The singers and sword swingers of D&D 5E have been updated once more, as Bards have been revised in a new Unearthed Arcana article, ahead of their appearance in the upcoming 2024 Core Rulebooks. Bards have seen a surge in popularity in D&D 5E because they don’t suck anymore and are actually a ton of fun to play, which is something the older editions of D&D struggled with.
The Bards are one of the seven base classes featured in the Playtest 6 Unearthed Arcana document on D&D Beyond, which features playtesting material for the next iteration of the game. Bards received a brand new subclass in this document, as well as several changes to their existing line-up, some of which rollbacked changes introduced in previous Unearthed Arcana articles.
Bards Have Received Changes To Powers & Proficiencies In D&D 5E
The Bard isn’t packing quite as much heat in the latest Unearthed Arcana. This is because they are no longer proficient in hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, or shortswords. There are also plenty of Bard class features that have been changed in the new playtesting document:
Bardic Inspiration: A creature that has been inspired can use its bonus dice within the next hour rather than ten minutes.
Spellcasting: Bards can choose one of the three spell lists: Arcane, Divine, or Primal, and turn it into their Bard spell list. They keep access to the Vicious Mockery Cantrip regardless of choice. Bards can also change one Cantrip they have already memorized when they level up.
Font of Inspiration: You can now use this ability to spend spell slots to regain spent uses of Bardic Inspiration. This doesn’t cost an action, but it can only be done once per turn.
Countercharm: This is now used as a Reaction whenever a creature fails a saving throw and becomes Frightened or Charmed. They get to reroll the save with Advantage.
Magical Secrets: You can learn spells from the Arcane, Divine, and Primal lists rather than just picking one of them.
Superior Inspiration: This feature is now received at level 18 instead of level 20.
The D&D Bard’s New Features & Powers
The Bard has received the fewest new abilities in the new Unearthed Arcana article. This is offset by the fact that many of their existing abilities have changed, including an overhaul of their spell list and the subclasses receiving lots of tweaks.
Expertise: Bards now receive this at level 2 and level 9, giving them two extra skill proficiencies.
Words of Creation: When Bards reach level 20, they always have Power Word Heal and Power Word Kill prepared, with the ability to target an additional creature within 10ft whenever either of them is cast.
How D&D Changed The Bard Subclasses
The new Unearthed Arcana introduces a brand new D&D 5E Bard subclass called the College of Dance, which is detailed in the article linked in this paragraph. In short, the College of Dance provides lots of movement-based abilities for both the Bard and their allies, allowing them to avoid counterattacks made by enemies. Unearthed Arcana also features new versions of the College of Glamour, College of Lore, and College of Valor.
College of Glamour: Originally appearing in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the College of Glamour utilize the magic of the Feywild as part of their performance. Mantle of Inspiration now provides temporary hit points based on a Bardic Inspiration dice roll times 2. Beguiling Magic (formerly known as Enthralling Performance) ensures the Bard always has Charm Person and Mirror Image prepared, and anytime the caster uses a spell from the Enchantment or Illusion schools, they can cause a target to make a Wisdom save or be Charmed or Frightened. Mantle of Majesty now gives you the Command spell, and you can restore the feature by spending a level 3 or higher spell slot. Unbreakable Majesty now triggers on a hit rather than before it.
College of Lore: The magic specialist Bards received the fewest changes in the new Unearthed Arcana. The Additional Magical Secrets feature now allows you to change the new spell upon gaining a Bard level. Peerless Skill now applies to attack rolls as well as ability checks.
College of Valor: The battle Bards also haven’t received many changes, but that’s because they’re already brilliant. Martial Training now lets the Bards use their weapon as a spellcasting focus, rather than risking them breaking their lyre over an enemy’s head. Combat Inspiration‘s damage dice can now be used with all attacks and not just weapon blows, while the defense option can trigger on a hit.
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In D&D 5E, Bards fall under the Expert category, which they share with Rangers and Rogues. The intention is for them to have more of a focus on skills that can be used outside of combat, which is why they now receive Expertise twice during their level progression. In truth, they’re still a primary spellcaster class with plenty of combat options to call on in a fight, which could make them the most well-rounded class in D&D 5E.