5E Valor Bard in an Unconventional Small Party

Esker

Explorer
Half-elf valor bard, level 3, with the following stats:

STR 8
DEX 16
CON 14
INT 8
WIS 12
CHA 17

Expertise: Persuasion, Deception

In a three-character party with an aarakocra kensei monk and a rock gnome abjuration wizard.

My original intent for this character was to focus on support casting. I went valor for the AC because the party lacks a true front-line, but planned to use weapons only to pass the time between spells. But then, we acquired several powerful magic items in quick succession (DM was feeling we were a bit underpowered for the combat in the pre-written module), and now I'm rethinking my build plan.

Here's what I've got:

* Green Dragon Mask: +CHA to AC when not wearing armor (among other things). With a shield this gives me an 18 AC right now (same as a breastplate would be at the moment, but has the potential to be much better)

* Homebrewed +1 Hand Crossbow of Warning with a special loading mechanism allowing custom bolts to be loaded with one hand using an object interaction. This means it's useable with a shield if I spend some gold on special bolts; but requires some finicky management of my object interactions to do so.

* Hat of Disguise

In combat I will typically start combat with no weapon in hand so that I can get a concentration spell going in the first round, then pull out either the crossbow or a rapier after that. Once I get extra attack, I believe the special loading mechanism of the crossbow will allow me to make both attacks with it, so long as it's drawn and loaded when I start my turn; however, if I cast a spell with an M component in the first round, I can't draw it until my second turn. If I then attack once, I can't reload until the start of my third turn, and so on. So in a longer combat, it's likely worth drawing the crossbow but not using it in the second round, so I can use my interaction between attacks to reload it in subsequent turns.

I'd originally planned to max charisma (including Actor) before taking any feats, but now I'm torn between that and taking crossbow expert first. Due to magic items, both of these offer more than they normally would.

Actor:

* Synergizes wonderfully with the hat of disguise and deception expertise. Could impersonate people pretty much at will. Even without the actor feat, the hat plus deception expertise has enabled us to bypass quite a bit of combat; actor would make that even more reliable.

* Bumps CHA to +4, which is even better for me than it normally would be, not only improving my casting, key skill checks and providing another use of bardic inspiration, but also adding to my AC because of the mask

Crossbow Expert:

* No worries about swapping to a melee weapon when at close range
* Bonus action attack (this competes with bardic inspiration and healing word, so won't get it every round, but still a significant damage boost for a party that doesn't have fantastic damage output)
* After level 6, enabling extra attack to work normally with my magic weapon, without finicky management of object interactions to reload

If I take crossbow expert I may take a hexblade level at some point well down the line in order to use the crossbow with CHA. But as I said, I'm not really intending to build a weapon-focused character here; just one that can put out some reasonable at-will damage in between spells.
 

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