Need some inspiration for your bard? Let’s take a look at our favorite bards in fiction, complete with some roll tables to help you get started with bard ideas, and to help you make a bard for your world that feels unique! You can use this for your Dungeons and Dragons game, but also for writers—after all, bards are a trope loved by many! And bards – as we’ll prove in this post – cross genres from fantasy, to scifi, to post-apocalyptic drama!
Best Bards: our favorite bards in fiction!
1. Dandelion / Jaskier (Julian Alfred Pankratz) – The Witcher
What comes to mind when you think of a bard? Songs and poems, of course, but also an extremely open personality and the kind of person that might join an adventure… to write a song about! Well, Dandelion (or Jaskier in the Netflix show) fits the bill! He’s certainly not a fighter, but he still goes on adventures and has a way with words that can be both annoying and endearing depending on the moment. Playing a bard like him would definitely be a fun experience if you don’t want to be in the frontline of combat, but you enjoy the attention in a social encounter.
2. Diva Plavalaguna – The Fifth Element
She might not be what usually comes to mind when you think about a bard. Far from being the typical wanderer, she’s a high-standing opera! However, her critical mission of spoiler alert hiding the Maguffin gives her an espionage/spy like feeling which can fit really nicely with a bard. After all, musicians (even opera singers!) can mix easily in courts and nobility, and also in low-rent places like taverns and skeezy bars. They over-hear many conversations when others are relaxed and their lips loose. This puts them in an ideal position to be spies and secret agents, and they might even have assassin-like training and capabilities. This makes a very exciting twist on a standard bard!
3. Tom Bombadil – The Lord of the Rings
Tom Bombadil is a strange character because he doesn’t quite fit the nature of any of Middle-Earth’s creatures. But he loves singing and he seems to have some kind of magic—which sounds very bardish to me! His character is shrouded in mystery and very few people in the books know anything about him at all. He doesn’t seem to care much about what’s happening outside his region, but he’s very connected to what goes on in the lands around him. In fact, he is so entwined with nature that he almost has a bard-druid or bard-ranger feel to him. Playing a character like Tom Bombadil might be fun if you love his special mix of wisdom, mystery, and innocence! And, if you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, consider multiclassing with the ranger or druid class.
4. Thom Merrilin – The Wheel of Time
Bards are called gleemen in the world of the “Wheel of Time”, and they’re known to be expert storytellers and entertainers. Thom specifically is known for juggling, knife performances and eating fire – a great reminder that circus performance can be an awesome option for a bard! Thom is more than just a bard, though: he’s also a mentor figure for some of the main characters. He’s great with his daggers and will do anything to protect and help the party. A character like Thom in a party could be an amazing addition to the group if you want to take on his mentor role. And for some circus flare, you can take some rogue levels to spice it up too!
5. Hoid / Wit – The Stormlight Archive
Wit (also known as Hoid) is the court jester in The Stormlight Archive. He’s known for his witty way of speaking, his eccentric personality, and the enjoyment he gets from insulting most nobles. He’s often seen in places where important things are happening, following some goal that not even himself might know. And at several points in the books he spends time comforting the main characters when they’re going through rough times with his beautiful stories, which makes him a very likable character. You might have fun playing a bard like him if you enjoy the kind of character that knows more than they let out—all while joking around with random puns with the rest of the party.
Some honorable mentions for best bards!
6. The Skyrim Bards!
Who can forget the Skyrim bards? Apart from the fact that the Skyrim soundtrack was second to none, these characters gave life to so many scenes, and there were so many memorable moments. Anyone who’s played the game could recognize one of their songs, which speaks highly of any artist!
7. Coma Doof from MadMax!
He’s maybe not the first thing you think of when you think of bards, but Coma Doof—you know, the guy with the flaming electric guitar from Mad Max—is absolutely an iconic bard! Granted, electric guitars are hard to come by in medieval-style worlds, but who says you can’t have a badass lute with two necks?
8. Those guys in the Star Wars Cantina! 😀
This wouldn’t be a complete list without those guys playing in the Star Wars Cantina. We just hear a little bit of them, but it’s a memorable tune and most people would be able to pick it out without many issues!
How to make a bard in 5e (and other systems)!
Looking for some inspiration to make your bards incredible? Here’s a list of roll tables to get you inspired! We’ve drawn ideas from our favorite bards above—and you can always look at your favorite bard for inspiration!
5e Bard Backgrounds
Here’s a bunch of ideas for bard flavors, inspired by our favorite bards!
We’ve taken the standard 5e Entertainer background and shaken things up a bit, inspired by our favorite bards! They’ll all work for your 5e bards, although some of them have stepped a little further from the typical homebrew background rules than others – all in the name of flavor! Feel free to use and tweak as you like!
Noble Bard Background
Playing music and writing poems is the kind of activity a cultured noble could do in their free time (and, let’s be honest, they probably have a lot of it). And a noble character always comes with advantages: having contacts in the higher social sphere can come in handy in any adventure!
To create a noble bard, swap out Acrobatics for History, and the disguise kit for a second language. Nobles are usually known for their knowledge rather than agility (unless they’re knights), so they’ll probably be well-versed in their country’s history and will be able to speak another language.
Spy bard background
Bards are constantly meeting new people, hearing rumors, and traveling the world. They make the perfect spies! Just make sure to be on your best (and most inoffensive!) behavior and no one will suspect that innocent bard playing their instrument in the corner.
To play a spy bard, swap out Acrobatics for Stealth, and “the favor of an admirer” for a piece of jewelry that reveals your true allegiance or identity (make sure to keep it hidden!).
Ranger bard background
There’s a number of reasons that could make a bard live in the wild. For example, they could be fed up with the usual way bards are treated, or maybe they are just tired of playing all day among boring nobles. Wild animals and trees would surely be a better audience!
For your ranger bard, living in the wild requires a specific skillset, so swap out Acrobatic for Survival, and the Disguise kit proficiency with a language of your choice… you’ll need it if you stumble upon that little gnome village!
Literary bard background
Of course, all bards will have at least a base knowledge of literature, but if you really want to double down on the scholarly side of a bard, this might be the background for you! This type of bard will tend to write or know songs about historical events or old legends and might have some useful contacts in the higher sphere of society.
Literary bards can go ahead and swap out the disguise kit proficiency for a language (preferably an ancient language—the Latin of your world!) and the “favor of an admirer” for “a letter of recommendation from a prominent scholar”.
Circus bard background
Not all bards have to be expert musicians or poets! After all, the most important thing about a bard is that they are an entertainer, right? So they could instead be a juggler, a fire-breather, or an expert acrobat.
If a Circus bard seems like your kind of bard, swap out a musical instrument for a circus kit (poi, juggling daggers, paraffin for fire breathing…).
Skald bard background
In real history, skalds were court bards that existed in Scandinavia from the 9th century to the late Middle Ages. They told the heroic stories of their kings or lords and inspired their armies and allies with their poetry.
If a Skald bard sounds like your cup of mead, go ahead and swap out the Acrobatics proficiency with Medium armor proficiency, and remove your disguise kit proficiency. Then, change the “favor of an admirer” to a “sign of honor” (which could be a letter, a tattoo, a battle scar, or any other cultural symbol of honor).
Bard personality traits ideas roll table
A character is nothing without personality, so let’s start off by choosing a personality trait! This is the sentence that defines your bard’s core personality, so choose wisely!
Bard Ideals roll table
Everyone believes in something (even if it’s in oneself), so it’s important to pick what your bard believes in to make it feel more real! Don’t forget to take their background into consideration when choosing an ideal.
Bard Bonds roll table
What does your bard care about? It could be a person, a place, or an ideal. But this will define what your character might feel conflicted about. And conflict is the heart of any story!
Bard Flaws for 5e roll table
Even our heroes have flaws, and that’s because flaws make it easier to empathize with a character. So try to find a flaw that fits with the character’s story and background.
Bard Performance Ideas?
A bard is nothing without their performance! So think how your bard would usually express their art. No one expects you to actually sing at the table (although, if you happen to be a real-life musician, I’m sure your fellow players will be delighted!), but describing how the performance feels to the audience will feel much more immersive.
Want to go deeper into character creation? Check out our video about creating compelling characters!
If you haven’t already, check out World Anvil, the perfect place to create your characters and the worlds they come from!
Who’s YOUR favorite bard? Let us know in the comments!
Video not available 🙁
Oh noes! Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnrLeJ_t7Hg
We’ll tinker with it to make sure it’s working!
My favorite bard is ‘Dordolio’, a character i created based on a character from Jack Vance.
Lol :D! It’s not hard to be inspired by the author of The Dying Earth! Do you have an article for Dordolio?
No love for Kvothe?!
Kvothe is great, he just didn’t make our top list! What makes him the best bard, for you? 🙂
My favorite part is how he stopped telling his story 10 years ago and keeps promising to finish it “later” 🙁
I have a soft spot for Fflewder Fflam of the Chronicles of Prydain.
Oooooo – I’d totally forgotten about Fflewder: LOVE the Chronicles of Prydain. They were some of my favourite books growing up! <3