New: D&D Bard College of Chanting
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! Today we're jumping waaaaay back into antiquity with the inspiration for this bard: the College of Chanting. Based on ancient cultures that relied on oral traditions and the passing on of knowledge through stories, the College of Chanting heavily draws from Homer, granting new abilities and powers to the bard by reaching back to ancient songs long forgotten by those outside of the college.
I. College of Chanting: Theme and Inspiration
Many cultures have written down their ancient tales, making it far easier for those of us centuries later to read and enjoy. But others passed their stories down orally (until they were eventually written down), and these oral traditions of chants, songs, and poetry carry a certain beauty and magic of their own.
Now in D&D magic takes a lot of different forms: natural magic, supernatural magic, arcane magic, ancestral magic - all kinds. Bards practice arcane magic through old tales that carry magic in them. And as far as I know there's no difference between, for example, singing magic into existence v. playing it. So we can't tie a specific type of magic to the art of chanting per se, though I think enchantment and evocation magic make the most sense, be it through alluring tales that enchant the listener, or speaking something into existence through the rhythmic poetry of the old stories.
And so since the College of Chanting has old songs that have not been written down, it makes sense that other bard colleges and traditions would not have access to some of the songs they have. So we will incorporate this into your access to enchantment (get it? "En-chant-ment" magic? Okay, I'll stop) and evocation spells you can prepare.
And so with no further ado, here's the Homeric bard: the College of Chanting.
II. College of Chanting: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. Starting at 3rd level you get two features: one governing your Bardic Inspiration, and one additional feature. To start, you learn an additional cantrip from the evocation or enchantment school of magic (which counts as a bard spell for you).
From the enchantment school there aren't very many cantrips (though Mind Sliver and Vicious Mockery are standouts due to the nice damage type), and you might have already taken these as they are already available to bards. From the evocation list, though, you get a wide range of good options, ranging from clerical magic to wizard attack spells, and of course Eldritch Blast. So lots of good options.
In addition you also gain a 1st level spell from a short list which counts as a bard spell for you. These six spells all do different things, which you can use to round out your spell selection or double down on things you want to do well. Burning Hands gives you access to an area of effect damage spell (which bards generally lack), Hellish Rebuke provides a chance at reactive damage (which also just works really well with chanting - it really seems to fit), Darkness provides area denial and area control (a useful tool for a person with relatively low hit points), Bane can penalize the rolls of your foes, Heroism empowers your allies, and Suggestion can move the mind of your opponent to your will. So a wide range of options for you.
You also gain your bardic inspiration ability, which in this case can be used to some effect (if not great effect) both in and out of combat. When someone within 30ft of you (which includes you) casts a spell of 1st level or higher, you may spend a bardic inspiration die to regain a spell slot of equal or lower value than the result on the die, to a maximum of the level of the spell that was cast.
Now, before you lose your mind, keep in mind the limitations on this ability. You can only regain a spell slot equal to or lower than the one that was just cast, so it's not a way to get back a higher level slot unless you just spent it. In addition, you roll the bardic inspiration die to determine what level you can get back, so if you are rolling a d6 and you spend a 5th level slot, you can only regain a 5th level slot if you roll a 5-6. So yes, it's a useful ability: you can regain lost spell slots. But it's not a, "regain any spell slot you want that you've lost," putting a natural limitation on it.
At 6th level you may inflict disadvantage on the saving throws of the targets of your enchantment spells. Since most enchantment spells use Wisdom saving throws (which is one of the easiest saving throws to pass), this is a useful ability that should make you more effective in casting enchantment spells.
And finally at 14th level you gain the ability to recover lower level spell slots to refuel your stories (because oral tradition songs are longer, often lasting for days, so we need to extend your ability to cast spells a bit longer). You also gain the ability to select any enchantment or evocation spell for your upper level spells, so you can fill out your spells with a wide range of useful spells.
This bard gets a wide range of spell options: you can still heal people and entrance people, but you also gain a wide range of new useful abilities as well. So if you want a bard with slightly more flexibility, consider a College of Chanting bard.
Until next time,