Hey guys. I'm very new DnD setting and still haven't had an opportunity to test out all of the classes. Although I'm a bit weary of a class such as the bard because it relies less on combat and more of roleplay and I'm very terrible at getting into character, but I'm interested in seeing how the bard stands out in both personality and abilities, and how well the bard can benefit the party. With that being said, I'd appreciate any input and advice on how people who have popularly used bards in the past have played the bard, as well as tips and tricks on how to best utilize their abilities. What roles does the bard best fill in a party? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the bard? What have you all done to add your own personal flair to your bard? Thank you all for any feedback!
A lot of people really like to play up the bigger than life, famous musician, woo-er of men and women type of Bard, but that is definitely not the only way to play. I think this stems from the mundane understanding of charisma being extroverted tendencies and attractive physical qualities, but in actuality, it is more about the character's ability to assert their presence. I find that I like having a more sly and silver tongued character who throws around their clout only when needed; Doing the opposite and demanding to be the center of attention like some people try to play the class may backfire in certain groups. They have a very large pool of proficiency and expertise, and once you get Jack of all trades you will be able to reasonably attempt any skill.
In Combat depending on your skill layout bards can reasonably be expected to take one of four roles: Healer, Field Support, Magic Damage, and Melee Caster
As for abilities, their are two sub classes of Bard that stand FAR above the rest.
College of Lore is your pick for anything except being a melee caster, and it can also do that, just not as well as College of Swords. The class has two focuses, the first is using Magical Secrets to take spells that amplify you purpose, Like Healing Spirit if you are trying to be a healer, Fireball or Spirit Guardians if you are a heavy damage dealer, or Slow\Haste for field control. Having another person with their finger ready to cast counter spell is also a godsend for some fights. You have literally the entire spell arsenal at your disposal. Pick the best spells on these levels.The power to lower the chance for strong targets to hit your allies with a combination of vicious mockery\cutting words is also really powerful.
Slightly worse than College of Lore, College of Sword basically makes you into an Eldritch Knight with more spell slots. Grabbing the War Caster Feat is a must, both to use a shield while casting and also to make sure you succeed concentration checks. Not innately having shield as a first level spell does hurt a bit, but cutting words can make up for a great deal of this. Taking Magic initiate Feat or dipping into sorcerer\warlock for booming blade and shield at higher levels is not a bad idea as the extra damage from the spell will outpace your two swings on turns where you are not using a spell slot, but you will have to get very high Charisma and Dexterity so the amount of ASI you can give up is low.
Bards have the most versatility of any class, but they lack some of the spell recovery option other classes face. At low levels this can hurt a lot, as you will be spending most of your turns just casting a low damage vicious mockery or risking getting up close with a limited armor\health pool. They also have a really terrible capstone, which makes multiclassing very tempting at several points.
If your party is heavily into role play and they spend time in civilization, your Bard can help guide the party is behaving according to local customs because his knowledge of lore and about other things allows him to guide the party in behaving appropriately. His knowledge of lore should be used as much as possible because it is similar to being able to roll a history or knowledge check when looking around town or finding a strange glyph in a dungeon. Knowing if the handwriting is dwarven, what sort of dwarf sub culture, and possibly what era might go a long way to deciphering a letter or map.
The charisma part everyone gets at least superficially. But a Bard should be able to get better information from the folks you meet by beguiling them into divulging more than they might to someone else.
In combat I figure my Bard can chant an epic poem while being ready to do something else. Therefore he doesn't have to have his hands occupied.
And outside of session you can be working on your own epic poems of great deeds of your party of major figures you have encountered. This can earn you the good graces of these important figures AND other Bards who like to talk and swap stories and songs.