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Druid Bard D&D 5e Multiclass Guide

Druid Bard D&D 5e Multiclass Guide

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Druid Bard D&D 5e Multiclass Guide

Get Your Primal Blood Pumping

The bard is an artisan of magic, knowledgeable and witty musicians and warriors capable of lethal arts. Druids are masters of nature and primeval magics, capable of transforming into beasts. Put them together and you get pied pipers musically commanding bestial armies or literal songbirds singing magical blessings as they fly across the battlefield. Whether you're itching for this 5th edition combo or just fresh from Baldur’s Gate it's time to queue up your favorite drum beats as we go through everything you need to know. 

 

Why Play a Druid Bard Multiclass?

Both druids and bards can play a powerful support role and while their main ability scores don’t line up their buffs can. By using wild shapes we can make up for low physical stats (don’t need high strength when you can just be a bear) and focus all our points on our spells. With both the ability to fly and the ability to cast spells at range, a druid bard has an incredible keep away game. These builds are all about putting your party or your summons out in front and buffing them up, while keeping yourself out of harm’s way. Druids are arguably one of the most powerful classes, and bards are an excellent class and among the most versatile classes.

Depending on DM discretion you’ll be able to use your bardic performance while in an animal form, and that can set you up for a sweetly efficient situation of flying around in a wild shape while using your action for repeating spells (like call lightning) and your bonus action for bardic inspirations.

We have a couple main routes to go here, and both end up as powerful party buffs, skill monkeys with all the knowledge skills, damaging spellcasters, and even healers. Done right, you and your summons can practically be a party on your own.


What are the Downsides?

The glaring issue with this class combo is that we’re splitting between a Wisdom class and Charisma class as our spellcasting abilities, and if we want to have decent spells there isn’t much left for a decent ability score spread. Outside of the wild shapes, we’ll be pretty squishy and have to rely on magical ability. We aren't martial classes and can't use a martial weapon, will have weaker spellcasting progression than a single class, and are mostly locked into a support role. We'll have to make use of impactful low-level spells, since it'll be a while until we get past unneeded spells and hit higher level stuff.

Most of the features we care about can't be gained with a single level like a cleric level or a barbarian level. Bards are versatile classes, but don't add a ton with only a few levels. We aren't getting the maneuverability of a rogue's cunning action, and we can't even effectively dip for heavy armor proficiency effectively since druids won't wear metal. This is not a strong combo, and if you're simply looking to optimize for damage, fighter levels for fighter abilities, action surge, and heavy armor may be better than levels in bard. For spellcasting a level dip for a life cleric level with channel divinity may be better than druid, or even just the magic initiate feat for cantrips like booming blade. Even things like paladin, artificer, monks or warlocks make better level dips. You get things like martial arts, flurry of blows, eldritch blast, agonizing blast, divine smite, and warlock spell slots. Ultimately in most cases we're just going to be in an arcane trickster situation, where our core features just don't mesh for much-reduced damage.

Next, by taking multiple classes we’ll have quite a few features competing for our actions and in a lot of cases we’ll have to choose between them or need prep time to be best ready for combat. And of course, like with any multiclass option, we’re giving up on 20th level capstone features and other late-game abilities, and getting to our mid-game features significantly later as a multi- and dual class than a standard class.


When Does a Bard / Druid “Kick In”?

To do most of what we want to do we’ll need at least 3 levels of bard to pick up the first bard archetype feature, and at least 2 levels of druid for wild shape. But really, we also want our first druid archetype feature as well so I’d say the builds will really kick in at 6th character level.

 

What Class Features Do We Care About?

Druid and bard features both have some odd content but we can put them together and make sense of their interactions with a bit of detailed explanation for each class feature and the many abilities of classes.

 

Significant Bard Class Features

  • Bardic Inspiration. The core unique feature of the bard requires a high Charisma (for a number of uses) and is gained with a single level in bard. 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 surge for spellcasting but strange mechanically, especially when it comes to spellcasting progression and your mixed pool of spell slots, but for now know that access to bardic spells gives us extra options and extra 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 druid spells.
  • Expertise. This bardic ability lets us add double our proficiency bonus on a couple chosen skills. Extra skill points are always generically useful but depending on how we want to work the build it can be incredibly useful from workhorses like perception and stealth to knowledge skills.
  • 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 instead of only a few times per day.
  • 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. We're doing some weird stuff here, so old standbys like college of eloquence, college of swords, and college of valor need not apply.
     

Significant Druid Class Features

  • Spellcasting. Druids already have strong spells on their spell list including healing, damage, and unique damage over time spells among other standard spells. Mixing spellcasting classes is a bit weird mechanically but for now know that access to the druid spell list gives us extra options and additional spell slots we can use.
  • Wild Shape. Wild shape lets us transform into an animal, along with all our stuff, magic items and whatnot. This is one of the more powerful combat abilities and I could write a whole article about wild shape, its applications and weirdness, but for now just know that wild shape is a central feature we’re going to be using for some of our multiclass builds.
  • Wild Companion. An optional rule out of Tasha’s, this lets us sacrifice a use of our wild shape feature to cast find familiar instead. Familiars are sneakily powerful and some of our builds will rely on it for shenanigans.
  • Druid Circle. We’ll go into them later, but the druid circle features are powerful and the druid subclasses are at the core of some of our builds gained at our 2nd class level. Our suggestions don't make use of it, but if you go your own way for raw damage consider the circle of spores for the subclass feature symbiotic entity to become the biggest weapon.
     

 

Bard / Druid Ability Scores

Our plan is to focus mainly on spellcasting and often using wild shapes, which means we want to focus mostly on our mental stats. Both Wisdom and Charisma are going to be vital for us and we want them both as high as possible. It leans a bit harder on Charisma though since both bardic inspirations and many of the archetype features rely on it, so Charisma should be our highest score, followed by Wisdom 2nd.

Our 3rd highest score should be Constitution. We get to cheat on our hit points a lot due to wild shape, but we can’t always count on it and a high Constitution will not only help us stay alive but it will also help us maintain concentration on our spells.

Intelligence, Strength and Dexterity can all be dump stats for us. We can make use of medium armor so we don’t need the Dexterity, but if you have points to spend, Dexterity would be the most impactful of the three to make better use of light armor proficiency or even finesse weapons.

 

Bard / Druid Feats

We’re trying hard to be a summoning and support character, and while none of the following feats are 100% needed for the strategy, they’re all strong options for a support character and should be at least considered when you gain ability score increases.

 

Inspiring Leader

At the cost of a 10 minute hype up speech, you can grant your allies a number of temporary hit points equal to your level + your Charisma modifier. You can do this once per short rest, and since you can affect 6 creatures, this can be like adding 50 to 60 hit points across your group every short rest which can really turn the tide in battle. Worth taking, but remember that temporary hit point don’t stack.



Knight of the Crown

This one is a strong option but it depends on your DM’s approval since it’s technically lore locked to the Dragonlance setting. It’s a half feat first of all and gives you +1 to your choice of the physical scores. The surge ability lets you use your bonus action to command an ally to make an additional attack roll with an extra d8 worth of attack damage. You get to do this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest, and depending on how strong your allies are it’s a ton of extra damage and practically like two-weapon fighting since you'll be "getting" two attacks a turn like offhand attacks.


Knight of the Rose

Just like knight of the crown, you’ll need DM approval for this Dragonlance feat. It’s also a half feat, but for the mental scores instead. As a bonus action we can provide temporary hit points to an ally equal to 1d8 + proficiency + our mental stat. A lot of what we’re doing uses temporary hit points but it’s nice to have these emergency backup defensive abilities.
 

What Wild Shapes Should I Use?

Most of our strategy here focuses more on summoning than wild shaping ourselves, but it’s still a powerful feature to have. We’re spread thin on stats so simply turning into something tough when you need to is a great option and you’ll want to prioritize things with high armor class and hit points. The dire wolf or giant hyena are fantastic picks early on, followed by the chunky giant toad and giant elk later on. You can find a more comprehensive list of good wild shape options, what happens to you and all your magical items when you wild shape, and the levels you can access them here.
 

Which Class Should I Start With?

At first it may seem better to start with bard since you snag an extra skill proficiency, but you’ll get an extra one anyway if you start as druid before switching to bard. Druids get an odd hodgepodge of martial weapon proficiencies, but they're mostly just simple weapons. What you’re really picking between a set of saving throws, and 2 instrument proficiencies vs herbalism kit proficiency. You wouldn’t be wrong to start with either, but I value herbalism kits highly and I’d recommend starting out as a druid.

 

Druid / Bard Builds

This multiclass combination has a lot of completely different ways to go with some very different results. Let’s go through some of the more interesting and impressive possibilities.

 

Feather Ruffler

Our goal is to annoy the hell out of our opponents using a team of pestering birds and our own heckling to ensure our allies almost always attack with advantage while our enemies miss their marks.

To accomplish this, we need to start with 3 druid levels, selecting the circle of the land and specifically the “coast” spell set. Next, we take 3 bard levels selecting the college of lore archetype. College of lore gives us short rest refreshing spell slots and some key defensive options. We follow up with 1 more druid level for a total of 4. We do this firstly so we don’t miss out on the ASI, but also so that our natural recovery feature can restore a 2nd level druid spell on a short rest. Finally, all our remaining levels should go into bard, giving us a final split of Bard 16 / Druid 4.

Now to wrangle some birds. Firstly, we can take advantage of the druid’s optional rule wild companion and use our wild shape to summon a familiar instead. Specifically, we want to summon an owl because it has a 60 ft fly speed and the flyby feature. Flyby lets our bird move in and out of combat without provoking an attack of opportunity. For bird number 2, we need the 2nd level druid spell summon beast. Summon beast’s “air” mode also has flyby, and we can control both at the same time.

So how does this all work? Before going into combat, we set up our two birds using find familiar and summon beast. We don’t use them for dealing damage, instead we send them off like annoyable target seeking missiles and have them use the help action to distract foes before flying out of their reach. When you use the help action type in this way, the next time one of your allies attacks the target, it will have advantage. None of this uses your action economy, and only requires our concentration for the summon beast spell.

For our bonus action, we want to use our bardic inspiration on our allies as needed, heal via healing word, or we also get a great reaction from our bardic feature cutting words. With cutting words whenever an enemy manages to get a good shot at one of our birds, we can roll a bardic inspiration die to make them flub the attack. As a bard we also have access to the spell silvery barbs which imposes disadvantage on an attack and grants advantage on a target’s next roll, all for the low cost of a 1st level slot and a reaction!

For our actual action, we can do some healing spells via cure wounds, but for a ranged option for damage I rather like the rather underutilized spell ice knife. We get it thanks to our druid levels, it’s long range, only uses our first-level spell slots, and can do serious damage to a group of enemies. The target of our spell attack rolls take 1d10 + 2d6, and everybody within 5 feet also takes 2d6, giving us a decent blaster caster game.

But what if they come after our squishy butt with martial weapons and melee attacks? The circle of the land coast spells have us covered for defensive options in the form of mirror image and misty step. Mirror image is one of the most powerful defensive spells that doesn’t require concentration, and if anybody gets too close for comfort we can just misty step away.

So, on a single turn, we can grant advantage on two targets using our birds, fire off an ice knife, and inspire an ally, then use cutting words to blank an attack! Or we can always use our birds for plenty of utility actions.

Finally, once you reach 6 bard levels, we can use the lore bard’s additional magical secrets to pick up the 3rd level druid spell conjure animals even though we continued progressing in bard. With conjure animals our 2 bird trick multiplies into a 9 bird trick as we get to summon 8 giant owls! Each battle ready giant owl has flyby and can use the help action, meaning your allies will basically always attack with advantage for the rest of the campaign!



 

Pied Piper of Velociraptors

Our plan here is essentially the classic “velociraptor rancher” druid class with a bardic twist. We’re going to have a chattering horde of tiny dinosaurs and we’ll keep them constantly refreshed with temporary hit points.

To accomplish this we want to start with 5 druid levels and we want to take the circle of the shepherd. Once again we want to make sure we take conjure animals once we gain access to 3rd level spells. Then we take 3 levels in bard selecting the college of glamour. Finally all our remaining levels should go towards druid for a final split of bard 3 / druid 17.

For anybody who has abused conjure animals before, our "original class tactic" should be very familiar. For the low cost of a 3rd level spell and a single action we can summon a whopping 8 velociraptors which all have not only an extra attack a piece, but also pack tactics. This means our dino pack can charge in for 16 attacks with advantage! With all these extra attacks, you're not only likely to get a ton of hits, but likely critical hits every turn. This can be some ridiculous burst damage with a good average, since this major damage is spread across so many attacks.

But our raptors are pretty squishy. Thanks to the circle of the shepherd we can create a “spirit totem” as a bonus action to grant temporary hit points equal to 5 + our druid level to each of our raptors, effectively doubling their hit points.

We only get one of those totems per short rest though, and that’s where the bard part comes in. By taking college of glamour we get the feature mantle of inspiration to grant 5 temporary hit points to a number of creatures equal to our Charisma modifier as a bonus action. In addition, when we grant them these hit points they get to immediately dash up to their movement speed. It only costs a bardic inspiration, so we can start off with the totem, and whenever one or more raptors gets their temporary hit points removed, we can top them all off and dash them where they need to be with a quick play of the flute!

 

Psychic Wolf

For this last build we're going to forget mage power and focus on combat power in the form of psychic blades on our claws! Even without a fighting style we can become an animal battle master. We become the biggest weapon beast possible and add in a ton of psychic damage to their attacks, a rarely resisted damage type.

To accomplish this we need a nasty subclass combo. We want to start with a two-level dip with 2 druid levels and select the circle of the moon. We then want to take 5 bard levels selecting the college of whispers. We spend all our remaining levels in druid for a final split of 5 bard / 15 druid. It's a bit awkward to push hard into bard class early even though the druid class will be our primary class, but it'll be worth it.

The strategy here is a high-damage rush-down build. The college of whispers feature psychic blades functions on our attacks in wild shape and we'll be pouring all our bardic inspirations into our attacks. The unarmed attacks of beasts still count as weapon attacks, and the psychic blades don't count as spellcasting. Arguably we can even perform bardic performances as an animal, depending on how your DM rules it. Once we have 5 bard levels, we not only restore our bardic inspirations on a short rest, but the extra damage also increases to 3d6. Thanks to the circle of the moon we have access to the strongest wild shapes, and can transform into them as a bonus action. We don't get extra attack, but once a round we'll be able to pour on the damage essentially for free.

 

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