D&D 5e: Aarakocra Bard Guide

A male blue and white aarakocra bard smiling as he plays his accordion

D&D 5e: Aarakocra Bard Guide

Combine powerful disabling magic with all the annoyance of a mosquito flying around your head and you have an Aarakocra Bard. Both effective and fun to play, this quick-start guide breaks down how to build and run this powerful class and race combination. 

How to Make an Aarakocra Bard

Between subclasses, skills, spells, and multiclassing, a Bard can be built to fill a dizzying array of roles. On the flip side, stat distribution for most Bards is incredibly simple. 

First, max points into Charisma, as it controls your spellcasting, most class abilities, and a whole bunch of useful bardic skills. 

Any spare points should go into Dex and Con, increasing survivability and helping to pass important saves. 

For many Bards, gear isn’t an issue. The Bardic class only has proficiency in light armor and a limited selection of weapons. This tends to leave the class squishy, with middling HP and low AC, so it’s best to stay out of combat. 

On the upside, you’ve chosen Aarakocra. Which means you can fly. Flight for a spellcaster is one of the biggest boons in the entire game. Most main casters gain this at level 5, and it requires a 3rd-level spell. You have it from level 1, permanently. Many encounters won’t have an answer to this, and those that do would probably have been able to target you anyway. 

Your racial heritage doesn’t offer much more. Claws for unarmed attacks, which you will probably never use. A fluffy spell that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get, but might never cast. And a free extra language. Which is probably the most useful thing out of the three for a Bard. 

As a Bard, you will probably be expected to take on the majority of skill challenges, especially social interactions. The class is tied with the Rogue as the most effective at skill use, with easy access to Expertise, proficiency in multiple skills, and a generally ideal stat spread.

As a general rule, you should always take Persuasion and Perception. These are likely to be your most rolled skills in any situation, and Expertise can make you the best at them if that’s your path. 

Social characters might also want to pick up Deception and Insight, to help with subterfuge and spotting liars who aren’t you. Spies and thieves should instead pick up Stealth and maybe Sleight of Hand, as well as Thief’s Tools from their background.

Finally, remember to talk to your party and GM. There are likely to be skills like Knowledge or Survival that are specifically useful for your campaign and party, and as the Bard, you’re almost certainly going to be the best one for them. 

A black male arrakocra bard casting an arcane spell.

How to Play an Aarakocra Bard

The Bard is the quintessential support character; many people’s mental image of a Bard is of a brightly dressed fool standing off to one side of a fight, playing the lute whilst insulting enemies and reinforcing their allies with wicked words and magical music. 

5e … changed this slightly. In Fifth, Bards are full casters with a comprehensive spell list, easily as powerful as the Wizards and Druids of the party. 

But they are also powerful buffers and debuffers with a host of utility and support abilities. And some subclasses can even make them competent fighters. It’s actually kind of unfair how good the Bard is at everything. 

Then you pair that with a racial lineage that allows free, unbridled flight, such a potent tool for picking and choosing targets and positioning themselves most effectively for maximum ability coverage. 

The Bard has two main resource pools: Spells and Inspiration. 

Inspiration is the simpler of the two. A limited pool of dice that can be given to allies and added to skill, attack, and saving rolls. Many subclasses add unique ways to spend the resource, and it scales as you level.  

The Bardic spell list has an overabundance of powerful buffs and debuffs, with a scattering of utility spells and damage-dealing options. 

At low levels, Command, Dissonant Whispers, Suggestion, Silvery Barbs, and Phantasmal Force can all remove an enemy’s ability to meaningfully interact with the party. 

If you’d prefer to buff your allies, Healing Word, Heroism, Aid, and Enhance Ability should be closer to what you’re looking for. 

The Bard backs up their spellcasting with a robust list of subclasses that let it lean into multiple archetypes: Support, summoning, weapon-based combat, and more. 

Mechanically, the College of Glamour offers the most to an Aarakocra Bard. Flying overhead puts the entire party within range of your Mantle of Inspiration at all times, while preventing enemies from avoiding your spells. As you level your ability to control the battlefield with spells and abilities keeps growing. 

In terms of raw power, the College of Creation starts slow but ramps up incredibly hard. It boosts your Bardic Inspiration at early levels with temp HP or Advantage on checks. The main draw is level 6, from which the class can summon an animated companion that flies alongside you, deals decent damage, and still debuffs enemies. 

Finally, Lore Bards are always great. More skills, more Expertise, and the ability to directly debuff enemy rolls. The Cutting Words College of Lore ability was one of the strongest subclasses in 5e on release, and it remains so now, almost a decade later.    

How to Roleplay as an Aarakocra Bard

Bards are strongly associated with storytelling, gathering knowledge, and wanderlust. What’s better for that goal than being able to fly?

This is a character for whom the sky is literally the limit. Who can travel from place to place without worrying about payment, or borders, or even where to stay the night as long as there’s a handy tree to perch in (or they can cast 3rd level spells.)

Pair that with avian imagery, for example, a thieving magpie or parrot learning stories by rote, for a strong start to your character building. 

From there, the world is your oyster. Bards are social animals, perfect for players with a flair for the dramatic, and could conceivably come from any background with any reason to be an adventurer. Pick something big and flashy that’s going to stand out at the table, lean into it and create something your fellow players will remember! 

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