Bards are the favorite class for D&D players who want to play a jack-of-all-trades character that can excel in social situations. But not all bards are created equal. Here is a list of the 5 official bard colleges, ranked from worst to best.
5 College Of Swords
The College of Swords is a class for bards who want to perform tricks with swords and other blades. It grants a dueling, or two-weapon, fighting style – something usually reserved for more martial classes – which isn’t terrible, but doesn’t fit with a bard’s kit that well. 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.
The whole subclass is like this: none of the abilities are bad per se, but they don’t synergize. It gets slightly better at 14th level, which lets you roll a d6 on flourishes instead of spending bardic inspiration, but it’s too little, too late.
4 College Of Whispers
The College of Whispers is an admittedly fun, but not universally useful class that adds a little rogue flair to the bard class. 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.
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 DM is running an intrigue campaign, this is probably one of the better bard subclasses – or subclasses in general – to choose, but it loses points for being so narrowly focused.
3 College Of Glamour
The College of Glamour adds a bit of fey folk flavor to your bardic abilities. Mostly, 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 alright: a mass Charm Person effect that takes a minute to cast (useful in certain circumstances, but definitely not in combat) and 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 when it does it’s supremely useful).
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 presumably tankier allies, or if it fails, opens up weak points to your attacks. Overall, an interesting subclass that will come in handy in a variety of situations.
2 College Of Valor
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.
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. Too much multitasking isn’t the best when there’s at least one other person who can do everything you can do better, which is the only thing keeping this from the top spot.
1 College Of Lore
Maybe the College of Valor takes jack-of-all-trades a little too literally. You don’t need to do everything, you 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.
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.