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Pathfinder - The Bard Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Introduction

The Bard is among the most versatile classes in the game, capable of filling nearly any role in the party, but the Bard's definitive abilities are focused on support and utility. Inspire Courage is among the most iconic and effective support effects in Pathfinder, but it is only of the Bard's numerous excellent abilities.

Bard Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is difficult, especially in light armor and without the Rogue's absurd Dexterity.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB is enough for the Bard to hold their own in combat.

Saves: Good Reflex and Will saves.

Proficiencies: Light armor and shields, and a small selection of martial weapons including the Longsword and Rapier. This gives the Bard enough options to get the job done, but the Bard's AC will generally be poor. For some reason the Bard gets proficiency with the Whip.

Skills: 6+ skill ranks, and a skill list as long as your arm. The Bard gets all Knowledge skills as class skills, and Bardic Knowledge adds a heft bonus to Knowledge checks, making the Bard one of the easiest Librarians in the game with only a few skill ranks.

Spells: Despite being only a 2/3 caster, the Bard's spells are fantastic. The Bard's spell are arcane, but include Cure spells, and have a lot of excellent options which are only available to the Bard.

Bardic Knowledge (Ex):

Bardic Performance: Fantastic and versatile, Bardic Performance is the Bard's primary option in combat. There are numerous feats which can enhance Bardic Performance, and any Bard who doesn't take Lingering Song is doing themselves a huge disservice. As you grow in level you can perform as smaller actions, allowing you to quickly cycle songs and rely on Lingering Song to keep their effects running without expending performance rounds. The biggest limitation on Bardic performance is that a bard cannot have more than one bardic performance in effect at one time.

Cantrips: Cantrips are always amazing.

Versatile Performance (Ex): Versatile Performance allows the Bard to pick up additional skills while using their Perform modifier in place of their potentially lower modifier to the original skill. When selecting your Versatile Performance skills, be sure to avoid duplicates. The Bard gets their second Versatile Performance at level 6, but there is very little need for more than two, so no one would fault you for only taking two performance skills.

Well-Versed (Ex): Very situational.

Lore Master (Ex): Makes the Bard perfectly reliable as a Librarian. With one rank in every Knowledge skill and Bardic Knowledge you can expect to consistently pass most Knowledge checks.

Jack-of-All-Trades (Ex): Be good at literally every skill.

Abilities

Charisma is the Bard's most important ability for both .

Str: Good for melee or bow damage, but the Bard needs Dexterity to fix their poor AC, and they can't be good at every ability.

Dex: With light armor Dexterity is essential. Take Weapon Finesse if you plan to be in melee.

Con: Fortitude is the Bard's only bad save and with only d8 hit points the Bard really needs Constitution.

Int: More skill ranks are great for the Bard's huge skill list.

Wis: Only needed for Will saves, and the Bard gets good Will saves.

Cha: Essential for the Bard's spellcasting, social skills, and Perform.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 12
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 16
  • Str: 12
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 11
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 11
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 15

Races

Bonuses to Charisma are fantastic, and a favored class bonus which offers additional performance rounds can go a long way to improve the Bard's support abilities.

Dwarf: The Charisma penalty hurts, and the Dwarf doesn't really offer anything useful for the Bard.

Elf: Despite lacking a bonus to Charisma, the Elf's bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence can be very helpful for the Bard.

Gnome: The bonuses to Constitution and Charisma are both great for the Bard, and the Gnome's bonus to illusion spells is nice for the Bard's spell list. The Gnome favored class bonus grants some much-needed performance rounds.

Half-Elf: A flexible ability bonus is always helpful, and Skill Focus is great with Versatile Performance. The Half-Elf favored class bonus grants some much-needed performance rounds, and you can take the Human favored class bonus to learn additional spells..

Half-Orc: A very different feel from the Half-Elf but many of the same benefits. The Half-Orc favored class bonus grants some much-needed performance rounds, and you can take the Human favored class bonus to learn additional spells.

Halfling: The Halfling's Dexterity and Charisma bonuses are great for the Bard, and the Halfling's other abilities help the Bard serve as a Scout. Unfortunately the Halfling favored class bonus is pretty terrible.

Human: A bonus feat and a flexible ability bonus are both great for the Bard, and the Human's bonus skill ranks help fill out the Bard's skill list. The Human favored class bonus allows you to expand the Bard's very limited number of spells known. This extra versatility can make the Bard a very potent spellcaster.

Skills

Feats

Weapons

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.