D&D 5E Mixing D&D Monsters with D&D Classes: The Bard


Ever wish you could pit a battalion of drum-beating goblin warchanters against the characters? How about a four-headed troll that gurgles a disgusting melody to thrust confusion into his enemies and maddening vigor into his allies? Maybe a crime-fighting copper dragon who understands her bars and the greatest hits of the realm? Or a vampire dictator who weaves words into the minds of thousands, taking their minds as his own?

All and more are deeper in this article! Grab your creative helmet, a Player's Handbook, and a Monster Manual. It's time to make some snappy monsters.

Also, if you missed the last article on mixing the Barbarian class with four monsters (the berserk bandit, the bear totem bugbear, the executioner hill giant, and the ballistic beholder) to make meatier encounters, check it out here.

Crossing Classes and Monsters​

Dungeon Masters are always on the prowl for new ways to create interesting monsters for the characters to fight or interact with. While it may seem obvious to some, a mountain of content sits on the pages of books primarily aimed at players. Yes, we're using the Player's Handbook in conjunction with the Monster Manual to build a few compelling creatures for use in our Dungeons & Dragons games. In particular, we're looking at the fifth edition variants of these books; other editions may follow.

For this article in particular, let's use the Bard class as our primary point of inspiration. Each creature we create is defined by the following three points:
  • Base: What is our base creature? What is our base class?
  • Class Abilities: What class abilities are used by this creature? Are they revamped?
  • Ripples: What does this creature's class mean for the rest of the game? How about the creature's story?
Using these three blocks as our bases, let's explore four different monsters with the Bard class from the fifth edition D&D PHB as our main resource.

Goblin Warchanter​

At the head of the goblin horde marches a line of proud goblinoids dressed in bone armor, pounding tiny drums and screaming rhythmically. They inspire their usually fearful kin to continue battling and rise again against all odds. They are each a goblin warchanter.

Our base is the goblin, and our class is Bard. Since this is a low-level monster, let's keep it simple and only give it a single ability from the Bard class and allow the bulk of the inspiration to ooze into its special lore and ripples.

Which ability is best? Well, it's likely that the goblin warchanter will work as a part of a larger group and there will be multiple. With that in mind, perhaps the more there are, the greater their effect. This extra effect must be evident to the characters and players, so they know to focus down the goblin warchanters first. Let's use the Bard's Bardic Inspiration ability as a starting point.

Warchanter's Fury (Action): The goblin warchanter's wildly hits its drum, granting Warchanter's Fury to one allied creature within 60 feet. The allied creature gains a Warchanter's Fury die that may be added to any die roll once before it's expended. The die begins as a d4, but can increase to a d6, d8, d10, and finally a d12 each time Warchanter's Fury is used on it. Warchanter's Fury can be stacked from different sources (two different goblin warchanters, for example).

This is a powerful support ability that enhances a combat in a few ways, especially if the players are inexperienced and learning how to best play their characters individually and as a group. Used in conjunction with a powerful boss, it can grant massive increased damage or chance to hit, incentivizing the characters to focus down at least a few of the goblin warchanters before going nova on the boss. Even used with a group of four goblin warchanters and four regular goblins, the warchanters could radically empower their normal goblin companions, perhaps pounding drums from a strategical vantage point like a wooden watch tower or an ogre-sized boulder. Even a single goblin warchanter could threaten an entire party, as with the powerful drums it could alert its entire horde to the party's presence with a single bang.

Outside of the goblin warchanters potential use in combat, we can think about what special lore and ripple effects it might have. This can be as simple or as complex as we would like. Let's look at a few examples of special lore and ripples these drum-beating goblins might have:
  1. Taught the instrument of the drum by the nearby hobgoblins in preparation for an upcoming assault on human lands, the goblin warchanters might mean war is near.
  2. The lone survivor of an adventuring party was captured and brought to the goblin chief, only kept alive because of the strange instrument he carried: the drum. The goblin chief forced the bard to teach the goblin tribe how to use the drum and ever since it has been a symbol of these little creatures.
  3. Every drum of these goblins is unique, crafted from the skin and bones of the goblin warchanter's ancestor.
  4. Surprisingly, the goblins sing not in Goblin, Common, or even Giant, but in Draconic! The words they sing are frighteningly inspired and there's no way they created the chant themselves.
  5. Drumbeating and screech-singing are the traditions of all the local goblin tribes. Every two summers, they hold a grand competition at the pinnacle of a great hill in which only the wildest, most threatening of warchanters survive.
  6. Somehow, a few goblin warchanters managed to install a mobile set of drums on the back of the giant spiders they ride. Say hello to the eight-legged moving drum set!
  7. The goblin chief is also a goblin warchanter and owns a magical set of drums, created by a legendary bard and lost to a snappy copper dragon long ago. How did the goblin get her hands on the set and what does the set do?
  8. A goblin warchanter entered town a few weeks ago and is trying to establish himself as a reputable musician but got caught up in the wrong crowd. It's only a matter of time before he begins inspiring ruffians with his rhythmic beats, can he be saved?
There we are: the goblin warchanter fleshed out both as a potential foe in a bloody D&D battle and as a new addition to our world's vast lore.

Here's the entire article, formatted as it should be, with three more monsters: the troll bloodgurgler, the young copper dragon soothsinger, and the vamprie orator! How to Make Snappier D&D Monsters with the Bard Class

Let me know what you think! Do you remember doing this in 3rd edition? Have you already tried it in 5e? How did it go?

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