D&D Next Classes – Previewing The Bard

By Ken Wai Lau

Of all the D&D Next Classes, the Bard is the entertainer in the party. When spirits are low, he can lift the entire party with a song or an ode to their past deeds. By blending magic with music, a bard can inspire allies to great heights of courage and might in battle, allowing them to fight beyond their physical or mental limits.

The Bard’s Tale

A bard’s tendency to travel a lot means he will pick up many rumours – mostly trivial, occasionally useful. His knowledge is spread across many different fields of study and the game resolves this by allowing the bard to ‘take 10 or more’ on a d20 roll.

The bard will also learn new tricks as he advances in level to become a well rounded individual, yet also obtaining a high degree of mastery in his own area of expertise.

While he lacks the prowess of a dedicated warrior, he gains a measure of skill in combat which allows him to make an extra attack at higher levels.

In time, when the bard writes his own name into legend, he can even draw upon knowledge that most spellcasters would rather keep secret.

Music to My Ears

d&d classes

Who needs fireworks when you can cast pyrotechnics?
Artwork © by Daniel Irving Decena; Parchment © by Heiko Oertel

A bard’s signature ability in Dungeons & Dragons 5e is his bardic music – as with other editions of D&D.

As a bard, you can sing for up to 10 minutes until you stop or are prevented from singing, after which you must complete a short rest before this option becomes available again.

You can perform other actions, attack and even cast spells at the same time – as long as you don’t cast spells that require concentration.

You begin with two uses for your bardic music. You can either inspire your allies to heroic deeds in battle or improve their chances of success in a task they are attempting. You can switch between the two during the same performance, but you cannot use both options simultaneously.

It’s worth bearing in mind that two bards who perform at the same time will cancel each other out, so you can forget about forming a band in your D&D campaign :).

A Magical Performance

While a bard will never reach the potency and mastery of an archmage, he does at least carry a few useful tricks up his sleeve.

You are not limited by the need to prepare spells as other classes are, but you know fewer spells and can only cast a certain number of spells per rest. You are also proficient at ritual casting and can mix magic with swordplay more seamlessly at later levels with the ability to cast spells quickly. Using a music instrument will increase the potency of your magic.

All high level bards will also learn a more potent and specialised form of dispel magic in addition to the magic he learns. And finally as a capstone, you will gain access to spells from other spellcasting classes once you reach the pinnacle of your career as a bard.

Face the Music

D&D Next Classes

Yup, that’s an axe – brings a whole new meaning to ‘Death Metal’, no?
Artwork © by Thuy L. Tran; Parchment Background © by Heiko Oertel

Bards form loose organisations called Colleges, where the bard can exchange information, songs and tales to boost his repertoire. A bard can belong to one of two colleges – the College of Valor or the College of Wit.

As you may have guessed, the College of Valor is for those of heroic bent. Members of this college will typically be given martial training, learning to use weapons and armours normally associated with more martial oriented classes.

He also learns to sooth wounded allies that are recovering from battle through his music. You can also coordinate and warn your allies during battle and your magic will help your allies recover in the middle of combat.

A student of the College of Wit focuses on trickery and razor edged humour to throw his enemies off guard. By taking this path, you learn how to undermine your enemies’s confidence through clever use of insults and barbs.

At higher levels, you can even cause your opponent to avoid attacking you by sowing doubt, and inspire fear and pandemonium through your music. You also learn to enthrall the audience with your performances.

A Captive Audience?

So that concludes my sneak preview of the bard. In previous editions of D&D, the bard has always been seen as nothing more than a support role, due to his lack of specialisation. It would therefore be quite interesting to see how well the class functions compared to the other 5e classes.

Click here to see my D&D Next Bard character concept.


  1. James W D January 10, 2014 2:29 am  Reply

    I have been playing D&D for close to 30 years now. I was super excited when 4th addition came out as I thought they fixed a lot of problems from earlier additions. My only fear tis that they start rolling new additions out every few years as that is a lot of source books to buy.

    As for the Bard, I am glad to see them getting some loving. I have a friend that fits the roll very well for the class and I have always enjoyed his bards in the past.

    • Ken January 10, 2014 2:10 pm  Reply

      I heard that D&D 5e is aimed at appealing to fans of every edition, but I would be amazed if they managed to pull it off.

      It is a problem when people become heavily invested in one version of the game and then a new one comes out after several years. But it is inevitable, so the best thing to do is just stick to the one you resonate with most.

      That said, it’s good they’ve released a playtest so you can at least see if it’s your cup of tea or not.

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