Review of Unearthed Arcana: Bard Colleges
The Unearthed Arcana is a source both strange and untested. While many great ideas pour from its pages, it should always be considered carefully.
Review of Unearthed Arcana article “Bard: Bard Colleges” accessed here: http://media.wizards.com/2016/dnd/downloads/UA_Bard.pdf
One of the best applications of Unearthed Arcana is when it adds to the player experience in the form of new skills, races, feats, or class options. When UA changes core rules on a whim it can upset the balance of the game and make for an unpleasant experience. I feel that UA is at its best when it expands upon race and class abilities and gives the players more options to create the character they want to play. These new Bard colleges fit nicely into that and I feel like they could come straight out of the PH or SCAG.
This article adds two new colleges as class options for a bard to take once they reach 3 rd level. The first is the ca, ollege of glamour. Inspired by the fantastic world of the Feywild, bards of this college use their powers to enrapture and enthrall their listeners into doing the bard’s bidding. At level 3 they get Mantle of Inspiration where a bard can expend one of their uses of Bardic Inspiration to give allies within 60 ft 2d6 (scaled with level) temporary hit points and they can use a reaction to move toward the bard without provoking an attack of opportunity. For level 3 the movement without provoking an attack of opportunity seems a bit overpowered but not enough to completely write this off. You also get Enthralling Performance where if you perform for 10 minutes straight you can choose a number of humanoids up to your CHA modifier who can see or hear you within 60 feet to charm. Targets must pass Wisdom save against the bard’s spell save DC or be affected. For 1 hour they now will follow and obey, hindering anyone who opposes you but stop just short of actual violence. I really like this because it makes for some interesting RP opportunities. Some players will specifically spec for combat only but having some enraptured thralls following you around can be very helpful as well.
The second new option is the college of whispers, essentially turning your bard into an undercover assassin. At level 3 you get Venomous Blades and Venomous Words. The first lets you add 2d6 (scaled with level) poison to a successful hit in combat if you expend a bardic inspiration. This is a good use of bardic inspiration if you are playing a bard that is more focused on combat effectiveness and not so much on buffing your allies.
Venomous Words allows you to use a 10 minute speech to a single target to frighten them for 1 hour if they fail a wisdom save, handy if you want someone to disappear for a bit without killing them. At 6th level you get Mantle of Whispers where if you kill a creature you can capture its shadow and use it to become its doppelganger for 1 hour. You take on its appearance as well as gain access to its memories and any information it would freely share with a “casual acquaintance” but not secrets. This is a potentially very powerful ability if used properly. This can rival the rouge assassin archetype, just substitute the poison damage for backstab and you have a musical hitman.
There is a bit more to these colleges and I strongly encourage you to check them out if you are interested in playing a bard. These new options bring a lot to the table for one of the most fun classes in DnD.