So, you want to play a bard. Maybe you’re new to D&D, jumping on the post-Stranger Things trend, or you’re an experienced player looking to try a new class. Either way, this guide will walk you through the basics of how to play a bard in D&D. Having a fundamental understanding of this class will not only help your effectiveness as a player, but it’ll also make the game more fun!
How to Play Bard in D&D
Bards are an extremely versatile and complex class, as they have the ability to be proficient in many things; they can cast spells, fight in combat, and possess rogue skills. While this versatility puts bards at a great advantage, it does mean that they don’t have the sheer innate power of more focused classes, like wizards, rogues, or fighters.
Above all, bards are performers. This is important to remember because most of their skills and spells involve interaction with other creatures and NPCs. They thrive in the spotlight and in social interactions, making them a natural front-person for the party. As such, charisma is arguably the most important stat for playing a bard successfully. Other stats that are well-suited for bards are wisdom, constitution, and dexterity—which you choose to focus on will depend on how you want to play your character.
Wisdom is a helpful stat in social interactions, usually fit for bards that act as the face of the party. Constitution is great for players who want to focus on bards’ spellcasting abilities, as it will help them keep concentration on complex spells. A high dexterity stat is beneficial for offensive bard fighters.
You’ll want to keep these stat preferences in mind when choosing your race because certain races improve certain scores. Typically, half-elves, tieflings, and halflings are your best bet for a bard, but changelings, satyrs, and humans could work, too.
Choosing Your College
Colleges are subclasses for bards that you gain access to starting at third level. Each college has a distinct focus, which can slightly adjust how to play bard in your campaign.
If you’re playing D&D 5e, you can choose from the following colleges for official, non-homebrew campaigns:
- College of Lore - focuses on magical abilities, all about knowledge and truth-telling
- College of Valor - good option for an offensive bard, tells classic Homer tales of heroes, battles, and adventure
- College of Glamour - focuses and charm and beguilement for mind manipulation
- College of Swords - weaponry-focused, for rogue-leaning bards
- College of Whispers - the sneaky, Littlefinger-esque bard with psychic powers
- College of Creation - perform bard duties with the belief that all life follows an unseen work of art
- College of Eloquence - uses logic and wordplay as an artform, think debate and forensics
- College of Spirits - uses spirits (the dead kind) to tell tales, like a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark bard
Bards usually rely on magic during their adventures. Many of their spells are of the supportive variety, to help heal and aid their allies in battle. Their spell list does include some damaging spells, but this is typically not the bard’s strong suit. When you’re learning how to play bard, keep their charisma stat in mind, as this will affect their spellcasting.
One attribute that distinguishes bards from other spellcasting classes is their magical instruments.
While not all bards will have an instrument, they almost all start out with one, and many will use them for their spells. You’ll want to pick a good musical instrument—after all, you’re a performer!
Here are some of the basic musical instruments available:
- Pan Flute
Remember that you’re able to change your instrument throughout your adventure and that it can be a useful tool for roleplaying!
A great backstory is essential to playing a bard in D&D. Bards are storytellers, so their backstory is especially important! There’s no formula for crafting a good backstory—just keep in mind what a bard does and what that means for their lifestyle. Traveling from town to town, meeting different locals in taverns everywhere… Bards lead interesting, adventurous lives, and your backstory should reflect that!
Start Playing a Bard
Now you’ve caught up on some of the basics of playing a bard in D&D, it’s time to get started! Make sure you’ve got all the supplies you need, including your dice, a pen and paper (if you’re playing in-person), and your character sheet. Once you’ve got your group and your tools, all that’s left to do is play the game and have fun!