D&D Rogue 5e Guide
Published on December 12, 2021, Last modified on March 16th, 2023
In this post, we will be examining the rogue’s class features and how you can optimize your rogue through choosing your race, background, ability scores, subclass, and feats.
Alexander Deruchenko - Wizards of the Coast - Whisper Agent
Rogue 5e Guide Rating Scheme
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e rogue. For a quick overview of other 5e classes, check out our Guide to DnD 5e Classes.
The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your rogue. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.
- Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orange is an OK option
- Green is a good option
- Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
- Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized
Did you know?
D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.
D&D 5e Rogue Overview
|Level||Proficiency Bonus||Sneak Attack||Features|
|1st||+2||1d6||Expertise, Sneak Attack, Thieves’ Cant|
|4th||+2||2d6||Ability Score Improvement|
|8th||+3||4d6||Ability Score Improvement|
|9th||+4||5d6||Roguish Archetype feature|
|10th||+4||5d6||Ability Score Improvement|
|12th||+4||6d6||Ability Score Improvement|
|13th||+5||7d6||Roguish Archetype feature|
|16th||+5||8d6||Ability Score Improvement|
|17th||+6||9d6||Roguish Archetype feature|
|19th||+6||10d6||Ability Score Improvement|
|20th||+6||10d6||Stroke of Luck|
Rogues are definitely for the players that like to lie, cheat, steal, and backstab their way to victory. Because of the way their class features are activated, Rogues need to constantly be thinking about how to get an advantage over their enemies. The tendency of rogues to be the scout of the party, combined with the unique nature of their combat abilities, means that rogues are certainly among the more technical melee classes to play.
Rogues are the stealthy thieves and assassins of the DnD world. Commonly referred to as “skill monkeys”, they are proficient in more skills than any other class except for Bards, which allows them to take the lead on a lot situations your party will run across. Things like scouting ahead, picking locks, and silently taking out enemy patrols are common tasks on a rogue’s laundry list.
Rogues in 5e get an ability called Sneak Attack which allows them to get extra damage on unaware or flanked enemies. This ability goes hand in hand with the rogue’s tendency to be the party’s scout and also dictates their more “hit and run” style in combat. This ability provides an insane amount of single target damage and is the rogue’s main way to keep up with the damage output of the other melee classes.
Rogues also get plenty of extra action economy from their Cunning Action class feature which allows them to disengage, dash, or hide as a bonus action.
Rogues are not front-line warriors; they have neither the hit points nor the AC for prolonged exchanges. If your party gets caught out in the open and without the element of surprise rogues can go down pretty easily.
Due to their high number of proficient skills, rogues are usually scouting out ahead for dangerous situations. One bad roll could mean your rogue gets discovered by a group of baddies or fails to notice a trap that drops you into a spike pit.
Best Races for Rogue
- Gem: The Breath Weapon can be useful when you're caught in melee range and the flight can help you keep out of reach from most melee creatures. The damage resistance helps with survivability and the telepathic communication can help when sneaking.
- Hill: More hit points and a WIS bonus. Both are tangentially useful, but there are much better options to choose from.
- Mountain: Rogues don’t need the STR bonus, but medium armor proficiency is decent.
- Aereni High: A +2 to DEX, Darkvision, proficiency in the Perception skill, and a free cantrip from the wizard spell list. This is very much so what rogues are looking for and Arcane Tricksters will certainly enjoy the +1 to INT.
- Aereni Wood: +2 DEX is exactly what rogues want. The +1 WIS will help with the all-important Perception skill. The ability to hide better, move faster, and the extra expertise are all things that rogues are interested in.
- Eladrin: +2 DEX and +1 CHA is a solid starting array for a rogue. The free misty step is pure gold for rogues as it's extremely useful for sneaking as well as combat. Because rogue's are usually get single-ability dependent, they'll be able to pump their CHA to make the most out of the misty step's bonus effect.
- Eladrin (Variant): +1 INT isn't what you're looking for, but you already get +2 DEX from the parent class so it's alright for the single-ability dependent rogue. The free casting of misty step is an excellent utility option both in and out of combat.
- Mark of Shadow: +2 DEX is exactly what rogues are looking for and the CHA can be beneficial for social situations. The buff to Steath synergizes extremely well with the rogue's gameplan, and so does the free casting of minor illusion and invisibility. Unfortunately, rogues as-is aren't able to use the Spells of the Mark, but Arcane Tricksters will be able to and they will become nearly unstoppable sneaking-machines.
- Pallid: Great ASI array for rogue and the free casting of sleep and invisibility are both amazing options when sneaking.
- Shadar-kai: DEX and CON are both great ability scores for rogues. The bonus resistance and the teleportation ability will help with battlefield mobility and survivability.
- Mark of Making: Arcane Tricksters can receive their INT increase from the Mark of Making and get some interesting melee spells as well.
- Mark of Passage: The Mark of Passage is perfect for a rogue, with a strong ASI spread, movement options, and the pass without trace spell that makes a rogue virtually undetectable.
- Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
- Variant: Variant humans are a good choice, but try to pick a passive feat like Skulker as rogues already have good uses for their bonus action and reaction.
- Bloodline of Dispater: Good ASI and spells for a sneaky rogue.
- Bloodline of Glasya: The ASI are good, and the spells are perfect for any rogue. Most rogues can't cast spells so the tiefling makes the class that much better.
- Variant – Feral: +2 DEX is great to add to any subrace, and the INT is also useful for Arcane Tricksters.
- Variant – Winged: Any rogue will be more than thrilled with flight for infiltration and lining up sneak attacks. Add Feral into the mix for +2 DEX and you've got an incredible character.
- Updated: Both ranged and melee rogues will love the 1st level flight that Aarakocras provide. Because they can use their bonus action to disengage, they'll have no trouble making an attack, disengaging, then flying out of reach. The Aarakocra's Talons allows for a decent offhand option as it does more damage than a dagger, but can't be thrown.
- Updated: The new bugbear is about as good as the original for rogues since they don't get any Extra Attacks. Just like most rogues, Two Weapon Fighting is very worthwhile to improve your odds of landing a Sneak Attack, and in this case, a Surprise Attack as well.
- Updated: Nothing here for a rogue.
- Updated: Rogues still are the best option for changelings, with improved racial traits and more freedom when it comes to ASIs.
- Updated: With flexible ASIs, the firbolg is an excellent choice for rogues that don't choose to become Arcane Tricksters but still want some spells to aid with stealth and infiltration.
- Air: The air genasi has a moderate DEX boost, but nothing else is exciting as a rogue.
- Fire: Arcane Tricksters could consider the fire genasi for the INT and a host of tempting racial traits, though a lack of DEX could prove to be too much of a roadblock to overcome.
- Updated: Nothing has changed enough to make the updated goblin better than the original for a rogue.
- Updated: The main draw of the goliath, Stone's Endurance, is made redundant by Uncanny Dodge.
- Updated: Rogues need their bonus action for some of their most important class features, sidelining Fey Gift.
- Updated: Draconic Cry gets you advantage with ease, activating your Sneak Attack whenever you wish. Draconic Sorcery an get you booming blade or green-flame blade, opening up more combat options in battle.
- Dhampir: Rogues are pretty single ability dependent, meaning they will have plenty of ASIs to pump their CON after maxing out their DEX. This, combined with the rogue's battlefield mobility and tendency to be in the fray can make Vampiric Bite a solid ability for self healing and ensure you hit on sneak attacks.
- Hexblood: A free casting of disguise self is every rogue's dream. The additional utility and a free casting of hex helps make this class a decent pick up for a rogue.
- Swiftstride Shifter: The swiftstride shifter comes with ideal an ASI spread for a rogue, and the subrace features will make for a highly mobile build on the battlefield.
Best Backgrounds for Rogues
- Charlatan: Deception and Sleight of Hand are two skills that Rogues already have access to and are great skills to have. Proficiency with forgery and disguise kits will also come in useful.
- Criminal: Proficiency with Stealth and Deception can help your ability to sneak around and lie, which is right up the Rogue’s alley. The Thieves’ Tools proficiency is redundant.
- Urchin: Sleight of Hand and Stealth are two perfect skill proficiencies for Rogues, combined with a perfect tool proficiencies in the Disguise kit and a redundant Thieves’ Tools pickup, and you’ve got yourself a very tempting class for Rogues.
Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.
The main goal of the Rogue is to have high DEX. Secondary goals can be increased CON for survivability, INT for Arcane Trickster builds, and WIS and CHA for ability checks.
STR: Leave the heavy lifting to your friends.
DEX: There is nothing more important to rogues than DEX. This represents their attack, damage, stealthiness, and AC. Pump this as high as you can and get it to 20 as soon as you can.
CON: More hit points and better CON saves make the Rogue less squishy.
INT: Don’t worry about INT unless you are playing an Arcane Trickster.
WIS: Can help with WIS saves and Perception.
CHA: Rogues can be a good character for CHA skill checks if needed by your party.
Rogue Class Progression
Hit Points: The rogue’s 1d8 hit dice isn’t the worst around, but rogues will have to be careful about their positioning on the battlefield. They only have access to light armor and can find themselves in trouble if they get surrounded.
Saves: DEX saves are among the more useful saves, but INT won’t come up too often.
Proficiencies: A combination of good weapons and access to Thieves’ Tools makes rogues well equipped for their adventures.
Skills: Rogues get to choose four skills! Simply amazing.
- Acrobatics (DEX): Unfortunately, Acrobatics doesn’t seem to come up as often as the rogue would like. It is useful for avoiding grapples.
- Athletics (STR): Rogues are constantly seeking an advantage over their opponents. Being able to climb is one of the best ways to get this advantage.
- Deception (CHA): The Rogue is a great pick to be the one to handle social interactions with NPCs due to its synergistic class features.
- Insight (WIS): Same as Deception.
- Intimidation (CHA): Same as Deception.
- Investigation (INT): Investigation isn’t bad, but prioritizing other skills is better for the Rogue.
- Perception (WIS): We’ve said it before, Perception is the best skill in D&D. If you don’t grab it, make sure a couple other party members have high Perception.
- Performance (CHA): Compared to the other skills listed here, Performance is rather useless for rogues.
- Persuasion (CHA): Persuasion is probably the best of the social interaction skills.
- Sleight of Hand (DEX): Like Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand doesn’t see much use, but is helpful when it does.
- Stealth (DEX): The rogue class was designed with stealthiness in mind. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this.
Expertise: Not only are rogues proficient in many skills, they can either double their proficiency bonus for two skills or a combination of one skill and their Thieves’ Tools. Failing skill checks with those skills will be much less common.
Sneak Attack: The bread and butter of the 5e rogue. The damage scales as you level up ensuring that the rogue’s main source of damage will always be relevant. You’ll need either a ranged or finesse weapon to trigger this ability, which somewhat limits your choice of playstyles and weapons.
Thieve’s Cant: Thieve’s Cant is cool for roleplaying purposes, but even then it only really applies when encountering NPCs that also know Thieve’s Cant.
Cunning Action: This class feature pairs very nicely with the rogue’s game plan. Use a Dash, Disengage, or Hide action as a bonus action to line up some Sneak Attacks or to move around the battlefield efficiently.
Steady Aim: Free advantage on your attacks at the expense of your bonus action and movement can certainly be worth it for some rogues. Usually, ranged rogues with Sharpshooter will benefit the most from this.
Roguish Archetype: At 3rd level rogues get to choose their Roguish Archetype. All options have their merits, but will require different ability score distributions and feats to be at their best.
Arcane Trickster Rogues can use the spells from the Enchantment and Illusion spell lists. The Rogue’s innate abilities and useful spells synergize incredibly well to make an even sneakier, more versatile Rogue.
Check out our Arcane Trickster Rogue 5e Guide for build optimization tips.
The Assassin rogue is pretty straightforward. They are great at infiltrating and dealing huge burst damage, hence their ability to assassinate the target. In the right campaign this subclass can be absolutely indispensable, but without much spying or infiltrating they can feel lackluster.
- 3rd level
- Bonus Proficiency: Disguise Kit and Poisonor’s Kit both have their uses, but don’t expect this to solve all your problems.
- Assassinate: The main reason Assassins need to carefully choose their feats and stats. Going first is super important to get the most mileage out of this. When it connects, your enemies are in big trouble.
- 9th level
- Infiltration Expertise: This will largely depend on the type of campaign you are playing. For combat-oriented play this will be useless, but story-driven narratives with significant time spent outside combat is where Infiltration Expertise really shines.
- 13th level
- Impostor: Same as Infiltration Expertise, but for story-driven narratives it’s probably even better.
- 17th level
- Death Strike: Another multiplier for your attacks. Pulling off Assassinate, Sneak Attack, PLUS Death Strike is insanely lethal.
Inquisitive rogues excel at observing everything that is happening around them. The idea behind this subclass is to make Insight, Investigation, and Perception as powerful as possible. In a story-based, investigative campaign, the Inquisitive rogue is top-notch. If you’re going to be doing any amount of fighting, look elsewhere.
- 3rd level
- Ear for Deceit: While useful to figure out when someone is lying, it’s situational and also not the end of the world if you do end up getting deceived.
- Eye for Detail: Better than Ear for Deceit. Enemies that like to hide or go invisible can really hurt your party if you aren’t prepared for it, and not having to use a whole action to search for them is beneficial.
- Insightful Fighting: This is a compelling reason to try out an Inquisitive Rogue. Sneak Attacks are your main source of burst damage, so the chance to use them without having advantage is quite the buff.
- 9th level
- Steady Eye: Perception is a critical skill, and Steady Eye makes sure that you’ll be perceiving all that there is to perceive.
- 13th level
- Unerring Eye: Useful, but the lack of a high WIS score on most Rogues dampens the utility you’ll get out of this thing. Still, it could save you only multiple occasions throughout a campaign.
- 17th level
- Eye for Weakness: More multipliers to the Rogue’s Sneak Attack damage. Sadly, other Rogue subclasses can just pump out much higher numbers with their features.
As with the Inquisitive rogue, the Mastermind rogue is better suited to out of combat scenarios than dungeon crawls. Though this subclass comes with some combat utility, the Mastermind will be woefully underwhelming compared to other rogues in battle. Choose the Mastermind if you are playing a story-based, investigative campaign centered around social situations.
- 3rd level
- Master of Intrigue: This one is difficult to place. The value of the proficiencies you gain are really dependent on your creativity as well as your ability to use them in the context of the campaign.
- Master of Tactics: Master of Tactics makes the rogue less of a lone wolf and can enable some sick team plays. Help actions are always great, especially as a bonus action, but with so many viable bonus actions available to the rogue you may not be able to justify using this often.
- 9th level
- Insightful Manipulator: You won’t always have the chance to use this before a fight breaks out. Besides, finding out an enemy’s WIS, INT, or CHA scores doesn’t change how fights play out most of the time.
- 13th level
- Misdirection: Moving the damage to an ally who is already covering you is a pretty lame feature.
- 17th level
- Soul of Deceit: A disappointingly specific and situational ability. This is most likely the worst 17th level feature that Rogues can get.
Phantom rogues manipulate the knowledge of the dead and use spirits to generate their power. All of the Phantom’s abilities work well with one another and will see lots of use in just about any campaign.
- 3rd level
- Whispers of the Dead: Another proficiency that you can change to whatever you wish every short rest is amazing! Keep it on something that comes up relatively often, then do a short rest before you need a specific tool or skill to gain the proficiency. There are endless possibilities when you can be proficient in every tool in the game.
- Wails from the Grave: Rogues can struggle with doing multi-target damage, and here’s a nice way to do just that. At early levels you don’t have too many Sneak Attack dice for this to feel worthwhile, but once you get to higher levels this can do a significant amount of damage to a second target.
- 9th level
- Tokens of the Departed: There’s so much here in one ability, and all of it is flavorful and fun. The trinkets are easy to get, so you can always have one on you so that you have permanent advantage on death saving throws and CON saving throws. Since they are so easy to get, you can often use them to get a free Wails from the Grave trigger and make a new one soon after. Spending your trinket on asking the spirit you captured a question won’t be used nearly as often, but it can be lots of fun and even useful in the right circumstances. Just be aware that they can lie.
- 13th level
- Ghost Walk: 10 whole minutes of flight, being able to move through solid objects, and forcing attack rolls to have disadvantage against you. This ability is simply amazing in and out of combat, and the best part is that you can refresh it by spending a Tokens of the Departed trinket if you don’t want to wait for a long rest. The flying speed is only 10 feet, but since Rogues can Dash as a Bonus Action that shouldn’t slow you down too much.
- 17th level
- Death’s Friend: Trinkets shouldn’t be too difficult to get, but it’s still nice that you will always wake up with one ready to go after a long rest. The improved Wails from the Grave is also fantastic since it boosts your Sneak Attack damage even higher to the primary target, starting at an extra 4d6 when you get this ability.
Scouts come with powerful combat options and bridge the gap somewhat between the Rogue and the Ranger classes.
- 3rd level
- Skirmisher: You can move as a reaction, but only after an enemy ends its turn close to you so you probably have already been attacked. It can be a better reaction than Uncanny Dodge in some situations, but usually it’s simply not. If you’re not trying to create some distance to use ranged weapons then Skirmisher is a pretty weak offering.
- Survivalist: More proficient skills, and Expertise in them at that! Nature and Survival are great skills to have if you don’t have a ranger in the party.
- 9th level
- Superior Mobility: More mobility is nice, but there are much better ways a rogue can achieve that than this feature.
- 13th level
- Ambush Master: Advantage on initiative and advantage on attack rolls until your next turn means loads of Sneak Attacks right off the bat. You will want to go first to make this useful so plan your DEX and feats accordingly.
- 17th level
- Sudden Strike: Yes, it’s more bonus action shenanigans, but this is one of the best available. Additional attacks means additional chances to get off Sneak Attacks.
Soulknife Rogues use their psychic abilities to accomplish their goals on and off the battlefield. By expending Psyonic Energy dice they can use a host of very powerful abilities as a kind of pseudo-spellcaster.
- 3rd level
- Psyonic Power: Psyonic Energy dice are what makes the Soulknife subclass unique and powerful. You don’t have a huge pool of dice to pull from, but the abilities granted by this subclass feature are all worthwhile.
- Psi-Bolstered Knack: You roll a Psionic Energy die every time you fail an important skill or tool ability check since the die is only expended if it succeeds with the added die.
- Psychic Whispers: Telepathic communication is very useful when trying to be quiet or when strategizing around prying ears. This is also a good way for DMs to mitigate some metagaming so that players have a reason to talk to each other across the table even when their characters might not be able to.
- Psychic Blades: The Psychic Blades are like rolling a melee weapon and a ranged weapon into one. The raw damage is good, and it uses psychic damage which the vast majority of creatures in D&D cannot resist. They can even be used for a Bonus Action attack, giving you more opportunities to land a Sneak Attack.
- 9th level
- Soul Blades:
- Homing Strikes: Great way to up your chances to land a hit for Sneak Attack if you miss. The die also isn’t expended on a miss so it won’t lead to any feel bad moments.
- Psychic Teleportation: Teleportation is always useful, whether to get somewhere out of reach or to escape a sticky situation. The only issue is that the range is unreliable because it depends on how well you roll.
- 13th level
- Psychic Veil: Being invisible for an hour is fantastic, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Note that, if you somehow have the ability to cast spells, you remain invisible when you cast a spell as long as you don’t deal damage or force a saving throw.
- 17th level
- Rend Mind: Stunned is a powerful condition that can reduce your biggest threat to nothing in an instant. The save DC will also be rather high since you can add your proficiency bonus plus your DEX modifier, making this a lot more reliable.
Swashbucklers have incredible mobility and single target damage in combat. They are able to reliably weave in and out of combat without the fear of getting stuck in a dangerous situation, and have a much easier time pulling off Sneak Attacks than other Rogue subclasses.
Check out our Swashbuckler Rogue 5e Guide for build optimization tips.
The Thief is the classic rogue archetype in D&D. They can do everything that you would expect from a rogue, but don’t come loaded with any unique or engaging mechanics to set them apart.
- 3rd level
- Fast Hands: More options for your Cunning Action bonus action. Using an item can be useful, but this only becomes quite good if your DM lets you use a potion, since they are technically “magic items” and don’t qualify for Fast Hands.
- Second-Story Work: Jumping farther is never all too exciting, and climbing faster isn’t much better.
- 9th level
- Supreme Sneak: You will be basically undetectable while sneaking. Very useful as long as your friends don’t get bored by you always feeling the need to scout ahead.
- 13th level
- Use Magic Device: I want to love this, but it really depends on what kind of toys your DM gives you to play with. If you manage to get your hands on some magical items that can cast powerful spells, this could easily be sky blue. Imagine having some of the utility of being a Wizard without the downside of multiclassing.
- 17th level
- Thief’s Reflexes: Sure the Thief isn’t all that flashy next to the Arcane Trickster or Assassin, but this is one darn good ability. Taking multiple turns in the first round of combat can immediately swing the odds in your favor, especially if you land two Sneak Attacks.
Uncanny Dodge: Rogues aren’t the tankiest class in D&D, and Uncanny Dodge is a fantastic way of avoiding damage.
Evasion: DEX saves are now even better, ensuring that you will never take full damage from sources requiring one.
Reliable Talent: Your proficient skills can’t roll lower than a 10, before adding bonuses. Rogues have many proficiencies, so you will always roll well given that this combos with the Expertise class feature. With 20 DEX you will always roll at least a 23 on DEX based skills (10 from the roll + 8 from proficiency with Expertise + 5 from the DEX modifier).
Blindsense: Invisible creatures can be punishing, and you’ll likely be glad to have this class feature at least once during a campaign.
Slippery Mind: Rogues don’t typically roll with high WIS. Even so, proficiency is really handy.
Elusive: By this point the rogue won’t go down easy, even with its average hit points.
Stroke of Luck: You may have noticed how powerful the rogue’s class features are, and Stroke of Luck is the icing on the cake. Never again will you miss an attack or fail an ability check! At least once per short or long rest, that is.
Best Feats for Rogue
- Actor: Can come in really handy in infiltration missions and pairs well with the Assassin.
- Alert: The +5 to initiative is good for rogues in some cirumstances and bad in others. If your rogue was sneaking around, got spotted, then had to take out the enemy before they can sound the alarm, this is great. If you're starting a large combat sequence and don't have any ways to get advantage on your attacks and your allies haven't closed into melee range, you'll be left without an opportunity to sneak attack. Being immune to surprise is also a solid boon for build that tends to sneak out in front of the party.
- Chef: Rogues typically don't need WIS and can do without CON if they stay out of the fray. Additionality, you've got way better uses for your bonus actions. I can't think of any good reasons why a class rooted in information and greed would also be a chef, so you can probably skip this feat.
- Crossbow Expert: This is a tricky one. Crossbow Expert gives you a second chance at landing your Sneak Attack, but rogues also want to maximize their DEX as soon as possible and there are better feats available. This one really depends on your playstyle and personal preferences.
- Crusher: This feat doesn’t add much to the rogue class unless you’re aiming for a particular style of play. Rogues can already get in and out of melee range with Cunning Action, and they typically want DEX over STR.
- Defensive Duelist: Rogues already have one of the best defensive reactions in the game with Uncanny Dodge, making this feat redundant in most scenarios.
- Eldritch Adept: Only those who choose the Arcane Trickster subclass can gain this feat, giving them a little more utility. The best invocation would be Mask of Many Faces, granting them unlimited uses of alter self. Misty Visions may be helpful, too, for infinite silent image casts.
- Elven Accuracy: Most rogues will want to pick this up if they want to play as an elf. They have tons of ways to get advantage, especially with the Steady Aim optional rule. And paired with Sneak Attacks; Elven Accuracy can be monstrous. Arcane Tricksters, Assassins, Inquisitives, Scouts, and Swashbucklers also all get extra features to achieve a near constant stream of attacks with advantage.
- Fey Touched: A free misty step is what every rogue in existence is looking for. Yeah, it uses your bonus action, but the utility of a 30ft teleport is undeniable. The ASI will likely go to waste, but it could be used to boost CHA for Swashbucklers or INT for Arcane Tricksters. As for the 1st-level spell to pick up, there are not too many optimal choices. Hunter's mark and Hex aren't particularly desirable because you only get 1, maybe 2 attacks per round. You'd rather somebody else cast dissonant whispers on an enemy you fighting so you can get another sneak attack in. Probably the best choice would be hideous laughter in order to incapacitate a creature in combat for some attacks with advantage or take a guard out while you're on a sneak mission.
- Fighting Initiate: The Fighting Styles have some interesting options for rogues. Archery will make damage more consistent for bow users. Blind Fighting is great for fighting in the dark, something a sneaky rogue often wishes to do. Additionally, seeing invisible creatures can be quite helpful.
- Great Weapon Master: Rogues can’t use martial weapons, locking them out of this feat entirely.
- Gunner: Guns work really well for rogues. However, silencers don’t exist in Dungeons & Dragons, making them tough to be sneaky. None of the subclasses stand out here, making guns a safe bet outside of sneaking scenarios.
- Keen Mind: Nothing here for a rogue. It is at least of some use to Arcane Tricksters who cast spells with INT, but there are plenty of other feats to take before this one. Namely, Fey Touched or Shadow Touched.
- Lightly Armored: Already has access to light armor at the start.
- Lucky: The Lucky feat is especially good for a rogue. Because rogues are proficient in so many skills, this feat is an extra insurance policy to not fail important ability checks and saving throws. Also helps land attacks seeing as you don't get any extra attacks and need to hit to use Sneak Attack.
- Mage Slayer: This can be a good option for most rogues, but there isn’t a particular subclass that can make the most. Players who want to keep casters at bay or takedown important targets definitely want this.
- Magic Initiate: Utility reigns supreme here, as there are a plethora of great spells that fit into any rogue playstyle. Like Eldritch Knights, Arcane Tricksters should probably pick the wizard spell list, as their subclass grants them wizard spell slots.
- Metamagic Adept: Only the Arcane Trickster subclass can take this feat, but it works great for them. Not only is extending the duration of spells nifty, being able to cast spells with Subtle Spell will allow them to get out of tricky situations quickly.
- Mobile: This feat was almost made for rogues. Being a glass cannon martial class, rogues like to inflict massive damage and then get out of the way, making this the perfect feat to complement the skirmisher playstyle.
- Moderately Armored: Being able to pick up medium armor and a shield can pump your AC by +4. Rogues will never use half plate or scale mail as it impedes too much with their sneaking abilities.
- Mounted Combatant: While the advantage on attacks from this feat may seem tempting, riding a mount will rending the rogue's Cunning Action useless and can paint a target on their back. While fighters and paladins may be able to tank for their mounts, rogues will be hard-pressed to do so.
- Observant: +5 to passive Perception and Investigation is a solid boost when you're planning on leading the party through dangerous terrain. On top of that, you can read lips which will be useful when on an infiltration mission. Increasing your INT or WIS by 1 isn't the most exciting ASI and holds this back from being a truly excellent feat for rogues. Both the Scout and Arcane Trickster can benefit from this the most, as they either need the stat or the skill buffs.
- Piercer: This works well if you want to use shortswords or rapiers for your main hand and can also work with a dagger offhand attack. Arguably this is almost a must-have unless you don’t want to use these weapons.
- Poisoner: This is the best way to get reliable access to poisons, something that any assassin-type character would like to have. This feat also allows you to make much cheaper and more effective poisons than other poisons you might find in the world. While the feat does ignore resistance to poison, there are many creatures that are simply immune to poison, rendering poison one of the worse damage types in 5e. In addition, a DC 14 CON save is overcome quite easily, especially at higher levels. The bonus action to apply the poison may also conflict with your Cunning Action. Overall, this is a cool synergy for rogues, but won't be the most impactful feat.
- Polearm Master: Rogues definitely won’t want this feat, as polearms can’t be used with Sneak Attack.
- Prodigy: Grab another proficiency and another expertise. If your skill monkey abilities weren't enough for you, this will help get you to where you want to be!
- Resilient: Though they don't have to concentrate on spells, rogues could do well from picking up Resilient (CON). This can help increase their hit points while also offering them a bonus to resist effects that target CON, like poison, disease, and necromancy.
- Sentinel: Sentinel is great for rogues who like to be in the middle of the fray, allowing them to perform more Sneak Attacks and immobilize enemies. Unfortunately, they will likely be the target of enemy attacks more often than an ally with a high AC. Make sure you position yourself strategically to take advantage of this!
- Shadow Touched: This feat is a perfect choice for rogues. It gives them some of the utility of an Arcane Trickster without needing to take the subclass. That said, Arcane Tricksters will absolutely love this feat, especially if they have an odd INT score. Strangely enough, Swashbucklers will also love this feat to help them boost their CHA score.
- Sharpshooter: If you’re playing as a ranged rogue, this is pretty much a must-have. The -5 penalty can be easily offset by attacking from unseen, which is what rogues excel at. The extra 10 damage and the ability to ignore half and three-quarters cover will make you an absolute nightmare on the battlefield when paired with your sneak attack.
- Shield Master: Rogue's don't get proficiency in shields and have too many uses for their bonus action to pick this feat up.
- Skill Expert: Rogues get tons of Expertise and proficiencies, so this is great if you want to rock skill checks. Having three skill expertise will allow you to double your proficiency with Stealth, Perception, and one of the face skills, which can make you a massive asset outside of combat.
- Skulker: Another amazing option for archer rogue builds who have gone with a race that doesn't provide darkvision. Helps you pull off sneak attacks and hide. Still useful without making ranged attacks, though you will find the most benefit from this feat with ranged builds.
- Slasher: Rogues can enjoy this feat based on what weapons they’re using, as not all melee weapons deal slashing damage.
- Spell Sniper: Rogues normally can't cast spells but Arcane Tricksters could actually see some benefit. Unfortunately, ranged spell attacks don't trigger Sneak Attack, which certainly holds this feat back for those builds.
- Telekinetic: Rogues can find some use with this for some invisible pickpocketing, but Arcane Tricksters will want it more. Because it buffs their mage hand to 60ft, they can do a whole lot more from that distance. The only issue that rogues will run into is when they want to use their Cunning Action or an offhand attack. That said, the value this offers rogues is undeniable, even if the ASIs don't line up.
- Tough: Ranged rogues won't have any need for Tough because they can mitigate damage by keeping their distance and using Cunning Action to Hide. If your rogue is going to be up close and personal, you may find their d8 hit dice insufficient and want to give your hit points a boost with Tough.
- War Caster: Rogues who choose to become Arcane Tricksters can find a lot of use, as several of their spells will require concentration or somatic components. Arcane Tricksters typically won’t want to cast spells as opportunity attacks. This is because opportunity attacks can net them another sneak attack as long as they meet the conditions.
Best Multiclass Options for Rogues
Multiclassing is always an opportunity cost, you have to determine if taking a level of another class is worth what you will lose from the original class. Many factors come into this decision, with the main factor being how long your campaign will run and, ultimately, what level you will be playing until.
In general, rogues do very well with multiclassing. Access to spells and extra attacks go a long way to make rogues even better at what they can already do.
Fighter: Dipping into fighter is a tried and tested option for any rogue. The Archery Fighting style is fantastic for boosting damage for bow users. At 2nd level Action Surge adds a lot more to what you can do on a single turn and opens up the possibility of getting an second attack if you miss on your Sneak Attack attempt. By 3rd level you can take the Battle Master archetype giving you useful maneuvers. Especially enticing is the Riposte maneuver that can let you get off a second Sneak Attack in the same round, as Sneak Attack can be used once per turn. If you can stomach five levels of fighter you get the Extra Attack.
Ranger: At least two levels of ranger is advised since this gives you both Fighting Style and access to Hunter’s Mark, the ranger’s signature spell. Three levels means choosing your archetype, opening up useful features like the Hunter’s Giant Killer for extra Sneak Attack opportunities or the Gloom Stalker’s bonuses at the beginning of combat if you have a decent WIS score. Going all the way to 5th level means an Extra Attack plus 2nd level spells like pass without trace. It isn’t advised to get more than five levels of ranger unless you really like your archetype’s features at higher levels.
Sorcerer: Even a single level of sorcerer gets you a good list of spells and a Sorcerer Origin which offers fantastic bonuses right away. For example, Draconic Bloodline gives you a huge boost to AC and Aberrant Mind gives telepathic communication and some useful spells.
Warlock: Rogues are extremely synerginistic with warlocks, especially in the first three levels. At 1st-level, warlocks get access to 2 cantrips and 2 spells that they can cast using a 1st-level spell slot which will allow you to pick up booming blade/green-flame blade, eldritch blast, and hex. You also get to choose a subclass, and the Hexblade is an obvious choice. While you likely won’t use the ability that allows you to attack with CHA, Hexblade’s Curse will be hugely useful to boost damage, and the proficiency with medium armor and shields will be great for defense. Taking a two-level dip into warlock will net you an extra spell and spell slot, as well as some sweet Invocations. This will allow you to pick up Devil’s Sight which is a devastating ability for a rogue to combine with the darkness spell. Unfortunately, darkness is a 2nd-level spell, so you won’t be able to cast it until you dip three levels into warlock. With that in mind, the third-level dip into warlock allows you to choose a Pact Boon. Pact of the Blade allows you to summon your weapon out of an extra-dimensional space, which is just so cool for a rogue. That said, the Pact of the Chain’s boon might be better. With the Pact of Chain, you’ll be able to summon an imp using the find familiar spell. Seeing as the imp can transform into a rat, raven, or spider and turn itself invisible, it makes for an excellent scout and sneaking companion.
Wizard: A single level here gets you access to useful spells like Find Familiar and ritual casting. Two levels means you can choose your school of magic, and Bladesingers go perfectly with Rogues, especially Arcane Tricksters. By 6th level Bladesingers get an Extra Attack, perfect for a second chance at Sneak Attack.
Sources Used in This Guide
- BR: Basic Rules
- SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
- ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
- EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
- GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
- MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
- MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
- MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
- PHB: Player's Handbook
- SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
- SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
- SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
- TTP: The Tortle Package
- WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
- VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
- VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
- XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
18 thoughts on “Rogue”
The only thing I disagree on is Shield. It’s absolutely amazing for my rogue (who gained shield proficiency through the moderately armored feat), who has a base AC of 19, to have 4 rounds of AC 24, and after that to take half damage. Since Shield takes effect after the attack is rolled but before damage happens, you can choose whether to use Shield or to use Uncanny Dodge, depending on the attack roll.
Of course there are many ways you can choose to build your Rogue (they are very versatile after all!) but we haven’t found that to be particularly optimized for what we like to do with the class. Rogues excel at their mobility and burst damage, and love to weave in and out of combat, avoiding even taking attacks in the first place. In our opinion, leaving the tanking to the Fighters and Barbarians of the group and focusing on your strengths is a better use of what the Rogue can bring to the table. As seen in the guide, we believe there are much better options for feats and spells that can really make the class shine. We think spell slots should be saved for those busted spells (like Find Familiar) and high DEX is key, so choosing high impact feats is of utmost importance if you want a feat. Unfortunately AC also becomes less important at higher levels where enemies roll with high attack bonuses.
Of course that is just our opinion, and you can build your Rogue to suit your particular needs. Your method does make for an interesting take on the class, we will be sure to try it out in the future and will include it as an option in the guide. Thanks for your insightful comment!
I believe High Elves aren’t just good arcane tricksters. Also, one more thing: If the campaign uses Volo’s Guide to Monsters, then a kobold could make a good rogue too.
You’re right, Kobolds are great! We talk about them in our Kobold Guide. These class guides only discuss the standard races to keep them more clear and concise, but many non-standard races are perfect for an Arcane Trickster.
You don’t need backgrounds that give you proficiency with thieve’s tools, and shouldn’t list that as a positive, because all rogues already have proficiency with thieve’s tools.
Good call, we have changed the verbiage around this!
page 125 of the players handbook indicates that “If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.”
so getting thieves tools via a background is actually pretty great, since it frees you up to take any other tool proficiency instead
When Intelligence saves DO come up (not very often) you’ll be lucky to be proficient. I mean, we all love our brains, right? Those Int saves protect from the THREE NASTIEST EFFECTS IN THE GAME: Mind Flayers, Intellect Devourers, and Feeblemind spells. What’s the use of a striker if they’re mind controlled or reduced to the mentality of a bug? This (among Investigation, History, roleplaying, and personal preference) is another reason to have a high Intelligence.
You’re absolutely right, failing an INT save is one of the worst things that can happen to you in combat. However, they are also the among rarest saves in the game. To my knowledge only two monsters have INT saves in the Monster Manual (three if you count the psychic grey ooze variant). Is it worth potentially forgoing another stat for the chance you might run into one of these creatures? I think DEX, CON, and CHA take precedence, which doesn’t leave you with many more points to play with. That’s for you to decide. Like you said, it’s personal preference. 🙂
My 2nd DnD Game and my first time playing Rogue. This is such a useful layout. Thank you so much for this breakdown! It’s been a lot to take in.
Tabaxi race is amazing when used for a rogue (it is the best choice for this class imo) and was sad to see it was not mentioned directly in the guide. The ritual caster (wizard) feat will allow you access to ritual spells on the wizard spell list starting with 2 free lvl 1 spells (find familiar, alarm, detect magic, identify, unseen servant, and comprehend languages are the best ones imo) allowing you to choose between 2 of those spells is great alone but you also will be able to add more spells to it later if you can find them on scrolls or in books (Magic Mouth, Tiny Hut, Phantom Steed, Water Breathing, and Telepathic Bond are the higher-level ones that look the most useful). Because spells that are cast as rituals do not use a spell slot you will be able to use these w/o the need for spell slots and the familiar (I suggest owl) can give you or a team member constant advantage on the 1st attack per round and it can also do that for some some skill checks if done correctly by using the help action. The familiar will need to be in 5 feet to perform the help action or it can use it on its turn and fly away after (owls flyby will prevent it from falling victim to opportunity attacks). The catch is you will need to manage to get the owls turn just before yours to have this work on you unless you dm is nice but there is a solution. You could try to put the owl on your shoulder and have it hold its action till your turn or your attack at which point it will perform the help action as its held action giving you advantage on the attack. Then you could move away using disengage or something to prevent you from being targeted by opportunity attacks but the dm may decide that because the owl is not flying it can be targeted by opportunity attacks despite the fact that it is on your shoulder. If the dm does this the solution is a small barrel, cooking pot, or something similar that is just big enough to fit an owl, has only 1 way in, and is not see through (needs to be big enough for the owl to hide in but not so big it would be awkward to move). You strap the barrel to your back have the owl hide in the barrel and hold/preform its actions in there. That way it is close enough to hold its help action to use for you, it never leaves the threatened area till long after it is in the hiding spot on your back, and the rules on opportunity attacks are quite clear in the fact that you can not target inanimate objects (such as barrels) for opportunity attacks. So, since it never leaves the area till after it is in the barrel which can not be targeted that makes the owl safe according to the rules as written (honestly it is stupid that you have to jump through so many hoops just to get a familiar that can help you in battle but getting advantage on 1 attack every round is worth it). Not to mention the fact that having an owl that can help you scout without risking your life is amazingly usefull.
Hi there! Thank you for the write up these are great tips. We have now updated the guide to include non-standard races.
What are the best multiclass options for Rogue?
We’ve added some into the article for you to check out.
Thanks arcane eye! my arcane trickster rogue is my favourite caracter I used the TCoE rule about switching ASIs to make my Svirfneblin (deep gnome) pretty OP what with non-detection. also I think the spell points rule is much better than the normal spell slots rule. Wwhat do you guys have to say about spell points?
Sounds like a fun build! I’ve never looked that far into a spell points alternate rule. Which one do you use?
I’m glad you included warlocks into the multi class as there is so much potential. I wanted to include a couple comments to add to what you’ve included. If you take the improved pact weapon invocation from XGtoE you can make your pact weapon a longbow so you can still get all of your pact blade benefits from a distance. Also, if you give yourself the devil’s sight invocation and use the darkness spell on your clothing or weapon you’ll have automatic advantage for sneak attacks on all enemies and not even have to use your cunning action to hide.
That’s a great combo! Love it.