Despite not being able to sing or play an instrument, I have loved bards in Dungeons and Dragons since 2nd edition. And the only reason it took me that long is that I had no idea what bards even were in 1st edition, other than “complicated.”
Given that I love bards, it didn’t take me long to notice the College of the Opera bard when it started appearing in my social media feeds. Sadly, it did take a while to get back into the flow of writing reviews for the site because, well, holidays and end of semester reports at work tend to get in the way of RPG reviews. But enough of the real world!
The College of the Opera Bard is a product on the Dungeon Masters Guild, presenting a new bard subclass. It follows the same format as the other bard colleges, so the product only comes in at two pages. It was written by Hannah Rose (you can find her on the Worlds Apart actual play), with Kelli Butler (real-life opera singer, and participant in various streamed games).
The product is in a two-page format, with a title page with credits, and a second page that has similar formatting to the standard sub-class layout in the Player’s Handbook. Instead of artwork, the featured images are photographs of Kelli Butler in two different performance costumes, and that’s a nice, unique touch that sets the look of the product apart from others.
The product starts with an explanation of how bards of the College of Opera differ from other colleges, and a brief introduction to what the opera world may look like in a fantasy world, and why renowned members of the College of the Opera might have goals that lead them to adventuring.
Early class abilities revolve around gaining multiple new languages. Because the College of the Opera bard is so focused on their voice, even spells that do not require a verbal component require the bard to use their voice as a focus. While this is a nice thematic element, it’s not especially impactful, as there are very few spells on the bard spell list that don’t have a verbal component.
College of the Opera bard gain shatter in addition to their regular spells, and it functions differently for the subclass, operating as a cone that has multiple additional effects, some of which don’t trigger unless the spell is cast at higher levels.
At 6th, 10th, and 15th level, the College of the Opera bard gains an aria, and these interact with other bard abilities, such as the uses of bardic inspiration or the Song of Rest ability. These arias allow the bard to spend their bardic inspiration to give advantage or disadvantage under certain circumstances, as well as granting temporary hit points in addition to the benefits of healing for the Song of Rest.
At 14th level, the bard gains two additional abilities. When seeing someone else using the bardic inspiration you provide, it can grant the bard their own inspiration. In addition to this ability, the bard gains the ability to seize someone’s soul with their performance, which grants special benefits while the soul is possessed.
Several of the abilities granted to this class nicely reinforce the opera theme. The minor modifications to standard abilities lend themselves to defining this subclass. The abilities of the subclass seem like they would be fun, but not so great that they outshine other bard subclasses. I absolutely love the Capture Soul ability, but . . .
Capture Soul feels a little overpowered compared to other capstone abilities for subclasses, but 15th level abilities can get a little crazy. I’m almost hesitant to try and balance being able to make decisions about if a character can be raised or to block their soul being captured against getting an extra attack when casting a spell, or getting a secret juiced up charm spell, because Capture Soul is powerful, but the most powerful aspects of it are very situational (and the advantage on charisma checks is slightly less impressive than the charm the College of Whispers provides).
There also isn’t another bard college that has two 15th level abilities, but I really like the concept of being inspired by seeing someone use the inspiration you gave them.
Recommended--If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.
If you are interested in bards at all, and are open to 3rd party material or DMs Guild products, you won’t regret this purchase. In addition to being an interesting additional option for bards, the subclass fits in well with an urban campaign, and the last time I checked, there were at least a few recent D&D products with an urban focus.
As an aside, regardless of the power level comparisons, I would love to see what kind of creative situations could be derived from a high-level bard temporarily holding the soul of another character, and I really like the idea of soul shenanigans that result from more “mythic” abilities, rather than being derived from necromantic or divine origins.