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Bard Sorcerer Multiclass Guide for Dungeons and Dragons 5e

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Bard Sorcerer Multiclass Guide for Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Born to Rock

Bards are magical performers, jacks of all trades who can inspire their comrades and humiliate their enemies using magical secrets. Sorcerers come from innately arcane lineages, their very blood flows with explosive and barely contained power. Put them together and we have rock royalty, with passion and power flowing through their blood and their music. Grab your sheet music and get ready to work some metamagic as we go through everything you need to know. 


Why Play a Bard Sorcerer Multiclass?

In Dungeons & Dragons, bards and sorcerers are both Charisma based spellcasters, and by combining the bard’s huge spell list with the sorcerer’s metamagic we can create some truly unique effects. The bard is one of the most versatile classes in the game, and the sorcerer’s greatest strength is spellcasting power. Together we can open up that raw power in new and interesting ways. We aren’t stretched on ability scores, and we can get a lot of the utility out of just a level dip.


What are the Downsides?

Sorcerers rely on their spell points, which go up with sorcerer levels rather than character level. Bardic inspirations don’t get particularly strong until a 5th bard level, and while sorcerers do get bloodline abilities at 1st level most of them really need their 6th level feature to shine. All this adds up to a dual class that can get a lot of utility out of a dip but struggles to get the most out of each class without a massive level split between the primary class and secondary class. Beyond that, the core features of both classes don’t really interact much from a mechanical perspective, and without careful building we’ll likely end up as a bad bard and a bad sorcerer rather than something better than the sum of its parts.

Finally, as with every other multiclassing option, we’re going to be reaching our mid-tier class options later and not reaching high-level features like 9th level spells or capstones at all. Anticipate at least a few levels where we feel behind our single class allies before the builds kick in.


When Does a Bard / Sorcerer “Kick In”?

We have a couple variations, but most will rely on a core of at least 3 bard levels and at least 3 sorcerer levels, and the earliest I’d call a bard sorcerer “kicked in” would be 6th level. However, a lot of our strategies will get substantially stronger once we hit the sorcerer’s 6th level bloodline feature which will mean kicking in at 9th level.


What Class Features Do We Care About?

We’re either just going to dip a level or two or go for a major split depending on the build. Let’s go through each class feature that’ll apply to at least one of those builds. 

Significant Bard Features

  • Bardic Inspiration. The core unique feature of the bard requires a high Charisma (for a number of uses). As a bonus action, you get to provide a “bardic inspiration die” to one of your allies, a d6 (which improves at later levels) they can add to a d20 roll. Normally you use this for a player buff, but depending on what route we go there may be even more options for us.
  • Spellcasting. Mixing spellcasting classes is a bit weird mechanically and we’ll get that in a bit but for now know that access to the bard spell list gives us extra options and spell slots we can use. Importantly for us, you can use an instrument as your spellcasting focus for bard spells, but you don’t have to. This means we can use the same focus for both our bard and sorcerer spells.
  • Expertise. This lets us add double our proficiency bonus on a couple chosen skills. This is always generically useful but depending on how we want to work the build it can be incredibly useful.
  • Font of Inspiration. We gain this at 5th level and it’s essentially an upgrade to our bardic inspirations. With font of inspiration, we regain our bardic inspirations on a short rest instead of on a long rest. This lets us use them a lot more freely and in most campaigns, you’ll be able to do an inspiration essentially every round without fear of running out.
  • Bardic College. We have a few major directions to take and they take a lot from specific bard colleges. We’ll get into them more in a second but for now know that we value these college selections.


Significant Sorcerer Features

  • Sorcerous Origin. Sorcerers pick their archetype at 1st level, which makes sense since it’s a magical power you’re born with. We’ll mostly be evaluating the features they gain at 1st level but there are also some 6th level boons worth considering.
  • Spellcasting. Sorcerers are a full spontaneous spellcasting class. This means we know a limited number of spells but aren’t limited to a prepared list. Sorcerers know comparatively few spells but make up for it with more spell slots which lends them towards blaster casting over utility casting.
  • Font of Magic. This is one big feature that covers our sorcery points. The short version is that we get a pool of points based on our sorcerer level that we can spend on either gaining back spell slots, or on modifying our spells once we get the metamagic feature. 
  • Metamagic. Gained at 3rd level, we get to pick 2 “metamagics” that are options on how to modify our spells using our sorcery points. As is often the case, the metamagic option we’ll likely use the most is quickened spell, which will let us abuse our sword spells multiple times in a turn. If we aren’t going for melee, twinned spell is also fantastic for multiplying our damage output. 


Bard / Sorcerer Ability Scores

One of the nice things about this multiclass character choice is that we really don’t have to make compromises and can take essentially the same ability scores as if we were any other sorcerer or bard.

Charisma is the obvious choice for our highest ability score pick. All our bard and sorcerer features run on Charisma, and we want it as high as possible.

Next, we need Dexterity. If you go for the more melee focused build, you may actually want to tie this for the 1st high score spot, but otherwise it can sit comfortably in 2nd place.

And then the only score left we actually care about is Constitution. Not only for hit points but also for helping to concentrate on spells.

And that’s it! Strength, Wisdom, and Intelligence don’t factor into our builds at all, and we can freely dump them.

Bard / Sorcerer Equipment

The first thing to address is the instrument. Despite popular belief, bards don’t actually need to use an instrument to cast their spells, they just have the option. This means we want to take a typical arcane focus like a wand or orb, since that can be used to cast both our bard spells and our sorcerer spells.

For armor, we get light armor proficiency from bard and even medium armor proficiency if we end up going with the college of swords. However, for the melee route we might pick up the draconic sorcerer which will likely make the built-in armor from draconic resilience our best armor option. This will make studded leather our best light armor option for most builds and either half-plate or our dragon skin the best option for most melee builds.

Finally, for weaponry we need to keep one hand open for our spellcasting focus, which means we want a solid 1-handed weapon for the other. Thankfully the bard gets proficiency with rapiers, which are by far our best option as a 1-handed finesse weapon that can take advantage of our high Dexterity.


Which Class Should I Start With?

The short answer is start with bard. Bards have great starting skill proficiency options, light armor, a smattering of good weapons, and 3 musical instruments. One caveat to this is if you’re going with a build that heavily relies on concentration spells, you’ll want to start with sorcerer instead since sorcerers get proficiency in Constitution saves. 


How does Multiclass Spellcasting Work?

When you mix spellcasting classes things get a little messy. The easy part is the spells you know. Your known and prepared spells don’t mix whatsoever for every combination of class levels. If you’re a 3rd level bard and a 4th level sorcerer, you’ll know all the spells of a 3rd level bard and a 4th level sorcerer.

The spell slots are the confusing bit. In the back of the basic rules, you can find a table called “Multiclass Spellcaster” that shows you your spell slots by your combined levels in spellcasting classes. Thankfully both bard and sorcerer are “full” spellcasters, so you don’t have to recalculate any spell levels or caster levels. Essentially, you’ll have the same amount of spell slots as if you were fully leveling up in either class, we just take a roundabout way to get there.

When it comes to actually casting your spells, we’re thankfully playing two Charisma based spellcasters, which means we use the same attack modifiers and spell DCs for all our spells. 

Finally, you need an arcane focus (orb, staff, whatever other magical thing you feel like) in your hand to cast both your bard and your sorcerer spells. Bards can cast their spells using an instrument but only their bard spells, which means we’re best off just using a wand or similar as trying to trade between a staff and a banjo is a bad idea. 


Bard / Sorcerer Multiclass Builds

Let’s go through some potential options for this class combination.


Madness Queen

Our goal here is to become a mischievous queen of fey madness, beguiling and commanding her enemies to tear each other apart.

To accomplish this, we start by taking 3 levels of sorcerer and selecting the aberrant mind bloodline (not essential but the telepathic speech fits thematically and has some good bloodline spells). Next, we need a whopping 6 levels of bard selecting the college of glamour, and all our later levels should go into sorcerer for more sorcery points.

We get access to quite a bit of spellcasting, but we want to focus on the 2nd level spell crown of madness. Crown of madness is a long range (120 ft) charm effect that forces the target to make a melee attack against a creature of your choosing at the start of their turns. Notably, they only get to repeat this save on the end of their turns, not when they take damage like a lot of other charm effects.

The first way we want to break crown of madness is simple. We spend some sorcery points and use the metamagic twinned spell to target two different creatures instead of just one. Because of how twinned spell is worded, you’re still only concentrating on a single spell, it just also targets an additional creature.

Next, we get to the reason we needed all those bard levels, and that’s the 6th level college of glamour feature mantle of majesty. Mantle of majesty lets us cloak ourselves in fey magic for a minute, and during that minute we can cast the spell command as a bonus action for free without using a spell slot. This is already fantastic for us, but it gets better as we get this little tacked on feature saying that if the target of our command spells is already charmed, they get no saving throw

So why is this so good? One of the biggest downsides to crown of madness is that the enemies can simply split up. The mad target only attacks their friends if they start their turn next to them, otherwise they’re free to take their turn as normal. But what if we commanded them on our turns to go chase down or hug their friends? And since crown of madness also charms the target, what if they couldn’t make a saving throw?

Imagine this setup. We cast and twin crown of madness from 120 feet away to charm two of our enemies that are now forced to attack their allies. They spread out to avoid this, so we use mantle of majesty to force them right back together to keep swinging away instead of attacking your party. And if they ever manage to save against the crown after wasting their turns, simply recast it and keep commanding away with no saving throw as a bonus action!


Shadow Duelist

With this build we take advantage of a combination of spells to turn us into a nightmarish melee duelist that charges in from the darkness with a burning blade of shadows. We’re essentially relying on the old power combo of green-flame blade and shadow blade as a charisma spellcasting fighter but with a bit of extra damage and spice.

To accomplish this, we start with 3 levels of sorcerer (we really want the constitution save) taking the shadow magic bloodline. We also need to make sure we pick up the cantrip damage spell green-flame blade and the 2nd level spell shadow blade from our sorcerer spell options. Next, we need at least 3 levels of bard taking the college of swords picking the dueling fighting style. After which I recommend 1 extra level of sorcerer to pick up an additional sorcery point and the ASI, after which all future levels go to bard.

So how does this work? Firstly, the shadow magic bloodline gives us access to the darkness spell and lets us cast it for 2 sorcery points. This alternate casting comes with an amazing benefit of letting us see in our own darkness so long as we use the sorcery points. So long as we're in our magic darkness, we get advantage on attacks against them, and they'll have disadvantage on attacks against us.

Next, we have the spell shadow blade. For a bonus action, we summon a shadowy blade into our hand with the finesse, light, and thrown properties, that does a whopping 2d8 (more with higher spell slots) psychic damage as a baseline. Importantly and unlike other similar “summon a magic weapon” spells, the shadow blade counts as an actual weapon we can make attacks with, rather than a weird spell attack. This importantly means we can use it as a part of casting the sword cantrip green-flame blade. Green-flame blade (and also booming blade) is one of the weird cycle of “sword cantrips” that basically pile on some extra magic damage to a melee weapon attack. Green-flame starts as just our Charisma mod in extra damage to a nearby target, but once we hit 5th level it becomes 1d8 damage to the target and 1d8 + our Charisma mod to the nearby target. It counts as “casting a spell” but uses the melee attack as part of casting the spell. We can even do both shadow blade and green-flame blade in the same turn, since shadow blade is a bonus action casting, and green-flame blade is a cantrip with an action casting.

Now that we have the fundamental combo, we start tacking on even more damage. First is easy, with a spellcasting focus in one hand and our shadow blade in the other, we get the +2 damage from the dueling fighting style. Next, we have the blade flourishes and specifically slashing flourish from college of swords. When we hit we can roll our bardic inspiration die (a d6 until later) and deal that much extra damage to our target and up to one guy standing next to them!

 Finally, we need to discuss shadow blade’s little extra caveat, so long as we’re in darkness or dim light, we make attacks with the shadow blade at advantage! Normally we have to rely on the environment for this, but with access to the darkness spell we can basically always ensure that we’re swinging with advantage.

Let’s set this up as a 6th level character. So, at the beginning of combat, we can use our sorcery points to cast magical darkness and then run inside it, safe knowing that we can see our enemies and they’ll be swinging back with disadvantage due to the “blindness”. Next turn, we cast our shadow blade as a 3rd level spell and use our action to use the shadow blade to cast green-flame blade. Our swing is at advantage, and on hit we use our slashing flourish for extra damage. Adding up all the damage, we’re dealing 28 damage (3d8 + 4 + 2 + 1d6 + 1d8) to the target and 12 (1d6 + 1d8 + 4) damage to an adjacent target for a nasty 40 average damage a turn.

And let’s not forget that our shadow blade has the thrown quality. One of the best defenses against this is to run, and we can simply throw our blade for the same damage (minus the green-flame blade) from the safety of our void of darkness!


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Last updated: January 27, 2019

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