Last Updated: September 18, 2023
Bards learn spells permanently, their number of spells known is extremely limited, and changing your spells known is difficult (unless you count completely rebuilding your character, which is always an option). This means that picking spells which work for you is absolutely crucial, and that you can’t afford to select spells which won’t be consistently useful.
Bard spells overwhelmingly focus on mind-affecting spells, which means that most of their spells call for a Wisdom saving throw. Unfortunately, that means that it can often be difficult to target a creature’s lowest saves. Be sure to pick up Glyph of Warding since it’s one of the Bard’s only Dexterity save spells, and be sure that your other party members can handle enemies with high Wisdom saves.
Table of Contents
- Bard Cantrips
- 1st-Level Bard Spells
- 2nd-Level Bard Spells
- 3rd-Level Bard Spells
- 4th-Level Bard Spells
- 5th-Level Bard Spells
- 6th-Level Bard Spells
RPGBOT uses a color coding scheme to rate individual character options.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
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Cantrips are (usually) usable at will, making them a go-to option for spellcasters, especially when you’re short on spells slots. Bards learn 2 cantrips at level 1, then another at levels 4 and 10. You generally cannot replace cantrips expect by respeccing your entire build.
- : In a game where Dodge isn’t an action, Blade Ward is one of the only ways to spend your action just protecting yourself. The 2-round duration lasts until the end of your next turn, so you’re effectively protected for just one round; you can’t alternate turns casting Blade Ward, then doing something fun. The best use case for this is to keep yourself alive while you finish a fight using Bonus Actions or summoned creatures, and even then you should only use this if you’re expected to draw several attacks in a single round. Usually it’s more effective to spend your action trying to end the fight faster.
- : The appeal of Dancing Lights is that you can place the light at a distance to handle enemies who are in Darkness so that your party doesn’t suffer Disadvantage to attack them. But Darkvision is widely available, actual darkness is rare (at least until Darkvision is accessible via spells), and this requires Concentration which is much better spent on almost anything else.
- : Basically easy mode for social situations, giving you Advantage on Persuasion checks in most conversations. This is good, but on high difficulties some creatures will accuse you of magically charming them, which can cause problems for you. When it becomes available at level 3 (when you get 2nd-level spells), Enhance Ability makes this obsolete.
- : Environmental light sources are abundant, actual darkness is rare, and Darkvision is easily accessible. If you’re really that desperate, you can usually have someone carry a torch. Having a source of light is rarely useful, but there are rare enemies that are invisible unless exposed to light, so either bring a light source or cast See Invisibility.
- : Usable just once per short rest, and it only lasts 1 minute (10 rounds). The hand can open doors, interact with some items, and throw light objects, but its strength is poor and it can’t carry items, so its usefulness is limited. In combat, it can throw items at enemies, including offensive items like Alchemist’s Fire.
- Practical Guide to Minor Illusion for more specific advice. : Fantastic in a party which is relying on Stealth in any meaningful way, but otherwise skip it. See our
- : This allows you to spend your Action to get Advantage on one attack, which will typically come from your Action on the following turn. In nearly every case, it makes more sense to spend both of those actions attacking because you’re rolling just as many attack rolls, plus you might hit with both attacks. The appeal here is for spellcasters planning to make a single attack with a high resource cost, such as Chromatic Orb or Melf’s Acid Arrow, but bards don’t get any of those spells.
- : A bard staple and the only damage-dealing cantrip on your spell list. The damage dealt is tiny, but Disadvantage on your target’s next attack can mitigate a huge amount of damage dealt to your party.
1st-Level Bard Spells
- : Almost always replaceable by Speak with Animals.
- : A good debuff against powerful enemies in an extended fight, but it only targets three creatures, requires Concentration, and competes for space with options like Faerie Fire which will help your party win a fight quickly rather than putting you at an advantage during a long attrition fight.
Charm Person can be used in combat, but it’s hard to do so because enemies get Advantage on their save. If you cast this against neutral creatures before combat starts, you can remove them from combat ahead of time. When you’re ready to deal with them, break your Concentration to forcibly end the effect.
: Basically the same effect
as the Friends cantrip with all of the same problems. Upgrade to Enhance
Ability as soon as possible.
- : Bards can’t afford to learn this when Healing Word is an option.
If you have the Enhanced Edition, you get an item in your camp chest that provides infinite uses of this spell and shouldn’t take it on any character. While the item uses a head slot, it can be taken off after casting without breaking the illusion.
: Not always useful, but
you can fool creatures that don’t like you into thinking that you’re a
different person. This can get around things like dead enemies not wanting
to talk to their killer when you use Speak With Dead.
Experienced players will notice a difference from the tabletop version: Dissonant Whispers does not force enemies to flee, which is normally a good way to forcibly trigger Opportunity Attacks. Instead, you’ll need Command (Flee) for that.
: A bit of psychic
damage and the target is Frightened for one turn, which prevents them from
moving and gives them Disadvantage on Ability Checks and Attack Rolls. Good
for freezing a melee enemy in place so that they can’t move up to your party
and attack them.
- : Counters invisibility and grants allies Advantage on attacks against affected creatures. If your party relies heavily on attack rolls (rather than saving throws via spells), this puts your party at a massive advantage.
- : Rarely useful, and you can find both potions and scrolls easily.
- : Among the most important spells in the game, the ability to heal at range with a Bonus Action means that you can rescue dying allies mid-combat and still spend your Action and your movement doing something exciting.
- : 5 temporary hit points each turn can mitigate quite a bit of damage, so putting this on your party’s Defender can make a huge difference. On a barbarian who will resist a lot of damage, this is doubly effective. However, it requires Concentration, which means not using spells that could bring a fight to a swift conclusion.
- : A great buff, but it can be cast as a ritual by several other classes who can then un-prepare the spell.
- : At low levels, this is an easy win in many fights. Put a few enemies to sleep, kill whatever’s still conscious, then work through the sleeping enemies one at a time. The duration isn’t listed in the spell, and I have had enemies wake up a few turns later, so work quickly. Unlike the tabletop version, the number of hit points that you can affect is a fixed number and scales by 8 per spell level, so the spell is much more reliable. As you gain levels, you might even put big enemies to sleep after your party has damaged them enough.
- : A ton of fun and a very useful spell in a game where the designers put so much into what animals have to say, but you can get it from potions that you can craft, so it’s not worth learning permanently with the Bard’s limited number of spells known.
- : Low-budget, single-target save-or-suck. If you’re not planning for your party to pile in on your target to quickly kill them, this is as good at taking a target out of combat as Hold Person.
- : Not much damage, and Constitution saves are often high for many enemies, but you can launch enemies off ledges or into pits, which can often win a fight for you. While high-Strength characters can rely on Shove, most spellcasters don’t have the Strength or Athletics to make that work. You can also launch objects, allowing you to launch a bunch of objects at your enemies if you set up beforehand.
2nd-Level Bard Spells
- : A fantastic debuff with no Concentration, especially against enemies that rely on fighting at range. However, Constitution saves tend to be high, so this may prove to be unreliable. If available to your party, the rat familiar’s Infectious Bite can impose Disadvantage on Constitution saves, making this spell much more reliable.
- : Affected creatures are immune to Charmed and Frightened, which is helpful if you’re facing enemies like dragons which have fear effects because you can prevent allies from becoming frightened. Otherwise, it’s totally useless. Probably too situational for a bard.
- : Creates a small area of ongoing damage. Ideally you can force enemies to stay within the are and quickly grind them down, but if they do escape, have your party Shove them back in. The upcasting scales at a decent rate, too, so this can remain an effective tactic through the whole game.
Remember that this forces the target to move toward and attack the nearest creature, but it does not force it to attack its own allies. It’s entirely possible that your party members may be the nearest creatures.
: In a fight against multiple enemies, this is a great way to tip things in your favor. The target is forced to move toward the nearest creature and make a melee attack, consuming the vast majority of their action economy. Melee enemies will deal more damage, but you can also target enemy spellcasters which forces them to waste their Actions making melee attacks instead of casting spells.
- : Get it from a consumable. This is a great way to get more conversation options, but the Bard can’t afford to spend one of their limited spells known on this.
- : Absolutely crucial. Outside of combat, this is one of the most important spells in the game. Advantage on Charisma checks without the risk of Friends or Charm Person means that you have an edge in social situations without the risk. Advantage on Dexterity checks covers both Stealth and Sleight of Hand for easy pickpocketing.
- : In a game where most enemies are humanoids using weapons and wearing armor, Heat Metal is amazing. The target doesn’t get a save, and imposing Disadvantage on their attacks and ability checks trivializes a martial enemy relying on metal equipment. Sure, they can drop their weapon (which you should then immediately pick up off the ground), but then what are they going to do? Punch you? I mean, yes, that’s exactly what they’ll do, but unless they’re a monk they’re basically slapping you with a wet noodle.
- : Humanoid enemies are abundant in Baldur’s Gate 3, making Hold Person a spectacularly powerful save-or-suck spell. Paralyze something, then have your party pile in on it until it’s dead. Upcasting this spell to add more targets keeps it powerful for a very long time. However, since enemies get to repeat their saves, you need to work quickly.
- : Invisibility requires concentration, which means you should really only be using it out of combat, and it only lasts 10 turns instead of the pen and paper version’s hour, so it’s not useful for long-term scouting. This renders the number of things you can usefully do with it very minimal, especially since they explicitly broke one of the most important things. Looting items from a container breaks invisibility, thus removing the remaining primary purpose. It’s also readily available on scrolls and potions. Don’t spend a spell known on it.
- : It’s stupidly easy to get past locks in this game, and locks are too frequent to waste a spell slot on them. Throw Enhance Ability (Dexterity) on whoever in your party is good at Sleight of Hand and make it their problem.
- : Not on a bard. Have a cleric or druid prepare this when you need it.
- : Even if you manage to get this turned to a damage type the enemy is vulnerable to, 2d6 damage per turn is not worth concentration.
- Camp Casting. : A great counter to invisible enemies, but I’m not sure if those are common enough that Faerie Fire wouldn’t solve the problem. This only affects the caster, so unfortunately you can’t get it from
- : Low-budget fireball. The damage and AOE are decent, but Constitution saves tend to be high, so enemies will often pass the save. If you just desperately need AOE damage, upgrade to Glyph of Warding as soon as possible.
- : Completely shut down spellcasting (Minor Illusion is an exception) inside the area of effect. A great way to counter enemy spellcasters, but since the area is small they can often just exit the area in order to cast spells. Put a Sussur weapon on your martial instead if you can get one.
3rd-Level Bard Spells
3rd-level spells are a major power jump for full spellcasters, bringing heavy-hitting spells like Fireball.
: Single-target, touch
range, and the target gets a Wisdom save. The effects are diverse, which is
great for a bard, but there’s almost always a good spell that does the same
- : 50% chance for the target to skip its turn. That’s very tempting, but against humanoids Hold Person will be much more effective since it targets the same save, allows a repeated save the same way, allows automatic critical hits, and robs the target of their turn 100% of the time rather than 50%.
- : This is basically Hex’s damage boost, but everyone gets it. The target doesn’t get additional saves to remove the effect, which is kind of nice. This could be good against big enemies with a ton of hit points, but there will almost always be a better spell for that same enemy.
- : This isn’t a bad effect, but it can be done better by several other spells. On the same Wisdom save, you can paralyze humanoids with Hold Person. You can use Heat Metal to make enemies using metal weapons either drop their weapon or suffer Disadvantage to attacks. You could also use Dissonant Whispers or Feat to impose Disadvantage on both attacks and ability checks, though those only last for one turn. Bestore Curse (Attack Disadvantage)’s advantage over those spells is that it lasts a full minute and the target can’t do anything about it. I’m not convinced that that’s enough.
- : Disadvantage on both checks and saving throws with the targeted ability can make the target much more vulnerable. Strength will make it easy to Shove them, Constitution or Wisdom will make them vulnerable to many save-or-suck spells. But you’re already trying to make them fail a save, so why not just use one of those save-or-suck spells in the first place?
- : Make enemies Frightened in a cone and force them to drop their weapons. Most humanoid enemies rely on a weapon, and grabbing them off the ground while they’re still frightened makes them nearly harmless.
- : Why? I can’t think of a single practical use for this spell. Sure, they get Resistance to almost all damage, but since they’re unconscious your enemies crit them for free.
: You can lay this as a
trap, but if enemies are in the area, it triggers immediately, so you can
use it like any other AOE spell. Weirdly, all of the saves are Dexterity
saves, including the Sleep effect.
- Sleep: Put enemies to sleep without worrying about their hit point total.
- Detonation: Launch enemies away, potentially pushing them into pits, off ledges, etc. Targets are pushed directly outward from the center, so you’ll need to be precise with your placement.
- Acid / Cold / Fire / Lightning / Thunder: Not as much damage as Fireball, but you get to pick the damage type, which means that you can capitalize on Wet enemies or other damage vulnerabilities.
- : It’s so exceedingly good that they had to nerf the duration to a paltry two rounds. Even so, it’s still one of the better openers for a fight as it covers a large area and magic items can stack your save DC very high, essentially shutting down a large fraction of an encounter while you deal with the rest of it.
- : A good way to prevent melee-only enemies from approaching you, and it doesn’t require Concentration. However, fire damage removes the effect, and creatures can jump over it (though I don’t know if the AI is that smart), so it won’t always be reliable.
Remember that once you’ve cast this, you’re free to speak with corpses until your next long rest. Just be aware that each corpse can answer a maximum of 5 questions, and many won’t be willing to talk to their killer. Once a corpse has been targeted with Speak with Dead, it can never be targeted again. Quicksave if you’re not sure how it will go.
: Wonderful, extremely
useful, and tons of fun. But with the Bard’s extremely limited number of
spells known, you really can’t afford space for it. Get this from another
member of your party or from an item. You don’t need to make Charisma checks
of any kind, so it’s fine to have your party’s low-Charisma characters do
the work here.
- : Can prevent enemies from taking Actions, but they can still move and use their Bonus Action, so they may just move out of the cloud.
4th-Level Bard Spells
- : It’s no better than it is in the tabletop version. Optimization usually relies on consistency, and something inherently inconsistent is a hard sell when you could spend that concentration on Hypnotic Pattern instead.
- : Line of sight teleportation for you and one ally, though it does have a maximum distance. A good way to get into or out of places that are hard to reach by other methods like jumping or flying, and it can also get you out of bad places in a flight.
- Camp Casting. : Not always useful, but against enemies that rely on Paralyzed or Restrained, this can be huge. But with the Bard’s limited number of spells known you can’t afford to learn this. Get it from
- : Once you’re done concentrating on your opening Hypnotic Pattern, this can be a great way to give someone permanent advantage on attacks for a fight. It’s melee range though, so your primary targets will be people in a backline who like attacking; make sure you have a ranged dps around to get the best value from this.
- : Not at all what tabletop players are familiar with, Polymorph turns the target into a sheep for 5 turns. The sheep is harmless, and your party’s stronger characters can do things like Shove or throw it great distances, allowing you to toss the target into a pit. But for the same Wisdom save, other spells like Hold Person or Crown of Madness may be just as effective at taking a target out of a fight without costing such a high-level spell slot.
5th-Level Bard Spells
- : In a game where the majority of enemies are humanoids, Dominate person is very powerful. You don’t get to control the target’s turns, but it still becomes fully allied to you for the duration.
- : Very helpful, but not useful often enough to justify learning it on a bard. Get a cleric or a druid to do it.
- : An upgrade to Hold Person, this can take any creature out of a fight and let your party get automatic critical hits while they rush to bring your target down before they get another save.
- : Only useful if you have multiple allies dying and they’re too far apart to hit them both with a single thrown potion of healing and you don’t have a way to hit them all with Healing Word before their turns roll around. Spending a spell to heal mid-combat is rarely a good idea.
- : Basically Dominate Person for Celestials, Elementals, Fey, and Fiends.
- : Basically Disguise Self, but for your whole party. If you’re getting a lot of use out of Disguise Self, this lets you drag your party of non-casters along with you.
6th-Level Bard Spells
With a level cap of 12, 6th-level spells are the highest that we see in Baldur’s Gate 3, making them the most powerful spells that you can get.
: Exceptionally powerful. Turn it on and get a free save-or-suck every turn for a full minute.
- : The target drops their weapons, has Disadvantage on attacks and checks, flees, and can’t take Actions. This will provoke Opportunity Attacks from your allies, plus you can grab your target’s weapon(s) off the ground. The target does get to make additional saves to end the effect, but if they come back you can hit them with this again.
- : A gamble with a good payoff. Constitution saves tend to be high, but if this works your target is debuffed for a full minute.
- : Asleep for 10 rounds means that the target is done fighting until you decide to wake them up, usually with a big critical hit or by Shoving them off a cliff. If your target still isn’t dead, hit them with this again and put them back to sleep.
- : Turns melee-only enemies into easy targets. With a 10-round duration and no additional saves, this can completely remove the target from a fight. Hold Monster will frequently be sufficient and targets the same save, but not allowing repeated saves makes it easier to take an enemy out of a fight so that you can focus on other problems and have ample time to do so. Of course, this can’t compete with Eyebite.