Single-Class DnD Parties: The All Bard Party


The first in an ongoing series of articles, we’re taking a look at building single-class parties. Building a party around a single class presents unique challenges often due individual classes’ limited capabilities. DnD is fundamentally a game about a party of diverse characters pooling their abilities to become more than the sum of their parts. The single-class party flips that on its head, introducing fun new challenges.

Thematically, the all-bard party is a ton of fun. A roving troupe of performers encountering adventure at every turn is a classic trope, inspiring all manner of books, TV shows, and adventures. Your party might be actors, a traveling circus, a band, or a very cleverly disguised crime ring pretending to be one of those other legitimate enterprises. In a group of highly-charismatic magical misfits, possibilities are numerous.

The Rules

  • No multiclassing
  • 4 party members
  • Must attempt to cover all party roles

Strengths and Weaknesses the All-Bard Party

Bards are among the easiest classes with which to build a single-class party. They’re a jack of all trades with features and subclasses that support a wide range of capabilities, but that breadth comes at the cost of the ability to specialize in most roles.

Bards thrive on Charisma-based skills, but access to Expertise allows them to fill any skill-based role with relative ease. Even with middling ability scores, Expertise, Bardic Inspiration, and the Bard’s spellcasting can make any ability check achievable. Bards get a total of 5 skill proficiencies (3 from class, 2 from background) before considering other possible sources. With only 18 skills in the game, we’re guaranteed not only to have the ability to cover all 18, but also to have overlap.

Bards are frail compared to martial classes, and their martial subclass options are among their weakest options, making it hard to fill the Defender role. They also get very few direct damage options, making it hard for them to fill the Blast role. They can fill the Striker role by relying on save-or-suck spells, but the Bard’s spell list depends heavily on Wisdom saves, and over-emphasizing a single type of save means that one enemy with high Wisdom can stop them in their tracks.

The Party

Member 1: Human Lore Bard

Our first party member pretends to be a cleric. With our 1st-level feat, we take Moderately armored, getting us the AC of a valor bard without the chronic disappointment of actually playing a valor bard.

In medium armor we’ll need to balance Dex, Con, and Cha, which is always frustrating, but with the +1 increase from Moderately Armored we can start with a 16 in all 3. We’ll want that 16 Con to keep ourselves alive in melee. We’ll use Additional Magical Secrets at level 6 to get Booming Blade and Spirit Guardians, making our melee attacks meaningful and making us hard to get away from in melee. We’ll likely take War Caster at level 4, allowing our ability scores to fall behind, but then we’ll focus on increasing Dexterity at levels 8 and 12.

In combat we need to focus on keeping enemies in melee with us, which is admittedly hard until level 6 when we get Booming Blade and Spirit Guardians. We’ll take Expertise in Athletics, and do our best to grapple enemies whenever necessary despite our 8 Strength. If our party can spare Bardic Inspiration, that will go a long way to help.

While we’re fighting like a melee cleric, we certainly don’t need to be the party’s healer. The whole party gets access to essentials like Healing Word and Lesser Restoration. We’re doing arguably the hardest job in the party, so we’ll leave healing to everyone else and focus on keeping ourselves alive.

Member 2: Goblin Swords Bard

Our second party members serves as our party’s Rogue replacement. Nimble Escape provides the movement options from Cunning Action, and, while College of Swords isn’t amazing, it’s passable with weapons. We’ll be able to dart in and out of melee, occasionally staying there to help our lore bard hold enemies in place, but mostly moving around to hit high-priority targets and switching back and forth between attacks and spells as the situation demands.

We’ll focus our skills on rogue-like things and prioritize improving Dexterity over Charisma. We can’t get Expertise in Thieves’ Tools (only the Rogue can do that), but high Dex and Enhance Ability will do just fine. With a relatively low save DC, we’ll mostly reserve our spells for buffs and utility. Throwing Heroism on our front-line valor bard will help compensate for the bard’s d8 hit die.

Once we get access to Magical Secrets, we’ll take Shadow Blade to take our melee attacks from a fun novelty to a suddenly terrifying pile of psychic damage. We’ll use our second magical secret for Heal because we’re the most able to run around in melee to reach our allies.

Member 3: Another Lore Bard

We really want Fireball as early as possible. We’ll use Additional Magical Secrets to grab Fireball and Hunger of Hadar, allowing us to easily handle big crowds of enemies even if their Wisdom saves are too high for our Bard spells. Most of the time Hypnotic Pattern is all the save-or-suck we need.

Since we don’t need high Dexterity like out first two members, we’ll focus on Charisma. We’ll be the party’s primary Face and primary offensive spellcaster, focusing on save-or-suck spells, but with Fireball in reserve for when we need to incinerate a crowd.

Member 4: Spirits Bard

Maybe an unusual choice, but we’ve covered the majority of roles with our first three members. Spirits offer some unique Support options that I think would be a ton of fun in an all-bard party.

With other roles covered, our spirits bard has space to focus on Intelligence-based capabilities. This is mostly knowledge skills like History, but we’ll likely also grab Investigation. We can afford to drop our Dex and Con a bit to make room for some Intelligence without sacrificing our Charisma progression. This allows us to fill the Scholar role.

The Report Card

With so much spellcasting and so many skills, there’s a ton of role overlap within the party.

Striker1, 2, 3
Utility CasterEveryone

Biggest Strength

A huge number of skills and spells to buff ability checks means that we thrive in nearly any skill-based role. We’re also very effective against anything with poor mental saves due a deep pool of save-or-suck spellcasting.

Biggest Weakness

We’re very vulnerable defensively until level 6 when our Defender comes online. We also struggle to deal direct single-target damage until high levels, which means that, unless we can save-or-suck an enemy and restrain them until the fight ends, many of our fights may take a long time as we slowly carve through enemies’ hit points.

The whole party has d8 hit dice, but we can compensate for that with Aid and potentially Heroism, so I don’t consider that a big issue. Aid easily makes up the difference between d8 and d10 hit dice. Low AC is definitely an issue, of course.


An all-bard party would be a ton of fun and can cruise through non-combat challenges with ease, but combat will definitely be a challenge.

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