They say that it’s not “what” you know but “who” you know that matters most. In the case of the College of Lore Bard in D&D 5e, you get to choose both!
Bards have a reputation as the “jack of all trades” class and the College of Lore strongly plays to this. In many ways, this subclass is the definitive Bard College!
Collecting knowledge, tales, and songs from anywhere they can, it’s hard to catch these characters off-guard.
So why not add some extra knowledge to your repertoire with this complete guide to the College of Lore Bard in D&D 5e?
What is the College of Lore Bard in D&D 5e?
Bards of the College of Lore are collectors above all else. A Bard might know songs of one far away land, the complete royal history of another, and the various urban legends of yet another.
With their undeniable wit and charisma, they combine the various things they learn into their performances. As gifted performers, Lore Bards might perform in a tavern to delight the commoners one night then perform a stirring ballad for the king the next.
To these characters, the pursuit of beauty and truth is more important than anything else. When gathering with peers, they eagerly swap stories that they have learned or from their own adventures.
Few can truly capture the hearts, minds, and imaginations of those around them quite like the Lore Bard. They always have a story to tell and know exactly how to tell it!
Psst! I actually did a Lore Bard Quick-Build in my Complete Guide to the Bard Class if you’re interested in that!
Role in the Party
Mechanically, the College of Lore Bard offers a great deal of utility to their party. They’re supremely versatile and usually know enough about a given problem to make an honest attempt at solving it.
When you think of characters that have that knack for pulling off “clutch” actions just in time, they’re almost certainly Lore Bards.
Whether you prefer to engage in combat with a rapier, attack from range with a crossbow, or rely entirely on spells, there’s no “ideal” position for your character to be in. You’re so versatile in your abilities that you’ll likely be doing a bit of all of that!
As with most Bards, you’re focusing on supporting your allies however you can. Some Bardic Inspiration here, a well-placed spell that you maybe “shouldn’t” know there, end with a flourish of your trusty sword…
You know… #JustBardThings!
Also Check Out: The Best Bard Spells By Level in D&D 5e!
College of Lore Bard Abilities
So now that we’ve covered what the College of Lore Bard is and their role in the party, let’s check out their kit!
This is where you really see all the different ways that you can use your wits to support your party in any situation. Buffs, debuffs, skill proficiencies… You get a bit of everything!
Bonus Proficiencies (Level 3)
We start out by gaining even more proficiencies!
When you join the College of Lore at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with three skills of your choice.
This is pretty quick and to the point. You are now proficient in 3 new skills!
Gaining more proficiencies is never a bad thing and this greatly expands your Bard’s toolkit.
Keep in mind that Bards also get the Expertise feature at levels 3 and 10 which doubles their proficiency bonus in the skills you choose for that feature. This means you can be looking at some major bonuses to whichever skills you choose to apply this Expertise to.
Thanks to your bits of collected knowledge from so many sources, there’s quite a bit of application here.
If you know what kind of adventure you’re playing, you can pick up skills that will help you in that setting. This is also a great opportunity to look at what kind of skills your party doesn’t have and comfortably fill that gap.
Cutting Words (Level 3)
We now come to one of my favorite Bard abilities in all of 5e: Cutting Words!
You learn how to use your wit to distract, confuse, or otherwise sap the confidence and competence of others. When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, ability check, or damage roll, you can use your reaction expend on use of Bardic Inspiration. Roll the Bardic Inspiration die and subtract the number rolled from the creature’s roll.
This works similarly to your normal Bardic Inspiration. However, with this ability, you are using it as a reaction to penalize an enemy.
Cutting Words is best for messing with your enemies’ attack rolls. A well-timed insult can turn a punishing hit into a total miss!
There will be some instances where you’ll want to undermine the enemy’s ability checks or damage rolls (more on that in a bit), but you’ll mostly be using this to reduce their attack rolls.
Also, as a quick note, be aware that this doesn’t work when enemies are making saving throws. To mess those up, you’d want to pick up a spell like Bane!
Related: Making the Most of Bardic Inspiration in D&D 5e!
A (Cutting) Word of Caution
Just keep in mind that the amount you’re reducing the roll by is random. You’re rolling your Bardic Inspiration die (based on your level) to see how much it’s reduced by.
This means it’s totally possible to use Cutting Words, roll poorly, and the enemy’s attack still hits. You probably know your ally’s Armor Class and have to make your decision after the DM has rolled but before you know if it’s a hit or miss.
It’s always a bit of a gamble, but if you think the enemy’s attack will just barely hit then that’s the perfect time to use this ability. It gets slightly riskier the better the enemy rolls, but trust your gut and let the insults fly!
If you’re pretty sure that the attack is going to hit regardless, it might be better to conserve your Bardic Inspiration resources or possibly use it to take off some of the damage if things are getting tense.
Just keep in mind that this doesn’t affect a creature that can’t hear you or is immune to charms!
Using Cutting Words to Reduce Damage
So while I generally recommend primarily using Cutting Words to mess with your enemies’ attack rolls, there are some times where you’re better off reducing the damage roll.
First, you’d want to use this if an attack is guaranteed to hit your ally. If your ally has an AC of 16 and the DM rolled a 19, you have to decide if you’re going to use Cutting Words before the DM adds the creature’s attack bonus to the roll.
The odds aren’t really in your favor here.
You might instead want to reduce the damage to keep your buddy in the fight. Especially if they’re in danger of going down, this can mean the difference between life and death! It’s not as ideal as the enemy missing completely, but it does soften the blow!
But then we come to the time where you’ll almost always want to reduce the damage: Area of Effect spells.
If an enemy casts a spell like Fireball that’s going to hit multiple creatures, you get a lot more bang for your buck with Cutting Words.
Let’s say the evil wizard throws a fireball at your party. As you’re all rolling saves, the DM begins rolling damage. With Cutting Words, you can reduce that damage. This means that you’re effectively preventing whatever you roll on the die multiplied by however many creatures were getting hit.
If you reduce the damage by 5 and your party of four were getting hit, you’ve now kept 20 extra hit points on the table that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
If you didn’t have a Counterspell handy, this can be a lifesaver!
Using Cutting Words to Reduce Ability Checks
This is a slightly more niche use of your Cutting Words feature.
You might find yourself in a situation where someone is making a skill check that you don’t want them to succeed at, but these are a bit rare.
Perhaps you find yourself trying to persuade an NPC towards one course of action while a second NPC is attempting to convince them to do the opposite. You might use your Cutting Words to reduce the second NPC’s Persuasion roll and convince the first NPC to listen to you instead.
In more of a combat situation, the enemy soldier might have been knocked off the side of a cliff. He caught himself but is now climbing back up and threatening all kinds of punishment to your party. Peering over the edge of the cliff, you unleash insults and reduce his rolls to climb back up.
It’s hard to say what hurt more, your words or the impact when he fails his check and falls to the ground below.
(It’s probably the impact of the fall, to be honest…)
Additional Magical Secrets (Level 6)
All Bards get extra spells at level 10 with the class’s Magical Secrets feature. As a College of Lore Bard, you get extra spells and you get them four levels earlier!
You learn two spells of your choice from any class. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Bard table, or a cantrip. The chosen spells count as Bard spells for you but don’t count against the number of Bard spell you know.
It sounds simple, but this is an incredible feature that helps you greatly round out your kit!
Want to be able to put out some extra damage? Grab a heavy-hitting AoE spell like Fireball or Lightning Bolt!
Want your Paladin or Fighter to sing your praises? Pick up a spell like Haste and you’ll have a best friend for life!
Of course, I’m also partial to grabbing Counterspell with this feature. You never know when it will come in handy!
If you find yourself in melee combat a lot, grabbing a cantrip like Booming Blade or Green Flame Blade is a must!
Just be aware that, once you choose these spells, you can’t replace them later. Keeping with the theme of the other abilities of the College of Lore Bard, you’ll want to look for gaps in your party’s abilities and use this to fill them!
Peerless Skill (Level 14)
At level 14 you gain the College of Lore Bard’s capstone ability: Peerless Skill.
There’s something to be said about your ability to inspire your allies at this point. In fact, you can now basically inspire yourself!
Ok, maybe all of that time in the limelight has gone to your character’s head, but you know what they say: if you’ve got it, flaunt it!
When you make an ability check, you can expend one use of Bardic Inspiration. Roll a Bardic Inspiration die and add the number rolled to your ability check. You can choose to do so after you roll the die for the ability check, but before the DM tells you whether you succeed or fail.
This is a bit different than your normal Bardic Inspiration. It can only be used for ability checks, but that doesn’t make this ability any less impressive!
When you get this, you’re rolling d10s for your Bardic Inspiration die. Next level (15) that bumps up to a d12. Bumping your skill checks (which you’re likely already proficient in and might even have Expertise…) lets you roll some truly astounding results!
Is this something that you’re going to be using every game?
Probably not. After all, you have more versatility when you’re buffing your allies.
However, when it’s time to make those clutch, do-or-die skill checks, this all but guarantees that you are going to succeed with flying colors!
More than any other subclass in all of D&D 5e, I think the College of Lore Bard is the easiest to connect with the party and game world.
You’re a collector of stories and experiences with a desire to learn all that you can. Is it any wonder why you would take to the life of adventuring?
Quests are meaningless if there’s not someone to tell the tale (as only you can!) and bring fame to the party!
Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, dear Bard! Adventure awaits and you have everything you need to both survive and tell the tale!
Ask yourself what your character’s interests are. Have they caught wind of something lost to time that they are searching for? Are they hoping to write the next great play that will captivate the hearts of countless people throughout the land?
Follow your passions and answer the call of adventure!
Is the College of Lore Bard Good?
In the same way that the Thief is the definitive Rogue, the College of Lore is the definitive Bard.
There’s so much to love about this subclass. It gives you everything that you could possibly need to fill in gaps in your party’s skillsets. Versatility is the name of the game when you take this subclass!
More than the other Bard subclass options, the College of Lore strikes a perfect balancing point for your character. You’re no pushover in combat, but you can also control the battlefield with your expanded spell options while buffing your allies and endlessly frustrating your enemies!
So is the College of Lore Bard good?
That’s an understatement. It’s amazing and a choice that you would not regret making if you’re looking to wear multiple hats and do a little bit of everything in your games!
You can see how the College of Lore measures up in my full ranking of every Bard subclass in D&D 5e!
Conclusion – The College of Lore Bard in D&D 5e
As a College of Lore Bard, you’re kind of the undisputed skill master. There are going to be very few things that you can’t do reasonably well! Any party is better for having you join them on their adventure!
Still have questions about the College of Lore Bard in D&D 5e? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you out!
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If you’re looking for a good laugh (and possibly a new story for your Bard to tell around the campfire), check out this article where I had an A.I. make a D&D character!
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