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I haven't updated this in a while so I thought I would post my latest revision. Based on the comments/answers from version 1.0, 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0, 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. Hopefully, this will be the last revision.


I was playing a bard in a campaign, but I 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 doesn't focus on musical instruments or songs. To that end, I did see the "College of Eloquence" in Tasha's, but it isn't quite what I was looking for. I wanted someone more akin to a stand-up comedian. They are used to things being thrown at them, being liked and unliked at the same time, and bringing 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.

Tasha's Hideous Laughter (THL) is a mainstay of the Comedy Bard. And unlike previous versions of this college, it is just going to stay vanilla.

No hecklers

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 instead of an 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 up to two attacks at 5th level, up to three attacks at 11th level, and up to 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).

In the last version, 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. But it also has an anti-stacking clause so the character cannot target a creature that only has a single attack and inflict disadvantage for multiple rounds.

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. I think this out-of-combat bonus helps in creating a fuller play style for the bard; it's not all VM and THL.

6th Level

You're killing it

As an Action, you can expend one use of your Bardic Inspiration on yourself and affect any number of creatures of your choice, up to the character's proficiency bonus, within a 30-foot radius that can hear the bard. Each target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or fall prone laughing, becoming incapacitated and unable to stand up for one minute. A creature with an Intelligence score of 4 or less, or immune to charm, isn't affected.

At the start of an affected creature's turn, it takes your spellcasting ability modifier (minimum of 1) in psychic damage. At the end of an affected creature's turn, and each time it takes damage other than from this feature's psychic damage, the target can make another Wisdom saving throw. On a success, the spell ends for that creature.

Using this feature again immediately ends the effects on any affected creatures.

Originally, this was a bunch of souping up of the THL spell. But it was always shot down for competing with battlefield control spells like fear, hypnotic pattern, and confusion, that also need Concentration. It was also too complicated with changing sizes, maybe Concentration, maybe not, and other tweaks. The damage was broken off into a companion features but people would say that having three features at level 6 was too many (most archetypes only have one, or maybe two). Now:

  • It is just a feature, not a spell.
  • There is no Concentration so it's a good first-turn feature to use.
  • You can't use it every round targeting more creatures. If the character tries using it again before the initial duration is up, anyone still affected is no longer incapacitated, will not take automatic damage on their turn, and can stand up.

I will probably have to tweak the language a bit to make it read correctly. So I'm open to better phrasing as well as "does this work" as a feature.

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.

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.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm assuming at least someone has mentioned this before, but the existing bard subclasses already don't require music specifically. It's kind of the "default" flavour of the bard, but not the only one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Feb 10, 2023 at 7:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ The College of Creation has the song of creation, the College of Glamour give you "the ability to weave a song of fey magic", so I wouldn't say all archetypes don't require music. But even dropping those, all bard's need to use a musical instrument for their spell focus. And once again, you can step away from music by using components, but I'm trying to get away from music as much as the class will allow. That's why I want to also create a non-musical musical instrument for a spell focus. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Feb 10, 2023 at 16:06

1 Answer 1

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Compared to existing subclasses.

3rd level

College of Comedy - an extra spell expands bard's repertoire of spells, that is limited. It can be quite impactful at low-levels, when you get it and less, as you level up. None of existing subclasses adds spells to bard's list. So, I'd rate it as 4/5 ability, compared to rest. (Also, you may want to add some sentence about what happens if character already knows THL at 3rd level)

No hecklers - it's another expansion of bard's repertoire, giving a cantrip (and bard's list of cantrips is very limited), with an additional increase of bard's damaging potential, controlling enemies and an extra usage of bonus action. While there are subclassed that give bards extra cantrips (college of spirits), none of them adds that much functionality. So, I'd rate it as 5/5 ability. (And especially if it would be combined with multiple attacks, like with a dip into warlock and using eldrith blast)

Roast - pretty nice ability, if used as intended. But, RAW, no one stops you from telling a joke to your opponent in combat or, as it's suggested in rules - 'convincing street thugs to back down from a confrontation' with intimidation. And in some situation it can be really useful. It's really situational ability. In most of official adventures it would be, probably, rated as 1/5, due to low number of social encounters followed by opponents doing ability checks. In some social-focused adventure - it would be 3/5. If abused and/or spammed actively - 4/5. (And, also, initiative is ability check, so if party can fast talk enemies at least for a bit - bard can perform some bad comedy every round to ensure that most of enemies start with disadvantage)

In general - 3rd level abilities feel quite powerful. Also, most of Colleges have an ability at 3rd level that somehow works with bardic inspiration - which is VERY limited resource, since it's based on ability modifier and restores at long rests (at 3rd level). None of abilities that this college gives at 3rd level are tied to any resource.

6th level

You are killing it - a mass-control (3-5 targets) non-spell (can't be countered or resisted), non-concentration (can't be stopped early with a hit to the bard) ability that disables enemies and harms them - though harming is insignificant. While other subclasses at 6th level get extra attacks or ability to make other creatures understand you. Closest to that feature is Mantle of Majesty from College of Glamour that allows to cast Command as bonus action for a minute once per long-rest. In most of official adventures - it would be over the top ability. 5/5 power-wise, compared to the rest.

Tough crowd - a nice effect, expanding existing bard's ability. May need some work on the wording. I'd rate it as 2/5 - in my experience - charm and fear effect are not that often, plus there are multiple ways to protect from them that don't require spending an action every turn.

None of bard subclasses have two features at level 6. So, while one of them is not that powerful - it's still quite powerful level.

14th level

I'm on a roll - well, it's Infectious Inspiration, which is a good ability, so 3.5/5 power-wise and, mostly, because you are likely to be hoarding usages of inspiration for 6th level ability and lack 'unfailing inspiration' of College of Eloquence.

Summary

College is quite powerful, compared to others. I'd rate it as, probably, the best for combat-focused adventures and mediocore for social once. Balance-wise - I'd say that 'You are killing it' and 'No hecklers' feel a bit too powerful, compared to what other bards get.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Calling You are killing it a mere 5/5 seems to be underselling it. If Bardic Inspiration remained a daily resource, it would be really good, but not game-breaking. But with Font of Inspiration this is typically a 4+ times per short rest ability by the time you get it. You can't have it running concurrently with other uses, but if the number of affected opponents drops low enough, eh, top it up, there's no shortage. It's similar to Hypnotic Pattern, but 1) Does damage (better), 2) You can't shake someone out of it (better), 3) Ally friendly (better) 4) Provides a save each turn (worse). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2023 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was tempted to mark it as 6/5, yes. Though I was thinking about it as of Hold Person cast with high level slot that deals some little damage in addition to other effects. The only thing that stopped me is that damaging enemy allows them extra saves, meaning that it creates complications for the rest of party, stopping them from using area spells and giving enemies a way to snap their companions out of it. Also, since it's, obviously, charm effect - some races have resistance, animals are not affected and so on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarge
    Feb 21, 2023 at 16:43

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