Bards tend to enjoy the benefits that come from their reputations as musicians, storytellers, and performers. Because of this, most people will gladly welcome a Bard into their community, tavern, or court.
While most Bards use their talents to add joy to the lives of those around them, some have a different motive…
Today we’re covering the College of Whispers Bard in D&D 5e.
If you find yourself more drawn to spycraft and manipulating the social fabric around you, this guide is for you!
What is the College of Whispers Bard in D&D 5e?
The College of Whispers Bard preys on the trust given to them by others. They collect and trade information on those around them. Where their charming personalities fail, threats of blackmail and extortion are typically enough to achieve their goals.
Of course, Bards of the College of Whispers aren’t exactly upfront about their expertise. Most will instead claim to be members of a different Bardic College if they admit to being a Bard at all.
For this reason, many Bards have a strong distaste for the College of Whispers. They view them as parasites who abuse others’ trust and discredit the name of Bards everywhere.
In a way, many College of Whispers Bards are happy to get this kind of response from their colleagues. If a given city or town is the metaphorical henhouse, these Bards are happy to be the fox.
You can find the College of Whispers Bard in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Role in the Party
The College of Whispers Bard is heavily focused on utility outside of combat and in social encounters. That said, they have the ability to increase their damage output by using their Bardic Inspiration to deal some noteworthy psychic damage with their attacks.
Within the party, the College of Whispers Bard focuses on manipulating situations to their favor. Outside of combat, they make for great spies who are able to gather information or convince/blackmail others into doing them a favor.
This can open a lot of narrative doors for the party. A disagreeable ship captain might be more inclined to help the party gain passage if it means the Bard won’t tell the crew the truth about some of the captain’s more questionable dealings to inspire a mutiny.
Related: How and When to Use Social Skills in D&D 5e
In combat, the College of Whispers Bard plays similarly to most other Bards. They use their spells to keep enemies locked down while filling in with weapon attacks. However, the College of Whispers Bard’s abilities allow them to pump out extra burst damage and potentially sow confusion amongst the enemies.
We’ll cover these abilities in the next section!
College of Whispers Bard Abilities
The College of Whispers Bard’s abilities give them a great toolkit for acting as a manipulator both in and out of combat.
Combining these abilities with spells from the Bard’s spell list, you’ll be able to cause chaos among your enemies!
Psychic Blades (Level 3)
Upon joining the College of Whispers at level 3, your first ability gives you an offensive use for your Bardic Inspiration.
You gain the ability to make your weapon attacks magically toxic to a creature’s mind.
When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one use of your Bardic Inspiration to deal an additional 2d6 psychic damage to that target. You can do so only once per round on your turn.
This damage increases to 3d6 at 5th level, 5d6 at 10th level, 8d6 at 15th level.
This ability gives you the ability to deal some nifty burst damage that gets around enemies that are resistant to physical damage.
Effectively, you’re using your Bardic Inspiration die to pull off a slightly weaker Sneak Attack. Unlike Sneak Attack, you don’t need to worry about qualifications with your positioning and what not to deal this damage.
Of course, if you’re multiclassing with Rogue to mix the two, this can become even more dangerous!
But even taken for what this ability is, it can be a very useful way to use your Bardic Inspiration to increase your own damage output.
Related: Using Bardic Inspiration in D&D 5e!
Words of Terror (Level 3)
Your other level 3 ability is full of flavor and offers some good out of combat utility if used creatively.
You learn to infuse innocent-seeming words with insidious magic that can inspire terror.
If you speak to a humanoid alone for at least 1 minute, you can attempt to seed paranoia in its mind. At the end of the conversation, the target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC or become frightened of you or another creature of your choice.
The target is frightened in this way for 1 hour, until it is attacked or damaged, or until it witnesses its allies being attacked or damaged.
This ability can be used once per short or long rest.
Any time you’re working with charms, there’s always the danger of the person retaliating once they learn that you used magic on them.
Thankfully, as a College of Whispers Bard, you’re sly and the person has no idea that you’ve tried to magically affect their mind. It’s just an innocent conversation, after all!
In situations that are quickly escalating to become a combat situation, it might be tough to get a whole minute talking alone with someone to use this.
However, this could be very useful if you need to get closer to someone.
Let’s say you’re trying to rescue an important NPC who has been wrongfully imprisoned. You might be able to have a quick conversation with the guard and cause them to be frightened enough to abandon their post while you bust the NPC out!
Mantle of Whispers (Level 6)
Your level 6 ability from the College of Whispers subclass, Mantle of Whispers, can be seriously game-changing. There’s a fair bit to this feature, so let’s take it piece by piece.
At 6th level, you gain the ability to adopt a humanoid’s persona. When a humanoid dies within 30 feet of you, you can magically capture its shadow using your reaction. You retain this shadow until you use it or you finish a long rest.
You can use the shadow as an action. When you do so, it vanishes, magically transforming into a disguise that appears on you. You now look like the dead person, but healthy and alive. This disguise lasts for 1 hour or until you end it as a bonus action.
So, you use your reaction to get a form that you can use to essentially cast a modified Disguise Self. You look exactly like the person whose shadow you captured and have it until you either use it or finish a long rest.
This opens up the opportunity for you to impersonate this person and cause a bit of chaos. Because the person is dead, you don’t have to worry about the classic blunder of running into the person you’re pretending to be.
You can safely scout ahead and may even be able to sabotage some of the enemy’s traps or defenses. If you find yourself impersonating a ranked officer, you might even be able to bark some orders at your new “allies” to clear the way for your party.
In combat, you can take out enemies in the backline who think you’re one of them. If you’re quick (and Psychic Blades will help with that…), they won’t even know what’s happened until it’s too late.
Gaining Information with Mantle of Whispers
Mantle of Whispers can also be very useful for learning potentially important information. However, even if you don’t gain any super-important information, you’ll at least know enough to help you maintain your disguise!
While you’re in this disguise, you gain access to all information that the humanoid would freely share with a casual acquaintance. Such information includes general details on their background and personal life, but doesn’t include secrets. The information is enough that you can pass yourself off as the person by drawing on its memories.
Another creature can see through his disguise by succeeding on a Wisdom (Insight) check contested by your Charisma (Deception) check. You gain a +5 bonus to this check.
Okay, so this isn’t going to tell you the secret password to the underground lair, but you’ll at least know enough about the person you’re impersonating to not get called out over something trivial. If this particular person doesn’t drink ale, you’d know not to blow your cover by slamming a pint.
You likely gain knowledge about their operation including defensive tactics, guard posts, the commander’s name, and so on. Some of the more secretive details won’t be known to you, but it’s a safe bet that things that are common knowledge amongst their organization are now known to you.
Enemies will have a very hard time seeing past your disguise. If they’re trying to figure you out, you are rolling Deception instead of only relying on your Spell Save DC. You should absolutely be proficient in the Deception skill if you’re playing this class.
Beyond your bonuses to this roll, you’re also getting an astounding +5 to your check. Unless you roll very poorly or they roll incredibly high, you’re likely to pass yourself off as who you say you are.
Shadow Lore (Level 14)
Finally, we come to the College of Whispers’ subclass capstone ability at level 14. In the right hands, this one’s a doozy!
As with Mantle of Whispers, there’s a lot to this ability so we’ll cover it bit-by-bit.
As an action, you magically whisper a phrase that only one creature of your choice within 30 feet of you can hear.
The target must make a Wisdom saving throw against your Spell Save DC. It automatically succeeds if it doesn’t share a language with you or if it can’t hear you. On a successful save, your whisper sounds like unintelligible mumbling and has no effect.
On a failed saving throw, the target is charmed by you for the next 8 hours or until you or your allies attack it, damage it, or force it to make a saving throw. It interprets the whispers as a description of its most mortifying secrets. You gain no knowledge of this secret, but the target is convinced you know it.
Considering that this only takes an action, you can very quickly end up with a new friend/pawn using this ability. As long as your party knows what’s happening and doesn’t decide to attack your new minion, they’re going to do (almost) anything you say for the next 8 hours.
It will be useful to keep a casting of Tongues up your sleeve if you plan on using this. You can only use it once per long rest so you’ll want to make sure that the target can understand you!
Good Help Is Hard To Find
Now let’s look at the second part of this ability.
The charmed creature obeys your commands for fear that you will reveal its secret. It won’t risk its life for you or fight for you, unless it was already inclined to do so. It grants you favors and gifts it would offer to a close friend.
When the effect ends, the creature has no understanding of why it held you in such fear.
The odds that your new “friend” would be inclined to fight for you are pretty slim. However, there are plenty of other creative requests/commands that you can issue to your new… assistant…
They might be able to call off an attack on you and your party or give you some loot and equipment. You can probably get them to tell you about any traps or secret passages up ahead. (If they need some extra persuading, remember that you’ll have advantage on Persuasion checks since they’re charmed by you!)
In combat, you have completed removed an enemy from attacking you and your group. They aren’t necessarily going to start attacking their now-former allies, but they also won’t be raising arms against you.
Out of combat, the sky is the limit with what you can have them doing for you. By the time this enchantment fades, you should be long gone and they’ll have no idea why they were so scared of you.
As far as subclass capstones go, this one is fantastic and has no shortage of creative uses.
Also Check Out: The Best Bard Spells By Level in D&D 5e!
Connecting a College of Whispers Bard into your game can be done pretty easily. These are natural schemers and manipulators, after all!
If you’re playing as one of these Bards, ask yourself what your character’s grand plan is and how joining up with the party furthers that agenda. Do they initially view the party members as means to an end but eventually find themselves beginning to care about them?
Also, consider how your character works within the social fabric of their stomping grounds. Are they a spy in an organization like the Thieves Guild? Are they an actual performer whose endless desire for clout and adoration has led them to take a more manipulative approach towards fame?
There are plenty of ways to weave yourself into your game’s story as a College of Whispers Bard. You’ll just want to always keep your eyes open for opportunities to gather information that may prove very useful down the line!
Is the College of Whispers Bard Good?
The College of Whispers Bard is a very solid subclass choice for most types of campaigns.
In combat situations, you can cause confusion amongst the enemies and pick off stragglers while your party holds the front lines.
Outside of combat situations, you have a huge amount of tricks for getting your way. You can make for an exceptional scout in dungeon crawls that have lots of humanoid enemies for you to use your Mantle of Whispers on.
In more “civilized” settings, you can quickly find yourself rubbing elbows with the “who’s who” and, more importantly, convincing them to help you… one way or another…
A lot of this class’s strength relies on having a DM who will really allow you to play your mind games with enemies and NPCs alike.
When I gave this class a spin, I was fortunate enough that my group’s DM gave me enough creative liberty to really test out the College of Whispers Bard’s abilities.
My character relied on throwing knives in combat and would cast Greater Invisibility on herself to discreetly pick off enemies. She’d use Psychic Blades to finish an enemy off, capture their shadow, and then scout ahead with her new disguise to let the party know of any danger they were headed towards.
In these next combats, she would position herself in the enemy’s backlines while sabotaging them with spells or well-timed knives to the back.
With so much freedom to really feel like a backstabbing master of disguise, she was one of the most fun characters I’ve played in D&D 5e!
I can’t say that the College of Whispers Bard is mechanically one of the best subclass choices.
If you’ve got a DM who’s happy to let you really explore this subclass’s abilities, this is absolutely worth playing!
Check out my ranking of every Bard subclass in D&D 5e for my full opinion on how it stacks up!
Conclusion – The College of Whispers Bard in D&D 5e
So what do you think?
Will you be scheming some sabotage with your next Bard? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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If you’re thinking about playing a Bard in your next game, don’t forget to check out my full guide to the Bard class. It has everything you could possibly need! Well… except music lessons… I can’t do that…
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