The next class up in the DnD Dark bloc is the Bard. When thinking of the Bard, I had a couple of ideas bouncing around. Something like the old Dirge class from EQ2 was appealing, as was the old Skald class from Dark Age of Camelot. However, neither of those captured what I wanted to achieve with the Bard. The idea I became fixated on was the idea that a Bard could be commissioned by a patron of the arts. This patron would then be a guiding force in the life of the Bard, influencing song, poetry, art, and so on. Of course, there is already a class with patrons, the Warlock. Having a Bard be the herald of one of these unseen forces, and drawing upon their influence, seemed really interesting to me. Being blended with the Warlock, makes the Bard into the voice of a cult, no matter how you slice it. The Bard then becomes a peddler of propaganda and the face of an otherwise mysterious organization. Whereas Warlocks are the ones performing most of the rites, it’s the Bard that would be telling people how great these meetings are. Come for the snacks, stay for the ritual sacrifices and otherworldly communion.
College of Heraldry
Bards of the College of Heraldry are those who have delved deep into the arcane, esoteric, and stuff of whispered lore. Following these trails has garnered the attention of otherworldly patrons of the arts, who wish to retain the services of a bard in the capacity of herald.These bards travel from seedy inn to rundown pubs in search of those who are willing to listen to the forbidden tales they have to offer. Taking it upon themselves to get the truth out to all who are willing to listen, their songs weave ancient folk stories and forgotten knowledge in equal measure, all for the glory of the patron who sponsors them.
When you join the College of Heraldry at 3rd level, you become proficient in any one of the following skills: Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion. You may also use an arcane focus as a spellcasting focus for any College of Heraldry granted spell. You also gain proficiency with medium armor, glaive, halberd, lance, and pike.
Patron of the Arts
Beginning at 3rd level, you pledge yourself in service to one of the Otherworldly Patrons. The Patrons are immensely powerful beings that inhabit other planes of existence. In exchange for the additional powers, songs, and boons granted to you, the Patron expects you to perform the duties of a herald in return. These duties might include arranging events to honor the patron, either directly or through event purpose, marshaling other servants, such as cultists and warlocks, or serving as an official representative for the Patron. When choosing this College, you are chosen by a single Patron of one of the following: the Archfey, the Fiends, or the Great Old Ones. Examples of Archfey Patrons are the Lord of the Hunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness, Titania, Oberon, and others. Examples of the Fiends include Demogorgon, Orcus, Fraz’Urb-luu, and Baphomet. Examples of the Great Old Ones include Ghaunadar, That Which Lurks;Tharizdun, the Chained God; Dendar, the Night Serpent; Zargon, the Returner; Great Cthulhu.
Also at 3rd level, you have become a representative of your Patron. You may select one of the following cantrips to add to your spell list: Chill Touch, Eldritch Blast, or Poison Spray.
Upon reaching 3rd level and having been selected by a Patron, you become aware of a Basic Truth as perceived by your Patron.
Basic Truth of the Archfey
Before mortals were created, the fey existed. The grudges that the fey lords and ladies hold have been held for time immemorial. The dramas of mortality played out over and over in endless cycles. There is no story that the fey have not seen. With the advent of the mortal races, the Archfey now call upon them to play out their tales. The herald of the Archfey is the voice that carries these tales to the other mortals.
A creature that has a Bardic Inspiration die from you may take an action to rearrange the field of battle to re-enact one of these tales. Creatures within 30 feet of the creature using the Bardic Inspiration die must make a Wisdom save against your Bardic spell save DC. Those that fail, or choose to fail, are then able to be moved by the creature using the Bardic Inspiration die. The creature using the inspiration die’s movement is split between a number of affected creatures equal to the result of the Bardic Inspiration die. If the creature using the inspiration die has already moved, that amount is subtracted from the remaining total to be split. Creature unable to be charmed or frightened are unable to be affected by the movement granted by this ability.
Basic Truth of the Fiends
What good is freedom of will if it is not tested? What are journeys without obstacles to overcome? These are among the many questions posed to you by your Patron. Without the Fiends to oppose mortals and other mighty powers, the greatest heights of heroism and valor could not be achieved. When heroism or valor fails, it is up to the Fiends to punish that failure, and perhaps reward those who caused it. After you reduce a foe to 0 hit points, your next Bardic Inspiration die grants that much in temporary hit points in addition to its normal effect.
Basic Truth of the Great Old One
The Great Old One who is your Patron exists beyond the perception of most mortals. For most, this is a measure of protection, as many mortals are unable to fully comprehend the glory of your Patron. However, you have overcome such limitations that your sense impose, and have learned to expand your sense and comprehension to fulfill your duties as herald. The words you speak to your comrades aid them in understanding the words and goals of your patron. A creature that has your Bardic Inspiration die may expend the die and add the number rolled to a spell damage roll it makes. Alternatively, when a psychic attack is made against that creature it can spend its reaction to roll the Bardic Inspiration die and reduce incoming psychic damage by that amount.
Upon reaching 6th level, your Patron teaches you to call upon them and have them answer. You are able to learn two invocations from the Warlock invocation list for which you qualify. You may replace one of these invocations upon reaching 10th level, 14th level, and 20th level. You may never know more than two invocations at a time from this power.
After reaching 14th level, your Patron has trusted you with some of the most powerful secrets they are willing to impart to those in their service.
Greater Secret of the Archfey
Upon making a successful melee attack, you may invoke the majesty of the Archfey. The creature struck by your melee attack must make a Wisdom save against your Bard spell DC. On a failed save, the creature is charmed or frightened by you, your choice. This condition lasts for one minute or until the creature takes damage. Upon breaking the condition, the creature suffers Disadvantage on all rolls until the end of its next turn. This feature may be used a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, and recovers after a short or long rest. A creature that successfully saves against this effect may not be targeted by this effect again until after you take a long rest.
Greater Secret of the Fiends
Your Patron has imparted to you the secrets of fear and torment. Whenever you inspire an ally, you simultaneously speak the same message tinged with promises of pain and torture should your inspiration fail to adequately motivate your comrade. Whenever you grant a creature a Bardic Inspiration die, they are wreathed in an aura of flame. This aura persists even if the creature uses the Bardic Inspiration die. Any successful melee attack or touch attack made by the creature deals additional fire damage equal to the die size granted by Bardic Inspiration. This additional damage remains until that creature takes a short or long rest. After missing a melee attack or touch attack, the creature with this aura may choose to have advantage on their next attack. If they choose to do so, they immediately suffer psychic damage equal to twice the size of Bardic Inspiration die that granted them by the aura. This feature may be used a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, and recovers after a short or long rest.
Greater Secret of the Great Old One
You have learned how to impart the forbidden secrets shared with you to those you inspire. Any creature who receives your Bardic Inspiration becomes resistant to psychic damage until they take a short or long rest. Whenever a creature who receives your Bardic Inspiration die is struck by a ranged attack or spell, they may instead choose to step out of time and space into the domain of the Great Old One. The creature suffers psychic damage equal to twice the die size of your Bardic Inspiration die, but the damage and any effect that would have been taken by the ranged attack or spell is ignored. The creature skips their next turn, and is able to restore any one ability or feature, except for healing, as if they had taken a short rest, and may reappear anywhere within 60 feet of their original location on the following round. After stepping out of time and space, the creature no longer gains the benefit of this feature. This feature may be used a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, and recovers after a short or long rest.