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Inspire Courage Optimization


First Post
Simple Sample builds

I thought I'd sketch out some simple sample builds which make IC (Inspire Courage) effective early.

Archer1, Human:

Feats: Song of the Heart, PB Shot (1), Rapid Shot (3)

By level 3, IC = +3/+3 using 1 spell (IB) and the SOTH feat.

By level 3, with badge of valor (1.4 K investment), IC = +4/+4 3 times day (actually 2 times a day because of limited spells, 3 times a day at lvel 4 on). IC boosting DONE.

By level 6 (Precise shot), basic Bard archer is set. Rest of feats are open.

{Comments: really spectacular at level 3 on up. As an archer by level 3, he hits with +4 + dex bonus after rapid shot and IC. (round 2+). That actually is a better "to hit" than a dedicated fighter archer! And way better damage (+4 per arrow + str). Nasty.

Archer2, Human:

Feats: PBSHOT, Rapid Shot (1) Precise Shot (3)

Use Badge of Valor and IB to pump up IC by +2 as soon as you can cast the spells/afford the item (level 2 for the spell, 3 for the item). Rest of feats and equipment is open. Precise shot is always nice to have early. Balanced and non-extreme build.

Melee1, Human

As archer1, except use WP: Reach weapon and Combat Reflexes instead of PB Shot, Rapid Shot. Must have high constitution for this one. With +4/+4 will be hitting often and hard, and reach keeps you out of trouble's way - for a little while. I'd suggest Alter Self as your first long-term 2nd level buff (high AC form!). Make a good skald-type.

out of time...

{and yes these do require a lot of spells at low level for IB. IB is strongest at lower levels, so I think this is ok.}
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First Post
Ridley's Cohort said:
What is interesting to me about some of these effects is that you do not need many Bard levels.

How about a Bard with the minimum class levels?

Good point. You could probably stop the bard levels at 4, that would give you enough 1st level spells for 3 powerful IC's a day, and one 2nd level buff spell (if you have a high enough CH). Probably you would take Alter Self and use a wand a lot.

Bard4/OTHER STUFF nets you +4/+4 inspire courage using the easy above builds 3x day, 1 2nd level spell, and the rest is gravy.

I would stick with Bard for the spellcasting at full caster level, plus the eventual increase in IC, but that's just me.

Bard4/Barbarian X or Bard4/Hexblade or Duskblade would be fun, or just Bard4/Fighter4/OTHER

*It occurs to me that +4/+4 is sufficient to make a viable 2-weapon user. Bard4/Fighter4 with weapon focus/specialization after a round of buffing gives +5/+6 to damage. Assuming str=20 at level 8 (post stat-item buffing), that is:

+3 (bard BAB) +4 (fighter bab) + 5 (strength) + 4 (IC bonus) = +16 to hit.

With improved 2 weapon fighting, I guess that gives you:

+14/+9 main hand, +14/+9 off hand, doing:

Damage: 5 (str) + 4 (bard stuff) + 2 (weapon spec) + 1 (magic) = +12 damage main hand, +9 damage off hand.

That's pretty OK. 4 attacks... full attack action... pretty ok.
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Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Book of 9 Swords may help with this build. The Song of the White Raven feat lets you both activate inspire courage as a swift action while in a White Raven Stance, and lets your crusader and warblade levels stack with your bard levels to determine the bonus granted by your inspire courage ability.

I think a White Raven focused crusader or warblade, combined with bard, could be a pretty powerful combination.


First Post
Mistwell said:
I disagree. "If you use your bardic music ability while wielding the weapon...". It doesn't say you use a bardic music attempt, like all other "charge this ability with a bardic music attempt" abilities. It says if you use your bardic music ability while wielding. Seems pretty clear to me you just have to use bardic music as normal while wielding the weapon, and in addition to your normal benefits from using bardic music you get an additional benefit to yourself.

I don't think it is out of line. WOTC knows people think the bard is way underpowered, and I think this is one more way to bring them into line with the other classes. They are STILL weak compared to other classes, but this and some of the other items and feats and prestige classes are bringing them closer to being equal.

I believe mistwell is correct here. A 6th level bard singing with inspriational boost, song of the heart would have +3 morale and +3 from echoblade sonic, and let's say +2 from str and +1 from the weapon doing 1d8+9. That is not bad but not great either.


First Post
Mistwell said:
Book of 9 Swords may help with this build. The Song of the White Raven feat lets you both activate inspire courage as a swift action while in a White Raven Stance, and lets your crusader and warblade levels stack with your bard levels to determine the bonus granted by your inspire courage ability.

I think a White Raven focused crusader or warblade, combined with bard, could be a pretty powerful combination.

But would lose as much as it gets. For what I want in a bard it doesn't cut it but you do have a point for other players, this looks on paper to be a good combo.


First Post
I've compiled everything I could find about boosting Inspire Courage into one easy-to-read sheet - please let me know if I've missed anything. Since the OP wanted to purely boost I.C., I've left out all multi-classing which does directly add to I.C.

---Full WotC-Tweaked Bard---
Class: Bard20
Race: Human (for extra feat)
Casting Stat: 18(base) + 5(levels) + 5(inherent) + ...(no more required)
Perform (X) Skill: 23 + ...(no more required)
Bardic Music Uses Per Day: 20(levels) + ...(no more required)
Somatic Weaponry (3.5E WotC CM): can cast a spell w/somatic component with a weapon
(should combine w/Lute to allow you to cast any spell that has a somatic and/or verbal component ONLY)
Song of the Heart (3.5E WotC ECS): +1 to I.C. attack, weapon damage, charm save, & fear save bonus
Words of Creation (3E WotC BoED): doubles either base I.C. bonuses or base+additions, depending on reading
Badge of Valor (3.5E WotC MIC): +1 to I.C. attack, weapon damage, charm save, & fear save bonus
Lute - instrument (3.5E WotC ComAdv.): +1 to bard level for I.C. bonus; can cast verbal-only spells while using I.C.
Vest of Legends (3.5E WotC DMGII): +5 to bard level for I.C. bonus
Level 1: Inspirational Boost (3.5E WotC ECS): +1 to I.C. attack, weapon damage, charm save, & fear save bonus
Inspire Courage Bonus: +13 OR* +16 morale bonus to charm & fear saves, +13 OR* +16 morale bonus to attack & weapon damage to all allies
- with Focused Performance - Individual Performance (3.5E WotC Dr#338): +21 OR* +24 bonus (as above) to ONE ally
- with Dread Pirate PrC (WotC 3.5 ComAdv.) [as Bard 13/DP7], Chaos Music feat (3.5E WotC Dr#326) [+4 to bard level for I.C. bonus {multi-class ONLY}], & *: +18 bonus (as above)
-- +27 bonus (as above) w/Focused Performance - Individual Performance as well to ONE ally
- with Dragonfire Inspiration (3.5E WotC Dr.Ma.): +13d6 OR* +16d6 X element damage to all allies' attacks
-- +18d6 X element damage to all allies' attacks w/Dread Pirate add-on
-- +21d6 OR* +24d6 X element damage to ONE allies' attacks w/Focused Performance - Individual Performance add-on
-- +27d6 X element damage to ONE allies' attacks w/Dread Pirate & Focused Performance - Individual Performance add-ons
- with Focused Performance - Accompaniment (3.5E WotC Dr#338): have two of the above effects going at once

*ONLY if you allow Words of Creation to double all bonuses, not just level-dependent ones.


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Some interesting additional tidbits found from here and there that may help with this build:

Chaos Music Feat (Dragon Magazine #326, pg. 80). Pre-Req: Chaotic Alignment, DM permission (similar to Exalted feat, this is an Anarchic feat), Perform 4, Bardic Music. Your effective bard level increases by +4 for the purposes of determining which bardic music abilities you can use. This feat can't increase your effective bard level beyond your Hit Dice. However, if you can't benefit from the full bonus immediately, but you later gain nonbard Hit Dice, you may apply the rest of the bonus. For example, a human 5th-level bard / 3rd-level fighter who selects this feat would increase his effective bard level from 5th to 8th (since he has 8 HD), allowing him to use the suggestion ability and increasing his inspire courage to +2. If he later gained another nonbard level, he would gain the remainder of the bonus and his effective bard level for bardic music abilities would become 9th (since he now has 9 HD). This does not affect your spells per day or spells known. It only increases your effective bard level in regards to using your bardic music ability.

Message Spell: The PHB specifically gives the example that chanting to make a Rogue move more silently is self-defeating. Later on, Wizards & co. came out with the Subsonics feat (Song & Silence, re-printed in Complete Adventurer) which allows only your allies to hear your songs. Meanwhile, canny Bards have been able to do this the whole time simply by using the Message cantrip. You can also cast it so only a specific enemy can hear your songs (should you want to Fascinate or Suggest something to them). You can learn it at 1st level, it's a 0-level spell, it lasts for 10 minutes per round, it can travel hundreds of feet through twisty passageways and under doors, and it has no saving throw. A must-have cantrip for all Bards.

Invisibility Spell: A Bard is a great buffer for other members of the team, but somewhat vulnerable with his low hit points. Singing while invisible will not cause you to become visible (because it is not an attack), and it makes it much harder for the bad guys to hit you. Combine this with Message and the bad guys won't hear you either. As a 2nd level spell, you can get it at Bard level 4 at the earliest.

Dragonfire Inspiration feat (Dragon Magic, Pg. 18). Pre-req: Cha 11, Dragonblood subtype, bardic music. When you use your bardic music to inspire courage, you can choose to imbue your allies with dragonfire. This choice is made when first activating the ability, and the choice applies to all allies affected. Each ally so inspired loses the standard morale bonus on weapon attack rolls and damage rolls. Instead, he deals an extra 1d6 points of fire damage with his weapons for every point of morale bonus that your inspire courage ability would normally add to the attack roll. For example, an 8th-level bard using this ability would add 2d6 points of fire damage to his allies’ attacks. Special: If you have the Draconic Heritage feat or if you are a half-dragon, the extra damage is of the energy type (acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic) that corresponds to your heritage or your draconic parent instead. If your feat or your parent is nor associated with one of these energy types, this feat has no effect for you.

Snowflake Wardance feat (Frostburn, pg 50). Pre-req: Bardic Music, Perform (dance) 6 ranks. By expending one of your daily uses of bardic music, you may perform a deadly style of combat known as the snowflake wardance. Activating a snowflake wardance is a free action, and once activated, you add your Charisma modifier to your attack rolls with any slashing melee weapon you wield in one hand. This bonus to hit stacks with any bonuses to get from a high Strength score (or Dexterity score, if you are using Weapon Finesse). You cannot use this feat if you are carrying a shield, wearing medium or heavy armor, or carrying a medium or heavy load. A snowflake wardance lasts for a number of rounds equal to your ranks in Perform (dance). Performing a snowflake wardance is physically tiresome – when the snowflake wardance ends, you become fatigued for the next 10 minutes.

I wonder if you can stack the bonus from a Crystal Echoblade with a Snowflake Wardance?
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Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Slippers of Battledancing (DMG2. pg. 272): These slippers imbue the wearer with a shocking grace and a deadly fluidity in battle.
Description: These soft, open-toed slippers are made of supple leather and look very comfortable.
Activation: This item is continuously active while worn, provided that the wearer’s armor is no heavier than light. No action on the wearer’s part is required to gain the effect.
Effect: While these slippers are on the wearer’s feet, he moves with unnatural grace and alacrity, gaining an enhancement bonus of +10 feet to his land speed. The slippers also grant him a +5 competence bonus on Tumble checks. A wearer who has at least 5 ranks in Perform (dance) accesses the true benefit of the slippers of battledancing. As long as he uses his base land speed to move (a fly, swim, burrowing, or climb speed), he gains a +2 insight bonus on initiative checks. If he moves at least 10 feet as part of a move action, he can use his Charisma modifier instead of his Strength or Dexterity modifier for attack rolls and damage rolls with one-handed or light weapons (both melee and ranged).
Aura/Caster Level: Moderate transmutation; CL 7th
Contruction: Craft Wondrous Item, 5 ranks in Perform (dance), longstrider, cat's grace, easgle's splendor, 16,875 gp, 1,350 XP, 33 days.
Weight: 1 lb.
Price: 33,750

Captain Roger’s Battle Ratte (Bardic Music Instrument) (Dragon Magazine #331, pg. 88).
See next post.

Focused Performer Feat (Dragon #338, pg. 89)(This is a prerequisite for the next feat): Pre-req: Concentration 1, Perform 4, Bardic Music. When required to make a Concentration check to maintain an arcane spell with a verbal component you may use your Perform skill instead. You cannot use this ability on a silent spell.

Focused Performance feat (Dragon #338, pg. 89). Pre-Req: Concentration 1, Perform 6, Focused Performer, Bardic Music. You can expend daily uses of your bardic music ability to modify your performance. You must succeed at a Perform check (DC below) to successfully modify your bardic music ability. You may only apply one modification to a use of bardic music. The most popular bardic music modifications follow:
1) Accompaniment – Spend 3 uses to perform two Bardic Music abilities simultaneously. Each round you must make a Perform check vs. DC (20 + highest Perform ranks required) or both abilities end immediately. You may end one of the Bardic Music abilities at any time and continue the other without requiring any more Perform checks. Usable with all Bardic Music.
2)Dramatic Pause – Spend 2 uses to stop an ongoing Bardic Music ability for 1 round (in order to cast a spell, attack, etc.) and then resume it as if you had not stopped. Requires a Perform check vs. DC (20 + Perform ranks required). Usable with Fascinate, Inspire Courage, Inspire Greatness, and Inspire Heroics.
3) Harmony – Spend 1 uses to make a Bardic Music that normally affects one target instead affect two. Requires a Perform check vs. DC (20 + Perform ranks required). Usable with Inspire Competence, Suggestion, and Song of Freedom.
4) Individual Performance – Spend 1 use to make a Bardic Music that normally affects multiple targets instead only affect one (cannot be you). This target receives 2x the normal bonuses / penalties. Requires a Perform check vs. DC (15 + Perform ranks required). Usable with Fascinate, Inspire Courage, Inspire Greatness, and Inspire Heroics.
5) Projection – Spend 2 uses to make a Bardic Music have 2x the normal area of effect. Requires a Perform check vs. DC (10 + Perform ranks required). Usable with Countersong, Fascinate, Inspire Competence, Inspire Greatness, Inspire Heroics, and Song of Freedom.
6) Rhythm – Spend 1 use to make a Bardic Music that you have been performing for at least 3 round last two extra rounds after you stop performing. Requires a Perform check vs. DC (10 + Perform ranks required). Usable with Fascinate, Inspire Competence, Inspire Courage, Inspire Greatness, and Inspire Heroics.
7) Riveting Performance – spend 1 use to make a Bardic Music affect all target in range that can hear you, even if they cannot see you. Requires a Perform check vs. DC (15 + Perform ranks required). Usable with Fascinate and Inspire Competence.
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Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
It took me a while to dig up my copy of Dragon Magazine #331. Now that I have, I hereby present to you probably the best Bardic Music instrument for this build (well, two versions, both from page 88 of that issue under the article title "Marine Munitions" by Troy E. Taylor):

Battle Rattle
These items consists of a hollow piece of wood containing a reed attached to a handle with a gear that raps against the reed when spun.

Playing the battle rattle helps inspire the crew, conferring upon all allies within 30 feet a +1 morale bonus on any one skill check or attack roll made within the next round. It is effective only once per encounter, and it has no effect outside of combat.

A character using bardic music and a battle rattle in conjunction with the Inspire Courage ability increases the morale bonus granted by +1.

Faint enchantment; CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, heroism; Price 3,000 gp; Weight 1lb.

Captain Rogers' Battle Rattle

This magically enhanced wooden instrument summons the crew to battle stations by making a repetitive clacking sound when the head is swiveled around the handle. Captain Rogers's battle rattle grants all bonuses of a normal battle rattle. Once per day, Captain Rogers' battle rattle can be used to also protect all allies within 30 feet with a protection from arrows spell. Once activated, the effect lasts for 7 hours or until 70 points of damage have been prevented.

Faint abjuration; CL 3rd (I think that is a typo and means 7th); Craft Wondrous Items, protection from arroes; Price 14,100 gp; Weight 1lb.


Now I read the description of this instrument, and initially probably had the same reaction you did - what the heck are they describing here?

And then I thought about it and suddenly I recognized EXACTLY what the author is referring to. He might call it a "battle rattle", but in Judaism we call it a "Ra'ashan", "Grogger", "Gragger", or "Noise Maker". People use them during the holiday of Purim...to make repetitive noise.

They look like this:


And can even come in metals, like gold or silver:


Or can be plated in symbols:


If you want to hear what the cheap plastic ones sound like, try here.

So, build your Inspire Courage bard with a mystical Ra'ashan battle rattle in one hand, and Song Blade of Harmonization in the other, and go to town making a racket to inspire your allies and crush your enemies!
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