A review copy of “College of the Crow’s Nest” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: R Morgan Slade

Pirate-themed player characters are a common theme for adventuring, usually represented in the fighter and rogue classes. College of the Crow’s Nest takes a surprising turn with the bard as a swashbuckling explorer, but by utilizing a fun new treasure-seeking feature, creates a worthy new subclass.

The bard College of the Crow’s Nest focuses on two new abilities they get right at 3rd level: the Crow’s Nest Familiar, and Sought Treasures and Ethereal Keepsakes.

The familiar works the same as the Find Familiar spell, but with the added bonus of over a dozen new forms, including armadillo, electric eel, scorpion, and everyone’s favorite fish-with-legs, the axolotl.

The true power of the familiar is unlocked at 6th level with the Familiar Aura. by expending a Bardic Inspiration die, you can extend your familiar’s trait, bestowing it as a bonus trait to allies inside a 30-ft aura. Suddenly those goofy little critters become quite useful. The electric eel’s Recoil allows a free melee attack as a reaction when grappled. The marmoset’s Alert feat prevents being surprised and grants immunity to sneak attacks, while our beloved axolotl grants immunity to poison, disease, and petrifaction. Thanks, little buddies!

The familiar aura is such a neat idea that it should be a feature for all familiars. The designer realized this, and provides the Familiar Aura as an optional feat, changing the aura from a Bardic Inspiration expenditure into expending a 1st level spell slot.

But the main feature for the Crow’s Nest bard is seeking treasure, and adding them as Ethereal Keepsakes. Whenever the bard takes a long rest they can work with the DM to designate an item of appropriate rarity that they’re seeking (uncommon for 1st-5th, rare from 6th-9th, etc). The bard can spend Bardic Inspiration during each long rest to determine how close (or far) they are to their sought treasure.

crow's nest college

It’s completely up to the DM on where these items are, and the circumstances  they’re in, creating a lot of work for the DM for such a core class feature. Thankfully the supplement includes over 10 sample adventure hooks and treasure ideas (as well as randomized tables), many of which stretch the idea in ways I wouldn’t have considered.

For example, maybe the relic has already been stolen, and is in the hands of a thief. You’ll have to find the thief and perform a task for them before they’ll hand it over. Or the treasure was used as a prize in a tournament, but cheaters skewed the results and made off with the prize. 

Finding the treasure is only half the story; the other half is returning it to its rightful place. In a fun twist of the It Belongs in a Museum trope, the bard’s goal is to find treasures, and then return them to where they belong, whether it’s the final resting place in a crypt, a proper descendent, or in the above example, the true winner of the tournament.

Returning an item to its rightful place creates a magic copy of it for the bard that they can draw from whenever they summon their familiar. For every Ethereal Keepsake they’ve acquired, they also gain a permanent +1 bonus to CHA. Now we’re talking!

At later levels the bonuses get even better, including adding more Bardic Inspiration uses per Keepsake, and using your Reaction so your familiar can summon a Keepsake to help another ally use a previously bestowed Bardic Inspiration die – an excellent combination of the subclass’ two signature abilities.

The supplement also includes new magic items and spells, which help sell the Age of Sail theme even more than the class’ abilities, such as the Tricorne of Composure, Boots of the Deckhand, and Incite Munity spell. However, many of the items are copies of each other (Shovel of the Sought, Cutlass of the Sought), and feature uninteresting  spells and abilities that require inflicting exhaustion to activate. A slight misstep in an otherwise well-designed subclass.


  • Sought Treasure is a fun built-in side quest mechanic, and Familiar Auras make expanded familiar choices more strategic.
  • Sample treasure and adventure hook ideas.
  • Pirate-themed magic items and spells.


  • Most of the magic items are uninteresting copy/pastes of each other.

The Verdict: By focusing on the treasure-hunting aspect of the classic Pirate archetype, the College of the Crow’s Nest bard features a rewarding method of finding – and returning – magical treasures.

A review copy of “College of the Crow’s Nest” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.