are garbage (Negotiator and Skill Focus: Perform).
- Lyric Thaumaturge (CM 67) – This is a great class. It is a good alternative to the basic bard progression. You can start taking it at level 7, which is a good break point in the bard class, and it lets you pick up some spells from the wizard list, some extra spells per day, and a few other cool abilities. Level 4 and level 7 are natural break points, but there’s nothing wrong with going all the way to level 10.
- Memory Smith (DM311 68) – The thing that makes this good is that 1: it doesn’t have a steep entry cost; and 2: you continue to progress in bardic music progression from the base bard class and bard spells. Basically it’s a free add-on to the bard class (at a small cost to bardic knowledge.) That being said, the benefits aren’t great; you basically add a bunch of spells to your list that I don’t like.
- Mourner (DM311 67) – Similar to the memory smith. You have a really low entry cost, and you progress bardic musics and bard spell casting. Because it’s basically an add-on, it’s gotta be at least OK. If you’re in an undead campaign (or maybe if you’re doing necromancy stuff) this is something worth looking at.
- Ollam (CAdv 66) – A Dwarf only class that grants some bard-like abilities. 5 levels total, levels 2,3, and 4 improve spellcasting. Definitely a pass.
- Seeker of the Song (CA 56) – Lose bardic spell progression, but pick up a lot of special bardic musics, plus the ability to combine bardic musics and activate musics as a swift action. If you want to go all-in on bardic music, this is a good class to do it with. Requires Skill Focus (Perform) as an entry feat, which is sad.
- Stormsinger (Frost 71) – Full spell progression and some additional bardic musics. Requires two bad feats for entry, though, which is a real bummer. I haven’t looked at this too deeply, but I feel like there’s the potential for abuse by maximizing the winds ability, especially because the class itself gives you the ability to boost your caster level. (It’s also worth noting that this is one of the few bard prestige classes that is compatible with Divine Bard.)
- Sublime Chord (CA 60) – Get up to 9th level spell casting with this class, plus some cool abilities. Entry cost isn’t too high. It pulls spells from the wizard / sorcerer list or bard list, whichever is better. A great 2-level dip or 6-level dip. (Then you’ll want to use something that progresses spellcasting to get to 10th level casting of this). Note: the therafim group added a thing called “Bardic Lock” to their version of this class published on the net. This is not standard material. There is no such thing as a bardic lock in CA.
- Troubadour of the Stars (BoED 78) – Requires a weak feat to get in and progresses spells every even level. It stacks with bard for progresses all bardic music abilities, though, which is nice. You also pick up detect evil at will some additional bardic musics, and some other cool abilities. Worth looking at if you want to be a bard/paladin type character.
- Virtuoso (CAdv 89) – Can be used to increase the spellcasting levels of sublime chord along with your bardic musics. You also pick up some OK new uses of Bardic Music. Not great for progressing a bard build (because you lose one level of casting) but good with sublime chord. You have to give up one level of spellcasting to get into this, but you get full progression after that plus the musics.
- Virtuoso (SaS 22) – The 3.0 version of Virtuoso is much stronger than the 3.5 version. You progress spells every level, you gain most of the core bard abilities, and you pick up a bunch of new abilities. As a DM I wouldn’t allow the 3.0 version of this class. But if your DM will let you, it’s very strong.
- War Chanter (CW p87)- Lose bard spell progression, pick up strong alternate combat-oriented bardic music abilities. It’s a shame that we lose spells with this class.Maybe you can look at this with a leadership oriented build, but I don’t know, you’re giving up a lot to get that capstone.
- Abjurant Champion (CM 50) – Five level full casting class and full BAB that grants some really cool abjuration-related effects. Bards don’t tend to have abjuration spells, though, so the application for us is limited. (Dispel magic and resistances are the only good spells on the bard list). If you can figure out a way to take advantage of this (probably gaining access to spells via sublime chord or lyric thaumaturge) it’s a very powerful class. However, generally speaking, it doesn’t benefit a bard.
- Arcane Archer (DMG 175) – Elf or Half-elf only. Lose spell progression and bard ability progression. Pick up some really cool arrow tricks. Not strong, but it has nice flavor.
- Arcane Duelist (Web) – Two feat tax (dodge and mobility). Lose spellcasting progression. Get good reflex and will saves. Get a bunch of really cool extraordinary and spell like abilities. The big question I have with this class is why are we getting only 1/2 base attack bonus!? +5 across 10 levels is insane for a class that’s focused on melee combat. This has really cool flavor, but is weak.
- Battle Dancer (DrC 26) – I think this is pretty weak. You might want to look at it as a single-level dip to get a Charisma bonus to AC, but because you have to be unarmored for that bonus, I prefer just buying some armor.
- Duelist (DMG 185) – Some cool-ish combat abilities, but at a huge cost: no spell progression and three bad feats. Pass.
- Eldritch Knight (DMG 187) – Lose one level of casting progression and bardic music progression for full BAB and a bonus feat. Requires proficiency with all martial weapons, which means you’ll have to have another dip somewhere. Worth looking at, but in the end you do better progressing bard most of the time (Maybe there’s a wonky gish build with Sublime Chord and this?). Even putting aside the loss of a level (or two!) the increased bonuses to inspire courage outweight the slightly better BAB progression.
- Jade Phoenix Mage (BoNS 115) – Full BAB, 8/10 spellcasting progression, Devoted Spirit maneuver progression, and provides two powerful early class features: Arcane Wrath, where you can turn a spell slot (even a cantrip!) into a bonus to attack and damage, and Mystic Phoenix Stance, where you pick up small CL and AC bonuses and up to DR 10/evil, which really adds up. If you hold off on most of its levels until after you go into Sublime Chord, it can help you progress SC to ninth level spells and still get you to around +17 or so BAB at 20th. Good early, good late. If your DM allows Tome of Battle, this should be blue for a combat bard and purple for a Sublime Chord gish. (Thanks to Gabrosin of the Giant in the Playground forums for this summary!)
- Knight Phantom (Five Nations 41) – Lose bardic music progression to pick up full BAB and some ghost-flavored abilities. Not bad, not great.
- Spellsword – Easy to enter, but no bardic progression and spell progression only on odd levels. This is best as a 1-level dip; you get 1 BAB, 2 fort, 2 will, and 10% ASF reduction (which can help you carry a shield). Something to look at as a melee bard.
- Suel Archanamach (CArc 63) – Starts its own spell progression, and adds some combat – related feats. Not great, but might be worth looking at once.
- Swiftblade (web) – Pretty cool prestige class for gish builds. Definitely worth considering for 3 levels, and I could see going here for 9 or 10 levels. The only problem is that it has a pretty high feat tax.
Spell Progression / Abilities (Not Bard Specific)
These are notable classes that continue spell progression and grant some abilities, but don’t progress your bard-specific abilities.
- Archmage (DMG 178) – Three bad feats to get in and no bardic progression. The High Arcanas are kind of cool, but not really worth the cost for a bard.
- Ardent Dilettante (Planar 55) – Progress spells at every level but first. Really high entry cost that increase as you level up in the class, but some nifty benefits (3 bonus feats) and it progresses Bardic Knowledge. This class is going to be one that you have focus your entire build on, but it’s got some things to recommend it. I don’t think it’s the most powerful choice, but it might be fun.
- Blood Magus (CA 26) – A casting focused class that progresses spells but offers nothing to the bard.
- Combat Medic (HoB 100) – If you want to be a combat medic, here you go. I don’t recommend it. The abilities aren’t so bad, but the saves, BAB, ane Entry Feats are pretty rough.
- Dragonsong Lyrist (Draco 127) – Requires that you take the feat dragonsong, which isn’t amazing but also not terrible. This gives you a second set of songs that you can use X times a day, where X is your level in this PRC. The songs are pretty good: +5 to strength for close allies, suggestion within 30 feet, flight, a fear effect, and a mass healing effect. It also progresses 2/5 spell levels. Not amazing, not bad.
- Dread Witch (HoH 98) – A fear-based caster class. You get 4/5 spell progression and a bunch of fear-based effects. This is the prestige class for fear escalators.
- Exalted Arcanist (BoED 61) – Gain some exalted spells. The feat entry here, and losing one level of casting, is sad. I’m not in love with the new spells it gives you access to, so I think this is a pass.
- Fatespinner (CA 37) – A high level prestige class that’s great as a 4-level dip. You stop improving your bardic knowledge and bardic musics per day, but you get a bunch of really cool re-rolling abilities. I love this class.
- Green Star Adept (CArc 41) – 5 / 10 spell progression. Slowly turn into a construct. Nothing special for a bard.
- Harper Paragon (PGtF 181) -Requires that you get into the vow feat tree.Doesn’t progress any bardic features, but gets you into some paladin / ranger like abilities while continuing to progress spells.
- Heartwarder (FaP 197) – Has a really high feat tax and no bardic music progression. On the upside, you gain bonuses to charisma and charisma related effects, as well as full spellcasting progression. Pretty cool.
- Incantatrix (PGtF 61) – 10/10 spell progression. Iron will as a feat tax, which is at least useful. In addition, you have to give up a school like a specialized wizard. I think necromancy is an easy drop for most bards. You get some bonus metamagic feats which helps offset the feat tax. There are some cool effects here with stealing spells, applying metamagic through wands, etc. I don’t love metamagic for bards, but if you’re going heavy into that direction this is something worth looking at.
- Incantatrix Variant (MoF 31) – 10 levels of spell progression. No bardic ability progression. Pick up some cool concentration and metamagic tricks. I don’t think there’s much here for a bard, it’s better for a wizard or sorcerer.
- Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil (CA 44) – This is a very strong class, but it’s got a high cost to get into and doesn’t fit the bard mold well. Leave this one to the wizards.
- Loremaster (DMG 191) – 10/10 spell progression, no bardic ability progression. Pick up “secrets” that give some minor benefits. This is weak.
- Mage of the Arcane Order (CA 48) – This could be cool for a bard to get access to a wider range of spells, but it was designed without spontaneous casters in mind. You’ll have to talk to your DM about how to make it work.
- Master of Masks (CS 52) – Only progress spells 4 levels out of 10. You get a lot of neat abilities and some really cool flavor, but mechanically you give up a lot more than you gain.
- Mindbender – A reasonable good 1-level dip or 3-level dip. You only progress spell casting on odd levels, but you pick up cool abilities like telepathy. A 1-level dip is particularly good for Telepathy, which, in conjunction with the Mindsight feat (LoM 126) can act like a radar for anything with a mind.
- Mythic Exemplar (Ktolemagne) (CC 86) – This will give you spell progression for every level but 1 and 10. Not bad. In addition, you’ll get a scaling bonus to will saves, +5 to some skills, +4 to Intelligence, Identify 1/day, and SR 10 + CL. And at level 10 you get +2 to any stat. Not great, really, but it’s got some cool flavor. I’d look at Human Paragon before this.
- Mythic Exemplar (Reikhardt) (CC 86) – 1/2 spell progression. Scaling bonus to will saves, continues to scale inspire courage and inspire greatness, +4 to charisma, dominate person as a swift action, and the capstone of another +2 to an ability score. Kinda cool, not great.
- Nightmare Spinner (CM 74) – 5 level class, get spell progression for four levels. Pick up a bunch of pretty strong fear-related effects, and also get additional spell slots per day (but only for illusion spells). Definitely strong.
- Paragnostic Apostle (CC p94) – A 5 level capstone, probably a good fit for a sublime chord build, but you can look at it for pure bards or other crazy hybrid things. I like fast healing on summons and +1 to overcome spell resistance a lot. The other ones are looking at. It is easy to dip into. Check it out!
- Rainbow Servant (CD 54) – If this grants access to all cleric spells at level 10, its worth looking at. I don’t think it’s good, anyway, but anything that expands the bard spell list is interesting. You get 7 levels out of 10 of spell progression, and some cool special abilities.
- Ruathar (RotW 122) – Three levels of spell progression and some cool abilities. It doesn’t do anything to advance your bard skills, and the abilities aren’t that cool. Probably a pass.
- Shadowcraft Mage (ROS 120) – 5 / 5 spell progression plus cool abilities. Must be gnome (or your DM can add a different restriction). Offers an effectively wider spell selection through shadow tricks. It’s pretty cool.
- Shadowcrafter (UD 43) – An illusion-oriented casting class. 10/10 levels of spell progression, plus pumps to the Shadow spells. This isn’t great, but it’s OK.
- Spelldancer (MoF 37) – Full spell progression, which is good. Huge feat tax (four feats I don’t recommend). No bardic music progression. Some abilities which are sort of like bardic musics. Not absolutely terrible, but that feat tax makes this a dead end, IMO.
- Tainted Scholar (HoH 114) – Full spell progression, but requires a will save to multiclass out of. A lot of taint-flavored stuff here. I don’t recommend this on power level, and the taint stuff can be restrictive. If you like the flavor, take a look at it. (But it’d probably be better to do this as a pure caster class instead of the bard).
- Urban Savant (City 100) – Full spell progression. You have to pick up the “favored” feat, which is pretty weak. Grants a mini-knowledge devotion class feature, you also pick up low-light-vision and some substitution skills for diplomacy. This is generally pretty weak.
- Wild Mage (CA 68) – 10/10 spell progression. Not terrible, not exciting. If you like the flavor, it’s OK to take. There are stronger options, though.
- War Weaver (HOB 112) – 4/5 spell progression. At level 1 you get a really powerful effect where you can change single-target buff spells to affect your entire party instead. That’s serious action economy. Even better, at levels 2-5 you gain the ability to cast spells before combat and release them all as a move action. This class really overloads actions and lets you slam out your buff spells all at once at the beginning of combat. This is really strong.
These classes are from Unearthed Arcana. These don’t prove to be a good option in the end, but it took me a lot of trying to fit them into builds to come to that conclusion. The +2 boost to a stat is a real big temptation, but it’s not worth losing bardic ability progression and a level of casting (or worse). That being said, maybe you have a build where they make sense, or you like the flavor, so I included them here.
- Drow Paragon (male only) – A one level dip is worth considering. Not great because it doesn’t advance any other classes or class abilities, but you do get spellcasting and additional uses of spell-like abilities.
- Elf Paragon – Doesn’t advance bard spells. Pass.
- Gnome Paragon – Not bad, but you lose one level of spellcasting.
- Half-Elf Paragon – At best a two-level dip, which avoids the primary reason to take a paragon class: the stat boost. Pass.
- Human Paragon – 3 levels, two of which progress spellcasting. Gain a bonus feat and +2 to a stat. Not bad, but usually hard to work into builds.
I don’t tend to think hybrid classes are a good idea from an optimization point of view, especially if you’re coming from the bard as a base class. You’ll see that reflected in the analysis below. That being said, the Apostle of Peace and Priest of Ur both have some serious potential.
- Apostle of Peace (BoED 51) -Get 9th level Arcane Casting in 10 levels. This + Bard + Sublime Chord + Mystic Theurge is really cool. You have to go into the Vow feats to get into this class, but the vow feats can be good if your DM and party members are comfortable with how they impact the campaign. Check out the example builds section for more info on this.
- Arcane Hierophant (RotW 108) – Designed as a Arcane / Druid hybrid, a bard could theoretically go into this. I recommend passing, though, there’s nothing too exciting here.
- Arcane Trickster (ToB 47) – Mage / Rogue hybrid. Pros:Full sneak attack progression and full spell progression. Cons: This is built targeting a wizard, not a bard, so no bardic abilities progress.
- Bladesinger (RoF 179) – A lot of required entry feats, most of which are bad. It also has its own 4-level spell list rather than progressing the bard’s. There’s one really cool ability, but this is a pass.
- Divine Crusader (CD 33) – Relatively easy to go into, and it’s a good way to get high level arcane and divine casting. Bard, Sublime Chord, Divine Crusader, and Mystic Theurge. Voila. You also get some cool stuff like Weapon Specialization and Darkvision.
- Daggerspell Mage (Cadv 31) – Arcane / Rogue hybrid. 9/10 spell level progression, sneak attack progression, and some cool knife like abilities.
- Divine Prankster (RoS p107) – A gnome-only Bard/Cleric hybrid PrC that focuses on Perform (Comedy). It gets a really powerful ability at 2nd level, that lets you consume a turn/rebuke undead attempt to get +10 against the check to recognize a figment as an illusion. The first thing that comes to mind are the shadow evocation and shadow conjuration spells.
- Enlightened Fist (CA 34) – Arcane /Monk – 8/10 spell progression, continued progression of monk abilities, some cool abilities.
- Fochlucan Lyrist (Cadv 47) – Bard / Druid hybrid, but for some reason it also requires evasion, which you need to get via two levels of rogue or monk, or maybe some wonky stuff with shape soulmeld and Impulse boots. You progress Bard and Druid spell progression, along with bardic class features. You can’t get into the class until level 10, though, which means you are going to have a lot of lower-level spells, but be severely gimped at higher level spells. You also don’t get the best features of the druid class. I think this is worse than going pure bard or pure druid, but that’s how things often are with hybrid classes. Probably the best build here is 2 rogue / 6 druid / 2 bard, then get bardic musics and 12 levels of bard casting with 18 levels of druid casting. It doesn’t progress wild shape though, so this isn’t better than the straight druid by any means.
- Geomancer (CD 41) – Divine / Arcane hybrid. Progresses one side of the spellcasting and adds some abilities.
- Green Whisperer (DM311, 69) – You continue to progress your bardic music and spells, as well as your druid spells. You lose some key skills. This is a clear yes for any bard/druid hybrid, and any savage summoner bard type might look at this for the green ear level 5 capstone — being able to give your greenbound summoned creatures the benefit of inspire courage without having to dump a feat is worth considering.
- Imaskari Vengeance Taker (Underdark 37) – Gain sneak attack and poison use, 5/10 spell progression. Can seek out one particular creature using clairvoyance and divination. Not really anything special here for a bard.
- Mystic Theurge (DMG 192) – Arcane / Divine hybrid. Progress bardic spells and divine spells simultaneously, no other benefits. Not a good idea for a bard in general (combined with a cleric for example) but can be very potent when combined with Ur-Priest, Divine Crusader, or Apostle of Peace.
- Rage Mage (CW 72) – Wizard / Barbarian hybrid. This doesn’t really seem to be worth anything to the bard. Just included it here in case someone is looking to do bard / barbarian.
- Ur-priest (CD 70) – Get 9th level Divine Casting in 10 levels. This + Bard + Sublime Chord + Mystic Theurge is really cool. This has the strange pre-req of a good fort save, so you’ll probably have to build using savage bard. Check out the example builds section for more info.
If your DM will let you take a flaw (see: Unearthed Arcana) take one. If he’ll let you take two, take two. More feats more better.
- Able Learner (RoD 150) – Human or doppleganger only. Buy cross-class skills ranks for 1 point (instead of 2). Still subject to the 1/2 max ranks. We have so many in-class skills and skill points that I can’t imagine this is a good use of a feat.
- Battle Caster (CA 75) – You can put a bard in mithril full plate this way. Pretty cool. (You could also look into half-weight armor, to accomplish this without a feat).
- Apprentice (Soldier) (DMGII 176) – Gain access to intimidate as a class skill, and get +2 to fort saves. Really not bad at all. You also get some random benefits from the feat, check out that section in the DMGII.
- Apprentice (Spellcaster) (DMGII 176) – Get another 1st level spell known, and be permitted to swap out a spell every level, instead of every 3 levels (and you can swap out your highest level spells). Pretty good. You also get some random benefits from the feat, check out that section in the DMGII.
- Craft Wonderous Item (PHB 92) – Pay: time, 1/2 the gold cost, and 1/25th gold cost in XP to make any wonderous item. The purpose of this feat is to force your DM to let you get an item he doesn’t want to give you. Look, you’re playing a bard, the master manipulator class. Use some of those skills in real life and talk your DM into granting reasonable access to wonderous items, and save the XP, skill points, and feat.
- Darkstalker (LoM) – Hide a little better vs. creatures with blindsight and blind sense? Terrible.
- Drow Legacy (DotU 220) – Half-elf only. Get some drow benefits (+2 will saves vs spells, darkvision, hand crossbow, and some spell-like abilities) along with a -1 circumstance penalty to attcks, saves, and checks in bright sunlight. I love these spells. Even though these spells aren’t great, they’re spells! The +2 to will against spells is pretty good too. On the whole, this is a fine choice. Not essential, but I’d be considering it.
- Daunting Presence – Standard action to activate, single target, gets a save, and benefit is minimal. Pass.
- Flexible Mind (DrM #326) – Gain two skills as class skills (and get a +1 untyped bonus to those skills). A great way to get into intimidate.
- Guerrilla Scout (HoB 97) – Get an untyped +1 bonus to initiative and get spot and listen as class skills. This might be an OK feat for another class, but for bards all it’s doing is +1 to initiative, which isn’t enough.
- Guerrilla Warrior (HoB 97) – Reduce the ACP on light or medium armor by 1. Also get hide and move silent as quasi-class skills. A big meh.
- Heroic Surge (AoM 50) – Get an extra attack or move 1-5 times a day depending on character level. Free actions are pretty good.
- Imperious Command (DotU) – Requires intimidate 8 ranks, and depends on demoralizing in combat. If you succeed, the bad guy cowers for 1 round (and then is shaken the following round). The skill trick “Never Outnumbered” lets you demoralize multiple opponents at once. If you manage to do this to multiple opponents, you can get some pretty good action-economy (trading your turn for multiple opponent’s turns). This is pretty cool if you have a way to get intimidate to 8.
- Improved Initiative – This is a solid feat. Bards are buffers / controllers, and that means they like acting first. That being said, there are usually better options unless you are restrained on what books you can use.
- Jack of All Trades – This isn’t great at all. Dump one point in the skill if you really want access to it. Not worth a feat.
- Keen Intellect (OA) – Use your int mod instead of your wis mod for will saves, heal, sense motive, spot, survival. Given that Wis is our dump stat and you will likely have a +1 or +2 to Int, this is an interesting idea.
- Lucky (AoM 51) – +1 to all saves. Not bad, not great.
- Master Manipulator – The first ability is another fascinate, and the second ability doesn’t do too much. I think this is a pass.
- Momentary Alteration (UA 94) – If you’re exposed to “alter self” you can take this feat and use alter-self for 1 minute once per day as a spell-like ability. Alter self is really strong, but I don’t know that this feat is exciting despite that.
- Minor Shapeshift – A cool feat that passively gives a bunch of buffs, but the bard has trouble getting into it with his spell list (there are no polymorph spells on the bard list except alter self, and you need a 4th level one). One appproach is to take heighten spell and alter self (you can now cast a 4th level alter self) or to go into sublime chord.
- Negotiator (PHB 98) – +2 to Diplomacy and Sense Motive, untyped (so it stacks with everything). This is better than it initially seems.
- Nymph’s Kiss (BoED 44) – This is an easy feat to overlook, but man is it jam packed. +2 to all charisma related effects (diplomacy, bluff, etc.) +1 bonus to all saves against spells and spell-like abilities, and 1 extra skill point per level. It’s a strong, passive feat. Obviously, take it at level 1 if you’re going to take it.
- Skill Focus (Diplomacy) (PHB 100) – An untyped +3 bonus to diplomacy is actually pretty good. Especially for a core bard.
- Residual Rebound (UA 94) – 5% chance of returning a spell targetting you on the caster. It’s cool, but I don’t like being targeted with spells and 5% isn’t enough.
- Scathing Wit (DrM 291) – Opposed intimidate check as a full round action to give opponent -1 to everything for a number of rounds equal to your charisma modifier. Not a bad debuff.
- Summon Elemental Reserve Feat (CM 47) – As long as you have an open 4th level spell slot and a summon spell of 4th level or higher on your known spells list, you can summon a small elemental (air, earth, fire, or water) for 5+ rounds. Pretty great utility feat. The earth elemental can earthglide through walls and doors! This is very cool and very useful. I like its diversity.
- Touch of Healing (CC 62) – A reserve feat that lets you cure your party to half of their max hitpoints, as long as you have a 2nd level spell slot open and a healing spell on your known spell list. I don’t love this, but if you want to be a healer, this is strong tool to do that.
- Trivial Knowledge (RoS 145) – Gnome only. Roll knowledge and bardic knowledge checks twice, take the higher of the two rolls. This might be pretty good with knowledge devotion if you have the feat to spare (although, it’s hard to be a gnome and combat oriented). Otherwise, leave this.
- Versatile Performer – Use your highest rank perform for up to int-bonus other perform checks. This depends on your DMs way of playing. If she requires that you have the required ranks to use each instrument for perform, that really limits your ability to take advantage of the instrument boosts. This feat can offset that by letting you have all of the instruments available to you. If your DM is lax about this rule or interprets it softly, then there’s no reason at all to take this feat.
- Wanderer’s Diplomacy – The first ability is a method to get the DM to do something he doesn’t want to do (never a good idea) the second ability can be solved with skill points via speak language, and the third ability lets you use bluff in place of diplomacy. All are pretty underpowered.
- Leadership – Most DMs ban this feat, and for good reason. A bard is particularly good for this feat. It requires a lot of book-keeping, and may make your ally PC’s jealous of your time in the spotlight. But its power cannot be denied.
- Extra Follwers (HoB 97) – Lead double the number of followers. That’s pretty sweet.
- Improved Cohort (HoB 98) – Increase the level of your cohort by one level, so it’s only one level below you. Basically spend two feats to have a whole second character. Insane.
- Inspirational Leadership (HoB 98) – your cohorot and followers begin in combat with the “heartened” condition, which gives a +1 morale bonus vs fear effects). This is lame becaus we are already giving this with inspire courage.
- Practiced Cohort (HoB 99) – I don’t really know the benefit of this. It is based on the alternative rules “Teamwork Benefits”, which I’ve never used. This is probably a bridge too far for most DM’s, but I’ve included it here in case that’s your cup of tea. If you use it, let me know how it turned out.
If you’re going to pick up a familiar (a strong idea) you should read Dictum Mortuum’s excellent Familiar’s Handbook.
- Celestial Familiar (BoED41) – This isn’t worth getting to add the celestial template to an existing familiar. However, it opens up Coure Eladrin as a familiar, which is one of the best familiar’s in the game.
- Improved Familiar (DMG 200) – Improved familiar makes your familiar even more cool. There are a lot of really strong options here. A little-known expansion to the improved familiar list is in Serpent Kingdoms on page 146.
- Obtain Familiar (CArc 81) – A familiar can be a really nice boost for a bard, especially something that can speak and activate items. There are handbooks on this topic if you’re interested in it.
- Planar Familiar – The best choices are Imp, Lantern Archon, and Quasit. If you like those, this is a fine way to upgrade your familiar.
- Psicrystal Affinity (XPH 49) – Gain a Psicrystal as a familiar. Also good. I think it’s basically the same as a regular familar with some cool flavor.
- Wild Cohort (Web) – Not a familiar, but having an animal companion is pretty great too.
- Arcane Preparation (PgtF 32) – Allows you to prepare spells ahead of time with metamagic applied to them, rather than doing so spontaneously (and having to cast at full-round speed). Rapid Metamagic is a better option, use that for this effect if you want it.
- Arcane Thesis (PHB2 74) – Make one spell cast at +2 CL and get a metamagic reduction of one for it. Definitely cool.
- Coercive Spell (DotU 47) – (+1 mod) Spells that deal damage also reduce targets will by 2 for 3 rounds. This would actually be pretty good, except that it requires the spell deal damage, which the bard doesn’t have a lot of.
- Chain Spell (CArc 76)- (+3 Mod) There are a lot of bard spells that this applies to. Worth considering for your higher level feats.
- Disguise Spell (+1 mod) Hide the fact that you are casting spells for +1 spell level. There are ways to do this with Sleight of Hand (see that section) and Skill Tricks (see that section) so I think it’s better to pass on getting the feat; feats are valuable things.
- Easy Metamagic (DRM 325) – This will let you persist 4th level spells. IF you’re going all-in on persist, this is something to look into, but otherwise probably a pass.
- Extend Spell (PHB) – (+1 mod) I think this is the best metamagic feat available to a bard. Many of the swift-cast spells can be really improved by doubling their duration (but you’ll need the Rapid Metamagic feat).
- Fell Drain (LM 27 )- (+2 mod) If your spell does damage, the bad guy also gains a negative level. This is quite good if you have a damage spell you like.
- Heighten Spell (PHB) – (+1 mod) Spell DC is everything. The harder your spells are to resist in clinch moments, the more effective you are.
- Mastery of Faerie Enchantment (PgtF 126) – Free spontaneous application of extend spell, with no level adjustment, to any enchantment spell. I don’t think there are great targets here in general, but it is interesting. If you’ve got extend spell and a lot of enchantment spells, you could look at this. Usually enchantment spells don’t suffer from short lengths, so I don’t know if you’ll find much use.
- Metamagic School Focus (CM) – Reduces the metamagic cost of a particular school of magic by 1. The main purpose in getting this is to let you persist a particular school of spells one level higher (so max 5 on persist spell if you go all-out here).
- Metamagic Song – Lets you consume bardic musics (an overflowing resource) to reduce the metamagic cost of spells. There are two big limitations to this feat: 1. You cannot increase a spell’s level to higher than what you can cast (severely limiting the options with persist spell) and 2. You have to either reduce it entirely or not at all. Still strong.
Persistent Spell – (+6 mod) Not worth considering unless you’re going into PrC Sublime Chord (9th level casting) or if you’re picking up the Talfirian Song feat (which effectively increases your max spell level to 9). Even there, the benefits are a little limited, since, at best, you can extend 3 rd level spells. This is also very cheesy and might piss your DM off. That being said, here is a (hopefully complete) list of spells that are candidates for persisting. Obviously, due to your limited spell list and bardic musics per day, you’ll have to choose a few of these carefully. It’s also worth nothing that these spells are usually not the best choice for casting purposes, so you might want to substitute into them at later levels, instead of having them be dead weight all game.
- Level 0: Detect Magic, Fleeting Flame, Ghost Sounds, Ghost Harp, Know Direction, Light, Minor Disguise, Percussion, Read Magic, Resistance, Seeker’s Chant, Silvered Weapon, Songbird, Summon Instrument
- Level 1: Accelerated Movement, Ambient Song, Ancient Knowledge, Comprehend Languages, Crabwalk, Critical Strike, Detect Secret Doors, Disguise Self, Expeditious Retreat (swift), Expeditious Retreat, Focusing Chant, Friendly Face, Ghost Pipes, Inspirational Boost, Instant Diversion, Invisibility (Swift), Ivory Flesh, Joyful Noise, Loresong, Lucky Streak, Master’s Touch, Mimicry, No Light, Obscure Object, Quick Swim, Scholar’s Touch, Serene Visage, Silent Image, Stay the Hand, Sticky Fingers, Summon Monster I, Undersong, Ventriloquism
- Level 2: Alter Self, Animate Instrument, Animate Rope, Battle Hymn, Bladeweave, Blur, Cat’s Grace, Create Fetch, Detect Thoughts, Eagle’s Splendor, Elation, Fly (Swift), Fox’s Cunning, Grace, Harmonic Chorus, Harmonize, Heroism, Invisibility, Lively Step, Mesmerizing Glare, Minor Image, Mirror Image, Misrepresent Alignment, Peaceful Serenity of Io, Phade’s Fearsome Aspect, Proud Arrogance, Rage, Resounding Voice, Sculpt Sound, See Invisibility, Silence, Sonic Weapon, Sonic Whip, Sonorous Hum, Speak to Allies, Stretch Weapon, Summon Elysian Thrush, Summon Monster II, Summon Swarm, Surefooted Stride, Tactical Precision, Tongues, Tune of the Dancing Weapon, Weapon Shift
- Level 3: Blink, Displacement, Fortissimo, Gaseous Form, Glibness, Good Hope, Haste, Hymn of Praise, Infernal Threnody, Invisibility Sphere, Major Image, Phantom Steed, Puppeteer, Sonic Shield, Speak with Animals, Speechlink, Summon Monster III, Tiny Hut, Verraketh’s Shadow Crown, Weapon of Impact
- Level 4: Sirine’s Grace, (More to come).
- Practical Metamagic (RoD 101) – Another way to reduce the metamagic cost for persist. Probably not worth getting in any other build, but very good if you’re going the persist route.
- Quicken Spell – (+4 mod) Also very strong. The cost is high, but being able to cast as a swift action is amazing. Because you’re a spontaneous caster, you’ll also need Rapid Metamagic to get the benefit of this feat.
- Rapid Metamagic – If you’re going metamagic, this feat is very nice. Lets you apply metamagic without increasing the spell cast time.
- Reach Spell – The bard has a few OK touch spells. If you think you’re going to be using a lot of them, this is worth considering.
- Sculpt Spell – (+1 mod) One of the best metamagic feats, but, unfortunately, it does not have too much application in the bard’s spell list. If you focus on choosing spells that have area effects, you can get a lot out of this. You should note that the 10′ cubes should probably be read as being contiguous, which makes the effect worse than if you can put them anywhere.
- Silent Spell (PHB 100)- (+1 mod) Bard spells cannot be enhanced by silent spell, so this is a dead feat for us.
Spell Improvement Feats
- Augment Summoning (PHB 89) – Give your summoned creatures +4 to STR and CON, meaning more damage and more hit points. A “pied-piper” bard is a cool idea, especially since Inspire Courage gets stronger the more allies you have.
- Captivating Melody – Consume a bardic music and pass a DC 15 + spell level perform check to increase the DC of an enchantment or illusion spell by 2. Pretty good. I like heighten spell / metamagic song better, but this is solid.
- Enchanting Song – Increase the DC of an enchantment spell by 1 by expending a bardic music. Requires spell focus (enchantment) which is pretty lame, and it’s not 100% clear that you can activate this multiple times for one spell.
- Echew Materials (PHB 94) – Get rid of material components. This is generally bad, but could be part of a secretive spellcasting package.
- Extraordinary Concentration (Cadv 109) – Pass high DC concentration checks to concentrate as move or swift actions. If you fail, you lose the spell. This would be good, but it’s hard to make the risk of failure reasonably low enough, so I suggest passing on this (or getting it at level 18.)
- Extra Slot (CA 79) – Gain an extra spell slot, one lower than your max spell level. Not bad.
- Extra Spell (CA 79) – Spend a feat to get another spell on your spell list. The biggest limitation to the bard’s casting is his list of spells known. This is a fine way to expand it if you have the feats to spare. There’s a question of whether you can pull from another list (druid, wizard, cleric, etc.). I think you can, but you should check with your DM.
- Greenbound Summoning (LEoF 8) – This requires a particular build (savage bard) but its really strong. If you’re looking at focusing on summoning, look at this.
- Lingering Song – Bardic music lasts 1 minute instead of 5 rounds after you stop performing. A harmonizing weapon can accomplish this, and melodic casting can effectively accomplish this (with some additional benefits). I think this is a pass. However, as Hiro Quester pointed out, this allows you to stack bardic musics on top of each other, which is nice.
- Lyric Spell – Lets you consume bardic musics to get more spells per day. More spells is good, and bardic musics can be an overflowing resource, especially if you’re not going the metamagic route.
- Magic in the Blood (PGtF 40) – Any 1/day racial spell-like ability can now be used three times. There are some racial limitations, but this seems worth looking at for any race that gets spell-like abilities.
- Melodic Casting – Two big benefits. 1: You can use perform instead of concentration for casting-related checks. 2: You can cast spells or activate magic items while maintaining bardic music. This is also an entry requirement for the very strong PrC Lyric Thaumaturge.
- Misleading Song (ROS) – Spend bardic music to increase illusion caster level and DC by 1. Requires spell focus (illusion). I strongly recommend Metamagic Song and Heighten Spell instead. Same effect, much more versatile.
- Mobile Spellcasting – Move while casting as a standard action, letting you effectively move twice your normal distance in a turn. This can help you stay out of trouble. You risk losing the spell though (you must make a high concentration check) which is a big downside.
- Precocious Apprentice (CArc 181) – Must be taken at level 1. Get access to a 2nd level spell right away with a special spell slot. Once you become able to cast level 2 spells, lose access to that spell but keep the slot. In addition, at all levels you get +2 to spellcraft. I am taking this feat everytime I play a 1st level character and I’m not confident the campaign will last until level 6. I’m not sure if it has a place in a level 20 build, but it’s definitely reasonable at all levels and amazing at levels 1-3.
- Spellcasting Prodigy (AoM 51) – Increase the DC of your spells by 1 for one spellcasting class. That’s not bad at all.
- Talfirian Song (RoF 170) – Requires Tethyrian human. Increase the DC of your illusion spells by expending bardic music slots. I prefer Heighten spell & Metamagic Song (because it’s general case) but there are some distinct benefits to Talafrin Song: no cap on the amount you can dump into it, and it only requires one feat. There aren’t a ton of illusion spells that I recommend that have DCs, but a few important ones do. (Shadow conjuration and shadow evocation, for example). This also opens up a loophole with persist spell and metamagic song (see persist spell above).
- Versatile Spellcaster – Use two spell slots of a level to cast a spell a level higher. Not bad.
The vows are a really strong option for a bard. That being said, they are campaign warping due to their restrictions and power level. If you go this route, you should make sure your DM and other PCs know what they’re getting into. It can be good if everyone’s prepared, but if not, these options will probably ruin your campaign.
- Sacred Vow (BoED p46) – +2 to Diplomacy checks. Not great, but an entry feat into the Vows. Given that it’s an entry feat, it’s not a bad effect.
- Vow of Abstinence (BoED p 47) – +4 for saves against poison and drugs, but you can’t drink. Bad.
- Vow of Chastity (BoED p47) – +4 to will saves against charm and phantasm effects, but you can’t get laid.The effect is limited and not great.
- Vow of Nonviolence (BoED p47) – This is interesting for a caster bard. +4 to all spell and ability DCs, but you can’t do any damage or kill anyone else. It still allows you to do area effects, debuffs, and buffs. Requires a specific build, but can be strong. Requires Sacred Vow, which isn’t a great feat. Because of that, I prefer Metamagic Song and Heighten Spell, but this is interesting too.
- Vow of Peace (BoED p48) – This requires vow of non-violence. +6 to AC, +4 to diplomacy, a permanent aura of calm emotion, weapons that hit you can shatter against your skin, if you have vow of poverty, you get an additional +6 to AC. All in return for additional restrictions about killing things. Very strong.
- Vow of Poverty (BoED p48) – Take magical item progression out of your DMs hands. This is nothing special for a bard.
Bardic Music Feats
- Arcane Accompaniment (PHB II) – Expend a spell slot to extend the duration of bardic musics. Not worth a feat at all.
- Arcane Flourish (PHB II) – Swift action to give up a spell slot to increase a perform check. Not great. Your spells are typically better than a small bonus to perform (and many spells can give you that, if you want it). Not worth spending a feat on this.
- Artist (PGtF 33) – Bardic music is a pretty abundant resource, but if you prestige out and are doing metamagic reduction, this may be worth taking. Also good if you’re taking Lyric Spell. This is worse than Extra Music, IMO, but it’s very similiar and you should consider both if you’re considering either.
- Chant of Fortitude – Use bardic music to keep allies conscious when they’re at negative hit points. Kinda cool, but not worth a feat.
- Chant of the Long Road (CS 74) – Spend a bardic music feat to offset the non-lethal damage from hustling for 1 hour. Y U C K.
- Chaos Music (DM326 80) – This is great. Go into something like Lyric Thaumaturge for four levels and effectively get 4 levels of class features for one feat. Quite good. This is most effective if you have 5 or 11 levels of bard, but even if you get two class abilities with this, you’re doing great.
- Chord Of Distraction – Immediate action is nice, and the ability can help out your rogue party members. The cost of three bardic musics is really high, though.
- Courageous Rally (HoB 97) – Rally demoralized foes as a free action as part of an inspire courage action. This looks like a cool idea for fear escalation. The creatures basically need to be shaken (or better) for this to have a use, so you’ll really have to work around it, but it’s a cool idea to look at. Rally are alternative rules in the Heroes of Battle book (page 73) Rally are alternative rules in the Heros of Battle book (page 73)
- Doomspeak (CoR 21) – Gives target -10 to attack, saves, ability checks, and skill checks for 1 round. Will negates. This feat is alright, but the intimidate 8 requirement makes it so we can’t get into the class until level 13 unless we gain intimidate as a class skill. The DC to resist is very high, and it can help you lower the defenses of a big bad guy for the rest of the party. It’s OK, but not great.
- Dragonfire Inspiration – You need the dragonblood subtype. This effectively gets somewhere between an additional 0.5 to 1.5 point of damage per attack for everyone affected by your inspire courage. (Teammates get +Xd6 damage instead of +X to attack and damage). If your DM will allow this to stack with inspire courage, it’s bonkers good. If not, then it’s OK. Probably worth one feat in some builds, but not worth two (there’s a feat that will give you the dragonblood subtype). See my long section on the math and rules on this feat below for more information.
- Dragonsong -+2 to DC to resist bardic music effects and +2 to perform checks involving song, poetry, or any other verbal performance. Pretty solid, but not amazing.
- Epic of the Lost King – I love that you can activate this as a move action. I don’t like that the effect is so limited. Pass.
- Extra Music (Cadv 109) – Bardic music is a pretty abundant resource, but if you prestige out and are doing metamagic reduction, this may be worth taking. Also good if you’re taking Lyric Spell.
- Focused Performer (DrM338 p89) – This feat sucks. It’s almost useless, but you need it if you want focused performance.
- Focused Performance (DrM338 p89) – Modify bardic music in certain
ways, by consuming bardic music slots. This would be better if it only cost one feat. With the feat tax
of Focused Performer, I think this thing is a clear pass.
- Accompaniment – Costs 3 uses, lets you sustain two musics at once, requires really high perform check each round. That’s rough and the benefit isn’t that exciting.
- Dramatic Pause – This is bad. The benefit to ‘being able to attack’ doesn’t do anything at all. You can already attack with all of the musics listed excpet for fascinate, and attacking destroys fascinate anyway. Casting spells is nice, but use melodic casting instead.
- Harmony – This is pretty OK. Doubling the targets on the single-target effects is nice. Very good action economy here.
- Individual Performance – Doubling the benefit of inspire courage is absurd.
- Projection – Who cares?
- Rhythm – Extending bardic musics isn’t too exciting.
- Riveting Performance – This is really narrow.
- Green Ear (CAdv) – This is essential for the greenbound summoning / savage bard build. Otherwise, it’s pretty bad. Normally a pass, but a must-have there. (The plant type gives immunity to morale effects, and since it’s not a saving throw, the summoned creatures can’t choose to be affected.)
- Haunting Melody -See the alternate class features section.
- Ice Harmonics (Frost 48) – Cause nearby ice to explode, dealing 2d6 + CHA_MOD damage in area around the exploding square. Damage is weak, and range of application is tiny. Pass.
- Inspire Spellpower (RoS) – Spend a bardic music to increase ally’s caster level by 1. Not great at all.
- Ironskin Chant – At the level you get access to this, the damage reduction just isn’t worth that much. There are better uses for a feat.
- Music of the Outer Planes (LoM) – Use bardic music to sicken, vitalize, or lull aberrations. If you have a lot of these in your campaign, this might be worth looking at. In a standard campaign, it will be too narrow.
- Requiem – Use bardic music to affect undead creatures as well (although they only last half the duration). Not generally good, but there may be campaigns where this is valuable.
- Song of the Heart -See the alternate class features section.
- Sound of Silence -Two bardic musics is a little expensive, it requires a standard action, and the effect isn’t amazing. Pass.
- Subsonics (CA 112)- Lets you activate bardic musics without anyone knowing. It’s cool, but not amazing.
- Sunken Song (SW 94) – You can do perform (sing) underwater, including allowing you to do bardic musics underwater. Most of the time this is complete garbage, but in any very aquatic-oriented campaign this could be essential.
- Undertone of Heresy – Increase the DC of your bardic music effects by 2 by spending an additional bardic music. Not bad, but dragonsong is a better version of this (it has a little more pre-req, but no recurring cost).
- Warning Shout – Not bad. Can give an ally +5 to reflex and evasion, as an immediate action, for two bardic musics. A little narrow, but solid.
- Windsinger (SW 94) – Even in a campaign where I’m going to spend the entire time on the ocean, I don’t know that I want to spend a feat on this. Maybe?
- Words of Creation (BoED) – Doubles the bonus on inspire courage, and increase the benefits on other core bardic musics. But if you use it, take some non-lethal damage. I think this is strong, but i also think it’s overhyped. I think the fairest reading of this ability is that it doubles the bonus printed in the PHB (it specifically says that in the text). Some people take it to mean that your total bonus is doubled. If you read it that way, it can be absurd. If you read it the more sober way, it’s great but not broken. Also note: it is exalted, so it is subject to all the rules of exalted feats.
- Arcane Strike – Not bad for a melee bard. We have limited spell slots, which makes it less appealing, but it is a nice way to power a lot of force into one standard action.
- Battledancer – A really limited and constricting +2 Morale bonus to attack. This doesn’t stack with bardic music, so it’s complete garbage. Even if it did stack, it would still be pretty bad. Pass.
- Boomerang Daze – Requires proficiency with the Talenta Boomerang or Xen’drik Boomerang. Any target you hit with those boomerangs must pass a fort save or be dazed for 1 round. You can combine this with the feat boomerang ricochet (same book and page) to hit mulitple opponents at once.
- Charming the Arrow (web) – Use Charisma insatead of Dexterity for attacks with ranged weapons, fey only. Pretty sweet for archer types.
- Coordinated Shot (HoB 97) – Opponents never have cover due to ally’s positioning. I think you can do better with a feat than this, especially given how feat-heavy an archer bard is.
- Combat Expertise (PHB 92) – Being able to pump your AC by 5 points (instead of just 2) is pretty nice. If you’re in a tight spot this can save your life.
- Combat Reflexes (PHB 92) – Get more attack of opportunity (free actions are awesome) and never be flat-footed when it comes to making them. Not bad.
- Combat Panache – This is hard to get into because it requires intimidate 8. Otherwise, the three abilities are all pretty good. Nothing amazing, but cool and solid.
- Improved Bull Rush (PHB 95) – No AOO for a bull rush and +4 bonus. Not bad, but not great on its own. It builds into Shock Trooper, which is pretty good. In general, this idea isn’t great for a bard, but it’s something worth looking at.
- Improved Disarm (PHB 95) – Not bad, but not every enemy carries a weapon. It’s OK, and worth looking at if you’re core-only, but there are definitely better options.
- Improved Trip (PHB 96) – Opponent doesn’t get an attack of opportunity, you get +4 on the attempt, and you get a free attack if you succeed. That’s a really nice package for one feat. The only downside is that it requires combat expertise as a pre-req.
- Martial Stance / Martial Study (BoNS) – See the section below for a detailed analysis.
- Point Blank Shot – A feat tax. It’s bad, but you need it to get into all the archery builds. (Unless you talk your DM into being nice to you).
- Power Attack – A solid feat, especially in a class that has a lot of ways to get a higher attack bonus. The math on optimizing this each round can be fun to figure out.
- Precise Shot – Effectively +4 to ranged attacks most of the time. Not bad for an archery Bard.
- Scorpion’s Grasp (Sand 52) – Requires improved unarmed strike, but lets you initiate a grapple after striking with a one-handed light weapon for free (without an initial touch attack). You also get to attack with the weapon in grapple without the normal -4 to attack. I don’t now of a grappler bard build, but man this feat is strong enough to build around.
- Shock Trooper (CW 112) – This is really good if you’re building into this tree. The tree itself is probably not worth getting (Improved Bull Rush, Power Attack) but if you do, man this has a lot of umph. Three abilities, all solid.
- Snowflake Wardance – Gain a charisma bonus to attacks, be fatigued afterwards. Pretty solid. Not as good as knowledge devotion, but you could definitely take both if you’re focused on melee.
- Song of the White Raven – If you can get access to a white raven stance, this is great. You get to turn on inspire courage as a swift action. If you’re a combat oriented bard, dipping into warblade or crusader for this might be worth looking into. You can also build into this with Martial Study and Martial Stance. Three feats is a lot for this, but the benefit is a free action the first round of every fight. Worth looking at, especially if your DM is allowing flaws for extra feats.
- Two Weapon Fighting / Improved Two Weapon Fighting – This could be good on a melee bard, especially combined with snowflake wardance.
Multi-Class Specific Feats
- Devoted Performer – Allow free multiclassing between Bard and Paladin, and stacks the levels for calculating smite evil and bardic musics. Not bad if you’re going into the Divine Prankster prestige class, but not amazing.
- Divine Inspiration (DM#333 p85) – Stack bard and cleric levels for progressing bardig music. This is great.
You can find these feats in DrM 311 and DrM 325, and also in the Dragon Compendium Volume I, page 91. All of the bloodline feats are very, very strong. They give six or nine spells to your list for one feat.
- Air Bloodline (DrC1 91) – I like this one. Telekensis is really exciting, and the rest are solid. I’m not crazy about windwall, but I don’t know it’s a spell. Find a way to use it.
- Anarchic Bloodline (DrC1 92) – Hideous laughter is alright, but these spells are all attacking will and do what bards already do. Meh.
- Axiomatic Bloodline (DrC1 92) – None of these are terrible because they all give six spells, but I’m really not excited about any of these.
- Celestial Bloodline (DrC1 93) – A little better than axiomatic, not my faovrite.
- Draconic Bloodline (DrC1 96) – Not bad. Not amazing.
- Earth Bloodline (DrC1 97) – Enlarge Person and Shatter are great. The rest are solid. Great choice.
- Fey Bloodline (DrC1 98) – Glitterdust, tongues, nad detect secret doors are all solid.
- Fiendish Bloodline (DrC1 98) – Meh.
- Fire Bloodline (DrC1 99) – I like these spells. Basically every spell is usable.
- Illithid Bloodline (DrC1 100) – Another list of six usable spells. Good choice.
- Necromantic Bloodline (DrC1 102) – All of these spells are solid. Especially good for a fear bard.
- Penumbra Bloodline (DrC1 103) – This one is insane.
- Plant Bloodline (DrC1 104) – Nothing bad here, nothing amazing.
- Serpent Bloodline (DrC1 106) – I don’t like this one very much at all
- Water Bloodline (DrC1 109) – Not bad, not amazing.
In addition to the standard bloodline feats, there are a a handful of other feats that are related to the bloodline feats. These are not nearly as good, but there are a few interesting things here.
- Celestial Light (DrC1 93) – This really sucks. Who cares about casting light. Get a torch.
- Dragon Sight (DrC1 97) – Cast detect magic three more times per day. Meh.
- Elemental Theurgy (DrC1 97) –
- Fey’s Fate (DrC1 98) – +1 to luck bonus to all saving throws. Not bad at all.
- Friend of the Earth (DrC1 98) – +3 to climb and tumble, circumstantial. Meh.
- Kin Mastery (DrC1 101) – I like this flavor, but it’s really limited. Turn or rebuke a creature of the type of your bloodline, but only once per day.
- Lawful Discipline (DrC1 101) – A limited +3 to will. I prefer iron will to this, and I don’t much like iron will, so thi sis a pass.
- Mind Weapon (DrC1 102) – Daze 3/day. Daze is trash. This is bad.
- Power in the Blood (DrC1 105) – OK now this is cool. Get an extra spell slot, but not at a specific level, you can pick what level, except it has to be your bloodline spell. Worth looking at for sure.
Draconic Aura Feats
(DrM 16) – Gain a draconic aura which activates as a swift action. Grants a +1 bonus to the noted thing for yourself and all allies within 30′. If you have the dragonblood subtype, this ability scales with level (+2 at 7th, +3 at 14th, and +4 at 20th) which makes it good (really, DMs, just let it scale regardless of dragonblood). Here are the options:
- Energy (DrM 86) – Gain a bonus on a save DC for spells and abilities for acid, cold, electricity, or fire effects (no sonic). Very narrow for us.
- Energy Shield (PHB2 13) – Melee attacks vs you and allies cause attacker to suffer 2x bonus in damage of a particular type.
- Insight (DrM 86) – Improve decipher script, knowledge, and spellcraft.
- Power (DrM version) (DrM 86) – Bonus on caster level checks to overcome spell resistence.
- Power (PHB2 version) (PHB2 13) – Bonus on melee damage rolls. Maybe in the right party this could be good.
- Presence (DrM 86) – Untyped bonus on bluff, diplomacy, and intimidate.
- Resistance (DrM 86) – 5 x bonus resistance to acid, cold, electricity, or fire.
- Resolve (DrM 86) – Bonus on concentration checks and on saves vs. fear, paralysis, and sleep.
- Senses (DrM 86) – Bonus on initiative, listen, and spot. Remember, this benefits your whole (nearby) party. This one is sweet.
- Stamina (DrM 86) – Bonus on constitution checks and fortitude saves. Pumping fort is nice for the bard.
- Swiftness (DrM 86) – Boost climb, jump, and swim, and improve climb, fly, and swim speeds. Meh.
- Toughness (DrM 86) – DR 1/magic for each point of the bonus.
- Vigor (PHB2 13) – Fast healing back up to 1/2 max hit points. Pretty cool.
Hidden Talent Feat
(XPH 67) – Hidden talent is a feat from a sidebar in the expanded psionics handbook. The best choices are amazing, and even the bad choices are pretty good. It gives you one psionic power and two psionic “points”. Typically, that means you can use this power twice per day.
You use Charisma as the key ability modifer, which is good for saves, and you’re a level 1 manifester (which might be bad for PR).
Here are the best options:
- Adrenaline Boost (CP 78) – +2 to Dex and Str for 1 round, swift cast. An all around buff for combat, not bad.
- Attraction (XPH 78) – Mind-affecting. Get the target attracted to something, but not blindly obsessed. Can be cool, but not too strong.
- Biofeedback (XPH 80) – DR 2/- for 1 minute. Meh.
- Chameleon (XPH 82) -+10 to hide for 10 mins.
- Charm Person (XPH 82) – I would pass on this because your DC is going to be really low.
- Compression (XPH 84) – Man, if this didn’t last only 1 round, it’d be great. As it is, it’s very bad.
- Conceal Thoughts (XPH 85) – Target gets +10 on bluff vs sense motive and +4 save bonus vs read mind magics, lasts 1 hour / level.
- Control Light (XPH 87) – Lower or raise lights 100%. Lasts 1 min / level, but requires concentration.
- Control Object (XPH 88) – Make a weak creature or give +4 to unlock. Cool flavorwise, but not exciting.
- Claws of The Beast (XPH 83) – Gain natural weapon claws. 1d4 damage. Yuck.
- Deflection Field (CP 82) – Get +4 deflection bonus to AC, but you have to concentrate. Yuck.
- Deja Vu (XPH 91) – Mind-affecting. Make target subject repeat their last action, will negates. There are a lot of cool uses for this.
- Demoralize (XPH 91) – Mind-affecting. 30′ burst on you, enemies must pass will save or be shaken (-2 to lots of stuff) for 1 min / level. The save is pretty solid and the effect is great for fear escalation. This and haunting melody could be quite…. frightening.
- Destinty Dissonance (XPH 91) – A minor debuff on touch attack. I’d pass.
- Dimensional Pocket (CP 83) – Make a 1 (or 2, if you augment) pound item disappear for 1 hour. Pretty cool.
- Elfsight (XPH 98) – Get all the sight-based racial elf benefits for 1 hour. I prefer the soulmeld.
- Empathy (XPH 99) – Mind-affecting and requires concentration. Detect surface feelings in any creature we can see. Provides +2 insight on bluff, diplomacy, intimidate, or sense motive checks the round after you stop concentrating.
- Entangling Ectoplasm (XPH 104) – Ranged touch attack to make target entangled for 5 rounds. (medium sized debuff).
- Expansion (XPH 105) – Same as compression. Would be really cool if it didn’t last only 1 round w/ this feat.
- Force Screen (XPH 108) – +4 shield AC bonus for 1 min. Duration is a bit low. Meh
- Grease, Psionic (XPH 111) – Just like the spell grease. If you’re tight on level 1 slots, you can take this instead of grease and then pick up a different spell, like inspriational boost or improvisation.
- Matter Agitation (XPH 114) – Slowly set stuff on fire with your mind. Kinda cool flavor-wise, but uses aren’t amazing.
- Mind Link (XPH 120) – Communicate telepathically with anyone without the need for a common langauge. This can definitely help with social skills and abilities, but it might creep some guys out (potentially creating negative modifiers) so it’s not perfect.
- Mind Thrust (XPH 120) – Mind-affecting. Deal 1d10 (or overload for 2d10) damage, will negates. Meh.
- Precognition (XPH 124) – Get a +2 floating insight bonus for 10 min / level, which can be used on any attack, damage, saving, or skill roll.
- Primal Fear (CP 95) – Swift cast, shake (-2 to attacks, saves, skills, and ability checks) one opponent (or overload for two) for 1 round. This is kinda cool as a mild debuff before a big targetting spell. The will save is pretty low though, so it’s not to hard to resist.
- Sensory Gloom (CP 98) – Fort save or bad guy gets (your choice) partial blindness, deafness, can’t smell, or DC 5 balance checks to keep from falling prone. Pick on cast. This is sweet.
- Stomp (XPH 133) – 20′ cone that makes everyone reflex or fall down. Not bad.
- Synchronicity (CP 103) – Ready an action to be used when you want, without having to name a trigger. Pretty cool.
- Telempathic Projection (XPH 136) – Mind affecting, will negates. Adjusts subjects attiude one step in the positive direction, and grants a +4 bonus on all the social skills. Holy moly this is absurdly good for a diplomancer. Save it for after you dipomacy them to get them to fanatic.
- Thicken Skin (XPH 137) – Get +1 enhancment to AC for 10mins. Meh
- Vigor (XPH 140) – Gain 5 temporary hit points (or overload for 10) but it only lasts 1 min / level and costs a standard action to activate. Doesn’t scale well and kind of hard to use well. Pass.
Shape Soulmeld Feat
(MoI 40) – A soulmeld is basically a persisent enchantment that you refresh each morning, that doesn’t use an item slot. Definitely cool. They typically give static benefits or at-will abilities. This feat gives you one soul meld from any class. Here are the best options, rated:
- Acrobat Boots (MoI 54) – +2 to tumbled and related checks, +8 total. Not bad economy.
- Airstep Sandals (MoI 55) – Fly 10′ (good maneuverability) as a move action each round.
- Arcane Focus (MoI 57) – Increase damage from spells by 1. Not generally good, but kinda cool if you’re building a blaster.
- Basilisk Mask (MoI 59) – Gain low-light vision.
- Blink Shirt (MoI 60) – Teleport 10′ and then be stunned for a round. No limits on use per day. Pretty sweet.
- Disenchanter Mask (MoI 63) – Detect magic at will, 10′ range.
- Illusion Veil (MoI 71) – +1 DC on all illusion spells and spell-like abilities.
- Lamia Belt (MoI 74) – +4 to bluff and hide. If you’re in these skills, this is a lot of benefit.
- Pegasus Cloak (MoI 81) – Featherfall at all times, +2 to jump. Pretty cool.
- Silvertongue Mask (MoI 85) – Gain +2 to diplomacy and bluff. A fancy upgrade for the core Negotiator feat.
Bind Vestige FeatToM (72) More coming soon.
Complete Champion has a bunch of “devotion” feats in it. Most of them are pretty good and some are absurd. That book is a little unbalanced, so check with your DM before assuming you can take these.
- Air Devotion (CC 54) – Once per day get a bonus to your AC (grows with level) as a swift action that last 1 minute. Not bad.
- Animal Devotion (CC 55) – Get one of four bonuses for one minute. +2 Strength (grows with level) +5 base speed (grows with levels) gain overland flight, or gain a bite attack that deals con damage. A lot of good stuff in here.
- Chaos Devotion (CC 56) – Random based, but get bonuses to either AC (average of 4) or attack rolls (average of 3) for a minute. Swift activate
- Death Devotion (CC 57) – Bestow negative levels with your weapon. Swift activate, lasts for one minute. Wow.
- Destruction Devotion (CC 57) – Swift activate, lasts one minute. Reduce target’s AC each successful hit.
- Earth Devotion (CC 58) – Once per day, activate to ignore difficult terain for 1 minute and get a boost to some physical checks. Also can use it at higher levels to create better caltrops out of the stone floor. Not great.
- Evil Devotion (CC 58) – Give your party DR 1+ (Evil) and make allies’ weapons evil aligned. It grows with levels, but still not great.
- Fire Devotion (CC 58) – Provide light, deal extra damage, and baddies you hit continue to burn. Swift to activate, lasts 1 minute. Not bad, not amazing.
- Good Devotion (CC 58) – Give your party DR 1+ (Good) and make allies’ weapons good aligned. It grows with levels, but still not great.
- Healing Devotion (CC 59) – Immediate activate, lasts 1 minute, gain fast healing 1 (grows with character level). Fast healing heals X HP per round. You can also grant it to an ally. This isn’t enough healing to justify the feat, IMO.
- Knowledge Devotion – Amazing for a combat bard. Get big boosts to attack and damage by using knowledges.
- Law Devotion (CC 61) – Get +3 bonus to AC or attack (grows with level). Swift active, lasts 1 minute. Compare to weapon focus.
- Luck Devotion (CC 61) – Get a small boost to damage. Swift active, lasts 1 minute. This is a really small boost, pass.
- Magic Devotion (CC 61) – Launch a ranged touch attack magic bolt that does LVL/2 D6 damage. Not a big fan.
- Plant Devotion (CC 61) – Gain natural AC of 2 and 25% fortification (avoid criticals and sneak attacks). The % increase with level. Immediate activate, lasts 1 minute. Not bad, but not great.
- Protection Devotion (CC 61) – Give self and nearby allies a +2 bonus to AC, grows with level. Lasts 1 minute, immediate activate. So-so.
- Strength Devotion (CC 62) – Bypass hardness with melee attacks, gain a natural weapon slam attack, and all melee attacks are adamantine. Lasts 1 minute, swift activate. I feel like this and sunder must be great together?
- Sun Devotion (CC 62) – Weapon glows like a torch and deals an extra CL damage to undead. Lasts 1 minute, swift activate. In a heavy undead campagin, this seems really good? Otherwise it’s too conditional.
- Travel Devotion (CC 62) – As a swift action, move your move distance. Good for getting into position for a full attack, or to make a facsimile of spring attack.
- Trickery Devotion (CC 63) – Create a simulacrum of yourself that gets better as you level up. This is really strong. Standard activate, 1/day.
- War Devotion (CC 63) – Gives a better version of fight defensively for one round. The short duration makes this terrible.
- Water Devotion (CC 64) – Summon a water elemental 1 / day. Size depends on your level.
There are two feats from “Tomb of Battle: Book of Nine Swords” that open up that magic / combat system to all classes. Since the magic system is pretty large, here’s a section dedicated to the two feats, reviewing each option available to you if you don’t have any pre-reqs met some other way. If you’ve dipped into those classes or met pre-reqs, you’ll have to check out the relevant handbooks; that’s outside the scope of this one.
Martial Stance (ToB p31)
Gain access to a single stance from Tome of Battle. Since this requires that you know one maneuver, I’ll review those stances that have 0 or 1 requirement.
- Flame’s Blessing (ToB 53) – Level 1 – Gain fire resistance based on Tumble Ranks. Very narrow.
- Holocaust Cloak (ToB 54) – Level 9 – Adjacent opponents that attack you take 5 fire damage.
- Iron Guard’s Glare (ToB 59) – Opponents you threaten take -4 on attack against allies (but not you). Meh.
- Martial Spirit (ToB 60) – Heal yourself and a nearby ally 2 points each every time you land an attack. Interesting, but it doesn’t scale at all.
- Thicket of Blades (ToB 61) – Level 9 – Any movement near you triggers an attack of opportunity, including 5′ steps, witdraws, and tumbles. Combine with combat reflexes, this is sweet action economy.
- Pearl of Black Doubt (ToB 64) – Level 9 – Gain a short AC bonus every time an opponent misses you with a melee attack.
- Stance of Clarity (ToB 66) – Level 1 – +2 AC vs one opponent, -2 AC to all others.
- Absolute Steel (ToB 66) – Level 9 – +10′ move, and if you move 10′ in your turn, gain +2 dodge AC. Movement speed is nice, AC is nice. This has a lot of benefit for one feat. The only problem is you’ll need an iron heart maneuver to get this, and the best option isn’t great there.
- Punishing Stance (ToB 69) – Level 1 – +1d6 damage, -2 AC.
- Giant Killing Style (ToB 72) – Level 9 – +2 to attack and +4 to damage against larger creatures. A gnome combat bard might want to lok at this! Requires one setting sun maneuver.
- Step of the Wind (ToB 74) – Level 1 – Ignore penalties in difficult terrain. Ok, but very narrow.
- Assassin’s Stance (ToB 75) – Level 9 – Gain +2d6 sneak attack, even if you don’t already sneak attack.
- Child of Shadow (ToB 76) – Level 1 – Gain concealment as long as you move 10′.
- Dance of the Spider (ToB 76) – Level 5 – Spider Climb all the time. Wow.
- Island of Blades (ToB 78) – Level 1 – Be flanking any time you and an ally threaten an opponent.
- Crushing Weight of the Mountain (ToB 82) – Level 9 – Gain 2d6 + 1.5 STR constricting damage during grapples.
- Roots of the Mountain (ToB 84) – Level 9 – DR 2/-, +10 to resist most combat maneuvers, and opponents have trouble tumbling near you. If you move, the stance ends. Pretty cool.
- Stonefoot Stance (ToB 85) – Level 1 – +2 to strength checks, +2 AC bonus against larger creature.
- Blood in the Water (ToB 86) – Level 1 – +1 to attack and damage every critical you land. Hard to get this up high.
- Hunter’s Sense (ToB 88) – Level 1 – Gain scent ability.
- Leaping Dragon Stance (ToB 88) – Level 9 – Gain a 10′ enhancement to jump, and all jumps are running jumps.
- Wolverine Stance (ToB 90) – Level 9 – +4 to attack when grappling with a one-handed weapon. +4 damage if grappling with a larger creature. Meh.
White Raven (Builds into Song of the White Raven)
- Bolstering Voice (ToB 90) – Allies (which includes yourself) get +2 to Will. This one’s easy to overlook (and previous versions of this handbook did overlook it) but that’s a lot of will bonus for one feat. In a party of 5, that’s +10 to will. Imagine one feat giving a +10 bonus to a single save? Imagine that being the most important save? Well here you go. And it builds into Song of the White Raven. Wow.
- Leading the Charge (ToB 92) – Charging allies get initiator level bonus to damage (your bard levels count as half an initiator level)
- Swarm Tactics (ToB 93) – Allies get a +5 bonus on attacks against any opponent we are mutually adjacent to.
- Tactics of the Wolf (ToB 93) – When I flank a foe, me and my allies get +half initaitor level to damage (i.e. 1/4 bard level)
Martial Study (ToB p31)
Gain access to a single maneuver from Tome of Battle, and also gain a single skill as a class skill for all of your classes.
Here are the relevant rules:
- As a non-initiator, you can use each maneuver once per encounter, and you can ready every maneuver you get from Martial Study (ToB 38).
- Your initiator level (assuming you don’t have any other initiator classes) is 1/2 your character class. (ToB 32)
To select a maneuver with this feat, you have be a high enough initiator level (ToB 39). If you don’t have any initiator classes, this translates to 4 levels of bard per manuever level:
- Bard Levels 1-4: Access to 1st level maneuvers
- Bard levels 5-8: Access to 2nd level maneuvers
- Bard levels 9-12: Access to 3rd level maneuvers
- Bard levels 13-16: Access to 4th level maneuvers
- Bard Levels 17-20: Access to 5th level manuevers
- Bard Levels 21-24: Access to 6th level manuevers
- Bard Levels 25-28: Access to 7th level manuevers
- Bard Levels 29-32: Access to 8th level manuevers
- Bard Levels 33-36: Access to 9th level manuevers
Here are the options available if you take this feat without any other initiator classes (i.e. you meet no pre-requisites). The level indicated next to them is the minum character level you’ll need to pick up that maneuver via feat (again, assuming you don’t have any initiator levels from the classes from this book):
Desert Wind – Tumble
- Blistering Flourish (ToB 52) – Level 1 – Not a good use of a feat; at the very least, Additional Spell is better.
- Burning Blade (ToB 52) – Level 1 – Gain 1d6 + 1 / initiator level extra fire damage until end of turn.
- Death Mark (ToB 52) – Level 9 – When you hit, deal 6d6 fire damage in a burst area (reflex half). Seems OK for melee bards.
- Distracting Ember (ToB 52) – Level 1 – Gives you flanking until end of turn. Bard/Rogue hybrid might want to look at this?.
- Inferno Blade (ToB 54) – Level 25 – Gain 3d6 + 1 / initiator level extra fire damage until end of turn.
- Wind Strike (ToB 56) – Level 1 – +10 movement until end of turn. I think there’s a feat in Minatures that gives +5 to move. That’s probably better.
Devoted Spirit – Intimidate
- Crusader’s Strike (ToB 58) – Level 1 – Conditional small heal on a nearby ally in conjunction w/ an attack. Bad.
- Foehammer (ToB 59) – Level 5 – Overcome DR and deal an extra 2d6 damage with one attack.
- Shield Block (ToB 60) – Level 5 – Immediate action: give an adjacent ally your Shield Bonus + 4 to AC. Yuck.
- Vanguard Strike (ToB 60) – Level 1 – Give allies +4 to attack against a target you successfully hit for 1 round.
Diamond Mind – Concentration
- Action Before Thought (ToB 62) – Level 5 – Use concentration in place of reflex. Not bad, but bards have good reflex, and reflex saves tend to be the least important
- Diamond Defense (ToB 62) – Level 29 – Gain LVL / 2 (ToB 31-32) bonus to your saves once per combat, and pretty often out of combat.
- Insightful Strike (ToB 63) – Level 9 – Roll a concentration check instead of damage. Meh.
- Mind Over Body (ToB 64) – Level 9 – Use concentration in place of fortitude. Very good for us, since Fort is our bad save.
- Moment of Perfect Mind (ToB 64) – Level 1 – Use concentration in place of Will. Not as good, but still OK.
- Rapid Counter (ToB 65) – Level 17 – If you get an attack of opportunity, activate to get another free attack. Not bad. Maybe for a bard focused on trip.
- Sapphire Nihgtmare Blade (ToB 65) – Level 1 – Roll concentration vs AC. If you hit, target is flat-footed and you deal an extra 1d6 damage. This is pretty cool for any sneak-attack-bards out there, ohterwise a pass.
Iron Heart – Balance
- Disarming Strike (ToB 67) – Level 5 – Get a free disarm if you attack and suceed. A little narrow.
- Steel Wind (ToB 69) – Level 1 – Get one free attack, basically. Not amazing.
- Steely Strike (ToB 69) – Level 1 – Get +4 to an attack, give all other opponents +4 to attack vs you. Meh.
- Wall of Blades (ToB 70) – Level 5 – Counter any attack with an attack of your own, including ranged touch attack spells.
Setting Sun – Sense Motive
- Clever Positioning (ToB 70) – Level 5 – On a successful hit, target must switch positions with you (reflex save). Cool but narrow.
- Counter Charge (ToB 71) – Level 1 – Counter a charge attack, if you succeed, move a bit for free and don’t get attacked. Meh.
- Mighty Throw (ToB 73) – Level 1 – Might be cool for a tripping bard. If you succeed, you can throw the bad guy 10′.
Shadow Hand – Hide
- Clinging Shadow Strike (ToB 76) – Level 1 – Extra damage and small debuff for 1 round. Meh.
- Cloak of Deception (ToB 76) – Level 5 – Greater Invisiblity for 1 round, swift activate. Not bad.
- Death in the Dark (ToB 76) – Level 25 – Only target flat-footed opponents. Potentially Dump out a lot of damage.
- Hand of Death (ToB 77) – Level 13 – Only target flat-footed opponents. Potentially paralyze for 1d3 rounds.
- Shadow Blade Technique (ToB 78) – Level 1 – Really cool, but not so strong, buff. Pass.
- Shadow Blink (ToB 78) – Level 25 – Swift activate, teleport 50′. Hot damn.
- Shadow Garotte (ToB 78) – Level 9 – A ranged touch attack with a small debuff, pass.
- Shadow Jaunt (ToB 79) – Level 5 – Standard action, teleport 50′. Not as good as shadow blink, but still amazing.
- Shadow Noose (ToB 79) – Level 21 – A ranged touch attack vs the living with a small debuff. Pass.
- Shadow Stride (ToB 80) – Level 17 – Move action, teleport 50′. Not as good as shadow blink, still strong.
- Stalker in the Night (ToB 80) – Level 21 – Good for any sneak attack bards out there. Move, attack, move and stay hidden.
Stone Dragon – Balance
- Bonecrusher (ToB 81) – Level 9 – Extra 4d6 damage and better crit confirmation. S’ok.
- Boulder Roll (ToB 81) – Level 13 – Improve overrun attack.
- Charging Minotaur (ToB 81) – Level 1 – Combine a charge and bullrush. Kinda cool, don’t think it’s too strong.
- Crushing Vice (ToB 82) – Level 21 – Extra damage and reduce targets movement to 0. Too bad it’s ridic level.
- Iron Bones (ToB 83) – Level 21 – This sucks. Gain DR 10/adamantine for 1 round.
- Mountain Tombstone Strike (ToB 84) – Level 33 – Deal an additional 2d6 con damage. At level 33, who cares?
- Overwhelming Mountain Strike (ToB 84) – Level 13 – An extra 2d6 damage, and sorta turn off their move action. Meh.
- Stone Bones (ToB 84) – Level 1 – Gain Damage Reduction 5/adamantine for 1 round in conjunction with an attack. This can be good at low and mid levels, but scales really badly.
- Stone Vise (ToB 85) – Level 5 – Extra 1d6 damage and reduce move speed to 0, fort saves. It’s an OK debuff.
Tiger Claw – Jump
- Claw at the Moon (ToB 86) – Level 5 – Jump check to get an extra 2d6 damage and +4 to confirm crits.
- Rapid Wolf Strike (ToB 88) – Level 5 – +4 to attack, +2d6 damage for one attack. -4 to AC. Not bad.
- Wolf Fang Strike (ToB 90) – Level 1 – Improve two-weapon fighting a little bit for one attack. Yuck.
White Raven – Diplomacy (Builds into Song of the White Raven)
- Douse the Flame (ToB 91) – Level 1 – Prevent a creature I successfully strike from performing Attacks of Opportunity. Can only make a single melee attack as part of this maneuver. This thing sucks, but it’s your best choice if you’re building a pure bard into song of the white raven.
- Leading the Attack (ToB 91 ) – Level 1 – Give allies +4 morale bonus (doesn’t stack with inspire courage) on attack rolls against a creature I successfully strike. Can only make a single melee attack as part of this maneuver.
Spells are one of the bard’s strongest class features. However, a bard doesn’t get to know nearly as many as a sorcerer, so it’s important to make sure the spells you choose have a wide range of cases where they can be used. Breadth of applicability is key.
There are a lot of spells that are on the Bard’s list which are strong, but aren’t worth spending a precious “Spell Known” slot on, because use of the spell doesn’t come up enough. Scrolls and wands are a great option for these spells.
The bard’s spells are mostly buff and battlefield control, which is great. You can load up on the best versions of these, plus a little utility, and you’ll be in great shape. However, I do like trying to pick up at least one blaster spell. If you use the Lyric Thaumaturge or Sublime Chord prestige classes to get into wizard spells, you’ll have plenty of options (look at Wings of Flurry). If you are going straight bard casting, then the options are a little more limited. My favorite straight blaster spell is probably Cacophonic Burst, although it’s level 5.
Level 0 Spells
- Candlelight (GhostWeb 5)- Like “Light”, but it illuminates less space and lasts longer. I’d just buy a candle or a torch.
- Dancing Lights – A lot like ghost sounds. The better your imagination, the better this spell gets. It is a little eclipsed by Silent Image, but that’s OK. I still recommend getting it.
- Daze – OK at low levels, very bad after level 3 or 4. You can consider taking it early and swapping it out.
- Detect Crossroads (MoF 88)- I really have no idea what a crossroad is. If you’re in a Faerun campaign I’m going to assume you’re familiar and you’ll be able to evaluate the value of this yourself. Sorry!
- Detect Magic – Very strong. Has a lot of uses. Definitely a must-have.
- Easy Math (SaS 90) – I can imagine some uses for this (counting troops, counting steps, estimating gold piles, etc.) but it’s pretty narrow, too.
- Fine-Tuning (SaS 90) – Make any instrument you touch a masterwork instrument and get the unique benefits of that instrument on your bardic musics. This + Summon Instrument take a lot of time to execute (and burns through your limited cantrip slots) but gives you a pretty nice toolbox.
- Flare (PHB) – A very minor debuff with some utility. I don’t see using this ever beyond level 1.
- Fleeting Fame (DrM 326, pg 73) – Really good for a bard. +2 to the next bluff, diplomacy, or intimdiation, lasts 1 rd / level.
- Ghost Sounds – Very solid, but requires some creativity to get maximum value. Spells like this make playing a caster fun. Use your imagination.
- Ghostharp (SpC 104) – Replay songs played in the vicinity for the last day. A really cool effect flavor wise, but I have no idea how to use it in a way that matters.
- Know Direction – Buy a compass.
- Light – Buy a torch (or sunrod for style).
- Lullaby – Almost identical in results to fascinate. Not worth doubling this limited effect, in my opinion.
- Mage Hand – This is my 6th spell slot. I like it, but it’s a little limited.
- Mending – Not bad, but not many applications in-game. It’s a shame, because in real-life, this would be a great spell to have, but in D&D world, it just doesn’t do too much. There are some roleplaying opportunities here, but it takes work to get to them.
- Message – Thanks to the “Marquis of De La Pongo” for this one! Here’s what he has to say about it: “I have a storyteller bard and by using oratory as a main perform I can channel my songs and poetics through the message if needed. As long as they can hear you means, as long they are within 100+10/level feet. Plus, being no save no spell resistance you can whisper improper things to your enemies and drive them nuts among other things. It’s fluffy and it’s fun!”
- Minor Disguise – You can do so much more with a spell, even a cantrip, than this. Pass.
- Open / Close – I have a hard time imagining good uses for this spell.
- Percussion – A very limited ghost sound, with the benefit of lasting longer. Cool for a DM for flavor, not good for a PC.
- Prestidigitation – This is a mini-wish. There are so many things you can do with this. It is the cantrip I cast the most, by far. (see Tome & Blood page 80 for some ideas)
- Read Magic – In order to activate a scroll, you need to have deciphered it. You can do this with a DC 20 + Spell_Level Spellcraft check, but that sounds hard. Read Magic makes it a bit easier.
- Resistance – The 1 minute duration on this makes it unusable. Maybe as part of a persist spell strategy?
- Seeker’s Chant (DrM 326, pg 74) – Get +2 to search (but -2 to move silent). Not bad, I’d pass though. Leave searching to the rogue.
- Silvered Weapon – (Web) Lasts 1 round / level, turns a touched weapon or projectile into “silvered” for combat purposes. This is actually pretty cool. It’s narrow, but when it’s good it’s really good.
- Songbird (MoF 120) – Get a +1 to any charisma based check against anyone who saw a performance. Not bad, but a little limited for a spell slot, for me.
- Stick (UD 61)- A cool effect, but it’s really narrow.
- Summon Instrument – This can be good for bards who use instruments, or as an improvised bashing weapon. The short duration makes it a little sad, though. If this summoned a masterwork instrument, it’d be pretty cool, but the text doesn’t say that. (See my section below on masterwork instruments).
Level 1 Spells
- Ambient Song (SaS 89) – Make bardic music sound like ambient noise, to avoid detection. Not great, but maybe a cool persist target.
- Cause Fear (PHB) – So this is pretty good for low levels, especially if you have other fear esclation techniques in your package. It’s going to escalate one guy either two levels or one level. The big downside is that it’s a 6 HD cap, so it stops working at higher levels. Not bad for an early level spell that you swap out at level 8.
- Charm Person (PHB) – I love the flavor of this ability, but the limitation to humanoid is a little sad. If you like this, I recommend you take Charm Monster instead, which can target any creature type. Of course, you could take this and swap it out at level 8 for Charm Monster.
- Cheat (SC) – Roll twice in a game of chance that’s not magical. Really cool flavor wise, but insane to put one of your spells known into this.
- Combined Talent – Give an ally a boost to a skill, matching the level of another ally. When do you need this? Yuck.
- Cure Light Wounds (PHB) – This one has really grown on me. I used to not like it, but combined with healing hymn (pre-errata) it gives your character a really powerful (out of combat) healing kit. I recommend taking this as one of your first level spells, but only if you can pair it with healing hymn. Otherwise its lack of scaling makes it underwhelming.
- Disguise Self (PHB) – Limited application which can be achieved with a skill. Pass. If you really need this one day, get a scroll.
- Disquiettude (MoF, SpC) – Single target save-or-suck for enemy fighter types. Very limited in application, unfortunately. If you go with the Magic of Faerun version, at least it’s not mind-affecting. If you go with the spell compendium version, then it’s even more narrow.
- Distort Speech (CAdv) – Target gets a fort save (which is good vs. spellcasters) and the spellcaster gets a 50% chance of spell failure. Not bad, but most of the time I think you’ll have better things to do with a standard action, and you’re not always up against spell casters.
- Distract (SpC 69) – A lot like sleep. Doesn’t affect creatures with more than 6 HD. Mind affecting, so that’s a big limitation. The debuff is strong — target can only take a standard or move action each turn, not both, and it can hit a lot of creatures. This isn’t the sort of spell I prefer, but it’s not terrible.
- Expeditious Retreat (PHB) – Worse than the swift one, and very hard to justify as one of our few spells known. This is a good persist spell target, if you’re going that route, but I’d recommend getting the swift variation instead.
- Expeditious Retreat, Swift – This being a swift cast is really nice. I’d prefer swift invisibility, though. It accomplishes a lot of the same goals, and has a lot more upsides. This is a good persist spell target, if you’re going that route.
- Feather Fall (PHB) – This spell is really nice to have in your back pocket, but not as one of the few spells you get. I recommend getting this on a ring or item if you like the effect.
- Friendly Face – Grants +5 to diplomacy or gather information. If you like this, take improvisation instead. A lot more dynamic and is stronger after level 10.
- Glimpse of Fear (DR333 p71) Mind-affecting. Will or be shaken. Great for someone looking to do fear escalation.
- Grease – Very powerful effect that targets reflex saves and balance. Not many bard spells target reflex, and I think it’s nice to have at least 1 or 2 in your list that target each of the saves, so you can choose the right spell for the right enemy.
- Harmony (PGtF) – Standard action cast that gives the next inspire courage +2. I recommend inspirational boost instead.
- Hideous Laughter – A pretty strong effect for a level 1 spell, but it comes with a lot of limitations (close range, can’t affect creatures with low intelligence, most enemies get a +4 on their save). It also only targets 1 creature, where a save completely negates the effect. Not bad, but not in love.
- Identify (PHB) – A really useful spell, but I don’t love using a spells lot for it, especially because it costs 100gp each time. We have limited spell slots. Let the wizard handle this.
- Improvisation – (Note: Complete Adventurer has this a 5th level spell, but spell compendium has it as 1st level) – This spell is cool. The two big downsides are that it only lasts 1 round / level, and that you can only use one-quarter of the luck pool per activation. At level 6, that means this gives a +3 to a skill, an attack, or whatever. For combat, it’s underwhelming because it takes a standard action to turn on. For out-of-combat situations, it’d good if you have a few skill checks in a row that you need to pass, and you have a round to spend preparing. That being said, this ability scales really well. Consider swapping into this at higher levels.If you can turn it on just before entering combat, it can be a powerhouse, and it can be a general boost in a lot of situations, making it dynamic.
- Inspirational Boost – Gain an additional +1 to Inspire Courage. Very strong damage output for a level 1 spell, assuming you have a party that uses attacks. This gets better the more allies you have that use combat. Despite its strength, I usually pass on this spell. I’d like to have something a bit more dynamic. That’s a roleplaying choice, though.
- Instant Diversion (RotD) – A swift cast mirror image that only lasts 1 round, and you get one image per four levels of your caster level. It’s OK, but the low duration makes it a little weak. A good candidate for extend spell.
- Instant of Power (FOW 114) – This is a really solid spell. Immediate cast, give an ally +4 to an attack, save, or damage roll. I like this.
- Invisibility, Swift – Being able to cast this as a swift action is great. It can get you out of combat, buy you some time, or set you up for a strong attack. In addition, it’s a level 1 spell, not level 2 like normal invisibility. The big downside is the one-round duration and that you can only target yourself with it. Despite those limitations, it’s still a very strong spell. It’s a great target for extend spell & metamagic song. Note: complete adventurer has this as level 2, and the spell compendium has it as level 1. I think it’s safe to use the SPC version.
- Ironthunder Horn – An OK spell that targets reflex (which is a rare thing for Bards) but it overlaps with grease pretty hard. I recommend grease instead of this.
- Phantom Threat – Makes one creature think it’s flanked if it fails a will save. It just looks a lot worse than summon monster I to me.
- Silent Image – This spell can do so much. You need to use your imagination, but the options are endless. The best part is that spells like this never get old. You can always find new and clever uses, and your party will never get tired of the cool tricks you come up with.
- Sleep – Save or be-taken-prisoner, potentially against multiple foes. This is really strong at levels 2 through 3, and OK at levels 4-5, but after that, it’s pretty weak. You can take it if you like it. but make sure you swap it out at level 8.
- Stay the Hand – Immediate cast. Stop someone from targetting or attacking you (but they can re-target with small minuses). The big down side is that only affects humanoids. I love the effect, but the limitation is big.
- Summon Monster I (PHB) – Not bad for finding and disabling traps. Otherwise not much to do with this; the combat abilities are pretty weak. I’d pass.
- Treacherous Weapon (EoE 29) – Immediate action or standard action, debuff any bad guy wielding a manufactured weapon for one round. If it lasted longer, it’d be sweet. At this duration, it’s just not very good. The odds of it mattering don’t justify the action and spell slot.
- Undersong (SPC 227) – 10min / level. Use perform instead of concentration. In general, this is bad (Melodic Casting feat is probably better to choose if you really want the effect) but there may be an exception for the Diamond Mind school from the book of nine swords. Getting a +6 or so to all of your maneuvers is pretty cool.
- Undetectable Alignment (PHB) – Could be very good in an evil campaign where subterfuge is important. This could also make a very good eternal wand if your DM will let you put it on there, or even just a wand with a few charges for those key situations. In general it’s not something I’d be looking to allocate a known spell to, but it’s a strong spell that lasts 24 hours.
- Unseen Servant (PHB) – Not bad in general, but a very bad use of a bard’s limited spells known. Pass.
Level 2 Spells
- Animate Instrument – Animate an instrument, so it continues your performance for you. This lets you stack bardic music effects continuously (like inspire courage and inspire greatness). Not a bad effect, but I don’t love spending a spell-known or a spell-slot for it. This would be great as something you enchant directly onto an instrument.
- Alter Self – One of the best spells in the game. I have section below on using it. It’s very strong and dynamic, but it’s not campaign shattering — you can choose between flight, burrow, swim, waterbreathing, natural armor, skill boosts, and a few other things. It’s definitely way above-curve for a 2nd level spell, but its not “broken” in the sense that it doesn’t ruin a campaign run by a competent. It just makes you really badass.
- Battle Hymn (SC 25) – Allow all allies to reroll will saves, after knowing result, before knowing whether it passed or failed. Not great, but a good persist target.
- Bladeweave (SC 31) – Swift cast, lasts 1 rd / level, and dazes creatures hit by your melee attack. Very cool for a melee bard.
- Blindness / Deafness – This isn’t great in combat. Blind and deaf are only minor debuffs and you have better options at this level. That being said, the effects are permanent, so that’s gotta have some significant roleplay potential.
- Blur – Attacks miss you 20% of the time. Maybe worth considering for a melee bard, although I’d probably pick up blink (as a 3rd level spell) instead.
- Calm Emotions – A cool spell, but the low duration makes it hard to make a big impact with this.
- Cloud of Bewilderment – A cloud effect that makes its inhabitants sickened (can’t take standard actions). It targets fort, which is great. A good bit worse than glitterdust, though, and similar in effect and application.
- Cure Moderate Wounds – I really like to avoid healing on a bard. If you’re going to get a heal spell, the 3rd level one is probably the best choice.
- Darkness (PHB 216) – A good spell, but it has limited application. Might be cool with a melee bard with blindfighting.
- Delusions of Grandeur – A save-or-be-bad spell. There are good save-or-die spells at level 1. Not worth taking this at level 2.
- Detect Thoughts – This spell is very strong. DM dependent, and can piss some DM’s off, but it’s got a lot of power.
- Dimension Leap – Teleport 10′ per 2 caster levels. I love this. Gets you out of a lot of trouble and solve a lot of problems.
- Disquietude (MoF p90) – Only good vs. melee enemies and there are lots of ways around it. It’s a conditional save-or-be-bad spell. If you’re going that route, at least save-or-die.
- Elation (BoED p98) – Allies in an 80′ radius spread get +2 Str, +2 Dex, +5 speed. Even though the bonuses are morale bonuses, they stack with Inspire Courage because they don’t directly affect attack / damage. Not a bad buff for level 2, but I think there are better options. This is a good persist spell target, if you’re going that route.
- Enthrall – A slightly better fascinate. Bad use of a spell slot.
- Entice Gift (BoVD p93)-Target must pass a will save or give you what he’s holding. This has so many fun applications.
- Fly, Swift – Fly for one round? Very strong.
- Grace – Swift casting, get 60′ illumination on your body, +2 to dex, +10 to move, and your touch and melee attacks are good (for overcoming DR). Not great.
- Glitterdust – Arguably the best 2nd level spell in the game. I’d recommend to any DM that they use the pathfinder version instead (bad guys get a save every round) and even that is solid.
- Harmonize (RoS 162) – Activate bardic musics as a move action instead of standard. Not really worth it because of low duration, but a great target for persist.
- Hold Person – So much worse than the other control effects at this level. Only has one target, is mind-affecting, target gets to save each round… yuck.
- Insidious Insight (RoE p187) – +10 bonus to the social skills against one target, lasts 24 hours, but he gets a will save. Worth considering if you’re a face bard.The will save is sad, and I think suggestion ends up being a stronger choice.
- Invisibility – Very strong. I recommend taking either this or swift invisibility (or both). If you take this, swap it out when greater invisibility becomes available.
- Know Vulnerabilities – I prefer the skill trick for this effect. We can’t afford to do something with spells when skills can get the job done.
- Mesmerizing Glare – Fascinate 1 creature / level, must be within 30′ of each other. This isn’t great by itself, but it lets you fascinate many more creatures than your class ability, and you can then use the class ability fascinate on all of the creatures you fascinated with this spell. No good for combat, but this could make it into a build.
- Mirror Image – Not a terrible spell, but weak. The standard casting time really sets this one back.
- Miser’s Envy – Ok I have to be honest. This is not 5 stars. I just wanted you to look at it because it’s awesome. If you make this work your campaign, it’ll make for epic stories. It’s probably 2 or 3 stars. It makes a single creature crave a single object, going as far as to attack and kill for it.
- Pyrotechnics – This spell is really cool and dynamic, but a little limited. If your DM bans Glitterdust, this may be worth taking.
- Scare (PHB) – I like that this can target multiple creatures, but the 6HD limitation really makes this sad. I would pass, even for fear escalators. That being said, most fear escalators are going to be dread-witches and this is a pre-req for them, so it may be a necessary evil. (Maybe your DM will let the pre-req be filled with something like Fear instead, so you can swap out the useless scare spell at higher levels.)
- Shroud from Sight (MoK 49) – A bad invisibility. Strictly worse.
- Silence (PHB) – Can be good vs other casters or bards, and also helps the rogue sneak around. Not a bad spell by any means, but nothing to write home about either.
- Sonic Weapon – Standard action to make a weapon deal an extra 1d6 damage. Not at all good, but maybe it’s an alright persist target, if you’re going that route.
- Sonorous Hum – Maintain concentration on the next spell you cast that requires concentration without consuming your standard action. I don’t think this is worth getting as a spell; the bard doesn’t have enough spells per day or enough spells that require concentration.
- Sound Burst – 1d8 and stun (fort save) in a 10′ spread. It’s not great, but it’s ok.
- Spymaster’s Coin This is a cool effect, particularly for a wand or scroll. Probably not great as a daily cast. But it’s a nice way to get access to Clairaudience/Clairvoyance before being able to cast level 4 spells.
- Suggestion – This is very strong, has a lot of roleplaying opportunities, and fits right in the character mold of a typical bard. The only downside is that it overlaps with your class feature.
- Summon Monster II – This isn’t a very strong level for Summon Monster. III and V are the best for combat, and 1 is the best for sacrificial lambs. Pass on this.
- Swift Ready – As a swift action, get a set of gear equipped to you. Lasts 24 hours until used. I feel like there have to be ways to abuse this spell. Maintain different sets of equipment for different situations… I don’t know. This has the feel of something you can break.
- Tongues – Speak all languages. This is a really valuable ability, since many of your spells and abilities are language based, but a spell slot is a high cost. I prefer to get this through skills, but if your DM rules that Speak Langauge is capped like other skills then this may be something to look into. A wand or eternal wand might be a better option than known spell.
- Trace Magic (AoM 76) – See the traces of magic items that were in the area recently. Kind of cool, lasts LVL hours. Probably not worth taking, but it’s a cool and unique spell. Worth looking at.
- Whirling Blade – Attack creatures in a line with your standard weapon. A little hard to get use out of, but can be OK. I’d probably pass, but weapon-focused bards might like this. Pretty cool in conjunction with bladeweave. You can do this with a whip blade, which is pretty sweet.
Level 3 Spells
- Adoration of the Frightful – This is a solid spell for any bard going into fear effects. First, you get a +1 bonus to diplomacy (just for knowing this spell). That’s awesome. Then, any creature you have shaken, frightened, or panicked, you turn into a friendly for the duration of the spell (1 minute / level) unless you or an ally get hostile with them. This is very cool.
- Alter Fortune – I would love this spell if not for the XP cost. It’s just not worth having on our limited list of spells with that big downside.
- Blink – Really good for a gish/melee bard. Makes you harder to hit, reduces the damage you take from area spells, makes your hits more likely, and you can step through solid objects. You also can attack ethreal creatures, which might come up.
- Charm Monster – I am biased towards this spell. A will save completely negates this effect. On the other hand, if you succeed, you get a best buddy for days. I think of Raistlin charming that gully dwarf, and can’t help myself. It’s not mechanically the strongest, but I really enjoy this one.
- Clairaudience / Clairvoyance – Takes a long time to cast is the big downside. I think this is a perfect spell for a scroll. You won’t need it every day, but when you do, it’s clutch.
- Cone of Euphoria – Standard action to cast. When you do, get a handful of special attacks that daze for 1d6 rounds (will negates) in a 20′ cone. I’m not a fan.
- Confusion – Pros: It hits in a 15′ burst. Cons: The targets get a will save. If they fail, there’s still a ~35% chance they’ll do something you don’t like. The odds of failure are too high for me to endorse.
- Cure Serious Wounds – I just don’t like taking healing spells as a bard. If you must, this one is probably better than the other options.
- Curse of the Putrid Husk – A sleep-like spell that targets a single opponent (will).Not a bad spell, but not the best. Good characters may want to ask their DM to allow this to be re-fluffed as a good spell. (The creature collapses under the weight of realization of its sins?)
- Deep Slumber/Greater Sleep – These are both a better version of sleep, but you get access to them at level 7. This spell loses its strength around level 9 or 10, and you won’t be able to swap it out until level 13 (or 11 if you go into sublime chord). Not a great option, IMO. I like deep slumber a little better than greater sleep. Deep slumber affects 10HD worth of creature, greater sleep affects 4d6 HD. The average is the same, but I’d rather not have variance in this effect; it makes it difficult to plan. If you want a sleep effects, Curse of the Putrid Husk is probably your best bet.
- Dirge of Discord – Not bad. 20′ radius debuff that hits a wide spectrum of abilities. Not great, but not bad.
- Dispel Magic – A good, general purpose effect. Can solve a lot of problems.
- Displacement – Give yourself or an ally a buff that makes attacks miss 50%. Not bad. A bit expensive as a level 3 spell. Blink is far superior when targetting yourself, but this lets you also target an ally.
- Dragonskin (BoEM1 18) – Gain Natural Armor +4 and 10 points of resistance against one of five different damage types (choose on cast). 10min / level duration. Not bad.
- Emotion (3.0 spell)- This spell got broken up into a handful of other spells in 3.5. It’s still in 3.5 as a “Tarot” spell, though. If your DM lets you use it, it’s pretty good. Having something with this many modes really helps us with our low number of spells known.
- Fear – Will save or be panicked.. If the save succeeds, the bad guy is still shaken for a round. A nice spell for fear bards.
- Gaseous Form – A pretty cool spell that can frustrate DMs and get you out of trouble, but I think it has limited application. I’d like to have this on a scroll rather than in my spell list.
- G’elsewhere Chant – Teleport subject randomly. I like that it can hit bad guys. I don’t like that it’s random. Gives the DM too much power to screw you over. “A prison cell is perfectly safe!”
- Glibness – Nearly campaign smashing. Convince anyone of anything. A cool spell, but it can completely over-shadow all social skills. I recommend using this sparingly if you get it, so your DM and other players don’t kill you.
- Halt – Immediate cast, stop a bad guy from moving. I really like this spell.
- Haste (PHB p239) – Make your whole party better in combat. A really good effect for buffer bards.
- Haunting Tune – Shaken isn’t enough of a debuff for this to be worth taking, unless it’s part of some escalating fear build.
- Hesitate – This is preetty good. It’s an immediate cast, and it stops the opponent from doing anything but move actions for 1 round / level (will negates). It gets a save every round, which is sad, but the immediate cast is very attractive.
- Insignia of Healing – 1d8 + LVL healing to everyone carrying a special insignia that costs gold to create. I don’t like healing spells, and this one isn’t very strong at all; mass low-amounts of healing is rarely as effective as targeted high-amounts.
- Invisibility Sphere – I’m not in love with this spell. It basically lets your party sneak by some guards, assuming they can keep quiet and there’s enough room to walk.
- Leomund’s Tiny Hut – This is a cool idea for archer bards. It is a concealment–on-order spell that you can see out of and shoot from. Pretty cool.
- Listening Coin – Turn two coins into a one-way walkie-talkie that lasts 1 hour / level. A pretty good Clairvoyance substitution spell.
- Phantom Steed – This is a strong spell that eventually lets you fly all over the world on your own personal airship. My big problem with it is that it’s primarily about mobility and that your teammates don’t get one. Definitely strong (but make sure you have featherfall handy!)
- Ray of Diziness – The same effect as slow, but the roll is a touch attack instead of will save, and it only targets one opponent (but it does have a big higher range). It’s OK, but I like slow better because slow can hit many creatures at once. If your DM likes to send one big bad guy at your party all the time (as opposed to a few reasonably strong enemies) then this might prove more useful for you.
- Roar of the Waves (SW 121) – No-save deafness on multiple targets, as well as fear escalation. Kinda cool.
- Scrying – This is a really strong spell. Lets you get a lot of information ahead of time. It may be better to get this on a scroll and use it sparingly, so as not to piss off your DM and other players.
- Sculpt Sound – This is very solid. It’s a save-or-be-nearly-useless vs multiple casters. It also has some ancillary roleplaying applications. Worth considering.
- Slow – The inverse of haste. Make the bad guys really slow. The fact that it gets a will save makes it a bit worse than haste, but still very strong.
- Summon Monster III – Probably the best Summon Monster out there. The Celestial Bison or the Huge Fiendish Monstrous Centipede are probably the two best options, but depending on the situation most of the options can be useful.
- Unluck – Save-or-suck.Target has to take the worst of two rolls every time they roll. The effect is very strong, but it targets will (something we do a lot) only targets one bad guy, and doesn’t automatically win. I pass on this, but it is a strong spell. Note: this is 4th level in CA, but 3rd in SpC.
- Vision of Fear – Doesn’t do anything except give your DM a hook to continue the story. Pass.
- Warcry – A lot like fear, except it targets fortitude. A failed save cowers for 1d4 rounds, but the spell has no effect if the creature saves. The effect is a little weaker, but I like that it targets fort.
- Winding Alleys – A maze-like spell, that has some limitations. If you are spending most of your campaign in a city, this could be strong. Otherwise, I don’t like the conditions on it.
- Wounding Whispers – Anyone who hits you takes 1d6 + CL damage. Not bad, but I don’t like getting hit.
Level 4 Spells
- Blinding Beauty – A 4th level glitterdust-like-spell that targets fort. Any creature that looks at you and fails the save is permanently blind. If you’re going to take this, make sure you sit down with the rest of your party and setup some safe words, otherwise they’ll be mighty mad at you.
- Celerity – Acting now is so much better than acting later. This spell is very, very strong.
- Charm Person, Mass – Only charms lvl * 2 HD humanoids. I’ll pass.
- Dimension Door – Local teleport for the entire party. Very strong. Can be annoying for DMs not prepared for this.
- Dominate Person – This feels like the sort of spell you’d like to have on a scroll, if you can figure out how to read the scroll without alarming your target. You can control a king with this for extended periods of time. It’s not bad as a daily spell, since it lets you take full control of a bad guy for an extended period of time. The big downside is it only targets humanoids.
- Drums of War (HoB 126) – NO SAVE! All enemies within medium range get -2 to attacks and saving throws. Lasts 1 round / level, and you can extend it with concentration. This spell is the real deal.
- Emotional Brew (AoM 70) – This is a weird spell. There are six modes, which is cool for a class like the bard with a limited spells known. You’ll have to read it yourself. Ultimately I don’t think it’s great, but it’s not bad.
- Freedom of Movement – This spell can get you out of a lot of sticky situations. The more aggressive your DM, the better this gets.
- Fugue – This is a powerful area debuff, but it requires concentration to maintain. If you have swift concentration, this may be worth looking into.
- Harmonize, Greater – Here’s a way to concentrate as a move action. The idea is to cast this then activate insprie courage as a move action, and it’s action-efficient. Not a bad spell, not my favorite.
- Hold Monster – Another save or die that targets will. You have better options at lower levels if you want this kind of effect.
- Insidious Suggestion – For spontaneous casters, this isn’t much better than regular suggestion. It’s a shame, because we’d love that +2 bonus to social skills while it was prepared, but it’s not worth being 2 levels higher for that.
- Invisibility, Greater – This spell is amazing. You can attack while invisible! For a melee bard it’s incredible. For a buffer bard it’s great. I love this one.
- Legend Lore – This just gives your DM a hook to dump in story arc information. Let him do that without burning up your abilities. It’s not a bad spell, just bad as a Known Spell.
- Listening Coin – Man, I just love this spell for flavor. It’s not good though. Maybe as a one-time scroll for a particular problem.
- Melf’s Slumber Arrows – Make arrows that either cause sleep or fatigue. Not bad for an archer bard.
- Mirror Image, Greater – This is much better than the original! Cast as an immediate action, make yourself very hard to hit, and the images regenerate. Not bad.
- Modify Memory – This spell has a lot of really powerful out-of-combat possibilities. I like it a lot. It’s one you have to use your imagination for.
- Rainbow Pattern – Nullify up to 24HD worth of creatures. Very strong.
- Resistance, Greater – +3 to all saves that lasts 24 hours. The big problem with this spell is that it doesn’t stack with the ubiquitous cloak of resistance.
- Resonating Bolt – LVL d4 damage in a line, reflex for half. Not my favorite blaster spell.
- Resounding Thunder – Create an area that does damage and can deafen. I like this, and it gets very strong with lyric thaumaturge’s sonic might class feature. 8d6 for 5 rounds is a lot of potential damage.
- Ruin Delver’s Fortune – I love this spell. Get bonuses to the save you need (or extra HPs) immediately. It’s purely defensive, but it’s very good at the job.
- Shadow Conjuration – The biggest limit on a bard’s spellcasting is Spells Known. This blows that metric wide open, giving you access to a bunch of spells from the best school of magic.
- Spell Theft (SPC 191) – Steal the enchantments that are on another creature. Kind of a cool debuff / buff in one spell. It’s action efficient.
- Sirine’s Grace (SPC 191) – An OK pump spell, nothing special. A really good target for persist.
- Summon Monster IV – At most, I think a bard wants two summoning spells, and probably just one, that gets upgraded over time. Given that, you can probably skip IV, and use III and V instead.
- Thunder Field – Create an area that does 1d8 damage and knocks people prone. Not bad, but the damage is lackluster.
- Voice of the Dragon – Pros: +10 to social skills, and culminates in a suggestion spell. Cons: Why do you need social skills if you’re about to cast suggestion? Only lasts 10 min / level.
Level 5 Spells
- Blink, Improved / Greater – Go back and forth between ethereal and solid at will. Physical attacks have a 100% miss chance, and you can walk through some solid objects. This is strong.
- Body Harmonic – Deal 1d10 points of damage to a single ability score each round, lasting up to 1 round per level (requires concentration) will negates. You can only target a single ability score once every five rounds. This can be good against creatures you know have a very low single stat. For example, this can drop a T-Rex if you target intelligence. That being said, for a level 5 spell, it’s not a great effect.
- Bolts of Bedevilment (SC 37) – For LVL rounds, gain the ability to shoot a ray that dazes for 1d3 on failed save. I don’t like that the bad guy gets two chances to avoid this (AC and will save) and that the effect only lasts 1d3 rounds. This is cool, but not good.
- Boreal Wind (Frost) – Meh. Not much damage, not much movement, fort completely negates. Pass.
- Cacophonic Burst – This is my favorite blaster spell in the bard’s list. I’m not a big fan of blaster spells, but I like having at least one at my disposal. Battlefield control is nice, but sometimes what you need is DPS. This is a sonic version of fireball (max 15d6 damage). It gets the job done. I wish it was lower level, though.
- Channeled Sound Burst – This is my second favorite blaster spell for bards, and it may be better in some builds than Cacophonic Burst. I like that you have the option at what speed to cast this, and I like that it only saves for half. The main problems I have are that 1. the damage is limited to 10 dice, and 2. I don’t like a cone as much as a ranged burst.
- Cure Light Wounds, Mass – Yuck. A mild heal on every party member usually isn’t what you need.
- Dancing Blade – Meh. I’d take summon monster V over this, for sure.
- Dimension Jumper – I love teleportation spells. This one casts as a swift action, and replaces your move with a telport (30′). Pretty cool. You have to be able to see your destination, so that’s a little limiting.
- Dispel Magic, Greater – This is an improved version of dispel magic. It’s also very strong.
- Ensnare the Heart (AoM 71) – Permanent charm person that moves the target to helpful. Not great.
- Friend to Foe – All creatures (max one / CL) you want to target in a 15′ radius get a will save or attack each other. Two big downsides: A will save, and after one successful attack, the spell ends for that attacker. If you can hit enough bad guys, you can get a lot of value out of one standard action. (Think of how many standard actions you can potentially steal from the opposing team if you can target 3-5 bad guys).I think Song of Discord is a better version of this spell.
- Glimpse of Eternity (MoE p96) – Target takes 1d6 dmg per caster level (max 15d6) and is confused (the one where it does random stuff) for 1 round / 3 levels. Will halves damage and negates confusion.
- Incite Riot – Another “make the enemies fight each other” spell. Its OK, but I still like song of discord best for this effect.
- Mind Fog – Will save or get -10 on will saves, 2′ radius burst. Not a bad debuff, especially if you have a party that can really take advantage of it.
- Mislead – Not in love with this spell.Swift invisibility and silent image can accomplish almost exactly the same thing at a much lower cost.
- Otto’s Resistable Dance – The imagery is funny, and it’s nice that it hits one living creature per level, but the effect (-2 to AC, -2 to Will, -2 to Concentration, -2 to spellcraft) is such a weak debuff that I can’t see this being worth casting.
- Scry Location – If you like scry spells, this is a solid one.
- Seeming – Affect whole party with disguise self. Meh. I really can’t think of a good use for this, even as a scroll (just buy a wand of disguise instead).
- Shadow Evocation – Just like Shadow Conjuration, this really opens up the bard’s spells known.
- Shadow Walk – The closest thing a bard gets to a teleport spell. If you take an unwilling subject, you can bring him into the shadow plane and then dump him there, which is pretty cool.
- Song of Discord – Pros: 20′ radius spread, opponents fight each other sometimes. Cons: they first get a will save, then there’s only a 50% chance it works. It hits your teammates as well as your enemies. Not great, but not the worst.
- Suggestion, Mass – Suggestion on a number of creatures equal to your caster level. Sweet!
- Summon Monster V – A fine spell. If you like summoning, the 5th level of this spell has some cool options.
- Unfettered Heroism (RoE p 190) – Immediate cast,get a bonus action point each turn, lasts 1 round per level (d20srd link). The spell requires that you have at least one action point available, so if your campaign doesn’t use action points, you might be out of luck here. Otherwise this is really strong (Lets you cast spells over and over and over and over again without ever burning through your spell slots, for example.) Your DM would have to rule whether you can recover the spell slot you used to cast this. If so, just having this spell on your list (and a single action point in your pool) seems to give you unlimited casting per day with the small tax of a standard action every often. Pretty insane if that’s how it works. As a DM I’d probably look at restricting this a bit.
- Wail of Doom – 30′ cone that does a small amount of damage and either panicks or shakens. Not bad.
Level 6 Spells
- Animate Objects – This has cool visuals, but the creatures you get are too weak by the time you get this spell. The fact that each object has its own characteristics based on what it is is pretty cool (a rug can blind, a rope can grapple, etc.) but still pretty limited.
- Cat’s Grace, Fox’s Cunning, Eagle’s Splendor – This is a reasonably strong buff spell in the right party context. Unfortunately the bard only gets access to the three spells, not all six.
- Bestow Curse, Greater – This is very powerful. Reducing an ability to score to 1 and then damaging that ability score via some other method is a two-hit combo. The fact that you can tailor the curse to the situation is also nice. That being said, it requires a touch attack, is negated by a will save, and is subject to spell resistance.
- Charm Monster, Mass – The max HD affected is twice your caster level, which is a real limitation. Mass Charm really means “Charm 2-5 monsters”.
- Dirge – All enemies in a 50′ burst around the bard take 2 points of strength and dex damage every round. Lasts 1 round / level. Fort negates, but the bad guy had to roll each round. Activate once, get the effect once each turn. I like this.
- Empyreal Ecstacy (BoED 98) – Target is immune to mind-affecting techniques, takes half damage from melee and ranged attacks, gets -4 on all skill checks, and has to pass a DC15 concentration check to cast. Also counters some effects like Symbol of Pain (PHB). This is an interesting spell that can be used as a buff or debuff. The half damage is my favorite part.
- Eyebite – Good against weak opponents, bad against strong opponents. I hate that. The spell language isn’t clear, but I’m pretty sure it consume your standard action each turn. If that’s the case, it’s terrible. If you get to activate each additional round without consuming additional standard actions, then it’s not so bad.
- Familial Gaes – Geas, plus some small benefits that will probably never come up. However, since it’s the same level at Geas, it seems strictly better to me.
- Fanfare (SaS) – 100′ cone that can’t be fully saved. If they save, they are stunned for 1d4 rounds and deafened for double! If they fail the save, they also take damage. This is a really solid spell. It also targets Fort, which is nice for the Bard. This is a good way to deal with enemy spellcasters.
- Gaes / Quest – No saving throw! The target must fulfill a mission of your choice (or spend 1 day / level fulfilling an open-ended mission). This is open ended, highly subject to DM rule, and can reward creative play. A really cool spell, but also dangerous to your campaign. Use at your own risk!
- Glimpse of the Prophecy (MoE p96) – Get a +1 to AC and to saves while in effect, and it lasts 1 hour per level. Then you can discharge it as an immediate action to get +10 to a save. A solid defensive spell.
- Greater Scrying – Solid spell.
- Heaven’s Trumpet (BoED 101) – This spell is solid, but requires that you have the archon sub-type, which is a huge limitation.Enemies must pass a fort save or be paralyzed for 1d4 rounds. A huge area: 120′. This one is a solid spell, and I like that it targets fort.
- Hindsight – Lets you look into the past of the place you’re standing. Really cool flavor, but a little hard to get a ton of use out of. If you can make it to your arch-enemies evil lair, you can learn all of his dirty secrets, of course. This is another spell which just gives the DM a hook to tell his story. I don’t mind doing that, but not at the cost of one of our precious spell slots.
- Otto’s Irresistible Dance – The title of this spell is misleading; it requires a touch attack to come into effect. On a successful touch, the target is disabled for 2-5 rounds without any save. They also provoke attacks of opportunity and get an AC & Reflex penalty. Definitely solid, especially for melee bards. Amazing on a melee bard, solid everywhere else.
- Nixie’s Grace – What’s interesting about this spell is the +8 to charisma. That effectively gives you about 6 more bonus spells-per-day of lower levels that you can use temporarily (more if you’re in the sublime chord prestige class). In addition, you get swim speed, underwater breathing, low light vision, damage reduction 5 / cold iron, +6 to Dex, and +2 to Wisdom. An interesting spell.
- Permanent Image – I can’t think of a great use for this spell for PCs. As a DM I use it a lot. As a player, it’s rare that you’ll need this.
- Project Image – This is really strong image spell. It grants sight, hearing, doesn’t get destroyed by damage, and distracts your enemies. Very strong.
- Protege – Grant a party member the powers of a bard of approximately half your strength. I can’t think of why you would do this. Crappy duration, too.
- Ray of Light (SC 167) – OK so this is cool. No save, ray attack. On a successful ranged touch attack the target is blinded for 1d4 rounds. I like that there is no will save, although blinding can have limited benefit. It is subject to spell resistance, though, so that’s sad.
- Resistance, Superior – +6 to all saves for 24 hours. Cast this before going to sleep, wake up with a nice shield and full spell slots. This is a great target for chain spell (if you’ve gone into sublime chord) at higher levels. The big problem with this spell is that it doesn’t stack with the ubiquitous cloak of resistance. If you have a good alternate use for that body slot, this might be worth looking into.
- Snowsong (FB 105) – Boost ally AC, Charisma checks, and attacks. Give enemy casters a 20% fail chance. 30′ burst centered on you. Not bad, but I feel like the insight bonuses might overlap with existing item bonuses on your party. Worth looking at.
- Shout, Greater – Hits on multiple fronts: 10d6 damage (half with fort save); stunned for 1 round (negated with fort save); deafened for 4d6 rounds (half duration with fort save). The best part of deafened is casters gets a 20% spell failure.
- Summon Monster VI – One of the weaker summon monster spells. Probably pass on this one.
- Veil – Disguise on the whole party. At this high level, I have a hard time seeing a use for it that won’t get seen through.
Key Rules and Advice
Bardic Music Rules
- Activation is typically a standard action.
- Some Musics require concentration to maintain (fascinate, inspire competence, and song of freedom). Others do not (countersong, inspire courage, suggestion, inspire greatness, inspire heroics, and mass suggestion).
- A bard cannot cast spells, and cannot activate magical items by spell completion, spell triggers, or command words while maintaining a bardic music (but there are ways around this, see the melodic casting feat).
- If a Bardic Music does not require concentration, you can swing your sword, run, or otherwise use your standard action while maintaining the song (very useful for Inspire Courage, for example).
Pick a version of Perform that doesn’t require any hands and doesn’t require an instrument that can be taken away from you by bad guys. Things like voice, oratory, poetics, or whistling. It’s really that simple. Nothing stops you from whipping out a guitar and playing it for flavor if you want it.
Fear escalation is a viable option for a bard, and it is a strong ability. The one problem with fear escalation is that a lot of things are immune to fear. You can get past this by dipping into dread witch for 4 levels, but that makes a very particular bard.
There are four degrees of fear:
- Shaken: –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.
- Frightened: The penalties of shaken, but it also tries to flee if at all possible.
- Panicked: Like frightened, except it drops everything it holds and runs in a random path away. Also, if it’s cornered, it cowers rather than fighting back.
- Cowering: Frozen in fear and can take no actions. A cowering character takes a –2 penalty to Armor Class and loses its Dexterity bonus (if any).
You can escalate through the first three fear states. For example, if a creature is currently shaken and you target it with a spell that makes a creature shaken, that creature becomes frightened (one level of escalation).
Similarly, if you successfully target a creature that is shaken with a frighten effect, then the creature becomes panicked (two levels of escalation).
However, you cannot escalate from panicked to cowering in this way. Instead, to get a panicked creature to cower, you have to corner the creature (block off all of its routes of escape). If you do that, it will become cowered, ready to be put out of its misery or taken prisoner.
The bard has a lot of strong options to esclate through fear. I’ll put some example builds in the builds section.
Casting in Secret
A lot of the bard’s spells are social based. Sometimes, you’ll have started a social interaction and realize you want to cast a spell, but the suspicious guards probably won’t stand there patiently as you move your hands around in a strange way to cast glibness. Instead, they’ll probably recognize that you’re casting a spell and arrest you before you can go any further.
In order to address there, the game creators gave us a few options for casting in secret:
Sleight of Hand Skill (RoS 133)
- Can use multiple times in an encounter.
- Sleight of hand check vs opposed spot check.
- Success makes verbal and somatic go unnoticed.
- Does not solve material and focus components.
- Some lack of clarity in the rules regarding AOOs and counterpselling.
Conceal Spellcasting Skill Trick (CS 85)
- Can only be used once in an encounter.
- Also a sleight of hand check vs opposed spot check.
- Success means they cannot tell that you’re casting regardless of components.
- Observer also cannot attempt an attack of opportunity.
- Observer cannot attempt to counter the spell.
Subsonics Feat (CA 112)
- Can disguise your bardic musics, including those that harm opponents.
- Cannot disguise spells.
Silent Spell Feat (PHB 100)
- This feat doesn’t work for Bards, so this is a dead end.
Echew Materials Feat (PHB 94)
- Constant benefit, as long as the materials cost under 1gp.
- No metamagic cost.
- Only removes material components, nothing else.
- Can be used repeatedly.
- Costs a whole feat.
Disguise Spell Feat (CA 108)
- Perform check vs. Spot check; onlookers must match or succeed to see that you’re casting.
- It’s obvious you’re performing, but not that you’re casting.
- Does not disguise spells that clearly emenate from you.
- Can’t be ID’d with spellcraft even if they realize you’re casting.
- Still provokes AOO.
This really is a great spell. No, it’s not going to solve your campaign singlehandedly, but it’s super fun and has a million applications.
Before we go into the various uses, you should note that one casting lasts an hour, and you can do any number of individual presitigations (of any type) any number of times during that hour. That is great.
To get started, the PHB gives these uses:
- Slowly lift 1 pound of material
- Color, clean, or soil items in a 1-foot cube each round
- Chill, warm, or flavor 1 pound of non-living material
- Create small, crude and artifical looking, objects.
- Produce small tinklings of ethereal music
- Brighten faded flowers
- Create glowing balls that float over your hand
- Generate puffs of wind to flicker candles
- Spice up aromas and flavors of bland foods
- Make little whilwinds to sweep dust under rugs
Song and Silence (page 80) talks about a few additional uses:
- Change matter, as long as it stays in the same “kingdom” of animal, vegetable, or mineral
- Dry and Dampen items
- polish something
- sketch a figure on any surface (or in the air)
- stitch seams
- tie a knot
The most important part though, is these aren’t enumerated uses. They are examples of a general principle, and you’re free to make up additional ones as long as they follow the limitations:
- Cannot deal damage or affect the concentration of spellcasters.
- Cannot create weapons, tools, or spell components.
- Cannot duplicate any other spell or spell effects.
- Any changes to an object (aside from moving, cleaning, or soiling) only last 1 hour.
- Range is 10 feet
The applications are literally endless. This little unassuming spell is one of the most fun spells in the game. Here are some examples of uses from games I’ve played:
- Keep my bard looking fresh while the rest of the party is covered in dungeon filth.
- “Soil” a guard’s pants to make him abandon post and run to the outhouse.
- Make a poison taste like a refreshing glass of juice.
- “Clean” poisonous fungus from a magical sword found in a cave, without touching it.
- Improve the flavor of camp food.
- Quickly gather caltrops that were dropped.
- Make a bronze coin look like a platinum coin.
- Make the secret document that you’re trying to smuggle out of a castle look like a ribbon around your wrist.
- Make an expensive gem look like a plain stone, and vice versa.
Speak Languages Rank Limit
Speak langauges is worded uniquely. Unlike every other skill, putting points into Speak Languages doesn’t give you ranks. Instead, you get to choose a new language that you speak.
This makes it very unclear whether it is subject to the normal LEVEL + 3 rank limit, or whether you can learn as many languages as you’d like.
As a DM I allow players to purchase as many languages as they’d like. Speak langauges is never used as skill check (you never roll a D20 and add your number of languages to it) so this seems like the best interpretation.
Many of the bard’s abilities are langauge based, so I tend to like this skill and putting a lot of points into it.
You can read a little discussion about this here.
Using Silent Image
Using Alter SelfThere are handbooks dedicated to this spell alone. For a humanoid type, here are the most common forms you will want to take:
|Aquatic Elf||MM 103||M||–||30||40||–||–||2 Listen
|Asabi||MONoF 15||M||2||50||–||20||–||–||1d4 bite||Combat Reflexes, Jump Lengths Increased|
|Avarial||RoF 31||M||–||30||–||–||50||4 Spot
|Crucian||MH 59||M||8||20||–||–||–||–||–||Iron Will, Weapon Focus (Warhammer)|
|Dwarf||PHB 14||M||–||20||–||–||–||2 Search (stone/metal), 2 Craft (stone/metal)||–||No Speed Reduction for Encumberance|
|Mongrelfolk||FF 125||M||–||30||–||–||–||8 Hide
8 Sleight of Hand
|Skulk||FF 154||M||–||30||–||–||–||8 Move Silent
|Troglodyte||MM 246||M||6||30||–||–||–||4 Hide
8 Hide (underground)
|1d4 claw, 1d4 claw, 1d4 bite
Weapon, 1d4 claw, 1d4 bite
You can pump diplomacy to ridiculous heights. If you want to make a absurdly broken diplomancer, look at the half-elf alt-class features for soothing voice (to enable diplomacy in combat) pump up the number of languages you speak, and search this document for all instances of “diplomacy” and select those options. Next, get glibness and pump bluff. Finally, pick up a harmonica. If you do that (and use the core diplomacy rules) you’ll be absurd in any situation that words could possibly solve.
I don’t recommend doing this, because it will piss of your DM and co-players, but it definitely exists as an idea.
Tempering DiplomacyIf you want to temper diplomacy a bit and make it sane, you can try the following things:
- Get Rid of Synergies – +6 is big boost. Getting rid of this can help make it a bit more sane.
- Use Pathfinder’s Adjustments – They make some small debuffs. Still very strong, but a bit more limited.
- Use This Old Rule: The Diplomacy Skill – A homebrew solution to dipolomacy. The most limiting, and yet it still remains very strong
Maintaining Inspire Courage
There’s no mechanical limitation on the length of inspire courage. Rather than activating it during the first round of combat, you can activate it when you enter a cave, and maintain it throughout the adventure, especially if you have melodic casting feat.
Your party will lose any stealth, so the rogue might look at you sideways, but aside from that, there are very few things you need to do while adventuring that you can’t do while singing or talking.
Is Dragonfire Inspiration Good? (How good?)
Another way to ask this question is: “When is 2.5 damage worth more than 5% to hit?” and the answer is “most of the time”.
As a rough estimate, on average, Dragonfire Inspiration tends to be worth about 0.5 to 1.5 damage, per attack, per level of inspire courage. Another way to think of this is being worth approximately the same as a +1 to inspire courage.
The math behind this question is complex and depends on five factors:
- The AC of the Bad Guy – The higher the AC of the bad guy, the worse dragonfire inspiration becomes.
- Your attack bonus – The higher your attack bonus, the better dragonfire inspiration becomes.
- Your average damage – The higher your average damage, the worse dragonfire inspration becomes.
- Your Inspire Courage Modifier – This tends to just be a multiplier, but it seems to be some sort of bell curve in certain situations (see below)
- The Damage Reduction of the Bad Guy – The more damage reduction the bad guy has, the better dragonfire inspiration becomes.
While dragonfire inspiration does tend to net more damage, here are some exceptions and things to think about:
- Sometimes dragonfire inspiration nets less damage than inspire courage.
- Dragonfire inspiration is stronger vs. opponents with lower AC and weaker vs opponents with higher AC.
- If your damage is already very high compared to your attack bonus, dragonfire inspiration is worse. (This means dragonfire inspiration and power attack have some anti-synergy).
- Oftentimes, just connecting is more important than getting one extra hit point of damage. Rarely does the bad guy hang on by one HP after getting hit. Usually, he just needs one successful strike to put him down. This works as an argument in favor of inspire courage.
- Similarly, I think damage output vs the guy with the higher AC is going to be more important than damage output vs. the guys with the lower AC, but this is obviously not always true.
- Usually, the benefit scales linearly with inspire courage bonus, but there are cases where that’s not accurate. For example, if a character has an attack of +5 and average damage of 10, you see dragonfire inspiration be the better choice if the inspire courage bonus is 1 to 4, but at 5 the advantage starts to decline, and at 7, inspire courage becomes stronger again.
Bottom line is this. If you understand the math, you can decide to use this when it makes sense, and use inspire courage otherwise. If you can do that, you’ll get a pretty solid boost to damage on average. I’ve created an excel spreadsheet which will help you simulate certain situations, so you can get a feel for the numbers.
Does Dragonfire Inspiration stack with Inspire Courage?
If I was DM, I would rule no. My reading of the rules suggest that you cannot stack these two effects, but some people disagree. This isn’t 100% clear because the section I depend on for my ruling is specifically talking about spells, and inspire courage is not a spell. Here is that section:
(Rule Compendium 137) – “The same spell can sometimes produce varying effects if applied to the same recipient more than once. Usually the last spell in the series trumps the others. one of the previous spells are actually removed or dispelled, but their effects become irrelevant while the final spell in the series lasts”.
The fact that it’s the same ability providing the effect makes me believe that it does not stack.
In addtion, the way Dragonfire Inspiration is worded suggests this interpration. They easily could have said “You gain a new bardic music ability that….” instead, they say “When you use your bardic music to inspire courage…” We can’t stack two Inspire Courages, so I don’t think it makes sense that we can stack a dragonfire-inspired courage and a regular inspire courage.
Talk to your DM and find out what he thinks. If it doesn’t stack, this feat is still strong. If this does stack, this feat is bonkers good, effectively giving you an additional, better copy of your best bardic music.
How does Lore Song Work exactly?
This came up in one of my campaigns: what exactly is lore song, and most importantly, can an enemy tell that you’re using it? (For example, to buff a diplomacy check?)I posted a thread on RPG.SE and I got two good answers. Of the two, the one I found most convincing was that it’s a set of songs that Bafds have memorized which give them the ability to “come up with new solutions to difficult problems”, meaning that it has no physical manifestation, it’s just a mental action.
Lyric Thaumaturge and Sonic Might
If you really want to play a blaster, Lyric Thaumaturge to level 5 and Sonic Might is probably a good way to go. Keep in mind that the damage from sonic might scales with spell level, so it’s typically not too exciting on level 1 or 2 spells.
These are some of the spells you should look at for that build:
- Ironthunder Horn (1) – 30′ cone shaped burst, reflex or fall prone. Adding 1d6 damage to this isn’t so bad.
- Sound Burst (2)
- Dissonant Chord (3) – 10′ burst on you, 5d8 damage, fort half. Pretty good damage, but it’s hard not to hit your teammates with this.
- Haunting Tune (3) – target a group no more than 30′ apart, medium distance, will or shaken. Adding 3d6 to this is a very mini-fireball.
- Roar of the Waves (3)
- Wounding Whispers (3)
- Resounding Thunder (4) – This is very strong. 4d6 damage + chance at deaf, in area, for 5 rounds. Plus another 4d6 from Sonic Might. That’s some damage.
- Fugue (4)
- Resonating Bolt (4) – 60′ line, CLd4 damage, reflex half
- Shout (4)
- Channeled Sound Blast (5)
- Song of Discord (5)
- Cacophonic Burst (5)
- Scyllan Scream (5)
- Wail of Doom (5)
- Great Shout (6)
- Dirge (6)
- Heaven’s Trumpet (6)
- Greater Shout (6)
The bard is a hybrid mage / fighter, with a focus on group buffs. That’s how it’s designed, and you have to do a lot of work to get away from that. All of the builds below are that, but they emphasize either the fighter or the mage aspect more, as indicated.
So the nice thing about these builds is that you can be a gish levels 1-10, and then pivot to being more of a sorcerer levels 11-20. At level 20, you’re weaker than a sorcerer. But at levels 1-8, you’re doing a lot more. In my opinion, this translates to a lot more fun with only a small cost at the end of the game. I like these builds a lot.
- Bard 6 / Lyric Thaumaturge 4 / Sublime Chord 10 – This is my favorite build. The 4 dip in Thaumaturge gives you some wizard spells at lower levels, which is a really nice addition to your pool. Sixth level is a good place to cut off the bard progression, and Sublime 10 is great.
Here’s a level 8 bard I have been playing in a play-by-post game for the last 6 or 7 years. He’s currently Bard 6 / Lyric Thaumaturge 2. My DM banned half-elf as a race for story reasons, so I talked him into letting me take the alternative class features as a human. B-) Breeze the Bard, Level 8.
- Bard 10 / Sublime Chord 10 – This is really direct and really good. Get another +1 to inspire courage, get inspire greatness, and pickup 8 more skill points. If you’re really hungry for feats and resent the feat tax for Lyric Thaumaturge, this is worth looking at. If you take the Lore Song or Bardic Knack alternate class feature, this build progresses it for levels 7-10, where thaumaturge does not, which is also a consideration.
- Bard 6 / Lyric Thaumaturge 4 / Sublime Chord 6 / Fatespinner 4 – I want to like this build, because I really like the fatespinner class, but you give up a lot to get into it: low skill points, bad hit die, 5-9 wasted skill points, and a bunch of skills missing from your skill list (Diplomacy, UMD, perform, etc.) This isn’t bad, but it’s not the best.
- Bard 9 / Virtuoso 1 / Sublime Chord 2 / Virtuoso 8 – This is a popular build, but I don’t like it. We lose 1 level of spellcasting, and I don’t like the virtuoso class abilities as much as I like sublime chord’s. Progressing inspire courage is nice, and the 6 skill points are nice (although there is no UMD) but on the whole I like this build least of all. (As a DM I wouldn’t allow the 3.0 Virtuoso, but if your DM allows it you should definitely look at it. I think it’d be one of the strongest options.)
- Savage Bard 5 / Ur-Priest 2 / Mystic Theurge 3 / Sublime Chord 1 / Mystic Theurge 5 / Sublime Chord 4 – Nine levels of sublime chord casting and nine levels of divine casting. Wow. Definitely worth looking at if you like that sort of thing.
- Savage Bard 5 / Ur-Priest 2 / Mystic Theurge 3 / Sublime Chord 1 / Mystic Theurge 5 / Abjurant Champion 4 – A variation on the above build, using the power abjurant champion class.
- Bard 7 / Apostle of Peace 2 / Mystic Theurge 1 / Sublime Chord 1 / Mystic Theurge 9 – This is yet another way to get 9 levels of bard casting and 9 levels of divine casting. You have to go into the vow feats to build this way, but they’re pretty cool for a bard if you don’t mind that they really warp your campaign.
The best feats in this build are Melodic Casting, Chaos Music, Nymph’s Kiss, Extra Spell, Lyric Spell, Extra Music, and the familiar feats.
This build tends to be skill-point intensive, because you have a lot of pre-reqs, so pick your skills carefully.
- Bard / Sublime Chord / Dread Witch / Nightmare Spinner
- Battle Knight Bard of Sublime Chord (Bard 4 / Paladin 2 / Eldritch Knight 9 / Sublime Chord 1 / Abjurant Champion 4) – Ninth level caster with a +18 BAB. Access to bard abilities is very limited, this is more of a bard-flavored fighter/mage than an actual bard, but it’s pretty cool anyway. You can read more about this at the dandwiki
- Swiftblade BattleHowler (Bard 5 / Battle Howler 2 / Swiftblade 9 / Battle Howler 3 / Bard 1) – Suggested by Jordan below. This is interesting. The only thing I don’t like here is all the feat tax. I really want access to swift inspire courage via Song of the White Raven. I might try something like Crusader 1 / Bard 4 / Battle Howler 2 / etc, so I can pick up Song of the White Raven via a single feat. I haven’t looked at this too hard, so it needs some development and might not pan out.
- … More coming soon
To build an archer bard, just take the archery feats (and knowledge devotion, if you can). Bards don’t need their feats for anything, so you’re free to dedicate them to new vectors. Archery is as fine as any other. If you multi-class into something that gives a higher BAB that helps, of course.
The summoner bard seems really strong to me. Here’s an initial outline I’m working on:
- Race: Half-Elf or Human
- 1-10: Bard
- 11-20: Sublime Chord
- Flaw: Greenbound Summoning
- 1: Ashbound Summoning
- 3: Improved Initiative
- 6: Words of Creation
- 9: Leadership
- 12: Summon Elemental Reserve
Alt Class Features
- Savage Bard (Grants access to Greenbound Summoning)
- 1: Lore Song – Broken (Replacing Bardic Knowledge)
- 1: Soothing Voice – Broken (Replace Countersong, half-elf substitution)
- 6: Music of Making – Double Duration of Summons (Replace Suggestion)
- 8: Haunting Melody –
Core Only Builds
In core only, if you want to build a bard, Bard 20 is the best choice, and it’s not close. The class is really well designed, progresses well, and there are no core dips or prestige classes I can really recommend. (I mean, Bard 1 / Wizard 19 is technicaly “better”… but you know what I mean.)
That being said, if you’re really looking to multi-class, you can look at a single level dip of cleric.
Other than that, I don’t think any core dips make sense mechanically. Flavor-wise, there are plenty of options, of course, but mechanically just go Bard 20 and smile.
There are a lot of viable items in this game. I won’t be able to do a complete list, but I will try to cover the high points of bard-specific items, and items that are especially good for bards.
Pro-tip: the most powerful item you’ll probably be able to find in the game is the one your DM invents for you. A little gentle encouragement can go a long way here. In my experience, DMs love inventing magical items, and their sense of ownership tends to cause them to make it a powerful one.
General Use Items
- 10 – Instrument Blade – Put a secret blade in your instrument (or boot), but get a -2 to attack when using it. I thin this is cool for flavor, and could maybe help in a pinch, but it’s not great.
- 50 – Masterwork Tools – Get a sweet set of clothes for +2 to Diplomacy. Or some bouncy shoes for Tumble. Or a cheat-sheet of commonly used magical words for UMD. As long as you can dream up something plausible, this is a great way to pump all your skills by 2 points at virtually no cost.
- 150 – Elixir of Love (DMG) – This is a cool little potion to carry with you for almost no cost. Charm person if you can get them to drink it.
- 750 – Wand of Cure Light Wounds (DMG) – Never leave home without one.
- 750 – Wand of Lesser Vigor (SpC) – Get fast healing. This cures more damage than a wand of CLW, but Lesser Vigor’s not on our spell list, so we have to pass a Use Magic Device check. Wand of CLW will probably prove to be more reliable, albeit less powerful.
- 900 – Blast Disk (HoB 131) – A fireball landmine. Single-use. Pretty cool.
- 2000 – Heward’s Handy Haversack (DMG) – As you’ll see below, I recommend carrying a veritable symphony of instruments. Where are you going to put all of these instruments for easy access? A handy haversack! Fix carry weight and draw any item as a move action. Yes please.
- 4000 – Cloak of Charisma (+2) (DMG) – Any item that pumps charisma is going to be a really good item for a bard. More spells, higher DCs, and better social skills. Yes please!
- 4200 – Mithril Breast Plate – +5 to AC, only -1 to ACP. Either this or a mithril chain shirt is probably your base armor. Depends on whether you like ACP or AC better.
- 1100 – Mithril Chain Shirt – +4 to AC, no ACP. Either this or a mithril breast plate is probably your base armor. Depends on whether you like ACP or AC better.
- 1015 – Mithril Buckler – +1 to AC with no penalties and uses a unique slot. Great.
All masterwork instruments give a +2 bonus to perform. In addition, the following instruments give the additional benefits as outlined below. You should carry almost all of these on you, once you have the carry capacity (or a heward’s handy haversack). The cost is so low.
- 100 – Masterwork Drum (Cadv 124) – +1 to Inspire Courage Damage, -1 to Inspire Courage Charm and Fear. This is worth carrying.
- 100 – Masterwork Fiddle (Cadv 124) – +1 to IC charm & fear (scales with level) and cast spells while performing, as long as those spells have only vocal components.
- 100 – Masterwork Flute (Cadv 124) – +2 to countersong. I mean, I guess you can carry this if you have countersong, but get rid of countersong.
- 100 – Masterwork Harp (Cadv 124) – Target one additional creature with fascinate or inspire greatness. Definitely worth carrying this item. Also allows you to cast verbal-only spells while performing.
- 100 – Masterwork Horn (Cadv 124) – Raise IC damage and fear by 1, but effect stops 1 round after the ally stops hearing the performance. Drum is better.
100 – Masterwork Lute (Cadv 124)– Lets you cast while performing, as long as the spell only requires vocal components. Also get +1 level when determining the effect of your bardic musics. This is useful at most levels (6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20) for various reasons:
- Inspire Courage: Increase bonus by 1 at levels 7, 13, and 19;
- Fascinate: gain an extra target at levels 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 (also helps mass suggestion);
- Inspire Greatness: An additional target at levels 11, 14, 17; and
- Inspire Heroics: an extra target at levels 17 and 20.
- 100 – Masterwork Lyre (Cadv 124) – An additional target for fascinate or inspire heroics. Also lets you cast while playing, as long as the spell only has vocal components.
- 100 – Masterwork Mandolin (Cadv 124) – Can cast while performing as long as spell only uses vocal components. Inspire Courage gets +1 to attack, but -1 damage and charm and fear. Bleh.
- 100 – Masterwork Pan Pipes (Cadv 124) – +1 to fascinate and +1 to suggestion DC. Not bad, worth carrying.
- 100 – Bagpipes (SaS 43) – Give all listeners -1 against fear effects.
- 100 – Banjolele (SaS 43) -Increase bonus of IC fear by 1.
- 100 – Bones (SaS 43) -Listeners get -2 against fear effects. Not great, but if you have a use, the cost is very low. It costs a standard action to activate, so not usually going to be good in combat, unless the DM rules that it stacks with other bardic music effects, which I think is a reasonable reading of the rules.
100 – Fiddle
(SaS 44), Lap Harp (SaS 46), Lute (SaS 46)– Lets a bard maintain two bardic music effects at one time (inspire courage and inspire greatness, I’m looking at you).
- 100 – Handbell (SAS 45) – +1 bonus to countersong attempts. If you’re countersonging ever, get the Whistle-Pipe instead, it gives +5.
100 – Harmonica
(SaS 45), Shawm (SaS 49)– Now this is a good item. +4 to bluff, diplomacy, gather information, and disguise checks vs. people who heard you perform for 1d6 hours after the performance AND it shifts the listener’s attitude one level closer to you. This is effectively like a +20 to diplomacy. If I am a DM, I’m seriously considering not allowing this item to exist. If your DM allows it, my god it’s good. Alternatively, get someone to helpful through normal diplomacy, and then turn them fanatic with this harmonica with no chance of failure. Are you kidding me?
- 100 – Horn, Natural (SaS 46) – Increase inspire courage bonus by 1, but reduce charm effects by 2. Yes please.
- 100 – Lyre – (SaS 47) – +2 to countersong, fascinate, or suggestion against fey. Meh.
- 100 – Pan-Pipes (SaS 48) – +1 to perform when listeners are animal or fey. Yuck, just get masterwork.
- 100 – Recorder Flute (SaS 48)- Listener gets -1 against charm and compulsion, including fascinate and suggestion. Worth carrying for sure.
- 100 – Whistle Pipe (SAS 49) – +5 bonus to countersong attempts. If you’re countersonging ever, this helps for a low cost.
- 100 – Zither (SaS 49) – Inspire courage’s resist charm and fear increases, but damage decreases. Yuck.
All magical instruments are masterwork. I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that any magical Lyre instrument also gets the benefits listed above in mundane instruments, but you’ll have to convince your DM.
- 1000 – Drums of Marching (HoB 131) – Those nearby get a +4 to con checks during forced marches.
- 1000 – Horn of Volume (MH) – Your allies can hear you from twice as far away. I’ve never met a DM who strictly enforced distances on bardic music, and only double isn’t that exciting.
1350 – Instrument of the Bards – Fochluchan Bandore
(MIC 161, CArc 148)– +2 to perform, +1 to fascinate, countersong, and suggestion, light 1/day, flare, mending, message 1/day. Requires 2 ranks in stringed instruments for some of the abilities. Not a bad way to get a wide range of shallow benefits for a low price. The MIC price is lower than the CArc.
2100 – Instrument of the Bards – Mac-Fuirmidh Cithern
(CArc 149, MIC 163)– +2 to perform, +2 to countersong, fascinate, and suggestion. If you have 4 ranks in string instruments, cast CLW, Mage Armor, and Sleep 1/day. I don’t love the skill requirement, but the effects aren’t bad. Sleep is kind of wasted, and CLW is probably going to be on a wand. Not a bad item, but not amazing. The MIC has the price lower than CArc.
- 3000 – Bagpipes of the Damned (LM 78) – DC 15 Perform (wind instrument) – All Undead get a +4 resistance to being turned for 10 rounds. Maybe if you’re a necromancer or have a necromancer in your party? Even then, not great. The cost is pretty minor, though.
- 3000 – Battle Rattle (DM331 p88) – Increase the bonus of Inspire Courage by 1, and also give allies a one-time additional +1 to an attack or skill each fight. Pretty solid.
- 3000 – Lyre of the Restless Soul (LM) – Makes all undead get -4 to turning with a DC 15 perform check. Not going to be worth doing, usually, and not worth the gold.
- 3100 – Pipes of Frenzied Revelry – (MIC 168)- +5 to perform by themselves. If you activate the “relic power”, you get to send everyone around you into an amorous confusion. Not great because it has to hit your allies as well. But the price is really great.
- 1150 – Pipes of the Sewer (DMG) – Summon nearby rats to fight for you, if you fail a perform check they attack you instead. Way too limimted to be worth spending gold on.
- 3100 – Chime of Harmonic Agony (MIC 154) – This is a fine item for early-mid levels, giving the bard some damage output. 3d6 + CHA mod is pretty good damage for one standard action, and there’s no save!
- 3600 – Horn of Rallying (HoB 132)- +10 to rally troops (a feature from HoB). Yuck.
- 4000 – Biwa of Kakita (OA 137) – +4 to perform lute. Nothing exciting, especially because it inhibits the use of other magical instruments. Most magical instruments already give +2 to perform, which would stack with the mithral bells +2, so I’d rather have those.
- 4100 – Instrument of the Bards – Doss Lute (CArc 149) – +2 to perform, +3 to countersong, fascinate, and suggestion. Delay Posion, hold person, and mirror image 1/day. Gives negative levels to anyone who doesn’t have 6 ranks in perform. I don’t love any of these spells, but the cost isn’t bad.
- 4100 – Methild’s Harp (MoF 162) – +2 to performance,unlocks stuff. If you don’t have a rogue, this is a cool item to solve the locked-door problem. Can even get through some magical locks.
- 5000 – Horn of Resiliance (MIC 209) -Grant DR 5 / – for all allies in a 30′ radius. 30′ is a little low for distance. Also grant 50 temporary hit points when inspiring greatness. Not amazing, not bad. It’s also a masterwork horn, which should be subject to the rules outlined above.
- 5400 – Rhingalade’s Harp (MoF 165) – +2 to performance, turn on blink and mirror image at the same time. Getting two spells for the cost of one action is nice, and it doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. This is worth considering as an item. It’s a shame it only gets 1 use per day.
- 6250 – Autonomous Harp (DC1 131) – A permanently animated wooden harp that also can be activated for free to give a +2 circumstance bonus to perform. Not bad, but that’s a lot of gold.
- 6800 – Esheen’s Harp (MoF 157) – +2 to perform, +5 to listen against creatures carrying metal or glass, shatter 1/day. Very expensive for weak abilities.
- 7000 – Night Caller (LM 79) – Animate zombies once per week. Max 2 zombies. Pretty cool and price effective, especially for a necromancer-bard.
- 7185 – Trumpet of Doom (BoED 116) – Nearby evil creatures become shaken for one minute, DC 14 save. Shaken isn’t a great ability, but not bad. This would be OK at low levels for non-melee bards, when you don’t have a ton of spells. Not great at higher levels due to the low save.
- 7500 – Biwa of Calm (OA 137) – Calm emotions on a 30′ radius, DC 15. Not a bad price to get a free spell.
- 8100 – Instrument of the Bards – Canaith Mandolin (MIC 153) – +2 to perform, +4 to countersong, fascinate, and suggestion. Cure Serious Wounds, Dispel Magic, or Summon Monster III. Requires 8 ranks in perform (string) for the better effects. This is a solid item if you have the skill ranks. I don’t know if it’s worth putting skill ranks in strings just for this item, though. (CArc 149 has it for a much higher price. At the MIC price, it’s pretty good).
- 8500 – Valarde’s Harp (MoF 166) – +2 to perform.
- 10000 – Yeth Horn (Planar 84) – 60′ spread, DC15 perform check to activate. All creatures except evil outsiders have to pass a DC16 will or be panicked for 2d6 rounds. The will save is a little low for the price, but the effect is almost-phenomenal. Would be a solid item for a level 7-12 character. The big downside here is that affects everyone except evil outsiders. A huge downside that can’t really be overcome. This is better for a DM than a player, most of the time.
- 12000 – Janthra’s Harp (MoF 161) – +2 to perform, invisibility sphere for 1 hour / day. Effectively unlimited uses. Very strong.
- 12100 – Dove’s Harp (MIC 156) – +2 to perform, all allies get fast healing 3 for 1 minute (they heal 3 HP per round). My reading is that it piggy-backs another bardic music (like inspire courage). If so, this is solid.That’s a lot of damage healing for no additional actions.
- 13000 – Lyre of Building (DMG) – Protect a structure from destruction, or get the equivalent of 100 humans worth of work in 3 days. There are a lot of creative uses for this item.
- 15000 – Ruehar’s Flute (PGtF 124) – Some small magical effects, plus comes with some spells like a spellbook. Not great for a bard; we don’t have any use for spellbooks.
- 16000 – Azlaer’s Harp (MoF 154) – Calm emotions and suppress charm, plus a light effect. Way too expensive for its limited application.
- 18000 – Horn of the Rider – lesser (HoB 132) -Summons a rider 3 times / day that deal damage and threaten to trample opponents. They only last one attack. It’s effectively a blasting spell 3/day. Not bad, not great. Price is high.
- 18100 – Instrument of the Bards – Cli Lyre (MIC 154) – +2 to perform, +5 to countersong, fascinate, and suggestion. Break Enchantment, dimension door, and shout each 1/day. Requires 10 ranks in strings. This is good. (CArc has a higher price).
- 22000 – Instrument of the Winds (PGtF) – +2 to perform, DC 15 wind instrument check. If it succeeds, summon an air elemental. Definitely a strong effect for the price.
- 22300 – Nithanalor’s Harp (MoF 164) – +2 to perform, 1/day stone skin. A wand of stoneskin costs 50% more. Not bad.
- 25000 – Handharp (MoF 159) – A handful of cool abilities, focused on the undead. Not worth getting unless the undead stuff is helpful for you, but I like that it’s diverse. A wand of dimension door would be 21,000 and would burn out eventually. This never dies and gives other effects too. A solid item, albeit not good for every bard.
32100 – Instrument of the Bards – Anstruth Harp
(MIC 150, CArc 149)– +2 to perform, +6 to countersong, fascinate, and suggestion. Control Water, Mass CLW, and Mind fog. I really don’t like this version. CArc has it listed for 60000, Magic Item Compendium has it at 32100. At the MIC price it’s not terrible, but not great.
- 33750 – Slippers of Battledancing (DMGII 272) – Great for Gish builds. +10 to land speed, +5 to tumble, +2 to initiative checks, and cha bonus (instead of str or dex) to attack rolls and damage rolls.
- 35380 – Horn of Triumph (SaS 56) -+2 Morale bonus to saving throws, attacks, damage, strength, constitution, ability checks, and skill checks. -1 to AC. It’s a real shame this is a morale bonus, which keeps it from stacking with inspire courage. Creatures also must remain with 15′ of activation, which is a severe limitation. Works twice / day. The limitations set this far back.
- 36750 – Drums of Thunder – A limited number of charges, has a handful of good spells on it. Because it’s charged based (and you only get 10-20 activations) I’m not in love with this item. That’s a lot of gold for an item that decays.
- 45100 – Dove’s Harp (MoF 156) -+2 to performance checks, cure insanity, calm emotions, CLW, and light. Not great and very expensive.
- 60000 – Horn of the Rider – greater (HoB 132) – Summons three riders, 3 times per day, that deal damage and threaten to trample opponents. They only last one attack. It’s effectively a blasting spell 3/day. Not bad, not great. Price is high.
- 75000 – Horn of Dragons (Drac 121) – Can only be used once a month, but lets you summon a ******* dragon who will help you to the best of his ability. This is super cool. Probably not worth getting, but my god it’s cool.
- 50100 – Instrument of the Bards – Ollamh Harp(CArc 149, MIC 166)– +2 to perform, +7 to countersong, fascinate, and suggestion. Control Weather, Eyebite, and repulsion 1/day. I don’t love these spells. MIC has it for less than CArc.
- 84000 – Hwyrr – the Clarion Harp – (BoED 117) – An intelligent item. Automatically inhibits attacks of opportunity in bad guys, grants some other spells per day. I think this is overpriced.
- 84375 – Gong of Dispelling (OA 141) – A giant gong which must be hung, has 50 charges, and dispels evil and magic in a 30′ radius. Way too expensive and unwieldy.
- 115440 – Trumpet of Healing (BoED 116) – Heal 1/day (solves almost all problems, including up to 150 HP) and has a handful of other spells which can be cast 3/day. The cost is a bit steep for a trumped-up healing wand.
- 4310 – Crystal Echoblade (MIC 49) – A +1 longsword that deals extra sonic damage equal to half your bard level. Very, very good, and priced low. You’ll have to see if your DM will allow bard-specific prestige classes to stack here, which I think is reasonable.
- 12330 – Bow of Songs (MIC 48) – +1 shortbow that also lets you expend a bardic music to get extra attack and damage. I like this for mid-level archer bards.
- 25 Whip-Dagger (AaEG 10) – A whip that deals 1d6 damage (not subdual!) and doesn’t require any additional proficiency. In addition, you can get a “mighty” version, which lets you apply your strength bonus to the damage.
- 100 – Wand Chamber (Dung 34) – Give a weapon a chamber to hold a wand, and you are effectively holding that wand and can activate it. Great on your main weapon.
- 2000 – Sudden Stunning (DMGII 261) – This is perfect for a bard, and I love that this has a flat cost. Targets reflex, pretty good save DC, multiple activations per day, and stuns for 1d4 + 1 round. You can activate is CHA_MOD times per day, which is wonderful for us.
- 6400 – Songblade (CA 130) – +1 Rapier, gives +2 to perform when wielded, and gives you an additional bardic music a day. Using the magic item creation rules, the +1 rapier is 2320, the +2 to perform is 400, so the extra bardic music costs 3680. A bit expensive, but a cool template that I haven’t found anywhere else.
- +1 Bonus – Harmonizing (MIC 34) – +2 to perform (sing). Sustains your bardic musics, including ones that require concentrationfor you for 10 rounds or until you do something that stops it. Pretty good, not essential.
- +1 Bonus – Holy Surge (MIC 36) – Get a big bonus damage to evil creatures, CHA times per day. Not great, but maybe worth considering for a melee bard.
- +1 Bonus – Stunning (MIC 44) – I don’t like this. The pre-requisite is pretty weak (screaming weapon) and the effect only triggers on crits. I recommend stunning surge instead.
- +1 Bonus – Stunning Surge (MIC 44) – This is pretty solid. Swift activation, 1 + CHA times per day, fort save or be stunned for 1 round. Stunned is one of the good status effects (drops everything, minuses to AC, no actions).
- +1 Bonus – Warning (MIC 46) – +5 to initiative. Going first is important for a buffer / battlefield controller.
Heraldic Crests (HoB 130)
These are pretty cool armor buffs from Heroes of Battle. There are special requirements for using one, but if you can get past those, they’re worth looking at.
- 4000 – Courage (HoB 130) – +1 Morale Bonus to Initiative for 4000 gold without using a magic item slot. Not bad. Not the first thing I’d spend 4k on, but for higher level characters it might be worth looking at.
- 11000 – Glory (HoB 130) – Get a +1 morale bonus to attack, which would be good for other classes, but is garbage for us (since it doesn’t stack with inspire courage). Heroism the spell also doesn’t stack, so this is really just junk on a bard
- 5000 – Insight (HoB 130) – Get a +2 bonus to spot checks and 1/day cast see invisibility. Not bad, but a little pricey. Given that it’s slotless maybe it’s good. I wonder how this compares to a custom Ioun stone in terms of gold.
- 6000 – Valiant Defense (HoB 130) – Get a +1 deflection bonus to AC at all times (note: rings of protection also give deflection) and be able to cast shield other 1/day. This is gold-efficient (slotless +1 AC plus a spell a day) but it doesn’t scale. Not bad.
- 1100 – Mithril Chain (DMG 220) – Light Chain Shirt.
- 1000 – Mithril Buckler (DMG 220) – +1 to AC and an extra enchantable slot with literally no drawback but cost. This thing is great.
- 3450 – Mithralmist Shirt ( MIC 20) – +1 Mithril Shirt, 7/day get concealment against attacks for one minute.
- 4150 – Elven Chain (DMG) -Light Chainmail, -2 ACP.
- 13100 – Kyton Armor (MIC 19) – Get an extra 1d6 damage attack per turn, as a swift action. Not great for the price.
- 22400 – Celestial Armor (DMG) -+3 chainmail that grants fly 1 / day.
- 25400 – Breastplate of Command (DMG) – Gives +2 to all charisma checks and +2 to leadership. It’s alright, but is medium armor, which makes our spell fail 25%. Pass.
- 100 – Wand Chamber (Dung 34) – Give a shield a chamber to hold a wand, and you are effectively holding that wand and can activate it. Great on a mithril buckler.
- 1200 – Commander (MIC 9) – +2 on diplomacy, allies get +1 to will saves, -5 to hide. This is a cheap way to pump diplomacy.
- 2700 – Glammered (DMG 219) – Armor can change to look like normal clothing. Not bad for disguise people.
- (+3) – Halfweight (UD 70) – Treats the armor as “light in every way” (except AC bonus). You’ll have to check with your DM on exactly what that means regarding things like dex bonuses, but at a minimum, it’s a great way to get into full plate as a bard.
- 5000 – Quickness (MIC 13) – Increase movement by 5′. Good for melee bards.
- 6000 – Speed (MIC 14) – Haste yourself for 1 round, three times per day.
- 8000 – Healing (MIC 12) – Heal you automatically if you are reduced to -1 to -9 hitpoints. Also can be activated manually as a swift action. Pricey, but I like the “save me” automatic effect
WandsThere are two basic types of wands:
- 50 Charges (DMG 245) – You pay a certain amount of gold (750 for level 1) and you get 50 uses of any spell level 4 or lower, which includes divine spells.
- Eternal Wands (MIC 159)- These wands cost a little more than their 50 charge counter parts (820 for level 1). You get two activations a day, forever. They can only hold arcane spells of 3rd level or lower.
- Caster Level – Unless you’re willing to pay a lot of gold, the caster level of a wand is the minimum caster level needed to cast the spell held within. So for level 0 and 1 spells this is typically level 1. For level 2 spells this is typically level 3, etc.
- Key Ability Score – Similarly, the key ability score is assumed to be the minimum necessary. So for level 1 spells this is 11, level 2 is 12, etc.
- Cast Time – According to the MIC (85) activating a wand takes the same aount of time as it takes to cast the spell it holds
- Aspect of the Wolf (SpC 16) – Become a wolf for 10 minutes. Ok!
- Benign Transposition (SpC 27) – 100′ range, swap two allies. Perfect for a wand.
- Blockade (CS 95) – This is exactly the kind of spell we’re looking for for an eternal wand. Lasts 3 rounds, makes a 5x5x5 cube, and no part of the spell depends on key stat or caster level. Boom
- Ebon Eyes (SpC 77) – The 10 minute duration is a little sad here, but the spell is very strong for level 1. Some people feel like it’s written poorly, and those people are right. That being said, if your DM wil let you use it as written, it’s a powerful spell.
- Detect Secret Doors (PHB 220) – This is a fine spell to have in a wand. 1 minute duration, 60′ cone. Find secret doors, compartments, etc.
- Friendly Face (RoD 166) – +5 to diplomacy and gather information for 10 minutes. Oh yes, I love this on an eternal wand.
- Nerveskitter (SpC 146) – +5 to initiative for you or a teammate within 25′. This is amazing. Put it in a wand chamber in a mithril buckler. Note: this immediate cast consumes your first round’s action, so it is kind of a no-combo with swift inspire courage via song of the white raven
- Ray of Enfeeblement (PHB 269) – This is solid. The only things that scale are range and the +1 modifer, but the spell is still pretty good at close range with only +1.
- XXXX – Runestaff (MIC 224) – Get access to spells that you can cast using your own spell slots. Note that the language about “minimum level 3” has been errata’d. This item is a great way to expand your spell slots. Make a custom one and ball out. Check out the spell “Hound of Doom” that ‘Jordan’ pointed out. It’s a pretty good fit for a bard.
- 300 – Least Crystal of Return (MIC 65) – Draw a weapon as a free action, can move it to the weapon of choice. I really like this.
- 350 – Ehlonna’s Brooch (CC 134) – Give summoned creatures +1 HP per hit dice. Really inexpensive, non-slot boost. I like this.
- 500 – 81000 – Knowstones (DM333 pg93) – Add spells to your known spell list for gold. This is a rare ability and a nice feature for bards. Look at the lower level spells.
- 400 – Charm of Countersong (MIC 85) – Lets you activate countersong as an immediate action. Countersong should just work this way. Given that it doesn’t, this turns countersong from an absolutely terrible ability to something that’s at least usable. I wish it didn’t consume a neck slot, but it costs next to nothing.
- 500 – Iron Ward Diamond (MIC) – Get DR 1/- for 10 HP a day. Pretty good value. Compare to a +2 belt of constitution for 4000.
- 500 – Talisman of the Disk (MIC 188) – There’s a whole handbook dedicated to abusing this spell. I’m not a big fan of these, but some people might really enjoy them. For 500gp, who can blame you for trying it out? Have fun!
- 750 – Healing Belt (MIC 110) – Alot of healing that’s useful out of combat or in combat for a pretty low price. I like this item a lot.
- 500-1200 – Amber Amulet of Vermin (MIC 68) – These things are so low priced for the effect. I like the Wasp and stag beetle a lot. If your DM doesn’t mind you having these (and some DM’s might) these things are amazing.
- 900 – Acrobat Boots (MIC 67) – +2 to Tumble, swift activate: more movement this round. Not bad.
- 1000 – Vest of Resistance (MIC 147) – +1 to all saves on a desirable body slot. Great.
- 1100 – Gloves of the Starry Sky (MIC 204) – Gain the ability to cast magic missiles at your own caster level three times a day (using your own spell slots). Also get a light spell at will. Great value.
- 1200 – Badge of Valor (MIC 207) – 3 activations per day. Grant bonuses to saves or +1 to the next inspire courage, activate as swift action. This is a great item for a really low cost. The only reason not to have this is because you need the neck slot for something better at really high levels. (It’s actually worth considering getting the entire regalia of the hero set; the cost is low and the benefits are solid). Note: if you have swift inspire courage from Song of the White Raven, you can still use this, but you have to activate it as an immediate action after your turn is over. On your turn you won’t get the bonus yourself, but for the rest of the fight it’ll be active.
- 1200 – Bracelet of Animal Transformation (ToHS 56) – Turn into an animal for 1 hour, once per day. Way way way underpriced.
- 1400 – Anklet of Translocation (MIC 71) – twice a day teleport 10′ as a swift action. I love this.
- 1600 – Headband of the Lorebinder (MIC 110) -+4 bonus to bardic knowledge checks, and read magic 3 / day. Not bad, and a good price, but you’ve got better things to do with the headslot.
- 2000 – Helm of Tactics (MIC 208) – Give allies +2 to damage. Not great on its own, but it’s part of the Regalia of the Hero set that Badge of Valor comes from, and two pieces also gives a nearby ally +5 to attack, save, or skill check as an immediate action. That’s a lot of value on a single item.
- 2000+ – Crystal Third Eye (Web) – This is pretty sweet. Get an odd number bonus to ability scores for less gold. This is a pretty esoteric item and some DMs might look at it sideways, but if you can use it it’s a great way to min-max.
- 2600 – Third Eye Freedom (MIC) – A really nice panic button. Freedom of movement for one round, immediate activation mental.
- 3700 – mithral bells (mic 111) – a bracelet of 11 mithril bells. as long as there are at least 2, you get +2 to perform checks. in addition, you can throw a bell up to 40′, and it explodes as a sound burst effect. not bad, a little pricey. it’s good at low levels, but doesn’t make a ton of sense at low levels. i wonder if you can get a discount one with just two bells left. +2 to perform for 1000 gold doesn’t sound bad.
- 4000 – Goggles of the Golden Sun (MIC 205) – Gain teh ability to cast fireball three times per day, using your own spell slots and caster level. Also get immunity to blindness and dazzling effects. I love this. Combined w/ the gloves of the Starry Sky you’ll also get a cold resistance 5 for the set.
- 4000 – Stormfire Ring (MIC 206) – Prety good value for 4000. The fact that it also reveals invisibility is nice. Very bad versus resistances, but otherwise I like this one a lot.
- 4000 / 16,000 / 40,000 – Mirror of Vanity (BoEM1 32) – +2/4/6 to charisma, doesn’t use a body slot, and it has some crappy gaze attack attached. I mean, it’s a cloak of charisma that doens’t use a body slot. It works as long as its “in your possession”. Wow!
- 4000 / 16,000 / 36,000 – Cloak / Headband of Charisma (DMG) – +2, +4, or +6 to Charisma. This is an essential item. Bonuses to everything that matters, particularly spell DC’s.
- 4400 – Sacred Scabbard (MIC 182) – Three times a day, bless your weapon as a swift while its drawn, lasts 10 rounds. Price is good, casting time is good, effect is good.
- 5000 – Horn of Resilance (MIC 208) – The third item in the Regalia of the Hero. DR 5/- is pretty sweet. 50 more temporary hit points is sweet. Only two activations a day, though, and standard to activate. Also the full set bonus item isn’t too exciting. I like this, but not as much as the other two.
- 6000 – Amulet of Wordtwisting (MIC 71) – +2 insight bonus to all the social skills. Not bad. If you’re an orc, you get +4 instead, and you also can activate 1/day to cast tongues. Great for an Orc Bard, OK for other bards.
- 12000 – Gauntlets of Heartfelt Blows (DM314 p22) – +CHA_MOD in fire damage for melee attacks. That’s great.
- 12000 – Mantle of Second Chances (MIC 115) – Reroll as an immediate action, before knowing the result, once per day. Good effect, but too expensive.
- 14000 – Veil of Allure (Sand 135) – +2 to enchantment spell DC, and +2 to CHA-based supernatural abilities. Unfortunately this doesn’t hit too many spells I recommend nor does it hit any bardic musics. I think this is a pass.
- 15000 – Desperation Chain (MIC 93) – Goes around the waist. Allows you to cast a spell as an immediate action and without verbal and somatic components when you’re about to die or being disabled by an opponent (pinned, etc.) This is very strong.
- 16000 – Vest of Legends (DMG2) – +5 to diplomacy and perform; bard level counts as 5 levels higher for inspire courage, fascinate, inspire greatness, and inspire heroics. Very good.
- 27000 – Mantle of the Silver Dragon (Drac 121) – +2 to Charisma, fly 1/day. Not bad, but very expensive for the effect.
- 32000 – Item of Continuous Harmonize (custom wondrous item) – Harmonize is a 2nd level spell which lets you activate bardic musics as a move action. The cost for making a custom magic item of continuous effect is 2000 * spell_level(2) * caster_level(4) * 2 (since the spell has a 1min / level duration). Put this on a ring or something. The only reason I don’t love this is because it’s expensive (and magic item slots eventually become a bottleneck).
Thank you for putting this together! This is a great collection of bardic wisdom consolidated in one place, and it’s far more thorough than any 3.5 bard handbook to date. The excellent and consistent formatting combined with anchor links really make this a pleasure to use.
Extra bonus points for publishing it on my birthday 🙂
Awesome, thanks. 🙂 Consider it a birthday present.
Thank you so very much for your time and effort.
I will use the heck out of this.
Glad it helped you!
Hey, awesome handbook. A friend of mine asked for my help with his bard and I’m getting a lot of tips from here.
You forgot to add the Ray of dizziness, it’s a wonderful spell.
Thanks! I’ve added a note on that spell. It seems worse than slow to me, but definitely reasonable, especially if your DM likes to give you a single big bad guy to fight a lot (as opposed to a group of reasonably strong bad guys).
You said it all. Since most of our players play optimised characters, the DM is many times giving us big bad evil guys frequently instead of plenty of minions. They normally have high AC and saves, so casters focus more on buffing the team or using spells that offer no save.
This page totally rocks. You totally rock. Thank you!
Glad you like it! 🙂
This page is great, thanks for all of the work you put into this and for sharing it with everyone! A small heads up on Harmony – it was turned into Inspirational Boost in the Spell Compendium. I learned about a few spells from your list, then went and did some digging and found a few more you could add. Would you be open to putting the book each spell is from and the page number? I could help with some.
Sure, I’d love to give books and pages for the spells. If you have any available, please email me (Joshua@JesterBlocks.net) and I’ll update those, and the rest when I can find a little time. Thanks for the note on Harmony, btw.
You forgot a spell in your list, summon swarm. By it’s self not all that powerful, but when you consider how it could be combined with dragonfire inspiration, you have a nasty little DoT combo that due to swarm traits can’t be avoided by the target. As long as they occupy the targets space at the end of their move, the swarm critters will deal damage which now includes the boost from dragonfire inspiration.
Inspire Courage: Increase bonus by 1 at levels 3, 7, 13, and 19;
under masterwork Lute should read
Inspire Courage: Increase bonus by 1 at levels 7, 13, and 19;
Thanks buddy, I’ve updated it!
Wow man. This is really nice. I’ve been toying with some melee bard builds and that’s what I’ve put together so far:
Bard 4/Warblade 16
Pretty straightfoward. 2nd level bard spells, 9th level manuevers, 19 BAB. Lots of damage.
Have a fair amount of MAD, needing str, cha, int for words of creation and warblade abilities and dex if you go two weapon fighting (not recomended on a point buy build)
If your DM allows LA buyoff, a Draconic Human (RDr 74) can be a descendant of a Battle Dragon and get a sonic Dragonfire Inspiration at level 1, along with perfect stats increases.
Song of the White Raven is what make this build possible, get it at level 6. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be using the Inspire Courage as a swift action since you be using your swift action to get a Inspirational Boost.
Bard 4/Crusader 16
Ditto above, but with less MAD, less damage and more defenses.
Although Aura of Chaos combined with a Falchion and the multiple dice rolls you get from Dragonfire Inspiration can net a pretty high DPT, it really shines on its defensive abilities, adding charisma to will and getting Mettle later on, toghether with nice healing maneuvers.
Bard 7/Crusader 2/Jade Phoenix Mage 1/Sublime Chord 2/Abjurant Champion 5/Jade Phoenix Mage +3
A little bit less melee power, but full spellcasting from sublime chord (9th level wiz/sor spells), great defense from crusader 2 (steely resolve and cha to will) and abjurant champion (you can get a Shield spell from a really cheap runestaff, and Luminous Armor and Greater Luminous Armor using Arcane Preparation feat from Complete Arcane).
The last 3 levels of Jade Phoenix Mage are in the end because you can get a little higher level maneuver at JPM 3, but it’s not really necessary and you can get it before Abjurant Champion if you want.
Bard 4/Harmonious Knight 2/Spellsword 1/Abjurant Champion 2/Eldritch Knight 1/Sublime Chord 2/Abjurant Champion +3/Eldritch Knight +5
This one is a little bit more complex, have no maneuvers, but I feel it is stronger than the previous one with better BAB (marginal, but better), cha to all saves (instead of just will). Get shield and luminous armor the same way as above.
Races is always Draconic Human as pointed at the first build, but if your DM doesn’t allow LA buyoff, Silverbrow Human can probably get Draconic Heritage (Battle) saving you a feat in Dragontouched and getting you Feather Fall 1+/day in exchange of some skill points and a Dragonborn Lesser Aasimar has some really nice stats increases and dragonblood, but I don’t think it can take Draconic Heritage, because of the way Dragonborn works.
This is great. 🙂
I’ll look everything over and work it into the builds section. Thanks so much!
One thing I just noticed… Your description of displacement is totally wrong. You touch an ally to give him total concealment and now the big stupid fighter that will charge on the enemy as soon as he can will only be hit 50% of the time. Or you can just cast on yourself if you are dealing with ranged enemies and fell that you will be in danger. It’s a nice buff on my point of view. Maybe not blue since it’s a 3rd level spell, but definitely not red.
You might want to add “Martial Study” to your feat list. If only as an option to get intimidate in class.
Sweet, added it. Thanks a bunch for your input. 😀
The badge of valor (MiC 207) costs 1400 gold not 1200 gold
My copy of the MIC shows 1200 gp. Was it errata’d?
The Regalia of the Hero table lists it as 1200 gp, but the price under the Badge of Valor’s actual entry on the following page is 1400 gp. The throat-slot table entry on p. 253 also gives the price as 1400 gp.
Well formatted, easy to navigate. I love it.
As far as focusing on lower levels harder, that’s just Benford’s law in action.
And I’m gonna assume yellow means cheese. I mean that Firre, I can see so much potential. 🙂
On the other hand, Stormsingers make me wish D&D had bass-guitars.
DM let us use only player hand book,all the complete,MIC,BoED. Some idea for a good bard build??? probably i will cover buffer role and 2nd melee Fighter supporting us main melee class.
Two weapon fighting feat tree and knowledge devotion for sure. Leadership if you’re in the mood to manage paperwork.
Spellbreaker Song alternate class feature (it’s not much of an improvement, but it’s an improvement.)
I’d look at the Lyric Thaumaturge, Abjurant Champion, and Eldritch Knight prestige classes.
Spells: Alter Self if your DM allows it. Grease, glitterdust, bladeweave, inspirational boost, silent image, prestidigitation,
invisibility, blink, haste, etc. (Most of the good spells are from the PHB or Spell Compendium; just look at my list above.)
Aside from that, you’ll have to read the handbook and work it out for yourself. 🙂 I’m actually working on some prototype bards to put under builds, and I will be including at least one melee bard, but I haven’t finished them yet.
THX for Tips i will work around Them (i don’t like a lot 2 weapon fight cause of the Hig Dext needed but is only a personal opinion:-) )
Ehi dude! That’s a Great work and sure You’re great! But… Why don’t you consider or suggest Hexblade in base classes? A dip of two level grants to your pg charisma to your saves while a dip of three level can give to you both charisma to saves and mettle! If we want to take a dip of four level we can take dark companion or familiar plus other stuff I listed before 🙂 Anyway, imho Hexblade gives a badass look. Thanks a lot for your hard work from Italy!
Thanks David. I’ll take a look at this and include it above.
I just wanted to ask, why are gnomes marked as a bad choice? I can see why a Whisper Gnome makes a bad choice, but what’s wrong with regular gnomes? For a buffer, debuffer, or caster bard, they’re great. For those types of bards, they take a penalty in a dump stat, get a boost to an important one, a boost to the DCs of Illusion Spells (Of which the bard can take many), a nice extra boost to listen. They seem like a good choice to me, but that’s just me.
Mainly it’s an issue of only having 5 ranks to work with. Gnome is not a bad choice, it’s just not a stand-out good choice. It’s true that I have both gnome and dwarf ranked at 2 stars, but the gnome is significantly better than the dwarf. The gnome is definitely the best of the ones I list at 2-stars, and I can see the argument for bumping him up to three.
However, if you look at the other races, you’ll see that the gnome is solidly worse than the 3-star races (Star Elf, Gruwaar, Illumian, Spellscale). These races offer charisma boosts as well as some cool abilities. Gnome only adds some cool abilities.
That being said. I could see an argument for me bumping up some of the 3-star races to 4-star, and moving things like the gnome to 3-star. It’s a balancing act. I’ll take a look at it. 🙂 Thanks for the input.
I get what you’re saying. Once you leave core, gnomes do come across as somewhat lesser in comparison, but within core, pretty much the only good choice besides human. Also, I would argue that the constitution bonus makes them more versatile compared to a more fragile race like Star Elves, since gnomes have the option to go melee with feats like “Confound the Big Folk” and with those extra hit points, are definatley more suited for the job. Anyways, thanks for the time you took to look at my question, and thanks for the work you put into this very helpful handbook.
I think I’m going to rework the races section a little. After talking with you I think I could do the tiers in a more helpful way. Thanks!
I finally got around to this edit, and I came to agree with you. Gnomes are pretty sweet as a bard, especially in a core-only setting. I can even see arguments for choosing it over human when you’re limited to the core books. (There aren’t that many exciting feats, and I like a lot of the stuff we get from the gnome). Thanks for this correction!
Great guide mate! The most comprehensive bardic knowledge.
You should add on the list the magnificent cantrip which message is. I am a long time bard (my favourite is running on a two and a half year campaign and still going) and i’ve noticed that I never go around with my friends without some inner communication. I have a storyteller bard and by using oratory as a main perform I can channel my songs and poetics through the message if needed. As long as they can hear you means, as long they are within 100+10/level feet. Plus, being no save no spell resistance you can whisper improper things to your enemies and drive them nuts among other things. It’s fluffy and it’s fun!
Oh that’s sweet. Thanks for the input, I’ll make a note of this in my next round of revisions. 🙂
Thank you man
Hey do you think it would be too much trouble to look at the battle dancer class? I would think a single dip in that class can go a long way for a bard.
It looks weak to me. We don’t get anything that synergizes with the Bard class, just some additional features. I wouldn’t want to slow down the spell progression for this.
That being said, I may be missing something. What are you seeing?
I personally would think the ac to charisma can go a long way if built right.
Yea, that part is nice. I don’t think it’s worth a level dip on the whole, but that is a nice feature.
I suppose I still think it’s worth adding just for references sake. Even if it’s only one star it should be mentioned for anyone who thinks they can make it work.
I agree. I will be adding it in the next revision. Thanks. 🙂
I totally used your guide to direct me in building a bard in 3.5. I had never played one before and am usually a warrior type with a focus on DPS. I went totally opposite after my warrior died and went Bard / Lyric Thaumaturge (we are at lvl 10) then going onto Sublime Chord. I am totally focused on buff which is again something that our group has never done. My Bard has completely changed the face and how the party functions in battle. My who group made fun of me for my selection until the first battle… then they were blow away at how better everyone stats and effectiveness was. Thank you very much!!!!
Awesome. 🙂 Glad it helped you!
Amazing resource but why is the Aasimar rated higher than the Celadrin when the latter seems to synergize better and is ostensibly a half elf?
I’m a little confused. You wrote this:
“Sublime Chord – Get up to 9th level spell casting with this class, plus some cool abilities. Entry cost isn’t too high. It pulls spells from the wizard / sorcerer list or bard list, whichever is better. A great 2-level dip or 6-level dip. (Then you’ll want to use something that progresses spellcasting to get to 10th level casting of this).”
Bard 8, Sublime Chord 2, Lyric Therm 10
My Bard casting level would be 18, right? And only the 4th and 5th level spells would be increased due to Sublime Chord. That is, once I leave Sublime Chord at L2, I don’t get the benefits of spell progression in that class. That is, up to L 9 spells.
So at L 20, my spells would be (L1) 4, (L2) 4, (L3) 4, (L4) 4, (L5) 3, (L6) 2 – just as they appear in a standard table with no other adjustments.
Is that right? If so, I can’t see the point of a two level dip.
You’ve got it right, but there’s another option: Any class that progresses general spellcasting can be used to progress sublime chord’s spells.
Lyric Thaumaturge can only progress bard casting, so that doesn’t get the job done.
On the other hand, something like Virtuoso can progress the sublime chord’s spells. Most of the classes under the “Spell Progression / Abilities (not Bard Specific)” can progress Sublime Chord. IIRC Virtuoso is the only general spell progressor that also progresses bard abilities.
My favorite 3.5 caster build is:
4 L. Thaumaturge
10 Sublime Chord
However, if your DM will let you use the 3.0 Virtuoso (from SaS) you definitely want to use it; it’s amazing.
Thank you for clearing it up. Virtuoso is really a great prestige class for spell casting bards.
Before I continue, this guide is really solid work. Timely, too. I’m melting down my tank so a newer player can play fighter. So, I’m slipping into a utility function. Enter: Bard. The good news is that he starts at L12 and I get the gp value to buy magic for him at the same value of the gold my old character had – and that guy was loaded.
I haven’t finalized my bard yet.
Bard 8/Dip 1/Sublime Chord 2/Virtuoso 9
I’m on the fence about a dip in Cloistered Cleric or Crusader. Leaning toward Crusader, for the reason you noted (swift action IC). Of course, I’m taking the dip earlier. No point in waiting until L20.
The role (in order) is Face man, buffer, skill monkey, .
Why would you jump from Bard at 6 and not 8? You get your next boost to IC at 8, unless you wager magic will boost it later.
Firstly, I think your build is very reasonable. Here are the reasons I prefer my build:
1. I love expanding my spell list with the 3rd level of Lyric Thaumaturge.
2. I really like getting more spells per day with levels 1 and 4 of LT.
3. I like getting captivating melody.
4. I don’t like losing a level of spell progression for the 1st level of the 3.5 Virtuoso, making everything happen a level late.
That being said, I don’t think there’s a big difference in power level between the two builds, and if you can get a lot of value out of a single level dip (now sorta costing you two levels of casting, in total) I could see that being a real big plus, especially for a gishy bard.
Let me know what you finally make and why you like it, and I’ll include it in my builds section!
Will do. I think it’s also important to lay out the rest of the party, so you and others see what’s already in the party.
1 Wizard and 1 Sorcerer
1 Druid, built to tank with a bear that tanks
1 Cleric built less to heal than take advantage of the higher level divine capabilities
Roguish character built more like a stealthy backstabber with a shadow companion
New person joining the group will likely play a fighter, to ease him into gameplay
So, there are a lot of roles filled. I like your Bard6/Therm4/SC10 concept. With two arcane casters, a druid and a cleric, the only reason I’m not going that direction is because (1) there isn’t a need, (2) I’m playing a Wizard5Incantor10/Archmage5 (L15 right now) in another campaign and I’m getting my arcane fix there, and I’d really like to play more of a bardish bard. That’s why I’m interested in progressing bard levels and skills at the expense of 1 or 2 arcane casting levels.
Like you, if I really wanted to build arcane power, I’d never give up a casting level. Virtuoso provides a good trade off to progress both bard and arcane, given my concept.
Yea I agree that a gishy-type build would be a fun add to that campaign. I haven’t yet worked out my favorite bard-gish, but I’m pretty sure it involves working with the materials in the Book of Nine Swords to get access to swift-cast inspire courage. Good luck, and let me know what you ultimately decide on!
What a great guide you did there! I started playing as a bard just two months ago and you helped me a lot with this guide! I’m having much more fun and my character is much better after taking a good look into your guide! I’m in a low level campaign with a core bard at a 6 players table. All of them are impressed by the way I’m buffing/helping in the fights and in the social parts. The only problem is that I’m using the masterwork mandolin just by flavour purposes since I play it in real life :P, but the +1 bonus on attack are quite useful, at least for now at the low levels.
Thank you very very much for your guide. Very didatic and easy to use.
Hail from Brazil!! And sorry for the bad english.
😀 Bards are so great. I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself and that this handbook helped you! Let me know if you come across any useful bits of information that I can include.
Does the Crystal Echoblade give Bard level damage or 1/2 of Bard level damage? My book says 1/2, but there may be a change.
My MIC says half as well, thanks for the correction!
Thanks for adding my suggestion even though it sucked…I do have one question though.
You say a dip in rouge is only 2 stars, what if you decided to dip into martial rouge for a level or 2 for the bonus fighter feats?
No problem, thanks for the suggestion. It might fit someone’s character idea perfectly, so I’m happy that it’s now included.
A 2-level dip into Marital Rogue looks worse than a 2-level dip into Fighter, to me. I would rather have another feat and better BAB than trapfinding and evasion. That being said, it’s about the same. If you like the rogue-y stuff but want a feat, this is a way to get there.
Hey. I’m playing a bard for the first time. My DM often plays them, but she is newish to dming so at the time the character was created I was only given the option to use the core books. I have my bard working towards taking the prestige class Duelist. With the size of group we have I don’t think that experimentation will hurt me any, but I’m wondering if I could get your input on my choice of prestige class. I have all the feats for it I just want to get a few more bard levels before I get into that.
In core-only, I believe Bard 20 is the strongest build by a good margin. Make sure to take tumble as a skill, and spend your feats to focus on combat: stuff like improved trip, weapon focus, power attack, and combat expertise. I would avoid the dodge tree. Then, when picking your spells, focus on spells that improve your combat abilities. (And see if your DM will allow bladeweave from the spell compendium, because it’s awesome for a melee bard). Out of all of the options available in core, I think this will make the most powerful class, and it is the classic gish build. Really, the core bard is a well designed class. There’s no need to tinker with it.
That being said, if you really want to focus on melee even more than the core class does, I don’t think duelist is the best way to do that. Duelist doesn’t give you enough in return for all those spells you lose. Instead, I think Eldritch Knight is the way to go: you get the higher BAB, an extra fighter feat, along with 9 levels of casting progression. To go this route, you’ll need to dip into one of the martial-weapon classes (Fighter, Barbarian, Paladin, or Ranger) to get into eldritch knight (it requires proficiency with all martial weapons).
Here are some builds, roughly ordered in what I think is best to worst.
Bard 9 / Fighter 1 / Eldritch Knight 10.
Bard 9 / Paladin 1 / Eldritch Knight 10.
Bard 8 / Fighter 1 / Cleric 1 / Eldritch Knight 10 (This one is worth looking at closely, see my section on cleric above).
Bard 8 / Paladin 2 / Eldritch Knight 10.
Bard 9 / Barbarian 1 / Eldritch Knight 10.
Bard 9 / Ranger 1 / Eldritch Knight 10.
Remember that you’re going to be activating Inspire Courage most fights, and it progresses as you go higher in bard levels. Any benefits in BAB and damage you get from the melee classes are going to be dwarfed by this alone, not to mention the spells you would lose.
I can’t stress enough that Bard 20 is the best way to go. 🙂
Well. He’s kind of built and used already. So I’m kicking myself for a few choices in feats and the like now. She’s just opened up the other books (provided she has access to them either in hard copy or on her computer) so I’m hoping to minimize some mistakes. We have a 6-7 member party though so any errors I’ve made shouldn’t have too great an impact on the whole. Unless we have an all casters game where none of our fighters are able to make it… Then we might have issues. So when I can I’m going to get a summons spell as a just in case.
If I could I would get an amulet of vermin huge monsterous scorpion, it did really well by me in another campaign and saved the whole party numerous times. I don’t think she’d allow me that one any time soon though.
So far I’ve picked out some items to have him go shopping for and I’m going to start grabbing some metamagic feats to do some catch up on what I should have taken….
I believe DMs should let players do minor re-working to their characters as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the story line. I never have a problem with a character in one of my games changing feats as they learn more about the class, as long as the story we’ve told together so far makes sense and the character “feels” the same.
You can try talking to your DM about re-work some of the choices you’ve if you think he/she will be open to it.
I hadn’t thought of that. I will ask. It might be a ‘no’ though as we have a min/max player who tends to break our games. We don’t have anything against min/maxing but when it’s just one person doing it…. We’ve had our other DM almost party wipe us a few times trying to give us a boss he wouldn’t one hit while still not killing everyone else. If I get to do a re-work then he would too, and he would get a bit whiny if he couldn’t change quite a few things.
But it never hurts to ask.
Oh, and you should definitely look at the two-weapon fighting feats.
I sort of see the character using just a rapier. I’m thinking of having him get a buckler to up his AC slightly while keeping his hands mostly free.
Two-weapon fighting and I have not gotten along well in the past. I swear it’s a jinxed feat for me. I do fine in combat until I get that feat and then all my rolls just… Ten or less on me. And getting rid of the penalties doesn’t help much of your base rolls would never be enough to beat an enemies AC. She also kind of nerfed magic on us a bit by having what seems to be a 50% chance of a spell not working. Or doing something we don’t expect. Which has been fun on an rp level but frustrating during combat. I took bard because I could still melee reasonably well, but it seemed like she was hoping someone would be a caster. As much fun as it is to be a 6’2 human who thinks he’s a halfling… I kind of feel like I should have been a half elf ranger again. But I wanted access to the healing spells as a just in case measure.
So I’m trying to operate as a face, melee in a pinch, and just a hint of skill nut. But if I can make my spells more useful I would. She’s being difficult on what I want to do and keeps changing her mind on whether I can swap Mobility for Quicken Spell or not.
Ah. I missed the part in your guide that mentioned I would need rapid metamagic before quicken spell will work for me. And I don’t have the prerequisites for that yet. I’m just going to leave my current feats as they are and work on doing some damage control in the next few levels. Will probably work on boosting my bardic song. I will do some reading before I play a bard again.
Maybe you can give me some advice on this build om working on.
I’ve been working on this sunite dancer bard, but i just can’t find the one thing that puts her together.
I know that i want her to go into heart warder from level 10-20
I want her to have a focus on enchanting, illusion, intel gathering, party face, and hit and run tactics when she’s forced to fight.
Basically i want her to be an enchanting thief that relies more on her silver tounge then her combat prowess.
and the general build path is Bard 1/Battle Dancer 1/Bard 4/??? 4/ Heartwarder 10
I don’t know what would work well for those 4 missing levels, I considered cloaked dancer, but people say its mechanically bad
Any ideas? The only thing i know for sure is i would prefer it if the class had 6+int skill points gain and spell casting.
Your build already has five levels of bard, so I would definitely go at least one more level into bard to get suggestion (or, if you can be half-elf, command).
For the last 3 levels, I can see a solid argument for sticking with bard. In addition, you could look at memory smith, lyric thaumaturge, Jade Phoenix Mage, fatespinner, and swiftblade.
Thanks for the suggestions however I wanted to ask, is there a way to get haste to qualify for swift blade before level 3 spells for bard?
Not that I know of. If you find anything, definitely let me know!
One last thing, I’ve been looking into this prestige class called the cloaked dancer. Everyone i talk to say its bad but no one ever goes into much detail about it. Maybe you can help me out with that?
It’s weaker, but if you like it it’ll be fun. The Beguiling Dance definitely has some broken possibilities. (Turn someone into helpful via normal means, and then turn them fanatical with that ability.)
The abilities aren’t that good, and you lose 3/5 spell levels. If you feel some desire to play it, go for it! It’s not as good as straight bard in terms of power, but if you’re OK with that then dance it up.
If you are looking for good bard feats, Chaos music (Dragon Magazine 326 page 80) is something to look at. It can be taken early and treats your bard level like it is four levels higher for determining your bardic music usage, up to your maximum hit die, so it is great in multiclass builds.
I use it for my Bard1/Wizard4/Stormsinger 10 Build. (lets you burn bardic music for damage and control effects) the feats to get into that prestige class are bad, but because it allows you to deafen enemies with bardic music, (20% spell failure from deafness is huge) In this build combination, you can use bardic music like you are level 15, but you do miss out on suggestion. you cast like a wizard like your level 14, and you have a number of damage and debuffs from stormsinger.
Also the capstone ability is fairly insane when you have two going at once (if your dm is kind and allows you to maintain a bardic music on a fiddle, while starting a new one)
Thanks! I had mistakenly put Chaos Music in the Prestige class section (instead of the feat section). Fixed! I agree; that feat is very strong.
That seems like a fun build!
Thanks for this wonderful guide ! I am wonderring if you think we can maintain Insprire courage while blinking with the spell ?
I think so. Nothing in the spell description of blink suggests that aura effects are limited.
In addition, blinking wouldn’t impede your ability to sustain the effect. If anything, it would impede your ally’s ability to gain the benefits (you would always hear yourself, but maybe your ally can’t hear you when you’re on the ethereal plane).
Given that you blink many times per second, and the effects of inspire courage last 30 seconds (i.e. 5 rounds) after your allies stop hearing it, I don’t think there’s any fair minded argument that says it should stop working or have a limited effect.
For example, if you activated inspire courage, stopped it, and then 3 rounds later (18 seconds later!) started a new inspire courage, your allies would have an unbroken benefit. See what I mean?
I see what you mean. Thanks for your analysis and your time.
Generally I would just need 3 levels with the one level in spellcasting being enough to qualify for heartwarder, and the main idea is for intel gathering and diplomancy to come first with everything for combat coming second. Plus it costs almost NOTHING to get into.
So yeah I think i found my Answer, Thanks.
Oh i got an interesting idea, so the other day i talked to you about cloaked dancer right and it cemented my idea well. I was thinking with melodic casting can i still cast spells while dancing? Since it takes a concentration check to maintain it and with melodic casting the checks are now separate.
I don’t think so. All of Cloaked Dancer’s dances require concentration to maintain, and typically maintaining concentration is a standard action. You could cast swift spells, or you could look at something like the swift concentration skill trick, but I don’t think melodic casting helps at all.
Huh? I thought a concentration check was a free action?
So the cloaked dancer class isn’t 100% clear in the way its written, but given that maintaining a spell via concentration is a standard action, and all of the bardic musics that require concentration consume your standard action, I think the intention here is that the various dances use your standard action to maintain. (If not, beguiling dance becomes bonkers good, and is unprecedented in the rule books.)
If you have any doubt, you can ask at the RPG stack exchange (http://rpg.stackexchange.com/), you’ll get a better answer than I gave very quickly.
I see…hmm now that i think about it aside from say a Lyric thaumaturge build is melodic casting as “required” for bard as i think?
It’s not “required”, but it does a lot: You effectively gain one skill point per level (since you don’t need concentration anymore), and you can be sure that the Inspire Courage you turn on in round 1 lasts the entire fight, not just 6 rounds.
You can get by without it, but it’s one of the better options.
Why did you rate Seeker of Song same as Virtuoso (3.5 one)? They are definitely not in the same weight category. Seeker is pretty underwhelming one. Let’s compare their class features.
Seeker of the Song does not progress spellcasting, Virtuoso does 9/10 (which means you can take 1st level earlier and rest use for example to progress Sublime Chord casting, something like Bard 9/Virtuoso 1/Sublime Chord 1/Virtuoso 9). SotS stacks for bardic music ability per day so Bard 10/SotS 10 will have 20 bardic music ability, but V not only stacks with bardic music it gives additional virtuoso music per day AND stacks for Inspire Courage ability (you know, the one that everyone so pumped up about), so Bard 10/ Virt 10 will have 20 bardic music, 10 virtuoso music AND inspire courage +4. SotS you can enter at level 11 and requires you to have Skill Focus (Perform) feat, while you can get in Virtuoso at level 8 and only requires you to have skills that you probably want anyway as a bard. Also Virtuoso gets 2 more skill points per level
Let’s get to class features. SotS have great Combine Songs (the only ***** ability he has) at level 2 and Subvocalize at level 5 which is…ok i guess but after ability to combine songs it’s not really all that relevant. Virtuoso doesn’t have special class abilities.
So, let’s get to the music:
SotS have a lot of music but most of it is * or **. Remember that “refrain” songs can be played only if you already playing non-refrain variant of music, which will negate you awesome ability to play two songs at once. he only good thing about it is good DC (10 + Perform ranks). At level 11 Burning melody (*) gives your allies in 30 ft 15 fire resist, doesn’t scale (as none of the other resists you can give) and already worse that just casting Resist Energy spell at level you get it, as refrain you can give 6d6 fire damage in 30ft cone with reflex save, nuff said. Song of Unmaking (**) lets you damage constructs for d8 per SotS level in 30 ft burst, no save. Unimpressive. Dirge of Frozen Loss (**) – cold resist 15, better than fire because refrain version damages AND gives fatigue condition on failed Fort save, not much better because it’s a line, not a cone. Song of life (***), well the main version is * because immunity to poisons and diseases at level 14 is…underwhelming, but refrain version let’s you heal as standard action touch amount of hitpoints equal to your perform check which is about 50-60 if you optimize it decently, it’s not a heal but at least i can see myself using it from time to time. Anthem of Thunder and Pain (**) – resist electricity 15, refrain is worse version of chain lightning (10d6 initial, 5d6 secondary, 1/3 SotS lvl secondary targets) at level 15. Hymn of Spelldeath (***) that was MOST disappointing song of them, just because initial pitch was so great – everyone who hears your song must beat you perform checks with concentration check to cast spells, no range limit. Wow, this awesome, you think. No, because at the end it says it’s a mind affecting ability. At level 16 people you want to prevent from casting the most already have Mind Blank. Hell, even non-caster at this level usually bother to get some sort of protection from mind-affecting stuff. Base version is ** if only because of how late you get it. Refrain is good *** – area dispel check with SotS + bard level bonus. Ballad of Agony Reborn (**)- resist acid 15, refrain is ranged touch attack to deal 10d6 acid damage and repeat it raound later. Aria of Everywhere (**) – as dimension door, only 25 + 5ft/SotS lvl range and you can’t bring anyone with you. Fun fact – Dimension Door is on your spell list, so you could have had better version of this even before you became SotS. Dirge of Songdeath (***) – sonic resist 15, other bards and bard-like characters in 30ft have to beat your Perform to get their songs going. Refrain is 15d6 sonic damage as ranged touch. Note of Solitude(*) – banish extraplanars in 60ft with will save. Remember that you DC is fairly good? Now forget it because they get +HD to their Will save. This is level 20, most extraplanars you ahve to fight have about half as much HD as you have, which means that unless they roll 1 they ain’t goin’ anywhere.
Now let’s get to Virtuoso. You gain fascinate, so if you swapped this ability for something else, you gain it back, it’s ok (***) just because it allows you to have womthing like Healing Hymn along with it in result. Persuasive Song (****) – make Perform instead of Diplomacy to influence others, now you can optimize one check instead of two, also it’s Ex ability. Sustaining Song (*) – meh, give 1 hp to allies with less than 0 hp. Jarring Song (****) – remember how Hymn of Spelldeath was diappointing? Meet it’s elder brother – not a mind affecting ability and you can get it as early as level 12. Would have better rating if not for 30ft range. Song of Fury (***) – decent buff for melee guys (rage as long as you perform). Becomes better with barbarian in party – he can use his own bonuses, while not wasting his daily use of rage, very good since you have a lot more daily musuic that he has rages. Mindbending Melody (**) – dominate humanoid that you fascinated with ok DC (10 + Virt lvl + Cha mod). Would be better without restriction to type and maybe a bit earlier. Somewhat late upgrade to suggestion. Revealing Melody (****) – true seeing for allies in 30ft, very useful ability.
SotS is at best a 2 lvl dip. Even them you spend considerable amount of resurces for this – one feat and loss of 2 spellcasting levels. I would give it *** as a dip and ** as full progression. His abilities mostly are underwhelming and/or too late for the level you are right now, and you give up considerable amount of your strength.
Also, i wouldn’t say that 3.0 Virtuoso is that much better. Yes, you are getting all bardic music abilities, but if you are a bard, 3.5 version already progresses you best ability – Inspire Courage. Yes, 1 lvl of spellcasting loss is not good (although it does enable trick of getting full Sublime Chord casting and 10 llvl of Vituoso), but doesn’t warrant difference in one rank (i mean between **** and *****). And 3.5 one have 2 more skill points per level.
Music of 3.5 is a bit better. Jarring song of 3.0 made spellcaster make 15 + spell level concentration checks instead of you Perform check, making it a lot less useful. Song of Fury for 3.0 came a lot later and required to spend 3 daily performance PER ROUND to sustain. Mindbending song had lower DC. I guess Sharp Note was ok and something 3.5 version don’t have and Calumny (and it’s greater version) i would rate higher than persuasive song just because of unique effect (making people hate some group instead of making people like you which you could already do with Diplomacy)
I would argue that even War Chanter better than Seeker of the Song if only because he provides with music effects that are relevant to the level, while having better BAB and HD. Also, he too have Combine Songs ability at level 5, so you can get it earlier that one from SotS.
Also from optimization perspective, War Chanter have more potential because he combines well with Warrior Skald from RoF to make bard-like melee attacker
Hey buddy, thanks for your thoughts. I’ll try to read this carefully and incorporate any changes I agree with in my next edit. 🙂
No prob 🙂 You did a really good job compiling this enormous list of options for bard characters, and not just most powerful popular ones like most guides
Hello again, if it’s not to much trouble do you think you could look at the unseen seer prestige class and see what it can offer the bard?
It looks underwhelming. I’d probably rate it two stars.
A strict reading says that you don’t get any benefit at all from the “damage bonus” class unless you’ve got those features already, and I don’t like the 1d4 hit points at all.
10 level of spell progression is nice, and the rest of the class features seem worse to me than a regular bard’s class features, let alone things like sublime chord.
Hey, really awesome handbook! I have some suggestions for other builds. What about Bard 6/Lyric Thaumaturge 4/Sublime Chord 2/Virtuoso 8, aka the Bardest Bard that ever Barded?
Or Bard 6/Mindbender 1/Virtuoso 3/Sublime Chord 2/Virtuoso 7/Sublime Chord 1, with a Mindbender dip to get Mindsight (feat from Lords of Madness that lets you know the type and intelligence score of all creatures within your telepathy radius)?
Or even a Diplomancer: Half-Elf Bard 1/Bard 5/Warlock 2/Mindbender 1/Marshal 1/Exemplar 1/Sublime Chord 9? Mostly a face for the party, but not bad with spells either.
Bard 6/ Lyric Thaumaturge 3/Virtuoso 1 / Sublime Chord 1-2 / Vituoso +8-9 Is better because it doesn’t loose 1 spellcasting level from SC (which means 1 lvl 9, 1lvl 8 and 1 lvl 7 spell known lost). First level of Virtuoso doesn’t progress spellcasting which means you can take it before Sublime Chord and still progress spellcasting with it. On other hand, “Bard 6/Mindbender 1/Virtuoso 3/Sublime Chord 2/Virtuoso 7/Sublime Chord 1” means that you progress bard spellcasting with Virtuoso and have only 3 lvl of Sublime Chord spellcasting
Thanks. Yea, I agree those are interesting and good builds. I’ll add them to the list.
Um would it be too much to ask if you can explain what makes slippers of battledancing so good?
As far as I can tell the only way to make the most of it, is if you get spring attack feat tree which many consider bad.
It has a lot of nice effects that all benefit the gish-bard: 10′ move, +5 to tumble, +2 to initiative, and a conditional +3? to attack.
yes im aware of it but just how do you use it effectively? By that i mean do you need like spring attack and bounding assault and snap kick? or can you get away with…you know just walking up and standard action attacking or something?
I don’t think it’s something you need to play into for it to be good. Three of the four effects are always on and effective.
The bonus to attack is conditional; you won’t get it every attack. But there are plenty of times where you move-then-attack, or attack-then-move, and in those circumstances, the bonus is nice. You can play into them a bit more, sure, but you don’t have to build around it for it to be good.
Hmm in that case do you know anyways to make an effective whip build for bards that doesnt involve tripping?
Whip Dagger + Bladeweave is a real good start.
The whip dagger does real damage at 15′ range, and bladeweave is awesome for any melee weapon. The whip dagger was initially printed in 3.0’s Arms and Equipment guide, and then modernized to 3.5 in the Dragon Compendium 1 (126), Dungeon #134 (pg 50), and Dragon #353 (pg 28).
What about feats recommendations cause that’s causing me the biggest headache.
There’s not a lot of support for Whips in 3.5.
Weapon Finesse, Dragonfire Inspiration, Snowflake wardance, knock down, pyrokineticist PrC, whip climber skill trick, trip and disarm, Curling Wave Strike Feat.
Google “Dnd 3.5 Whip Build”, you’ll get some good results.
Also: Sudden Stunning weapon enchantment (DMG2, see the entry above) and Flay from Weapons of Legacy (although, your DM will have to make it a whip dagger instead of a straight whip).
I would say that Lyric Spell is outright better than Metamagic Song when it comes to Persistent magic builds.
You aren’t limited by having to use the Talifan Song trick. You just pick spells and cast as long as they meet the persist requirements and you have enough bardic music uses.
Which is even better as you can persist any spell up to level 9.
I would still say it is only really relevant to 9th level caster builds, but that is more of a personal preference when it comes to investing so heavily into spell casting.
Also, remember, technically possible to persist a 9th level spell and then heighten it, stupidly wasteful, but possible.
Lyric spell is an awesome feat.
If you’re focused on persist and metamagic stuff, I think metamagic song is better, because it costs 1 less bardic music per spell. (Lyric Spell taxes 1 bardic music to activate, plus 1 for each spell level).
Metamagic song also lets you improve your normal slots, where lyric spell just effectively gives you additional slots.
So I think lyric spell is the better general feat, but metamagic song is better if you’re really focused on a metamagic or persist build.
Hmmm all true, although I would still say that requiring an extra feat to work, having less versatility in general and being limited to level 1-3 spells only stops metamagic song from being as appealing for me.
I find that I usually only use a few bardic uses in a day if that and that by taking lyric spell it allows the caster bard to have more versatility than metamagic song.
I agree about Lyric spell being awesome, especially for a higher-level caster persisting and extending many spells. I played a very paranoid Bard/Sublime Chord who extended or persisted many buffs.
I didn’t have enough 3rd level spell slots for some of the 10 min per level buffs that I cast extended (Dragonskin, protection from energy, Glibness) a couple of times a day at higher levels. Lyric spell lets you cast buffs like these and save spell slots for an emergency Haste spell or whatever.
Hey been a while, i just wanted to know. I’m aware you rank inspire awe fairly high i imagine large in part due to fear escalation,
but how good is it on its own?
I think it’s a good bit worse than inspire courage without fear escalation. The biggest factor is that inspire courage always works, inspire fear often doesn’t.
The minuses to saves is nice, but given that it has a limited range (many creatures are immune) and all creatures get a save, I’d stick with the tried-and-true inspire courage.
In conclusion: I think it’s worse, but not terribly so.
I would like to point you to Mythic exemplar from Complete Champion. It has many easy ways to enter. If you choose Reikhardt as paragon you get a terrible level 1, starting from level 2 the PrC stacks for inspire courage and from level 3rd you get
**+1 level of a class-based extraordinary ability to grant bonuses to allies (such as a marshal’s auras)**
I am not sure about that, but this could mean a +1 to inspire courage or other suitable bardic musics, which is awesome!
By the way, truly great guide, it helped me a lot with my first bard character! Thanks
Awesome! I’ll look at that for the next round of edits. Glad the handbook was helpful to you. 🙂
Inspire courage, and all other bardic musics are either supernatural, or spell-like abilities, NOT extraordinary abilities.
The reason why Marshal’s aura is good for this, is that minor and major auras could be read as being under the “Aura” ability, so both can get the bonus, like a two-for-one.
What are you referring to? Let me know if there’s an edit I should make. Glad for the information. 🙂
Wow this is a great handbook. I’m looking forward to those bard melee builds, specially the bard/crusader and bard/wardblade combinations. Great job!
Thanks buddy. Glad it helped!
Excellent guide! In the Casting in Secret section, you should include the Disguise Spell feat.
“You can cast spells unobtrusively, mingling verbal and somatic components into your performances.”
You make a perform check, and if you beat the audience’s spot check your spell just looks like the natural movements and sounds of your performance. Nobody knows where the spell came from, and the casting can’t be identified with a spellcraft check even.
Thanks! I will next update. 🙂
Hey read through the guide and I loved it! Great work! I’m looking to make a bard for a campaign starting around level 9, with allowed material core+completes(no skill tricks or c.champion). I see that you consider the best core bard build bard 20, but since I’m not entirely core, since Lyric thaumaturge and sublime chord are allowed, would you recommend going bard 6/LT 4/ SC 10? What troubled me about that build is the lack of bardic music progression (although I’ve never played or even seen a bard in action so I don’t know how important it is) and the almost complete lack of sublime chord class features after level 2.
I’d like to play mostly a buffer/debuffer but I’d like to able to mix it up in melee too if possible. LT 4/SC 10 looks great for a pure caster bard but I’m afraid my buffing and gish abilites will be too weak. In your experience can a bard 6/ LT4/ SC 10 still buff fine and get up in melee OK or is it relegated to backline pure casting at mid-high levels (again, I have no bard experience so I’m deferring to your expertise here.) ?
On an unrelated note, I see you don’t mention Divine Crusader as a PrC. It’s an easy way to expand your spell list and get you CHA based divine casting that can probably accomodate most playstyles. Consider this theoretical build: Bard 7/ Abjurant Champion 2/ Divine Crusader 2/Sublime Chord 1/Mystic Theurge 8. It’s entirely CHA SAD dual casting, with 9th level divine and arcane (albeit restricted), that is pretty light on requirements and is an easy way to get 9th divine without playing an evil PC (Ur-Priest) or using exalted feats (which as you say can be campaign warping). Just a Thought!
Hey Zilios. Thanks for a really nice response. I’ll be sure to include Divine Crusader in the next round of edits.
Bard 20 is mechanically weaker than Bard 6 / LT 4 / SC 10. Sublime chord is really strong; that PrC alone moves the bard up from tier 3 to low tier 2.
Bard 10 / Sublime Chord 10 is a fine build, too. If you’d like to emphasize buffing, skills, and BAB a bit more, that might be a good approach for you.
What other classes are going to be in the party? I like carving out a niche based on that.
Thanks for the response! The rest of the party is a Favored Soul that’s focused on archery and healing, a Cleric/Malconvoker summoner and a rogue/swashbuckler. From what they’ve told me, so far they’ve gotten through fights with the favored soul casting Shield other on everyone and spamming heals or attacking when convenient, while the malconvoker provides flankers for the rogue to enable sneak attack. We’re going to be running through the Shackled City adventure path, if you’re familiar with it, I’ll be joining halfway.
Are the lack of class features for the Sublime Chord not a good reason to PrC out after level 2? Perhaps I can convince the DM to allow Lyric Thaumaturge to continue SC casting (it is kind of like bard spellcasting after all!), otherwise isn’t something like Abjurant Champion 4/Sacred Exorcist 4 better from 12 to 20?
I think that build is a really good fit for your party. You’re missing a wizard and a face, and the sublime chord bard can be both.
I think it’s too much of an ask to allow LT to continue SC casting. It seems to me that you’ll probably be the strongest character in the party already, but if your DM will allow it and the other players aren’t sad, have at it.
The sublime chord has a lot of “hidden” features that aren’t too obvious until you really flesh a character out:
* good class skills and OK skill points
* continued progression of bardic musics per day (can you take lyric spell?)
* bardic knowledge bonus (do you have access to the alt. class features lore song or bardic knack? I rule that these stack)
In addition, song of timelessness is a _very_ strong effect. You can use it to save allies (they can intentionally fail the will save) or divide the bad guys into easier groups to fight.
Sacred exorcist doesn’t seem generally good to me, but if you’re going to be in an undead setting for the whole thing, it can be cool. Did you look into Dirgesinger (PrC) and Requiem (Feat)?
For your party, I like Bard 6 / LT 4 / Sublime Chord 10 in terms of raw power and compatibility. That being said, there are plenty of other good options if you want to emphasize something, like fighting undead.
Hey, thanks for this. It is awesome!
I just recently started playing D&D. I don’t know why, maybe for just the amusement factor, but I decided to build a gnome bard. I was thinking about building a gnome ranger for my first campaign, but I ended up going with an elf for that one.
Anyway, this has been a humongous help with trying to find the right feats and spells. I will have to think about Miser’s envy for another level-up. I was wondering about your thoughts on ways to keep weight down on my items/weapons. I have a haversack (my DM made sure I knew about that one). As well as weapons that would be good for me to utilize in my diminutive status.
A haversack really ought to do the trick. If you need more, look at Mithril Armor. Don’t forget that weapons for small-sized creatures weigh less. What’s your strength?
Worth noting that Bards cannot normally benefit from the Silent Spell metamagic feat.
Thanks, good catch. I’ll update that in the next round of revisions.
Oh and to piggy back on an earlier comment regarding Sacred Exorcist: it’s great to one-dip into for Turn Undead, especially if you are using fractional BAB. Sacred Exorcist is 3/4 BAB and has pretty lax entry requirements, so you can round out another BAB if you went something like Bard 7/other 3 before Sublime Chord.
I’m currently playing a Bard 4/Lyric Thaumaturge 3/Paladin 2/War Weaver 1/Sublime Chord 1/War Weaver 2+3/Sacred Exorcist 1/Abjurant Champion 1. Current plan is to finish off with 4 more levels of Abjurant Champion and then 1 in Spellsword for the gold standard 16 BAB and maxed Sublime Chord or drop that BAB for Song of Arcane Power. Sacred Exorcist was what I needed for a BAB and enabled Divine Metamagic (Persistent Spell). Which is pretty high op, but I try not to abuse it and instead only Persist buffs as a way of not needing to bother the DM with prefight buffs.
Anyways, Turn Undead is also great for things like Divine Might and the other Divine feats on a gish build. There’s also that broken counterspell. You probably couldn’t squeeze it into a Jade Phoenix Sublime Build (which I wish I did).
Also, War Weaver is great for a buff-focused caster! 1/2 BAB and drops spellcasting a first level, but if you pick it up before entering Sublime Chord you won’t disrupt high level spells at all. Being able to share Heroism or Heroics (through Lyric Thaumaturge) is just really amazing with larger parties. Plus, buffing the party with short duration spells like Haste as a move action round 1 of the fight can really be an action economy game changer. Move action to cast some buffs, standard and swift for Inspire Courage and you might be set for the combat.
Definitely thrives in large parties, but not to be discounted in 3 or 4 player games.
Thanks for the notes. I’ll have to read them carefully and see what I can include next time I do an update. 🙂
Apologies for the scatterbrained comments. If I get an evening, I might try to consolidate them into a more readable format.
This guide has been a fantastic tool as I’ve advanced and pivoted my Bard character. Hopefully, I can give back in some way with my experiences and forum trolling.
Thank you for the guide!
Thirding War Weaver for adding to this (already awesomely useful) guide. It’s designed for an arcane buffer. Bards have a lot of good buff spells, so make excellent War Weavers.
Being able to release a precast set of buff spells as a move action is awesome for a bard. It helps avoid having to predictably spend the first few rounds of the encounter doing the exact same thing (inspire courage, Haste, make rogue invisible, etc).
A Bard/War Weaver can do all of that in the first round. As the encounter begins, you make a move action, and your party suddenly is invisible, flying, hasted, and displaced (50% miss chance). Maybe you use your standard action to Inspire courage. Then –your party buffing obligations fulfilled– in the next round you can join in and problem-solve more directly. This is a premium way to seriously save on action economy and make playing a bard much more fun.
Bard is one of the few War Weavers who can heal the whole party through the weave!! Free Mass use of your Cure Wounds spells.
Plus you can cast one spell through your weave and have it affect your whole party. Spell efficiency.
I just added war weaver. Yea that class is really strong, thanks for pointing it out. I don’t think I went through Heroes of Battle at all when making this guide, so I’m going to do that when I get a chance.
Getting here a bit late to the party, but you don’t qualify for Lyric Thaumaturge with just Bard 4 since it requires Perform 9 and Bardic Music 5/d.
I can estimate that you took the 2 Paladin levels in the middle of the Bard ones, hence fulfilling the 9 ranks before touching LT, but the Bard Music can’t be filled that way unless you took some weird Feat for it.
Great guide. It helps. The only problem is that im a total noob and im actually trying to right some of the wrongs i have made in character creation. I also have a magical weapon allowing me to learn spells from any class (so im at a loss as to what to get) and all you have are bard spells. Thanks anyway though.
There are lists available on google of the best spells by level. If you can get any spells, some of the ones I list are the very best in the game, but there are many more stronger spells out there for those levels. Have fun!
Re your comments on the Profession skill… isn’t Perform the bard’s “profession” anyway? You can earn up to 3d6 gp/day!
Yup, good point. 🙂 I still can’t think of anything less fun than getting together and pretending to work a profession, though. ^_^
Thank you very much for this wonderful guide. The bard is the best class !
I disagree with the rating of the versatile performer feat. First, it’s cool for roleplaying. Second, It allows much : Music of course, plus declamation to be a troop leader plus picking up on the ticks of others and mimic them, plus using humor to solve a social tensed situation… Third, it permits you to use snowflakes wardance or different music instruments (harmonica, flute..). Fourth, when you use the horn to boost inspire courage, the effect should fade away 5 round later (I can’t imagine using a shield, a sword, and blowing in a horn at the same time). My DM agrees that with this feat, I can blow in the horn, then use declamation to inspire courage, and 5 rounds later, I shall blow again in the horn (taking a standard action), or the inspire courage boost decreases to regular.
Therefore, this feat should be blue and perhaps light blue ! And putting my best score in INT not CHA seemed a better option.
Interesting point. Yea, depending on the DM, this feat could be useful. I’ll make a note next time I update. 🙂
Hey Joshua, been a while. Just wanted to say thanks for being so dedicated to this guide. It’s really helped me out and I pretty much finalized that build i was talking about a while back.
I just wanted your opinion on something. Is there a way, for a bard to have decent damage to their attacks if they
A. Can’t or have no real use for inspire courage
B. Have no real Strength Mod to speak of
C. Can’t use sneak attack(Aka:The dm will not allow the craven feat)
D. Has no real way to make use of Knowledge Devotion.
Any solution is going to be really sub-standard. Why all of the restrictions? If they have to exist, I’d be really inclined to go heavy in the caster direction.
I’m really just trying to weigh all of my options. ideally I can get the craven feat and dole out decent damage with that. Otherwise i would likely just go feat rouge and be something of a supportish role until level 11 when i enter sublime chord
The current loadout is Rouge2/Bard 4/Ardent Dilligante4/Sublime Chord 10 a little unorthodox but something i’m rather proud of.
I’m doing an inspire courage build, with most of my levels going into either crusader, or warblade.
Doing this, as long as I use a white raven stance, I can perform inspire courage as a swift action, and then use maneuvers, and a high BAB (since crusader, and warblade are both full BAB classes). Dragonfire inspiration helps even more, if you’re willing/able to give up the attack bonus from inspire courage.
If you’re just looking to do a more standard bard, you could always get the crystal echoblade, or bow of songs, as listed in the weapons section.
That’s a sweet build. If you feel up to putting together a more detailed summary, I’d love to include it on my builds list.
Song of the White Raven is just great. Swift inspire courage is one of the best uses of feats for a bard, and Bolstering Voice (the best stance, building into SotWR) is a very strong feat.
for the section of “Melee Builds” for bards:
Awesome thanks buddy! I’m a little back logged on updates, but once I sit down to update I’ll definitely take a look at this.
On page 89 of Dragon 338, there’s a pair of bardic music feats: Focused Performer, and Focused Performance. The former is clearly a tax, but I’m curious about your assessment of the latter. Would you mind giving it a look?
Oh man that is a good find. I’ll write something up on it soon. Definitely powerful. I’m a little worried that, because it specifically lists what musics it affects, it might be a little limited in conjunction with the alternate class features I suggest taking.
Definitely needs to be here though. Thanks man!
Focused Performance is absolutely fantastic, good mention! A great way of getting multiple performances at once without losing class levels. I think that and the Inspire Courage buffs are worth the two feats, alone, for some builds (Heartfire Fanner comes to mind) even if you don’t have any of the other standard Bardic Performances.
Other feats from Dragon magazine that are great are the Bloodline feats. Not to be confused with the Bloodline from UA. These are in Dragon 311 and 325, if I recall, but are also in the Dragon Compendium. They add one set spell known per level, but remove spells of a certain category or descriptor from your spell list.
Better for a Sorcerer than a Bard, but still nice.
Necromantic and Anarchic standout for a Sorcerer but are weaker for Bards. Necromantic gives up healing spells and Anarchic has a great list, but a number of those spells are level discounted for a Bard and you don’t get to take advantage of that. Draconic and Earth might be nice, especially for a Sublime Chord.
I posted my analysis of this feat. Unfortunately, on closer look, I think it’s only OK, not too exciting. What do you think?
I would say fairly accurate. I might be tempted to bump the second feat up a star, but I’m could be convinced that three right. I think if it had no pre-req, it would be a five star between Accompaniment and Individual Performance, on par with Words of Creation. But that pre-req feat is terribad, especially since I find myself including Melodic Casting in most builds. The value of the feat really hinges on Accompaniment, which means having something like Dragonfire Inspiration + Inspire Courage or something like Heartfire Fanner or abusing Individual Performance with Words of Creation.
Wow, the bloodline feats from Dragon Compendium seem really strong at first review. I’m going to write something up on them now. Thanks for pointing them out.
Joshua, a moment of your time if you will. I was thinking about the practical applications of Versatile Performer and like you i thought is was less then average as well…but then i thought about how this could really help tight skill builds.
Say you want to have singing, dancing and String instruments for perform. But you only have room for like one
“Pick a number of Perform categories equal to your Intelligence bonus (minimum 1). For the purpose of making Perform checks, you are treated as having a number of ranks in those skills equal to the highest number of ranks you have in any Perform category.” It never said you have to have points in them before hand. So you can just pick perform Dance, pick this feat and suddenly you can use perform Sing and string instruments at max skill rank, suddenly a lot more things are open to you such as the various instruments up on your list. With that in mind shouldn’t this feat be bumped up to at least 3 stars?
Hey Malcolm: I agree. My DMs have always been lax with letting me get away with a single perform and whatever instruments I want to use, so this wasn’t on my radar. But I think a really fair reading is that you need the minimum skills for that song to use an instrument with it. In that context, Versatile Performer might be stronger than I initially thought. I’ll have to sit down and look carefully at things and re-evaluate. Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂
I’m glad someone else remembers Memory Smith Exists. I rolled really well on stats(nothing below 14) so I’m going with a Desert Dwarf(-Dex instead of -Cha) Divine Bard and going into that class for Greataxe & Heavy Armor proficiency + Divine Power. Currently only level 2 with melodic casting, but we’re going all the way to level 20 and I plan to get Versatile spellcaster and Lyric Spell to give me more flexibility with spells. Also traded out Fascinate with Healing Hymn, so overall it’s a very bizarre build.
That sounds pretty fun! If you have a build up to level 20, share it and maybe I’ll be able to include it in the builds section. 😀
Hey man, good job with that guide! I really liked it from the beginning to the end.
Now I wanna ask you some tips
I wanted to make a ranged Bard, that see death and suffering as poetry and art.
Now, it needs a level in Master of Masks for the sole purpose of roleplaying.
What should I do next to optimize it a bit?
I’d like him to sing and enchant weapons
Thanks a lot 🙂
Edit: actually, not enchanting weapons, but having the ability to make arrows or ranged attacks stronger.
All of this while singing and performing. If you have any advice i’m listening 🙂
You could look at Arcane Archer from the DMG. I haven’t seen any interesting bard / archer options in the books otherwise. 🙁
Take a look through the combat feats and the combat bard PRC section. Anything that increases your BAB or gives you more attacks is going to be good. Knowledge devotion seems like a must-have.
Thanks for the reply joshua! After months of doubts, i went for the bard10/lyric thaum4 for now (i’m lvl 14 btw)
The build is pretty strong, imperious command is broken and i always find new ways to use spells and tricks.
All thanks to you!
By now, my changeling Bard is the character i’m enjoying the most.
This may be a silly question, but realistically what choice of weapon would a skillmonkey/caster bard have? Assuming they use a weapon at all.
Putting aside gold cost, there’s no reason not to carry the same weapons as someone who’s focused on combat: a good whip (or whip-dagger) for tripping and synergy with bladeweave, a long sword, and a short bow.
Hi! First of all – congratulations and a big ‘thank you’ – the best guide for the best class.
At first, I intended to go Brd 6, LT 4, SC 10 way and play it as a gish for the first few levels. Our party lacks a proper arcanist, so going all the way to 9th level spells is a must. On the other hand, I play this game mostly for the role-playing experience and choose everything in accordance to what happens with my character in the game.
Therefore, when we actually met an avatar of Sune, I thought about taking the Heartwarder. It was too late to change the initial feats, so I looked for something giving an extra one.
What do you think about Brd 6, Ardent Dilettante 4, Sublime Chord 1, Heartwarder 9? With chaos music and words of creation, I can still use Inspire Courage pretty efficiently. And all this Charisma from HW!
I really believe in DM’s working with players to revamp characters as needed, _as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the story line_. Things like bloodline feats and really flashy things might not be a good candidate to swap, but things like extra music or improved initiative seem fine to me.
That being said, if you can’t make the swap, then your build seems like a good way to get where you want to go. Heartwarder is a solid class, and Ardent Dilettante is a good, flavor-fun way for a caster to get an extra feat.
If you can find space for Chaos Music, it is really good to take when you only have 6 levels of bard — you get +1 to inspire courage and access to inspire greatness.
Perfect! DM agreed, so I lose the Combat Expertise and Improved Trip (was using more rarely as the enemies got more Strength and more legs) for Dodge and Mobility.
Obvious idea, but it did not occur to me. Thanks!
Glad it helped! 🙂
Great job, thank you.
Cure Light Wounds as a spell is worth more than a 1 star rating.
There are better spells out there, but what if you simply can’t get an item of it? It is a healing spell (and a core healing spell). It’s somewhere between 2 and 3 stars, but preferred on an item.
You’re right. I’ve updated it to two stars. Thanks!
You know, this spell keeps growing on me. I bumped it up to four stars. It’s a really fine option for your fourth level 1 spell, especially if you have healing hymn (Grease, Instant of Power, and Silent Image being essential, IMO).
One of the best handbooks I’ve read. Thank you for putting it together. I want to try a bard now. Do you have any tips for bard20? Normally the 1st time I play a class I like to go single class to 20.
Glad this was helpful for you. I am working on a Bard 20 with only core books (PHB and DMG), which I linked to here under the name “Amadeus”. What books do you have access to?
A couple suggestions that I can’t help but feel you’re missing:
“Magic Blooded” – 3.0 but not updated and thus still technically usable. Benefit: +2Cha -2Wis and 4 very useful cantrips 1/day. LA+0. If the DM allows it, there’s virtually no reason not to use it as a Bard. Combines remarkably well with Half-Fey or Phrenic (below) for +6Cha with no Wis penalty and shares thematic flavour.
“Phrenic” – will remind you a lot of the Half-Fey race in terms of it’s mechanical advantages. Psionically flavoured. Benefit: +2Int +2Wis +4Cha. A slew of PLA’s. +2LA and thus not a great idea if you’re a Sorc, but a Bard could get fantastic use out of this, particularly with LA buyoff.
“Magic in the blood” – (PGtF). Setting specific limitations may apply, but even then you’re limited to planetouched, dwarf, elf, gnome, and spirit folk, which is a sizeable group. Benefit: Any SLA that a player has 1/day is made 3/day. Take one of allowed races and apply a template with good SLA’s (like say, Magic blooded, Phrenic, etc.) and watch as your spellcasting multiplies. I had this allowed for a Half-Fey Magic Blooded Bard, and it gave me *considerable* flexibility with regards to spell choice as a Bard because I had so many useful Bard-styled spells to begin with.
“Mindsight” – (LoM) A one level dip in Mindbender (CArc) gives 100ft radius telepathy. Mindsight then effectively gives you 100ft radar for anything that isn’t mindless. DM’s will need to rule what possibly counters it. RAW it isn’t easily countered, although most groups go RAI/RAMS and say that Mind Blank/equivalent does. There are also a few other interesting counters. (Also has argumentation either way with regards to its interaction with an opponent with Darkstalker.) Even if weakened by reasonable interpretation of RAMS, this is an incredibly useful feat for not getting caught unaware.
Addendum: Oh, and the telepathy from Mindbender also has some really interesting potential with regards to performance that can be sent telepathically. Perform: Oratory while silenced? No problem.
This is great, thanks! I’ll work this stuff in with my next update. 😀
Relating to Green Ear (feat) – this feat actually has a very strong niche application. If you have a Druid in the party, the chance that they get the Greenbound Summoning (feat) is pretty high. At that point you’ll need this feat to buff them. And make no mistake, Greenbound Summons + IC or DFI is terrifying.
As an aside, Fochlucan Lyrist is inferior to Arcane Hierophant in just about every way except this one. Since it advances Bardic Music along with its divine casting, it allows you to pull this trick off *yourself*. Combine with Green Whisperer (to get Green Ear for free and more dual casting) for best results. If you can manage to wrangle Evasion in by some other means (Ring of Evasion / Shadow Template +LA buyoff / Custom Bloodline) you can even get dual 9ths:
Bard2/Druid3/Green Whisperer5/Sublime Chord1/Fochlucan Lyrist9
Clearly it requires a DM who would be willing due to Dragon Mag material and evasion wrangling. In my case the DM went so far as to waive the evasion req because he wanted to see this in play. (And he knew that Arcane Hierophant was stronger as well.) It was a late maturing build, but as there was no other Bard or Druid in the group, it didn’t feel too bad. And I basically got to roleplay Tom Bombadil.
Magic in the Blood – This is really cool, thanks.
Magic Blooded/Phrenic – Thanks. I have these in the handbook. I’m not sure if I got them from your post or elsewhere, but thanks for sharing them.
Mindsight – Sweet, I’ve added this.
Regarding Green Ear – Inspire courage affects all allies, regardless of creature type, so I don’t think you need green ear to buff a summoned plant.
I think it was from me, months ago.
And no, it does not affect them all. Inspire courage is mind affecting. Any subtype that grants immunity to mind-affecting effects will get in the way, such as construct. Plant subtype grants immunity to mind-affecting effects. Greenbound summoning grants plant subtype. Ergo, you cannot buff them with IC.
Green ear grants you the capacity to buff them again.
Yup, looks like you’re right. That’s a great catch, thank you!
Since my love for bards, just like yours, is neverendig, I shall point you to another reasonable option. Champions of valor has a background option to get the Artist regional feat, which is slightly better than Extra Music imho.
I have that listed above (search for artist). I think I like the extra bardic music rather than the +2 to perform, but they’re both viable options. Thanks for posting. 🙂
Charm Person: Remember, you can swap spells at Bard5, Bard7, Bard9, etc. If you get Charm Monster, swap out Charm Person.
3.5 only lets you swap every three levels, so 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 20. Level 8 is the first time you can cast Charm Monster, so that works out. I added a note. Thanks!
Identify (Bard1 spell): Better cast by an item or a party member, but at least you can learn it if need be. Two stars (**) and a recommendation to take (if you take it) at Bard5 or later due to these constraints.
Thanks! I don’t know how I forgot that one. Added. And I agree, 2 stars.
Divine Bard and Ur-Priest grant divine casting, NOT arcane casting. Sublime Chord and Bard give arcane casting.
Thanks! Noted above.
Silvered Weapon spell: Is this web version newer than Book of Exalted Deeds’s? Which version takes precedence?
BoED only has it as a Paladin and Ranger spell, while the web source also adds it as a 0th level spell for druids, bards, wizards, sorcerers, and clerics.
I think it’s very safe to use the expanded web version. This spell isn’t mechanically very strong, but it gives a lot of flavor value.
Tongues (Bard2): I give this *** due social skills likely being your forte and this also allowing you to converse with/command your summons.
Thanks, I added it. I gave it 2 stars, but this valuation assumes that the DM allows uncapped skill points in speak language. If not, this may become stronger.
Just wanted to say thanks for the rundown. I am new to Bard and really picked it up because my group needed a face, and it was either a Bard or some sort of Fighter diplomat amalgam. Unfortunately, our group is very caster heavy, and so I am trying to run down melee (rapier) and crossbow to even out the more physical dynamic of the group. I have taken Perform (Dancing) as one of my skills, and know that I can combine it somehow to do something. You do not have a lot in the way of Melee builds (mostly what is in comments) and I was wondering your thoughts. I see that White Raven is pretty good to rush, so I was thinking of Crusader, but was also looking for something that runs more dex (was planning on dancing/weapon finesse with Rapier). Any help would be great.
I would recommend that you:
* Focus on longsword instead of rapier. Rapier’s a trap in 3.5.
* Don’t bother w/ the crossbow except as a backup weapon (i.e. don’t put any feats into it)
* Consider Inspire Awe to replace Inspire Courage, since you don’t have allies to take advantage of it (but maybe it’s fine to keep just for yourself and any summons).
* Get snowflake wardance
* Consider dipping one level into a martial class to get easy access to song of the white raven. If not, dump three feats to get it (of course, only if you keep inspire courage) .
* Consider two-weapon fighting.
* Consider dragonfire inspiration
* Absolutely get the spell Bladeweave.
I haven’t sat down and figured out my favorite fighter-oriented build, so good luck!
Oh, and Knowledge Devotion! Lordy how did I forget that feat.
What about something like Dervish or Tempest with scimitar instead of longsword?
Both classes are pretty weak in terms of what they give you, and they both have incredible feat taxes. I don’t think they can be part of any optimized build without heavy modification.
A couple things I’ve noticed..
— Where do you find that Bards are “2/3” BAB? They’re not, they’re 3/4. 2/3 means by level 12 they’d have a BAB of +8, but if you check it’s actually +9. There’s four progressions that all go up by N every 4 levels: full (4 per 4) like the Barbarian, 3/4 (3 per 4) like the Cleric, 2/4 aka 1/2 (2 every 4 levels or 1 every 2, same thing here) like the Sorcerer, and 0 per 4 which I’ve only ever remember being used for the Survivor prestige class in Savage Species.
— Ur-Priest gives you divine casting — “An ur-priest gains the ability to cast a number of divine spells. [..] The ur-priest spell list is identical to the cleric spell list.”
— Summon Elemental reserve feat: As long as you have a summon spell of 4th level or higher available, you can summon an elemental (size depends on highest summon available). It basically gives you a meat shield that has to stay within 30 feet of you. (Bards do get Summon Monster I-VI so in theory this is an option.) You can only have one elemental due to this feat at a time. Once you no longer have a slot of level 4 or higher, you don’t get the ability to just call one up anymore.
Otherwise, good resource!
Thanks! I fixed the BAB label and the typo in Ur-Priest.
That reserve feat is really solid, thanks for pointing it out.
0/4 is also War Hulk, but that is 3.0 I believe (as is Survivor).
Excellent handbook, bookmarked!
For suggestions, expand spell list for include more spells(like 7th, 8th and 9th level spells for SC). A section for persist bard will be good and spell suggestions to be persisted.
A good spell to include:
Empyreal Ecstasy (https://dndtools.net/spells/book-of-exalted-deeds–52/empyreal-ecstasy–3/)
Bard 4/ Paladin 2/ Eldritch Knight 9/ Sublime Chord 1/ Abjurant Champion 4
Azurian, human version for incarnium
Gloura, +2 LA, but fly, grace(ex), and bard levels stack with race. Nasty.
Ah, for PrC:
Arcane Duelist. Dont increase spellcast but char to ac and nice combat buffs.
Oh man, good finds. Could you take a look at the Gloura section and tell me if I got that right? Everything else added, thanks!
Great Handbook! Very useful e pretty looking as well.
You should consider the Precocious Apprentice feat from Complete Arcane.
It is like Extra Slot and Extra Spell mashed up togheter, except that it allows a 2nd level spell at level 1, despite bard receiving normally only cantrips. A excellent feat at level 1 where most of the good stuff is often out of reach for Casters.
Oh man that feat is really great. Thanks for catching it! It’s in a weird place and I missed it.
Hey Josh, thanks for the mention. The marquis is happy to see his bardic wisdom getting shared.
On the matter, you may want to add the 5th level spell, Bolts of Bedevilment from Spell Compedium. One ray attack per round for 1 round / level, which dazes for 1d3 rounds. You have to range touch and also there is a will save, but by the time you get it, it lasts for the whole combat, so you may see use a couple of times. Not my favourite, but it should be mentioned.
Also, the 6th level spell Ray of Light, from the same book, is a ray attack which blinds for 1d4 rounds with no save.
Thanks, I’ve included both. 🙂
Hello Josh, your handbook is great and has helped me out a lot with playing bard for the first time. I have a couple of questions, however, regarding spell casting as a bard in general and instruments.
1. Taking Melodic Casting, can I cast any kind of known spell (as an orator bard) without breaking IC or am I restricted to spells from scrolls, wands and other items (spell completion/command word)? The wording in CM is a bit confusing, it makes it seem that it’s only the second.
2. You talked about multiple perform skills, I’m taking oratory right now so I won’t need my hands but am I supposed to spread my skill points all over the place to make use of all those instruments?
3. When it comes to juggling bardic music, is there an easy to way optimize their use before I get my hands on rare items or should I take Lingering Song? Harmonizing is not really an option since I use a bow when I’m not casting.
Thank you for reading, cheers!
1. Melodic casting allows you to maintain inspire courage (and the other non-concentration based musics) while casting spells. See a breakdown here: http://www.joshuad.net/new-bard-handbook/#bardic-music-rules.
The key section in melodic casting is: ” In addition, you can cast spells and activate magic items by command word or spell completion while using a bardic music ability.”
2. This depends on the DM. They could rule that you need N ranks in Perform (Drum) to use a masterwork drum to modify your inspire courage. Or they could rule that as long as you have a perform skill that means the requirement, you can use any instrument.
I think the first ruling is more RAW, but I think the second ruling is a reasonable allowance.
3. I would not take lingering song unless you want to stack bardic musics. Maybe at high levels it becomes an idea if you can’t get a harmonizing weapon. Instead, I would take melodic casting. Really, I don’t juggle bardic musics. I turn on inspire courage in fights and use things like soothing voice and command out of fights.
Thank you very much for the reply.
First off, thanks for the great handbook, it is one of the few links which I actually have bookmarked.:)
Now I just had a question on your opinion regarding the Savage Bard. Overall I agree that this ACF is not the most optimal one for a Bard, however I do not think that it may be a horrible trade off especially for a summoning focused Bard. Assuming that you could sneak in the feat Greenbound Summoning feat, then suddenly even the SNA1 spell becomes a powerfull BFC/Blast spell. This ACF also makes the “Rashemi elemental summoning” more viable as elementals become available 1 spell level earlier than on the SM list giving the bard even more options.
Obviously this route is a bit restrictive as it requires a heavy investment of feats (Spell focus, Green whisperer if you want to affect your plant summons, Extend Spell, Ashbound Summonining etc) if you want to go fully Summoning focused, and we all know that bards have already painfully few featsavailable to them, however I believe it can still be an interesting/fun route to take.
What are your thoughts about this idea? This “trick/combo” may not be enough to make this a great trade butI think it is still worth considering.
Thanks for your time and best regards
This is a really good idea. Greenbound summoning is a very powerful feat, and being able to build into it as a bard is really cool. My understanding is it’s one of the more over-powered feats in the game, so finding a way into that is really great.
I haven’t crunched any numbers, but I suspect this idea of yours will be very strong, and a good base for a summoner-bard.
I will continue to lament the loss of prestidigitation, but I have updated the Savage Bard’s section with this idea. Great catch!
Great guide, it inspired me to make and play my first Bard!
Awesome. Good luck and I hope you have fun. 🙂
Great guide man. I love how you keep updating it, keep up the good work.
As for the Gloura, I believe that you’re correct, but I’m also pretty sure you have to take the 7 Fey HD, putting you at an ECL of 9.
Thanks! I’ve updated it with that info. That sounds accurate to me.
For the builds section, you should probably have an option for the White Raven Bard:
Bard8/Crusader2/SublimeChord10 or Bard8/Crusader1/Virtuoso1/SublimeChord1/Virtuoso2-10 (or even Bard9/Crusader1/SublimeChord10)
This is arguably a superior way to run the Song of the White Raven; you get White Raven Tactics and the ability to recover it during encounters (albeit in the odd Crusader way), the second Crusader level allows you to take Iron Guard’s Glare for when you don’t want to be in Bolstering Voice for Song (SotWR requires you to be in a WR stance).
One big problem with SotWR is that the initiation mechanic gets in the way of Inspirational Boost. This build doesn’t solve that problem, but it gives you a lot of ways to be effective around it. With a Masterwork Lute and a Vest of Legends you have a base Inspire of +3 (effective level 14) and presumably Words of Creation for +3, Badge of Valor (+1) and Song of the Heart (+1) gets you to +8 attack and damage for all allies. (+9 with Inspirational Boost). So arguably you don’t actually want to burn a feat on SotWR… which is why getting a better Stance is a good idea. This means a second level of Crusader.
(Since Words specifically calls out the +1,+2,+3 from the Bard progression, I think Song of the Heart and Badge don’t get doubled. However, it should work based on your effective bard level, which is what Inspire Courage “sees”.)
Basically, all the best Bard builds are along the lines of Bard8/XX 2/Sublime Chord 2/XX 8
Note that as an alternative to SotWR, a continuous custom magic item of Harmonize should be only about 12,000 gp. In return, you can activate (as of 8th level Bard, pretty much the stub for any Words of Creation build) a +9 Inspire Courage, and cast Haste, in the same turn:
Round 1 of Combat:
Inspirational Boost (swift action)
Badge of Valor (immediate action)
Inspire Courage (move action)
Haste (standard action)
(Obviously, you burn your Swift action from round 2.)
However, at level 8, your Inspire Courage is a bigger bonus than the party Fighter (hopefully actually a Cleric or Fighter/Wizard/Abjurant Champion) has from Base Attack.
In looking at this in preparation for commenting, I am not sure that the Charisma synergy is a good enough reason to dip Crusader over Warblade. Probably either works.
Hey, thanks for the detailed post. There’s a lot here, so I’m going to respond in points:
* I love the idea of an item of continuous harmonize. I’ve added that to the list of items. Thanks! How did you get the price of 12000? My math shows it should be 16000 — 2000 * 2 * 4 (2000 * spell_level * caster_level).
* You can’t use a swift and immediate action on the same turn, unfortunately: http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Immediate_Actions
* The Chaos Music feat allows for a gish bard to leave bard at level 6 instead of 8, and still get that level 8 boost to inspire courage. You should check it out.
* I agree re: your reading of words of creation. Some people go the other way, but I think the best reading is that it doubles the bonuses written on the bard table.
* Nice builds. The big downside to dipping into crusader for Song of the White Raven instead of using feats is that you lose levels of spellcasting. That being said, if you’re on a more gish-focused build, I think these are fine approaches. I’ll have to look at them in detail in the future. Thanks!
“Using an immediate action on your turn is the same as using a swift action, and counts as your swift action for that turn. You cannot use another immediate action or a swift action until after your next turn if you have used an immediate action when it is not currently your turn (effectively, using an immediate action before your turn is equivalent to using your swift action for the coming turn). You also cannot use an immediate action if you are flat-footed.” -SRD
It burns your swift action for the following round, but the nomenclature of “turn” here makes clear that it is not referring to rounds, but your own turns. As a result, as long as you use the swift action mechanic first, you can take an immediate action in the same round (before your next turn) thereby preventing you from using a swift action (or another immediate action) on your next turn.
Nothing in the rule states any limit on actions in a given combat round.
Don’t get me excited! I asked on the RPG stack exchange, they agree it can’t be done this way: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/119104/can-you-use-a-swift-action-and-an-immediate-action-on-the-same-turn/119106
Thanks for trying though, that would’ve been sweet.
FYI, Harmonize has a duration of 1 min/level, so a continuous item costs double.
Undersong + Diamond mind maneuvers nuff-said.
Thanks, I’ve included this.
In the ACF section, in Gnome Bard Substitution levels, you reference Phantasmal image as the 4th level spell ability. The spell is actually Phantasmal Killer.
And for a fear-based gnome bard, esp. if you progress into Dread Witch, (which I’m building right now), it’s a decent choice for a 4th level spell. Though there are so many good spells at 4th level for Bard, in some builds this one would work well.
About the 2nd level Scare spell you say: “Scare (PHB) – I like that this can target multiple creatures, but the 6HD limitation really makes this sad. I would pass, even for fear escalators.”
If you are a fear escalator, you probably need Dread Witch. And for that you need the ability to cast Scare as a prerequisite.
It is significantly inferior to the 3rd level Fear spell. I would talk to your DM about letting you trade Scare for another spell if –when– you learn Fear as exceeding the prerequisite, rather than lacking it.
Great, updated. Thanks!
Abjurant Champion is probably underrated. It does not progress Bard abilities or even mesh well with Bard, but it is bat guano insane on its own merits, providing full casting, full bab and overpowered class abilities ( better than most half casting PRCs get in ten levels ) over five levels. Any Melee bard for whom the flavor (does the class even have one?) isn’t prohibitive should be taking all five levels. (Remember a masterwork lute and best of legends get you five levels of music back for inspire purposes)
Even caster bards can dip two levels ( or five really, full casting ) for free extend and quicken effects.
As an example, Bard8/AbC1/Crusader1/SC2/AC4/Sacred Exorcist4
I agree. I bumped it up.
Hello again, Josh. Your advice helped me a lot and the campaign is going well. However, I have a couple more questions on optimization, leadership and epic spellcasting.
My orator bard is taking a stoic leader of men turn and I have been allowed the Leadership feat at 6. This means that he is taking some IC boosts like SotHeart and WoC at 9 or 12. Which Leadership feats do you think are good if any?
I was first going bard10/sublime10 but then read around and above about Brd8/xx2/Sublime2/xx and would like to know about classes that might fit and be optimal. I intend on getting a full spellcaster for epic spellcasting at 20+. Our DM is throwing curve balls all the time so I want to be optimized to help carry the group if shit hits the fan. So, which classes would be optimal until 20 and then what would be best to go epic as?
Thank you for reading.
It depends if you have access to the feat Chaos Music, from dragon magazine, and it also depends on your party makeup.
The big advantage to staying in bard until level 8 is the additional +1 to inspire courage. You’ll notice that many of my builds leave bard after 6 (and take chaos music to get inspire greatness and +1 inspire courage).
I really like the Bard 6 / Lyric Thaumaturge 4 / Sublime Chord 10 as a pure bard caster.
Of course, the crazy double-caster builds listed above are undeniable. If you like that, go for it.
Finally, if your party doesn’t make very many melee attacks, then inspire courage isn’t worth boosting.
I have zero experience with epic play, so you’ll have to try things out and then report back and let us know what you found!
What about the Autonomous Harp in Dragon Compendium VOL 1.?
Hey nice find. 🙂 I don’t think it’s that good, but I think it’s a good add. Thanks!
So, this is quite impressive. I’ve had more interest in bards of late, led to the class via Sublime Chord optimized builds (the infamous 9ths in three progressions before level 20 build was the first time I learned about it).
Anyhow, I’m doing an interesting build. Druid 1-6 / PlanShep of the Abyss 1-10 / Druid 7 / Bard 1 / Sublime Chord 2 / Arcane Hierophant 1-10.
My bardic music will suffer, but I’ll have full bard spells (due to use of PlanShep’s super-wild-shaping as well as liberal use of Shapechange). I’m curious what suggestions you would have for boosting the music (plan on taking Chaos Music since it fits) as well as synergies with and super jack-of-all-trades build (be everything, cast everything, do everything).
Of note would be anything that allows my druid levels to count towards my bardic music (there is a feat that does this for druid-rogue and bard-paladin…so I’m just curious).
There’s no hybrid druid/bard class. Here are some things that come close:
* The Mystic Theruge will progress bard and druid spellcasting at the same time.
* The Chaos Music feat will progress bardic music for 3 levels of cross-classing.
Otherwise, I think your bardic music will just have to suffer in this build, unfortunately. 🙁
Oops, the Fochlucan Lyrist slipped my mind. I have details on it up top.
Thanks, love the guide! One thing I think is worth considering is that the Warchanter prestige class gets absurdly good when combined with the Leadership feat. Quite a level investment, but at Warchanter 10 you now have an army with the BAB of the highest person in your party.
Sweet, I’ll check that out and work it into my next round of edits. Thanks man. 🙂
Long time reader of this guide – I keep coming back to it and finding more, so thank you! Just wondering:
a) No mention of Spelldancer? Not Bard specific but the Perform (Dance) requirement fits nicely.
b) For your Greenbound Summoning build, Leaf is more martial – any thoughts on how to maximise the summoning and possible buffing element? Greenbound, Ashbound, Dragonfire Inspiration… if only Sublime Chord could find a way to get higher level Summon Nature’s Ally!
a. I’ll add that, thanks!
b1: I felt like going all-in on summon buffing was a mistake power wise. Ashbound summoning is definitely another idea. And I think there’s another feat in one of the campaign settings books that simulates Augmented Summoning without having the spell focus feat tax. Words of Creation are definitely good here.
I really feel like swift inspire courage is amazing. An alternative is to take melodic casting and walk around most of the time with inspire courage turned on, but that may or may not be too cheesy depending on your campaign. Leaf was designed for a city / intrigue game, and I felt like it didn’t make sense there.
b2: I feel like a fair minded DM would allow a sublime chord to swap to summon nature’s ally. It’s not RAW, but it’s a very reasonable RAI.
Wow… Search finds 89 results on sublime chord at this page… Most builds use sublime chord splashes… Doesn’t anyone care for the only limiting entry of this, indeed really powerful, pr. class?
Following the path of the Sublime Chord requires utter devotion, upon entering the class you may not exit from the class for the full ten levels until you’ve mastered the way of the Sublime Chord.
THIS PR. CLASS CANT BE DIPPED! Its either 10 lvls or nothing… Most of the builds here cant be done with a sane dm that can read… I am surprised none spotted this out yet..
That restriction is a home-brew restriction for the Therafim campaign. (http://therafim.wikidot.com/)
The class written in Complete Arcane doesn’t have a “Bardic Lock” or anything like it. 🙂
In regards bard x druid hybrids, Fochlucan Lyrist is one and is found in Complete Adventurer. It has some very strict entry requirements (evasion and ability speak druidic and able cast 1st level arcane and divine spells and 7 ranks on several skills). It progress both druid and bard spellcasting, progress bardic knowlegde (and bardic knack by GM approval) and bardic music abilities (daily use and abilities you get). It loosens up druid armor/weapon restrictions.
But besides that PrC is quite plain and it only offers full BAB compared to bard’s medium BAB and some very nice fluffy PrC. But I think some bards who want mix of druidic magic along some gish sort qualities (better BAB) would appreciate the PrC. Albeit entry requirement means your either ex-monk or rogue to get evasion (or ninja) and would be MAD with depending on charisma and wisdom for casting stats (unless take divine bard who depends on more wisdom anyways).
He already was given this info by me above, had you read through the comments. Both FL and Arcane Hierophant.
Lyrist is both fantastic and terrible. The problem is the Evasion, which requires either a Rogue dip or a Shadowdancer dip (or something) further reducing the spellcasting potential of the class. Unless your DM allows you to enter with a Ring of Evasion (none I’ve ever played with would) this is a big problem, because two levels is two levels.
Full BAB and dual casting is nice. But there’s no room in the build for anything that would make you actually good at something, so Lyrists are basically a bad jack-of-all-trades caster. Useful, because spells and a good chance to hit, but nowhere near as good as a Sublime Chord, or a Druid 20.
Hello ! About the use of Alter self spell, it seems that asabi are monstruous humanoids; So it is not possible for a humanoid to use this form with that spell. I have a hard time finding the stats of those mongrelfolks. Someties the bonus for sleight of hands is 4 or 2 on the net (I have’nt got the book !). Can you check this please ? Thank’s again…
I checked the book. They are humanoids. 🙂
This handbook has been so helpful in saving me time researching options for my bard! I just want to add my melee build in my current campaign, since you seem to be lacking in the examples of melee bards: I’m going 5 bard/2 battle howler of Gruumsh/9 swiftblade/3 battle howler of Gruumsh/1 bard to finish. My DM is letting me use a vest of legends and the chaos music feat to catch up with those swiftblade levels, so I’ll be performing music as a level 20 bard, and I’ll have a rather good bab progression. Of course there’s the usual inspire courage optimization, which I actually get to take advantage of as a melee bard (and stacks especially well with the alter self troglodyte form for extra attacks and lots of AC at low levels). We are only level 5 in the campaign, but I am really looking forward to the mobility of a swiftblade along with its inherent miss chance while haste is active and the extra AC/movement from Alter Self and Dragonskin making my bard really hard to hit. I’ll still never outdamage our fighter, but it is a lot of fun making everyone better, and letting that everyone include yourself!
Thanks Jordan. I added that build to the builds section. The one thing that jumps out at me is these melee builds really benefit from Song of the White Raven. Have you looked at a single level crusader dip to get the pre-reqs for that? I know the build is feat-intensive, but swift inspire courage really fits the melee package.
I only just now got around to seeing that you replied! The campaign is still going on, but unfortunately my DM doesn’t like the Tomb of Battle, so that’s out. I would definitely throw in crusader otherwise!
This is an amazing handbook, but I had a question. What book is BoEM?
Nevermind, I found out on my own. For anyone else looking, it’s the Book of Eldritch Might from Monte Cook’s Sword and Sorcery series.
Glad you found the book, and this handbook was helpful to you. 🙂
Hello Joshua, still finding your guide pretty great.
I’m right now making a pretty crazy epic Bard / Binder that mostly drops down to Bard 9/ Binder 1/ Sublime Chord 1/ Anima Mage 11. Do you have any tips for working this out? I mostly fell on the arcane caster side of the party roles.
Also, I found a amusing feat while searching some Eberron books called Mastery of Faerie Enchantment, do you think it’s worth it? (link included)
Ha! that is a cool feat. I’m going to add it to the handbook. It’s something to consider if you have extend spell.
I would look at the spells you’re going to cast. I’m currently playing an 8th level bard, and the only enchantment spell he has on his list is suggestion. Given that, I wouldn’t spend a feat (or two) to get it to last 16 hours.
On the whole, the enchantment school is a weak school, but spell duration isn’t an issue it typically struggles with. I could see it being good for Otto’s Irresistible Dance. Other than that, I can’t think of an enchantment spell I’d be looking to extend.
I have very limited experience with the Binder. I did some analysis above on the various bindings you can pick up with a feat, but I’ve never really dug into the class.
If you haven’t looked at it already, Chaos Music will get you access to Song of Freedom, which could also be swapped out. In general, I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan of spending three feats to get swift inspire courage. Bards don’t do a ton with feats.
The anima mage stops your bardic music progression and really focuses on the binder side of things, so you might want to check out any popular binder handbooks to see what options are there, too.
HI! First of all, AMAZING GUIDE. This handbook can make people who say bard is useless shove it, haha!
I’m interesting in making a Bard debuffer/fear escalator. He’ll be based on Edgar Allan Poe, so his “musics” will always be scary quotes of his short storys, and will scary people via Oratory/Narration. Can you example me a build who can qualify for this role? Your “debuffer” build is not explained.
Thank you and I hope for an answer, bye.
Cool idea for a character. I’ve never sat down and constructed a complete debuffer. I have all of the options listed above, but I think you’ll have to do the legwork to piece it together and see what’s important to you. If you get something good, please send it to me so I can include it.
Here are the things I would definitely be looking at:
* Haunting Melody – I think the RAW interpretation is reasonable but very strong. If you can have that, its great.
* Inspire Awe – Losing inspire courage _sucks_, but if you want to commit to fear escalation you can look at this.
* Dread Witch – To get wider application of your fear effects
My guess is that the most powerful version will be a hybrid debuffer and other things. If you commit 100% to debuffing I think you’ll lose too much elsewhere. But I think you can apply a few features / feats to it and get a lot of value.
Let me know what you come up with!
Speaking of horror fiction, this kind of makes me want to make a bard based on Erich Zahn from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zahn.”
Related, and something I forgot to mention in the other thread – Undertone of Heresy would be good for this, but I notice you only discuss Undertone of Heresy itself, not the feats that follow it. I myself am interested in Blasphemous Utterance, as it seems like it fills the same niche as Haunting Melody.
The links to the handbook on Bard/Cleric multiclassing are dead. Especially unfortunate since I was thinking of such a multiclass myself…
To elaborate, I’m actually working on an NPC who may become an enemy boss for the players to fight – a vampiric Bard who is a high-ranking commander in an undead organization. I haven’t figured out too much about how I want her to play. If possible, I want to have most of her damage output (if any) come from spells rather than physical attacks, although I have to wonder if that’s something a Bard should NOT try and focus on, and leave stuff like that to the Wizards. Of course, the vampire template adds quite a few things that might change how a bard works – in particular, it makes melee combat much more appealing.
It’s kind of an interesting exercise in character building, not just because this is an NPC but because the character itself is, on a fundamental level, quite different from your average PC. The main hurdle is that I’m basing this off a character from a particular series, and converting characters in one setting to a D&D setting is never easy. There’s only so much I’m willing to deviate from the source though – the source being a character whose destructive power comes from music and singing in particular.
The bard’s mechanics don’t support a ton of damage spells. There are only a few. You can pick up a few with the Lyric Thaumaturge class.
A better solution for your problem might be to work with a sorcerer and refluff it to be song-based.
The Lyric Thaumaturge definitely interested me, but I think for now I’m going to go a different route – abandon serious spellcasting and go Dirgesinger/Seeker of the Song, the latter of which can use music itself to deal damage. I’ll probably build multiple versions and playtest them though. There are a lot of options I like, it’s just a matter of which one feels best for the character.
Thinking strongly of going with Divine Bard, and getting a suit of Mithral full plate, since as noted being a vampire makes melee combat a lot better. Speaking of which – in this guide it says that Divine Bards can go into Sublime Chord and Lyric Thaumaturge, but both have a certain level of arcane casting as a requirement.
I’ll throw out a summary of what I come up with once I’m done if you’d like. Obviously the character itself won’t be suitable as a model for PCs to aspire to, but it may still be interesting.
Good point about the divine bard prestige class issue. I’ll have to address that in a future update.
This seems like a cool character. If you’re in the mood, put him on one of my character sheets and I’d like to link to him:
Not sure if this would be suitable as an example character – leaving aside that she’s a vampire, she’s meant to be a (potentially) hostile NPC, so not only are her priorities different from that of a PC, any issue that boils down to “ask the DM” is solved because I AM the DM. [insert “I AM the Senate” meme here]. And honestly, when I’m DM, there are often times I think, “Okay, this is stupid, if a player wants to change it they can.”
Of course, that’s not helpful for examples of builds, since of course builds need to be reliably reproducible and thus must be RAW – or at worst, they include a mechanic with confusing wording but which has an interpretation most of the community agrees with (like Haunting Melody). This is likely going beyond that.
I can still link the final build – I’m certainly having a fun time building it – but I wouldn’t give it any such status as an example build. I WOULD be interested in trying to create a viable Seeker of the Song build though, since none of the example builds in this handbook seem to use it. But it’ll be a bit different from this vampire NPC.
Couple of notes – I want to add Dirgesinger to this largely because, when I first started looking for Bard PrCs, one person suggested Dirgesinger+Seeker of the Song since they liked the ability to buff and debuff at the same time. Of course, this works a little better for my NPC than it would for an average player given that she’s going to surround herself with undead, but even so, I like the idea.
Otherwise, I REALLY want to see Focused Performance be useful… honestly, it’d be a lot better if weren’t so many restrictions on what abilities you could use on which form of music. However, the thought of a Dirgesinger/Seeker of the Song being able to use 3 Bardic/Dirgesinger/Seeker songs at once is too good to pass up. That, and since SotS requires Skill Focus (Perform), I figured I might as well get some use out of that…
…To expand on the above, since I hit the “post comment” button too soon – I want to get as much use out of the Perform skill as I can, since Skill Focus is required for SotS, and on top of that vampires get a bonus to their Charisma. Also, Extra Music is going to be a must for that build… Honestly, you said Bards don’t use their feats for much, but this Bard sure uses a lot of them. Then again, a common trait of builds that I make is that they’re feat-intensive. Probably why I play humans a lot.
Awesome stuff Joshua!
My Arch Priestess just picked up a 17th level Bard (Bard/Sublime Cord) as a cohort. She will be used primarily as a pre-adventure buffer for my cleric.
What are some good ways to increase the bards caster level. I considered going Divine Bard to use Karma Prayer Beads, but I believe that would negate Sublime Cord (not worth it!)
Spellscale Substitution Level works, Stormsinger PrC has some stuff, and the Draconic Aura Feat – Power can do it.
Spellscales have the dragonblood subtype, so that will work really well with the Draconic Aura.
Dragonskin is on the Bard’s 3rd level spell list? It’s listed in the Draconomicon, Book of Dragons as 3rd level Sorcerer and Wizard. Was there a change after that was published?
In the Book of Eldritch Might 1 it also has it as a bard spell, page 18.
Ah. That’s why; Non-official content.
Your link to Breaking Down Inspire Courage by Endarire is broken. It’s under “Other Resources and Thanks.” This link works: http://minmaxforum.com/index.php?topic=8936.0
“Healing Hymn (CC 47)
lose fascinate, boost natural healing and healing spells
Fascinate is needed for suggestion. If you’re swapping out suggestion (via half-elf sub levels or some other method) and have any way to take advantage of the healing boost **(Wand of CLW would work)** then this is pretty solid, and the sleep thing is nice too.”
This doesn’t work with Wand of CLW or any wands for that matter.
The ability states “This ability has no effect on spells cast from wands, scrolls, or other magic items.”
Check out Distract (Spell Compendium p69) as an option for 1st-level spells. 1 round/level mass save-or-suck affecting creatures up to 6 hit dice. At 1st and 2nd level, Sleep is better – but at levels 3 through probably 8 you can hobble multiple enemies (single actions only) for multiple rounds with a single standard action. Range is medium, so you can do this as a pre-combat debuff before your enemies know you’re there – its subtle nature is such that they won’t know they’ve been attacked, and it gives you better odds of getting a surprise round. It’s also a rare bard spell that can be cast with only somatic components.
I’m not sure I’d take both Distract and Sleep given how infrequently a bard can retrain spells, but if they’re the _only_ poorly-scaling spells you learn early on, you can retrain at 5th and 8th respectively. If you’re starting at 3rd level or higher, I’d definitely pick Distract over Sleep.
Thanks, added it!
In one of the comments you mention that rapier is a trap in 3.5. Can you elaborate on this? I’ve never seen it anywhere. The closest I’ve seen is pointing out that you can’t wield it with 2 hands to get 1.5x Str to damage.
I think weapon finesse is an under-powered feat, since it only boosts attack. Rapier’s otherwise fine, but if you’re not going the finesse route, I prefer longsword.
What would you suggest for a Lillend with 6 additional Bard levels, two-handed PAing a longsword as well as the tail slap as a secondary attack? For an NPC or encounter, I mean. You know, spells, feats… I’m willing to swap out some of the feats and spells.
Oh man that’s a hard one. I’ve only ever thought of bards as player characters, not how to make a very good NPC/enemy.
If it’s an ally and they’re not going to be around forever, a big inspire courage might be fun the party.
If it’s an enemy, summoning seems really good. Maybe go into that greenbound summoning stuff.
If you’re not an artificer, the Artificer’s Monocle does you no good.
“Summon Monster III – Probably the best Summon Monster out there. The Bison or the Fiend are the two best options.”
Did you mean Celestial dire badger and Fiendish boar?
Both fixed, thanks! I meant the bison and centipede.
Magic Item Compendium 72: An Artificer’s Monocle can be used by non-Artificers with 5+ Knowledge (Arcana) ranks who use Detect Magic and focus on such an item for 1 minute.
While I believe it can fit it can fit into a lot of minmax builds, I believe it definitely fits the most in a Bard handbook
Unseelie Fey. Dragon Compendium. (originally in Dragon mag 304) No LA
Trade STR for Dex and Cha.
Get a scaling DR, but iron vulnerability (to all iron).
Get wings and vision (or don’t and/or get blinded)
Many DM’s consider it unbalanced. But that’s alright. Objective information is our business here, eh?
This is sweet. Added, thanks!
Though not strictly bard at all, it is a Charisma based skill
Iaijutsu focus is a skill from Oriental Adventures. It’s really OP. If you dump skill points into this, you basically get a sneak attack.
But wait, there’s more. If you take metropolitan or another feat that adds class skills, you can easily max this as a bard.
put 5 ranks into balance and always through marbles everywhere to keep enemies flatfooted. That’s just the kind of resourceful tricksieness you’d see from a Bard or Rogue.
Again, really overpowered if you actually minmax it.
Something to add to forgery (cross skill) is that it can only be countered by an opposed forgery check.
Nobody puts points into forgery. nobody ever thinks about forgery. I’d say always dump 1-5 points into forgery just so you can oppose a check or make a check that you know nobody else is going to be able to oppose. It can be more useful than diplomacy if you make a letter signed by the king that says “this person is to be granted your three fastest galleys no questions asked” and they can’t detect it as a forgery. Combine that with a good bluff and diplomacy, and you can have an unstoppable dipplomancer. Of course, being cross skill, it’s limiting in that sense.
Good thing nobody ever puts points into it, so it doesn’t take much to be able to trump anyone else.
Has it come in campaigns for you? I could see it being very good in the right setting. I’ve never seen an opportunity to use it, but maybe I’m not trying hard enough.
High Joshua. It seems that the spell Listening coin is 4th level and not 3rd. Thanks again.
My spell compendium says it’s a level 3 spell. Where are you looking?
A neat item for a bard, especially a leadership bard.
Admiral Bicorne from stormwrack. +5 Profession (sailor) and Cha-based, magnifies voice, +2 morale bonus attacks, save, and skill allies within sound of voice.
It’s amplification effect would greatly extend the range of bardic music. Can you say Inspire Courage for an entire army?
Also I have a question on virtuoso’s mindbending melody. If you fascinate multiple people and then perform mindbending melody, do you dominate all the people you just fascinated. Say you fascinate 20 people in one use of fascinate. can you then dominate 20 people?
I like the amplification effect and the +5 to skills. That being said, I don’t like a few things about it:
* The cost – 51000 is a lot
* Stacking – the bonuses are morale, so they don’t stack with our other buffs.
I have a question on the interpretation of Melodic Casting.
“Whenever a Concentration check would be required to cast a spell or use a spell-like ability (such as when you cast defensively or are distracted or injured while casting), you can make a Perform check instead.”
Half of all bardic musics are SU the other half are SP. Most bardic musics which require concentration are SP. However, there are a few that are SU.
The assumption I see among the forums is that Melodic casting allows you to use perform to concentrate on all bardic music, and thus, people needn’t waste points on concentration. However, RAW does not seem to support this. How would you interpret this?
I’m inclined to think melodic casting should let us dump concentration and not look back. A very strict DM might rule the other way, but I don’t recommend it.
Hey Joshua, I have a question on spell progression for Sublime chord.
Sublime chord starts it’s spell progression wih level 4 sorcerer/wizard or bard spells. This is clear. It does not mention whether you continue to progress 1-3 of your previous class. Because of this, I would believe that you don’t. Which would stick you with exactly two level 3 spells if you started Sublime Chord at level 8. As a DM would you rule that you continue to progress these levels at the same rate – or would you rule that you no longer learn any more spells of these levels.
Further, within the same vein, replacing spells. Would I only be able to replace a bard spell at level 5. Or would I be able to replace a bard spell at 5, and then replace the lower spells (to bard spells) at the same increments that you can replace sublime chord spells? What would your ruling be?
I think a downside of the sublime chord class is the lack of progression of level 3 spells. As a DM I would not be inclined to house rule that as a gift to the player unless it was in the context of a bunch of Tier-1 classes.
I would say that you only get to replace a spell every other level once you go into sublime chord. The key language I look at is this, from the SRD: “Upon reaching 5th level, and at every third bard level after that (8th, 11th, and so on), a bard can choose to learn a new spell in place of one he already knows.”
It specifies every third bard level, so if you were to multiclass, it doesn’t seem to me that this triggers.
Fugue in spell compendium is an erata of Fugue of Tvash-Prull from Dragon 328 pg 70. It’s the same except as noted below
“The caster’s Perform check each
round and can choose one effect up to the
check’s result. If the caster is doing a
Perform check with Keyboard Instruments,
Percussion Instruments, String Instruments,
or Wind Instruments, there is a +2
Circumstance bonus on the check.”
15 3d6 nonlethal damage
20 3d6 Sonic damage
25 Shaken for 1 round, Deafened for 1
round, or Knocked Down.
30 Nauseated for 1 round, Blinded for 1
round, or Frightened for 1 round.
35 Stunned for 1 round.
40 1d6 ability damage from a random
45 Attacks the nearest target.
50 Gains 1d4 Negative Levels.
Now it becomes a possible save or die, or save or ability drain/level drain.
But other than that, “is it worth it”. There’s probably better alternatives for save or die when you can get your perform check that high.
Sorry for spamming your guide with so many comments.
That’s a cool version of the spell, though! Thanks.
Really love this guide, it has helped me a lot on building my bard!
Though I do have a couple of questions about your builds.
First question is, on your sample builds, how do you take levels of Sublime Chord, then level something else before finishing 10 levels of the class?
Second Question. On your summoner Builds, how do you take Greenbound Summoning at first level, when you do not have Summon Nature’s Ally until level 2. I found an easy work around for that though, you first take Precocious Apprentice at level 1, use it to learn “Summon Nature’s Ally II”, then take Greenbound Summoning.
Couple things I’ve also noticed.
You have the feat “Melodic Casting” listed twice, once as a (***) feat, and the other listing as a (****) feat.
Greenbound Summoning although mentioned a lot in your guide, is not listed on your feat list itself.
1. The Sublime Chord class feature “Bardic Lock” isn’t in the published material. The Therafim people added that for their campaign setting. According to 3.5 official material, you can come in and out of sublime chord as much as you please.
2. Good point. I’d have to take Greenbound Summoning at level 3, or use the method you mentioned.
3. Both fixed, thanks!
This was great, thank you for putting this together! I combine a lot of PF and 3.5 materials, and it is hard these days to find good 3.5 bard guides to help with all the cross-referencing. Great stuff.
Glad it helped. 🙂
Why not mention Undetectable Alignment? Works all day, and flat out blocks Detect [Alignment] spells and the like, without a save or caster check or anything. At the very least, it’s a Core spell, and I see little reason not to mention Core spells in a handbook with so much information.
I think that’d make a great wand, especially if your DM will let you put it on an eternal wand. I don’t know that I’d be looking to spend a precious known spell on it, but I guess in an evil campaign with a subterfuge theme it could be clinch.
An excellent guide! It’s very nice to see such attention to sources and small details.
May I say, not only for a bard, but full of good advice for any 3.5 arcane caster!
What about the Stonehunter Gnome from Dragon Magic (page 8)? They get the dragonblood subtype and trade their +2 saves verses illusions and the +1 to DC for illusions for Hunter’s Insight (+2 to climb and survival). The loss of illusion boost hurts, but if your primary role is inspire courage, particularly DFI, your illusions aren’t going to be great anyway.
That’s a nice find. Thanks!
While i love this insee a ton of people appear to be ignoring bardic lock. Am i understanding it incorrectly in that once you start SC your cant leave SC until its maxed or are you and everyone else pretending its not a thing?
That’s not in the official published materials; it’s a modification made by the therafim people and published only on their website.
Great guide, thanks for putting it together. Was very helpful for putting a Sublime Chord built together. One class I would consider as a SC topper is Paragnostic Apostle. Easy to qualify for, bardic knowledge synergy, and decent bonuses. Played that class as part of a cloistered cleric and it was solid.
Yea that class looks really good. I’m just giving it a quick review now, but at least a few of these are solid — fast healing on summons, +1 to overcome spell resistance are both really sweet. And it has a low cost to dip into. Thanks, i’ll be adding this.
Green Whisperer (DM311, 69) – You continue to progress your bardic music and spells, but you lose some key skills, and the benefits are pretty boring.
It advances Druid spells, which makes it handy if you want to do a Druid/Bard theurge. e.g. Bard 1/Druid 4/Green Whisperer 5/Sublime Chord 1/Fochlucan Lyrist with Chaos Music gets full Bardic Music, Druid – 2 spells and Sublime chord spells
Oh good catch, thanks. I’ll update that.
I’ve updated this, thanks again. It’s also good in conjunction with greenbound summoning.
That’s what I was trying to tell you a year back or so, Joshua. That Green ear allowed you to pull off Greenbound summons+IC shenanigans in the same build with Green Whisperer + FL or AH.
Breaking Down Inspire Courage Google Cache Version: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:_QJH-A0i17YJ:minmaxforum.com/index.php%3Ftopic%3D8936.0+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-b-1-d
Just in case the normal page is unreachable.
Hey, this is something hella minor, but I feel like it might be worth reviewing/adding the level six spell Snowsong from the Frostburn book. While most of the bonuses are minor, the morale bonus to Charisma is unique and the duration is solid. Would be good to hear your opinion on it!
Thanks, I just reviewed it. I put it at 3 stars. Does that seem right to you?
Savage Aasimar (LA0 Aasimar: Native Outsider with +2 CHA)
Savage Aasimar: http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/sp/20040213a
Savage Progressions archive: http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/arch/sp
Note that these web article savage progressions have level progressions that need not be finished. This is different from [i]Savage Species[/i] progressions.
Google “Battle Rattle D&D 3.5” (“Dragon 331” page 88) for more info on the Battle Rattle instrument and why it seems wonderfully complimentary to a MW natural horn.
Oh man that’s sweet. Nice find.
Hello Joshua. I’m bargaining with my DM for the spell Unfettered Heroism. he likes it, and allows it. But I don’t understand this use : “Spell Recall :
Spellcasters who prepare their spells in advance can spend 1 action point to recall any spell just cast. The spell can be cast again later with no effect on other prepared spells. This use of an action point is a free action and can only be done in the same round that the spell is cast. Spontaneous spellcasters such as sorcerers and bards can spend 1 action point to cast a spell without using one of their daily spell slots. This use of an action point is a free action and can only be done as the spell is being cast.”
in your guide, you state that it allows you to cast lower levels spells again and again (witch seems fair and RP). But here, I can see no level indication. It seems far to strong in this case. Do you have antother source ? Thanks !
You’re right, my description wasn’t accurate. I have fixed it, thanks!
so a problem with some of your builds. you only take a couple levels of sublime chord. The problem is once you start you cannot leave sublime chord you have to take all 10 levels.
“Bardic Lock” is not in the actual published materials; it’s a modification made by the therafim people for their game and published only on their website. Official rules allow moving in and out of sublime chord each level without restriction.
You might want to make a note of this consistent error on the part of Therafim readers (or make it more obvious) in your actual guide. Therafim did a poor job of denoting that what they did was homebrew. It’s almost like some guy associated with that site got PTSD from someone’s SC->Virtuoso build and decided to sneak that feature in while pretending that it’s official.
Good idea, done. Thanks. 🙂
I can’t find the +7 LA Fey template you spoke of please Email me what/where it is
I’m sorry, I’m not able to find the rule text I was looking at when I wrote that. Here is a GITP thread confirming the total +9: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?177199-Gloura-as-a-PC. Maybe try posting on rpg.stackexchange.com on playing a Gloura, they should be able to find the references. I forgot to take a note here and now I don’t know where I got it from. 🙁
Couple of fun bard instruments/weapons:
Steel flute – Secrets of Sarlona pg. 136
A club you can play and throw. Perfect as a harmonizing weapon.
Lutebow – http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/we/20070314a
Silly, but fun concealable ranged weapon.
Charming the Arrow: http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/fey/20030815a
A feat that lets you use Charisma to attack rolls when using bows or crossbows if you’re a fey
That’s a cool one, thanks!
Tome of Battle stuff:
I’d prefer this be listed by maneuver level since, for example, I could go Bard/Crusader/Jade Phoenix Mage or just Bard/Warblade.
White Raven: White Raven Tactics is -wonderful- if done correctly!
I have a link to the Tome of Battle content up at the top of the handbook. I believe that will let you list by level.
I think incantantrix needs to be listed a bit higher.. 3rd level you can add any metamagic feat to any spell without the level adjustment.
For an additional action, though. I’m not sure that this prestige class is very exciting for bards.
I wonder, did you account for the errata for Healing Hymn? According to the errata, the bonus granted by Healing Hymn caps at the per-caster-level bonus for the given healing spell (so for example CLW cannot be boosted beyond 1d8+5).
I didn’t, thanks for pointing that out. The errata sucks the life out of that feature. I’ll update w/ a note, thanks.
I downloaded the Handbook Version 61 – 2019/03/15 and it begins with a color coding determining what is good and what is terrible
Unfortunately the Color / Symbol Legend text shows black and no colors at all
the pictures in the handbook downloaded are in color so my computer can see the other colors
I use Firefox normally but have before had problems with getting colored text downloaded in colors.
The other times I then used chrome and this time also tried edge but no luck
All 3 refuse to give me color text and without the color half your work is worthless
Have you or anyone met this problem and thus maybe found a solution?
If so please let me know
The color coding is done with css tags. “rank-a”, etc. You’ll have to either download the stylesheet as well, or do a find-and-replace on the html.
I love all of this and got much indeas for my own bard. To be honest, this tab is never closed ^^
A few questions. You didn’t mention the Songblade (CAdv). Is it that bad?
My (now) melee bard also took Clap of Thunder (Reserve CM) and learned Channeled Sound Blast (CM), Resonating Bolt (Carc,SC), Sonic Shield (PHB2). With the Clap as touch attack, Combat Expertise, fighting defensively and some armor I nearly never get hit and have a regulary dmg output.
Songblade – I missed this, and it’s great, at least as a template. If you deconstruct that item using the magic item creation rules, it sets a pretty low cost for having an additional bardic music each day. It’s also pretty good for a low/mid level bard that uses a rapier.
I’ll have to check out those other items, but thanks for posting them. I’ll get them into the handbook in my next round of edits.
that was fast 🙂
I forgot to ask another thing. You mentioned Healing Hymn. Yes, it’s great. Before Errata. Did you use the Errata or not-errata version?
Yea, the review on the handbook right now (version 61) is the pre-errata healing hymn. The post-errata version sucks. I just found out about it and I’m sad. That’s also getting edited in to the next version.
Im looking into making my first bard. Im going to try and get the most out of inspire courage, using the draconic inspiration, words of creation, song of the heart feats, playing support caster/buffer.
Im going for the 6 bard/4 lyric thaumaturge/10 sublime chord build, is this a good way to go about casting/buffing, because to me it looks like i lose progression in inspire courage with LT/SC levels (even with chaos music feat)? If that is the case, do you know a build that well be better? (All books allowed). Im level two now with melodic casting and dragon fire inspiration.
Great job on the guide btw. Thanks.
If you want to maximize inspire courage, you can definitely cut 4x lyric thaumaturge. I’m less in love with that class than I used to be anyway. I’ve added more research for wands and magic items, and they are doing most of what I liked that class for.
If you go 10 Bard / 10 Sublime Chord with the feat Chaos Music, you’ll get +3 to inspire courage from the base bard class — only one short of the maximum you’d get if you did all twenty levels in bard.
You can also look at keeping inspire competence and swapping out suggestion, inspire greatness, or song of freedom for Song of the Heart, giving you another +1. You could also ask your DM to waive that pesky inspire competence requirement.
I think that’s probably the best bet for you. It’s not worth taking another 10 levels in bard just to get a measly +1 more to inspire courage, but taking 4 more bard instead of lyric thaumaturge is just fine.
Hi again Joshua
Im playing the support bard with draconic inspiration now and working slowly on the levels. I have a question I hope you can help me with. As a Sublime Chord you get Song of arcane power, and I was wondering if a bard would be able to keep IC going, and use that effekt, same with Captivating Melody from LT?
As I understand, its a song effekt, and you can not have two songs going at the same time. What is your take?
I’m not sure. It looks a little unclear, but I think RAW is that you cannot have both going at the same time.
like everyone else I love this handbook it’s pretty much the perfect resource. I have some possible additions. In dragon mag 333 in that class acts section there are a number of feats related to perform that aren’t that great. Also a feat for stacking cleric and bard levels. But most importanly knowstones which are items that allow for additional spells know, they’re expensive though calculated the same as pearls of power.
Those are both great finds. I’ll be editing them in soon. Thanks!
I Have discovered this guide sadly when I already was level 1, and it wasn’t a great build, but I’ve been using it so much as a reference to fix things that I felt compelled to thank you. Among the Handbooks that i found this is by far the best.
Just for insight: I built a Bard that pretended to be some sort of swiftblade (comedy ensued when on my first attack roll i killed the druid’s cat), and in the story as it evolved I’m making him become a real swordfighter by multiclassing Warblade. I tried asking the DM about crusader, but he pointed out that lore-(and personality)-wise it didn’t make very sense. I am still very happy though.
🙂 Glad the handbook helped.
So just to make a correction Divine bard cannot go sublime chord. Divine bards spells are all divine not arcane so can’t go into sublime unless you switch to regular bard or another arcane type.
Just pointing out, that Drow Legacy says absolutely nothing about losing race bonuses
Also on Dagger whip: I remember seeing it “updated” to 3.5 in Dragon Compendium (it was a short bit in a magic weapon’s description, saying that it is a whip that deals lethal damage and costs some gold) and I think somewhere else too… Probably Drow of the Underdark, but I’m not sure
Oh man, that really improves that feat. Thanks!
Hello Joshua, here’s a build I’ve helped my friend to create in a table we’re playing:
– Bard 8/ Swiftblade 2/ Sublime Chord 2/ Swiftblade +8
Do you know of any ways to fine tune it? It is Strength + Charisma bard focused on the Snowflake Wardance + Inspire Courage Boosting for piling up Echoblade hits. No acess to ToB as of right now.
It has proved remarkably solid and will end at 8th level spells.
What feats? It looks like a reasonable build to me.
As of right now, he’s running:
Dodge, Mobility, Words of Creation and Chaos Music
He does not appear to be sure of his next feats, however.
Thank you so much for the guide, this has helped me so much since I haven’t played 3.5 for something like 12 years…
One thing I would disagree with is Professions. Obviously using it to earn money is dumb, but a single ranks of it is really useful if you are playing The Face. Most people actually speak two languages, Local (Common/Race) and Peer (Profession). A single rank lets you speak to people in their Peer language and have them speak back to you in it. This is way better than Knowledge: Whatever, since that requires a roll vs a stated DC of at least 10 for really easy information. But Profession lets you talk about and do it as someone who can earn money at it, as well as have contacts in their guilds etc.
Think of a Bard with one rank of Profession: Sailor in Saltmarsh. No one will view you as a great sailor, but they won’t look at you as a landlubber.
The other profession I always look at is Profession: Barrister/Lawyer. How often does your band of Murder Hobos go before a Judge? Being able to respectfully use the correct terms and argue with a small amount of understanding of the law is a huge advantage.
As The Face this can couple with almost any social skill with those of that profession. With Preform: Comedy (or Acting or Orate) to really make friends in a guild. Or Pick the right Sea Shanty to befriend a crew. Use it with Disguise (as Profession), Diplomacy, Sense Motive, and especially Gather Information. When it comes to a profession in a world with Guilds, you aren’t an outsider, you are one of them.
Cool point. I’ve edited profession to include some of these ideas.
I like your sourse book, it is really good to read, nice work!
I have a 6 and a half level human bard, who is like a social/knowledge skill based and support character. My character is very thirsty and has addiction for knowledge, songs, poetry, culture etc. I am playing the new 3.5 version of bard, where IC dont stack with level, so basic it gives +1/+1 to saves and attack, but i can modify it with a lot of mastercraft instrument, to achieve special bonuses. It is written in the SaS book, so i use it as source. Summon Instrument is a level 2 spell in my progression as the SaS book says, but i can get mastercraft from that if my k6 dice is 6, but if i dont get i have a lvl 0 spell to make mastercraft instrument from it. So some ways i have a bit different spells and basic feats, but i think its ok, i have a plenty way to use ma character.
My character is Charisma (17) and Int (16) based, my feats: Skill focus (Perform), Extra music, Obscure Lore. I can’t change my progressing, but i can reach my goals with these, thx to your guide too.
I recently leveled up my bard, so the lvl 6 feat is i think Melodic Castig because i can use the bardic songs, use magic items and spells, and i can use the Perform skill instead of Concentration. I think this feat is so useful.
Now i have some problem to decide what way i chose in the future. With Melodic Casting i have the Entry Requirments to be a Lyric Thaumaturge, but before it my goal was to be a Virtuoso and then the Seeker of the Songs.
It sound so nice in late that i can combo the Seeker of the Songs Combine song feat with the Virtuoso Sharp Note+Inspire Courage, but furthermore i try to max out it with Word of Creation (lvl 9 Feat). At lvl 12 i want Lyric Song to have more and more possible way to use spells.
What is your opinion about the next character pathes:
-First in my mind was a bard/virtuoso/seeker of the song character. It would be good if I could train as a Virtuoso 1 instead of lvl 7 bard, but Entry Requirements are: Perform rank 10+, so at least i can train at 8th lvl. So with this way i will be a Bard 7/Virtuoso 5/Seeker of the Song 8, but it would be much better if a could be Bard 6/Virtuoso 5 (because the Sharp Note to support my allies)/Seeker of the Song 9. The 9th SotS feat is so good i think.
-Second way is Bard 6/Lyric Thaumathurge 4/SotS 10. With this i will have some more spells, but lose the Sharp note song.
Or let the 10th lvl of SotS and have the 5th in the Lyric Thaumathurge?
Virtuoso is nice because of the supportive song, bard improve and the Sharp Note, but maybe if i let it flew away from my mind, the second option is way better. more spells, more oppurtinity etc.
Now will be some interesting question to you:
-What do you think about the Words of Creation to work with Virtuoso songs, Seeker songs, Warchanter songs etc?
If you will be the DM, would you accept it? If i use the feat with Combine song: Sharp note+IC, would it twice the crit chance (like the Greater Improved Crit feat) or no?
-And what you think about if I will use the Words of Creation with the Seeker of the Songs seeker music? Will it double the resistances and the refrain damage? In the text of Words of Creation, there is a part where says “enhance Bardic Music ability”, but Virtuoso, Seeker of the Song, Warchanter has similar Music ability, so i think it is valid to use it and replace the text to “enhace Seeker Music ability” or “enhance Viruoso Performance” or “enhance Warchanter Music ability” etc.
What is your opinion about these things?
Thank you and appriciate your answer!
Alex, a D&D lover, and a present bard player
There’s a lot in your post. Here are some responses/thoughts based on what you said:
* Inspire courage does stack with level in 3.5 (link: https://www.d20srd.org/srd/classes/bard.htm) At levels 8, 14, and 20 you get a +1 boost. So another level and a half and you’ll get another +1.
* Summon Instrument is published in the 3.5 Players Handbook as a 0th level spell.
* Skill focus (Perform) is probably not going to give your character much more value in-game, unfortunately.
* Obscure Lore also seems like an underpowered feat to me.
* If you like the knowledge flavor, look at Knowledge Devotion from Complete Champion. Very strong and fits the flavor you are going for.
* Melodic casting is good if you want to go into Lyric Thaumaturge, but that class doesn’t progress bardic knowledge. Maybe just knowledge devotion instead.
* Seeker of the Song is a cool class. You might have fun there.
* Inspire Courage doesn’t increase crit chance.
* Words of Creation won’t benefit anything other than inspire courage, inspire competence, inspire greatness, and inspire heroics. You could ask your DM to make something up, but the game itself doesn’t do that.
Have you looked at the spell Spymaster’s Coin from Complete Scoundrel? It’s kind of like Listening Coin, except 2nd-level instead of 3rd and with added flexibility in exchange for losing duration and consistency:
– Duration is one hour per level, but it’s only active for one _round_ per level, chosen whenever you want (must concentrate while active).
– It’s a single item that feeds information directly back to your brain.
– It doesn’t have to be a coin – any Fine item is fair game.
– It can be either audio (as Clairaudience) or video (as Clairvoyance).
– Detecting its magical aura requires a caster level check, DC 15 + you CL.
This opens up some nifty opportunities:
– Use a pebble for your sensor. Stick it in the tread of your shoe. When you want to drop it discreetly, just futz with it with your other shoe as though you’re getting something unstuck from the treat (which you are). No need for Sleight of Hand.
– The video version shows you everything in a line-of-sight cone. Affix a small stone to the front of a headband. Use the stone as a sensor. Attach your new streaming GoPro to a flying friend.
– Nothing about the spell says you can have only one of them. If you have spell slots to burn before going to sleep, make a bunch. Drop them in groups and activate them in series if you want a longer sensor duration.
– A dart is a fine item. So is a sweetgum tree ball, which weighs next to nothing but will stick furiously to clothing. After casting spymaster’s coin, use launch item (get a wand – I love this spell!) to embed a dart into a wooden surface or stick a sweetgum ball to someone’s back. This lets you drop your sensor from afar.
I think it solidly justifies a 4-star (****) rating.
P.S. Thanks again for making such a great resource!
Nice find! I added it as a 3 star spell. I think it’s really cool, but given its limited application it’s a bit hard to recommend taking as a daily cast. I think it’s a great effect to put on a wand or scroll.
Incantatrix …Free persist….no adjustments…..can even persist spells caste by someone else. Think this is a much better class than you think.
It’s a cool class, but I really don’t think it adds much to bards. Maybe it could be 3 stars instead of 2. Maybe 2 is the right rating. In either case, It’s not a particularly exciting option for the bard.
What makes you say you can persist a spell cast by someone else? I don’t see that in the text (MoF p31).
Cooperative Metamagic (Su): At 2nd level, an incantatrix gains the ability to apply any metamagic feat she possesses (except Silent Spell, Still Spell, or Quicken Spell) to a spell being cast by a willing allied spellcaster. The caster need not prepare the spell in metamagic form or in a higher-level spell slot; the incantatrix simply modifies the spell during the casting. Using this ability is a standard action that provokes an attack of opportunity, just like casting a spell, though the incantatrix can use the Concentration skill with this ability as though she were casting defensively. The incantatrix must ready an action to use cooperative metamagic when her ally begins casting and must be adjacent to the caster. The incantatrix must make a Spellcraft check (DC 18 + [3 Ã— modified spell level]) to succeed. “Modified spell level” is the level of the spell slot that the spell would occupy if it were prepared with the metamagic feat applied. Any spell level increases from metamagic feats that the caster applied also count toward the modified spell level. For example, if an incantatrix applies the Maximize Spell feat to an ally’s chain lightning spell, the modified spell level is 9th (6th for the spell, +1 for the Maximize Spell feat), and the DC is 18 + (3 Ã— 9) = 45. If she applies the same feat to an ally’s silent chain lightning spell, the modified spell level i s 10th and the Spellcraft DC is 48. An incantatrix can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + her Int modifier.
Metamagic Effect (Su): At 3rd level, an incantatrix can attempt to apply a metamagic feat she possesses to a persistent spell effect that is already in place. For example, she could use Extend Spell to extend the duration of a wall of force or Maximize Spell to maximize the damage dealt by a cloudkill. To use this ability, the incantatrix must be adjacent to or within the spell effect and make a successful Spellcraft check (DC 18 + [3 Ã— modified spell level]. “Modified spell level” is the level of the spell slot that the spell would occupy if it were prepared with the metamagic feat applied. Spell slot increases for metamagic feats that were applied to affect the spell’s casting (such as Still Spell, Silent Spell, or Quicken Spell) do not count toward the modified spell level, but adjustments for metamagic that change the spell’s effect (such as Empower Spell, Enlarge Spell, or Widen Spell) do count.
I’m looking at a different class. It appears there are two classes with the same name. Which book and page is that from?
Player’s Guide to faerun page 61
Thanks! I’ve updated the handbook with this version as well.
An impressive collection of bard stuff, u helped me to confirm some ideas of my build, thanks a lot. If I can improve it better I have to say that Magical instruments list lacks of Pipes of the sewers (u can find it in DM guide) (it’s useless, but collecting all together is great and also cool). Invisibility spell is a 2nd spell, not first; i don’t know where u find it first (u write it explicitly, maybe some errata). There is also ghost pipes (1°spell) from lost empires of faerun
Thanks! Added Pipes of the Sewer and made a note about swift invisibility being 2 in complete adventurer. FYI: The spell compendium has it as level 1.
Hi, we have a Virtuoso in our group, our DM says Jarring Song is a mind-affecting effect, by following the general bard songs and virtuoso performance rules, but the Virtuoso player disagrees. What are your thoughts on tn the matter?
I don’t see anything that says it is a mind-affecting ability. Sustaining Song specifically states that it is mind affecting, so that tends to imply that the other Virtuoso songs are not MA by default. I’d ask on rpg.stackexchange.com to be sure.
I will always be a strong proponent of Sense Motive if only for the Assess Opponent use (aka “Are we gonna get our butts handed to us?”) from Complete Adventurer (pg 102)
That’s a really good point. Thanks!
One thing worth noting (which I just discovered) is that the Animate Instrument spell only works for non-magical instruments. Unfortunately, this makes the spell completely useless, in my opinion.
I was hoping I could get some drums to play themselves for a bardbarian concept, but nope. I guess I’m back to singing and dancing again.
Intelligent items? Awaken Construct? Homunculous? Effigy? There are more….
Any build progression with War weaver ???
bard 6 warweaver 3 virtuoso 1 sublime chord 2/ warweaver 2/ virtuoso rest
Oops messed up a bit on the build bard 7/warweaver 2/virtuoso 1/sublime chord 2/war weaver 3/ virtuoso 5 might also look early levels of Lyric thaumaturge instead of some of the bard levels and maybe instead of the virtuoso levels
Half-Elf Bard 1-6 / Heartfire Fanner 1-5 / Sublime Chord 1-2 / War weaver 1-5 / Sublime Chord 3-4
Flaw Feat 1 – Nymph’s Kiss
Flaw Feat 2 – Melodic Casting
Human Bonus Feat – Dragontouched
Creation Feat – Draconic Heritage (any sonic dragon)
3rd Level Feat – Skill Focus (Perform) (Hearfire Fanner)
6th Level Feat – Negotiator (Heartfire Fanner)
9th Level Feat – Dragonfire Inspiration (sonic)
This is amazing. I have been perusing it for the last month or so for my Gnome Bard Illusionist. I made some decisions early level without really knowing where I was going so have been figuring it out along the way. But this has also led me to an idea for a build I quite fancy.
Bard 5 / Gnome Paragon 3 / Nightmare Spinner 2 / Sublime Chord 2 / Shadowcaster Mage 3… Then finish NS and ScM (or dip into something else like Mindbender or Dread Witch) as you see fit to 20.
– missed casting levels from GP and NS are prior to SC but SC prereqs are still met, so SC can level fully from 11-20
-Gnomes, Gnome Paragons, and Nightmare Spinners all grant extra illusion spells which can be converted to anything through ScM’s lvl 3 Shadow Illusion…
-NS shakes (no save) any creature that attempts a Will disbelief save on an illusion. Using Shadow Conjuration and Shadow Evocation bumped with ScM means either any spell you choose in the moment is effective or disbelieved yet still debuffs.
-Just seems incredibly fun to play.
I have a pretty good idea of where to take feats, but spell (especially those effective through shadow con/evo) and item suggestions would be lovely. Of note: For my current build I started heavy diplomacy as a street performer and then got into alter self and so am the face of the party with a little bit of infiltration. But, moving forward I’ll be trying to focus mostly on the illusion-style classes above.
I’m still earlyish in my campaign and won’t get to take all the levels as planned above due to prereq problems, but may update based off my experiences as a Shadow Gnome. Again thanks for this Tome. I’ve explored some other handbooks – including other classes and this is by far my favorite so far.
What do you think about this build?
Half-Elf Bard 1-6 / HEarfire Fanner 1-5 / Sublime Chord 1-2 / War weaver 1-5 / Sublime Chord 3-4
Human with Half-Elf Substitution Levels 1-5 / Hearfire Fanner 1-5 / Zhentarim Skymage 1-5 / War Weaver 1-5
you want warweaver as soon as possible as warweaver is the important part of the build. so soon as you meet the prereqs for war weaver you want to go into warweaver levels 11 and 12 need to be sublime chord so best case is by level 15 you will have full warweaver.
Why is Sublime Chord mentioned in this guide but not explicitly rated?
It’s up there, under “Bard Specific Prestige Classes”. 5/5 stars. 🙂
So I was putting together a character and came across the rest spontaneous healer feat from complete divine. And it looks recently first. Some flexibility and effectively 5 spells (1 per level). Then I see that you need a widsom bonus?. But then I remember that the divine bard is a thing. I wonder if that feat can be of any use for this type of character?
Yea it might be cool for a divine bard. I’d also ask my DM for a house-ruling to cha times/day, too. I think a DM should say “sure” to that. It’s not OP, helps the team out, and is fun.
I would just like to thank you for making this guide….apparently my Dm’s have decided to houserule words of creation so my future characters won’t be busted….they didn’t like my level 10 barding giving everyone +10 bonuses…
I don’t blame him. 😛
don’t know if this in here or not but the book 3.5e “Complete Mage” pages 44-45 feat: Melodic casting, this is a must for me.
Oh yea, it’s on there. Great feat, especially because it leads into Lyric Thaumaturge.
how about the spell “resounding voice” heroes of battle 3.5e page 127
I don’t see much of a use for it, generally. It might be cool as a scroll or something, but I can’t see casting that more than once or twice in a normal campaign. Have you used it for anything cool?
I love to combine it with a lesser meta-magic rod of “enlarge spell” and a scroll of “divine insight” and host massive performances or have the “subsonic” feat with a “inspirational boost” spell and upgrade whole army’s or even city’s with out being found and blasted.
widen rod not enlarge rod
I really appreciate all the work you’ve done on the bard guide (thank you). I am very interested in your summoner bard and am about to go into a module beginning at level 10 progressing to 15; I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind recommending a build for me (a modified version of Leaf)?
CG Human Unseelie Fey Bard to Sublime Chord. Potentially looking for a full build in case we go all the way to 20, if you’re willing/have the time (including details on cohort and followers from the leadership feat).
Backstory is a circus clown and ringmaster. Appearance-wise he has tiny, brittle, insect wings and a skull painted face with large foam balls in his lidless sockets (his ‘tears’ produce a seemingly endless supply of foam juggling balls).
1.- In Dragon magazine Heartfire Fanner says: forward any spellcasting class, but in the text one part says the same, but later it says arcane class, Can I take it as divine spellcasting ?
2.- It says I gain the skills of a level 5 bard, this includes 5 / day of bardic music, inspire courage +1, countersong, fascinate and inspect competence. Is this correct?
3.- Inspired Fight, all other effects of bardic music:
In the text, explain that for every 3 character levels you select an extra ally to give him the effects of this ability. Referring to this, the different bardic music effects are obtained at their different levels: 6th suggestion, 8th inspire courage +2, 9th inspire greatness … etc … of character level, as long as you meet the requirements of skill performance?
That is to say: Cleric 7 / Heartfire Fanner 3 / Radiant Servant of Flame (Palor) 2, it would be a character of level 12, with 15 skill ranks in any skill of performance and therefore would have:
5 / day bardic music
Countersong, Fascinate, Suggerencia, Inspire Competence, Song of freedom
Inspire Courage +2, Inspire Greatness, Inspired Fight (2 feats), Magic Flare (1 level)
Is this correct? any suggestions? help please!!
https://rpg.stackexchange.com is the best place for those kinds of questions. Good luck!
I run a human bard with Bard 6/Lyric Thaumaturge 1 now and my future build will be Bard 6/Lyric Thaumaturge 4/SotS 10.
I have several questions to you.
My question: With bardic music abilities the source book says: e:g.: Inspire Courage: “A bard of 3rd level OR higher with 6 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his music or poetics”. What is the meaning of this? I run a Bard 6/LT 1, my bard’s bardic music ability won’t improve, just my spellcasting ability with Lyric Thaumaturge. So it is essentials to have the x bard level, or just the Perform rank enough to get the higher tier bardic music abilities? All of my classes have Perform skill in their class skill list, so its Rank will be (bard levels+Lyric Thaumaturge levels+SotS levels), and max rang will be All levels+3. With this it is enough to get Inspire Greatness, Song of Freedom etc, because the book says x level OR (x+3) Rang in Perform. Is it valid or i need both to get the bardic music abilities?
I have alternate options for the bard level gap to improve with Vest of Legends (+5 effective bard level) + Chaos Music (+4 effective bard level in music abilites, feat at lvl 12). So with this and my 6th level bard, its effective bard level will be 6+5+4=15 in bardic music abilites. What is your opinion about this “OR” thing? I will have the prereq Perform ranks, so it says that bard level OR enough Perform ranks… To me, if i have enough rank in Perform (either way my character is just a level 6th bard) i can get the musics.
My final build will be in Feats: Skill Focus (Perform), Obscure Lore, Extra Music, Melodic Casting, Words of Creation at lvl 9, Chaos Music at lvl 12. I could Min/Max my character with Song of the Heart instead of Suggestion or Inspire Greatness, but the Suggestion skill is so good and it gives a lot of roleplaying options and fun ideas in the game. That is good to have stronger Inspire Courage with +1, but the roleplaying part is more important. Last game it saved my teammate from a big desert wurm, and could Fascinate it and then with Suggestion send far away from us.
Thank you your answer. Have a nice day.
It definitely means: a bard (of level three or higher) AND (with six or more ranks in a perform skill), so you need to meet both requirements. A single level of bard with a high perform skill will not get you all of the bardic musics (if it did, you would just go bard 1 / wizard 19 and have wizard casting with all of the bardic musics.)
Yes, the chaos music + vest of legends will give you an effective lvl of 15 for determining which bardic musics you have access to.
Given that, skill focus (perform) is definitely not a good idea.
I like suggestion as a spell instead of a bardic music, because the bardic music is more restricted/difficult to pull off. I agree it’s a really cool feature to have, I just think we get more value with it as a spell.
Yeah, it is clear now, just i don’t know why they write it OR, it goes to misunderstanding. But i thought it is the proper meaning of that, and the Chaos Music+Vest of Legends will help me improve in bardic musics.
Skill focus (perform) is a must have to be the Seeker of the Song prestige class, so it is good in some ways
What would you suggest me instead of Suggestion bardic ability? Go for Song of the Heart for boosting my IC and other bardic musics or what? In my team there are a barbarian, a fighter, a druid, 1-2 rogue and me the bard.
What do you think about Suggestion, it is enough in Wand or Eternal wand or should i have in my spell list?
My spell list now a bit awkward, but i am working on it to have the good spells with our DM’s approval. I will speak with him to approve that, when i am leveling up i can change spells from one to another below my highest spell level. (i can use 3rd level spells, so when leveling up i can change 0th, 1st, and 2nd level spells 1-1.etc)
I am trying to play a creative and useful bard with Conjure (Creation) spells boosted by Words of Creation to have double effects, like Phantom Steed, Leomund’s Secure Shelter, Leomund’s Spacious Carriage, Ethereal Mount etc so my team dont need horses, mounts or like that. But i like to have some illusion spells to… it is so difficult to play the bard with some known spells 😀
3rd level known spells for me are: Major Image and i have to think a 2nd option too. ( Maybe it will be Haste for buffing my teammates, or Good Hope, but i think i will take this to an Eternal Wand or in a continous magic item)
I like song of the heart, yeah. Having a powerful inspire courage is really nice. On my main bard I paid the feats to have it be a swift cast, and I don’t regret it.
I like suggestion as a spell not a wand. You need to limit wand spells to things that don’t have DC’s, like benign transposition and blockade.
Yeah, i have a lot of options too, thanks to your guide, it is so fantastic, helps a lot. (Song of the Heart, Badge of Valor, Inspirational Boost, Words of Creation etc.) 😀
With wands, i try to extend my list of spells to have some options for different conditions. e.g: if i use Words of Creation to bardic music and get the d4 nonlethal dmg for use, i will have a wand with Refreshment spell to get rid of the nonlethal dmg.
So i have a lot of options to help my team to be better and can survive different situations.
I will change the Suggestion for Song of the Heart to boost my IC, then work on to get a Vest of Legends somehow to improve further, get an Eternal Wand with Inspirational Boost spell, use a natural horn (in the previous campaign we defeated a Minotaur, and i took its horns, so i will create a Natural horn from them. What do you think about a double natural horn around my character’s neck, like pauldrons and just use my mouth to play on them without taking them into my hands?? With this i can use the Natural horn IC benifits and my hands are free too to do any other moves.)
What other tips do you have for me? What kind of wands, scrolls do you suggest to have?
And what do you think about Shadow Conjuration spell? It says it can mimic conjuration (summoning) or conjuration (creation) spells level 3 or below. e.g: If i use it for spell and say to my friends that believe in it, will it work with full strenght or will they roll a Will save for that and depends on the results?
The Apprentice feat (soldier) adds intimidate to the class skill list (for the bard and any future prestige class/ multiclass) while also providing extra skill points. This can allow the bard to qualify for things like doomspeaker much sooner. Cracking work on the guide, by far the most detailed, well presented guide I have read for anything d&d.
Nice find. Thanks!
Here’s an item suggestion: Runestaff of Hound of Doom. Far cheaper than the corresponding staff, and you definitely want it to be a staff or runestaff so that your stats apply to the creature. Runestaffs need two to five spells (along a theme), so Phantom Steed might be another nice one to throw on their for your DM. Total cost of this runestaff: 5400 gold.
For those unfamiliar with runestaffs, you get to use your own abilities, but you also have to use your own spell slots. You can also only be attuned to one runestaff at a time. Basically, it’s a way of paying money to expand your spell list to include ANY other arcane spells (between 2 and 5), so I’m sure you can come up with other awesome spells to put on here.
Why Hound of Doom? You get a summon that scales with your charisma, hp, BAB, and inspire courage! For example, as a level 14 bard, I have about +10 on my inspire courage, +7 charisma, 12 BAB (from being a swiftblade), and 96 hp. This means my shadowy hound is a dire wolf with 21 AC, 96 hp, +29 to hit (my BAB + inspire courage + 7 for its base strength), and it deals 1d8+20 damage on a hit and gets a free trip attempt at +11 that doesn’t provoke attacks. Plus he lasts 11 minutes (sadly I’ve lost some caster level from swiftblade), which is way longer than most summons, and is definitely long enough to summon at the beginning of a series of battles and last through most (if not all) of them. Basically, for one full round action to summon and a third level spell slot, you get a LOT. Combine with swift invisibility (other whatever other techniques you have for staying out of combat) to safely cast the spell if you didn’t know the combat was about to happen.
Phantom Steed also scales with caster level and is perfect for flavor to go along side Hound of Doom in a runestaff. You might have to work a little harder to find a hexblade with item creation feats, but just roleplay that with your DM!
Hound of doom is a sweet find for runestaffs, nice.
I miss the spells for sublime chord levels 7, 8 and 9 🙁
Search for Treantmonk’s Guide to being God. I think i link to it above, or you can search the web. Sublime Chords use Wizard spells, so I didn’t make a separate list.
http://dnd.arkalseif.info/classes/mystic-wanderer/index.html I think this class would be a nice go to for gishes. It works with the divine bard.
Seems cool, I’ll add it. Thanks!
So I have found the Instruments of the bard in the MIC they lose the competence bonus to Countersong,fascinate, and suggestion….makes them not quite as good
I don’t understand.
there are several Instruments of the bard (Instrument of the Bards – Fochluchan Bandore, 2100 – Instrument of the Bards – Mac-Fuirmidh Cithern, 4100 – Instrument of the Bards – Doss Lute, Instrument of the Bards – Canaith Mandolin, Instrument of the Bards – Anstruth Harp,and Instrument of the Bards – Ollamh Harp) they each gave bonuses to countersong, fascinate, and suggestion before MIC but MIC gets rid of these bonuses.
Yes, I have them listed above. What do you mean, though?
so you have them listed as giving bonuses to fascinate, countersong, and suggestion. Those bonuses aren’t available anymore. You might want to update that.
You have them listed as though they give bonuses to fascinate, countersong, suggestion. Those bonuses were taken away when MIC came out. You might want to update that.
I think you are underrating Counter Fear. Fear effects like frightful presence can seriously nerf a party, especially the tanks. By the time you face those kinds of opponents, your Perform checks should be astronomical so Counter Fear pretty much neutralizes that threat. If you’re going to be facing a dragon or similar opponent, it is worth activating it even if you don’t have Melodic Casting yet. This is one reason that I give Melodic Casting a 5* rating. I find it indispensable if Bardic Music is a major part of your build.
I agree, good catch. Thanks!
I noticed you didn’t include the belt of many pockets, are there any reasons you do not like this item, or if you do how would you rate it?
I’ve never used that item before. It is more expensive and holds less than a handy haversack. The upside seems to be that a familiar can hide in it safely. Am I missing anything else about it? If not, then it looks like a much weaker option than the haversack.
I have never, ever seen it pointed out before, but, the Paragnostic Apostle’s ‘Lore’ ability reads as such:
“Lore (Ex): You can recall legends or information regarding various topics, just like a bard can with bardic knowledge. To use this ability, make a lore check (1d20 + twice your paragnostic apostle level + your Int modifier). Success grants you the same result as a bardic knowledge check would. If you have the bardic knowledge or lore ability from another class, your levels in those classes stack with your paragnostic apostle levels for the purpose of this check.
“TWICE your PA Level”, and the wording states explicitly that similar class abilities stack with “paragnostic apostle levels for the purpose of this check”
This class auto doubles your lore bonus from class levels. A Bard 9, PA 1 (for example), has a lore check of 1d20+20+int+mods? That’s pretty huge for lore builds. Under Bardic Knowledge, a DC 30 is the highest, non-epic use listed. You’d really only need one level of PA and 9 levels of lore-classes to essentially max out Bardic Knowledge/Lore (presuming you can make up 10 between your base int, a d20, and/or using any of the lore/knowledge/intelligence boosting spells/feats/synergies), and you’d know practically ANYTHING you wanted (DM fiat/book throwing not withstanding) (DC 30: Extremely obscure, known by very few, possibly forgotten by most who once knew it, possibly known only by those who don’t understand the significance of the knowledge.)
I mainly dip it on cloistered cleric builds, but bards need love too 😉
PS-Great resource, couldn’t agree with you more on many points here. I got a discord game of 3.5 dnd, all 1st party source material, thematically-optimized (like, going full optimization, but towards flavor?); and a low-powered caitiff game of V:TM 20th; if anyone is interested in joining either, let me know (just reply), and leave a comment on HOW FREAKING AWESOME THIS GUIDE IS!
You should post on rpg.stackexchange.com to see what they think of that interpretation. My instinct is that it would be bard_lvl + 2x paragnostic_level + int.
Glad you like the guide. 🙂
This is great. I’m building my first magic type character. The bard sounded interesting so that’s the one I chose. Your “book” is a wonderful help.
However, my question has nothing to do with the manual. It has to do with your character sheet. I. LOVE. IT!! Can you share the template for the Google sheet you used?? An editable template, maybe? Please let me know via email.
Thanks in advance,
Dave Rumbaugh, Pittsburgh, PA.
Glad you like it! I’ve developed it over a lot of years and I’m really happy with it too.
Does that link work?
Yes! Thank you. I use another atm but it has limited space. Yours allows for more descriptions and notes.
Thank you again. The nice thing about it, most people have Google so, I can send my sheets to the DM easily.
Songblade’s in the armor section instead of the weapon section.
That being said, this is very nice!
thanks for your great job about the Bard! make my job lot easier 🙂
Noob question : Are you sure that you need martial Study feat and martial stance feat to get Song of the white raven?
The prérequisite i found are : Bardic music (inspire courage), one White Raven maneuver. I thought you can get one raven maneuver with only martial study isnt it?
Thanks a lot for your answer
You’re welcome, enjoy! If you find anything good I missed please let me know.
Unfortunately, yes, you do need both a white raven maneuver and a white raven stance. You can get the Song of the White Raven feat without access to a stance, but the feat only operates when you are in a white raven stance (see the first sentence of the benefit section).
can the feat “Knowledge Devotion” be used against HUmanoids if the bard has 5 ranks in Local Knowledge or is this feat only against creatures and animals?
I believe it works vs humans, but the best place for rules questions is https://rpg.stackexchange.com.
Great Job! Full of useful information! I do feel like you are underestimating what a marshal can bring to the table for multiclassing. Motivate Dexterity minor aura at level one gives you Bonus on Dexterity checks, Dexterity-based skill checks, and initiative checks based of you Charisma modifier. And it’s a circumstance modifier so it stacks with everything. Plus a diplomacy focus feat for free. The other motivate auras can be helpful depending on your group, but who doesn’t want more initiative for their group.
Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ll make an update with next edit. Thanks!
First of all this is amazing! Is the second time I refer to your guides to build a bard. Thank you so much for your work!
Second, I’m trying SO hard to build a buffer/support Bard + Lyric Thaumaturge + War Weaver + Sublime Chord and I can’t get to a good answer on how to cram them together. If anyone here has any ideas I would reeeeally appreciate it XD
It’s hard to fit war weaver and sublime chord together, I think. War Weaver likes 5 levels and you can’t start until level 8. Sublime Chord wants to start as soon as possible, so that only leaves you a few levels for War Weaver. In addition, war weaver and lyric thaumaturge want to be in levels 7-10. I might drop lyric thaumaturge and do Bard 7, War Weaver 3, Sublime Chord 10. I didn’t look too closely at it, but something like that might make sense.
Yeah, I was leaning towards War Weaver, but not taking the 5 levels kinda hurts. Will read a little bit more and see. Thanks!
Keep in mind you don’t have to absolutely maximize power. If you like war waver, do bard 7, warweaver 5, and sublime chord 8. It’ll be plenty strong.
Hello Joshua, is the median damage of 1d6 (dragonfire inspiration) 3.5 and not 2.5?
Thanks for your handbook! Recently I’d like to create a 19-level bard. My DM agrees me to us firee as my charater’s race. In the handbook you mentioned that firee firee comes from BoED, page 169. But the BoED doesn’t said what will happen when firee was used as a character’s race. Could you tell me the abilities of firee? Should I use the exactly the monster firee’s card as my character’s card? (with 10 LA and 8 race’s hit dice)
I think this should be helpful. Good luck!
Well in the chapter “Monsters as Races”, it says that a character’s effective charater level is equil to his level adjustment plus his hie dice. How can I create a firee character without any hit dice, like a half giant or elan?
Would like to make another class recommendation War Mage from dragonlance Age of Mortals. 5/5 spellcasting, gives some metamagics feats, but best of all if you take all 5 levels gives you the ability to give up to 3 allies a morale bonus to AC equal to your charisma Modifier.
Oh man I gotta find that book. That sounds sweet.
This is a cool class. There are a number of significant downsides, though:
* Doesn’t progress bardic music
* Requires three bad feats
* d4 hit dice
* Bad skill list and low skill points
All in all, I don’t think this is worth trading to give 3 allies +6 to AC.
yep this is for a build where you leave bard. Also note one new skill it has intimidate as a skill now as it got an errata. I used this in a build where I was stacking CHA to AC happily able to add CHA to AC 3 times. Plus I calculated this as a +10 AC as by the time I would get into this which would about around level 13 I usually have that much of a mod to charisma (nixie’s grace woot).
I just want to mention that I still look at this handbook every second day or so. And I know from other “Bards” that they enjoy your work as well. Yeah, just want to let you know. Please, keep updating your work.
ps.: I talked to my DM, he proofed the pre-errata Healing Hymn for my Bard4/Cleric1.
That’s awesome. I also look at it pretty often. I’m still playing the character that inspired this handbook, so I’m updating it as I learn more things. Let me know if you have any useful insights!
This guide is ok, I guess
Just wanted to note the reason arcane duelist if 1/2 bab is because every level you don’t get bab you get another +1 bonus for your weapon which stacks so say you have a +5 rapier if you have 10 levels of arcane duelist that is now a +10 weapon instead. Another reason i really like arcane duelist is that for the price of two levels I get cha to AC and still get to wear armor.
Mostly the feats and the spellcasting. Good note about the BAB though. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t help with extra attacks.
So another suggestion or at least a correction to be made. Your LA section will probably need to be reassessed to include RHD as that effects what level you start at. Like DragonKin you have as LA+2 it is really going to be 9 levels before you start bard as it has 7 Racial levels of Monstrous Humanoid.
I love this guide, just one quick question,
“1200 – Bracelet of Animal Transformation (ToHS 56) – Turn into an animal for 1 hour, once per day. Way way way underpriced.”
Anyone know what ToHS is?
Glad you like the handbook! Appreciate it. That’s from the Tower of High Sorcery from the Dragonlance campaign setting.
Awesome Joshua !
Thank you for this work and D&d 3.5 Forever !!! ?
so a really good fourth level spell missing is Inner Beauty.
(Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss)
Level: Bard 4,
Components: V, S, AF,
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Target: One creature
Duration: 10 minutes/level
Saving Throw: Will negates; see below
Spell Resistance: Yes
You change the subject’s physical appearance to reflect its personality and morality, revealing its true beauty or exposing its revolting ugliness.
Although this spell is particularly effective for rooting out demons that have used magic to assume pleasing forms, it also works well for augmenting good-aligned creatures.
If the subject is evil, its body and visage twist and deform, taking on a hideous, bestial appearance.
In addition, the subject takes a -4 penalty to Dexterity and Charisma (minimum 0) for the duration of the spell.
Furthermore, on the round that this transformation occurs, every creature within a 15-foot radius of the subject that can see it must succeed on a Fortitude save or become nauseated for 1d4 rounds by this sudden revelation of wickedness.
If the subject is good, its body and visage grow lovelier and more elegant, taking on an appearance of rapturous beauty and grace.
In addition, the subject gains a +4 sacred bonus to Dexterity and Charisma for the duration of the spell.
Furthermore, in the round when this transformation occurs, every creature within a 15-foot radius of the subject that can see it must succeed on a Fortitude save or be stunned for 1 round by this sudden revelation of virtue.
If the targeted creature is neither good nor evil, the spell has no effect.
Focus: A handheld mirror worth at least 500 gp
This is a great addition to the handbook. Thanks I’ll edit it in soon.
If you’re going into savage bard greenbound summoner, is it worth the feat tax to grab Spell Focus (conjuror)/Augment Summoning?
(since I can’t edit)
…or, cross fingers that a game lasts long enough to grab Music of Creation: Music of Growth at lvl 9 instead? (since MoG/Augment won’t stack as they’re the same sort of bonus)
(game starting at a low level)