Maybe you’re not a fan of Shadowheart, or maybe your multiplayer game needs a healer and Cleric isn’t your cup of tea. There are plenty of reasons you might want to kit your Bard out to heal. As the quintessential jack of all trades, bards are capable of filling just about any role – healer included.
In this guide, we’ll cover how to set up your bard to maximize their healing potential, including the best race, spells, feats, and equipment, as well as some tips for playing a healing bard effectively.
This build is designed to maximize your healing effectiveness as a bard. Beyond healing, it’s recommended that you lean into the bard’s strengths as a support caster and a charismatic jack of all trades. Regardless of their combat role, bards are always a good choice for your party’s “face” and should ideally be the one initiating any dialogue due to their high skill bonuses.
We’ll be picking Half-Elf for this build. Half-Elves get proficiency with shields, which is nice to have on your healer and will allow you to make use of some of the shields that have healing effects. They are also immune to magical sleep, which is useful for one of the items we’ll use. Darkvision never hurts either. Subrace is less important here, but High Half-Elves get to pick from a few powerful damaging cantrips you won’t normally have access to as a bard, including Fire Bolt.
As far as background and skills, those don’t really affect your abilities as a healer, but you’ll want to avoid wasting proficiency on Arcana, Intimidation, and Sleight of Hand since you’ll gain those automatically from the College of Lore subclass at level 3. Guild Artisan is a good choice if you plan to do most of the talking for the group since it boosts Insight and Persuasion, both of which are especially useful in dialogue.
- Race/Subrace – Half-Elf/High Half-Elf
- Cantrip – Fire Bolt
- Class – Bard
- 8 Strength
- 16 Dexterity
- 13 Constitution
- 10 Intelligence
- 10 Wisdom
- 17 Charisma
- Background – Guild Artisan
- Skill Proficiencies
To see what spells you’ll want to pick during Character Creation, see the following section.
Unlike clerics, druids, paladins, and wizards, you can’t change your spells on the fly, so you need to be selective about which ones you learn. Naturally we’ll be picking up several healing spells as the core of our build. Outside of that, we’ll make a few recommendations for support spells.
You may consider taking Friends, Animal Friendship, or Charm Person, but they all have a downside, and your high skill bonuses will make them unnecessary in most situations anyway. There are plenty of more useful spells for your limited repertoire.
- Mage Hand
- At least one person in your party should have this.
- Vicious Mockery
- Something to attack with when you don’t need your action for healing or support spells.
- Healing Word
- Heal someone at range with a mere bonus action.
- Cure Wounds
- The big guns, for when a Healing Word or potion isn’t enough. Note that this spell requires the target to be in melee range.
- Speak With Animals
- At least one person in your party should have this. It doesn’t cost a spell slot if cast outside of combat, and it will remain active until your next Long Rest.
- Make up to 3 enemies more vulnerable to your party’s attacks.
Song of Rest:
This class feature gives you the option to take a third Short Rest each day. Short Rests are the best way to heal your party when you’re not in combat. Don’t waste your spell slots when you can Short Rest!
- Feather Fall
- At least one person in your party should have this. Like Speak with Animals, this spell is marked as a ritual, meaning it does not cost a spell slot if used outside of combat.
You’ll want to take the College of Lore subclass at this level. The other Bard subclasses are more focused on martial combat, and as a healer you will be leaning more on your spellcasting.
Your subclass will give you Cutting Words, a powerful reaction. You’ll also get proficiency in Arcana, Intimidation, and Sleight of Hand, which will further help you to excel in skill checks. You can choose two skills you are proficient in to gain Expertise, doubling your proficiency bonus. Perception and Sleight of Hand are both frequently used and good to have high bonuses for.
- Sleight of Hand
- Detect Thoughts
- Extremely useful for dialogue. You’ll get some options you wouldn’t otherwise.
- You’ll start spending more time in dark places as the game moves along. It’s good to have a light source you can use in combat so your less Darkvision-inclined party members aren’t at a disadvantage.
- Lesser Restoration
- Useful for removing some pretty annoying status effects.
The best option for a healer bard is Resilient: Constitution, which will help you to maintain concentration on your spells when you take damage. It’ll also increase your total hit points, making you harder to take down.
You’ll gain Font of Inspiration and Improved Bardic Inspiration at this level, making you an Inspiration machine. Be sure to use this buff as much as possible!
- Speak with Dead
- Someone in your party should have this spell. Since your party likely doesn’t have a cleric, you’re probably the best candidate. This is a ritual spell and won’t use your spell slots if used outside of combat.
You’ll get the Countercharm action at this level, which can give your party the upper hand against enemies that charm and fear.
You’ll also gain your first spells through Magical Secrets. You’ll only get a few of these, but they can be spells from any class’s spell list, so choose carefully.
- Enhance Ability
- Someone in your party should have this. It can let you roll twice on any skill check, which is immensely useful in both dialogue and combat.
- A powerful buff – one of the best cleric spells that you’re probably missing from your party. If cast at level 2 you can cover everyone in your party.
- Mass Healing Word
- A powerful bonus action heal for your entire party. Warden of Vitality is also an option, but it has a more limited range and can only heal one ally at a time.
- Dimension Door
- Immensely helpful for gaining the high ground and correcting any positioning issues in combat. Since you can take someone with you, this spell can let you move half your party into position with a single action.
- Phantasmal Force
- You have plenty of spell slots at this level – might as well use some of them to deal damage when healing isn’t needed. This spell changes its damage to the last type the creature suffered, so you can take advantage of any and all elemental vulnerabilities with this single spell.
The Lucky feat is a great choice for just about anyone. It will help you continue to shine in skill checks as well as in combat.
- Greater Restoration
- Removes stuff that Lesser Restoration can’t, like curses. You won’t need it for every fight, but you’ll be glad you have it when you do.
You’ll gain Improved Bardic Inspiration and Expertise at this level. Choose skills that you find yourself using a lot – likely this will be Persuasion, Deception, and/or Intimidation.
- Blade Ward
- Having access to a cheap defensive option never hurts.
- Mass Cure Wounds
- It’s Mass Healing Word, but better.
- Death Ward
- Throw this up on your tank before a fight. They’ll be able to stay in the fight longer before they go down, which can make a big difference.
- Someone in your party should have this. You can choose to Nope someone’s spell as a reaction. If your party already has it covered, you can opt for Haste instead.
- One of two options for a level 6 spell, the other being Otto’s Irresistible Dance. Eyebite has broader applications since you can choose how to use it, and it lasts for a lot longer (if your concentration isn’t broken).
- A ritual spell that you can throw on to move faster, what’s not to love? But if there’s another spell that interests you, by all means, go for it. You have plenty of spells now and you can respec at any time, so it doesn’t hurt to try different things out.
The Alert feat will prevent you from being surprised by enemies, and allow you to act earlier in the initiative order, giving you a chance to get some of your buffs and debuffs out early on.
We’ll focus on items that improve your healing, with a few special bard items in the mix. For your weapon, you can pick up the best rapier you can find, or any other one-handed weapon that strikes your fancy.
- Cap of Curing
- Found in a locked chest on a pillar next to Alfira, the singing bard in the Emerald Grove. Causes your Bardic Inspiration to also heal the target for 1-6 points.
- Amulet of Selune’s Chosen
- Found in the treasure room behind Dror Ragzlin in the Goblin Camp. It allows you to effectively cast a 1d8 heal without using a spell slot, but it has a chance to put the target to sleep for 2 turns. This is a free heal with no downside if used on an Elf or Half-Elf character, since they are immune to magical sleep.
- Blazer of Benevolence
- Gained after rescuing Volo from the goblins. Lets you heal yourself by inspiring your allies, so you don’t have to worry too much about your own health.
- Hellrider’s Pride
- Given by Zevlor if you stop the ritual in the Emerald Grove. Causes your heals to also give their target resistance to weapon attacks.
- Boots of Aid and Comfort
- Purchased from Grat the Trader at the Goblin Camp, these boots effectively increase all of your heals by 3 additional points.
- Glowing Shield
- Found in a chest near the Goblin Camp (minimap coordinates: -54, 462). A free 8-point heal for yourself any time you fall below 50% health.
If you accept the Absolute’s brand, these items are especially useful for you:
- Absolute’s Warboard
- Worn by Minthara. Allows you to cast Heroism once a day for free. With the Absolute’s brand, it also gives you +1 to saving throws.
- Absolute’s Talisman
- Worn by Priestess Gut. Allows you to cast Aid once a day for free. With the Absolute’s brand, it also gives you advantage on death saving throws.
Strategy & Tactics
As your party’s healer, you’ll want to stay at a safe distance as much as possible and let your allies draw enemy fire instead. Not only will this keep you healthy so you can keep them healthy, it also helps you maintain concentration on your spells. That said, you need to stay close enough to reach your party members with your spells. Have them fan out around you so that your area of effect heals can still hit everyone at once.
Healing Word (and later Mass Healing Word) is your best friend. This spell’s range and the fact that it only costs a bonus action make it extremely efficient despite its relatively low healing output. Even as a healer, your primary goal in every battle should be to take enemies out of the picture. A dead enemy can deal no damage, which is even better than healing up after the fact.
We chose to stick with the Bard all the way to level 12 for this build because multiclassing interrupts spell progression, meaning you will have to wait until later in the game to get higher level spells. If you take more than one level in another class, you won’t be able to access level 6 spells at all, although you will still get level 6 spell slots that can be used for upcasting. Moreover, College of Lore already has access to any class’s spells through Magical Secrets, which significantly reduces the value of any potential multiclass.
That said, the Cleric‘s Life Domain subclass offers the Disciple of Life feature, which is a significant buff to your healing. It also gives heavy armour proficiency, which is great for defense. The spells you’ll get, Cure Wounds and Bless, are ones that you’ll want to have, even if you already have access to them through College of Lore. If you forsake level 6 Bard spells for a second level dip in Cleric, you’ll also gain the Preserve Life action, which is a powerful group heal that doesn’t use a spell slot.