Bards are oftentimes the center of attraction at a party. They tend to be the comic relief, the one who can quickly whip up jokes and puns, and the music-loving free spirit. Often characterized as that one person in the party who loves to goof around, having a bard along with his travels will surely make the adventure livelier.
Most of the time, they focus on magic spells using their favorite musical instruments. For example, they can heal up party members by playing out a sick tune from their horn. They can buff up their allies through the beat of the drums and nerf down their enemies by playing an ear-shattering sound from their violence. Indeed, they are beloved support characters because of how useful they are.
However, bards can also be the main event during combat. They can slice and dice their foes expertly using blades. They can become highly trained and skilled warriors who can use swords in fighting and entertaining people. How is this possible, you may ask? It is all possible when a bard chooses the College of Swords as their bard college.
Welcome to the College of Swords Guide.
When you join the College of Swords at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with medium armor and the scimitar. If you‘re proficient with a simple or martial melee weapon, you can use it as a spellcasting focus for your bard spells.
— Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
What is the College of Swords?
The College of Swords is a bard college from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. In this college, bards are known as blades, and they are trained to entertain audiences using their mastery of weapons.
They can perform crazy and daring stunts like sword swallowing, need knife throwing, and even juggling. Their mastery of weapons also translates well in combat, as they can use their skills to dish out devastating blows upon their enemies.
Using the talent with D&D weapons as a means of entertainment can be thrilling for a show, and the same could be said for a blade’s life. In the D&D world, many of the blades lead double lives to make use of their talent. Most people do not trust a blade among them, but companions are still essential for blades. If you are a bard looking to get in the action, come up with an exciting story as why you joined the College of Swords.
When choosing the College of Swords at level three as your preferred bard college, you gain its benefits and even more as you level up.
Never heard someone criticize Swords Bard. I’ve heard a lot of people criticize Valor Bards, as Swords generally does the same things but better, but Swords is pretty universally acknowledged as a great subclass. (Reddit thread)
What are the Benefits of the College of Swords?
It’s important to know the bonus proficiencies you’ll have here — these are the extra skills and abilities that each character has beyond the standard set of proficiencies. They can include weapon and armor proficiencies, tool proficiencies, and language proficiencies. Bonus proficiencies could be granted at various levels, here, you can earn these in level 3.
- Bard Level Needed to Learn: level 3
At the 3 rd level, the same level you picked the College of Dublin, you gain proficiency with medium armor and the scimitar. What this means is that you can wear any medium armor normally without suffering from the negative effects of wearing armor without proficiency. You can also add your proficiency bonus on your attack roll when using the scimitar.
Usually, when you wear armor that you are not proficient in, you have disadvantages on any ability checks, saving throws, or attack rolls you make involving strength and dexterity. You also cannot cast spells, so if you are a bard and planning on wearing some medium armor, College of Swords is a good pick.
- Bard Level Needed to Learn: level 3
The blade has a specialty in fighting, and upon joining the College of Swords at level three, the blade can choose one of the following options listed down below. Note, however, that you cannot ever take a Fighting Style option more than once. Ever. So, choose carefully.
- Upon picking this fighting style, your character gains a +2 bonus to damage rolls with a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons. This means that you cannot get this fighting style’s benefit when using two-handed weapons. You can benefit from versatile weapons if you use them in one hand.
- Two-Weapon Fighting. Having a blade in your hand is great to whack your opponents, but how about adding one more? Normally, wielding two weapons means that the modifier ability would not be added to the damage of the second attack. With this fighting style, you can remove that annoyance and add in the modifier ability to the second attack’s damage.
Valor bards really struggle because they basically can’t use a shield while still being able to cast spells and make weapon attacks, but they are partially balanced around being able to have one. On the other hand, Swords bards can choose to have a free hand for spell casting basically without any downsides. Also Combat Inspiration is pretty much strictly worse than Blade Flourish. (Reddit thread)
- Bard Level Needed to Learn: Level 3
Being a blade means being quick, agile, and effective on the battlefield. During combat, when you attack an opponent on your turn, your walking speed increases by 10 ft. until the end of said turn. Furthermore, when the attack successfully hits your opponent, you can use one of the following Blade Flourish options listed down below.
You can choose any of these options and you can use only one per turn. When you use the Blade Flourish option, you expend one use of your Bardic Inspiration; The number you get will be the extra damage you deal with your weapon when successfully landing a hit.
For example, a level one bard uses any of the Blade Flourish options on an enemy after landing a successful hit with a weapon having total damage of 9. They then use their 1d6 Bardic Inspiration die and roll a 5. So, the total damage would now be 14. This applies to all options.
- Defensive Flourish: You deal extra damage as described beforehand. Furthermore, you add your Bardic Inspiration die roll to your Armor Class (AC). This effect lasts until the start of your next turn.
- Example: A level one bard uses this, rolls to 5 on their Bardic Inspiration die, and calculates the extra damage. They add that 5 to their AC, resulting in a 20. Their AC will now be 20 until the start of their next turn.
- Mobile Flourish: You deal extra damage as described beforehand. Then, you can push your target up to 5 ft. away from you + several feet equal to the resulting number of your die. Afterward, you can use your reaction to move to an unoccupied space within 5 ft. of your target; your walking speed determines how far you can move.
- Example: A level one bard uses this, rolls to 5 on their Bardic Inspiration die, and calculates the extra damage. Plus, they can push their enemy up to 5 ft. away from them + an additional 5 from the roll they got (which equals 10 ft.). Afterward, they can move to a new unoccupied position within 5 ft. of their target, granted that their walking speed reaches 10 ft. at least.
- Slashing Flourish: You deal extra damage as described beforehand. You can also deal that same extra damage to any creature you choose that you can see within 5 ft. of you.
- Example: A level one bard uses this, rolls to 5 on their Bardic Inspiration die, and calculates the extra damage. Suppose that there are other creatures within 5 ft. of you as you hit your target. You can deal 5 damage to any of these creatures as well.
- Bard Level Needed to Learn: Level 6
The mastery of your weapons has improved. At level 6, you can attack twice, instead of once, when you choose to attack on your turn. So, if you are trying to take down a big baddie with decent HP, you can use Extra Attack to attack twice. Another way to use this is if you are being surrounded by weak monsters. You can attack one, then use the Extra Attack to attack a different creature.
- Bard Level Needed to Learn: Level 14
At level 14, when you successfully land a hit on your opponent and use one of your Blade Flourish options, you can roll to d6 instead of using one of your Bardic Inspiration dice. This may seem like the logical step to always do. However, keep in mind by the time you reach this level, your Bardic Inspiration would be a d10, and on the next level would be a d12.
Will you use a bigger number to greatly affect your Blade Flourish, or will you use a d6 to put your Bardic Inspiration dice for other uses?
Is College of Swords Good?
Yes, many people consider the College of Swords as a good subclass for the bard. There are also people who dislike it. Here are some guide questions so you can decide if the College of Swords is good for you:
- Do you want to get in the action during combat?
- Do you want to be more mobile during combat?
- Do you want to use weapons instead of spells?
- Are you a fan of two-weapon or dueling fighting style?
- Do you feel like you are weak during battles?
- Are you tired of being the supporting member of your party all the time?
- Does being a blade fit in the story progression of your campaign?
If the answer to most of these questions is “yes,” maybe the College of Swords is good for you. Being a blade, you can choose between two fighting styles, so you have more coverage on your preferences in fighting.
My longest running character is a Conquest Paladin/Swords Bard who is stacked to the wall with armor. My character sheet is a beautiful mess of channel divinity, fighting styles, and bard stuff. I love critting, smiting, and then adding my inspiration for obnoxious amounts of damage. (Reddit thread)
Having Blade Flourishes makes combat very versatile. If you require a defense boost, you can use the Defensive Flourish. Is your enemy too close or do you want them somewhere further away? Push them back with the Mobile Flourish. If you want to get rid of weak monsters surrounding you, you can use Slashing Flourish.
College of Swords vs College of Valor
Both of these bard colleges are similar to each other in the sense that they both make the bard capable of fighting with weapons on the battlefield. Both gain the proficiency of medium armor and weapons.
Both gain Extra Attacks. To summarize, the bards in the College of Swords focus more on making themselves better in melee fighting, while the bards in the College of Valor focus more on making others better in melee fighting.
College of Swords Guide:
Below is a list of the major differences between the two:
|College of Swords||College of Valor|
|Proficiencies gained||Medium Armor, Scimitar||Medium Armor, Shields, Martial Weapons|
|Can gain Fighting Styles||Yes||At the|
|Use of Bardic Inspiration||For themselves through Blade Flourish||For others through Combat Inspiration|
|Can have Extra Attack||Yes, at Level 6||Yes, at Level 6|
|Bonus gained at Level 14||Improvement on existing abilities (Blade Flourish)||A weapon attack as a bonus action when casting bard spells|
College of Swords Guide: FAQs
Question: When Can I Have College of Swords?
Answer: You can be a bard in the College of Swords when you hit Level 3 in the Bard Class. You can also enjoy the benefits of the Bonus Proficiencies, Fighting Style, and Blade Flourish.
Question: What Book Does the College of Swords Come From?
Answer: The College of Swords comes from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, page 15.
Question: What Can I Get From the College of Swords?
Answer: At level 3, you will gain: Bonus Proficiencies with medium armor and scimitars; the Fighting Style; the Blade Flourish ability. At level 6, you will gain an Extra Attack. At level 14, you will gain the Master’s Flourish ability.
Question: Should I pick Two-Weapon Fighting or Dueling?
Answer: It depends on your preferred playstyle, mainly on how you want to use your bonus action. In Two-Weapon Fighting, your second attack is counted as your bonus action.
If you have abilities that can be used as bonus actions and you want to use them, then you would be better off with Dueling. Otherwise, Two-Weapon Fighting is a good pick, especially if you have a high-ability modifier to add to your second attack.
Question: Is Dueling + Shield Possible with College of Swords?
Answer: It is possible, but it is extremely not advisable because bards in the College of Swords do not gain proficiency with shields.
If you use a shield without proficiency, you can still get that +2 damage on your damage rolls and the +2 on your AC, but you will have a disadvantage on any ability checks, saving throws, or attack rolls involving Strength or Dexterity.
Furthermore, you cannot cast spells, which is a major hindrance for bards.
Question: Should I pick College of Swords or College of Valor?
Answer: It depends on what you want to prioritize. Do you want to help others during melee combat? You should likely pick College of Valor. Do you want to be part of the melee combat? You should likely pick College of Swords.