Introduction

In many ways, College of Eloquence Bards are the bardiest of Bards. They’re the best at talking, they’re the best at making sure their control spells land, and they’re the most inspiring. They don’t have any fancy buttons to press like Creation or Glamour, but all of their abilities are really good. I realize that small paragraph is basically the text on the subclass guide page put through a synonym generator, but it’s true enough that the example build at the bottom of this handbook is a character I actually played and enjoyed immensely. You can listen to some of his adventures here and here.

While there aren’t many decision points in the build itself, the real elevation of piloting this subclass is knowing when to use your inspiration on your party and when to use it to power Unsettling Words. Especially at levels 3 and 4 (when you get access to it but before you have Font of Inspiration), it can be very easy to burn through all your uses early in a day and then feel underwhelming in combat as you’re no better than an unspecialized Bard and you don’t have much to do to help your friends. With that in mind, we’ll be looking at some ways to help fix that.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

College of Eloquence Features

  1. Silver Tongue: It is difficult to find an ability which is so effective at making a key skill reliable. The Rogue’s Reliable Talent feature provides the same benefit, but that’s an 11th-level feature. Combined with access to Expertise (which you also get at 3rd level) you’re nearly incapable of failing Charisma (Deception) and Charisma (Persuasion) checks. With a +3 Charisma modifier and Expertise in one of the affected skills, your minimum roll at this level is already a 17, and will rapidly improve as you gain levels.
  2. Unsettling Words: Use this as a Bonus Action, then hit the target with a save-or-suck effect. Advantage/Disadvantage are worth a little more than +3/-3, and the average value of your d6 Bardic Inspiration die is 3.5, and increases as you gain levels, so this is already mathematically better than imposing Disadvantage, and it only gets more effective as you gain levels.
  3. Unfailing Inspiration: Bardic Inspiration is one of the Bard’s core features, and while it’s very powerful it’s still limited by a small number of dice. This provides a powerful insurance policy, making it much easier to risk a die even if it’s unlikely to make a roll succeed. Between this and Font of Inspiration, you can afford to throw inspiration dice around like confetti.
  4. Universal Speech: A limited version of Tongues for one hour for free every day, and you can do it again by spending a spell slot. You may still want to learn Comprehend Languages so that you can understand other creatures, especially if your party has access to ritual spellcasting.
  5. Infectious Inspiration: Consider this alongside Unfailing Inspiration. If a creature adds a die and fails, they keep the die. If they pass, you spend your Reaction to pass the die to a different creature, and the process starts over. You get to do this a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, so it’s effectively 5 additional uses of Basic Inspiration per day, not counting the ones which fail but don’t result in a lost die.

College of Eloquence Ability Scores

No change from standard Bard. Jack of All Trades means that we can roll pretty decently on anything at a moment’s notice, so Wis and Int are brought up to 10 instead of trying to push our defenses higher.

Str: Dump

Dex: You’re not a melee bard, but you could still be targeted by stray attacks or Dex saves.

Con: Dying is suboptimal, plus you have several of the best Concentration spells in the game.

Int: Dump

Wis: Good for important saves and a handful of skills.

Cha: Your earliest ability is tied to making Charisma checks. Pump it up.

Point BuyStandard Array
Str88
Dex1413
Con1414
Int1010
Wis1012
Cha1515

College of Eloquence Races

Anything with innate offensive spellcasting is a solid choice since you can use Unsettling Words to help it land. Half of the legacy Tieflings, Yuan-Ti, etc. Beyond that, nothing worth calling out.If you’re not using the example build, see the Bard Handbook for advice on selecting a race.

College of Eloquence Feats

Nothing different for College of Eloquence. Feats that grant spells are always good to help expand your versatility.

College of Eloquence Weapons

Nothing different than any other Bard.

College of Eloquence Armor

Your main defense is being far away from hostile things, but there’s no reason not to strap on Studded Leather.

Multiclassing

This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

Again, nothing much different than other bards. You’re not something that likes attacking with weapons, so you don’t need to hexdip. A level of Clockwork Soul Sorcerer provides you with another tool to help your spells land by allowing you to negate advantage on a save rolled near you. It scales with proficiency bonus so just one level dip will carry you pretty far. I’d probably call that better than Superior Inspiration and an extra 7th-level spell per day. Similarly, a level of Shadow Magic will give you darkvision if your race doesn’t provide it and a get out of jail free card once a day.

Example Build – Amiable Jack

As mentioned, I have played and loved this character. You can find a description of him from Dscryb here and a full color portrait here from the incredible Alexis Vásquez.

Abilities

As described above. Con stays odd (factoring in the racial increase) so it can get Resiliented later.

BaseIncreased
Str88
Dex1414
Con1415
Int1010
Wis1010
Cha1517

Race

Satyr. Not only are satyr bards a trope, it frees up our skills to pick up more proficiencies and give us incredible defense against spells, a very useful trait for someone like us that mostly stays at the edge of combat. Plus, who doesn’t love being faster than most playable races?

Background

Charlatan. Growing up as an orphan left us plenty of time to be inventive about who we were and how to acquire things we couldn’t otherwise. Besides, when you’re a satyr, who’s going to think twice when you say you’re a Duke of the Feywild?

Skills and Tools

We’re going to be a Face, so we act like it. Between the race, background, and class we get a staggering 7 skill proficiencies which we distribute into Deception, Intimidation, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth. We also get access to 4 musical instruments: bagpipes to annoy our party, the hand drum because I love bodhrán music, the lute because we want a Doss one, and pan pipes because… we’re a satyr. We could also fill in the Scout role with our high-enough Stealth and Perception. If you’re going that route, take Urchin or Criminal instead to get Thieves’ Tools proficiency.

Feats

Level 4 gets us Fey Touched for more spells.

Level 8 caps Charisma to 20.

Level 12 gets Inspiring Leadership 

Level 16 gets Resilient (Con)

Level 19 can be really anything. Eldritch Adept for Devil’s Sight, Lucky, or either of Tough/Defensive Duelist for more defenses are all viable choices depending on what your character’s going through.

Levels

LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1Cantrips:
– Prestidigitation
– Vicious Mockery

Spells Known:
– Charm Person
– Detect Magic
– Healing Word
– Sleep

Bardic Inspiration
At first and second level, we’re just like any other bard. Hang out near the edge of fights, mock things viciously, and Healing Word your friends if/when they drop. If you can catch several small enemies in a Sleep, do that.

Bardic Inspiration is a precious resource right now. Try to save it for a Striker having trouble getting past something’s AC or someone who falls over when you’re out of healing. Nothing in the ability says the character needs to be conscious to use it and it can apply to any save, which means that includes Death Saves.

For starting equipment, take the gold and get studded leather, a rapier, a pan flute, and thieves’ tools.
2Spells:
Silvery Barbs

Jack of All Trades

Song of Rest
Why wait until level 2 for Silvery Barbs? Because we only get two spells per day at level 1, and using either of them on a reaction is hard to justify when they could be a Sleep or a Healing Word that stands someone up. At level 2, everything (players and enemies) is a little more durable, so we have some wiggle room.

As the Amiable Jack of All Trades, we suddenly get +1 to all ability checks we weren’t already proficient in. Remember that this includes Initiative checks and, later, Dispel Magic rolls when we get access to them.

Song of Rest is the preview of what we’re going to start doing during short rests at level 12
3Spell Known:
– Crown of Madness

Retrain Spell: Charm Person -> Phantasmal Force

Expertise:
– Persuasion
– Deception

Silver Tongue

Unsettling Words
A hugely loaded level. Between Expertise and Silver Tongue, our Persuasion and Deception rolls now have a floor of 17 which goes up to 18 at next level and then 20 the level after that, before ending at a staggering 27 at level 17. Remember, that’s just the floor. You can roll up to 10 points higher.

Given those numbers, Charm Person seems a little redundant so we turn it into Crown of Madness. It’s still a Charmed condition, but it’s more an interesting combat tool.

Speaking of combat tools, Phantasmal Force is one of the best spells in the game. It targets the often-low Intelligence save and is broadly interpretable. The target can try to spend its Action investigating to break the illusion, but what creature is going to investigate the animated bands of iron painfully crushing it into the floor? Even if it does, that’s now an Int check against your save DC. Remember that Unsettling Words will help it land even over defenses like advantage against spells and then the fact that it’s a check to break it will keep those same defenses from coming into play on subsequent rounds.

You will notice that this leaves us with no first-level spells requiring saves of any kind. This is how we prevent ourselves from chewing through Inspiration uses with Unsettling Words.
4Cantrip:
Mage Hand

Spell Known:
– Lesser Restoration

Fey Touched (Cha)
This level is all about utility. Mage Hand is a great do-anything spell and Lesser Restoration is there because you’re probably the replacement divine caster with this build. Picking up Fey Touched will round up Charisma, get a free Misty Step to get out of trouble, and, since we already have Silvery Barbs, Gift of Alacrity is an incredible spell to get free once per day because it’s functionally just a permanent +4.5 to initiative for someone, which could be you, especially next level when you get Hypnotic Pattern. Go first, win fight.

This is especially true because this is about the level you should be getting your first uncommon magic item, and it should be a Doss Lute. I have no idea why this thing is uncommon, but I’m also not going to argue. Remember how Crown of Madness causes the Charmed condition? Bonus action Unsettling Words, then cast it using your Lute for Disadvantage on the save. That’s mathematically like increasing your DC by seven. Plus the Lute gives you a bunch of neat things you can’t get elsewhere like Fly once per day.
5New Spell:
– Hypnotic Pattern

Font of Inspiration

Bardic Inspiration Improvement
Lacking access to Fireball, we take distractionball.

We also get Font of Inspiration at this level, which means we can be much more cavalier about tossing out Unsettling Words using our newly upgraded dice. Feel free to even use it for other caster’s big spells. Or to give it out to the party like it’s supposed to be used for. Especially because…
6New Spell:
– Dispel Magic

Retrain Spell: Sleep -> Tiny Hut

Unfailing Inspiration

Universal Speech

Countercharm
Now our Inspiration isn’t spent when the person fails the check. This, of course, leads to some really stupid stuff like the ability to legitimately ask the DM “Did my Investigation check to find secret treasure/traps fail,” and have a mechanical reason why they should answer you truthfully. This is, however, dumb, and I’m going to quote the Soulknife Handbook for a moment: “That said, there is the incredibly nebulous definition of “success” with regards to certain skills. If you’re making an Investigation check and you don’t find anything because there was nothing to find, did you succeed or did you fail? This is a conversation to have with your group and deciding the answer is beyond the scope of this article, but I have a suggestion for how to run it: because you choose to roll the Psi-die after you see what you rolled and the results of the initial d20 roll, my suggestion is that the Psi-die is only considered spent if the results are different after rolling it.”

Moving on. Sleep has outlived its usefulness, and we have two excellent support spells we need to pick up. We’ve already discussed why JoAT makes us the second-best dispellers behind only Abjurer Wizards, and Tiny Hut is the way to make sure you can actually sleep and get your spells back while out and about.

Universal Speech is here to make sure our enormous Deception and Persuasion transcend any language barrier.

Countercharm is also present in case you expect your whole party to get feared next round by some overly telegraphed mechanic or something.
7New Spell:
– Charm Monster
Last level was jam-packed with stuff, so this one’s a breather by comparison. With that said, I want to point out a couple important things about the interaction with the Lute. First is that the Disadvantage-on-saves function of the Lute doesn’t have a usage limit. Second is that it applies to all targets, so if you upcast Charm Monster later, you can turn half an encounter against the other half of the encounter with a little bit of “help, your friends are going crazy and attacking us,” and let your party grab a drink while the battle fights itself.
8Cha 18 -> 20

New Spell:
– Greater Invisibility

Retrain Spell:
Crown of Madness -> Polymorph
Now that we have a couple spell slots at this level, we’ll trade out Crown since we have Charm that does something very similar but has no targeting restrictions. We’ll also pick up two utility staples.
9New Spell:
– Mass Healing Word

Retrain Spell: Lesser Restoration -> Greater Restoration

Song of Rest Improvement
Now seems like a good time to point out that the floor for our Deception and Persuasion rolls is 23.

That aside, we’re still probably the divine caster replacement, so we need to be able to heal multiple people at once. This is the antidote to several party members dropping all at once to an upcast Fireball.

Trading out Lesser Restoration for Greater is required since we’re short on spells known, and the diamond dust component doesn’t really matter because 5e’s economy doesn’t make sense and gold isn’t very useful.
10Bardic Inspiration Improvement

Expertise:
– Intimidation
– Perception

New Cantrip:
– Minor Illusion

New Spells:
– Revivify
– Find Greater Steed
We take Expertise in the remaining Charisma-based conversation skill and Perception because Expertise is as good as 18 Wisdom right now for that purpose.

For the new Cantrip, summon a bad MS Paint drawing of something to hide behind. We can see through it, but others can’t until they interact with it. It’s off-brand invisibility.

Our two spells come from Magical Secrets, so I listened to my own advice and assumed we didn’t already have two Revivifies in the party. Also, Fey Pegasus. Because Bard.
11New Spell:
– Eyebite
A great choice for a fight with several powerful enemies. 
12Inspiring LeaderEvery rest lets us put 17 temp HP on each party member. That may not seem like a lot at this level, but on an average party of 4 members, in a day where we wake up, have a fight, short rest, have another fight, short rest again, fight one last time, and then sleep, that’s over 200 points of possible healing we don’t have to do.
13New Spell:
– Forcecage

Retrain Spell:
Tiny hut -> Magnificent Mansion

Song of Rest Improvement
Forcecage is one of the best spells in the game. If no one else in the party can cast Teleport, though, take that instead.

Meanwhile, Magnificent Mansion is one of the bardiest spells in the game, which makes perfect sense for the bardiest Bard.
14New Spells:
– Heal
– Simulacrum

Infections Inspiration
Once again, I follow my own advice. Trade Simulacrum out for Plane Shift if need be.
15Bardic Inspiration Improvement

New Spell:
– Dominate Monster
Remember that it’s a Charm effect, so the Lute gives Disadvantage.
16Resilient (Con)Now we have a spell you really can’t afford to fail Concentration on, because suddenly losing a Dominate can be disastrous.
17Song of Rest Improvement

New Spell:
True Polymorph
This is really only here to play around with for one level.
18New Spells:
Wish
Contingency
Contingency is here because it’s really good, but, if you didn’t take Simulacrum at 14, take it now so you can be infinite naked bards with infinite money and resistance to all damage.
19LuckyWe finally perfect the art of persuasion: persuading the universe to be different than what it is.
20Superior InspirationI have no idea how you managed to go into a fight with no Inspiration or what good WoTC thinks just one is going to do you, but here you go.