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Based on the comments/answers from version 1.0, 2.0, and 2.5, I have updated features, dropped some, and moved others around. I'm including the (slightly edited) original intro, and have adjusted the text explaining the features to reflect the updated concepts. This should be the final form.


I am currently playing a bard in a campaign, but personally lack any musical talent. While it's not vital to actually sing in real life, I've noticed that some tables request, "What are you singing?" So 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 doesn'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. Also, there is no shortage of D&D jokes on the internet.

So I created a College of Comedy Bard. I'll also be adding one or more non-musical musical instruments to function as a spellcasting focus, like a megaphone or an "amplification wand." But that's not part of the scope of this question.

I also envision this being more of a support/spell character as opposed to a martial/weapon character.

Here is the feature set I created:

3rd level

College of Comedy

When you choose this college at 3rd level, you automatically learn Tasha's Hideous Laughter spell, and it does not count against the number of Spells Known. You can now upcast this spell, and increase the range by 5 feet for each slot level above 1st.

Tasha's Hideous Laughter (THL) is going to be a mainstay of the Comedy Bard. It will get more powered-up in the next round of Bardic College features. This adds a "Domain" spell and adds some range (30' + (8 level upcast * 5') = 70' max).

No heckling

You learn the Vicious Mockery cantrip, which doesn't count against the number of bard cantrips you know. If this is already a Bardic Known cantrip, you can learn a different bard cantrip of your choice.

When you make an attack roll and miss, you can cast Vicious Mockery as a Bonus Action. You do not need to target the same creature as the attack. Additionally, the number of attacks at disadvantage goes up as your level increases; the affected creature has disadvantage on two attacks at 5th level, three attacks at 11th level, and four attacks at 17th level. All disadvantage caused by casting this spell ends at the end of the target's next turn.

Another go-to spell is Vicious Mockery (VM), so I need to make sure the character has the spell.

In previous versions, this could be spammed every round the bard didn't have any better Bonus Action to do. Now it will only work if the bard's main attack fails making it situational, but handy. In the spirit of heckling, it's now a "comeback" spell. This also encourages the bard to take chances when attacking. If they hit with their primary attack, good for them. But now, on a miss, they have another trick up their sleeve.

Another point that has been brought up is that by level 5-6 a lot of creatures start having multiple attacks making the one-disadvantage-attack rider less and less useful. Now the spell levels up similar to most other attack cantrips.

Roast

When you succeed on a Charisma-based skill check against a single creature, you can expend one use of your Bardic Inspiration and inflict that creature with disadvantage on ability checks for 10 minutes.

Not only has the bard succeeded in the check, but in the process, they have degraded the spirit of the target. This was alternately supposed to be the level 14 feature, except the stakes were higher. It was a triangle between this, a bonus to medicine, and the I'm on a roll features about what to keep, and where they should be placed. I think by giving this out-of-combat bonus early it helps in creating a fuller play style for the bard; it's not all VM and THL.

6th Level

Laughter is contagious

When you cast Tasha's Hideous Laughter, you can expend one use of your Bardic Inspiration and target multiple creatures. All targets are considered independent in terms of saving throw, spell ending, and other spell effects.

When you cast this spell using a 1st-level spell slot, you can target any number of creatures you can see in a 20-foot cube. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the size of the cube increases 10 feet for every two slot levels above 1st. Additionally, when you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the spell lasts until dispelled or the target makes a successful saving throw, without requiring your concentration. Casting this spell again cancels any other instance of Tasha's Hideous Laughter that you have cast.

Originally, this was a feature the Bard got at 3rd level that would allow them to twin THL. One of the critiques in the previous versions was that when the bard reaches 5th-level, they would have access to other, better, battlefield control spells like fear, hypnotic pattern, and later confusion, that also need Concentration. This made the feature good when first acquired at 3rd level, but very low priority by 5th-6th level, even with the addition of You're killing it damage. Now, instead of the original two targets at level 3, we skip that and at level 6 the bard can pick and choose multiple targets.

Because this is still a 1st-level spell, I chose to start with a 20-foot cube as that is the area for a number of other status-affecting, 1st-level spells such as calm emotions (20' radius), entangle (20' square) and faerie fire (20' cube).

However, even with an AoE, it still seemed underpowered and would always lose the war against other Concentration spells. So I upped the ante: an increasable AoE and dropping the Concentration.

Now, along with an increased range, the scope of the effect increases with spell slot level: 20' at 1st, 30' at 3rd, 40' at 5th (plus no concentration), 50' at 7th, and 60' at 9th level. Which means at higher levels the bard can effect ground troops as well as high-flying creatures. I was going to have it increase by 5' every level, but decided to make it 10' every other level so the bard has to "commit" to widening the scope.

I used language similar to Major Image which also is a Concentration spell but allows upcasting to remove that requirement. So now, if the bard uses a 5th level slot or higher, and a Bardic Inspiration, they can cast THL and no longer worry about Concentration and can cast another battlefield spell next turn. But they cannot spam THL as casting it a second time will release all the creatures currently affected by the spell.

You're killing it

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

The second part of enhancing THL. It adds a little on-going damage to a spell that normally would discourage causing damage. I played around with half proficiency bonus, full proficiency bonus, and ability modifier - Ability modifier won out.

I wanted to make this as a bonus at level 3 when the bard first gets the spell, but with a potential of 4-5 hit points of damage a round, that would be too lethal at that low of a level (in my opinion).

I was going to limit this to only when using the Laughter is contagious feature, but without expending a Bardic Inspiration this would only target a single creature minimizing its potential. I also removed the phrase "while concentrating" as it is possible to have the spell active without concentration. Now it is whenever the spell is active.

Tough crowd

Your Countercharm feature gains the following benefit:

  • In the same radius, you can also suppress any effect causing one 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 change the selected target at the beginning of your turn each round you use the Countercharm feature.

This gives a boost to an otherwise lackluster feature. Basically, the Countercharm feature now has a benefit similar to the Calm Emotions spell: suppression of charm or frightened.

Originally, this had an element that would affect enemies also, but it was too easy to exploit out of combat due to unlimited tries and no repercussions from failing. It also suppressed fear/charm to any number of selected targets in the radius. I modified the benefit to a single creature as the possibility to remove fear/charm from a 30 foot radius for the cost of an Action (no Concentration, no spell slot, no Bardic Inspiration) seemed a bit much.

I added verbiage to clarify that you can change who was affected once each round, as well as selecting on whom they suppress the effect at the beginning of their turn. In testing, it created a loophole otherwise.

For instance, at the beginning of their turn the bard starts Countercharm and suppresses fear on Bob. With Bob clear headed, the bard could do something to help Bob "snap out of it" as a Free Action or a Bonus Action. Then, if the bard could change whom to suppress at the end of their turn, the bard can now change it to a new character. By making it at the beginning, there is no chance to help two people in the same turn.

14th Level

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.

I'm not a fan of copying someone else's work/feature, but it fits well with the theme.

At stated earlier, there was a triangle between this, a bonus to healing, and the Roast features about what to keep, and where they should be placed. I thought about leaving the boost to healing spell in, but the bonus was based on proficiency bonus, which is nearly maxed at this point, so it didn't feel right putting in a power that levels with the bard when they've almost done leveling.

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Still seems very elaborate

Level 3

You provide three features. Published Bard subclasses tend to have only two, College of Swords has 3, so high end but OK.

Thasha's Hideous Laughter (THL): Adding a known spell is not listed directly, but it seems this is no stronger than adding a spell and slot 1/day, which is worth 2 points on detect balance. The scaling for higher levels increases the utility without making it overpowered.

No heckling: A added cantrip is worth 2 points on detect balance.

Being able to cast it as a Bonus Action conditional on a miss: increases the overall damage output, with a typcial 35% miss chance, and 60% fail chance on saves, adds 0.5-2 expected damage per attack. Attacks are very common, and Detect Balance scores Advantage on common rolls with 8 points. Here you impose Disadvantage after about 20% of your attacks. This would be worth about 2 points intitally, and with multiple affected attacks, a multiple of that later.

Roast: maybe comparable to cutting words, with more duration and less in-combat application.

It seems power level here is roughly in line with a Lore Bard who gets 3 Skills, worth 8 points, and Cutting Words. I'm not sure about the disadvantage which feels quite strong, you should test it.

Level 6

You again provide 3 features. Nearly all published colleges have just one, College of Creation two. Many are very simple and short. Lore has one short paragraph, Valor has 2 lines of text. 3 is too many, I think. Elegance in design comes from simplicity.

Maybe the issue is that you are trying to overload Tasha's Hideous Laughter, to a point where the effect has not much in common with the simple first level spell it once was, with areas of effect, dropping concentration, extra range, psychic damage, etc. pp. I also think dropping concentration on an effect that possibly removes multiple opponents from combat is very dangerous.

Maybe do something simpler, like "You are Killing it" as a reskinned Hypnotic Pattern domain spell that has targets bend over in painful laughter and deals a bit psychic to soften them up?

Level 14

A reskinning of an existing level 14 college effect by definition should be balanced, if there are no broken interactions with other features. And this does fit the theme nicely.

I don't know if you have the stomach or interest to go through a 4th iteration, or just try yours as is and see how it goes. Have fun.

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