Unearthed Arcana – Bard Colleges

Onto the next Unearthed Arcana, this time we’re delving into bardic colleges! I love the 5e bard, it’s versatile, interesting and can be a powerful front liner if needed. We’ve had a few bardic colleges in other UAs, such as the College of Swords and College of Satire from the Kits of Old supplement. My girlfriend currently plays the Satire bard and I must admit there are some aspects of it that I think are a little unbalanced, so let’s see how these new options hold up!

I’ll assume you’ve read the material already, if not you can find it here!

College of Glamour

The idea here seems cool, a Fey oriented bard makes quite a lot of sense, especially for more unique players who want to add a sense of wild magic to their characters.

Mantle of Inspiration

This is a great starting ability, I think the flavour meshes well with the bard class in general, and it’s balanced as it requires you to spend a use of Bardic Inspiration. I think this ability is how most boards want to feel, kind of like a musical standard bearer.

Enthralling Performance

This ability is also very cool flavourwise, if not necessarily that useful. It’s a good RP tool though which is nice considering that bards are supposed to be flexible.

Mantle of Majesty

I think the flavour of this ability is nice, keeps playing up to the alluring fey theme, but mechanically I think it’s pretty underpowered, especially for a 6th level ability. My assumption is that it’s supposed to be used post-Enthralling Performance in RP. In combat I think there are better things to do with a BA. It also needs clarification as to whether you can cast another spell as an action on your turn, or whether you’re limited to a cantrip.

Unbreakable Majesty

This is another kind of average ability, serves better in RP than combat but fits the theme of the fey bard. It could be a potential lifesaver in dire situations, plus this comboed with the previous two abilities is a pretty potent charm, but I’d rather just cast a spell like Dominate Person or something of that nature.

Overall

I do really love the feel of this bardic college, and I think it lives up to the flavour in it’s abilities. It’s probably a little weak in combat, but I still think it’s viable as a build. The only trouble I have with other plane based subclasses is that it requires a little extra work for the DM. It’s not a big issue for most, but may be for some.

College of Whispers

This is a cool idea, but I find that players want to play evil characters even when it’s not fed to them in a subclass. Encouraging more devious players can sometimes be a little awkward for the rest of the group, they probably don’t want to end up in PvP but if you’re actively flaunting your evil nature then there will be issues.

Venomous Blades

Meh. If you want to play a rogue just play a rogue.

Venemous Words

WotC literally love reusing the same word in these abilities. You would have thought they could come up with mor original titles. Insidious Words would have done the job. This is the 3rd time I’ve seen this now.

The ability is a bit better, basically the opposite of the Enthralling Performance. Whilst the flavour is cool I just think it lacks any real punch.

Mantle of Whispers

I like the idea behind this ability. You can assassinate someone and steam their identity, very cool. However, why give this to a bard? Characters that want to be assassins play rogues. I can’t imagine an assassin bard who then turns to his mate and bardically inspires them. This makes no real sense to me. Plus the name of this ability makes no sense.

Shadow Lore

This ability is rubbish. I can’t even see it being that useful in RP. At least the names makes sense though.

Overall

I’d say this is the worst Bardic College I have seen so far. It’s theme is confused with Assassin Rogue and some kind of Tormenter character. It sort of encourages evil, manipulator characters in the flavour text which I think is disruptive. The abilities are underpowered and relatively useless.

Conclusion

I’m pretty disappointed here. I quite like the College of Glamour although I think it needs some clarification and a little power boost to be truly viable. That said I probably would play it in it’s current form simply because it’s a cool fey character class.

I’m surprised they even published the College of Whispers. It’s confused in theme, and the mechanics are awful. They basically took Sneak Attack from Rogue, then reflavoured the College of Glamour abilities. I can’t see anyone wanting to play this. I know this material is in playtesting mode but I’m very disappointed with this College, I don’t think the premise makes sense, so it’s no wonder the abilities follow suit.

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