D&D 5e: Bardic Performance Feats

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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 guidanceĀ (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.

The All-Bard Party

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After watching a bunch of Van Canto videos and thinking about the archetypal five-man band, it seems like an all-bard party might be a lot of fun for a fantasy game. Particularly, it might be ridiculously fun in a video game: imagine a party-based RPG like Dragon Age or even Dungeon Siege, but with Rock Band-style mechanics to layer in vocals and keep everyone in harmony, with the effects reflected in the music tracks played. But even without that level of awesome, there’s a lot of room to implement this in D&D. While a single bard is often considered borderline useless in a party for its lack of specialization, in a full party of bards they might display the kind of synergy of all-defender teams in City of Heroes. The real limitation is that Inspire Courage doesn’t stack with itself. Hence, the following optional rules:

Bardic music is often a solitary pursuit, but some bards manage to work with others frequently enough to learn to harmonize successfully, taking on a particular role in a song to elevate the music to previously unmatched levels. Only one member of a troupe can typically make use of any individual feat below at a given time without invalidating the entire troupe’s feats: there cannot be two leads, for example. Only one of the feats below can be used at a time by any given bard (e.g., even a character with both Beat and Bass must choose which one is used on a given turn where both qualify).

Performance Specialization: Beat

When maintaining the percussion for a bardic ensemble troupe, keeping everyone in time, your music adds to the effects of the group.

Prerequisite: Bardic performance class feature.

Benefit: Whenever you attack an enemy and hit with all of your attacks, until the end of your next turn your Bardic Performance bonuses count as untyped and stack with any typed bonuses.

Normal: Bardic Performances of the same type produce typed bonuses that do not stack.

Performance Specialization: Bass

When playing bass for a bardic ensemble troupe, maintaining the link between beat and rhythm, your music adds to the effects of the group.

Prerequisite: Bardic performance class feature.

Benefit: Whenever you attack an enemy that was targeted by a character using Performance Specialization: Beat or cast a support spell that affects a character using Performance Specialization: Rhythm, until the end of your next turn your Bardic Performance bonuses count as untyped and stack with any typed bonuses.

Normal: Bardic Performances of the same type produce typed bonuses that do not stack.

Performance Specialization: Rhythm

When producing rhythm for a bardic ensemble troupe, creating the major chords and sense of movement upon which the singers will build, your music adds to the effects of the group.

Prerequisite: Bardic performance class feature.

Benefit: Whenever you cast a spell that affects the speed of yourself an ally or you both move and attack an enemy (with weapon or spell), until the end of your next turn your Bardic Performance bonuses count as untyped and stack with any typed bonuses.

Normal: Bardic Performances of the same type produce typed bonuses that do not stack.

Performance Specialization: Melody

When singing melody for a bardic ensemble troupe, building on the efforts of the rhythm and supporting the lead, your music adds to the effects of the group.

Prerequisite: Bardic performance class feature.

Benefit: Whenever you perform the same action (casting the same spell or attacking the same target) as a character using Performance Specialization: Rhythm or cast a support spell that affects a character using Performance Specialization: Lead, until the end of your next turn your Bardic Performance bonuses count as untyped and stack with any typed bonuses.

Normal: Bardic Performances of the same type produce typed bonuses that do not stack.

Performance Specialization: Lead

When performing the main vocals for a bardic ensemble troupe, producing the most noticeable music of the song, your music adds to the effects of the group.

Prerequisite: Bardic performance class feature.

Benefit: Whenever you make a full attack against an enemy that attacked you this round, until the end of your next turn your Bardic Performance bonuses count as untyped and stack with any typed bonuses.

Normal: Bardic Performances of the same type produce typed bonuses that do not stack.