A bit ago, I showcased some small changes you can make to a bard to step up their game some. That’s all well and good for groups who prefer minimal house rules for their games, but some groups are more open to fuller changes. The Different Bard is a full replacement for the core bard class, with 5 subclasses included.
The 5e Bard is a bit of a complex beast. It’s powerful enough, and it’s got some decent utility, but at the end of the day, it’s boring. You can kind of tune out most of the time while playing one, except to remind people about your inspiration die. Ultimately, my goal is to have a bard player making choices each round and providing all sorts of buffs throughout an encounter. My vision should play more like a game of guitar hero than anything else.
And now, without further ado,
A Different Bard
- “Ok Kage, let’s fight his music, with our music.”
A Bard is to an encounter as a frontman is to a band. Sure, they are playing an instrument, but they are also coordinating all the players and ensuring they hit just the right notes. A little extra movement here, an extra attack there, some misdirection, and a dash of showmanship goes a long way.
Spellcasting works as normal for a bard.
At first level, you gain an inspiration die. This is a single D6 that you can give to another player within 60ft as a reaction when they roll an ability check, attack roll or saving throw. When they make their check, they add that d6 + your proficiency bonus to the check. If they still fail, your use of this ability is expended until you take a long rest. If they succeed, it recovers on a short rest.
Song of Rest
Beginning at 2nd level, you can use soothing music to help revitalize your wounded allies during a short rest. If you or any friendly creatures who can hear your performance regain hit points by spending Hit Dice at the end of the short rest, each of those creatures regains an extra 1d6 hit points.
The extra hit points increase when you reach certain levels in this class: to 1d8 at 8th level, to 1d10 at 10th level, to 1d12 at 15th level, and to 2d8 at 18th level.
Music is the mainstay of a bard’s talents. Every bard knows a plethora of songs and can break one out for any occasion. Specifically, at 2nd level, you can choose any of the 6 abilities below, one per point of Proficiency Bonus, and sing songs of that nature. To begin a song is an action, and you can sustain it each round by spending a bonus action. While a song is in effect, magical properties affect all creatures within 100ft that can hear you at the end of each of your turns. In addition to the passive effect of each song gained when using your bonus action to sustain, you can choose to fully sustain the ability as an Action, instead of a Bonus Action. If you fully sustain, you gain your choice of one of two additional effects as described by the song in use. Any save DCs are 8 + proficiency bonus + Charisma modifier. Performing a song requires focus, and if you take damage while performing, you must make a concentration check or you stop playing. You can start again on your turn as an action as normal.
- Battlesong: While this song is being played, your allies can treat their weapons as though they were magical, with a bonus to attack and damage equal to half your proficiency bonus. Note this does not stack with any existing magical weapon bonuses (like those from a +1 or +2 weapon for example).
- Fully Sustain
- You can set an allies initiative to one below your own. That ally gains advantage on attack rolls on their next turn.
- You can gain +5 to initiative
- Soothing Melody: While this song is being played, your enemies find it hard to engage in a fight with you. They are sluggish, and relaxed, unable to get their blood pumping and adrenaline flowing like normal for a fight. They gain disadvantages against enchantment spells and charisma ability checks.
- Fully Sustain
- All enemies make a charisma saving throw or gain a level of exhaustion.
- Target enemy with line of sight that can hear you is enraptured. They gain the restrained condition until they cannot hear you play, you change songs, they lose sight of you, or they take damage. A charisma save negates.
- Dance Beats: While playing your allies gain a +5ft to all of their movement speeds, and advantage on saves vs the Restrained, Stunned, Petrified, or Paralyzed conditions. This does not grant new movement speeds they do not have.
- Full Action Sustain
- All allies can take an immediate dash without spending an action.
- Target ally does not provoke attacks of opportunity from movement until the end of their next turn.
- Electric Performance: While performing this song, your allies can add 1d6 lightning damage to their melee and ranged weapon attacks.
- Fully Sustain
- You can unleash an arc of lightning that deals 1d4 electric damage per point of proficiency modifier in a line that is 5ft wide. Creatures in the line can make a dexterity save to take half damage. This line extends 30ft per point of proficiency bonus.
- You can gain a fly speed of 60ft until the beginning of your next turn.
- Song of Support: Your allies can add your proficiency bonus to their passive skills, their Travel Pace is multiplied by 1.5, and they gain advantage on saves vs exhaustion or death.
- Fully Sustain
- All allies can make a saving throw against a single condition of their choice currently affecting them, including death saving throws.
- All allies can expend a hit die to regain hit points as normal.
Most bards are members, even informally, of a College representing a major school of bardic talents. This College grants them access to a unique song (if they choose to take it), and a collection of other abilities at levels 2, 6, 14, and 18.
Ability Score Improvement
When you reach 4th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature. If your DM allows the use of feats, you may instead take a feat. You gain this ability at levels 8, 12, 16, and 19.
Bards pick up all sorts of useful abilities throughout their travels. At 6th level, you gain additional training in two tools, vehicles, musical instruments, or gaming sets. You also gain proficiency in two skills of your choice. You gain this ability again at level 12.
Bards know a little bit about anything, and if they don’t know it, they can learn it quickly. At 10th level, after each long rest, a bard can exchange one of their non-skill proficiencies with another equivalent proficiency that they meet any other prerequisites for. A tool for a tool, vehicle for vehicle, or armor for armor.
Font of Inspiration
At 20th level you’ve become a font of inspiration. You can hand out inspiration at will, and while no creature can ever have more than one point, they do not need to expend it before you hand out another point. It no longer needs to recover.
College of Eloquence
Bardic members of the college of eloquence are masters at language and the persuasive arts. Social butterflies, these students are at home at parties, events, and galas.
- Level 2: You gain proficiency in Charisma Deception or Persuasion checks. If you already have both, gain expertise in one.
- Level 2: Silver Tongue: As the RAW 3rd level feature for this subclass in TCE.
- Level 6: New Song: Party Hits: You know how to pick just the right song for the event, and people always ask you to perform. While you do so, all your allies are considered trained in Persuasion.
- Fully Sustain
- A target must make a charisma saving throw or be charmed by you. You can repeat this action each round, but the target gets a save each round. If the target was damaged from any source while charmed, they are immune to this ability for 24 hours.
- You cast the command spell as a first level spell.
- Level 6: Master Linguist: You can get by with a rudimentary form of any language you hear, with a DC 10 insight check. This isn’t enough to carry a conversation, but you can get rough points across. With an evening spent in conversation with speakers of a language, you can make a DC 20 insight check to learn the language. You can try again, but it requires an additional evening spent in conversation. These only apply to languages, you still cannot speak with creatures without a language, or that do not speak.
- Level 14: Supporting Cast: When you use your inspiration die for a charisma based ability check, you instead roll 2d6 + Proficiency.
- Level 18: Stunning Appearance: You are constantly under the effects of a modified form of the Altered Self spell. It cannot be dispelled, although you could alter yourself to appear normal if you’d like. You can only use the Change Appearance function of the spell, not natural weapons or aquatic adaptation. You do not need to concentrate on the spell for it to take effect. Lastly, the largest distinction for the spell, you continually change your form to be the most appealing, comforting, or attractive form for any given observer. You are still recognizable as yourself, but an Elven Bard with blue streaks in their hair may appear to have a luscious beard with blue streaks presenting to a conservative dwarven high council. The dragonborn representative at that same council may notice your fine blue tinted scales. This is a subconscious effect, and does not require you to actively choose each visual, although you can do so by spending your action if you have a specific form you’d like all to see.
College of Lore
Members of the college of Lore live for the pursuit of knowledge, and this means they spend a lot of time in libraries, coffee shops, and universities. These bards thrive in environments of learning, and are often the only ones permitted, or even encouraged, to make noise in a library.
- Level 2: You gain proficiency in Intelligence Arcana or History checks. If you already have both, gain expertise in one.
- Level 6: New Song: Lo-Fi Beats of Study: These calming and soothing songs are the perfect background music for studying. While you perform, allies gain advantage on checks made to scribe scrolls, perform research, or other similar abilities. You must play for the duration (or a reasonable percentage as determined by the DM) to offer the benefits.
- Fully Sustain
- Target creature makes an intelligence saving throw, or gains disadvantage on their next intelligence based skill check. They are unaware of the source of this disadvantage.
- Target creature finds the best book, scrolls, tablet, or document for their research within the next minute.
- Level 14: Eureka: When you use your inspiration die for an intelligence based ability check, you instead roll 2d6 + Proficiency.
- Level 18: I Know All About It: You can expend your Inspiring Words ability to emulate the effects of a Legend Lore spell. Your Inspiring Words recovered on a short rest.
College of Satire
The college of satire is focused around socially disarming your enemies through clever wordplay and parody. Satirist’s usually shy away from direct insults and offense, and focus on tricks, comparisons, and socially deniable offenses.
- Level 2: You gain proficiency in Charisma Deception or Wisdom Insight checks. If you already have both, gain expertise in one.
- Level 6: New Song: Diss Track: You know how to set someone off, while appearing cool and aloof. How were you supposed to know they were so sensitive to their attire, and you certainly didn’t mean anything by your comment. It does look good. On them. Enemies who hear you perform must make a constitution saving throw to concentrate on an ability while you perform.
- Fully Sustain
- You can cast the spell Compelled Duel, although the spell does not require concentration for you, and does not end if you target other creatures.
- You can emulate the spell detect thoughts on a specific creature you can see. In order to concentrate on this ability, you must sustain each round as your action.
- Level 14: What About Me?: You can use your inspiration die on yourself.
- Level 18: Don’t Sweat It: Your enemies’ counter taunts roll off your back. You have advantage on saves against enchantment spells or abilities, or any ability that alters your emotions.
College of Swords
War bards, skalds, and field drummers all comprise the college of swords. These bards are at home on the battlefield, and grant their allies bonuses to combat scenarios.
- Level 2: You gain proficiency with Shields, Scimitars, and Greatswords.
- Level 6: New Song: Drums of War: You can give your inspiration die to allies within range for use on their next damage roll. When expended in this manner, it recharges at the end of each round.
- Fully Sustain
- As an action, you can make two melee attacks against different creatures within your reach.
- Target creature gains disadvantage on attacks against you for the next round, unless they can pass a wisdom saving throw.
- Level 14: Unerring Accuracy: When your inspiration die is used for an attack roll, you instead roll 2d6 + Proficiency.
- Level 18: You gain the Multiattack Feature. You can use a cantrip in place of one attack each round.
College of Whispers
The college of whispers is one of deception, lies, and mystery. Many members deny it even exists, and on the flipside, some mischievous college of satire and eloquence bards will claim membership as a misdirection. The college of whispers attracts
- Level 2: You gain proficiency in Charisma Deception or Dexterity Stealth checks. If you already have both, gain expertise in one.
- Level 6: New Song: Song of Deception: While performing, your allies can hide as though they are in shadows. While there isn’t actually any darkness brought to the area (a perfect sphere of darkness is a little obvious), all allies can treat it as though it was there for the purposes of hiding and deception. Note that most songs require an auditory element, so a haunting song of some sort will most likely be heard in the area.
- Fully Sustain
- You can briefly go invisible until the start of your next turn. If you use this ability again during your turn, you will appear and then disappear again.
- An enemy is distracted while they search for someone, and gains disadvantage on investigation, perception, or survival checks to track or find a hidden creature.
- Level 14: Stealth Mastery: When you use your inspiration die for stealth check, you instead roll 2d6 + Proficiency.
- Level 18: Surprise Casting: When you use a spell to target a creature that cannot see you, they take disadvantage on their saving throw.