I decided to try to homebrew a 5e bard subclass. I was looking for a good mix of combat and charisma based roleplay abilities. I’m still in the early stages of the campaign, but I anticipate a pretty decent balance between combat and intrigue type scenarios. There is a clear campaign objective around some BBEG, and combat with his minions will feature heavily. At the same time, there is lots of political unrest related to the presence of BBEG, and this political unrest is related to my character and his backstory. In particular, the political ideologies described in the college description below are to play a major role in the narrative; my character attended this university and was exiled from the Vale, the elvish capital in our world.
For these reasons, I wanted to go for sort of a “best of both worlds” approach with respect to combat and political intrigue style roleplaying, but I’m looking for something roughly similar to other bardic colleges in terms of how powerful the subclass is.
The University in the Vale has one of the finest Arts programs in Animosia. By day, their students are trained in all manner of skills befitting the bardic profession. But not all is as its seems.
Forged in the dimly lit seedy basements of residence halls and fraternity houses, political extremists train warriors of both weapon and word. These students are versed both in the art of speech craft and the art of bloodshed. Liberty is their cause, and they see both words and warfare as a means to this end. Their rhetorical tact is usually their preferred means of achieving their ideals, but deeply rooted in their ideology is the reality that often, blood is the price of freedom.
Flavoring. Not a part of balance.
When you take this College at 3rd level, you gain expertise in Deception and Persuasion, and proficiency with the Forgery Kit.
The only balance issues I anticipate here is the Bard taking four expertise at level 3 and two more at level 10. Edit: After reading Leuku's homebrew class guide, I think these should read something like "add double your proficiency bonus" rather than saying "expertise". From a narrative standpoint, Deception and Persuasion are the two skills most crucial to students of this college, and Forgery is just those two things, but written down.
Starting at 3rd level, you have gained an acute awareness of your body language. As an action you may expend one use of Bardic Inspiration and select one creature that can see you within 30 feet. For the next 10 minutes, you have advantage on Charisma based skill checks against the creature.
I think this one is balanced out by the next feature also being tied to Bardic Inspiration.
Starting at 3rd level, you have learned to imbue your strikes with lingering necrotic effects. If a weapon attack you make during your turn hits a creature, you may expend one use of your bardic inspiration to gain the following effect: At the start of its turn, the target must make a Constitution Saving throw with a DC equal to your spell save DC. On a failed save, the target takes 1d6 Necrotic damage. This effect continues until the target succeeds the saving throw, and the save DC decreases by 2 each subsequent turn.
The Necrotic damage increases when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to 2d6 at 6th level, 3d6 at 10th level, and 4d6 at 14th level.
This one seems more powerful than the College of Swords ability, but almost certainly less powerful than the College of Whispers ability. I think having both level 3 abilities tied to bardic inspiration helps to balance things out.
Edit: After working out the math behind this one, at 3rd level, against a creature with +0 to CON saves and a spell save DC of 14, the extra damage averages out to 3.36, which is only slightly higher than the College of Swords expected damage. So this one doesn't become noticeably more powerful than the College of Swords until the damage gets scaled up at levels 6, 10, and 14. What potentially breaks the balance of this ability is the progressively increasing spells save DC: At 14th level, a CHA 20 character would have a spell save DC of 18, together with the 4d6 damage, gives this an average extra damage of 27, which is a bit more than the College of Whispers ability which maxes out at 8d6 for an average of 24 damage. I reworked some of my math, I was misrepesenting the spell save DC of CHA 20 14th level Bard. This seems to be right one track with the College of Whispers, eventually maxing out at 31.9 with spell save DC of 19 (creature CON save modifier +0).
Starting at 6th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.
Already two existing Colleges that give this at 6th level, can't be that broken, right?
Undeniably Compelling Rhetoric
Starting at 14th level, you have mastered the art of rhetoric. Once per day, you may cast the spell Glibness without expending an 8th level spell slot.
I'm not sure about this one. It gives Glibness, an 8th level spell one level early - the earliest the Bard can take Glibness is 15th level. So it frees up that 8th level spell slot for an upcast, a second casting of glibness, or taking a different 8th level spell entirely. Also, I'm not sure how much more powerful Glibness is made when used in tandem with Charming Gesture above.
Thanks for taking the time to read it over.
Edit: Here is a graph with table of Bleeding Strike vs. College of Whispers Psychic Blades average extra damage. These numbers are calculated with a targets CON save of +0, so higher bonuses for the target creature will reduce the effectiveness (23.4 max average damage at +2 CON, 17.3 at +4). So I conclude that on average, this ability is going to be slightly weaker than CoW Psychic Blades. This also assumes my characters plan for ASIs, YMMV depending on when you take ASIs toward charisma. In particular, my Bard takes a feat at 4th and a +2 DEX ASI at 8th, taking +2 CHA from 18 to 20 at 12th level.