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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?

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    \$\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 '14 at 0:13
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In the Public Playtest, which you can still get if you buy one of the D&D Next modules, called it 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.

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