How To Build A College Of Swords Bard In DnD

URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL

There are plenty of classes in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition that like to wield swords, but none have quite the same panache as a College of Swords bard. There’s just something about simultaneously mocking your opponent with your incredible wit while cutting them to ribbons with a rapier and scimitar. This bard is all about classy combat.


THEGAMER VIDEO OF THE DAY

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: How To Build A Way Of The Four Elements Monk

But being a spellcaster with a blade is a tougher proposition than it may seem. You’re still a bard, so you don’t have the same hitpoints as a fighter or barbarian, and neither do you have the same brute strength. It takes cunning, guile, and a bit of strategy to succeed in the College of Swords. Here’s how you can do it.


College Of Swords Bard Features

Dueling Rapier by Anna Podedworna
Dueling Rapier by Anna Podedworna

In addition to the spells of a bard, joining the College of Swords teaches a bard how to entertain with swords. At level three upon joining the College of Swords, you gain proficiency in medium armor and the scimitar. You also can use your simple or martial weapon as a spellcasting focus–an important feature for this class.

You also learn one of two fighting styles at level three. Dueling provides a +2 bonus to damage rolls with a one-handed melee weapon and nothing being held in the off-hand. Two-Weapon Fighting lets you add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.

Dueling gives you more freedom with your bonus actions, but Two-Weapon Fighting deals more overall damage and seems more on-brand for a College of Swords bard.

Another feature learned at level three is the Blade Flourish. Whenever you take the attack action, your walking speed increases by 10 feet until the end of turn. You also get to employ one of three Blade Flourish options.

Defensive Flourish lets you roll a Bardic Inspiration die to deal extra damage to the target and add that same number to your AC until your next turn. Slashing Flourish lets you roll a Bardic Inspiration die to deal extra damage to the target and another creature within five feet of you. Mobile Flourish lets you roll a Bardic Inspiration die to deal extra damage to the target, push it up to five feet plus that roll’s number away, and then use your reaction to move to within five feet of the target.

At sixth level, you get an extra attack, and at 14th level, you may roll a d6 instead of a Bardic Inspiration die whenever you use the Blade Flourish feature.

Best Species For College Of Swords Bard

Song of Inspiration by Lie Setiawan
Song of Inspiration by Lie Setiawan

You can play any species as College of Swords bard and still do reasonably well, but there are a few species that have abilities that synergize nicely with this subclass’s features. Here are a few suggestions for species that work well as a College of Swords bard.

Autognome

Armored Casing will outperform medium armor once you reach 18 Dexterity. Built for Success adds a d4 to every attack or ability check, Mechanical Nature makes you immune to disease and provides you with advantage against being paralyzed or poisoned. Healing Machine means you can take Mending as one of your cantrips and give yourself a quick and easy healing spell.

Astral Elf

Sacred Flame is a decent ranged option for a subclass that can’t learn how to use a Longbow, and a teleport is very good for getting into and out of melee combat. Charm resistance and Darkvision are both good too.

Air Genasi

Although your focus is on melee combat, College of Swords bards are still spellcasters, and being an air genasi provides several useful spells. Darkvision and an extra five feet of movement compared to most species are also both very helpful.

Bugbear

Any melee combatant will appreciate an extra five feet of reach. Jack of All Trades lets you add half your proficiency to your initiative rolls, which helps proc Surprise Attack more often. Darkvision and charm resistance are a-OK.

Eladrin

Fey Step is a lot more effective when you want to get into combat rather than away from it, which is perfect for a College of Swords bard. Keen Senses, Fey Ancestry, and Darkvision are all good to have too.

Giff

If your campaign allows firearms, then giff is a great choice. Firearms proficiency provides you with an excellent ranged attack option, and Astral Spark works just as well with guns as it does swords. Hippo Build is less useful, but who wouldn’t want the strength of a hippo?

Goblin

Fury of the Small. Also, being able to disengage as a bonus action is a nice thing for a bard to have since you have so few hitpoints. Darkvision and charm resistance are sweet too.

Goliath

You don’t have a lot of hitpoint as a bard, so Stone’s Endurance can be really helpful when you’re stuck in melee combat. Cold resistance is nice to have, as is athletics proficiency.

Half-Elf

Bards are pretty stat-hungry. Half-elf provides three ability score increases, two skills, charm resistance, and Darkvision. All good to have.

Owlin

Flying, Darkvision, and stealth proficiency. If you don’t want to use a shortbow or a crossbow for fighting flying creatures, then being able to fly yourself is probably your next best option.

Shifter

Temporary hitpoints are almost as good as permanent hitpoints, and they can really help a bard stay in melee combat when other classes have already tapped out. Darkvision, an extra skill proficiency, and potentially more movement are also nice to have too.

Tiefling

Bards are still spellcasters, even if they mostly use swords, and more spells are always good to have. Tieflings offer lots different spell options as well as Darkvision and fire resistance.

Thri-kreen

If you want to dual-wield, there’s no better dual-wielding species than the Thri-kreen. Chameleon Carapace is also an excellent way to boost your AC, and Darkvision is always good to have.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: Tips For Playing As A Spellcaster

Best Ability Scores For A College Of Swords Bard

Neverwinter Bard via Wizards of the Coast

As a College of Swords bard, you want three ability scores: Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. Dexterity both provides armor class and empowers your physical attacks. Constitution provides more hitpoints to keep you alive if you get hit. And Charisma powers your spellcasting and many of your more important skills.

You can safely ignore Strength, Intelligence, and Wisdom. Your rapier and scimitar both have the finesse option, so you can use your Dexterity score instead of Strength. Intelligence and Wisdom can help with skill checks, but Jack of All Trades means you’ll have better skill checks than most characters even without any additional points into either stat.

If using D&D’s point buy system to create your character, a good starting ability score might look something like this:

Strength

Dexterity

Constitution

Intelligence

Wisdom

Charisma

10(+0)

16(+3)

14(+2)

8(-1)

10(+0)

16(+3)

Best Starting Equipment For A College Of Swords Bard

lizardfolk bard playing instrument and singing for friends
Wandering Troubadour by Rudy Siswanto

Since we’re going to be sticking to Dexterity instead of Strength, choose a rapier as your starting sword. The rapier offers the most potential damage and is a finesse weapon, meaning it uses your Dexterity modifier for attack and damage calculations.

An entertainer’s pack has a few more useful items than a diplomat’s pack if you want to put on a show, but you’ll need to supplement either pack with some additional items if you want to go adventuring.

Pick whatever musical instrument you want to be your spellcasting focus until level three, at which point it’ll just become your sword anyway. Leather armor and a dagger round out your initial offerings.

Try to find a scimitar sometime between now and level three so you can have an off-hand weapon if you decide to take the Two-Weapon Fighting style.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: Ways To Implement A Dragon In Your Campaign

Best Spells For A College of Swords Bard

art of Edgin the Bard from the Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves movie, portrayed by Chris Pine
Edgin the Bard via Wizards of the Coast

Even though you’re mostly going to be swashbuckling your way through combat, bards are spellcasters, which means you’ve got a ton of spells to add to your sword-slashing antics. Here are a few suggested spells as you level up.

Spell Level

Spell

Cantrip

  • Prestidigitation
  • Mage Hand
  • Minor Illusion

First Level

  • Faerie Fire
  • Healing Word
  • Silvery Barbs
  • Heroism

Second Level

  • Enhance Ability
  • Lesser Restoration
  • Shatter
  • Invisibility

Third Level

  • Dispel Magic
  • Fear
  • Motivational Speech
  • Sending

Fourth Level

  • Confusion
  • Dimension Door
  • Polymorph

Fifth Level

  • Greater Restoration
  • Mass Cure Wounds
  • Synaptic Static

Sixth Level

  • Mislead
  • Otto’s Irresistible Dance
  • True Seeing

Seventh Level

  • Etherealness
  • Regeneration
  • Teleport

Eighth Level

  • Power Word Stun
  • Feeblemind

Ninth Level

  • Foresight
  • Power Word Heal

It’s difficult to manage the competing requirements of both Dexterity for melee combat efficacy and Charisma for spell efficacy. Since a College of Swords bard wants to focus on melee combat, we’re going to assume that Dexterity wins out, meaning your spells often won’t be as effective as other bard subclasses. As such, it makes more sense to focus on spells that don’t look at your spellcasting modifier.

Next: Dungeons & Dragons: A Complete Guide To Your RPG Adventure

Leave a Comment