The bard is the most flexible class in Baldur’s Gate 3, with the ability to become proficient in any skill as well as to learn almost any spell through their Magical Secrets feature. With the College of Lore subclass, you can double down on these strengths and create the ultimate support character, inspiring your allies, slinging spells at your enemies, and persuading your way into all the NPCs’ good graces. This guide will walk you through how to build your College of Lore bard for maximum effectiveness.
The College of Lore Subclass
The College of Lore subclass expands upon some of the core features of the bard class, giving you even more flexibility with spells and skill proficiencies.
Here are the features you’ll gain through the College of Lore subclass:
- Cutting Words at level 3 lets you use your reaction to give an attacker a penalty to all of their rolls until your next turn.
- At level 3 you can also choose three additional Skill Proficiencies for your character. These can be any skill that you don’t already have proficiency in.
- You get Additional Magical Secrets at level 6, where most bards have to wait until level 10. This lets you pick two additional spells from any class’s spell list.
You won’t learn any specific spells through the subclass. We’ll include options for Additional Magical Secrets in the Spells section of this guide.
Race and Subrace
There are several races that could work well for a College of Lore bard. More than any other aspect of character creation, the race you choose reflects the kind of character you want to roleplay, so it’s largely a personal choice. However, Githyanki offers some incredible unique abilities: Mage Hand and Jump via Githyanki Psionics, proficiency in medium armour and greatswords, Misty Step, and Astral Knowledge, which basically lets you become proficient in any skill at any time. All of these make the race a strong choice for a College of Lore bard, or indeed any character.
If you choose another race, you may want to consider taking the Githyanki spells, Mage Hand and Misty Step, which we’ve skipped in this guide since we are getting them through our race.
Charisma is the bard’s bread and butter, increasing not only your social skills but also the effects of all your spells. You’ll want to get your Charisma as high as possible. Keep in mind, though, that odd-numbered scores don’t help you much – a 17 is effectively the same as a 16. So it’s not worth putting an odd number of points into any stat unless you plan to even it out later, such as by taking feat.
After Charisma, Constitution is the next strongest stat for College of Lore bards, since it helps you maintain your concentration on your spells and also increases your total health. Dexterity is very much worth putting some points into as well, since it improves your AC and some commonly used skills. Here’s how we chose to allocate our stats:
- Strength: 8
- Dexterity: 14
- Constitution: 16
- Intelligence: 10
- Wisdom: 10
- Charisma: 16
Background and Skills
Your character’s background and skills should reflect how you want to approach the game. Do you want to lie, cheat, and steal? Then Deception, Stealth, and Sleight of Hand might be your forte. Looking to brute force your way through everything? Go for Athletics and Intimidation.
Bards can get proficiency in any skill in the game, so your options are wide open. Social skills are always a good choice, capitalizing on your already-high Charisma: put one or two of your proficiencies into Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion, depending on what your preferred approach to dialogue is going to be. Insight is a useful social skill as well, although it draws from Wisdom rather than Charisma. Dexterity-based skills like Sleight of Hand and Stealth are also good choices for your remaining proficiencies.
The Charlatan background gives you Deception and Sleight of Hand, where the Criminal background gives Deception and Stealth and the Urchin background gives Sleight of Hand and Stealth. Any of these three options would be good for a less “lawful” type of bard. But our top choice for this build is the Guild Artisan background, which gives proficiency in Insight and Persuasion, two of those essential social skills we just talked about.
For a College of Lore bard, we’ll be looking for spells that provide support to our party members as well as some unique utility. Bards can only change their spells in the level up screen, so you’ll want to be a bit more selective than you would on a cleric, druid, or wizard. We’ll list our recommendations below, but you should take your own party into consideration when you make your spell choices. For example, if you’re not bringing a cleric, you may want to focus more on healing spells.
Spells marked as (Magical Secrets) can only be obtained through that class feature, as they aren’t part of the normal bard spell list.
- Vicious Mockery: Your only real choice for a damaging cantrip. It’s a fun one, though, allowing you to wound your opponents with some choice words.
- Light: This spell can save you from being at a disadvantage in the dark, and it doesn’t even require concentration or a spell slot.
- Blade Ward: This is a nice little defensive cantrip for when things get hairy, though you won’t use it much.
- Minor Illusion: This cantrip can provide a useful distraction, particularly if you’re looking to do any thieving.
Level 1 Spells
- Dissonant Whispers: Fear is a very strong effect, making this spell a good choice for doing a little damage at low levels. Thunderwave is also good if you’d rather have something that can hit multiple enemies.
- Healing Word: A very efficient healing spell that will let you get someone healed up as a bonus action without having to put yourself in harm’s way. If you only take one healing spell, it should be this one. Well worth having even if you’re not the party’s primary healer.
- Sleep: An exceptional crowd control ability, especially at low levels. You can take multiple enemies out of the equation for a turn or two with this spell.
- Speak with Animals: As a bard, you’ll want to take advantage of your strong social skills as much as possible. This spell will give you additional opportunities to do so by opening up dialogue with animals you encounter.
- Feather Fall: You won’t need this at level 1, but later on you’ll want to have someone in the party who can cast it.
Level 2 Spells
- Cloud of Daggers: A very strong damaging spell, since it always hits. Place it over a group of enemies or in a bottleneck for maximum effect.
- Detect Thoughts: This spell will open up dialogue options that will let you resolve situations without a fight. A good spell to have as a charismatic bard.
- Enhance Ability: An exceptional spell for ensuring you pass any skill checks, whether it be in dialogue or while exploring a trap-littered dungeon.
Level 3 Spells
- Counterspell: (Magical Secrets) It feels pretty good to Nope an enemy spell cast, and it can really save the day. You do have Cutting Words already, but Counterspell is just better.
- Fireball: (Magical Secrets) This spell is just too much fun to pass up. You don’t get a lot of good damaging spells as a bard, so grabbing this one is very satisfying. Just be careful where you cast it – friendly fire is one of the leading causes of death in Baldur’s Gate 3!
- Glyph of Warding: A very flexible damaging spell that can also put enemies to sleep.
- Haste: (Magical Secrets) One of the best buffs in the game. Having an extra action each turn is huge, not to mention the extra movement.
- Speak with Dead: Another spell that lets you capitalize on your social skills. You can skip it if someone in your party already has it, though.
- Spirit Guardians: (Magical Secrets) Another fantastic damaging spell that you can steal from another class’s spell list. This one makes you a walking area-of-effect.
Level 4 Spells
- Dimension Door: This spell will let you teleport just about anywhere and even take an ally with you. Great for gaining the upper hand in a fight through positioning.
- Freedom of Movement: A very useful, if situational spell to have on hand. You can skip it if another party member has it covered.
- Greater Invisibility: A fantastic spell that will let you do just about anything without being seen.
Level 5 Spells
- Greater Restoration: You won’t need this spell often, but when you do you’ll be glad you have it. You can skip it if another party member already knows it, though.
- Hold Monster: A great crowd control spell that should work on just about any creature. It also gives your allies automatic critical hits on the target.
Level 6 Spells
- Eyebite: Another spell that offers some great flexibility for your limited spellbook. You can put a creature to sleep, cause it to flee in fear, or give it disadvantage on its rolls.
As a College of Lore bard, you’ll do best with feats that emphasize your strengths as a spell caster and skill master. That means maxing out your Charisma score and improving your chances of rolling well in skill checks. Here are our recommendations:
- Lucky at level 4 will make it so you almost never fail a skill check.
- Ability Improvement at level 8 for two extra points in Charisma (or 1 in Charisma and 1 in another stat, if you have odd numbers)
- Ability Improvement at level 12 to max out your Charisma stat.
There are a few pieces of equipment that are specifically geared to bards, which will be great options for equipping your College of Lore bard. Keep an eye out for these items:
- Blazer of Benevolence: Obtained when you rescue Volo from the goblins, this armor heals you whenever you use Bardic Inspiration.
- Cap of Curing: Found in a locked chest near Alfra, the singing bard in the Emerald Grove, this hat will give your Bardic Inspiration a small healing effect.
You may also find items that will give you access to spells or abilities that you don’t otherwise have available. One good example is the Silver Pendant, which is dropped by a skeleton on a cliff in the Emerald Grove and lets you cast the Guidance cantrip.
As for your weapons, you’ll primarily be using spells to deal damage, so you can treat your weapons as “stat sticks” and use the ones that offer the most useful bonuses. Note that you don’t have to be proficient with a weapon to make use of it this way, only if you want to be able to hit things with it. In general, rapiers and longswords are good choices for melee weapons, and a pair of hand crossbows are your best bet for range.
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