How to Play a Bard in Dungeons and Dragons

The Bard class combines elements of a Rogue with light spellcasting capabilities. Bards are performers by nature, and those who aren't busy using their charisma to entertain crowds or ladies are most commonly seen as party leaders.


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    Read About Bards. Before you make the character or play one you should read the entire entry about Bards in the Player's Handbook (PHB). The Bard often acts as the party's face in NPC interactions, and is usually a supporter in combat.
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    Pick a Race. Bards rely on their Charisma and Intelligence to survive. As such, races with penalties to these stats are bad choices. We strongly recommend against playing Dwarves or Half-Orcs. Especially Half-Orcs.
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    Pick an Alignment. Bards can't be Lawful. When you're travelling the world performing and wooing women, rules are more like guidelines.
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    Generate and Assign Your Vital Statistics. You should first ask the Dungeon Master (DM) of your game how vital statistics (stats) can be made. While Bards can get by on Charisma and Intelligence alone, other stats allow him much more versatility, especially with skills. Strength is useful for melee fighters, but a melee Bard with the Weapon Finesse feat is better off with high Dexterity, which also helps with many rogue-like skills and increasing your Armor Class. Constitution is useful for the HP it provides, but a Bard should not be in a situation to need high HP. Wisdom is useful for Spot and Listen checks, but Intelligence nets you more skill points, and Charisma gives you your spells, as well as powering your performances, so these two stats should be your highest, with Dexterity coming in third.
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    Pick Your Starting Skills and Feats. This is a fun one. Much like a Rogue, Bards get a lot of freedom from their skills. Obviously, a Bard should have a high Perform skill in something, as it powers his music. Concentration is good to have as well, to help keep performing through distractions. Most other skills are optional, but since you will probably wind up doing the most interacting with NPCs, Diplomacy can be a very useful skill to have. Knowledge (History) will increase your Bardic Knowledge rolls, which can be very useful. For feats, things that improve your music and magic are good, as are things that help reduce your weaknesses in combat. For a Bard with low Strength and high Dex, for example, Weapon Finesse will make him more useful in melee combat, at least letting him hit things in a pinch.
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    Choose Your Spells. All Bards can cast spells from the Bard spell list. You can cast spells on the fly, but they have to be spells you know, which you must choose. You get at least one new spell every level, but choose wisely.
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    Buy Starting Equipment. You will need a primary weapon and a back up weapon. Even if you are planning on hanging around the edges of the fray and using your Bardic Music all through combat, you should still have some weapons just in case. What you choose is up to you. Remember, a Bard is not meant to leap valiantly into the fray and hack at things -- that's the fighter's job. A Bard can support pretty well, though, and hold a flanking position for the rogue or attack from afar with a shortbow or crossbow. You will want light armor, since it doesn't impede your spell chance; studded leather is good at first level. You also might want to grab some survival gear (bedroll, rations, etc.).
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    Understand Your Abilities. As you level up you will get certain class abilities. Make sure that you read about each one as you gain it and that you understand it. If you do not use all your powers correctly you will either annoy the other players or weaken your character, possibly both.
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    Know Your Spells. You should review your spells in the PHB when you get them so that you know how to use them. It slows down the game a lot if you try to use a spell you do not understand. Your repertoire is limited, but if you're creative, you can do some useful things.
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    Know Your Role in the Party. Your choices during character creation shape your role in the party. If you have stealth skills than you can make a great forward scout. Social skills might let you be the spokesperson of the party. During direct combat you are a supporting fighter. You can help the fighter by flanking in melee combat or possibly by picking off enemy archers with well placed arrows, but what you really want to be doing is using your bardic music and magic at the start of combat or at crucial junctures to inspire the party to great heights, or to trick opponents into attacking a tiger that isn't there.


  • Bards, in all but the most serious campaigns, are often the comic relief. Don't waste all your time fighting that stereotype, but roll with it until you can show your party that you are more than just a charismatic face. Remember, Bards are essentially rock stars. Even if you can name a hundred rock stars that are total screw-ups, there's that one rock star that changes the world.
  • Bards make an excellent class to play in larger parties where basic classes have already been chosen. Bard skills afford much flexibility and support to what might have been a dull and run-of-the-mill party and open up a whole new dynamic.


  • Bards are usually considered "useless" and are often the butt of jokes from gamers. Pay no attention. Bards are great for enhancing stats as well as gathering information and diplomacy. Other people can hit things, but you'll be the one moving the story along.

Things You'll Need

  • Character sheet
  • Dice
  • Players Handbook
  • Arcane Power (optional but contains some very good Bard spells)

Article Info

Categories: Role Playing Games