Monday, December 5, 2016

Unearthed Arcana Playtest packet: Bard

Hey guys, we’re gearing up for a happy holiday season and we’re going to kick off by taking a look at the new Unearthed Arcana releases for the last month.  The Mad Wizards of the Coast are playtesting a bunch of new options for the core classes from the Player’s Handbook (my guess is as a prelude to releasing a new player’s handbook or options book).  These offer a lot of new ideas and spins for players looking to spice up the world’s greatest roleplaying game.  Today we’re going to take a look at the Bard archetypes.  Remember, these are playtest material, so they aren’t compatible with adventurer’s league play, yet.  We’ve got two new bardic colleges to take a look at, the College of Glamour, and the College of Whispers.

The College of Glamour

The College of Glamour focuses on the bardic abilities of charm and fascination.  This is a college that loves to make an absolute spectacle of itself, and it’s Collegiate abilities either enhance that ability or open up new options for the enterprising bard to make some mischief.  There are four abilities for this College, just like the other available colleges, with abilities that are opened up 3rd, 6th, and 14th level.  Let’s take a closer look at those abilities.

Mantle of Inspiration

At 3rd level, the College of glamour opens up the Mantle of Inspiration ability.  Using the mantle is a bonus action, the bard can give herself/himself a wonderfully fantastic appearance that gives a number of allies the bard can see within 60 feet of the bard (this can benefit a number of allies up to the bard’s charisma modifier) 2D6 bonus hit points.  When a target gains these bonus hit points, they can use their reaction action to move towards the bard at full speed without provoking attacks of opportunity.  It has to take the most direct path.  As the bard gain levels, the bonus number of hit points bestowed increases.

Enthralling Performance

Also at 3rd level, the College of Glamour bard gains the Enthralling Performance ability.  When the bard spends 10 minutes performing, they can target a number of creatures up to their charisma bonus that can both see and hear the performance.  These creatures need to make a Wisdom saving throw or be charmed by the bard’s performance.  This has a number of benefits, but the most tangible benefit is that they will speak kindly of the bard, and hinder people opposed to the bard.  If they were inclined to fight on the bard’s behalf before, they will follow that instinct.  Otherwise they avoid violence.  This effect lasts for 1 hour, or until dispelled or otherwise broken.  If it made its save, it is unaware that the bard attempted to charm it.  This ability recharges on a short or long rest.  

Mantle of Majesty

At 6th level, the bard gains the ability to activate a different mantle of fantastic appearance.  This mantle lasts for 1 minute, and while it’s active, the bard can cast command as a bonus action without using a spell slot.  The effect lasts for 1 minute, and any creature all ready charmed by the bard automatically fails its saving throw.  This ability recharges on a long rest.  

Unbreakable Majesty

At 14th level, the bard gains another mantle ability that it can use.  Their appearance becomes more feylike.  From this ability, the bard can cast sanctuary on itself, and anything that fails the saving throw against the sanctuary spell has disadvantage on all saves from spells cast by the bard in the bard’s next turn.  The bard also has advantage on all charisma checks against the target for one minute.  Once the bard has used the sanctuary ability, it recharges on a short or long rest.  


Overall, this bard is built to charm and control groups of smaller enemies through a combination of their natural bardic spellcasting choices and their college abilities.  Unbreakable majesty seems like it would work in the right game, but for general purpose dungeon crawls and monster mashes, i am not sure how useful this ability is going to be against heavy hitting goons/henchmen/bosses.  There’s also the problem of things that are resistant to charm effects or have flat out immunities.  

The College of Whispers

The College of whispers is a much more aggressive, intelligence gathering version of the bard.  They turn their abilities to gathering information in social environments and using that at a later date against the targets of their malicious abilities.  They can be extremely dangerous, like poisonous snakes waiting in ambush.  

Venomous Blades

At 3rd level, the bard gains the ability to make their weapon attacks toxic.  By spending a use of their bardic inspiration ability, the bard envenoms their melee weapon attack and it deals an additional 2D6 poison damage.  The bard makes this determination after the attack hits, so it’s never a wasted option.  This can only be used once per turn.  The damage done by this attack increases as the bard gains levels.

Venomous Whispers

This ability allows the bard to spend 10 minutes conversing with a creature by itself and cause the target to make a wisdom saving throw or be frightened with benefits.  In addition to the normal problems associated with being frightened, the target also avoids allies and stays away from other people.  It finds the place it considers to be the safest, and spends the duration of the effect in that location.  With this ability and a little research, the bard can help his or her party set up a masterful ambush, and cause all sorts of problems.  If the target makes its save, it is unaware of the attempt to frighten it.  This ability recharges on a short or long rest.  

Mantle of Whispers

At 6th level, the bard gains access to Mantle of Whispers.  This ability gets weird quick.  When a creature that dies within 5 feet of the bard, or is something that bard kills with a spell or attack, the bard can use its reaction to capture the creature’s shadow.  The creature has to be the same size or smaller than the bard that kills it, and the bard can only have one shadow stored at a time.  As an action, the bard can use that creature’s shadow to weave a magical disguise.  
During the next hour, the bard has access to that creature’s memories and appearance.  It includes background and personal information, but not secrets that creature might know.  Other creatures can attempt to sense the deception. But the bard gets a bonus to its disguise check.  This ability ends after 1 hour.  

Shadow Lore

At 14th level, the bard gains the capstone ability of the College of Whispers.  As an action, the bard can whisper a magical phrase that only one creature within 30 feet of the bard can hear.  If the target and the bard don’t share languages, the ability automatically fails.  If the target saves, it ignores the effect.  If it fails, The target is charmed by the bard for the next eight hours.  The target is under the belief that the bard knows it’s deepest, darkest secret, and the target acts as if the bard can reveal that secret at any time (this is how the charm effect manifests).  


Overall i think the College of Whispers bard can be absolute “banana pancakes awesome” in the right group.  This is a character that does a lot of its best work operating by itself, and that may not work with some groups.  It’s a neat concept that offers a very different way of playing a bard.  I think it works very well for the abilities it has, and offers several different options and choices to the different take on a bard.

Hopefully we get to our good friends the cleric and the druid this week, and there’s a better than average chance we’ll see how cool the new fighter options are.  Check back later in the week to see our kickoff to season 2 of the Adventurer’s League program with a breakdown of Mulmaster and the first adventure in that series.  

Game On, Game Fans

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