I like bards in 5e. It’s probably the most functional version of the class in any edition. But… it’s a Sorcerer/Warlord with musical gloss. The actual mechanical support for doing what bards are expected to do (put on a rousing performance to inspire the rest of the party throughout the course of the battle) is super thin. Depending on your Charisma, you get to hand out 5 or fewer bardic inspiration dice per rest, each of which only technically requires a bonus action’s worth of time performing to create. That bard is the best bard in the land: she played maybe 10 seconds of music this morning, keeping our spirits high.

And as far as I know, no edition has ever made it make sense to use an actual instrument for your performance rather than singing/oratory (or maybe dance). D&D can get really nitpicky about what you’ve got in your hands when you’re trying to sort out whether you can switch weapons, use items, and make somatic gestures… but you’re going to pull out a set of bagpipes on the fly to generate a buff and still theoretically have your sword in hand?

Also, in my experience, any cleric with bless is much more in the traditional bard role than the party bard. A d4 on all your attacks and saves vs. a bigger die maybe once per fight? Yes please.

So the below is an attempt at adding that back in. Ideally, it would be more as class features rather than feats, but, as noted, the class is pretty powerful, just not flavorful, so it’s probably safer to add abilities as feats than just to tack it on or try to replace something load-bearing.

Bardic Weapons

These are admittedly silly, but if Monster Hunter and Power Rangers can get away with it…

Bardic weapons are musical instruments that are reinforced and partially converted into weapons. Bards that are proficient with the instrument are also considered proficient with the weaponized version. Non-bards are proficient if they’re proficient with both the weapon and the instrument. Bardic weapons can be used to perform music and attack without additional actions to switch between modes. The weapon version has the damage and properties of the standard weapon type.

  • Bagpipes-Blowgun (35 gp)
  • Drum-Mace (8 gp)
  • Dulcimer-Warhammer (33 gp)
  • Flute-Dagger (3 gp)
  • Lute-Battleaxe (40 gp)
  • Lyre-Light Crossbow (43 gp)
  • Horn-Light Hammer (4 gp)
  • Pan Flute-Handaxe (15 gp)
  • Shawm-Club (2 gp)
  • Viol-Longsword (38 gp)

Bardic Performance Feats

  • A bardic performance requires a bonus action to begin, and expends a bardic inspiration die.
  • It can affect a number of targets equal to the size of the die (e.g., 6 at d6, 8 at d8, etc.), and affects the closest valid targets to the bard first.
  • Maintaining a performance does not prevent the bard from concentrating on a spell, but is in danger of being disrupted similarly: whenever you would be forced to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration on a spell, make a Charisma (Perform) check (or a tool check with the instrument you are using) against the same difficulty to continue performing.
  • As with concentration, you may only have one type of bardic performance active at a time. You can cast (and concentrate on) bardic spells, attack with bardic weapons, and assign bardic inspiration dice normally while performing.
  • Subjects must be able to hear you (or see you, if your performance is dance) to experience the effects of the performance.

Fascinate

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to fascinate targets. You can choose to exclude allies from this effect. Targets must make a Wisdom saving throw against your Spell Save DC, and have advantage on this saving throw if the performance was begun while the target was already engaged in combat. Those that fail are charmed and restrained. The restrained effect ends if the target or any of the target’s allies are the target of hostile actions.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, fascinated creatures have disadvantage on saving throws against your enchantment spells.

Targets may re-attempt the save to end the fascination between songs (assume three minutes).

Inspire Competence

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to inspire your targets to greater competence. This performance affects allies. All subjects of the effect gain the benefits of guidance (this does not require your concentration, but does not stack with additional castings of guidance). This benefit refreshes at the beginning of each of your turns. You may maintain this performance indefinitely, but the DM may choose to apply fatigue for truly extended performances of an hour or more.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, your targets also gain advantage with ability checks that are affected by the guidance.

Inspire Courage

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to inspire your targets with courage in battle. This performance affects allies. All subjects of the effect gain the benefits of bless (this does not require your concentration, but does not stack with additional castings of bless). If you maintain this performance for longer than three minutes (effectively, one song), you take a level of fatigue (and an additional level of fatigue for each additional three minutes) from the intense nature of the performance.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, you may choose to have the performance count as heroism instead of bless.