So, you are bard trying to decide whether or not to multiclass. Usually, this stems from an identity crisis of some type, but that’s not a bad thing in your case. You are simply on a quest to discover who you are.
After all, that’s what college is for.
Back in the day of DnD 3e, multiclassing was expected. That was literally how you customize your character. It was built into the rules.
In DnD 5e, it’s not so much a necessity. Subclasses, feats, and spells allow you flavor your character without having to sacrifice the higher-level abilities of your class.
Furthermore, no one ever played a bard in DnD 3e anyway. So the answer to whether or not to multiclass your bard was always, “Yes, as soon as possible.”
Not in DnD 5e. The bard is a viable class here, and what’s better is that you don’t need to multiclass to be cool.
However, if you do multiclass a bard, you will DEFINITELY be the coolest character at the table.
So, let’s go over some of the best ways to multiclass your bard and create a niche only you can fill.
Key Bard Features
The following features are universal to all bards. These provide the foundation for your abilities.
As we can see, they are mostly support abilities that benefit you and your allies. These abilities keep you valuable and can provide needed respite that no one else can provide.
When you begin multiclassing, you’ll want to make sure that these abilities are not lost. You’ll also want to consider the combat, spellcasting, and skill abilities you will take with you.
The Best Options To Consider for Bard Multiclassing
The bard can fill a lot of roles from support spellcaster to melee combatant.
Therefore, the best class to match with the bard is easily the rogue. Consider:
College of Swords and Soulknife
This combination will give you a Dexterity based melee combatant that can dish out the damage while remaining versatile in other situations.
College of Swords will give you a fighting style at 3rd level that will absolutely contribute to your Psychic Blades, either as a +2 to damage with a single blade or by allowing you to make use of your secondary blade.
You will gain proficiency in medium armor, upping that precious AC. Many of your Bardic Spells are psychic in nature like your psychic blades will be, which will allow you to keep a flavor theme.
As a Bard, you will need to keep at least one hand free to cast spells. As a soulknife, you don’t need to manifest your weapon until you attack, which means you will always have a free hand with which to cast.
However, this may be moot when you consider the College of Swords ability to use a weapon as a spellcasting focus.
Your skill set will go through the roof! As a soulknife, you will gain a 1d6 to roll as a bonus to any skill check; coupled with your Jack of All Trades and an Inspiration die, you can feasibly attempt any skill in the game – even that disadvantaged stealth check – because of your medium armor.
College of Lore and Arcane Trickster
Oh, the mischief this build can cause!
Your Cutting Words ability will allow you to spread mischief and mayhem among your enemies, robbing them of their edge on an ability, attack, or damage roll.
The extra wizard spellcasting will be your main combat bonus outside of this one ability.
You will get more spells to choose from, allowing you access to especially mischievous spells bards normally have no access to.
With Ranged Legerdemain and Cutting Words, you can wreak havoc on any sense of stability or awareness an NPC has in their life.
Finally, the Charisma associated with bards will be a major asset to any Assassin, Mastermind, or Swashbuckler build.
In the next section we will consider some specific build types and offer guidance on how to multiclass with those.
Multiclassing Bard for Combat Builds
For a combat specialist, it seems obvious to multiclass with Fighter. And this is legit! College of Swords can do a lot with Champion or with the Charisma-related abilities of Samurai.
It is also worth noting that College of Swords would pair well with the Monk Kensai or Drunken Master.
But around here at the Citadel, we recommend pairing Bard with Paladin. The Aura of Protection/Courage abilities of the paladin fit in with the bard’s tendency to support their allies.
In addition, Paladin spells will stack with Bard spells for multiclassing spells known and spell slots, and finally, the spells are also Charisma based, which means you keep your high ability scores nice and tidy.
Finally, the Bard/Paladin allows for front line melee AND support build.
College of Valor and Oath of Glory
This build offers true leadership potential.
In addition to the Paladin’s smite ability boosted by the extra spell slots of the bard, you will get to use Inspiring Smite to grant your allies temporary hit points, making you an even more valuable front-line-support asset to your party.
This is in addition to your party gaining more uses for your Bardic Inspiration. As a College of Valor bard, they will be able to apply your bardic inspiration to damage or AC.
In addition to normal Paladin spells, you will get some flashy bonus spells such as guiding bolt and heroism to aid in keeping you the center of attention.
Your other Channel Divinity feature, Peerless Athlete, will give you advantage on Athletic and Acrobatics, and combined with the bonus from your Jack of All Trades bardic ability, this means you can shine on the battlefield – with glitter and a disco ball.
Multiclassing Bard for Support Builds
The support capability of the Bard is unique and worth having in the party. After taking about 6 levels in bard, you may wish to consider expanding your scope.
Clerics of any domain are always valid support classes. That combination is so easy we won’t need to go into it here.
Instead, we have two more unique options: The bard/artificer and the bard/druid.
College of Creation and Alchemist
A true brewmaster realizes that perfection is a balance of science and art.
In combat, you will be in the back, casting buffs and healing spells.
The Artificer spellcasting ability is Intelligence, so you’ll want to make sure yours is high. This is especially true at 5th Artificer when you add your INT bonus to your healing spells, regardless of whether they are from the Bard or Artificer spell list.
Also, like anytime you multiclass spellcasters, you will have less spells known, but those spells will be more powerful, meaning you can focus on those low-level healing spells that truly make a difference.
You won’t have much need for skills with this build as you can probably cast or create any of the tools or items you need to magically do anything you wish!
College of Creation will give you the ability to create a nonmagical object, and Artificer Infusions will allow you to make it magical.
College of Glamour and Circle of Dreams
Music is the stuff dreams are made of.
Much like all support spellcaster builds, you’ll be in the back making encouraging magical noises.
Here is where you shine. Not only do you get all the buff and healing spells of Druids and Artificers, but you will get a healing dice pool from the Dream Druid’s Balm of the Summer Court and temporary HP to pass around from the Glamour Bard’s Mantle of Inspiration.
You will be healing as an afterthought. Hit Points will fall from you like pixie dust. Make it rain!
Not only that, but with Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow and Song of Rest, you can not only give everyone an extra 1d6 healing during a short rest, but you can make sure you aren’t interrupted during that short rest.
This is where you will be lacking a bit, although your Jack of All Trades will make sure you aren’t too far behind. Besides, who needs sleight of hand when you can turn into a bear?
Multiclassing Bard for Villains and Edgelords
The music isn’t always sunshine and roses. Sometimes it means things. We all go through an emo phase, especially in college, but like most villains and edgelords, these builds just never quite got over it.
There’s nothing wrong with that – we all like an anti-hero. It just so happens that this flavor also works for DMs needing a good recurring villain.
College of Whispers / Oathbreaker Paladin
All my friends are dead. Here they come now!
You will gain a new way to use your Bardic inspiration die selfishly from College of Whispers. When spent, you add 2d6 psychic damage to your next weapon attack which, as a Paladin, you will be making.
This does not require an action, so you can easily combine it with Divine Smite for painful effect.
This multiclass option will compound the ways you can make targets frightened of you, allowing you to lead your Bardic-Inspiration-ed undead servants in a Black Parade.
Again, your Jack of All Trades ability will come in handy should you need to do something yourself instead of intimidating someone or something else to do it for you.
College of Spirits/Great Old One Warlock
This build is your random generator buff/debuff provider. The epitome of Chaotic Neutral.
You will rely mostly on your spellcasting for this one, but with Warlock cantrips being notoriously powerful, you will be just fine at range.
Your bardic ability Spirit Tales will give you a random-effect generator that can grant a powerful bonus or impose a powerful penalty on any target.
Because it’s random, you’ll have to retain some flexibility as to whom or what you cast it on, but that unpredictability will certainly disrupt your target’s strategies.
You will gain an additional 1d6 to healing and damage spells for free from your College of Spirits ability Spiritual Focus at 3rd level, not to mention the Warlock invocations that will allow you to free up your Bard spells for some unique flavor choices.
In addition, your Spirit Session ability will grant further access to more spells.
Your Warlock ability Awakened Mind will allow you to take those powerful Bardic Charisma skills and apply them to any creature regardless of what languages you do or do not share.
Bard is such an interesting and versatile class that you could literally build any unique and memorable character from it.
Go forth; make music, mischief, and mayhem!