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D&D 5E [GUIDE] A party without music is lame: A Bard Guide



Why be a bard? Bard's main shtick is support. Mostly offensive support by disabling enemies and letting your allies run rampant over them, but also by adding floating bonuses via your inspiration. You have all the key healing spells as well and can pick up any spell needed to fill in gaps in the party, making them rather versatile.

[sblock=Color Code]
Goldenrod: Something you pretty much always take.
Deepskyblue: Grade A, and usually the most optimal choice.
Blue: Grade B, solid, if not quite optimal.
Black: Grade C, it passes, but don't expect much wow from it.
Darkviolet: Situation, most of the time you should pass on this, but there are corner cases that can really make this good.
Red: Grade F, avoid. At best you just wasted your choice, but it might actually hurt you.

Str: Probably a dump stat. Though valor bards can make this work particularly with expertise athletics. Grapple someone in a cloud of daggers, Hypnotize everyone then drag them around to compromising positions, Or make someone fall asleep, and get a free crit with a greatsword.
Con: Good for anyone, possibly more for your concentration checks than health. Though lore bards tend to stay in back.
Dex: Likely your secondary stat. Getting your disabling spell off first is great. Valor is likely to use this for an attack stat, and Lore needs it for AC as well.
Int: You're most likely dump stat. Though it's nice to know stuff.
Wis: Perception is important, and Wis saves can be very nasty (as you can prove yourself). Not a dump stat, but not a priority either.
Cha: You main stat. You could potentially play a low Cha valor bard, but you're probably better off as an eldritch knight or cleric for that concept. This also increases your inspiration dice, so it's hard to pass up.

[sblock=Class features:]
Spellcasting: Bards are casters. Most of their power comes from here with a large selection of save-or-suck spells, as well as some healing spells. They get a moderate amount of spells (about 2-3 per level), but can only swap when they level. Spells are rated below.
Bardic Inspiration: Who want's a bonus! While you need to pre-use this, its versatility, being able to use it after a roll, and 10-minute window, there's a pretty low chance of it being wasted. Note it works on initiative.
Jack-Of-All-Trades: You are moderately good at everything. Note this works on initiative, dispel magic, counterspell, and several other things as well.
Song of Rest: A nice bonus at low levels, but doesn't scale well. Still, free HP.
Expertise: You're really good at something. Stealth, perception, and athletics are top choices. But what you want really depends on your build and campaign.
Font of Inspiration: This is like getting bardic inspiration all over again. Make sure to use them.
Countercharm: Pretty niche, you could easily forget you have this. Though it can come in handy on occasion.
Magic Secrets: This really opens up the class to do pretty much anything. Note that these count against your known spells, so it's not quite as great as it might first seem. There's a section below for choice spells to take.
Superior Inspiration: Possibly the worst capstone in the game. More bardic inspiration is good, but the condition attached means you'll rarely see it happen. So multi-class caster, you can keep your slots.


Valor: The big feature here is armor and shield, which is +4 or +5 AC. Making it good for groups where you don't have anyone to hide behind. You can mostly ignore the weapon. If your dipping hexblade 1, then take booming blade and any other subclass, like glamour. Hexblade gives you better melee features than as valor (though at the cost of a spell level).
What to do with weapons.

  • Ignore weapons (14 dex, 20 Cha) and just enjoy the AC boost as a caster.
  • Focus on them (20 Str/Dex, weapon feats, 16 Cha) and take non-save spells, like sleep, heroism, cloud of daggers, polymorph, animate objects, and force cage. Possibly getting smites or swift quiver at 10.
  • Pick up Shillelagh and booming blade at 10 allowing you to use Cha to attack. For a solid gish option.
  • Grappler with Expertise in Athletics + Shield Master + multi-attack + enlarge with your magic secrets let's you hold nearly anyone. Avoid save spells, but zones like cloud of daggers gives you a nice place to drag your enemies into.
Valor 5 / warlock or sorcerer is a good combo, adding armor and inspiration and some spells to the other class. Valor 6/rogue also works, with 2 chances to land sneak attack, and plenty of skills and utility.
Proficiencies: As mentioned, +4 or +5 AC is big.
Combat Inspiration adds a few more ways to use inspiration, particularly boosting AC.
Damage is generally the worse option, though still, it's nice to have, particularly on a crit or if you just need a little more to finish someone off.
Multi-attack: Not too impressive unless you've invested in weapon boosting stuff. You can ignore this feature and boost just stick with cantrips. Though it is nice for grapple + prone for extra control.
Battlemagic: Extra damage is good. Even if you only have 14 Dex as a caster it's worthwhile to hold a hand crossbow. Note you can attack before or after you cast, but cannot grapple+cloud of daggers.

Lore: The big feature here is Cutting words, which makes it much easier to use inspiration dice.
Magic Secrets helps round you out as a spellcaster, but it doesn't give more slots or more dice (you do get 2 extra known spells), so it's not that big of a boost. In a game where combat is minimal, lore bards are arguably the best class in the game. They fit into parties who have a good front line that can protect and defense (fighters, barbarians), and could use support and skills. Or you can simply multiclass cleric for AC.
Lore Bards multiclass better than Valor Bards because there is less overlap (i.e. armor). Life Cleric 1 is particularly tempting, with its armor, spell slots, bless, and guidance, and the grabbing aura of vitality as your magic secrets. Lore bard are best when you have a good front line and damage (barbarian, fighter, paladin), and need more support and utility.
Proficiency: You already have the ones you want, and jack of all trades give you half of this anyways.
Cutting Words: The fact that you don't need to pre-use it makes it a good bit harder to waste, though you still want to hand them out to your allies for any saving throw situations.
The to-hit penalty is certainly useful.
Ability checks are pretty tame, since you rarely see an enemy roll. However, it works on initiative, and cutting the solo dragons initiative is the same as boosting your entire parties. It can also let you burn 2 dice on the same roll, such as boosting an assassins initiative while cutting the dragons, or double up on a grapple check, though that's pricey.
Reducing damage isn't normally worth the die, but if you do it to an AoE, like fireball, that can add up. It also helps with concentration checks.
Additional Magic Secrets: 2 extra known spells. Damage spells don't scale as well, and bard already has good control and support spells, so it's not as impressive as it may first appear. Still, it's good to fill in any gaps in the party you need. Also, consider a better attack cantrip (eldritch blast).
Peerless Skill: You can now boost your own initiative, counterspell / dispel, and skills, but your dice are really getting stretched. This does combo with expertise, to allow you to get extraordinary skill checks. And if you take something like glibness and you can bluff a god (15 glibness + 5 cha + 6 proficiency + 6 expertise + 6.5 peerless skill + 6.5 cutting words insight penalty = 45). But you'll probably never face a DC that's higher than 30.

Glamour: Great for RP campaigns, as this let's you control crowds. Best in campaigns with more time for dialog, and ranged allies, as the free movement can get people out of trouble. Like lore bards, dipping for armor can be a nice bonus. Less so in a dungeon full of monsters with a dedicated tank.
Mantle of Inspiration: Better than cutting words if the damage is spread out, and for ranged parties that like to move. Note
Enthralling Performance: Great RP uses, but you already need a captive audience. Come level 6, you can command them around for a minute.
©Mantle of Majesty: A good feature, but competes with other concentration effects (hypnotic pattern). The auto-fail doesn't help too much as most charms take concentration, but works with Entraling Performance.
Unbreakable Majesty: Powerful defense with a Cha save, and even if you get attacked (not even hit), you get a boost to retaliate. On top of that, it's short rest recharge.

Blade: Blade flourishes aren't much better than the default bardic inspiration, except that you use them on yourself. But it also means more spread out stats. Best if you're going solo, and need versatility to be in melee as well as spells. This doesn't mesh as well with hexblade, since you can't use blade flourishes with booming blade, but still better than valor.
Bonus Proficiency: Medium armor can save you a few stat points, but you're likely to go Dex anyways.
Fighting Style: TWF is probably the better option here, as if your using insperation dice on yourself, you don't have other bonus actions.
Blade Flourishes: Note that requires an attack action, and thus does not work withbooming blade.
*Defensive Flourish: Your best bet, giving you AC.
*Slashing Flourish: Only good if you're surrounded by kobolds.
*Mobile Flourish: There's rarely a reason to push, and 5' won't cover much.
Extra Attack: Keeps you slightly above cantrip damage.
Master Flourish: Another feature that just keeps you slightly above cantrip damage.

Whispers: Some nice RP features, but they are just variants of spells you could cast anyways. At least they don't require concentration.
Psycic Blade: There's little reason to make melee attack, but the damage high enough to be worth if you do hit, and especially on a crit. Better if you dip hexblade to get booming blade.
Words of Terror: Cause Fear as a ritual.
Mantle of Whispers: A variant of Disguise Self.
Shadow Lore: A long duration Charm Person.

Races: Anything with +Cha/Dex/Con is good, and any other defensive bonuses. Alternate Humans (Inspiring Leader), and Winged Tielflings are top options. Dragonborn work nice for the melee type. And mountain dwarfs are good if your party is squishy.
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Picking your spells.

Bards get a moderate number of known spells. About 2-3 spells per spell level. This includes magic secrets (lore get +2 more).

I ranked all the spells individually and as you would get them, and am weighting it towards combat. However that doesn't mean you should take all the sky blue spells. You should only take 2-3 single target disables, and 2-3 multi-target disable. Particularly since many of them are concentration and thus can't stack. While Wis is usually a good stat to target, you still want to pick up a few that target other defenses. So there is room to pick up a few situational spells to fill in any gaps in your party. Like knock if you're missing a lock picker.

Remember to take advantage of retraining spells. Upgrade Silent Image to Major Image, Cure Wounds to Mass Cure Wounds. But don't be too hasty to trade up control spells like Tasha's Hideous Laughter, since it's just as effective on a storm giant as it is on a kobold chief (magic resist and legendary saves aside).

Jeremy confirmed that you can retrain magical secrets.
@JeremyECrawford A spell learned via Magical Secrets counts as a bard spell, so it can be replaced upon gaining a level later.

© = concentration
® = ritual

Minor Illusion: So many uses for this spell with just a little creativity.

Mage Hand: Always handy to have extra reach.
[color= Blue]Prestidigitation [/color] : Not quite as versatile as minor illusion, but still lot's of fun things to do.
Vicious Mockery: The damage is pitiful, but the effect is pretty strong at low levels. But multi-attack reduces the potency of it's effect at higher level. At least you can insult people while tied up, and they damage type is virtually never resisted.
Thunder Clap: An AoE is nice for the valor who likes to wade into combat. Though they still want a ranged option. Just don't use it on stealth missions.

Mending: Lot's and lot's of unimportant uses.
Light: Your "human" tax. Lore bards should consider just carrying a torch.

Message: Most of the time you can simply whisper, or use hand signals. Still could be pretty good for stealthy groups.
© Friends: Better for intimidation or goading someone into attacking you then actually doing anything friendly. But if you want that, you should attack first. Better with changeling/disguise self/disguise kit, and a lenient DM.
© Dancing Lights: While fancier than normal light, it takes concentration.
Blade Ward: Much of the time you could simply dodge instead. Valor 14 however let's you tank and attack. Also useful when you know there's traps around.

© True Strike: The only time you would want to use this is if you where going to run up next turn and cast a big attack spell (contagion), when you know you'll have disadvantage next round and only make 1 attack, or maybe possible while stealthed. But for the vast majority of normal cases, you simply do less damage and lose concentration.[/sblock]

[sblock=Level 1 spells]Dissonant Whispers: Why yes, the guy who is surrounded just provoked 3 OA's from you (yes, you can take an OA on your turn) and your allies. Oh, you added some insult to it's injury too. This loses steam later since most OA's don't scale and reactions get more competition (reactions reset at the start of your turn) Rogues, Warcasters, Necromacers, and Summoners can keep this gold, clerics and paladins keep it sky blue. Without OA abuse it's still blue, since it can add control without concentration, but only in certain situations.[sblock=Relevant OA Rules]
You also don’t provoke an opportunity attack when you teleport or when someone or something moves you without using your movement, action, or reaction. For example, you don’t provoke an opportunity attack if an explosion hurls you out of a foe’s reach or if gravity causes you to fall past an enemy.

On a failed save, it takes 3d6 psychic damage and must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you.

©Faerie Fire: Advantage is strong. Unfortunately, invisible people are usually dexterous, so don't rely on that part.
©Heroism: A massive amount of THP at low level, but but fades quickly. Still could be useful for the fear immunity later, but it became situational.
Sleep: This is great vs groups of small creatures, or as a finisher against a big one. It's usually ally safe as well. Scales well with slots, but it will literally do nothing if you don't scale it.
©Tasha’s Hideous Laughter: Disable that is not a fear or charm, though it does have an Int limit. Note the save on damage, so disable one guy, and fight someone else.

Healing Word: You combat heal. This actually becomes more valuable later with more slots, since you only need 1 HP to fight
Cure Wounds: Your basic cure. There's loses steam later on.
Thunder Wave: AoE damage spell. It scales ok with slots.

©Bane: A mild but versatile debuff. Generally, it's better to use Tahsa's to take one out of a fight than weakening 3. Still, it's a rare charisma save, and can help land a more powerful spell.
®Unseen Servant: All sorts of nice utility with this ritual. Such as setting off traps.
©Silent Image: A nice upgrade to minor image.
Charm Person: No concentration makes this a bit better.
Earth Tremor: A large AoE for level 1, but it also traps enemies next to you. That's not usually a good thing. Better if you don't hinder yourself (flight, misty step, earth genasi)

Longstrider: Could counter the slow of heavy armor.
®Comprehend Languages
©Detect Magic
Disguise Self:
Usually better to get proficiency in a disguise kit, it last longer.
Feather Fall
®Illusory Script
®Speak with Animals

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[sblock=2nd Level]
©Suggestion: "Help us kill your boss" not only disables someone, but adds to your allies as well. Not to mention all the RP possibilities. Though some DM's may not allow this, so check with them first.

©Heat Metal: While targeting is a bit limited, it's a no-save disadvantage, with a little damage tacked on.

Blindness/Deafness: While generally weaker than other disables, it has no concentration, allowing you to disable more. It's also a con save.
©Crown of Madness: This takes a bit of tactical finesse to utilize well, and often only lasts 1 turn, but you then get to deny an action while also dealing monster scaling damage. Just wait until 2 enemies are adjacent and target the one who goes next in initiative. Goes up with good setup and/or teamwork, such as an ally rogue with sentinel getting a free attack. Note that the enemy can't attack you, since it's charmed.
©Enhance Ability:A versatile buff. Note that Cat is advantage on initiative.
Shatter: Your next AoE damage spell. Scales ok with slots.
©Hold Person: Somewhat target restrictive but a very powerful disable that let's your allies freely crit or freely land Dex spells. Stays effective without new slots.
©Phantasmal Force: This has great potential, but can also be a waste depending on the player and DM.
©®Silence: Can shut down wizards as nearly every spell requires a voice component. Particularly fun with a valor grapple bard. But it does nothing against orcs, making it a bit niche.

©Calm Emotions: A very strong effect that can change a combat into a diplomatic encounter. The issue is, if just 1 enemy makes his save, it can quickly devolve into combat again. Dispelling fear and charm is helpful.
©Cloud of Daggers: Good auto-damage but small area, scales well with slots. This get's sky blue if combo with a way to immobilize (grappler, ensnaring shot).
©Invisibility: It's good utility for sneaking or scouting.
Lesser Restoration: A bit niche, but some diseases can be very nasty. Trade up to greater restoration later.
©Warding Wind: It has several niche uses.

®Animal Messenger
©Detect Thoughts
®Locate Animals or Plants
©Locate Object
Magic Mouth
See Invisibility: Fairy Fire can cover this for objects.
Zone of Truth
Pyrotechnics A non-concentration AoE blind is certainly good. But you need a well positioned fire in the first place. Which doesn't happen without setup.

Enthrall: A wisdom save to give disadvantage to a wisdom check, just doesn't make sense. This should just be a skill (perform) check.
©®Skywriting: Animal messenger won't be seen by the enemy.

[sblock=3rd Level]
©Fear: AoE disable that only breaks when line of sight does. It can also provoke OA's. Worse for unarmored lore bards who don't like to get close.
©Hypnotic Pattern: AoE disable. It also has no V component so you can stealth cast it. And since it only breaks on damage, you can grapple, prone, pickpocket, or tie people's shoe laces together.

Bestow Curse Single target, touch, but only needs 1 save (the spell won't end on the "deny actions" version). It makes good use of your known spells spell by effectively giving you multiple spells in 1, including higher level spells without concentration and permanent duration. Better if your DM allows for more creative curses like immobilizing a melee only guy. Worse for lore who don't like being close.
©Enemies Abound: A rare Int save that can turn attacks against you into attacks for you. Better if you can sneak away after casting.
®Leomund’s Tiny Hut: You can take a full rest and only need to worry about a dispel. Note that you can also fire arrows out making this a great fortress. It's also a ritual, so you don't need to waste slots on it. It's cast time prevents the majority of abuse.
Plant Growth Heavy slow, no save, large area, and no concentration, but only you happen to have nearby plants and are fighting non-flying creatures. And farmers appreciate it's utility. Just make be careful about party positioning.

©Clairvoyance: Scouting is useful.
Dispel Magic: When assaulting a mages fortress full of magical traps, magical barriers, and magical portals summoning magical monsters with magical buffs on them, this could be gold. Particularly boosted with jack-of-all-trades. But magical traps and effects are not in every campaign and magical buffs can usually be disabled better by blasting the caster, leaving it a bit niche.
Glyph of Warding: With permanent duration, you can fill your tavern with defensive runes. It also allows you to put down buffs without concentration (glyph + invisibility). Though it's kept well in check with it's cast time, immobility, and component cost.
©Major Image: Added sounds and smell to your illusions.
©Stinking Cloud: An AoE disable, that also blinds (using a more common sense rule), but creatures tend to be able to walk out of it.
Tongues: While normally purple for out of combat utility, the fact that this can help you land (mass) suggestion keeps it up a notch.

®Feign Death
Speak with Dead
Speak with Plants
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[sblock=4th Level]
©Greater Invisibility: A rather strong battle buff, possibly gold if you're supporting a rogue, who can stab and hide.
©Polymorph: Generally you want to use this to add a massive amount of THP (Tyrannosaurus Rex), to someone a friendly. You can also use it to disable an enemy, turning it into a sheep to keep it out of combat for a while.

©Compulsion: Ally friendly AoE move. Too bad OA's don't scale well. This can be bumped to sky blue with a rogue, cleric, or warcaster. It can also be used to create space within a ranged party, though it's initial range is low.
©Confusion: A small AoE mass disable, but there's a chance the enemy might attack you anyways.

Dimension Door: Good utility. This can let you escape while your hands are tied.
Freedom of Movement: Immunity to a lot of nasty things. Assuming you know about it ahead of time.

Charm Monster
Hallucinatory Terrain
©Locate Creature


[sblock=5th Level]
Raise Dead: You risk death every day.
©Animate Objects: Carry around a bag of small rocks to add a large amount of damage. It scales ok, but not great. Combo's very nicely with dissonant whispers.
©Hold Monster: Strong disable that works against most creatures. Depending on the campaign, you replace hold person.

©Dominate Person: A extremely powerful effect, but with many chances to save and short of a duration. Suggestion is usually enough, though sometimes you want finer control.
Greater Restoration: A high cost, and a little niche, but many of the things it cures can be the same as death.
Mass Cure Wounds: A nice upgrade from cure wounds.
©Mislead: A strong scouting spell, and it's non-verbal. So you can stealth cast it.
©Synaptic Static: An rare Int based AoE damage spell with a nice debuff attached.

Awaken: The number of things you can do with this makes up for it's otherwise niche application. It's expensive components keep it from being abused though.
Dream: While niche, the range on this spell can let you eventually kill someone from safety.
Geas: Since you can knock people out at-will, this allows you to "animate" them. Just be careful as higher level creatures can easily endure the 5d10 damage.
©Skill Empowerment: +4-6 to a skill check is nice utility.

©Modify Memory
Legend Lore
Planar Binding:
Geas works better in most situations.
©Scrying: Mislead is usually better for scouting. As this just shows you where you've been and people you already know.
Teleportation Circle: Really expensive to make your own. But could be very useful. Remember this when you get wish.

[sblock=6th Level]
Mass Suggestion: "Help me kill your boss" not only in mass, but also without concentration. And it last 24 hours, meaning you can cast it again.

©Otto’s Irresistible Dance: Single target with a weak-ish effect is bad, but the fact that it requires an action to save means a guaranteed 1 round, and makes it perfect for legendary monsters. (dance dragon dance!)

©Eyebite: You can disable upto 10 people, but you generally can do it faster. It does have a few saving graces, since you can sleep -> attack -> sleep until a target saves. It also doesn't end if you lose concentration. But overall, hypnotic pattern or hold monster will do better at lower levels.
True Seeing: Auto-win on several checks without concentration. But it's component cost means you need to know there's something to see in the first place.

©Find the Path: Seems like this should be a few levels lower. But you aren't likely to have competition if you're traveling all day.
Guards and Wards: A really fun spell. but generally adventures don't stand still.
Programmed Illusion: This is more of an upgrade to magic mouth then the illusions.
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[sblock=7th Level]
Forcecage: No save, no concentration, no consumed components, capture. The bar version gives you plenty of time to kill it anything that you have more range against. And the box version let's your party take a short rest or construct any sort of trap. Consider simply piling rocks on top.

Regenerate: A large amount of out-of-combat healing. Also very strong in combat as anyone knocked unconscious will start of their turn, making them invulnerable unless your DM stops to attack them.
Teleport: Get you and your party out of any dangerous situation. It can be used to get into a situation as well, but it's risky. Still, casting teleport for 3-4 days in a row can still be quicker than walking.

Mirage Arcane: A Lot of uses for this, and with it's relatively short casting time and long duration.
Resurrection: Raise dead is usually enough. But who knows what else you can bring back.

Etherealness: A scouting spell that doesn't require stealth.

Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion: Most of the functionality can replicated with leomund's tiny hut. This is mostly for show.
©Project Image:
This would be a nice upgrade for glyph of warding, except for it's component cost.

©Mordenkainen’s Sword: This is simply far too underpowered for the level. My personal houserule is to let it last 8 hours.

[sblock=8th Level]
Mass Suggestion/Forcecage: Just a reminder that you can cast these with your 8th level slots and they still rock.

©Dominate Monster: A very strong effect, but has a lot of saves. Suggestion can usually do enough at a much lower level.
Glibness: There are certainly creative uses for this.
Power Word Stun: Minimum of 1 turn, and you don't have many Con save disables. This goes up to sky blue if your DM reveals the target's HP.

Feeblemind: You're nearly always better off with Power Word Stun since casters tend to have high Int.

Mind Blank: The long duration let's you cast this before bed and have it ready for tomorrow.

[sblock=9th Level]
Foresight: A strong, versatile, day long, non-concentration buff for one your attackers. Goes down to blue if you don't have an attacker, since it doesn't work well with spells.
©True Polymorph Multi-functional spell that's can save-or-die, give someone a huge HP pool as a dragon, or let you turn rats into diamonds to fuel your other spells. Ask your DM for a definition of a ruling about "permanent" before hand. Also how much you can abuse turning creatures into objects. Like if you can turn a gnat into a sun, or a castle into a gnat. It's also quite fun to turn a dynamite into a creature, give it a torch, then send it out to fight.

Power Word Heal A living ally is a valuable thing.
Mass Polymorph: Buff allies, and stun enemies in the same spell. Or just turn into birds and fly away.
Psycic Scream: Int based stun, that also deals some damage.

Power Word Kill: No save single target damage. This goes upto blue if your DM let's you know the enemy HP.
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Magical Secrets: I'm not going to list or rate every spell, just some good choices, and possibly some traps. Mostly you should use these spells to fill in a gap of the party. For instance, if you have a paladin and life cleric on your team, you probably don't need any additional healing, but might need some blasting. Conversely, if you have an evoker and sorcerer, you probably want more support. Note the lore bards 2 extra do not count against the known spells, otherwise they compete with your bard spells.

Wish:(level 9): This is in its own category because it let's you cast most other spells, and is particularly good for the expensive and long duration ones (Simulacrum, Teleport Circle). This does come at a high slot cost, but it really opens up your options.

[sblock=Cantrips: Bards don't have any good at-will damage]Eldrich Blast: The best damage option for lore bards. Can be combined with ©Hex for more damage, but likely you'll be using another concentration spell.
Shillelagh: Melee valor bards can smack things with a stick using Cha and freeing up their feats for other things.
Booming Blade/Green Flame Blade: Good options for melee valor bards. Booming blade is particularly good with warcaster and dissonant whispers (force an OA, attack, then immediately get the bonus damage).
Magic Stones: For the ranged valor bard, this allows you to use Cha with a sling. It can eat up your bonus actions though, so it takes a bit of juggling. Remember you can use bonus actions between attacks. For instance, if you have 3 magic stones and multi-attack. Next turn, you can make 1 attack, then magic stone, then the other attack. Leaving your bonus action open for the third round. Finally, you can give them to other creatures, like a familiar.

[sblock=Control: Bards have plenty of Wis targeting control spells, but some creatures have high Wis. So having a few alternatives is good.]
Bones of the Earth (level 6): A non-concentration multi-target restrain with a Dex save. Or a small wall if you don't have a ceiling. Or a place for the rogue to hide behind.
Counter Spell (level 3): You can add jack of all trades to the check, and lore bard's peerless skill.
©Ensaring Strike (level 1): Str based at low levels. Good for valor bards.
©Entagle/Web/Watery Sphere/Evard's Black Tenticals/Maelstrom/Whirlwind (level 1/2/4/4/5/7): Dex/Str is nice to add to your list. The latter ones even add some damage.
©Wall of (Force, Fire, Stone, Ice, Thorns) (level 4-6): Block enemies off or cutting a group in 2 so you can deal with less of them at a time. Assuming they can't just walk around.
Magic Jar (level 6): Repeatable save-or-dominate. Though risky even with bard's Charisma save proficiency. Consider being a gnome, getting deathward, and having a cleric as backup.

Illusory Dragon (level 8): Part control, part summon, part damage this is a great anti-army spell.

[sblock=Summoning: Summons can take advantage of your disables. Such as adding more OA's to Dissonant Whispers or more crits for hold person.]
Animate Dead (level 3): No concentration. Give them a bow and these can add a lot of damage over the course of a day if you can manage to keep them alive.
©Coujure Woodland Being (level 4): Woodland beings gives you pixies, which can in turn cast polymorph, and fly. You can turn your party into flying whales.
©Conjure Animal/Minor Elemental: (level 3/4): A mass of low level things can be pretty dangerous, as long as you avoid AoE's.
©Conjure Elemental/Fey (level 6/7): A stronger conjure, but runs the risk of having them be hostile towards you.
©Summon Greater Demon (level 4): A powerful summon and you get at least command to send this into battle. Then stand back and let it do it's thing.
Simulacrum (level 7): No concentration, but expensive. Best on ranged allies who can avoid damage, so you get the most use out of it.
[/sblock]The summoner's guide is here.

[sblock=Damage: Bards lack damage, and dead is a better disable then others. Though only if you do enough to kill something, since a wounded dragon is still a threat.]
©(X) Smite (1-5): Paladins smites can add some single target damage and a variety of control effects to valor bards. Despite the concentration, they aren't wasted on a miss. Banishing smite is the only one that works with ranged attacks, but it's more of a finisher.
Scorching Ray (level 2): Scales extremely well, and can crit, so combo it with sleep or hold person.
Fireball / Conjur Volly / Vitrolic Sphere/ Meteor Swarm (level 3/5/5//9): When facing a horde, this is what you want.
Destructive Wave (level 5): Friendly damage for bard in the front, but doesn't scale.
©Lighting Arrow (level 3): While does less damage than other things (even with +2 archery style), the fact that you can pre-cast it before you kick down the door is handy. Particularly for a valor 14+ nova. It also scales very well.
©Moonbeam/Call Lighting/Sunbeam (level 2/3/6): Repeatable blast spells for spread out hordes. Better for lore who otherwise doesn't have attack options.
Spiritial Weapon (level 2): Repeatable single target damage, but no concentration. Slightly better for lore who has a little less bonus action competition.
©Swift Quiver (level 5): While this sounds great, you really need 20 Dex, archery style, and possibly a magic bow to compete with other spells (like spiritual weapon). But if you do have all those, it's can be pretty good. Note also that it doesn't require attacking. So you can lob a fireball and 2 arrows.

[sblock=Buffing: Sometimes buffing allies is better than disabling enemies, though it depends on the party and enemy.]
©Crusader's Mantle (level 3): Call it bard song. Scales good with fighters, or extremely good with necromancers and summons.
Circle of Power (level 5): Your spell defensive buff. Though you have silence at lower levels.
©Haste (level 3): Very nice if you have a barbarian, rogue, or bladelock. Pretty good for paladins and rangers. Not shabby on the rest.

Warding Bond (level 2): On it's surface it's an OK buff with a small bonus, long duration, and no concentration. However, it has interesting interactions with concentration checks. If you cast it on yourself, you will make 2 concentration checks at 1/2 the DC (min 10). Thus if you have +9 to Con saves (+3 con + 5 proficency and +1 from the warding bond itself), you are nearly immune to losing concentration for an hour. Of course, if you only have +2 to con saves, and take 20 damage, you now make 2 DC 10 checks instead of 1. So it could defiantly be a trap.

Contingency (level 6): The long duration lets you save a spell from non-combat days. A contingent cure wounds if you fall unconscious for example.

[sblock=Recovery: If you're the primary healer you might want to boost.
©Healing Spirit (level 2): THE out of combat healing spell. Just have your allies keep walking through it.
Revivify (level 3): A cheaper version of raise dead.
Deathward (level 4): Save a life, donate your spell slot today.
Heal / Mass Heal (level 6/9): Boost your healing capacity.

Wind Walk (level 6): Fast overland travel. You don't need to have been there before like teleport does.
Create Food and Water (level 3): For your desert campaign.
©Water Breathing / Water Walk (level 3): For your sea campaigns.
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Feats and Ability Bumps.

Since there's so many of these, i'm stretching the normal ratings a bit. Gold isn't mandatory and red isn't quite a trap.
Also, like spells, i am weighing the ratings towards combat.

+2 Cha: You could potentially take a feat or 2 first, but many of your spells do nothing if they miss.
Inspiring Leader: Slightly less HP then healer, but proactive makes it more valuable.
Resilient (Con): Your best spells are concentration spells. This helps keep them running and keeps you alive in general. Warcaster is better for concentration till ~level 9. Assuming an odd Con score.
Warcaster: For valor bards so they can cast "S" spells with their hands full, or insult people who run away from dissonant whispers, and add to their concentration checks. Blue for lore bards who still like concentration.

Alert: Going first means you can disable enemies before they act, or get a AoE spell off before allies get in the mix.
Defensive Duelist: Valor doesn't have any competing reactions, so this is a strong AC boost. Though wait till level 8+ for a higher bonus.
Moderately Armored: +4 AC for a lore bard.
Healer: This is right up your ally as support. Slightly more than inspiring leader, but at the cost of a little money.
Tavern Brawler: An alternative for the shield master for grapple bards. If you have an odd Str/Con. Otherwise shield master is better.
Shield Master: A key feat for the grapple bard. Blue for other bards who want a bit more defense.

+2 Dex: Initiative is nice, and helps valor with your bow attacks, or lore with AC.
+2 Con: Being alive is nice, and it helps with your concentration checks.
+2 Str: For 2-handed bards. Grapple bards don't necessarily need to max Str, since expertise adds more at cheaper cost, but it doesn't hurt.
Crossbow Expert adds a fair bit of damage when you have nothing else to do, even for lore.
Great Weapon Master: You have several spells (sleep, hold person) that grant advantage and crits. Assuming you're a Str valor bard.
Polearm Master: The Str alternative to crossbow expertise.
Ritual Caster: This can cover a lot of those "nice to have" spells freeing up your prepared slots. Suggest wizard's list.
Resilient (Wis): If you didn't take Con, Wis saves are pretty nice too.

Actor: A good option for bumping an odd Cha is good for you.
Dungeon Delver: With expertise and advantage, you can be the trap master. Red for games without traps.
Heavy Armor Mastery: This is pretty good by itself, but the prerequisite is weighing it down.
Lucky: A good all around bonus, but doesn't help land your spells.
Medium Armor Mastery: If you happen to be at 16 Dex you get +2 AC. Otherwise it's red.
Observant: For the scout in you.
Sharpshooter: Adds some damage for valor bards. Usually with swift quiver and dipping for archery style.

+2 Int:
+2 Wis:
Athlete: If you have an odd stat.
Heavily Armored: If you have an odd stat. Otherwise, medium + shield is enough.
Keen Mind: The odd bump for int, but that's likely your dump stat.
Linguist: The other odd bump for Int, but still likely your dump stat.
Mage Slayer: Even valor bards tend to stay back. Better for grapple bards.
Magic Initiate: You're going to get your choice of spells anyways, so this loses value.
Martial Adept: If you have contagion as your magic secret, faint is a good choice. Otherwise it's pretty weak with only 1 die.
Mobile: There's little reason to be faster than the rest of your party. Could be ok for scout bards.
Mounted Combat: Even valor bards don't make enough melee attacks to make good use of this. Black if you take find steed as a spell.
Sentinel: You are likely to be a target that others are trying to protect, not the other way around.
Skilled: This is weaker than usual since you have jack of all trades.
Skulker: While you can be a great scout, you don't have any way to get a damage bonus. Better with sharpshooter.

Dual Wielder: Valor has enough competing bonus actions, and lore doesn't have the weapons.
Durable: Only good if you have 19 Con.
Elemental Adept: Bards have very few damage spells, even with magic secrets.
Charger: This is bad for just about anyone past the first few levels.
Grappler: Bards can make good grapplers, but this feat isn't good.
Lightly Armored: You already have light armor. Take athlete if you're looking for the bump.
Savage Attacker: Even 2-handed valor bard don't want this.
Spell Sniper: Maybe possibly for lore with some touch attacks (contagion), but valor has longbows.
Though: The feat itself isn't bad, but you're better off taking +2 Con for the concentration checks.
Weapon Master: If your valor, you have weapon proficiency, if your lore, you don't have multi-attack.
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Example Builds:

General Stats: (both types)
Str: 8
Con: 14
Dex: 14
Int: 8
Wis: 12
Cha: 15
(+ racial bonuses)

General Feat: (both types)
4: Inspiring Leader
8: +2 Cha
12: Resilience (Con).
16: +2 Cha
19: Alert

Support: A lore bard who starts off with 1 level of life cleric for armor, Wis saves, and guidance. And uses magic secrets for goodberry and aura of vitality for tonns of HP with minimal loss of control spells. This is probably the most optimal bard, though it's group dependent.

Melee: A valor who takes shillelagh and booming blade/green flame blade and uses a quarter staff and shield to wade into battle. Focuses more on buffs like like mirror image, elemental weapon, greater invisibility, polymorph, and foresight. Possibly taking warding bond for concentration checks. Warcaster and polearm master are good options too.

Ranged: A valor who starts with fighter 1 for archery style, and con saves, then get's swift quiver for lots of attacks. Eventually adding in foresight. Potentially getting 3 levels of rogue for assassin and lighting arrow to add some some nice nova potential as well. Probably a better ranger then ranger.

Ultimate Skills: Get ALL the skills (and a lot of expertise) while still being competent in battle. Half-Elf Rogue 1, Warlock 2 (beguiling influence, agonizing blast), Knowledge cleric 1, lore bard 6+, and the skilled feat. Eventually getting peerless skill to make you the ultimate skill master, slightly edging out the rogue. Still has decent damage and control spells.

Grappler: A valor bard who boosts Str and uses shield master and expertise in athletics to know people down and hold them. Using Enhance Ability, or Enlarge/Reduce to keep up with the size, silence to make casters sad, animate ojbects or other summons to take advantage of the downed enemy, or takes advantage of position spells like cloud of daggers or crown of madness to drag people into.
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As with most full caster classes, multiclassing isn't worth missing out on the high level spells. However, the final few levels leave a bit to be desired.

[sblock=Dipping out: What you lose.]
20 : Superior Inspiration, as mentioned above, is a pretty meh ability, even if your DM allows initiative cheese by declaring races against your allies. You gain no new spells either. You gain an extra level 7 slot, which is another cast of force cage. Though if you MC a caster class you still have it.

19: Ability Score has diminishing returns (particularly at Cha 20), and so do feats since you took the best ones first (inspiring leader), but there are a fair number of good choices particularly for valor who tend to be a bit more feat hungry. Again, no new spells, but another 6th level slot.

18: Magic Secrets This let's you get wish. An extra 5th level slot isn't bad either.

17: Level 9 spell: Your level 9 spell. Foresight is a massive boost to your best damage dealer.
Bards should always MC their last level, possibly 2 or 3, in another class. Preferably a caster class to keep your slots.

Dipping earlier is OK. You slow your bard spell progression down, and bards have some really good high level control spells (mass suggestion). But there are some features that can match it.

Lore bards and glamour have more to gain from early multiclassing, because of armor. Mainly clerics or hexblade.
Valor and Blade also really like hexblade 1 which let's them boost Cha a lot more.
Also, sorcerer and fighter start with Con saves, requiring you to take them early.

[sblock=Dipping in. What you gain]
Hexblade 1: Armor for lore and glamour, melee options for all (Cha + booming blade), recharging slots for shield spell, and a better damage cantrip.
Warlock 2: A much better damage cantrip. Plus some other fun trick, like darkvision. Blue for valor/blade who will has weapons for damage, but this is still an upgrade.
Warlock 3: Chain warlock can be nice. Tome can give you alot of the utility from rituals.

Wizard 1: A good selection of utility spells; many rituals. Most are don't use a DC, so being Int based doesn't hurt you too much, but you still need 13 to MC. Also an extra level 1 slot.
Wizard 2:: Lot's of quality features here, notably diviner, which can help your control spells stick, or just support someone else with a free hit. You also get an extra level 1 slot.
Wizard 3: More rituals and utility spells, though if that's what your after, ritual caster would probably serve you better. At least arcane recovery improves keeping it from being a total waste.

Sorcerer 1 : Armor for lore, and wild magic bursts + advantage for melee valor. And a damage cantrip for both. Elemental affinity can be pretty solid, for a valor with elemental weapon. Note that starting Sorcerer gives you Con saves.
Sorcerer 2 : 2 power points is an extra 2 level 1 slots. It also allows you to trade up for an extra silence when you're going against the mages guild.
Sorcerer 3: Meta-magic allows for all sorts of good stuff, like Twinned tasha's, carefully dropping hypnotic pattern on already engaged allies, or heightening true polymorph to help secure a kill, or extending Foresight for long days. Note you won't get enough PP to twin higher level spells, so choose carefully.

Cleric 1: Medium/Heavy armor and shields make a great boost for lore\glamour bards. Choice of spells (bless, guidance). You also get a pretty solid feature of your choice, such as life cleric's heal. Valor bards don't need the armor, but still like the spells.
Cleric 2: There are several good channel divinities to choose from.
Cleric 3: Little reason to go here, since you can pick up the spells with level 18 magic secrets instead and keep Cha as your casting stat.

Rogue 1: More expertise, and a bit of extra damage for valor bards. But probably not worth the loss of a spell slot. Note that if you start rogue 1, you get an extra skill.
Rogue 2 : Cunning action is great. Just watch your bonus actions.
Rogue 3 : Arcane Trickster gives you spell slots and can grab mage hand ledgerman for a lot of fun utility. Adds a little more sneak attack damage as well.

Paladin 1: Armor is nice, and you get lesser restoration hands (since HP doesn't scale), but you lose a spell slot. Note starting Paladin gives you heavy armor.
Paladin 2 : For valor bards who want to deal a bit extra weapon damage (no archery style). You can use your high level slots to smite, and this level comes with a slots.
Paladin 3: The channel divinity (devotion or nature, not vengeance) generally makes up for the loss of a slot and you get extra spells as well.

Ranger 1: Pretty niche bonuses, but could be good in specific campaigns.
Ranger 2: For valor bards who want to deal a bit extra weapon damage (no 2-handed style). A few choice spells, and a slot.
Ranger 3: Hunter adds a bit more damage for valor bards. Beast don't scale, and you're easily better off with an extra slot to summon one.

Fighter 1: Fighting style can add a little bite to valor bards, but armor overlaps. Note stating fighter gives you heavy armor and Con saves, though at the cost of Wis saves.
Fighter 2: Action surge can allow you to try a disable again if you miss.
Fighter 3: Battlmaster's is nicely front loaded for a valor bard, adding a good bit of damage and support tricks.

Druid 1: You can pick up a number of good utility spells (goodberry) here.
Druid 2 : Wild shape adds a good bit of utility, and land druids get 1 extra slot. Moon druids won't scale well enough.
Druid 3 : Magic secrets let's you keep Cha as your cast stat.

Monk: Very little reason to go monk, even as a valor bard.

Barbarian: You can't cast spells or concentrate while raging.
Cleric 1 (lore bard), Hexblade 1 or 2.
Sorcerer 3 (at level 1), Rogue. Fighter (at level 1)
Ranger (not beastmaster), Paladin (not vengeance), Druid, Wizard (not abjuration).

For more of a mixed class, warlock, paladin, or sorcerer all work well. Mostly go bard 5 for the font of inspiration, possibly armor (valor), then focus on the other class.
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Finished copying. I'll tweak the formatting at some point.

Questions, comments, and disagreements are welcome. The guide get's better with more input.
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