A tiefling bard
Bards are versatile arcanists, capable in combat, art, and magic alike. Bards practice magic as they would art or song and use their artistic talents to induce magical effects that either bolster their party or hinder their enemy, typically through illusion magic. They also are among the most versatile of characters, capable of learning from practically any trade.
Both literally and figuratively enchanting bards draw upon, more than perhaps any other profession, the works of all who've come before them. Storytellers, musicians, enchanters, dancers, and lorekeepers bards are often wanderers, traveling from one place to another in search of new lore or perhaps in the hopes of spreading what they already know. Some come into the services of others as ambassadors or spies, but most bards prefer the freedom of mobility and living by one's whims, though this is not without exception and most bards acquire their skills as a result of training under previous bards drawing upon ancient traditions of lore and arcane magic.
Bards have a reputation for being joyful and inspiring, though as with every skill their ability to charm and draw others to them has a darker side. Evil bards are typically manipulative and cunning, twisting the hearts of others either through magic or sheer charisma. Still, most bards, regardless of personal morality, have a strong distaste for blatant violence, at least when it can be avoided. To a bard the joys of life are in seeking knowledge or, better yet, witnessing the discovery of such knowledge firsthand. For this reason many bards are drawn to the adventuring lifestyle, hoping to witness the weaving of new tales firsthand - or perhaps even to instigate them.
Bards are common throughout Toril, appearing most commonly in the Dalelands and North Faerûn, though they can also be found in large numbers in as diverse locations as Chult or Vaasa. Some of the world's greatest magical and adventuring traditions were propped up and supported by bards. The most notable of these, the Harpers, held a large numbers of bards within their ranks.
The most common bards are humans and eladrin, as well as half-elves and half-eladrin to a lesser extent, the latter three drawing upon the ancient magical and musical traditions of the Tel-quessir to their benefit. On the other hand, few half-orcs, orcs, or goblinoids become bards, their ancient traditions less befitting of the bard's lifestyle. Nor, for that matter, are dwarven, except for gold dwarves, though halfling and gnomish bards are. Of all the races, half-elves, with their unusual combination of endurance and charm, are considered to have the best natural ability for a bard's lifestyle, though gnomes and tieflings also make excellent bards.
Bards typically get along well with others having chosen different paths, in no small part due to their versatility and charm. In parties of adventurers most bards serve as spokesmen of sorts, due to their affinity for social interaction and skill at enchantment. Bards clash with few characters, having a little bit of something to offer just about anyone.
Bards are drawn most often to the worship of gods of magic, such as Corellon, Selûne, or others. Good bards might worship Bahamut or Moradin. Less moralistic bards might be drawn to the worship of Lolth, Tiamat, or Zehir instead. 
Bards are among the most versatile of adventurers. While not necessarily as tough as a fighter, as skilled as a rogue, or as intelligent as a wizard, the bard class combines all these aspects, and more, to be a "jack-of-all-trades" support character. For instance, bards are better trained in weaponry than all other arcanists, including swordmages, trained in the use of all simple weapons, longswords, scimitars, short swords, and most kinds of ranged weapons. Many are also skilled in the use of rapiers. Similarly, bards are naturally knowledgeable and have an uncanny ability for improvisation and trying new things. But unlike fighters or rogues, who might be similarly proficient, bards are capable of casting rituals, though to a lesser extent than wizards or clerics, and spells.
Bards of all kinds learn to inspire virtue and ability in those around them, though what qualities they inspire may vary from bard to bard. Some bards inspire cunning and quick reflexes in their allies, while others might inspire and further the courage and valor in those with whom they fight. Similarly, bards can, through their music and arts, soothe the nerves of their allies and, through their magic, heal their wounds and bolster their spirits, either at rest or in combat.
Bards are uncannily good at persuasion and diplomacy. For many bards this is a result of their typically high charisma but all bards, even those with a lower degree of personal allure, are able to charm their way through many troubles. They do this by actually enchanting the very words they speak, making them sound even more persuasive and compelling than they would normally.
Like other arcanists, bards usually use implements to increase the effectiveness of their spells. Most bards use wands for this purpose, wielding them like a conductor's baton. Some bards, however, use more specialized implements such as songblades or enchanted magical instruments. Many bards in particularly treasure the latter, since they can be used not only for magic but for weaving beautiful music.
Bards come from a wide variety of traditions, given their love of history and art. However, many bards fall under one of the following.
Given all bards’ love of learning it is little surprise that some bards put a large emphasis on training their minds. These bards prefer a path of trickery and cunning, using charm and intellect together to overcome obstacles. As a result, while cunning bards are as charming as most other bards, they place less of an emphasis on vitality and more of one on intellectual pursuits. Many also prefer using wands as implements to cast ranged spells and nearly all have training as tacticians, coordinating their allies in the midst of a battle. Cunning bards may become summer rhymers.
Some bards hope more to emulate the heroes they hear and learn of than to sing of them. These bards believe that the heart should come before the mind and are often great leaders in of their own, inspiring others to acts of heroism as legends inspired them. A valorous bard might neglect their intelligence to some small degree, though most of the tradition are still cunning, but they remain capable leaders while also improving their own durability. Many valorous bards prefer the use of short ranged spells and wield swords as their weapon of choice.  Valorous bards often make capable war chanters.
- ↑ Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 66-67. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 26. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1551-4.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 67. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition, p. 22. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 66. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- ↑ Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 27. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1551-4.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 67-68. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- ↑ Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 79. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- ↑ Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 81. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.