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I wanted to play a bard, but personally lack any musical talent. While it's not vital to actually sing in real life, it got me thinking that there should be a College that focuses more on the spoken word rather than some sort of musical instrument. To that end, I did see the "College of Eloquence" in Tasha's, but that also didn't sit right. I wanted someone more akin to a stand-up comedian. They are used to things being thrown at them, liked and unliked at the same time, and bring levity to even the darkest of times.

So I created a College of Comedy Bard. I have only started the play testing so it might be a little rough. I'll also be adding one or more non-musical musical instruments to work as a spellcasting focus, like a megaphone. But that's not part of the scope of this question.

Here is the feature set I created:

3rd level

College of Comedy

When you choose this college at 3rd level, you gain the Vicious Mockery cantrip if you don't already know it. If Vicious Mockery is a Bardic Known Cantrip, you may learn another bard cantrip instead. This cantrip doesn't count against the number of bard cantrips you know.

One of the core features is an enhancement to Vicious Mockery (VM), so I need to make sure the character has the spell. But I don't want to punish the player by making them wait until 3rd level to get the Cantrip. I think this is a good compromise so that if the player chose VM at 1st level, they can now get a different Cantrip instead; net result the same as having waited. I also included a clause that you had to have learned the Cantrip from being a Bard, so gaining the spell via feats like Magic Initiate or Spell Sniper do not allow the player to swap around spells.

Have you heard the one about...

You automatically learn Tasha's Hideous Laughter spell, and it doesn't count against the number of Spells Known.

The other mainstay of the bard. Tasha's Hideous Laughter (THL) will get a power-up in a future feature. All this does is add another "Domain" spell.

No heckling

You can cast Vicious Mockery as a Bonus Action.

Just a simple but handy update. VM is going to be a mainstay of the Comedy Bard. It will compete with Bardic Inspiration (BI) for Bonus Action so I don't see anything game breaking about this enhancement. Since this is a Cantrip it can be cast in the same round as other spells, but it's power is minimal. I equate it on par with choosing two-handed fighting.

Laughter is contagious

When you use a spell slot to cast Tasha's Hideous Laughter, you can use a Bardic Inspiration to twin the spell. The second target must be within 5' of the original target, and the each target is considered independent in terms of saving throw, spell ending, and so on. You cannot combine this feature with any other feature, effect, or magic item that would twin or duplicate the spell.

I think I need to improve the wording, but the gist is there. There are a lot of limiters to this to keep it from being over powering. One, they must use a spell slot, so this cannot be from a Ring of Spell Storing, or anything that would would let them cast the spell for free. Two, it uses a BI to keep the spamming to a minimum. Lastly, it clearly points out that this cannot be twinned again in any way. I want to prevent the argument of a Sorcerer/Bard casting THL, and since it only effect one target, using a Sorcerer Point to twin it to effect two targets, and then using BI to twin it again to effect four targets. Since this is already a Concentration spell, the character should never be able to effect more than two creatures at the same time.

6th Level

Can't stop me

You can still cast spells with verbal components inside the effect of a Silence spell or spell-like effect.

This is probably the most controversial feature, and I'm willing to substitute it out. The theory is that no matter what is thrown at the bard, they just won't shut up.

The alternate would be something akin to the second feature of a Necklace of Adaptation; advantage on saving throws on gases and vapors. Too many nights in a smoke-filled room makes their lungs stronger kind of vibe. I think that since this scenario is very situational it can have a little more "umph". You're not going to go against spellcasters with silence, or be attacked by gases on a regular basis.

You're killing it

For the initial casting, and each subsequent round you concentrate on Tasha's Hideous Laughter, the target(s) take your spellcasting ability modifier (minimum of 1) in psychic damage. This damage does not trigger a saving throw to break the spell.

A power up of THL. It just adds a little on-going damage to a Concentration spell that normally would discourage causing damage. Something akin to Hunger of Hadar. I played around with half proficiency bonus, full proficiency bonus, and ability modifier - Ability modifier won out.

Tough crowd

Your Countercharm feature gains the following benefits:

  • You can also suppress any effect causing a friendly creature to be charmed or frightened. When this performance ends, any suppressed effect resumes, provided that its duration has not expired in the meantime.
  • You can choose one hostile creature in the same 30 foot radius. This creature must make a Charisma saving throw against your spell casting DC or become indifferent about creatures of your choice that it is hostile toward. This indifference ends if the target is attacked or harmed by a spell or if it witnesses any of its friends being harmed. When the performance ends, the creature becomes hostile again, unless the DM rules otherwise.

Basically, the Countercharm feature now includes some benefits of the Calm Emotions spell: suppression of charm and frightened, and the ability to calm one creature. This will only work for the round that Bard uses the feature.

My initial concern was that this feature does not require Concentration, whereas the spell does. The alternate to this would just give the Calm Emotions spell as a once-per-long-rest spell that doesn't use a spell slot.

14th Level

Laughter is the best medicine

When you use a spell slot to cast a spell that heals, each target also heals the Bard's proficiency bonus in addition to any other bonus.

Bard's get access to most all of the standard healing spells so I figured it would be a good match. When called upon to be support/healer, this would make the target feel just a little bit better. At this late stage of the game, an extra 5-6 hp should not swing the scales too far, but can be just the boost to keep someone standing.

I'm on a roll

When you successfully inspire someone, you can't help but spread laughter. When a creature within 60 feet of you adds one of your Bardic Inspiration dice to its ability check, attack roll, or saving throw and the roll succeeds, you can use your reaction to inspire a different creature (other than yourself) that can hear you within 60 feet of you, giving it a Bardic Inspiration die without expending any of your Bardic Inspiration uses.

You can use this reaction a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of once), and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

This is verbatim of the Eloquence Bard's Infectious Inspiration.

Let me know if this is a reasonably playable sub-class.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Question about No Heckling, is it your intent to be able to cast vicious mockery with a Bonus Action or an Action, so that it can be done twice in a turn? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 7 at 20:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Love all of this. But you missed an opportunity to create a spell or ability called "Roast" or "Sick Burn." Just sayin'. \$\endgroup\$
    – BprDM
    Feb 7 at 20:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, I put the feature names into the quote blocks as h4 headers as I found it to much more readable that way. Feel free to revert if you dont like it. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 7 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BprDM, if it turns out that the subclass needs a little more, I'm sure I can add a little flame damage somewhere \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Feb 7 at 22:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I love the naming of your features. Great job there. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8 at 18:28

2 Answers 2

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Good in Tier 1, underpowered in Tier 2+

No Heckling

This feature doubles the amount of disadvantage you can hand out on turns where you'd normally just cast a cantrip. It also allows you to make a weapon attack and still throw out vicious mockery. No Heckling is quite strong in Tier 1, but less interesting in Tier 2+:

  • Monsters usually scale by adding more attacks (rather than a single big attack). This makes vicious mockery fall off in usefulness as Multiattack enters play.
  • Weapon attacks from non-martial bards also fall off rapidly, often replaced by 1st or 2nd level spells (which prevent you from using No Heckling). At level 5, would you rather shoot a crossbow for around 6 damage, or force a Wisdom save for 10 + an opportunity attack from the barbarian (via dissonant whispers)?
  • Bardic Inspiration competes for a bonus action, particularly at level 5+ when it recharges after a short rest.

Laughter is Contagious

Tasha's hideous laughter is a decent hard control spell for Tier 1 bards, mostly because it's the only generic one. Monster HP rapidly outpaces sleep. Hold person requires the same save for a much more lethal effect, but only works on humanoids. Suggestion has a ton of caveats and DM discretion.

Doubling the number of targets is a big boost to the spell's effectiveness, though the 5 foot requirement is highly restrictive. An upcast hold person requires that all targets be within 30 feet of each other and I frequently find that generous restriction too limiting.

And now for the elephant in the room: at level 5+, a twinned Tasha's hideous laughter needs to compete with fear and hypnotic pattern for concentration. This problem only gets worse as the number of spell slots increases. By level 9, the bard has seven spell slots of 3rd level or higher, many of which will be used for concentration spells.

Can't Stop Me

I just don't see this coming up very often. Even if it does (and you can't simply move out of the radius), hypnotic pattern is a fantastic spell that doesn't require verbal components.

You're Killing It

This shares shortcomings with Laughter is Contagious. You have to forgo hypnotic pattern and fear to use this, and I don't see it being worth the trade-off.

Tough Crowd

The first bullet point of this feature means Countercharm is actually usable! There are very few anti-charmed/frightened effects that protect an area. This won't come up every session, but when it does, it'll be extremely useful.

The second bullet point may have some out-of-combat issues. Countercharm has unlimited uses, so you could spam the Charisma save against a captured creature until it failed. The creature would then be indifferent until the bard got bored of using Countercharm. I would recommend granting a creature immunity for a minute (or an hour) on a successful saving throw.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

This seems fine. It's comparable to a Life cleric's Disciple of Life - lower level spells heal more than Disciple of Life; higher level spells heal less.

I'm on a Roll

Infectious Inspiration is a powerful (but balanced) feature for 14th level. This feature and Laughter is the Best Medicine certainly improve things, but the earlier features are rarely used at this level, leaving the subclass underpowered overall.


Potential fix for Laughter is Contagious

At higher levels, Tasha's hideous laughter must compete with fear, hypnotic pattern, and other fantastic spells for concentration. This is a critical balancing feature, preventing buff/debuff stacking. However, a single-target control spell with repeated saving throws might be weak enough to justify the following feature (replacing Laughter is Contagious):

When you use a spell slot to cast Tasha's hideous laughter, you can expend one use of your Bardic Inspiration to change its duration to 1 minute for this casting (no longer requiring concentration). When you do so, any other instance of Tasha's hideous laughter that you have cast using this feature ends.

This effectively allows you to target one creature with Tasha's hideous laughter without requiring concentration. You still get something like a twinned effect over the course of two turns, since you can cast the spell normally (with concentration) to target a second creature.

Anything that removes concentration should be watched closely for balance concerns, though I believe that this spell and feature have enough built-in caveats to keep things from getting out of hand.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've added the line for limiting uses of I'm on a Roll. Sorry, bad cut and paste. It should have been there. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Feb 8 at 5:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott All good - that's what I figured; I just wanted to be sure. I've adjusted my assessment and added in a potential fix for Laughter is Contagious. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Feb 8 at 17:37
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None of the individual features seems broken (with one exception). But you've included nine features for a subclass (ten, if you count both parts of Tough Crowd), which is too many since bard subclasses normally get four to five. Most of the features are pretty good, so I don't think you can make an argument that your ten features are the equivalent of some other subclass's four.

Most obviously, your fourteenth-level thing is a verbatim copy of the Eloquence Bard's fourteenth-level thing, plus a whole bonus feature that is similar to the main ability of the Life Domain. This seems strictly better than what the Eloquence Bard gets, so it's hard to describe that as balanced.


College of Comedy: every bard I've ever seen has chosen the vicious mockery cantrip already, so it seems odd to worry that a bard that was planning on this college might not have taken that cantrip. You're basically just saying "gain an extra bard cantrip". And this is fine.

Have You Heard: gaining an extra spell is fine.

No Heckling: seems abusable, but honestly Vicious Mockery damage is low, and the existence of monsters with multiattack makes it not very powerful. Making it a bonus action is good, but not broken.

Laughter Is Contagious: this is very strong -- it doubles the power of something you were probably going to do anyway. Still not broken, exactly.

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Can't Stop Me: I don't see this as a big issue. I compare it to the Sorcerer Subtle Spell metamagic, which also lets you cast within an area of silence, and which most people don't bother taking because silence doesn't happen that often. (I went and checked, and these two guides both rate Subtle Spell as bad.)

You're Killing It: this will do some good damage, but Tasha's Hideous Laughter gives a save every round anyway, so it won't last that long. Good, but not broken.

Tough Crowd Part One: appears to be broken. The bard can do a countercharm every turn if they want; there's no limit. As written, you could choose one monster and crowd-control it every turn forever, targeting its probably-awful CHA save. The line about the effect ending early doesn't matter if your initiative is immediately before the monster's, or if you ready an action to crowd control it immediately before its turn. A good start to fixing this would be to limit it to once per enemy, or once per short rest.

Tough Crowd Part Two: this is a pretty significant upgrade. Frighten and charm effects aren't super common, but this completely shuts them off if the bard is willing to spend his action negating them. Good, and borderline broken.

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Laughter Is The Best Medicine: a little bit better than the Life Domain power -- you've written that you weren't sure what size bonus to use, and you might consider copying that power.

I'm On A Roll: this is okay, and certainly not broken.


My recommendation: choose four of the above powers and you'll have a good subclass. Maybe five. But not ten.

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