My RPG group is made up of players who had all played either 2nd or 3rd edition before, where bards had a combat-bonus ability significantly different than what's in D&D 5. In both older versions, the bard was able to grant a combat bonus to all of its allies within earshot.

This was significantly changed for 5e, with bards instead being able to give their allies a "bonus die" which can only be used on a single roll. The bonus is so different from what everyone's used to that, so far, no one's actually used the bardic inspiration die to modify a roll.

Based on statements like this answer to "What changed between the playtest and 5e?", it seems like for at least part of the playtest bards had a significantly different ability. While we wait for whatever optional rule is (hopefully) in the DMG, can someone describe in broad strokes what the 5e "bardic performance" was like?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't expect an optional rule for this in the DMG. A variation on a class feature isn't the sort of thing that's likely to appear there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Sep 22, 2014 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman unless we refer to the death cleric or oathbreaker paladin examples...😎 \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2020 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


In the Public Playtest, which you can still get if you buy one of the D&D Next modules, it is called Bardic Performance. There were two abilities under Bardic Performance: Call to Battle and Inspire Competence.

Call to Battle allowed the Bard and his allies within 25 feet to add a d4 for damage. The die increased at higher levels.

Inspire Competence allowed the Bard's allies to add the Bard's proficiency bonus to one chosen ability check.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting; that has changed. What Call to Battle looks like is similar to the Cleric's spell bless \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2020 at 15:48

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