Building a great Bard has many layers to it. It’s all about whether you want a powerful character that weaves magic and swordplay or focuses on empowering their teammates. My Baldur’s Gate 3 best Bard build guide will walk you through the process of making one while highlighting optimal choices.
How to Make the Best Bard Build in Baldur’s Gate 3
When it comes to full spellcasters like the Bard, as opposed to half casters like the Ranger, spell selection is crucial to a successful campaign. Furthermore, your subclass will define your playstyle and solidify your mechanical power in combat. Of course, roleplay is a key element of D&D and Baldur’s Gate 3, but this guide will focus on outlining the best mechanical choices for combat.
The Baldur’s Gate 3 Bard is a class that relies on Charisma for their spellcating and Dexterity for physical combat. I would prioritize these along with Constitution for extra HP and maintaining concentration on spells. Some of Bard’s defining features include:
- Proficiency with Intelligence and Charisma Saving Throws: Bards are both nimble and have strong personalities, able to expertly wiggle their way out of harmful effects and defend against dominate & charm spells.
- Bardic Inspiration: They’re also able to inspire their allies to greater feats of offense, defense, and utility through music and singing.
- Spellcasting and Magical Secrets: Not only are Bards adept at numerous damage, crowd control, and healing spells, but they can also borrow spells from other classes.
Your choices of subclass, race, feats, etc., will modify these three elements so let’s see how to build the strongest Bard. Here’s a quick build which we’ll discuss below:
- Subclass: Valor.
- Race: Tiefling, Half-Elf, or Drow.
- Background: Urchin, Entertainer, or Criminal.
- Feats: Warcaster, Mobile.
Let’s go into more detail about these choices and discuss our spell selection as well.
Best Bard Subclass in BG3
Even though you’ll receive your subclass at Level 3, it still helps to consider it ahead of time. This is because it can reshape how you play your Bard. There are three options to choose from:
- College of Lore: Focuses on ranged utility and debuffing.
- College of Valour: Focuses on supporting allies in battle.
- College of Swords: Focuses on blending melee combat and spellcasting.
Out of all three, I’ve found that the most versatile one is the College of Valor Bard. It grants the most flexibility to your approach in combat since you can wade into melee combat, weave spellcasting into the mix, and greatly support your allies with Combat Inspiration. This is a massive offensive boost for your team and companions like Lae’Zel or Karlach will love these kinds of buffs.
It essentially allows you to swing the momentum of the fight in your favor in a much more controlled manner, as you can choose when to use it. To name a few options, you can increase ally damage and even AC. When compared to the College of Swords, Valor Bards can adapt better as they don’t require you to focus strictly on melee combat but allow you to back off and support your team as well. As for the Lore Bard, Combat Inspiration offers more control than Cutting Words. I’ve discovered it’s usually more optimal to boost your allies rather than debuff enemies since capitilizing on offense and killing that first enemy in a fight reduces enemy turns which we want.
At the end of the day, your playstyle should define your choice, but the Valor Bard simply blends the benefits of all subclasses into one package without relying on a specific playstyle. This is different when multiclassing is added to the mix but more on that later.
Best Bard Race in BG3
When selecting a race for your Bard, consider those with extra spellcasting capabilities that will extend your spell list and give you extra options. I recommend the Drow and Tiefling, but Half-Elf subraces can also work. Here are the benefits of these races:
- Half-Elf Flexibility: Half-Elves can either have an extra cantrip, extra move speed, and stealth or extra spells, depending on your subrace.
- Tiefling Offense: Tiefling subraces provide an extra arcane melee punch to your repertoire with the Asmodeus and Zariel subraces.
- Drow Utility: The Drow race grants us extra utility with Faerie Fire and the Darkness spell, which give you either Advantage on attack rolls or an anti-range defensive cloud.
Picking Asmodeus or Zariel Tieflings is excellent for the extra melee offensive spells for Valor and Sword Bards. Moreover, Wood Half-Elves offer movement benefits and Drow unique weapon proficiencies.
Best Bard Skills & Backgrounds in BG3
As you may’ve guessed, Bards enjoy and excel at Charisma and Dexterity-based skills like Persuasion and Stealth. Therefore, picking a Background that will provide some of these appropriate skills is a great idea. Since Bards can choose any three skills to be proficient in and later gain double proficiency in them with Expertise, consider a Background that will complement your choices.
If you wish to take Persuasion, Deception, or Intimidation, which are Charisma skills, consider a Background like the Urchin for Dexterity skills like Stealth. There are also hybrid Backgrounds like the Charlatan and Criminal that grant both a CHA and a DEX skill. Guild Artisan can grant Persuasion along with Noble.
Lastly, if you want that classic traveling musician skillset, pick up the Entertainer background for Performance and Acrobatics. The latter is even useful in combat for escaping grapples. Note that if you pick the Half-Elf and the Wood Half-Elf subrace, you’ll get Stealth as a bonus proficiency, so make sure not to overlap and pick something else in the Skill and Background section.
Best Bard Spells and Magic Items
Now to the bread and butter of playing a Bard: the magic, secrets, and arcane treasure. Pick your favorites when it comes to Cantrips, but with Level 1 through Level 5 spells, there are some must-have options which I heavily recommend:
- Level 1 Spells: Charm Person (Both for combat and roleplay), Healing Word (Getting allies back in the fight), and Bane/Faerie Fire for debuffing enemies.
- Level 2 Spells: Hold Person and Heat Metal for concentration and Lesser Restoration for your allies.
- Level 3 Spells: Hypnotic Pattern is great for mass crowd control.
- Level 4 Spells: Polymorph is an unmatched high-level spell that can win you most encounters if the big bad fails their saving throw.
- Level 5 Spells: Dominate Person or Hold Monster can lock down a powerful boss enemy depending on if they’re humanoid or not.
In the late game, your Magic Secrets feature will come online at Level 10 and allow you to borrow spells from other classes. In this case, the Spirit Guardians and Armor of Agathys are great for melee-oriented bards, while Banishment and Counterspell add a lot to your crowd-control repertoire. Popular options from other classes like Fireball and Web are also great but lose their luster at later levels. If you truly want some great damage options, consider Wall of Fire.
Last but not least, your choice of magic items greatly impacts your effectiveness. Popular items that you should definitely consider include:
- Wondrous Gloves: Any great Bard traveling through Grymforge would want an additional use of their Bardic Inspiration.
- Birthright: This majestic hat at the Sorcerous Sundries in Act 3 allows you to increase your Charisma to greater heights.
- Shifting Corpus Ring: Look for the Shifting Corpus Ring from Flaming Fist Marcus for a free casting of Blur, a much-needed defensive spell.
- Boots Of Striding: Falling prone ends your concentration spell so being immune to it definitely helps.
Additionally, remember to look for magic one-handed weapons and light and medium armor, especially if you’re playing a Swords or Valor Bard.
Best Bard Feats in BG3
I would highly recommend the following two feats on Valor Bards:
- Warcaster: This feat gives us Advantage on concentration checks to ensure our powerful spells stay active. As you move into and out of melee, concentration checks become more common. Keeping that Slow or Hypnotic Pattern spell online is of utmost importance for your team.
- Mobile: Alternatively, the Mobile feat allows you to move out of attack range of your foes without provoking Attacks of Opportunity. All you have to do is make an attack against them which you’ll be doing anyway with Extra Attack.
Warcaster is a great pick-up at Level 4 and then I would increase our Charisma at Level 8 and take Mobile at Level 12 or vice versa if you’re feeling confident you don’t need that Charisma boost early.
Best Bard Multiclass Build in Baldur’s Gate 3
While the Valor Bard is a great single-class build, that changes if we try multiclassing. The Bard pairs well with Warlock as their Level 3 Pact of the Blade feature allows you to use Charisma for both melee attack and damage rolls as well as spellcasting. In this case, the College of Swords is the best option for its Flourishes that can increase AC drastically or grant you AoE attacks. You’ll also gain Medium Armour proficiency and you’ll be able to use a shield with the Dueling Fighting Style.
I highly recommend going Warlock 5, then Swords Bard all the way to Level 12. You’ll be losing one feat this way but you’ll be able to attack three times as both classes grant you Extra Attack that stacks. This also maximizes spell levels which you should use on Armour of Agathys. Be sure to pick up the Pole Arm Master feat here instead of Mobile to use Reach weapons and gain additional attacks while getting spells like Mirror Image and Blink for defense.
And that’s my build for the best bard in Baldur’s Gate 3. All in all, consider the Valor Bard as a favored class due to its flexibility and tendency to switch between melee and range. Mechanically, it’s the most powerful and reliable of the three. If you prefer a full melee approach, go with the Swords/Warlock multiclass and likewise Lore for a ranged playstyle. For more tips and tricks, or articles just like this one, check out our other BG3 guides. I recommend our best Honour Mode builds and best multiclass builds.