Bards are the favorite class for Dungeons & Dragons players who want to play a jack-of-all-trades character that can excel in social situations. They're often the face of their party even if they aren't the strongest or most powerful, and recent Bard builds actually have given this support class more credit as a damage dealer. Not all Bards are created equally, however, and some Colleges are better for the ideal Bard character build.

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In D&D, a Bard College isn't a physical place. It's a school of thought and a training philosophy that a Bard follows. The College that a Bard chooses is often an important part of their backstory and can explain their present role in the party or other personal details, like the deity they worship or their moral alignment. Here is a list of the official Bard Colleges in D&D 5e, ranked from worst to best.

Updated January 12, 2022 by Kristy Ambrose: After what might be considered a rocky start, the Bard has risen from the depths of obscurity and even ridicule to be one of the most popular classes in D&D. Their versatility as a class is the main reason for this, as customization has become one of the most important features in most RPG games. Combination classes are always fun and interesting, and the Bard is a nice mix of healing, spellcasting, and melee damage. The choice of Bard Colleges, the Bard subclasses, has lengthened to reflect the growing number of Bard players to give our suave musician, adept entertainer, or clever spy even more to do. We've added a few more Bard subclasses to our list to reflect some recent changes and popular homebrews to make this class even more interesting.

10 College Of Swords

Art of fantasy character holding rapier and using magic
  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Spells or Benefits: Blade Flourish (3rd level)
  • Ideal Race: Any with a Dexterity or Strength bonus
  • Party Role: Damage

The College of Swords is a class for bards who want to perform tricks with swords and other blades. It also starts with the Blade Flourish ability, which grants access to a few special flourishes that you can use when you attack at the expense of your Bardic inspiration dice. These, again, aren’t terrible, but there is a lot more you could be doing with Bardic inspiration dice. It gets better at 14th level, which lets you roll a d6 on flourishes instead of spending Bardic Inspiration.

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9 College Of Spirits

Bard D&D
  • Source: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • Main Spells or Benefits: Guiding Whispers (3rd level) and Tales from Beyond (6th level)
  • Ideal Race: Dhampirs, Hexbloods, and the Reborn
  • Party Role: Healing and Defense

The Lineage races as described in the adventuring guide in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft are part of the same lore that also created this College, so it's up to your DM if you can use it in other adventuring modules.

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This is the more traditional type of Bard that provides the party with buffs and healing spells during combat, so your character won't be on the front line, but instead, they have some otherworldly abilities that are intended to be part of the background in a horror story. Their strengths are found in how they spiritually attune with ethereal creatures, not only the dead but virtually any entity in the "world beyond."

8 College Of Eloquence

Dungeons & Dragons Bard artwork
  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and Mythic Odysseys of Theros
  • Main Spells or Benefits: Universal Speech (6th level)
  • Ideal Race: Satyr or Half-Elf
  • Party Role: Damage and Healing

The College of Eloquence is similar to the more exciting College of Glamour but with more of an emphasis on speech as opposed to music or performance. This College elevates the power of speech to an art form, making it so powerful that its adherents can use it to bind others to their will.

These characters often find themselves in the position of leading their party in social situations but staying in the background during combat. Crowd control abilities are this Bard's greatest ability, so depending on your specific module, its uses might be too situational for new players or those that want more action during fight sequences.

7 College Of Creation

yisan the wanderer bard
  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Main Spells or Benefits: Performance of Creation (3rd level) and Animating Performance (6th level)
  • Ideal Race: Dragonborn
  • Party Role: Damage and Defense

According to the lore of the Dungeons & Dragons universe, it was the Song of Creation that brought existence into being. Bards have a profound connection with the concept of harmony, which extends into the act of creation.

Dragonborn make the best Bards because of their racial connection to characters like Tiamat and Bahamut, ancient Dragons who made the world using their songs. This also makes the class that much versatile. Since Dragonborn have a Strength bonus, they can also multiclass as Fighters and Paladins. The latter is another class that relies on Charisma while giving them some melee skills and a chance to fill a leadership role in their party.

6 College Of The Epic Saga

Centaur fantasy artwork
via: WOTC
  • Source: Homebrew, based on 5e rules.
  • Main Spells: At level 3, this Bard can choose between three different Songs of Legend for a variety of effects.
  • Ideal Race: Satyr or Centaur, if you happen to be playing the Mystic Oddyses of Theros module.
  • Party Role: Support and healing.

This idea could very well make its way into the mainstream one way or the other, especially now that the ancient Greek aesthetic is once again gaining in popularity. This is the kind of Bard based on real historic figures like Homer, who would memorize long, epic poems and recite them to entertain and inspire.

The Songs of Legend are as epic as they sound, with names like Ballad of Glory and Hymn of the Heroes, and how effective these spells are will depend on the character's Charisma modifier. This kind of Bard focuses on Charisma and Dexterity, so they take the role of healers or ranged damage dealers.

5 College Of Whispers

Dungeons & Dragons Art of a tiefling holding a wooden sword, standing on a barrel, on the docks
  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Spells: Psychic Blades (3rd level) and Shadow Lore (15th level)
  • Ideal Race: Tiefling or Yuan-ti Pureblood
  • Party Role: Damage

The College of Whispers is a fun College to role-play for those that enjoy creating more nuanced characters. The two ideal races for this College are chosen based on their generous Charisma bonus and propensity towards the Neutral or Evil sides of the moral spectrum. It gives a lot of very good abilities that are useful for heavily social campaigns but are fairly useless in dungeon crawls. It actually has a good advantage over other enchanting-type classes because its two abilities that let you frighten or charm your adversaries don’t alert them to your meddling.

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The ability to disguise yourself as someone you recently killed gives you a bit of an advantage over other disguise spells because it lets you more flawlessly impersonate your target with casual knowledge of their memories. If your Dungeon Master is running an intriguing campaign, this is probably one of the better Bard subclasses to choose.

4 College Of Glamour

Dungeons and Dragons Classes MBTI Bard
  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Spells: Mantle of Majesty (14th Level)
  • Ideal Race: Half-Elf, Elf, or Satyr
  • Party Role: Damage

The College of Glamour adds a bit of fey folk flavor to your bardic abilities. It lets you take on a beautiful and otherworldly appearance that lets you charm and ensnare others. The two abilities you get right away are more about Crowd Control than spell damage, such as a mass Charm Person effect that takes a minute to cast. Useful in certain circumstances, but definitely not in combat. An ability that gives most or all of your allies temporary hit points and free movement (not something that will come up every battle but is supremely useful when it does) is more like something a more conventional Bard would do.

Mantle of Majesty is an interesting ability that lets you cast Command as a bonus action every turn, making it useful for locking down single enemies. Unbreakable Majesty (which you get at the 14th level) forces enemies in an area to redirect attacks against you toward your hardier allies, or if it fails, opens up weak points to your attacks. Overall, this is an interesting subclass that will come in handy in a variety of situations.

3 College Of Death Song

mtg gisa necromancer art
  • Source: Homebrew, based on 5e rules.
  • Main Spells: Requiem, the ability to harm undead, and Death's Songbook, a unique collection of musical notes.
  • Ideal Race: Half-elf is ideal since they already have a Charisma buff and you can use the +1 to any other score to improve Dexterity or Constitution.
  • Party Role: Damage, with some off-healing and support spells.

There are a few variations on the Bard College that uses funerary rites or dirges, focusing their research on the last words, or in this case musical notes, of the dead. The power of Requiem gives this Bard the ability to harm the undead with their powers even if the monsters are normally immune to their spells.

Death's Songbook is really what makes this College more interesting than others. The nature of this Bard's field of study makes them wanderers, traveling to battlegrounds, funerals, and infirmaries to hear the last few notes of a dying voice. Last Words, an advanced level spell, consists of the Bard hearing and recording the last thing a dying person said and using them later as part of a ranged damage spell.

2 College Of Valor

Fantasy bard fighting artwork
  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Spells: Combat Inspiration (3rd level) and Battler Magic (14th level)
  • Ideal Race: Player's choice
  • Party Role: Damage, Healing, Defense

If you were intrigued by the College of Swords, choose this subclass instead. You get better weapon and armor proficiencies, your allies can use your Bardic Inspiration to deal extra damage or boost their AC instead of you wasting them on flourishes, and you even get the same extra attack. Plus, at level 14 you even get the opportunity to make a bonus action attack whenever you cast a spell, which is great because bards don’t have a whole lot of ways to use up bonus actions.

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This is a great subclass for small parties, where you might need a true jack-of-all-trades to be a caster, secondary damage dealer, secondary healer, and front-liner all in one. However, in larger parties, it might lack focus.

1 College Of Lore

Cleric D&D artwork
  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Spells: Cutting Words (3rd level)
  • Ideal Race: Player's choice
  • Party Role: Damage and Healing

There’s not even much in this subclass to talk about because it is so incredibly simple. You do a lot of things and you do them really well. The Bards from the College of Lore don’t need to do everything, they just need to have a spell or skill for every occasion — without all that wizardly mucking about with books.

You get extra skill proficiencies and extra spells from any class on top of your already expansive bard spell list. Plus, you can use your Bardic Inspiration dice to add to your ability checks or subtract from pretty much anything an enemy rolls that isn’t a saving throw.

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