D&D 5E Bardlock vs Sorlock

Hey everyone!

So I’m getting ready to start a new campaign soon, and have narrowed my character down to two potential builds:

• 2 hexblade / X bard (probably lore, maybe swords)

• 2 hexblade / X sorcerer (probably clockwork, maybe divine soul - not really intending to abuse coffeelock cheese)

Both of these can fit very well into my characters backstory & flavor, I’m just looking for some insight into these two options and what I can expect from each one since I’ve yet to play any of these classes (no stranger to multi-classing though, and yes I am set on the hexblade dip)

What are advantages + disadvantages and if you’ve played either combo, what was your experience like?

Party composition is small as well, so I’m trying to help make up for our weaknesses.

We’ll have a divination wizard, an arcane trickster, and our DM will have a Paladin NPC baby to help round us out a bit further.
 

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aco175

Legend
@Thoughtcandle welcome to the boards, hope you stay and find what you need.

My initial thoughts is to go bard and not sorcerer. You already have a wizard, even if divination and you could use more healing other than the paladin. I have never played one so I'm sure others would have great ideas.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
If your hexlock is melee-focussed, you will want sword bard or dragon sorcerer. These provide other attributes (armor prof, HP) that you will need to keep going in combat.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
I played a Bard of the College of Swords and I did not have much fun. I did not find the character very effective in combat and did not like using inspiration to buff myself rather than the party.
 

I like College of Swords myself. There are some overlapping proficiencies but the fighting style, extra attack, mobility, and defensive/mobile flourish synergize well with the Hexblade. I wouldn't waste an inspiration on the slashing flourish but ymmv. I am also generally not a big fan of sorcerers so a bit of bias on my part.
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
In a nutshell, the bardlock has superior support while the sorlock has superior DPS, especially if you choose the quicken spell metamagic (which I recommend). I would also recommend the agonizing blast invocation.

In times past I would have said the bardlock is more flexible and versatile. But the arrival of the clockwork soul, aberrant mind and their bonus spells (including the ability to switch those spells out) makes me question that. Ten extra bonus spells known is A LOT.

On the other hand, the only healing your party has is the NPC paladin. Is that sufficient, especially when the paladin should ideally be using its spell slots for smiting? I'd be a bit nervous about that. A bardlock can cover the healing fine. The only way the sorlock can is by playing a divine soul and that means missing out on all the lovely bonus spells from the clockwork soul or aberrant mind.
 
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Both are solid picks. More or less, the question is: do you want to be mostly a caster, but one that can mix it up in melee if needed? Or do you want to be a true generalist who can do pretty much anything?

Because Sorcerer will make you focused pretty heavily on being a spellcaster, even if you aren't using the "coffeelock" method, as you won't get Extra Attack (nor Lifedrinker.) Your main damage source will be eldritch blast (because I assume you're taking Agonizing Blast as one of your two Invocations), as 1d10+3 will be straight-up better than any other options you have. Divine Soul would let you moonlight in healing; Clockwork Soul or Aberrant Mind will help give you more diversity.

Bard, on the other hand, can either reinforce the caster in a clearly support role with Lore (letting you be an ultra-flexible caster, but still caster-focused), or make you the ultimate generalist. Your melee attacks will be comparable to eldritch blast until relatively high levels (1d8+2+Cha is slightly better than 1d10+Cha, but at level 11 you get three hits from eldritch blast, pulling it well ahead), you'll have some access to healing magic, and you'll be generally useful in all circumstances.

So, as others have said, the question becomes whether you want to be more like 80% caster, 20% melee fighter, or 50% caster, 50% melee fighter. And, if you do want to be 80% caster, do you want to be a utility-support caster (Lore Bard), or do you want to be a damage-dealing caster with soft support (Sorcerer.)

If your hexlock is melee-focussed, you will want sword bard or dragon sorcerer. These provide other attributes (armor prof, HP) that you will need to keep going in combat.
Since Hexblade already grants all proficiencies you'd get from Sword Bard, the core benefit is Extra Attack, though the Fighting Style (+2 one-handed damage, natch) is nice and Blade Flourish is...okay.
 

Hi, welcome the board.

The bardlock makes most sense to enhance the college of sword a tiny bit.

It then only really needs one level of warlock for quite while, since you will not really need agonizing blast to enhance your ranged attacks. The second level just pushes everything you want further away.

The sorlock is often feeling like a one trick pony for ranged attacks.

So what I would propose is just starting with warlock/hexblade 1 first and just look if you rather tend to melee or ranged attacks and then decide if you want to be bard or sorcerer.
 

kigmatzomat

Explorer
Lorelock. And I would hit bard1 first so you have healing magic beyond lay on hands at 1st (and more starting skills). You are going to be the primary healer as the paladin is probably not going to have healing to spare. You can get the Aura of Vitality at 6th as a lorebard and that is a lot of healing for 1 bard spellslot. The other secret spell can fill in other gaps you have identified (pass without trace is a good option). It also gives you more skills so you can backstop the rogue. Cutting words is like another hex power, giving you a lot of debuff without spellslots.

Hexblade let's you be an effective warrior so you can save bard spellslots for healing or cases where you can eliminate multiple foes. Just keep in mind concentration spells won't last too long if you are mixing it up in melee.
 

jgsugden

Legend
If I were you, I'd start with 2 levels of Hexblade ... and then make the decision. You can drop hooks for both ideas into your backstory/origin and then decide which path to follow. If you're thinking of this as a melee PC, I would go Hexblade 5 and then multiclass. If you're primarily going to spam eldritch blast, then I would go with the sorcerer.

Either way - make sure you talk to your DM about your Pact as a Warlock and get your full roleplaying benefits from being a warlock. The best part of a warlock is the pact and the story options it provides.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I'd favor a ranged sorlock, either divine soul or one of the Tasha's sorcerer subclasses with the extra spells. Your party has a good amount of spell versatility already, so getting those extra spells is less necessary, and having some extra healing would be good, which is why I think divine soul is competitive with the Tasha's options in this case.

I also think twinning buffs can do a lot of work with a smaller party, which is why I might lean sorcerer over bard. Your party is also heavily oriented towards damage; while that might lean some to favor a support character, I think your party might be better favoring a "take them down before they can get to us" approach.
 

@Thoughtcandle welcome to the boards, hope you stay and find what you need.

My initial thoughts is to go bard and not sorcerer. You already have a wizard, even if divination and you could use more healing other than the paladin. I have never played one so I'm sure others would have great ideas.
This is what seems to be consensus in other places I’ve asked, and what I think I’m beginning to lean towards.
If your hexlock is melee-focussed, you will want sword bard or dragon sorcerer. These provide other attributes (armor prof, HP) that you will need to keep going in combat.
I think a hex-lore bard can be effective in combat between booming blade (to make up for lack of extra attack) EB + AB and extra magical secrets (for spirit guardians or spiritual weapon)
I played a Bard of the College of Swords and I did not have much fun. I did not find the character very effective in combat and did not like using inspiration to buff myself rather than the party.
So are you leaning more sorcerer? Or are you just suggesting not to go sword bard?
I like College of Swords myself. There are some overlapping proficiencies but the fighting style, extra attack, mobility, and defensive/mobile flourish synergize well with the Hexblade. I wouldn't waste an inspiration on the slashing flourish but ymmv. I am also generally not a big fan of sorcerers so a bit of bias on my part.
I played a Bard of the College of Swords and I did not have much fun. I did not find the character very effective in combat and did not like using inspiration to buff myself rather than the party.
I’m not opposed to sword bard, but almost feel like taking it instead of lore would make me too heavily focused on melee..
In a nutshell, the bardlock has superior support while the sorlock has superior DPS, especially if you choose the quicken spell metamagic (which I recommend). I would also recommend the agonizing blast invocation.

In times past I would have said the bardlock is more flexible and versatile. But the arrival of the clockwork soul, aberrant mind and their bonus spells (including the ability to switch those spells out) makes me question that. Ten extra bonus spells known is A LOT.

On the other hand, the only healing your party has is the NPC paladin. Is that sufficient, especially when the paladin should ideally be using its spell slots for smiting? I'd be a bit nervous about that. A bardlock can cover the healing fine. The only way the sorlock can is by playing a divine soul and that means missing out on all the lovely bonus spells from the clockwork soul or aberrant mind.
I considered divine soul, it’s a shame it doesn’t add to the sorcerers spell list like the other two do
Both are solid picks. More or less, the question is: do you want to be mostly a caster, but one that can mix it up in melee if needed? Or do you want to be a true generalist who can do pretty much anything?

Because Sorcerer will make you focused pretty heavily on being a spellcaster, even if you aren't using the "coffeelock" method, as you won't get Extra Attack (nor Lifedrinker.) Your main damage source will be eldritch blast (because I assume you're taking Agonizing Blast as one of your two Invocations), as 1d10+3 will be straight-up better than any other options you have. Divine Soul would let you moonlight in healing; Clockwork Soul or Aberrant Mind will help give you more diversity.

Bard, on the other hand, can either reinforce the caster in a clearly support role with Lore (letting you be an ultra-flexible caster, but still caster-focused), or make you the ultimate generalist. Your melee attacks will be comparable to eldritch blast until relatively high levels (1d8+2+Cha is slightly better than 1d10+Cha, but at level 11 you get three hits from eldritch blast, pulling it well ahead), you'll have some access to healing magic, and you'll be generally useful in all circumstances.

So, as others have said, the question becomes whether you want to be more like 80% caster, 20% melee fighter, or 50% caster, 50% melee fighter. And, if you do want to be 80% caster, do you want to be a utility-support caster (Lore Bard), or do you want to be a damage-dealing caster with soft support (Sorcerer.)


Since Hexblade already grants all proficiencies you'd get from Sword Bard, the core benefit is Extra Attack, though the Fighting Style (+2 one-handed damage, natch) is nice and Blade Flourish is...okay.
I’m thinking relative to the party comp, generalist role would just be better here. Question now is swords or lore if I take the Bardlock route.
Hi, welcome the board.

The bardlock makes most sense to enhance the college of sword a tiny bit.

It then only really needs one level of warlock for quite while, since you will not really need agonizing blast to enhance your ranged attacks. The second level just pushes everything you want further away.

The sorlock is often feeling like a one trick pony for ranged attacks.

So what I would propose is just starting with warlock/hexblade 1 first and just look if you rather tend to melee or ranged attacks and then decide if you want to be bard or sorcerer.
Good input, appreciate you. You think sword bard over lore bard?
Lorelock. And I would hit bard1 first so you have healing magic beyond lay on hands at 1st (and more starting skills). You are going to be the primary healer as the paladin is probably not going to have healing to spare. You can get the Aura of Vitality at 6th as a lorebard and that is a lot of healing for 1 bard spellslot. The other secret spell can fill in other gaps you have identified (pass without trace is a good option). It also gives you more skills so you can backstop the rogue. Cutting words is like another hex power, giving you a lot of debuff without spellslots.

Hexblade let's you be an effective warrior so you can save bard spellslots for healing or cases where you can eliminate multiple foes. Just keep in mind concentration spells won't last too long if you are mixing it up in melee.
I’ll be hexblade 1st if I go lorelock simply because will saves are better than dex saves.

Right now I’m thinking hex 1, take bard to 6 for magical secrets and 3rd level spells, hex 2
If I were you, I'd start with 2 levels of Hexblade ... and then make the decision. You can drop hooks for both ideas into your backstory/origin and then decide which path to follow. If you're thinking of this as a melee PC, I would go Hexblade 5 and then multiclass. If you're primarily going to spam eldritch blast, then I would go with the sorcerer.

Either way - make sure you talk to your DM about your Pact as a Warlock and get your full roleplaying benefits from being a warlock. The best part of a warlock is the pact and the story options it provides.
Flavor character stuff isn’t the issue, that’s all set more or less and can work around each of these options. Just thinking more in terms of mechanics.
I'd favor a ranged sorlock, either divine soul or one of the Tasha's sorcerer subclasses with the extra spells. Your party has a good amount of spell versatility already, so getting those extra spells is less necessary, and having some extra healing would be good, which is why I think divine soul is competitive with the Tasha's options in this case.

I also think twinning buffs can do a lot of work with a smaller party, which is why I might lean sorcerer over bard. Your party is also heavily oriented towards damage; while that might lean some to favor a support character, I think your party might be better favoring a "take them down before they can get to us" approach.
This is a good point, and something I’ve considered. I feel like taking divine soul would almost be like “splitting the difference” between these 2 options
 

Good input, appreciate you. You think sword bard over lore bard?

Depends.
You have some time till bard level 3 to see if people are relying on you for melee support or buffs/debuffs.
Lore bard with greenflame or booming blade is quite good in melee. The blade bard can make use of those canrips for only a few levels and even then not fully, since they need to use an attack action, not a spellcasting action to do their flurries.
My blade bard still did not get to his 2nd attack action... He always needed something different first... now level 3 arcane trickster, 3 divine sorcerer, 5 blade bard... and the plan for him was just arcane trickster first and then lore bard... and by all means, no sorcerer... did not know what happened on the way...
 

Lorewise I hate a Hexblade Warlock dip on a Sorcerer. You are an innately magical being; selling your soul to a magic weapon for a few extra tricks just feels lame and dirty. Seems much more like something some sketchy Bard would do.

Playing-through-the-levels-wise I would say that Sorcerers are already the slowest developing class (level 3 to get their signature ability, and several more levels before they can use it a meaningful amount), so multiclassing really is a drag with them. Multiclassing into Warlock is a bit of a bummer with any full caster, but at least Bards have skills as their other fortay, and proficiency/expertise/Jack-of-All-Trades bonuses will continue to (slowly) improve with overall character level even when you are doing a detour to another class.

In terms of filling out a party that already has a Wizard, Bard beats Sorcerer hands down under most circumstances. Aside from less intrinsic overlap a Bard can just slip into more rolls than a Sorcerer. They are both potentially versatile classes that have to actually commit to things and narrow their foci, but Bard has more intrinsic versatility and less need to narrow focus.

So my vote is very much for Bard over Sorcerer under the circumstances here, but, that said, if in your heart of hearts you actually want to be a Sorcerer with this character than that's what you should play. It'll still be awesome.
 

Lorewise I hate a Hexblade Warlock dip on a Sorcerer. You are an innately magical being; selling your soul to a magic weapon for a few extra tricks just feels lame and dirty. Seems much more like something some sketchy Bard would do.

Playing-through-the-levels-wise I would say that Sorcerers are already the slowest developing class (level 3 to get their signature ability, and several more levels before they can use it a meaningful amount), so multiclassing really is a drag with them. Multiclassing into Warlock is a bit of a bummer with any full caster, but at least Bards have skills as their other fortay, and proficiency/expertise/Jack-of-All-Trades bonuses will continue to (slowly) improve with overall character level even when you are doing a detour to another class.

In terms of filling out a party that already has a Wizard, Bard beats Sorcerer hands down under most circumstances. Aside from less intrinsic overlap a Bard can just slip into more rolls than a Sorcerer. They are both potentially versatile classes that have to actually commit to things and narrow their foci, but Bard has more intrinsic versatility and less need to narrow focus.

So my vote is very much for Bard over Sorcerer under the circumstances here, but, that said, if in your heart of hearts you actually want to be a Sorcerer with this character than that's what you should play. It'll still be awesome.

I appreciate your input, I’ve 100% decided to go bard.

The character is really cool flavor wise - a reborn (race) moon elf that got caught up in a life threatening injury and was saved + augmented by a high level silver dragon artificer.

His pact weapon will be a longsword this silver dragon owned (that he got his hands on because reasons) that has a dormant draconic shard embedded in it housing an ancient amethyst dragon.
 

kigmatzomat

Explorer
I’ll be hexblade 1st if I go lorelock simply because will saves are better than dex saves.

That is probably a YMMV case. My GM loves traps, breath weapons, etc that are dex saves. And I could discount wis saves as I play an elf, giving advantage vs charm & sleep immunity. To be honest, since I got counterspell I have no idea what enemies have been casting at us.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Hey everyone!

So I’m getting ready to start a new campaign soon, and have narrowed my character down to two potential builds:

• 2 hexblade / X bard (probably lore, maybe swords)

• 2 hexblade / X sorcerer (probably clockwork, maybe divine soul - not really intending to abuse coffeelock cheese)

Both of these can fit very well into my characters backstory & flavor, I’m just looking for some insight into these two options and what I can expect from each one since I’ve yet to play any of these classes (no stranger to multi-classing though, and yes I am set on the hexblade dip)

What are advantages + disadvantages and if you’ve played either combo, what was your experience like?

Party composition is small as well, so I’m trying to help make up for our weaknesses.

We’ll have a divination wizard, an arcane trickster, and our DM will have a Paladin NPC baby to help round us out a bit further.
Sorcerer would be my pick generally and between clockwork and divine soul I would take clockwork.

If you take divine soul your party might think you should be a healer ..... and being the party healer is not very fun .... plus you have a Paladin you can force into that role.

My favorite sorcerer is Shadow, especially on a Hexblade. Shadow is particularly good on a melee character because of strength of the Grave, the connection to the plane of Shadow really fits with the Raven Queen and you can play a human and still get superior darkvision (you could get devils sight with the Warlock, but it costs you and invocation).

The biggest advantage of clockwork is armor of agathys and protection from evil and good, but you can already get them as Warlock spells.

That said clockwork will still work. All Sorcerers get 4 cantrips to start though and it goes up from there. This is the biggest benefit of Sorcerers and their spell selection is second only to Wizards.

Finally I would consider going to 3 levels in warlock to get pact of Tome or Pact of Chain. With POT and book of shadows you could take sorcerer rituals, put them in your book, then switch them out the next level.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Playing-through-the-levels-wise I would say that Sorcerers are already the slowest developing class (level 3 to get their signature ability, and several more levels before they can use it a meaningful amount), so multiclassing really is a drag with them.
I have completely the opposite experience. I take sorcerers as a 1-level dip very often because they get 4 cantrips and the good subclasses get great subclass abilities at 1st level. Even on a non-caster, almost everyone can use Shield and Absorb elements which they also get a minimum twice a day on a 1-level dip.

My human characters generally have the best darkvision in the party, because I dip all of them for 1 level in either Twilight Cleric or Shadow Sorcerer to overcome their one big weakness.
 

I have completely the opposite experience. I take sorcerers as a 1-level dip very often because they get 4 cantrips and the good subclasses get great subclass abilities at 1st level. Even on a non-caster, almost everyone can use Shield and Absorb elements which they also get a minimum twice a day on a 1-level dip.

My human characters generally have the best darkvision in the party, because I dip all of them for 1 level in either Twilight Cleric or Shadow Sorcerer to overcome their one big weakness.
That's not the opposite experience, that's doing a different thing. This is about playing a Sorcerer with a dip, not a dip into Sorcerer. Sorcerers get a lot at level 1 (like most classes). They then have the weakest level 2 of any class probably, don't get any metamagic until level 3, and then have a very slow process of accumulating Sorcery points. They are easily the most quadratic class in 5e.

I'm simply arguing that if you know you are going to dip into Warlock it's probably going to take more levels to feel like the build has really come online with a Sorcerer than with a Bard. But it would all depend on what subclass of each is being chosen, and what someone wishes to get out of that build.
 

ECMO3

Hero
That's not the opposite experience, that's doing a different thing. This is about playing a Sorcerer with a dip, not a dip into Sorcerer. Sorcerers get a lot at level 1 (like most classes). They then have the weakest level 2 of any class probably, don't get any metamagic until level 3, and then have a very slow process of accumulating Sorcery points. They are easily the most quadratic class in 5e.

I'm simply arguing that if you know you are going to dip into Warlock it's probably going to take more levels to feel like the build has really come online with a Sorcerer than with a Bard. But it would all depend on what subclass of each is being chosen, and what someone wishes to get out of that build.
I understand what you are saying. I don't necessarily agree though because the sorcerer spells are awesome.

I agree their level 2 is the weakest of any class, but that is countered because their level 1 is one of the best. A twilight cleric is probably the best level 1 (not considering race synergies), but that is a bit OP at 1st level and I would put most sorcerers ahead of most other clerics and ahead of bards and wizards as well at level 1. So they start out better and get less at 2nd level IMO.

I would generally take a sorcerer of any level over a warlock and their spells are better than bards (although bards have skills and bonus actions to level the playing field).
 

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