Bardadin Punching Bag

Bardadin Introduction

I previously wrote The Whispering Vengeance as a bardadin smite bot built around fishing for criticals and dropping a mountain of dice when you get one. But that’s obviously not the only way to build a bardadin. Combining different subclasses can get you wildly different results, often much better than the obvious smite bot build.

In this multiclass build, we’ll look at combining Oath of Conquest with College of Lore to build something of an abomination. The resulting build is most effective when it’s actively making itself a nuisance and a target, making it a startlingly effective Defender while also providing good damage output and almost accidentally solving a major problem with mounted combat.

We’re also leaning hard into Charisma. Using Fighting Style (Blessed Warrior) gives us good offensive options at low levels and enough Charisma that our save DC’s are reliable even if our relatively poor spellcasting is far behind a full caster.

This article won’t dig into the broader options around the bardadin. For more general advice, see Bardadin: The Whispering Vengeance.

Table of Contents


“Thank you”

Face McShooty

This build is one of our 10 favorite DnD 5e builds.

Ability Scores

We’re going all in on Charisma and Constitution, then spreading our remaining points around to cover the big saves since those are going to be our biggest weakness.

If you went for Custom Lineage over Variant Human, put the +2 into Charisma and when you take an ASI for the first time, split it between Con and Cha.



Variant Human. We need the feat because we’re taking 3 of them in total.


It really doesn’t matter for the purposes of this build. Anything that works for a paladin or a bard will work fine. Look for Charisma-based skills since we’re going very Charisma-heavy.

Skills and Tools

Go for Face skills. Grab Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion, and Insight. Over time we’ll add another 4 skills and Expertise in 4 skills.


At level 1 we take Mounted Combatant. We need the ability to retarget attacks to target us and giving our mount Advantage on Dexterity saves is helpful to protect it from one of the easy ways around our strategy.

At level 4 we take Fighting Initiate to get Fighting Style (Interception). This allows us to let attacks hit our mount and reduce the damage dealt. This sounds insane consider how paper thin horses are, but I promise it will make sense.

At level 8 we grab Heavy Armor Master. We want Heavy Armor Master so that we can reduce damage from weapon attacks (I know that there are spells that deal B/P/S damage, but monsters generally don’t use them). We’re planning to get punched as much as possible, and we want to shave damage off of that.

We’re going to fall far behind the Fundamental Math, but we don’t really care because attacking and using offensive spells is mostly an afterthought.


Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1 – Paladin 1Feat: Mounted Combatant
Divine Sense
Lay on Hands
At this level we’re objectively terrible. Our attacks are horrendous.

We have Mounted Combatant, so get a mule to compensate for the speed penalty from your heavy armor. Throw darts in combat and hope that enemies are medium or smaller so that you at least get Advantage on your attacks from Mounted Combatant.
2 – Paladin 2Fighting Style (Blessed Warrior)
Divine Smite
Cantrips Known:
– Sacred Flame
– Word of Radiance
Now we start to feel like a weird cleric.

Sacred Flame for single targets, Word of Radiance for crowds. We’re intentionally taking Sacred Flame over Toll the Dead so that we target different saves. Word of Radiance notably allows you to pick targets in the area, which allows you to omit your mount.

For your leveled spells, Shield of Faith is a great choice so you can more safely jump into melee and be your party’s Defender like they expected when you said you were playing a paladin. Compelled Duel is a great way to lock enemies into close range with you so that they can’t ignore you and chase your allies.

We will probably never use Divine Smite with this build. Not even once. If you ever make an attack roll for anything except an Opportunity Attack, it would be extremely unusual.
3 – Paladin 3Divine Health
Sacred Oath: Oath of Conquest
Channel Divinity:
– Conquering Presence
– Guided Strike
Channel Divinity (Conquering Presence) is our panic button. If things are getting a little too scary and you’re taking hits too fast, Conquering Presence lets us take the pressure off for a few rounds while our enemies are Frightened.

You might use Channel Divinity (Guided Strike) for opportunity attacks.

But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here for the spells.

Our oath spells at this level are the foundation of this entire build, specifically Armor of Agathys. It’s a great spell that’s mostly exclusive to warlocks, but it’s amazing on any front-line character. We’re already plenty durable between d10 hit dice, 16 Con, and Lay on Hands, but we also want that automatic on-hit damage. Armor of Agathys is going to monopolize our spell slots for the rest of our career.

Armor of Agathys notably triggers when you’re hit by a melee attack, not when you’re damaged by a melee attack. This means that if you can reduce the damage to 0 you get all the benefits of Armor of Agathys without eating into the temporary hp. Therein lies the fundamental nonsense underlying this build.
4 – Paladin 4Feat: Fighting Initiate (Interception)I generally prefer Protection over Interception because I would rather try to negate a hit than just mitigate the damage.

But this is a weird case. We want attacks to hit, but deal as little damage as possible. Interception doesn’t protect us, unfortunately, but we’re planning to turn our horse into a punching bag.
5 – Paladin 5Extra Attack
2nd-Level Paladin Spells
Ignore Extra Attack. This is where our build starts to take shape.

Our 2nd-level spells get us Find Steed, which is central to our strategy. Abandon your old mule by the side of a road and summon something awesome. An Elk or a Warhorse are your go-to options. They also both have hooves, which means that you can give them magic horseshoes.

Find Steed also gives us the next big piece of our strategy: “While mounted on your steed, you can make any spell you cast that targets only you also target your steed.” So when we cast Armor of Agathys, it affects both us and our mount, effectively doubling the spell’s lifespan.

We’re going to take the extremely unusual choice to allow our mount to act as an independent mount rather than a controlled one. This means that our mount can move and attack on its own, allowing it to attack while still allowing us to ride and protect it. If we’re out of melee between turns, we don’t care because we can attack with Sacred Flame.

However, we do still need to issue verbal commands to our horse to enact the next piece of our strategy: provoking Opportunity Attacks. Command your mount to repeatedly move away from and charge enemies in order to intentionally do so.

Your mount has an AC of 10 or 11. It’s going to get hit almost every time it’s attacked. When it’s hit, use your Reaction to activate Fighting Style (Interception) to reduce the damage by 1d10+PB. You probably won’t totally negate the damage, but it still tilts the math in your favor. Your mount, which has Armor of Agathys running, deals automatic cold damage to the attacker and has a nice pad of temporary hit points to absorb the rest.

After you’ve burned through your mount’s copy of Armor of Agathys (or if the remaining temp hp is low enough that your mount might take real hit point damage), start using Mounted Combatant to retarget attacks to hit you instead. Your AC is considerably better, and when an occasional hit sneaks through, you get to deal automatic damage. Nice.
6 – Paladin 6Aura of CourageOur last level of paladin. We’re here for Aura of Protection, which protects us and our mount from saving throws. That’s the easy way around our main strategy, so the bonuses are excellent protection.
7 – Bard 1New Skill: Any
Bardic Inspiration (d6)
Cantrips Known:
– Vicious Mockery
– Any other
Now it’s time to multiclass. We want a Charisma-based caster with regular Spellcasting (so no warlock) to advance our spell slots as fast as possible so that we can get better Armor of Agathys. That leaves the Bard and the Sorcerer. We’re going to pick bard primarily for its ability to annoy people and make ourselves a target.

Multiclassing into bard gets us a skill. Pick whatever you want.

Use Bardic Inspiration to inspire your mount to protect it from saving throws even more. Use Vicious Mockery to annoy enemies that aren’t attacking you or your mount when you’re so politely giving them opportunity attacks. You now have cantrips that force saves against Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom, so you can easily pivot to whichever is weak for your target.

I’m not going to dig into most of our known bard spells because generally they don’t matter all that much for this build. We’re going to be far behind the Fundamental Math for a long time, not to mention that we’re several spell levels behind a full caster, so focus on buffs and utility options.
8 – Bard 2Jack of All Trades
Song of Rest
3rd-Level Spell Slots
3rd-level slots means upgrading Armor of Agathys. 15 temporary hp and 15 damage when we get hit.
9 – Bard 3Bard College: College of Lore
Bonus Proficiencies:
– Any 3
Cutting words
– Any 2
This level brings access to 2nd-level bard spells, notably including Crown of Madness. It’s not usually a great spell, but in this case we’re actively trying to force enemies to attack us in order to trigger Armor of Agathys.

Also, enemies that rely on spellcasting are often terrible at melee attacks, so you can dive into melee and force them via Crown of Madness to flail uselessly against you and your horse while Armor of Agathys freezes them to death.

If you’re using the Optional Class Feature which expands everyone’s spell lists, bards can also get Aid at this level. Adding some more max hp to your mount is great, and even the base 5 from 2nd-level Aid will improve a warhorse’s hit points by more than 25% so you have more of a pad when Armor of Agathys runs out. Target yourself, your mount, and one other party member.

At this point you have good enough defenses and enough spell slots to keep up this strategy for a fairly long time. You might intentionally bait more attacks by reducing your AC. Drop your shield and go down to Ring Mail armor.

That’s right. AC is our dump stat.
10 – Bard 4Feat: Heavy Armor Master
New Cantrip:
– Any
4th-Level Spell Slots
Where Fighting Style (Interception) covers our horse, Heavy Armor Master covers us. Reducing nearly all melee attacks by 3 damage will extend the lifespan of each casting of Armor of Agathys, meaning more damage output for the same cost.

We also get 4th-level spell slots, so we’re up to 20 temporary hp and 20 damage per hit.
11 – Bard 5Bardic Inspiration (d8)
Font of Inspiration
3rd-level bard spells, and we can use Bardic Inspiration considerably more often.

Among our best new spell options is Enemies Abound. Intelligence saves are poor across the board, which makes it a great choice for our considerably lagging spell save DC.
12 – Bard 6Countercharm
5th-Level Spell Slots
Extra Magical Secrets
– Absorb Elements
– Fly
We get 5th-level spell slots, so we’re up to 25 temporary hp and 25 damage per hit. Tragically, we use our bard level to determine max spell level for Magical Secrets, so we’re still limited to 3rd-level spells.

We’ll grab absorb elements for additional insurance against damage not covered by Heavy Armor Master. We’ll grab fly so that we can get our mount into the air without needing Find Greater Steed.
13 – Bard 74th-level bard spells. Not many obviously great options for us, but you can Polymorph while still running Armor of Agathys, so you could turn yourself into something huge and scary and walk around with a ton of temporary hp. Beasts have notoriously poor AC, so padding your hit points as a Tyrannosaurus goes a long way.
14 – Bard 8ASI: Charisma 16 -> 18
6th-Level Spell Slots
Finally an ASI!

We also get 6th-level spell slots. 30 temporary hp and 30 damage per hit.
15 – Bard 9Song of Rest (d8)5th-level bard spells. Nothing exciting for us, unfortunately.
16 – Bard 10Expertise
– Any 2
Magical Secrets
– Fire Shield
– Stoneskin
7th-Level Spell Slots
This is a great level for us. Magical Secrets adds two more exciting defensive options. Fire Shield plays right into our existing tactics, adding another 2d8 damage when we’re hit. It also doesn’t require Concentration, which is really nice.

Stoneskin gives us resistance to non-magical B/P/S damage, dramatically extending the lifetime of Armor of Agathys. Tragically, it does require Concentration and numerical reductions to damage like Heavy Armor Master are applied before resistances. It also visually makes you look like stone, which might deter attackers.

Armor of Agathys at our max slot now grants 35 temporary hp and 35 damage per hit. Add Fire Shield and you’re doing really well.

At this point, downgrade to the worst heavy armor you can get and drop your shield. If you find -1 Ring Mail armor, take it. You should be running around, making an absolute nuisance of yourself and drawing as much attention as possible. 14 AC and screaming insults at people with Vicious Mockery and Cutting Words makes you a very tempting target.

Again: AC is our dump stat.
17 – Bard 116th-level bard spells. Eyebite is tempting because we can use it repeatedly, and Otto’s Irresistible Dance doesn’t allow an initial save so we’re not hurt by our slightly lagging save DC.

We also get more cantrip damage at this level, which is nice.
18 – Bard 12ASI: Charisma 18 -> 20
8th-Level Spell Slots
Max Charisma and 8th-level slots. Armor of Agathys gives us 40 temporary hp and 40 damage.
19 – Bard 137th-level bard spells, and our highest level of spellcasting. We can get Etherealness and turn ourselves and our mount ethereal or we could take Force Cage and lock our enemies in a dome with no save.
20 – Bard 14Peerless Skill
9th-Level Spell Slots
What a weird capstone. Peerless Skill and also 9th-level spell slots. Armor of Agathys for 45 temp hp and 45 damage each time you’re hit.

Was Any of That A Good Idea?

There are obviously some challenges in this build, so let’s look at them.

Please Punch Me

The build depends heavily on the premise that enemies will be willing to attack us. Without big damage output from attacks or spells, we’re in very serious danger of falling into the Tank Fallacy. Our biggest source of damage is cantrips, and, compared to our allies, that’s unlikely to be enough to scare our enemies. You’ll need to rely on things that draw attention to yourself.

Compelled Duel will help. You might also pick up Spirit Guardians with Magical Secrets so that you have some consistent damage output (save for half is still damage). You can make yourself a problem with things like Vicious Mockery and Cutting Words.

Our best-case scenario is running into enemies who don’t already know what we’re doing, which means unintelligent enemies or enemies which haven’t fought us before. You might get away with our gimmick a few times in any single encounter before your enemies catch on, so it’s entirely reasonable that your DM will say “the enemies have figured out that attacking you hurts, so they decide to stop”. In those cases you’ll need to get clever with things like Crown of Madness.

Is This Enough Damage?

Let’s take a look at the DPR guidance in The Fundamental Math of Character Optimization and compare it to just the damage from provoking one successful attack with our highest-level spell slot. It’s hard to estimate our DPR with cantrips, so let’s pretend that our cantrip damage is enough to justify only considering our highest-level slot.

LevelTarget DPROn-Hit Damage
1625.835 + 2d8 (avg. 9)
1727.135 + 2d8 (avg. 9)
1828.340 + 2d8 (avg. 9)
1929.640 + 2d8 (avg. 9)
2033.345 + 2d8 (avg. 9)

We’re below target DPR until level 8 if we’re only considering our automatic damage when we’re hit with an attack, but we’re not down by much. Even if we resort to a shortbow, the additional 4.4 DPR (2.2 before we get Extra Attack) brings us up to Target DPR, and we’re more likely to deal damage and will deal more damage with cantrips.

After that, we’re consistently above Target DPR, but never quite enough to hit High DPR with a single hit. If we can draw more than one attack per turn, we’re potentially doing a huge amount of damage. Between doubling the total number of hp via Find Steed, damage mitigation via Fighting Style (Interception) and Heavy armor Master, and selectively targeting attacks with Mounted Combatant, if we can make the attacks happen, we can handle the incoming damage without issue.

If you can start turn one by running through a horde of opportunity attacks, you might come out the the other side with a trail of dead enemies in your wake without lifting a finger.