Content of the article: "Lore Bard – spells and play style as the party’s sole caster"
I'm playing a series of campaigns, starting with Phandelver but the DM started moving us through some other Sword Coast-based ones halfway through as the party has a little choose-your-own-adventure thing going. This is my first time playing as a Bard at all (half-elf), and with the rest of the party a half-orc Monk, half-drow Rogue, and human Barbarian, I went Lore Bard and have been trying to focus on casting/healing/support but also struggling to avoid some of my preferred casting combat play style.
Halfway to 5th level, my spells are: C: Fire Bolt, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Vicious Mockery (1 extra cantrip from my dark half-elf variant) 1: Bane, Cure Wounds, Dissonant Whispers, Fairie Fire, Healing Word 2: Blindness/Deafness, Suggestion
I've also picked up the Doss lute, giving me 1 charge per day on several other spells (Fly, Invisibility, Levitate, Prot. from Energy, Prot. from Good/Evil, Prot. from Poison).
I try to start most combats with a debuff (Bane and Fairie Fire my normal choices, though FF is a real challenge in tight spaces), then go between Fireball, in-combat healing, and some of the other non-concentration debuffs, with plenty of Bardic Inspiration and Cutting Words thrown in for good measure.
For the most part this has proved very useful, other than a couple combats where the enemies had insane luck on their save rolls. But I wonder if there are other support spells that might fit better with this heavy-on-melee-combat party; and outside of combat I feel pretty useless, as without a Wizard and given my combat focus, we don't have anybody able to cast things like Identify, Comprehend Languages, Detect/Dispel Magic, etc. And even at levels 5 and 6, my initial inclination has been to take two more combat spells (Tasha's, Heat Metal, Shatter, Fear, Hypnotic Pattern) and use Additional Magic Secrets for Counterspell and Fireball or Bless.
In our current dungeon (at the Blue Alley in Waterdeep), as has happened many times already in our campaign, I've been left resorting to Arcana checks if I think something might be magical or otherwise noteworthy, and languages are either undecipherable to the party or the best-case scenario is my jotting things down on parchment to try and identify later. So while I've been quite useful in boosting our combat prowess, we have to get through other elements of the campaign with a bit more cleverness and uncertainty.
Of course some of this is going to be game- and DM-specific, but given the lack of any other spellcasters, am I bit too combat-focused with my build here? When I hit level 5 should I swap out maybe Bane and one of the healing spells for a couple more general utility ones such as Detect Magic and Comprehend Languages? Or at level 8 should I look at taking the Ritual Caster-Wizard feat and getting a couple of those less-combat-specific spells to be more useful in the general narrative?
For what it's worth, in this party of 4, I'm one of just two who had played before at all, having done a handful of one-shot and short-medium campaigns but never really getting a character past about level 5 before the group dissolves or people lose interest.
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