D&D 5e Bard multiclassing image from Wizards of the Coast’s Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos.
This article contains affiliate links that add gold to our coffers.
Sing me a tale of Bard multiclassing! Welcome to Flutes’ exhaustive guide for Bard multiclassing character concepts. Multiclassing is daunting for new players, but rewarding for experienced players. Many classes benefit more from multiclassing than from investing twenty levels in a single class. Aside from optimization, multiclassing allows you to bring unique characters to life with outside-the-box specialties. Multiclassing can be useful for roleplaying as well, so it’s not merely for min-max-style players.
Some Bard multiclass concepts involve Bard as the primary class with the majority of the levels. Other concepts will include the Bard as a secondary class with little level investment. The secondary class may be referred to as a “dip” into that class if the concept only needs 1-3 levels in the second class. Being a secondary class does not mean a character won’t start at level one as that class; some classes get more armor and hitpoints at level one.
Bard Multiclassing Quicklinks by Subclass (skip ahead)
Skip ahead to the portion of the article that interests you most by clicking the link below:
General Notes on Bard Multiclassing
Don’t forget that multiclassing requires minimum ability scores in both new and prior classes (as described on page 163 of the PHB, or page 54 of Eberron RftLW for Artificers). For example, if you are a Cleric multiclassing as a Rogue, you’ll need a Wisdom score of 13 or higher, and a Dexterity score of 13 or higher.
Class Ability Score Minimums:
- Artificer – Intelligence 13
- Barbarian – Strength 13
- Bard – Charisma 13
- Cleric – Wisdom 13
- Druid – Wisdom 13
- Fighter – Strength 13 or Dexterity 13
- Monk – Dexterity 13 and Wisdom 13
- Paladin – Strength 13 and Charisma 13
- Ranger – Dexterity 13 and Wisdom 13
- Rogue – Dexterity 13
- Sorcerer – Charisma 13
- Warlock – Charisma 13
- Wizard – Intelligence 13
Dipping 1-2 Levels to/from Bard
As mentioned earlier, dipping one or two levels can be enough to justify multiclassing. Let’s review which combinations get enough value from dipping and don’t require extensive multiclassing.
Which classes have the best reasons to dip into Bard?
Bards are full spellcasters, but they fail to compete with Warlocks and Sorcerers for multiclass dips. Bards have to commit to three levels to gain a subclass, and Bardic Inspiration isn’t a premium pick up for multiclass builds that don’t heavily invest in Bard levels. To their credit Bards have more spells known, but less cantrips known. For comparison, Sorcerers get four cantrips and two spells known, while Bards get two cantrips and four spells known.
Which classes do Bards want for multiclass dips?
Bards have much to gain from other Charisma-based spellcasters, Sorcerers and Warlocks. As usual, the Hexblade Warlock is mighty tempting. Paladins can also be good for Bards if there is enough room in the build to get Paladin auras.
Clerics also get subclasses at level one, so some of them will provide massive value for one level of investment. The Twilight Cleric is an example of this (heavy armor, martial weapons, super darkvision, advantage on Initiative).
Getting Sorcerer Metamagic will allow you to cast Booming Blade as a bonus action and an action to double up dealing big damage for a nova round. The same goes for Eldritch Blast.
How to Roleplay When Your Bard Multiclasses
Not all level-twenty abilities are worth getting; for example, Rangers have a poor level-twenty class feature, so they gain more from multiclassing. Other classes like Druid and Paladin have excellent level-twenty abilities. I typically shy away from recommending multiclass if they’re a character’s core class. The exception would be if I have a fun concept or I want to focus on lower levels of play; after all, most campaigns end by level ten. Several of my recommendations are thematically cool or unusually unique to D&D.
Most players don’t foreshadow or roleplay their core class features anyway, so why should it be so difficult to justify what you gain from multiclassing? Just because you’re not sticking with a single class doesn’t mean you should feel more excessively burdened than other characters to narrate your character’s progress. You could treat the multiclassing as a mere mechanical change. You don’t have to suddenly tell people that you’re two classes. Pretend your core class has something different about it that is justified by multiclassing.
Bard Multiclass Recommendations by Subclass
I’ll now go through each Bard subclass to list ideas for multiclassing. Some of them will be for fun and others will be for optimal character builds.
Creation Bard Subclass (TCoE)
Summary of subclass features: Use Bardic Inspiration to give an ally a mote that can be used for ability checks, attacks rolls, and saving throws with additional effects based on the roll type it’s used with. Create nonmagical items. Animate an object with its own custom statblock. Eventually, enhance your ability to create items by ignoring gold cost limitations and creating more at once.
Creation Bard Multiclass Recommendations
Creation Bard (3-6) / Artillerist Artificer (14-17)
This is a “Gunner” character who can create its own gunpowder for firearms and explosives. I recommend asking if your DM will allow your Artillerist Artificer to automatically possess proficiency with firearms; otherwise, select the Gunner feat ASAP. The Creation Bard levels ensure a steady, cheap supply of gunpowder. I’m referencing the DMG p.268 for pricing and mechanics for firearms, gunpowder, and more. Thank you to reader Scott for this multiclass concept!
Creation Bard (14) / Forge Cleric (6)
Both of these subclasses specialize in creation, so let’s see what they can do together! The Forge Cleric’s defenses and spells are fantastic additions to the Bard’s powers. You can probably get rich with this character.
Thief Rogue (16) / Creation Bard (4)
Pay to win! The Thief Rogue specializes in chucking items as a bonus action, such as acid vials. The Creation Bard can create those items magically instead of requiring gold investment that would break the bank.
Eloquence Bard Subclass (TCoE)
Summary of subclass features: Treat your Persuasion and Deception ability check rolls of nine or lower as tens. Use Bardic Inspiration as a bonus action to give a creature disadvantage on its next saving throw before your next turn. Bardic Inspiration given to allies is not expended if it contributes to a roll that still fails. Makes creatures magically understand your language as you speak. Use a reaction when an ally succeeds with your Bardic Inspiration to give another ally a use of Bardic Inspiration (which does not expend your uses of BI).
Eloquence Bard Multiclass Recommendations
Eloquence Bard (6) / Scout Rogue (6) / Artificer (6) / Knowledge Cleric (2)
This character is a know-it-all, sporting plenty of skill proficiencies, heaps of Expertise, and a Channel Divinity to instantly gain proficiency in something they’re not already skilled with. Each class is granting proficiencies plus proficiency doubling, and some of the classes even provide bonus proficiencies according to the multiclassing proficiencies table.
The Artificer’s Tool Expertise ability will double your proficiency for any tool you are proficient with, such as tool proficiencies you’ve temporarily gained from your Channel Divinity: Knowledge of the Ages feature. The Artificer also has The Right Tools for the Job feature, so you can create the tools you need. Few people would actually want to play this character, but it’s a fun concept exercise to see just how skilled a character can be with skill checks and artisan tools.
Eloquence Bard (19) / Life Cleric (1)
Another combo that gets your heavy armor while amplifying healing spells here and there. The Eloquence Bard is very powerful as a support role, and the Life Cleric’s armor and healing bonuses can only help. Spellcasting will also be simplified since the Bard will gain spells like Healing Word through the Cleric multiclass, freeing up other spell choices from the Bard spell list. Any bard could benefit from this combination, but the Eloquence Bard stands out for the recommendation.
Eloquence Bard (18-19) / Peace Cleric (1-2)
These two classes can lend tremendous support to allies at all levels, especially since the Peace Cleric’s Emboldening Bone scales with your Proficiency Bonus regardless of Cleric levels. You should only go for the second level in Peace Cleric if you really want the useful Channel Divinity option to move without provoking opportunity attacks while healing allies, but I’m not sure an Eloquence Bard has business being so close to everyone anyway. With this synergy, you’ll be dishing out Bardic Inspiration and setting up Emboldening Bond within the same turn to get the support going.
Eloquence Bard (19) / Order Cleric (1)
Eloquence is incredibly strong, so the Order Cleric makes a fine supplement to the character’s support abilities. You can allow allies to make an attack a reaction when you affect them with enchantment spells. They’ll love it!
Eloquence Bard (18) / Hexblade Warlock (2)
Power build! You’re a fantastic support character who can also deal big damage and defend yourself. Perhaps your eloquence comes from a deal you made with a magical instrument to become a renowned storyteller, performer, and ambassador. I’m imagining “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” for the backstory.
Glamour Bard Subclass (XGtE)
Summary of subclass features: Give temporary hitpoints to allies as a bonus action that also allows them to move as a reaction without provoking opportunity attacks.. Charm people into idolizing you for a while when you speak to a group and they unknowingly fail their Wisdom saves. Transform as a bonus action to gain the ability to cast Command as a bonus action for one minute while you concentrate on your transformation. While transformed, creatures charmed by you automatically fail their saving throw against your Command spell. You eventually gain another transformation that causes enemies to make Charisma saves to succeed in attacking you; those who succeed on the save have disadvantage to save against your spells on your next turn.
Glamour Bard Multiclass Recommendations
Assassin Rogue (17) / College of Glamour Bard (3)
One of the worst parts of being an Assassin is dealing with the lackluster subclass features Infiltration Expertise and Infiltrator. They don’t pay off as much as I’d like them to, and their benefits can be achieved in other ways. We should make the most of those features, and the Glamour Bard has a unique way to do so. I recommend you create a false identity as an entertainer. The persona gets you in front of powerful people during a performance. During your act, you can attempt the subtle Enthralling Performance ability of the Glamour Bard.
You’ll be able to charm specific targets in a room with a bit of time investment without visible spellcasting or revealing yourself. You can use this charm effect to gain people’s trust so you can find out where your mark is. If you wish to invest three additional levels into Bard, you’ll gain the Mantle of Majesty feature; with it, you can charm someone specifically and get them alone to cast Command on them over and over again as you slay or steal from them. I imagine this like an exotic dancer who takes advantage of the one-on-one situations that can result afterward with interested parties. You also get extra Expertise from three Bard levels.
Thief Rogue (17) / Glamour Bard (3)
I am once again copying my recommendation for the Assassin Rogue. Use the Glamour Bard’s Enthralling Performance ability to gain people’s trust without drawing suspicion. This will open doors to you that would normally be hidden or impassable, allowing you to find important stolen items, magic items worth stealing, kidnapped children, or any other noun that you seek. Networking is important! If you want six levels of Bard, you’ll gain the Mantle of Majesty feature to seduce people and take them out back to rob them as you command them to empty their pockets. You also get extra Expertise from three levels of Bard.
Glamour Bard (6) / Enchantment Wizard (14)
Reader Stephany suggested this combination. The idea here is to become a master manipulator. Glamour specializes in compelling others while appearing to be a grand, celestial being. Expertise in Stealth allows you to sneak about reliably. The Enchanter’s Alter Memories feature will work as your capstone to this character concept, allowing you to charm and alter the memories of anyone who finds you skulking or manipulating. This combination offers excellent synergies if you’re willing to pass up the more powerful spells of the eighth and ninth levels. It’s a masterful concept for creating a new religion of followers and adorers!
Lore Bard Subclass (PHB)
Bonus proficiencies: Three skills.
Summary of subclass features: React with a Bardic Inspiration die to reduce an attack roll, damage roll, or ability check. Bonus dose of early Magical Secrets. Freely add Bardic Inspiration to an ability check you make if you roll lower than you’d like.
Lore Bard Multiclass Recommendations
Lore Bard (13) / Watchers Paladin (7)
Learn spells that normally wouldn’t be available to Paladins to make yourself more dangerous. Spirit Guardians is a great example! The Oath of the Watchers demands a Paladin to know the lore about otherworldly monsters, so the Lore Bard is a fine fit!
Lore Bard (17) / Hexblade Warlock (2) / Divine Soul Sorcerer (1)
This character dips into useful Charisma classes that quickly gain their subclasses. It will gain armor and shields, powerful Eldritch Blast augmentations, more spells, and saving throw buffs. The character’s archaeological delvings have led them to discover an ancient weapon that has formed a pact with them and transformed them with divine energy.
Spirits Bard Subclass (VRGtR)
Bonus cantrips: Guidance cantrip (extended to 60 feet).
Summary of subclass features: Use spooky items as spellcasting focuses, and eventually enhance your spells by doing so. Roll on a table of tales to activate special effects with your Bardic Inspiration. Perform a ritual with allies to learn a spell from any spell list with a level equal to the number of participants in the ritual. Eventually, gain more control over your Spirit Tales rolls.
Spirits Bard Multiclass Recommendations
Spirits Bard (11) / Phantom Rogue (9)
Both of these subclasses feature knowledge from those who have passed away. The Phantom can improve the Bard’s survivability and ability checks while providing a passive combat benefit with Sneak Attack. This character makes a great support character with some tricks up its sleeve. It can capture the souls of fallen enemies to learn from them, perhaps informing their rituals and tales.
Spirits Bard (17) / Undead Warlock (2) / Twilight Cleric (1)
Armor up, see in the dark, and get advantage on Initiative with the Twilight Cleric. I think of the twilight theme as a life and death kind of vigilance (even if that’s not quite how it’s presented in print). Undead Warlock levels can give you the classic Eldritch Blast with Invocations plus Form of Dread! These subclasses are very strong to combine and they’re thematically consistent.
Swords Bard Subclass (XGtE)
Bonus proficiencies: Medium armor, scimitars.
Summary of subclass features: You can use a weapon you’re proficient with as a spellcasting focus. Learn one of two Fighting Styles. Gain special Blade Flourishes and increase your movement speed for the turn when you attack. Extra Attack. Blade Flourishes use your Bardic Inspiration until level fourteen when they can perpetuate themselves with 1d6.
Swords Bard Multiclass Recommendations
College of Swords Bard (3-5) / Bladesinging Wizard (15-17)
The College of Swords Bard gains Blade Flourishes to weaponize the Bardic Inspiration dice. The Defensive Flourish allows the character to boost its AC until the next round’s turn. Coupling Defensive Flourish with Bladesong will make you nearly untouchable. Flourishes will also boost the damage of your weapon attacks.
Mobile Flourish will be helpful after you get six levels in Bladesinging because you can substitute one attack for a cantrip like Booming Blade. You can use Mobile Flourish to move away from an enemy after using Booming Blade, which may mean they’re forced to move and trigger more Booming Blade damage to reach you.
Don’t invest too much in Charisma because your Intelligence will be more important. Get at least a fourteen in Charisma. The Bladesinger needs to focus on Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence, so it’s difficult to add Charisma. You’ll get more mileage out of this multiclass if you’re doing 1-2 combat encounters in an adventuring day. If that’s your kind of campaign, the low supply of Bardic Inspiration won’t matter much.
College of Swords Bard (18) / Hexblade Warlock (2)
Add to your Swords Bard’s combat prowess without sacrificing spellcasting and Charisma. You get Eldritch Blast and Agonizing Blast Invocation for your ranged attacks, and you can use Charisma for your scimitar attacks. Blade Flourishes can scale up along with your spellcasting to become a powerful Bard. Don’t forget to upcast Armor of Agathys!
Valor Bard Subclass (PHB)
Bonus proficiencies: Medium armor, shields, martial weapons.
Summary of subclass features: Use Bardic Inspiration for damage or defensive AC boosts. Extra Attack. Make a bonus action attack after casting a Bard spell.
Notes: Honestly, the Valor Bard has been replaced somewhat by the Hexblade Warlock since you can get armor and shields with only one level of investment. For this reason, I look to the other Warlock subclasses to see which of them might like what the Valor Bard offers.
Valor Bard Multiclass Recommendations
Valor Bard (3) / Undead Warlock (17)
The Undead Warlock lacks medium armor and shields, but the Valor Bard can assist with that while gaining other support abilities and spells.
Whispers Bard Subclass (XGtE)
Summary of subclass features: Deal extra damage with psychic blades when you attack once per turn by expending a Bardic Inspiration. Speak to someone for one minute to attempt to frighten them (they don’t know if they succeed on the Wisdom save). Grab someone’s shadow when they die so you can impersonate them and learn information from the departed. Whisper to someone and convince them that you know their greatest secret, terrifying and charming them into obeying your requests.
Whispers Bard Multiclass Recommendations
College of Whispers Bard (14) / Hexblade Warlock (5) / War Cleric (1)
Making 2-3 attacks per round sounds nice, especially if Charisma can be used for the weapon attacks. Use Bardic Inspiration to deal extra psychic damage with your attacks. Heavy armor will be better than the usual Hexblade medium armor, plus you get a shield. Warlock features at level six aren’t worth it, but at level five you get the invocation for Pact of the Blade to essentially get Extra Attack.
Aberrant Mind Sorcerer (17) / Whispers Bard (3)
I love the idea of a character who sets up a telepathic link while using that brain whisper to use Words of Terror (Bard). You become that person who melds into a crowd while completely messing with someone. Your DM needs to allow you to trigger some of your “spoken” abilities through telepathy.
Soulknife Rogue (3) / Whispers Bard (17)
Both of these subclasses use psychic blades to deal damage. The Bard is a strong spellcaster, so focus on that, but the Soulknife is a fun supplement. This also makes a good skill monkey.
Bards lack the first-level value that other spellcasters provide in multiclassing, but they’re formidable in their own ways with more levels of investment. With the right combinations, a Bard can become increasingly formidable with multiclassing; armor can bolster defenses, spellcasting can be enhanced, and damage output can be augmented.
What Bard multiclass concepts and best practices have I missed? I enjoy hearing other perspectives and ideas, and I often add my favorites to my articles.