Starting a Bard
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The bard is a perfect addition to any party, a competent scout, warrior and spellcaster. Bards offer strong team buffs and can help shore up a team's shortcomings whatever they may be.
All bards with enough ranks in Perform have access to bardic music, the bard's signature. Inspire Courage is a long-lasting team buff, and available at 1st level. Fascinate is an extraordinarily powerful charm, also available at 1st level. Additional levels bring additional buffs and charms of increasing power and utility.
Humans make great melee bards. Extra feat at level 1, cheap racial damage boost and healing amplification enhancements make human an extraordinary choice.
Drow can start with 20 charisma and make excellent caster bards.
Purple Dragon Knights have an enhancement that allows them to use charisma to attack and damage with various swords.
The primary (casting) stat for a bard is Charisma. However, it is not necessarily the highest stat. Bards focusing on crowd control favor Charisma, but melee bards may favor Strength. Swashbucklers can use a different ability score to damage while swashbuckling.
A solid Constitution is required especially for melee bards. Rare bards that favor two-weapon fighting need also Dexterity. Some bards want to increase Intelligence to get more skill points and potentially more damage via Harper enhancements. Wisdom is usually dumped.
Swashbucklers may decide to focus on a different ability score instead of Strength. Warchanters usually attempt to have excellent Charisma so that mobs don't resist their frozen attacks.
Perform and Use Magic Device are the most important bard skills. Concentration allows you to cast spells mid-combat without being interrupted. Bards don't have access to Jump spell, consider spending few points. Balance is a prerequisite for Single Weapon Fighting chain of feats and helps to stand up faster if tripped. Caster bards invest in Spellcraft (mostly for epic spells and Horn of Thunder). Some players like to invest cross class points into Heal skill for extra healing spell power.
Melee bards usually take power attack, improved critical, toughness, and either TWF or THF feat line. Extend Spell is useful to make the critical buffs like haste and rage last longer. Spell-casting oriented bards take Heighten Spell and spell penetration feats. Bards' healing abilities profit from Empower Healing and Maximize.
At 1st level you get just one spell. I'd recommend either Cure Light Wounds or one of the control spells like Hypnotism, Sleep, or Otto's Resistible Dance. The self-heal is nice early, and always welcome in any party. The control spells can save a lot of damage before it needs healing.
- Charms are powerful control spells (Hypnotism, Charm Person, Sleep, Otto's Resistible Dance, Fear).
- Restoratives are heals, buffs and status removers (Cure Light Wounds, Remove Fear).
- Bardic evocation spells are: Sonic Blast, Shout, Greater Shout.
- Utility spells are more situational (Detect Secret Doors, Expeditious Retreat).
Bards with a lower charisma usually use Restoratives and Utility spells, which do not rely on a DC. Caster bards focus on evocations or enchantments / charms.
- Spellcasting bards invest into Spellsinger enhancements. The tree offers powerful spell-like abilities and performs very nicely as a crowd control caster and even a healer. Spellsingers gain a very large boost to their spell points and a lot of extra DC's to enchantment, illusion, and evocation spells. Their unique songs include reducing the spell point costs of spells, and slowly regenerating spell points and hit points. Spellsingers are also unique in that they focus almost entirely on sonic spells, a damage that is very rarely resisted by enemies.
- Bards favoring Single Weapon Fighting focus on Swashbuckler enhancements, which offer excellent DPS and some defenses in the way of dodge bonuses and increased movement speed. Swashbucklers that are pure also gain evasion from the capstone (level 20 core ability). Only the swashbuckler allows the use of offhand equipment while single weapon fighting, such as a buckler or orb.
- Bards investing in Warchanter enhancements have the strongest song-based buffs, increasing the damage output of their party. Their attacks can freeze enemies in place, rendering them helpless. Warchanters also have auras that are constantly in effect, providing small but stacking bonuses to just about everything.
Swashbucklers often multiclass with Fighter for extra feats and defensive stance and Rogue for Evasion and trap skills.
Multiclassing warchanters is about tradeoffs, as the number of bard levels affects your freezing attack DC.
Spellsingers have a rather strong capstone and multiclassing might prove too costly.
Melee bards occasionally take 1 level of Cleric or Favored Soul for Divine Might from Warpriest enhancements.
SWF Swashbuckling 15/3/2
Human 15 bard / 3 fighter / 2 rogue
- 16 STR
- 13 DEX for Precision (or less if you have access to ability tomes)
- 16 CON
- 14 INT to pick up trap skills in addition to usual bard skills
- 8 WIS
- 11 CHA
Bonus points into Strength.
- Disable Device
- Single Weapon Fighting chain
- Improved Critical
- Empower Healing
- 1 Detect Secret Doors, Expeditious Retreat, Focusing Chant, Sonic Blast
- 2 CMW, Blur, Rage, ...
- 3 CSW, Good Hope, Haste, Displacement
- 4 CCW, Dimension Door, Freedom of Movement, Break Enchantment
- 5 CLW Mass, Greater Heroism, Greater Dispel Magic
- 6 None (If more bard levels: CMW Mass, Otto's Irresistible Dance, Heroes' Feast)
- 36+ points in Swashbuckler, including tier 5
- 14-24 points in Fighter's Stalwart Defender
- 3 AP in Human for Damage boost and Healing Amplification
- Few points in Harper for Know the Angles
Drow Bard 20
- Str 8
- Dex 10
- Con 14
- Int 10
- Wis 8
- Cha 20 + levelups
- Use Magic Device
- Balance / Diplomacy * Jump
- Maximize, Empower, Spell Focus: Evocation, Quicken, Heighten
- 1 Detect Secret Doors, Focusing Chant, Sonic Blast
- 2 CMW, Blur, Rage, Heroism (swapped out later when you get Greater Heroism), Hold Person.
- 3 CSW, Good Hope, Haste, Displacement, Charm Monster
- 4 CCW, Dimension Door, Freedom of Movement, Shout/Hold Monster/Dominate Person, Otto's Sphere of Dancing
- 5 CLW Mass, Greater Heroism, Greater Dispel Magic, Mass Suggestion, Shadow Walk
- 6 CMW Mass, Greater Shout, Otto's Irresistible Dance, Mass Charm Monster
- 41+ AP in Spellsinger
- 6 AP in Drow for more Charisma
- ~24 AP in Warchanter for Medium Armor and Charisma