I was working on a homebrew subclass for the Bard, something to contrast the more "stylish & entertaining" archetype with something a little more grim and gothic. "College of Whispers" is somewhat close to what I was picturing, but I thought I'd go a bit further, to create a bard that is less a manipulator or schemer, and more of an expert of dark forces.
Here's a subclass description:
College of Gloom:
Rather than inspire others through invigorating ballads, or weave exaggerated tales of heroism, bards of the College of Gloom understand that the world is a grim place, one where the good suffer and evil constantly lurks within the darkness. With that in mind, these bards seek to understand the forces that corrupt the world, and have learned to weave shadow magic into their spellcasting so that they may better manipulate the negative energies that plague the mortal soul.
While entertainers might offer fleeting distractions for the common folk within the relative safety of a town or the comfort of a tavern, bards of the College of Gloom deliberately seek out the most dreadful and terrifying spectacles the realms have to offer...bearing witness to tyrants preying upon the innocent, or fiends and monsters slaughtering entire villages. And in the wake of these tragedies, these somber bards offer the survivors solace from their woes...giving laments and dirges for the deceased, or warding away evil with their own darkness.
Such a path takes its toll on the soul of the bard, causing them to be very world-weary travelers and adventurers. Benevolent bards struggle to maintain their fortitude, believing that they are bringing hope and inspiration when the people need it most...but some bards falter in the wake of encroaching darkness, and become tempted by the dark powers that they wield.
...and so I am trying to devise mechanical features that are fun to use both inside and outside combat. So far, I've created several types of subclass features, but am needing ideas for higher levels...
Level 3 Features:
Grim Resolve: You infuse the shadowy magic of the Shadowfell into your attacks, tearing away an enemies life force, while bolstering you and your allies with negative energy. Once when you successfully hit with a weapon or spell attack on your turn, you may expend a Bardic Inspiration and roll 2d6 to add that value as necrotic damage for the damage roll. In addition, you gain temporary hit points equal to the number rolled on the Bardic Inspiration die, or alternatively, an ally of your choice within 30ft.
The necrotic damage increases when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to 3d6 at 5th level, 5d6 at 10th level, and 8d6 at 15th level.
Dread Sense: You are able to detect faint traces of negative energy that lingers after despair or death. You temporarily distort the veil between the Material Plane and the Shadowfell; allowing you to witness a significant act of violence, death or evil which took place in an immediate area, or in association with a particular object. Events transpire within a 60ft space as spectral, ghostly images of people or objects. You are able to see, hear, and smell the details of these images, but cannot physically or verbally interact with these shades or objects. You appear in a trance as you do this, and any ally who touches you may experience these phantasmal events as you experience them. This trance lasts for 10 minutes, during which the DM can choose to disclose details that may be relevant.
Once you use this ability, you cannot use it again until you have had a short or long rest.
Level 6 Feature:
Ghastly Visage: The bard's appearance briefly assumes that of a haunting and foreboding entity of the Shadowfell. If an enemy within 60ft that can see the bard makes an attack role or skill check, the bard can impose disadvantage as a reaction, and the target must make a Charisma saving throw. Upon a failure, the target becomes "Frightened" of the bard. Creature immune to the "Fear" status are not affected by the "Frightened" condition, and automatically save.
You may use this reaction any number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, replenishing these uses upon finishing a Short or Long Rest.
Fell Knowledge: The bard taps into dark memories of deceased souls and shades, channeling their intelligence from beyond the Shadowfell. The bard may select four spells from the School of Necromancy, and add them to their list of known spells. These spells selected cannot be higher than the bard can cast, are considered bard spells, and do not count towards the number of bard spells known.
...and I have no idea what to come up with for 14th level.
Thought? Feedback? Or any other ideas for subclass features for this gloomy-bard concept...?