11 Fun and Fresh 5e Bard Ideas for Your Next D&D Campaign
By Riley Rath
Unusual and Unique, These Bard Artists Are Guaranteed to Offer Something New!
Dungeons and Dragons has no winners and no losers…it's all about FUN! And few classes are as fun as the Bard. A singing, smiling, lute playing minstrel has accompanied many a D&D party to defeat evil and explore the multiverse.
But what if the idea of a musical Bard just isn’t doing it for you? With a little creative liberty, you can define a Bard as anyone who casts spells via beauty and art. This frees Bards to inspire, soothe, and encourage with ANY of the fine arts!
There are tons of options out there, but to help you out, here are 11 Fun 5e Bard’s ideas you can (probably) use in your next campaign or one shot!
Table of Contents
The Bard Stereotype
Making Your Unique Bard
The Bard Stereotype
Before we expand beyond the stereotypical Bard, let’s establish what the stereotype is and some essential things every Bard does.
The Player’s Hand book specifies that the Bard is a “master of song and speech, and the magic they contain.” The echoes of creation continue to reverberate in the universe and the creative spirit of the Bard is able to tap into that energy with music and words. Wizards treat magic like a science… Bards treat it like an art.
Druids may have a ton of utility abilities and the Cleric can heal just about anything, but the Bard is the master of skills. They always receive a little bonus to each roll and a HUGE bonus for their “expertise” skills. This makes Bard the most versatile class in the game, prepared for literally any situation.
Bards are full casters and tend to focus on supporting other party members. Most of their spells work to either help their friends or hinder their enemies. Two of their unique class mechanics, “Bardic Inspiration” and “Song of Rest,” are all about supporting your fellow adventurers.
A “basic Bard” is a master of social situations. They tend to feel most at home in a bustling civilization… a place where they can be friendly, relational extroverts. Though not a necessity, their unique combination of skills has led to the “horny bard” stereotype, bedding anyone and anything that catches their eye.
Making Your Unique Bard
But while PHB focuses on music and words, DMs everywhere expand the Bard to being magical masters of any fine art. While there is some minor disagreement, the consensus is that there are about 8 fine arts: painting, sculpting, literature (including poetry), architecture, cinema, music, performance (including theater), and film/photography.
All of these arts require immense skill and vision… all of them are born from creative imagination… all of them result in something beautiful that evokes emotion.
So it is hardly a stretch to assume each of these artistic fields could magically reshape reality through the power of an arcane gifted Bard!
But before you dive in head first, make sure you consider three things:
Classes and Subclasses
Every class has a subclass, and for Bard’s these subclasses are known as “Bardic Colleges.” Each Bard character chooses a college once reaching level 3. The default college is the “College of Lore” which, unless suggested otherwise, remains the safest bet for each of these unique Bard ideas.
But throughout this post, I have placed links to any subclasses that fit particularly well with the 5e Bard Idea. For a complete list of the Bard subclasses, along with their strengths and weaknesses, check out RPGBOT.
In D&D 5e, nearly all spells require verbal (V), Somatic (S), and Material (M) components. Unless the material components have a price attached, or the components are consumed by the spell, the typical Bard plays their instrument to meet all three of these component needs.
So… if you are creating an unusual Bard that does not play an instrument you may need to get creative with your components! What do they say when they write? How do they move? If you are struggling with ideas, ask your DM for help and how much components play a role in her games!
Finally, there are a lot of fun and flavorful spells sprinkled throughout this post (they are bolded and underlined). Rather than overwhelming you with tabs, here is a link with the complete 5e Bard Spell list.
But since you are an adventuring support caster that people are counting on, you need more than fun spells! Be sure to have a few quality “old reliable” spells in your back pocket when things get dicey (pun intended…).
Here are a few of the most important Bard spells. Bard’s have a small list of spells they can know, so pick at least 2-4 of them no matter how unusual of a Bard you create:
- Guidance: One of the best Cantrips in the game, allowing you to add 1d4 to any skill check outside of combat.
- Dissonant Whispers: Does damage AND may give your friends opportunity attacks… win-win!
- Blindness/Deafness: The cheapest way to shut down an enemy spell caster.
- Silence: Since most spells require verbal components, this is also a way to hinder evil spell casting.
- Enhance Ability: An extremely diverse and useful spell for both combat and exploration.
- Enemies Abound: Force the dumb bad guy to attack their enemies!
- Major Image: Requires a lot of creativity, but with a generous DM you can accomplish a lot with this spell.
- Faerie Fire: Speaking of invisibility… this spell not only gives you advantage on attacks against an enemy, but also ensures those that fail the save can still be seen, even if they turn invisible!
- Invisibility: Speaking of being invisible… being invisible is often a REALLY good idea.
- Polymorph: Magically turn into stuff… need I say more?!?
BONUS TIP: If your spell is pure flavor, just ask your DM for a favor and that 1 or 2 of them not count against the number of spells you know!
Bard Idea #1: “The Painter”
While a musical minstrel is the quintessential Bard, the painter is the quintessential artist!
Though far more silent than a musician, the Bardic Painter uses oil and plant-based paints to cover a canvas with the colors of creation. And imagine this: a Wizard threatens with her wand and beside her the Bard threatens with his brush… so fun!
But my favorite aspect of the Painter Bard is how much room there is for creativity! Do they cast spells from their completed paintings? Or do they cast spells as they paint? Is the paint itself magical or the brush? Is their creative spirit just teaming with magic? Or are their paintings just so beautiful that they are inherently magical? The possibilities are endless!
There are a couple spells any Painter Bard worth their salt would need, but the best one isn’t a Bard spell at all! You will need to persuade your DM to let you use Color Spray as one of their spells… it is too perfect to not include! If not, you can always settle for Hypnotic Pattern, still allowing you to paralyze masses with your vivid colors. And if a canvas is too small, they would always take Sky Write, painting messages in the clouds for allies far away.
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Bard Idea #2: “The Writer”
Bardic Inspiration involves using “stirring words” to inspire your companions… but what if your Bard still used words, but not music? Well, that would make you a poet, an author… a writer! Whether scribbling on parchment or reciting your works for all to hear, the Writer Bard casts passage by passage.
The art of the writer is found in the skill by which they weave words together. Being masters of language, they can pen epic sagas or even the shortest of poems. But Bardic Writers present tons of role-playing choices: writers can travel the world like Ernest Hemmingway, fight in civil wars like George Orwell, or delight children like Shel Silverstein.
Numerous spells accommodate a writer better than a musician. Mage Hand would allow a writer to continue writing when their hands are tired, or hold their inkwell so they can write on the go. If they want to disguise their work to prevent rivals from plagiarizing, Illusory Script will make their text look like a shifting jumble of nonsense. And when struck with a bad case of writer’s block, this Bard can spend a little cash and cast Legend Lore to gain access to innumerable ancient stories for their next work.
Bard Idea #3: “The Dancer”
Almost every artsy-Bard has their tools, whether they be a musical instrument or a paintbrush. But only one Bard uses their own body as their ONLY tool… and that would be a Bardic Dancer. Similar to the Final Fantasy job/support class, these Bard’s support their friends with every step!
Rather than making music, a Dancer Bard FEELS the music threaded into their aesthetic universe, causing them to literally move to their own beat. They use ballroom dances to build relationships, and choose to skip rather than walk when they travel. In a fight, when others run and dodge for cover, the Dancer strides with a spring in their step. For these characters, the Mobile Feat is a great idea, allowing them to effortlessly glide through the chaos of combat, treating friend and foe alike as dance partners, avoiding opportunity attacks every step of the way.
There are several spells that are ideal for any Dancer Bard. In dark places where they cannot see their steps, they conjure Dancing Lights to move alongside them and illuminate their performance. A careless, dangerous leap can be immediately corrected by Featherfall, which brings them back down to earth safely. And yes, if things get a little hairy, a Dancer Bard can get out of a dangerous situation with a hop, skip, and a jump by casting Kinetic Jaunt.
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Bard Idea #4 : “The Chef”
As we all know from the Food Network, half of cooking is about presentation… a good meal is a work of art! And as a Bardic Chef, you can bake, fry, grill, and braise all your spells! Plus, it comes with the added benefit of getting to role-play as Gordon Ramsay and compete with the Barbarian for the title of “screaming lunatic” of the party.
If this 5e Bard idea excites you, take the College of Swords, which will allow your player character to use their knife skills as much as their magical cookery. You’ll get a fighting style, an extra attack, and still be able to use your knives as spell casting focuses. That means you can make mince meat while you spell cast, using Heat Metal to cook armor encased enemies just like a chicken in an oven, or cast Cloud of Daggers to surround enemies with every knife in your kitchen.
And chicken soup cures the common cold, right? Well, your magical meals will cure all sorts of wounds and diseases. Use delicious and healthy dishes to cast Cure Wounds and Mass Cure Wounds. And if you take the Chef Feat, you’ll be able to bake cookies with so much love they literally heal your wounded friends. Or, if cookies aren’t up your alley, you could be a mixologist and craft healing cocktails around the campfire. Either way, it’s a more delicious version of healing potions!
Bard Idea #5 : “The Architect”
To us modern people, architects are often considered to have more in common with engineers or construction workers. But for centuries they have been considered some of the greatest artists in the world. They use the whole world as their canvas, adding columns, posts, arches, towers … all adorned in frescos… to make their mark upon the land.
Architecture is more than building practical structures, and the Bardic Architect ensures that stays the case. With a complex combination of math, physics, and creative vision, the Architect provides aesthetic spaces for life to take place. Their buildings represent the highest virtues, ideals, and myths of a society.
The Bardic Architect has several spells specifically designed for this lofty task. Mold Earth might be particularly helpful in guaranteeing a building will have a solid foundation. Who better to protect you with a Sanctuary or Intellect Fortress than an architect, whose life passion is the creation of beautiful and strong structures? And you can be sure an Architect Bard will cast the most beautiful Tiny Hut you have ever seen!
Bard Idea #7 : “The Comedian”
For those that love cracking jokes all session long, a comic Bard might be just what you need! Comedians are pure entertainers, capturing attention with their routines, be it stand up or slapstick. Relying on quick wit and sharp tongue, a comedian can use their spells to support their party from afar.
By making people howl with laugher, the Comedian often makes perfect distractions, controlling a whole room… or battlefield! And just like a veteran stand-up can disarm any heckler, a Bardic Comedian can use Vicious Mockery to devastating effectiveness, whether their target be a heckler or a deadly monster. And all the classic Bard spells, none better fit the Comedian than Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. No matter how good (or bad) your joke is… no matter how bad your delivery… listeners will be rolling on the floor with laughter… whether they like it or not!
Not only that, ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and a good joke can cheer a friend as much as a healing potion. Maybe a sarcastic comment to a longtime friend can function as Healing Word, or a simple knock knock joke be all you need to just as much as a good healing spell. Like the jester of a king’s court, you can “play the fool” while also playing an important party role in your party.
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Bard Idea #6 : “The Orator”
Like the Comedian and Writer, the Orator’s “instrument” is their linguistic skills. But rather than using language to focus on humor or poetry … the “Orator” is a public speaker: using speeches to excite crowds into action. Rather than persuading a lover to your chambers, you would be persuading the people to seize their freedom!
An effective public speaker’s power comes from their strong voice and ability to string together logical and emotionally charged messages. The Bard, with their high Charisma and expertise in skills such as performance, persuasion, and deception, is perfect for this. And if you choose the College of Eloquence, a subclass tailor made for persuasion, your player character can become one of the most influential speakers in the world!
Several of the spells from the Bard’s spell list can aid you in this endeavor. You can persuade unruly and passionate politicians with Calm Emotions like Cicero in ancient Rome. Or inspire a grieving nation with Motivational Speech like Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. Or use Mass Suggestion to stir the oppressed masses like Lenin did in Soviet Russia. Though, of course, some truths may be too dangerous for crowds, in which case the near-silent Message would be their tool.
Bard Idea #8 : “The Designer”
“The Designer” is the trendiest of the Bards, always dressed to the nines. As fashion moguls, they drape individuals in exquisite linens in order to display wealth, fine taste, or just to stand out amongst the crowd.
Such splendid outfits require this Bard to be a tailor and a seamstress. When, in their genius, they have another idea to shake up the fashion world, the Designer Bard picks up needle and thread and gets stitching. They make sure a garment is functional, fits, and is embroidered until it becomes a handsome piece. As far as I am concerned, any of these sewing tools or fabrics can be used as material components for any spell casting, or perhaps they cast directly from their gorgeous attire!
To accomplish these tasks, Bardic Designers have several useful spells. With Distort Value, they can get the edge in the cutthroat world of high fashion, getting a few extra coins from the ultra-wealthy. And of course they must… MUST…. have the Mending cantrip to repair any tears at any time.
But honestly, I can’t think of ANY class in all of Dungeons and Dragons that better benefits from Unseen Servant. This spell springs an invisible being that can obey simple commands and interact with physical objects. For the Designer, this is perfect, allowing aid from an invisible form that can take any humanoid dimensions for perfect tailoring.
Bard Idea #9 : “The Actor”
Jesters joke in courts… troubadours perform in taverns… but for the Actor, the whole world is a stage. They put on plays throughout the land for peasants and nobles alike, their performances bringing people to laughter, anger, and tears.
The Actor Bard never misses a chance to put on a show… even in life threatening situations! Every battle is a chance to try out a new character, equally satisfied with dealing the killing blow or taking a grievous wound. Either way, they are putting on the finest dramatic performance of their lives.
Outside of combat, certain spells can aid a Bardic Actor in the theater. Prestidigitation or Pyrotechnics can cause special effects for the truly epic moments. Silent Image can quickly produce a set piece or backdrop in a moments notice. And obviously, taking the Actor Feat will level up your performances.
No college better suits the Actor than the College of Glamor. To do this, they will need some training in the feywild… but one midsummer night's dream is enough to check that box! The special abilities of this college specialize in illusion and enchantment. This allows the Bardic Actor to better mesmerize a crowd, dazzle with their appearance, and achieve a level of fame where anyone will want to serve them.
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Bard Idea #10: “The Photographer”
This 5e Bard idea is sort of an Artificer-Bard mix… because it will require you to craft your own magical-photo-taking-box thingy that would likely be one of a kind in the Dungeons and Dragons world. So if your DM is a stickler for rules, you may need to take a level or two in Artificer.
But while the Photographer Bard is a logical stretch, the idea is full of fun potential! With photo after photo you can capture your party’s exploits, using the Light cantrip to make sure it is ALWAYS golden hour. And with Animal Friendship you can convince a wild animal you mean it no harm and capture them in their natural habitat.
In combat, I imagine a Photographer Bard dashing across the battlefield like a wartime reporter, complete with khaki vest and helmet! Every photo they take could be a spell they cast attempting to capture the reality that they themselves are bringing about… maybe casting Hold Person so they can get the perfect shot? Or using Comprehend Languages in a foreign city to understand the local culture?
And if any spell fails, you could always just blame their camera or their film for being exposed to too much light!
Bard Idea #11 : “The Sculptor”
Back before oil paints could illustrate with such realism and depth, there was only one way an artist could get an accurate representation of someone: sculpting. For this reason it was seen as the highest of the fine arts. The Bardic Sculptor gazes upon a bare material… some stone, metal, ceramics, or wood… and envisions the form that lies within. Then, after days of chiseling away, the beautiful form is revealed for all to behold.
The Sculptor is most at home in the College of Valor, a Bardic discipline that devotes itself to keeping the memory of great heroes alive. They immortalize these heroes for future generations by representing them with durable materials. They also reflect them in their strength and fighting style, allowing them to don medium armor, carry a shield, and wield martial weapons.
But Sculptor Bard is still primarily a spell caster, drawing inspiration from their work. They seek to make their adversary as Immobil(ize) as their materials, or Shatter them as a hammer sashes rock. And of course, every sculptor need’s their muse, and what better muse than a (Find) Familiar you can summon any time you are in need of inspiration!?
Art is a pretty diverse field… even with the 11 Fun and Unique D&D 5e Bard Ideas in this post, I am sure there are a lot more.
If any come to mind, we would love to know! Leave us a reply in the comments!
And if you need any Bard dice, we have a lot to offer!
Based out of San Diego, Riley is a freelance copywriter that combines his love of reading, writing, and people into something useful! He is thankful to be applying his passion for imaginative role-playing to help D&D related businesses communicate their value in the best way possible. He's kinda like a bard giving inspiration, except without the annoying pop covers!