Mad Mage – The Bardic Set List

Last session of Mad Mage went a lot better.  We found the stairs which gave us our sixth level milestone then we decided to keep exploring Dungeon Level.  I would be okay not doing that but I’m okay for now.  I didn’t even get to use Extra Attack but I feel better about my character.  6th Level Bard makes me feel good.  Everyone’s schedules are hinky the next month so who knows when we’ll play again but I can suggest to move quickly when we return.  We did not have an above the table conversation about pacing but I got something I wanted so maybe avoid that uncomfortable conversation a bit longer.

Since I’m playing not DMing I feel like I’m in a zoo pacing and trying to find something creative I can do with regard to this campaign.  In an earlier post I wrote about two alternate characters I would like to play, Elhar the Drow “Ranger” and None the Warforged War Cleric.

My attention has now turned to the character I’m actually running.  This is the first time I’ve played a spellcaster for long enough to get good spells.  Like the Sorcerer and Warlock, The Bard chooses a fixed number of spells.  You lack the sheer versatility of the Wizard, Druid, and Cleric but those classes have a pretty firm ceiling on what they can actually prepare.  Bards get up to 4 cantrips and 16 Bard spells along with 6 spells through the Magical Secrets class feature which can be from any class.  The Bard gets two of the Magical Secrets Spells at 10th, 14th, and 18th level.  The Lore Bard gets two additional secrets at 6th Level when the Valor Bard gets extra attack.

I’ve been thinking about what choices would be fun to make with this character.  The two parameters for these choices are 1) We are playing Dungeon of the Mad Mage and 2) My role is this party is to be the primary healer.  We do have a druid but they’re a new player and a moon druid and I don’t think they should get stuck with the healer role their first time out.  They can always prepare healing spells as needed.

The Bard gets a new spell at almost every level and each level you can retrain an old spell for a new one.

For 1st level spells I’ve taken Healing Word, Cure Wounds, and Faerie Fire.  These are my workhorse healing spells, gotta take ‘em to be a healer.  I went with Faerie Fire over Dissonant Whispers to get a Dex Save spell over a Wisdom Save.  In addition, granting advantage to hit is, in my opinion, more beneficial to our party.  The Necromancer wants a horde of bow wielding skeletons, the Warlock is Eldritch Blasting, the Moon Druid is attacking and summoning things that attack, the Rogue be Sneak Attacking.  Boosting their attack rolls is better than using their reactions in a fear effect.  I might retrain Faerie Fire at some point but the healing spells will be here to stay.

For 2nd Level spells I took Lesser Restoration as my Healing Must Have.  The rest is a grab bag: Heat Metal, Silence, and Hold Person.  Heat Metal is free damage with no saving throws but no one seems to have metal in this dungeon lately.  I might retrain this as we seem to be hacking our way through monsters rather than weapon wielders.  This is an example of a spell that would probably be more desirable outside of Mad Mage.  Same thing with Hold Person and other “Person Targeted” spells.  I want to keep Silence for the sake of using it against mages.  My vision is, Silence the Mage then charge in an Extra Attack their ass.  I haven’t had a reason to use any of these spells yet though.  I’m thinking about bringing in Blindness or Phantasmal Force to use them against more monstrous foes.

The Bard has a lot of great 3rd level spells.  I took Dispel Magic first for its utility value.  It’s often used as a plot coupon spell in adventures.  But I would like to eventually take Hypnotic Pattern because it is Broken Overpowered and at least one other spell.  Part of me wants to take Major Image for its utility but I think Bestow Curse would be a more powerful choice.  Fear would be a good choice but it’s competing for my Healing spells and I don’t think I’ll take it.  I have Nondetection on my “Maybe” list because we keep seeing Halaster or some other Arcane Eye watching us.  But what am I going to do, burn three third level slots per day so it’s always up?

The 4th level spells are good but they don’t really speak to my role as a healer.  There are better options out there.  I start getting these at 7th Level, we’re 6th Level now.  I think I’d like to take Greater Invisibility first.  This is mostly a sop to the Rogue.  If I can fit it in I’d probably take Polymorph as well.

At Level 9 the must have at 5th Level spell is Greater Restoration.  It’s been used as a plot coupon (poorly) in numerous adventures including Mad Mage.  We’ve already run into a bunch of petrified people and promised to come back for them later.  On my maybe list here I have Geas.  I would like to use it to make an instant companion.  “Fight for us or suffer psychic damage.  I also have Mislead and Seeming on my maybe list.  I’m thinking Mislead because we need a scout.  Mislead creates an illusory double you can see through.  It doesn’t really help with offense though.  Seeming is basically disguise self for the entire party.  We aren’t going to get through this dungeon in a timely fashion if we don’t start skipping fights.  However, at 5th Level, these are expensive spells.  I feel like we can do this more cheaply with other spells. But we may not be able to if we are touting around a party of skeletons and summons and geas’ed conscripts.

At 10th Level the Valor Bard gets Magical Secrets.  You can pick any two spells in the game up to the level you can cast, so up to 5th level.  I’m going to come back to these.  I’ll probably just ask my Local Power Gamer what to take and heed their advice.

6th level spells is where shit starts to get real.  You get one slot at 11th Level and a second slot at 18th Level.  I’m going to take True Seeing because I feel like I have to for Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

For 7th Level spells I’ve heard that Forcecage is one of those game changing broken spells that 5E has.  Like Counterspell, Hypnotic Pattern, and Twin Polymorphed T-Rexes it’s just something everyone takes if they get the option.  It has an expensive material component however in the form of powdered rubies.  I would also like to take Regenerate but I’m not sure I should given the scarcity of slots at this level.  I think I should take it anyways just for the RP value of my Triton regenerating like a starfish.

As keenly observed by Total Party Thrill, 8th level spells in 5E are pretty lackluster.  They’re very situational.  I’m aware from the cover of the book that there are Mind Flayers and Githyanki lower in the Dungeon.  If they become a problem I’d take Mind Blank for the psychic damage immunity and we might want it to foil High Level Divinations but I think I’d rather take something else.

At 17th and 18th level the Bard receives its last slots.  Level 17 unlocks 9th level spells and I think there’s no other way to go here except Foresight.  At 18th level you get two more Magical Secrets spells.

That’s my 16 Bard spells.  Those 2nd level slots are the most likely to get retrained to something situational.  If we hit Drow maybe get someway to cut through magical darkness.  If we hit a water level, well I’m a Triton, I’ll be fine.  I still have to consider my six Magical Secrets.  At 10th, 14th, and 18th level you pick any two spells up to a level you can cast.  Meaning you can take 5th, 7th, and 9th level spells respectively.

Obviously, I want something to bring people back from the dead.  At 10th Level, Revivify would be a good choice, Raise Dead is more powerful but more expensive.  Counterspell might be a must have but I could also get Mass Healing Word, Spirit Guardians, or Circle of Power.  Bards get Mass Healing Word but the other two are cleric spells.  I think outside of a must have like Revivify the rest of these will be determined by our needs and the advise of my friendly local power gamer.

For 14th level secrets I think I should get either Simulacrum or Disintegrate but not both.  Simulacrum is obviously a very powerful choice but I’ve always kind of hated having a companion, hireling, or pet.  I don’t want to take too long on my turn.  I’ve found that the chief effect of the conjure spells is to vex the DM into needing to deal with the new tactical situation of 8 new creatures on the board.  I also hate “gaming” the conjure system where you really want pixies to show up and you have to force the DM to decide if they want to be nice and allow eight creatures to cast polymorph or give you a worse choice.  If I could change one thing about 5E it would be to force all conjure spells to either use a genericon monster stat block for what they produce (Which is no fun) or have a random table for what they produce.  Otherwise players always ask the DM to summon broken monsters.

For 18th level secrets obviously the Granddaddy of them all is Wish.  But, it has serious serious drawbacks that take days to recover from if you don’t use it to replicate another spell.  Depending on how people are feeling it’d be great to take True Polymorph so someone can become a Dragon.  I kind of want to take Anti-Magic field as an Ace in the Hole vs. Halaster.  But this doesn’t have to be a 8th or 9th level spell, it can literally be anything.

I have a bunch of spells I’d like to take that are just not powerful enough compared with other options.  As a Triton I’d love to take Tsunami but I think I can get more mileage out of the other options I’ve considered.  Were I a Lore Bard getting bonus secrets I might take Guidance and Bless but I chose the Valorous Path.  Of course, I’ve also heard that the best form of healing is to slay all of your foes.  I’d really like to take something from the Paladin spell list like a Smite to give me some offensive punch when I’m in the frontline with my weapon and shield.

I still have a good long time before this comes up.