So, you want to play a Tiefling Bard! The good news about playing a Bard is that they’re good at everything and no matter what role you need to be filling for your respective party, a “Bard” is always an acceptable choice.
Whether you need to heal, tank, or deal damage, there are options for you!
Let’s Cover the Tiefling Before the Bard
Tieflings are a unique and popular race to play as in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. These mysterious creatures have one mortal parent and one parent from the Nine Hells.
Traditionally, Tieflings were the children of Asmodeus, but the Lords of Hell have been, let’s say, busy, and more Infernal bloodlines are popping up than ever before.
All Tiefling bloodlines grant a +2 bonus to Charisma, so that’s a great pickup for any Bards since they’ll be using Charisma and need a lot of it.
Min-maxed Tiefling Bards will want to choose the Legacy of Dispater or Glasya as these Legacies grant Dexterity modifiers, and that’s the Bard’s second most crucial score.
Levistus is an option for Tieflings who want to go tank as they won’t get as many opportunities to sink points into their Constitution scores as they would like.
Bard 101: Starting Scores
Bards are primary casters who use Charisma as their spellcasting ability score. That means you put as many points as you possibly can into Charisma as your starting point. Point Buy and Standard Array players will want to put either a 14 or a 15 into Charisma.
It’s important to remember that since Tieflings get a +2 to Charisma, putting a 15 is slightly wasteful early on since you don’t get the next modifier point. However, for those rolling their scores, it allows them to start with a 20 in Charisma, a very powerful starting point for Bards.
While they are primary casters, Bards are, by no means, useless with a sword, and Dexterity is going to be their second most important ability score.
Bards looking to deal more weapon damage — particularly those a part of the College of Swords — might want to consider taking Dexterity before Charisma, but that is a very niche situation.
Bards are casters before all. They follow a primary caster unlock tree, and they get some of the most powerful spells that arcane casters have access to. Especially at low levels, focusing on your casting will give you a more robust combat ability than focusing on weapon damage.
Bards who have reached their benchmarks in Charisma and Dexterity will consider putting points into Constitution. Extra points in Constitution can help a player stay alive, and since Bards don’t get to have heavy armor, every point counts. Tank Bards, especially, will want to dip some points into Constitution to help them stay alive.
Bard 102: Secondary Education
Bards subclasses are called Colleges, and there’s a Bard College for basically every role your Bard might want to fill! Bards get their College at the third level, and their College will give them several features that they can use towards that end.
The eight published Bard Colleges are Creation, Eloquence, Glamour, Lore, Spirits, Swords, Valor, and Whispers. Each one satisfies its own niche in the role list.
Damage Bards can choose any College they want. There are no Colleges that do not, in some way, aid the Bard’s damage. However, those looking to deal melee weapon damage primarily will want to take either the College of Swords or the College of Valor.
The College of Swords provides Blade Flourishes that bolster the Bard’s weapon damage to align with the other melee damage dealers. College of Valor provides extra damage by allowing the Bard to make melee weapon attacks after casting a spell. Both offer an Extra Attack as well.
The College of Swords will be a stronger melee class, while the College of Valor provides a little more bolster towards the defensive side of melee combat.
Bards who want to be healers will want to take the College of Lore so that they can use the extra Magical Secrets to grab spells from the Cleric or Paladin spell list. While Bards can heal as the Jack-of-All-Trades, they aren’t built from it, and taking a few spells from the Cleric spell list bolsters their healing power.
Bards who want to tank will want to go with College of Valor or College of Swords to bolster their melee combat. College of Valor provides medium armor proficiency as well as shields and martial weapons. It’s just made for tank Bards.
Bards 103: Feats
Feats are an excellent way for players who have reached their Ability Score benchmarks further to expand their character’s abilities within their role.
Feats are a superb way for characters to get access to things that their class would typically not allow or something outside of the scope of the standard D&D class.
War Caster is an excellent pick-up no matter what your role is. Bards of all types combine both spells and melee weapon attacks, making the War Caster feat a great pick up for them.
War Caster allows Bards to cast spells as their attacks of opportunity and give them a boost when maintaining concentration. Both are great additions to the Bard skill set, no matter the role.
War Caster is excellent on Valor Bards who might want to use their shield proficiency for tanking.
Mobile is a remarkable feat, especially for damage dealers and tanks. It allows them to dodge and weave around in combat, avoiding attacks of opportunity as they dance around the battlefield.
Mobile also grants the player an extra 10 feet of movement speed and the ability to dash through difficult terrain without incurring a movement speed penalty, making it an excellent pickup for bards all around.
Tough is another good all-around feat for Bards. As melee-focused casters, they just can’t get enough HP, and there’s no other way just to get 40 HP (an additional 2 per level) than to grab the Tough feat.
Tough is one of those feats that’s basically never bad, so it’s a great pickup for anyone who wants a feat but hasn’t figured out what they want yet.
Lucky is another “one-size-fits-all” feat that you basically can’t go wrong with. Lucky grants the player Lucky dice that they can use to reroll dice that they didn’t like the outcome for.
It’s by and far one of the most potent feats in Fifth Edition, and anyone taking it will feel its power.
Savage Attacker is a feat that is good for damage dealing Bards as it allows them to (hopefully) deal more damage by rerolling damage dice. This one will be best used by Bards dealing melee weapon damage as it provides no bolster to spell damage.
Resilient allows the Bard to put a point into Constitution and get proficiency with the saving throw, which can bolster the tanking abilities of tank bards. Resilient is slightly lower on the scale than Lucky and Tough.
It’s not “always good” so much as it’s “rarely bad,” a minor but very significant difference in this case.
Bard 103.5: Feats That Look Good But Aren’t
So, Heavily Armored looks good for the Tank Bard who has spec’ed into the College of Valor. Valor Bards meet the prerequisite and would get the benefits of heavy armor.
However, it’s essential to recognize Bards as primary casters, and heavy armor would interfere with their casting abilities.
Dual Wielder has some similar pitfalls as Heavily Armored in that holding a second weapon would conflict with your casting. You need War Caster before you can use the feat effectively, which is a huge ask considering neither feat gives a bolster to your stats.
Dual Wielder could see some play in a long campaign where a player could both reach their Ability Score benchmarks and still have a few ASIs left to turn into feats, but in anything shorter than a level 16 campaign, you probably won’t see this one coming into play.
While Actor can be good for some Bards, most Tiefling Bards won’t need it. This feat pretty much amounts to a worse version of the ASI, especially since Tieflings stand out so much because of their unusual features.
Tieflings aren’t the types who can blend in with the crowd, and Actor will fall flat on most Tiefling Bards.
Bard 104: How to Play a Bard
Playing a Bard is determined mainly by which role your Bard intends to fill. Not class, role. The difference between class and role is that any class can feasibly attempt to play any role. That doesn’t mean they’ll be successful; classes and subclasses are built with roles in mind.
DPS Caster Bard
DPS Caster Bards will be using their spells as their primary form of damage. DPS Caster Bards will be relying on many cantrips and the first-level spells for the damage early.
There isn’t much more to the DPS Caster Bard. You have to manage your spell slots and spell resources like any other spellcaster class. But there isn’t much to the mechanics besides “throw spells at them.”
Melee DPS Bard
Melee DPS Bards kick off once they hit the third level and get their Bard College. Melee DPS Bards who chose the College of Swords will be using a combination of their Blade Flourishes and spells to cut down their enemies.
When playing a Melee DPS Bard, it’s important to remember that you’ll incur a penalty any time you cast a ranged spell from melee range. Picking bits specifically because they are melee spell attacks will help your Bard stay relevant as both a caster and a weapon-wielder.
College of Valor Bards will be able to make melee weapon attacks after casting a spell, so melee spell attacks give them a functional extra attack. Shocking Grasp is an excellent choice for Melee Bards since it allows them to debuff the enemy from the melee range.
The Healer Bard is going to be staying at range and relying on cantrips for their damage. You’ll want to save your spell slots for healing spells. Buffs and debuff are also a powerful choice to allow your Bard to be supportive in more ways than just healing.
As my group’s healer (in every game! Not just tabletop RPGs!), I want to remind everyone that healers and supports are not meant to deal the most damage. It’s okay if your damage numbers are lower than everyone else’s. That’s what you’re supposed to do!
Many people who are newer to healing feel like they’re somehow failing their group if their damage numbers aren’t living up to what they’re used to as a DPS or even a Tank. But, please, from the bottom of my heart, as a healer with 20 years of experience… that is normal. You are working as intended!
Tank Bards are the men, the myths, the legends. They’re basically pro-wrestlers. They’re angry, shout a lot, fight everything that moves, and do so with style. Tank Bards will want to make sure they say the meanest things ever to everyone so that when the fighting starts, all the bad guys target them.
Tank Bards will want to have and utilize as many melee spell attacks as they can. Shocking Grasp is an excellent pick-up for tank Bards. It provides a nice debuff that helps your whole party and helps the Tank Bard deal damage and keep the Tank’s allies safe.
Tank Bards, like healer Bards, don’t deal as much damage as their DPS counterparts, but that’s largely because their job is to take damage, not deal it. They want to attract as much attention as they can and be at the front of every charge.
Bards are a wonderfully versatile class that can fit into any role comfortably.
As the Jack-of-All-Trades, they can flex into just about any part that your team needs, and that makes them an excellent pick for a player who wants to fill that role while also learning every aspect of their class.
As always, remember that D&D is first and foremost a tabletop storytelling experience with friends, and if something feels right to you, then you should do it! As always, good luck, have fun, and happy questing!