The bard is a true jack of all trades, and you can shape it to fit almost any role in your party. They have lots of skill bonuses and can access almost any spell in the game through Magical Secrets. College of Lore gets even more skill bonuses and two additional Magical Secrets. If you want to take more of a martial role, College of Valour and College of Swords each get an Extra Attack. It really comes down to how you want to play and what your party is missing. If you don’t have a cleric, your bard can handle the healing. If you don’t have a rogue, your bard can do the thieving.
A bard will make a great “face” for your party with their high Charisma, variety of skill bonuses, and access to many spells that can open up new dialogue options, like Speak with Animals, Detect Thoughts, and Speak with Dead. They also have several options for making the target more amenable to what you have to say, like Friends, Animal Friendship, and Charm Person. Always initiate dialogue with your bard unless you have a specific reason not to.
Your class-specific dialogue options will frequently involve some type of performance, either by telling a story or putting on a show, or just being persuasive or deceptive. When you opt for a skill check, you’ll usually succeed due to your high skill proficiencies, and you can use the Enhance Ability spell to give yourself even more of an edge. Unfortunately you can’t use Bardic Inspiration on yourself, but you can always apply it to an ally who has a high skill bonus for a particular check.
In combat, bards excel in a support role, but can be weak in terms of dealing damage, especially early on. Some of their spells are not useful outside of dialogue, and unlike a cleric or a druid, you can’t swap them out on the fly, so be sure to pick some good combat options as well. Bards don’t get access to the better damaging cantrips like Firebolt, Sacred Flame, or Eldritch Blast, which further limits their ability to do direct damage. That said, they have plenty of options for healing, buffing, debuffing, and crowd control that can help your heavy hitters get the job done.
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