Time for new D&D content! The Mythic Odysseys of Theros combines two of our favorite pastimes; Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. It makes sense that Wizards of the Coast would want to combine their mystical world of Theros with another fantasy realm under their rule, and with it comes some new options. The College of Eloquence is a bard subclass for those with refined tastes. You are no longer a mere bard, chatting with the rabble at a tavern. No; you are a philosopher. Your debate skills are legendary, and your performance is more akin to a test of rhetoric, or plays on words. You’re a far cry from the flirtatious rapscallions with flutes! Why would you want to ditch the rambunctious cantor of the other Colleges in exchange for elegance? Let’s find out.
Speak with Authority: College of Eloquence 5E Guide
The Eloquence Bard is one of the most support-oriented bards available, sadly at the cost of versatility. Your goal is to never, ever fail a Persuasion check, even if you roll poorly. That’s not to say you’re useless in combat – far from it! You gain quite aggressive ways to use your Inspiration dice, and for your allies to do so as well. Eventually, you will be the most efficient conductor of Bardic Inspiration that the world has ever seen!See our Mythic Odysseys of Theros Review
One of your two level 3 abilities is dedicated to the out-of-combat Persuasion master you are to become. You now cannot roll below a 10 on Persuasion and Deception checks.
Do I have to tell you how good this is? Very well… Let me spin you a tale.
You’re talking at an art gala. You notice that the evil overlord is disguised at the table, next to a king. If she finds out you’re at the party, the King will die, and the kingdom will fly into disarray. She approaches you, and notes that you look familiar. You smooth back your hair, tell her that you’re an out-of-towner, and she’s looking great by the way… And you roll the dice.
You rolled a 1. The king dies in that moment.
If you had this subclass, you can turn that 1 into a 10. As a Bard, a 10 gets you through a lot of skill checks. With Expertise, that 10 is at minimum a 14 – though it should be a 17! – which is not bad at all. At level 20, you’ll likely be minimum-rolling a 29, which will enchant the hearts of even the coldest of ice elementals.
You guarantee that you’ll never have to deal with a truly horrendous roll again, which is so important for a class that gets great skill checks. In those cases, you would normally always have that small chance to fail Persuasion, the one thing you’re supposed to succeed on. Now, it’s almost impossible to fail simple DCs, and you’ll get pretty consistent results on harder ones.
And it works for Persuasion and Deception, two of the more common options for you. If you must choose between them, Deception tends to have harsher punishments for failure; it’d probably be the more useful Expertise. If you want them both to be Expertise skills… That’s probably a good idea. You’re definitely the party face with this ability!
Level 3 is, as usual for Bard Colleges, home to two abilities. The second is a way for you to spend Bardic Inspiration. As a bonus action, you can cause one creature you see to sweat so hard as you chew them out, they take your Bardic Inspiration dice as a penalty to their next saving throw. It lasts until the start of your next turn, and spends a dice.
This is super aggressive! And also pretty sweet.
As a Bard, you have a massive list of spells that can remove someone from a fight – Charm/Dominate Person, Hideous Laughter, Polymorph, etc. These spells are all crucial to land in some situations, and can easily turn a fight in your favor. The problem is, most of them are Wisdom saves, a common proficiency for a lot of casters or large, dangerous creatures. That means they have a solid chance to break through your save DC and just waste a slot.
By turning a use of your Bardic Inspiration into an offensive tool, this gives you – at minimum – a 5% chance to fail the next spell cast on it. On average, their chance to fail increases by 20% at level 3, up to 35% at level 15. A 35% chance to fail one spell might not sound like much, but when that spell is probably going to be something like Banishment or Dominate Monster, that’s huge!
And it’s not just your spells. If you’d like, you can use this to make an ally’s saving throw problematic. Does the Sorcerer have a huge damaging spell that they just must land? Give them a 1d6 chance to make it worse! Is the Druid about to turn your opponent into a tree via magic ritual? With a simple flutter of words and a bonus action, it’s 1d6 of the way to tree-o’clock!
Because 5e is such a spell-centric system, saving throws are all over the place – even the Fighter’s Battlemaster has some saving throw effects! Organize with your party, or lock a creature down yourself, and this ability will really mess them up!
Sometimes, even -1 to a save means the difference between not going to the shadow realm and definitely in the shadow realm.
Now, this level 6 ability is unique! Your allies no longer burn Bardic Inspiration if they fail the check they attempted to Inspire themselves on; they keep it until they either succeed or their 10 minutes run out.
The Bardic Inspiration class feature is at it’s best when you know you fail the DC by 1, and you just need that extra push. That way, if you fail, you don’t waste a potent attack roll buff.
And now? That doesn’t matter.
Having this ability activate means that your allies can Hail-Mary all day! Did they fail to hit by 8? Who cares! Roll that d8 and see if you get some damage. Does the Fighter have to make a Wisdom Save? Alright, give it a try! If it fails, they don’t waste a potent resource, since they just get it back.
Your party has 10 minutes to use this dice; they essentially get 100 rounds of attempts on attack rolls and saving throws. Do be warned that this shouldn’t be used as a free card. It just means that you should now be incredibly willing to use Inspiration if the roll failed by more than 1… If it saves a life, or keeps your Wizard from Disintegrating a hole in the wall.
This should probably not be used on misses for silly things like Cantrips. You still want to succeed at something important, and 10 minutes is long enough that you probably want to wait for a real problem.
Even still, you have 4-5 of these things per short rest. Tell your party members to use them without real care, since you can’t really waste them anymore.
It seems that the makers of this archetype wanted to shoehorn some flavor in, and so added an extra level 6 ability. Most colleges don’t get this type of extra love, so that’s a great sign for you! This ability lets a small group of creatures listen to you talk and understand you. You can refresh this through a normal 8 hour sleep, or by burning a spell slot.
Tongues is dead! Well, almost dead.
You should have at least a +4 to your Charisma (in most campaigns, sorry roll-for-stat crowd!) so that’s about 4 extra people that you can make understand you.
There is a slight problem; you can’t understand their speech back. That’s kind of a rough debate room! For the purposes of the ability, you don’t really have to understand them back; you can make your point with your massive Persuasion check and convince them just fine. If you do need to hear their backchat, Comprehend Languages is only 1st level.
The other major downside compared to tongues is that only you can be affected. This makes you a sort of translator, where Tongues could let your Barbarian talk to a tribe face-to-face. Mediation is normally fine, but Tongues allowed for unique interactions between your party members and other creatures; perhaps the Wizard could have used his Arcane Knowledge to talk down the creatures, or the Rogue could combine their Theives’ Cant with Tongues to get into a foreign thievery guild.
One interesting upside of this ability is that it doesn’t list they need to have a language, unlike Tongues. That could mean that you are able to communicate with anything that has an Intelligence modifier… Perhaps through communicating through dog barks or basic ideas or body language? Who knows. Since that might be a bit muddy, talk to your GM before casting this ability on your Ranger’s animal companion.
Bard Colleges actually have some lackluster capstones. Since they are at level 14, they usually don’t have the oomph that your other classes have. That… Changes here. Now, whenever your allies succeed at a check that they rolled Bardic Inspiration on, you can toss that d10 – or d12 – to someone else nearby. That’s one hell of a reaction! What sort of Epic did you spout that brought such elation to your party?
Seriously, this gives you about 5 more Inspiration dice per day (since it’s limited to your Charisma; get it to 20 by now!), and they take a reaction instead of your Bonus Action. That’s huge, since Bards tend to have lackluster reactions outside of countering other casters. Now, you can keep the d10 (soon to be d12) train moving!
In combination with your Unfailing Inspiration, your party now doesn’t spend inspiration when succeeding, and gives you 1 Inspiration back when they succeed. That’s so hilarious! You have next to no reason to not give everyone inspiration at the start of a dungeon, since you can benefit whether or not they succeed.
There’s a downside to this ability; it is so good that it’s hard to see a situation you’d like to use Unsettling Words. Giving a dice to an ally is so efficient! Of course, Unsettling Words is also extremely potent, but… There’s so much synergy in this Infectious/Unfailing combo!
In most cases, you’ll probably want to save a single Inspiration dice for Unsettling Words. You want that chance to take a threat out of the fight, after all! You can expend your other Inspiration dice without care, since your allies will be able to use them to save themselves or assault their foes really effectively.
Extremely powerful, incredibly good for your resources. Make sure at least one ally is inspired at all times!
Best Race for Eloquence Bards
The Eloquence Bard is a smooth-talking group that is actually not definitely in a single role. Nonetheless, you want your Charisma as high as possible to best nab your role as a Face and as an Inspiration jockey. Afterwards, getting your Dexterity and Constitution to a point where you’ll be effective in combat and safe from getting sneezed on is smart.
You need Charisma. You know what gets Charisma, and a whole bunch of other ridiculously strong race traits? The Half-Elf. They might look simple, but there’s a method to their madness… That method being a +2 to Charisma! The two +1s can be put into Dexterity and Constitution to make you combat-viable, and Darkvision is useful in most situations, Fey Ancestry is useful in… A lot fewer situations. But the icing on the cake is Skill Versatility, adding 2 skills to your already impressive kit. You’ll be sneaking and thieving, persuading and deceiving, climbing and diving, and all things in between! It’s such a good combination for your new eloquent life.
The Verdan are a weird group. Out with Acquisitions Incorporated, the Verdan gain a +2 Charisma, +1 Constitution; flawless! Persuasion is a free skill for these goblinoids, which you were going to get anyways. You can completely negate the need for tongues with Limited telepathy – and make Deception a lot easier with gullible targets! The Telepathy is weaker with these guys than other bards, but you still need to talk with everyone you can, so… Perfect! Now you don’t need to spend spell slots, unless you want to talk with a group at the same time, or if the creature has no language.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Eloquence Bard
In conclusion, the College of Eloquence is one of the most fun supportive bard colleges around. You get a ridiculous number of face skills, an insanely good setup tool with Unsettling Words, and the most efficient Bardic Inspiration out there! However, this does make it the least versatile bard; it gets no self-building combat value, nor does it get any extremely different uses of Bardic Inspiration; It’s mostly here to make Bardic Inspiration more worthwhile. If you really wanna throw a d6 (to d12) when your party – or your GM – rolls dice, this Theros subclass might be your best option!
Skill checks don’t have auto succede or fail on 20s and 1s, that’s only for attack rolls.