[RPG] Is this homebrew Bard College of Midnight balanced, compared to officially published subclasses


I wanted to play a necromancer, but I wasn't all that thrilled by my options. Wizards obviously make great necromancer, but I was drawn in another direction. A charismatic puppet master, that was my goal. I think you can make a decent Necro-Bard with the College of Lore, but I wanted something that's more specialized. So I drew some inspiration from online sources and created my own Bard College. I tried to analyze the colleges officially released by WotC in order to guide me and came up with this homebrew:

College of Midnight

(aka College of the Necrodancer)

Grim Secrets

When you join the College of Midnight at 3rd level, you learn the Toll
the Dead
cantrip, which counts as a bard cantrip for you, but not
towards your cantrips known. You also gain proficiency in the Arcana

Additionally, when your Spellcasting feature lets you learn or replace
a bard cantrip or bard spell of 1st level or higher, you can instead
learn or replace it with a necromancy spell of your choice, and it
becomes a bard spell for you if it isn’t already. You must otherwise
obey all the restrictions for selecting spells, and you cannot choose
spells this way that return creatures to life.

Haunted Eyes

Also at 3rd level, you gain resistance to necrotic damage, and have
advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

Dance of the Dead

Starting at 6th level, while an undead creature under your control has an
Inspiration Die from you, it gains the following benefits:

  • The creature’s hit point maximum is increased by an amount equal to your bard level + your Charisma modifier.
  • The creature adds your proficiency bonus to its attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws.
  • You may heal them with your spells and class features, ignoring any rules that would usually prevent the healing of undead creatures.
    Likewise, they always count as “willing” for your spells and class

This Inspiration Die lasts indefinitely, compared to the usual
expenditure period of 10 minutes, but you lose 1 use of your Bardic
Inspiration feature for every Inspiration Die used on undead this way.

Additionally, you learn one of the following spells of your choice:
Animate Dead, Speak with Dead, or Vampiric Touch. This spell doesn’t
count against the number of spells you know, and you can’t replace it.

Rule the Still Heart

At 14th level, you become a master of commanding the dead
with your music. As an action, choose one undead you can see within 60
feet of you that can hear you. That creature must make a Charisma
saving throw against your bard spell save DC. If it fails, it becomes
friendly to you and obeys your commands until you use this feature

Undead with an CR greater than half your bard level (rounded
down) have advantage on the saving throw and can repeat it at the end
of every turn.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a
long rest.

I'm playtesting this subclass right now. We started the campaign at 3rd level and we've reached level 6 so far. Toll the Dead is my go-to damaging cantrip and I have picked up Inflict Wounds and Ray of Enfeeblement from the get-go. Neither the necrotic resistance, nor the advantage on saves against fear has come up yet. At level 5 I started to animate some dead and before level 6, all my bardic inspiration was utilized to inspire my party. Now that I'm level 6, more and more bardic inspiration gets invested in buffing undead minions.

I have never played a bard before, so I'm not sure if any of these homebrew features make sense or are over-/underpowered. So I came here to ask:

Is this homebrew Bard College balanced, compared to officially published subclasses?

If not, how can I bring it in line with other Bard Colleges?

Best Answer

Mostly balanced except for Dance of the Dead

Overall this subclass doesn't appear to be too unbalanced. Playtesting it as you are probably gives you a better idea than any of us would have purely from reading the rules.

Grim Secrets

Part one of this feature seems fine. Though no other college gain a cantrip at this level I don't feel this is fundamentally different to any of the others.

Part two is harder to guess at as it grants an ongoing improvement rather than a static benefit. To fully know if this is OP I would have to compare all necromancy spells to all bard spells and see if this adds a significant amount of power. I feel as though it may be a little over powered compared to the existing subclasses. Potentially consider moving this to the sixth level to mirror Additional Magical Secrets of the Lore Bard.

Haunted Eyes

Advantage against fear is common enough from many sources so not a big deal. Necrotic resistance is good but situational so not game breaking.

Dance of the Dead

This feature seems to be both over powered and goes against the normal design principles. For reference the other subclasses gain at this level:

  • Additional Magical Secrets (Lore), two spells of your choice
  • Extra Attack (Valor/Swords), as it says
  • Mantle of Majesty (Glamour), Command as bonus action for 1 minute. Once per long rest
  • Fool's Insight (Satire), detect thought CHA mod per long rest
  • Mantle of Whispers (Whispers), situational disguise

This feature also uses Bardic Inspiration in a way that no other subclass uses them, more akin to the way superiority die are used than bardic inspiration.

This is the feature that needs the most work and I would consider scrapping entirely for something different.

Rule the still heart

This feature is fine, it could actually be considered weak since it only affects one creature per long rest and they get a saving (possibly with advantage).


This isn't too bad as a first attempt of the subclass. I would suggest re-doing dance of the dead. Potentially replacing it entirely. Allow me to propose some features for you, not sure if it suits 6th or 14th level better though.

Grave Humour

When an Undead Creature under your control, that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check or saving throw, you can expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and adding the number rolled to the Undead's result. You must decide before the DM says whether the roll succeeds or fails.

Puppet Master - credit to Doc in comments

When you use the Attack action on your turn, if a creature you control can see you, it can use its reaction to make a melee attack. Only one creature you control can do this per round.

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