Level Up (A5E) Bard's placid tones battle hymn usage


One of my players was playing a bard in our past game and had a question about the Placid Tones battle hymn available on levels from 5 to 8 for the Bard class. But first, some common ground.

The hymn definition is as follows:
The creature gains an expertise die on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma checks.

Per our understanding of the rules of how battle hymns work, they can be activated as a free action by using a bardic inspiration and then used on a creature with the effects lasting until the end of the bard's next turn or sustained without using it by maintaining concentration.

Finally, to the question - the player was wondering if simply using a bardic inspiration is always better than using the Placid Tones battle hymn as it grants an additional die that exceeds the basic d4 gained from an expertise die and can be used at will for the next 10 minutes, potentially making the inspiration useful even outside of the combat encounter. Granted, using a bardic inspiration does require using a bonus action, but my player never had the situation where it was not available. Additionally, it's unlikely that a creature is going to make more than one check until the end of the bard's next turn, so I too agreed that the applicability of the Placid Tones hymn is questionable.

ParameterBardic InspirationPlacid Tones
CostBardic Inspiration + Bonus ActionBardic Inspiration
ApplicabilityAbility Checks, Attack Rolls, Saving ThrowsWisdom, Intelligence, Charisma Ability Checks
Effect Duration10 minutesIndefinite (Concentration)
Bonus Duration1 dice roll6 seconds (1 round)

Does anyone have any suggestions on what are the situations to use this hymn? We are not quite "system-savvy", so even basic advice will be appreciated.

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Will Bardic Inspiration always be better? No, but usually better. Obviously it will depend on the build and situation. As @xiphumor mentions Battle Hymn Focus and Battle Hymn Specialization will change some of the math. But here are a few considerations.

  • Placid Tones (PT) doesn't require an action so depending on what's going on the bard may need their bonus action for something else, but still needs to boost an ally.
  • Using PT can effectively allow the bard to hit two characters with a bonus at the same time (one using Bardic Inspiration and one using PT so it can be used to quickly shore up weaknesses. I've had to do this with my Bard during a social encounter to offset the fighter and druid's lack of cha for an emergency social roll.
PT is a social/skill focused hymn which makes the use more nebulous than the others of that level, and as such may mean that the best use of it isn't apparent until it happens.

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