The Complete Rogue 5E Guide | Rogue 5E Handbook

rogue 5e guide


The rogue is a classic trope that has carried through years of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. This class is about far more than picking locks and sneaking around, however. The rogue has some strong utility options despite its lack of magic, and it can deal incredible damage with the right build. To learn more about this excellent class, dive right into our Rogue 5E Guide!

Updated for Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Rogue 5E Guide

The rogue is epitome of skill and precision. While other classes manage out of combat challenges with brute strength or magic, the rogue uses their array of skills and expertise. When it is time for combat, the rogue can slip in and out of the shadows to dish out incredible damage with little more than a dagger.

it is vital to focus on these aspects of your build, as the rogue is one of only a handful of classes that has no access to spellcasting (other than the Arcane Trickster archetype, discussed below). Despite the lack of magical ability, the rogue can accomplish a great deal in most campaigns.

Rogue Table

Level

Proficiency
Bonus

Sneak
Attack

Features

1st

+2

1d6

Expertise, Sneak Attack, Thieves’ Cant

2nd

+2

1d6

Cunning Action

3rd

+2

2d6

Roguish Archetype

4th

+2

2d6

Ability Score Improvement

5th

+3

3d6

Uncanny Dodge

6th

+3

3d6

Expertise

7th

+3

4d6

Evasion

8th

+3

4d6

Ability Score Improvement

9th

+4

5d6

Roguish Archetype Feature

10th

+4

5d6

Ability Score Improvement

11th

+4

6d6

Reliable Talent

12th

+4

6d6

Ability Score Improvement

13th

+5

7d6

Roguish Archetype Feature

14th

+5

7d6

Blindsense

15th

+5

8d6

Slippery Mind

16th

+5

8d6

Ability Score Improvement

17th

+6

9d6

Roguish Archetype Feature

18th

+6

9d6

Elusive

19th

+6

10d6

Ability Score Improvement

20th

+6

10d6

Stroke of Luck

Class Features

As a rogue, you enjoy plenty of customization options. However, as a base your class shares the following features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per rogue level
HP at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
HP at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per rogue level after 1st

1D8 hit dice isn’t the worst, but it is not the greatest for characters that are often in the thick of melee combat.

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords
Tools: Thieves’ tools
Saving Throws: Dexterity, Intelligence
Skills: Choose four from Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth.

The rogue gets proficiency in all of the weapons and armor they will really need to get by. The highlight here outside of the Thieves’ tools is the incredible four skills to choose from. This makes sense, as the use of skills is a cornerstone for the rogue class.

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • a rapier or a shortsword
  • shortbow and quiver of 20 arrows or (b) a shortsword
  • a burglar’s pack, a dungeoneer’s pack, or an explorer’s pack
  • Leather armor, two daggers, and thieves’ tools

When it comes to a single-handed weapon, the rapier is the clear winner. However, two daggers allow you to dual wield and throw them if necessary. The best ranged option for a rogue to start with is the light crossbow, but it is only available if you buy your starting equipment with gold instead of choosing from the list above. Ask your DM what your options are.

Expertise (Level 1)

As a rogue, you aren’t just proficient – you are an expert. Expertise allows you to choose two options from your four skills or your use of thieves’ tools. You then get to double your proficiency bonus when making an ability check with either of the skills you hold expertise in.

At Level 6, you can add expertise in two more skills.

Sneak Attack (Level 1)

Sneak attack is one of the highlights of the Rogue class, and it often makes up the bulk of the damage a rogue can deal. Once per turn, you can deal additional 1d6 damage to a single creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. This is only viable with a finesse or ranged weapon.

Sneak attack works without having advantage if another enemy of your target is within 5 feet of it. The only exceptions are when that enemy is already incapacitated or you have disadvantage on the attack.

Most importantly, the additional damage increases with each rogue level you gain. See the Rogue Table above for an idea of how the damage scales as you level. It is worth noting that the language says this is only available once per turn, meaning you can use Sneak Attack with a reaction!

Thieves’ Cant (Level 1)

Thieves’ Cant is the secret language of thieves. You can hide messages in a mix of coded wording that only a fellow rogue can understand. This includes written symbols and signs that can left as messages. This is largely for flavor, but the right DM could make it an important part of your campaign.

Cunning Action (Level 2)

Cunning action allows you to harness your quick thinking and agility to make a bonus action each turn in combat. This bonus action includes the Dash, Disengage, or Hide actions. This is a crucial option for rogues that can allow you to dish out damage in combat but escape melee range unharmed.

Roguish Archetype (Level 3)

Like with all classes, the Rogue also breaks down into specific subclasses. In total, there are 7 to choose from. This is on the lower end of the scale compared to the offerings of the wizard or cleric, but the available options are mostly strong. We will cover each archetype in detail below.

Uncanny Dodge (Level 5)

Uncanny Dodge allows you to use your reaction to halve the attack damage you take from anyone that you can see. While this provides a serious damage sink in some cases, remember that you can only use your reaction once per round.

Evasion (Level 7)

Some AOE effects deal half damage even when you succeed your saving throw. Not with Evasion! At Level 7, a Rogue that succeeds a saving throw that would otherwise deal half damage from a spell or other attack will instead take no damage at all.

Reliable Talent (Level 11)

With Reliable Talent, your success rate in skill tests keeps going up. This feature allows you to turn a roll of 9 or lower into a 10 any time you make an ability check that lets you add your proficiency bonus.

Blindsense (Level 14)

Thanks to your sharp senses, as long as you can hear you can detect any hidden or invisible creature within 10 feet of you.

Slippery Mind (Level 15)

Slippery Mind grants you proficiency on all Wisdom saving throws. this is useful as your proficiency bonus will help you power through so saving throws your likely-low Wisdom might otherwise fail.

Elusive (Level 18)

At this level, no attack roll against you can have advantage as long as you are incapacitated. This combines well with Uncanny Dodge and Evasion to make you incredibly hardy.

Stroke of Luck (Level 20)

At Level 20, you can ignore some bad rolls entirely. Stroke of Luck lets you turn a missed attack within your range to hit. Alternatively, if you fail an ability check you can treat the roll as a 20. Once you use this it is not available again until a short or long rest.

Optional Class Features

Like with all classes, the Rogue received some optional class features in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Unless otherwise noted, assume these features supplement as opposed to replace existing class features.

Steady Aim (Level 3)

Steady Aim allows you to spend a bonus action to gain advantage on the next attack in the current turn. This is only an option if you have not moved yet this turn. Using steady aim reduces your speed to 0 for the remainder of the turn. Essentially, you are trading your movement for advantage on one attack roll.

Roguish Archetypes – Rogue Subclasses

The choice of your roguish archetype is important, given many of them dish out subclass-defining features at level three. While none of these options are terrible, this is not one of those classes where every archetype is flawless.

Arcane Trickster

See Our Complete Arcane Trickster 5E Guide

The Arcane Trickster is the only Rogue subclass that has the ability to cast spells. The spell list is primarily made up of Enchantment and Illusion spells. It makes for an interesting, utility-centered Rogue.

  • Spellcasting (level 3). Arcane Tricksters can learn two first level spells and three cantrips, one of which must include Mage Hand. Each level, they add spell slots up to Level 4. Like wizards, Arcane Tricksters use Intelligence as their spellcasting ability.
  • Mage Hand Legerdemain (Level 3). When casting Mage Hand, you can make the spectral hand invisible. It can also perform additional tasks like pickpocketing another creature or disarming traps with thieves’ tools.
  • Magical Ambush (Level 9). When you cast a spell while hidden from another creature, that creature has disadvantage on the saving throw, if applicable. This is a nice boost since your DC is lower than a wizard of the same level.
  • Versatile Trickster (Level 13). As a bonus action, you can distract a creature within 5 feet of your Mage Hand. This gives you advantage on attack rolls until the end of your turn.
  • Spell Thief (Level 17). With this interesting feature, you force a creature that casts a spell on you to make a save against your spell DC. If they fail, the spell does not work against you. If the spell is at least level 1 and a level you can cast, you know the spell for the next 8 hours. One gamey approach to this is to attempt to steal spells from your own party before a big fight.

Assassin

See Our Guide to the Assassin Archetype

The assassin is a strong archetype if your game centers around sneaking around, murdering, or sneaking around and murdering. While you excel at these tasks, you lack much of the utility options available to other rogue archetypes.

  • Bonus Proficiencies (Level 3). You immediately gain proficiencies with Disguise and Poisoner’s kits.
  • Assassinate (Level 3). This gives you advantage on attack rolls against any creature that has not yet taken a turn in combat. What’s more, any hit against a surprised creature is automatically critical.
  • Infiltration Expertise (Level 9). Infiltration Expertise allows you to create a perfect fake identity, complete with a backstory and documentation. While flavorful, the reality is this will rarely be used in most campaigns.
  • Imposter (Level 13). After studying a person for three hours, you can mimic their speech, writing and behavior. You can fool casual observers with ease, and have advantage on any deception checks against those that might detect you.
  • Death Strike (Level 17). Every time you attack and hit a surprised creature, it has to make a Constitution saving throw against a DC of 8 plus your dexterity modifier plus your proficiency bonus. You do double damage on a failed save. this stacks with sneak attack and Assassinate, leading to the potential for huge damage.

Inquisitive

See Our Comprehensive Inquisitive Rogue 5E Guide 

First released in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the Inquisitive Rogue is not one of the stronger archetypes. When it comes to picking up on lies or finding traps, this subclass excels. You do not have any special ability to deal with these issues once you discover them, though.

  • Ear for Deceit (Level 3). When making an Insight check to determine if a creature is lying, treat any roll of 7 or less as an 8.
  • Eye for Detail (Level 3). This gives you a bonus action to make a perception check and spot hidden creatures or objects. It also lets you make an investigation check to find clues. Doing this as a bonus action is an OK boost compared to burning an action.
  • Insightful Fighting (Level 3). Using a bonus action, you can make an Insight check against a creature contested by that creature’s Deception check. If you succeed, you can use Sneak Attack even if you don’t have advantage. You can’t use it if you have disadvantage, though.
  • Steady Eye (Level 9). You gain advantage on perception and investigation checks if you move no more than half your speed that turn.
  • Unerring Eye (Level 13). As an action, you can detect illusions, shapechangers, and other deceptive magic within 30 feet as long as you aren’t blinded of deafened.
  • Eye for Weakness (Level 17). The capstone of the subclass gives you 3d6 additional damage with Sneak Attack when using Insightful Fighting.

Mastermind

See Our Mastermind 5E Guide

Fun and flavorful, the Mastermind is geared toward social interaction and intrigue. if your campaign is centered on that, this is a great option. The archetype isn’t much good in a dungeon crawl, though.

  • Master of Intrigue (Level 3). You gain proficiency with disguise kits, forgery kits, and a gaming set of your choice. You also pick up two languages. Finally, you can mimic the speech and accent of a creature you have heard speak for at least a minute. This allows you to pass yourself off as a speaker from a specific land, but not a specific person.
  • Master of Tactics (Level 3). This lets you use Help as a bonus action. When helping an ally attack a creature, you can do so from 30 feet away instead of the usual 5 feet.
  • Insightful Manipulator (Level 9). By observing another creature outside of combat, you can learn if you have a higher or lower intelligence, wisdom, charisma, or class level than that creature.
  • Misdirection (Level 13). When you are targeted by an attack when another creature within 5 feet of you is granting you cover, you can redirect that attack to the other creature.
  • Soul of Deceit (Level 17). Your thoughts can’t be read by telepathy unless you allow it. You can also plant false thoughts if you make a deception check against the mind reader’s Insight check. Also, spells that determine truth will never show you are lying, and you cannot be magically compelled to tell the truth.

Phantom

See Our Guide to the Phantom Roguish Archetype

The Phantom is one of two options released in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The Phantom is a rogue archetype centered on developing power through a connection with death. This subclass is fun, but the cool stuff doesn’t really kick in until level 9.

  • Whispers of the Dead (Level 3). Following a short or long rest, you can gain proficiency in a tool or skill you did not have before. This proficiency remains until you use the ability again. On-demand skill proficiencies is pretty handy.
  • Wails from the Grave (Level 3). Wails from the Grave lets you deal necrotic damage to a second target each time you deal sneak attack damage. Unfortunately, this is fairly underpowered compared to other archetypes.
  • Tokens of the Departed (Level 9). You can use your reaction to collect a trinket each time a creature you can see dies within 30 feet of you. You can use these trinkets to gain advantage on constitution saves, ask the spirit associated with the trinket a question, or get extra uses from Wails from the Grave.
  • Ghost Walk (Level 13). You take a spectral form and gain 10 ft of flying speed. You can move through solid objects and attack rolls against you are at disadvantage. This form lasts for 10 minutes.
  • Death’s Friend (Level 17). Death’s friend deals necrotic damage to the creature you hit with Sneak Attack, and you gain a soul trinket at the end of a long rest if you are out of them.

Scout

See Our Guide to the Scout Roguish Archetype

The Scout is a sort of Rogue-Ranger hybrid. This is a strong option for wilderness campaigns and rogue builds based around ranged combat. Much of this archetype is about using additional movement to stay out of close combat. All in all, it’s a fun subclass.

  • Skirmisher (Level 3). As a reaction, you can move up to half your speed any time an enemy ends their turn within 5 feet of you. This does not provoke opportunity attacks.
  • Survivalist (Level 3). If you do not already have them, you gain proficiency in Nature and Survival skills. YOu also double your proficiency bonus using either skill in ability checks.
  • Superior Mobility (Level 9). At this level, your mobility increases by 10 feet. This effects walking, climbing, or swimming speed.
  • Ambush Master (Level 13). Ambush Master gives you advantage on initiative rolls. What’s more, all attack rolls against the first creature you hit during the first round of combat get advantage until the following turn.
  • Sudden Strike (Level 17). When using the attack action, you can make a second attack as a bonus action. This attack can use Sneak Attack even if you have already used it this turn, but it must be against a different target.

Soulknife

See Our Soulknife 5E Guide

The Soulknife is one of several psionics-based archetypes released with Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The archetype relies on a pool of dice similar to the Battle Master’s Superiority Dice. Unlike other archetypes that have pools of resources that can be used up, the Soulknife does a nice job of letting you get something out of every Psionic Energy Die.

  • Psionic Power (Level 3). This feature gives you your Psionic Energy dice, each of which is a d6. These dice fuel a variety of abilities including communicating telepathically and boosting the roll on a failed ability check.
  • Psychic Blades (Level 3). You gain psionic blades that deal psychic damage. What’s more, you can attack with a bonus action and still apply your ability modifier for damage, which is great.
  • Soul Blades (Level 9). At level 8, you can enhance Soul Blades with Psionic Energy Dice. This lets you add psionic energy die to an attack roll or use the blade to teleport a distance equal to 10 times your roll on the die.
  • Psychic Veil (Level 13). You can turn invisible for an hour with this feature. While you get it once per long rest, you can spend a Psionic Energy die for more uses.
  • Rend Mind (Level 17). Once per day, you can attempt to stun a creature when you deal Sneak Attack damage. This is fairly strong as the wisdom saving throw adds your Dex modifier to the DC. You can spend three die for more uses.

Swashbuckler

See Our Swashbuckler Guide

The flavor of the Swashbuckler is excellent. After all, you’re a pirate. But this subclass has a lot to offer from a mechanics standpoint too. You can apply damage reliably, avoid combat when you choose, and even serve as your party’s defender. There is a lot to like here.

  • Fancy Footwork (Level 3). Any creature you make an attack against cannot make an opportunity attack against you for the rest of the turn. This means even if you miss your attack you can move away without fear of opportunity attacks.
  • Rakish Audacity (Level 3). You gain a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your charisma modifier. What’s more, you can use Sneak Attack even without advantage against a creature within 5 feet of you if no other creature is within 5 feet.
  • Panache (Level 9). With Panache, you make a persuasion check against a creature’s insight check. If you succeed, it has disadvantage on attacks against creatures other than you and can’t make opportunity attacks against targets other than you. If the creature is not hostile to you and fails the check, they are charmed.
  • Elegant Maneuver (Level 13). This lets you use a bonus action on your turn to obtain advantage on the next athletics or acrobatics check you make on the same turn. This is of limited use, which is a shame for a Level 13 feature.
  • Master Duelist (Level 17). When you miss with an attack roll, you can use Master Duelist to roll again with advantage. Once used, it is only available again after a short or long rest.

Thief

See Our Complete Thief 5E Guide

Many subclasses in 5E represent the “vanilla” version of their class, which does little more than to beef up the existing class traits. For the rogue, the most vanilla option is the thief. The thief archetype might not be revolutionary, but it is an excellent option for most rogue builds.

  • Fast Hands (Level 3). With Fast Hands, you can use your Cunning Action as a bonus action to make a sleight of hand check, disarm a track, open a lock, or take the Use an Object action. This is a nice use of your bonus action.
  • Second-Story Work (Level 3). You now climb at your walking speed, and you get a distance bonus to your jumping in feet equal to your dexterity modifier. This isn’t going to be that useful in most situations.
  • Supreme Sneak (Level 9). This is a great way to increase your chances of going undetected. Supreme Sneak gives you advantage on stealth checks if you move no faster than half speed.
  • Use Magic Device (Level 13). Thanks to your understanding of magical items, you can use any magic item regardless of restrictions on class, race, or level. While a little situational, this is still pretty strong.
  • Thief’s Reflexes (Level 17). With Thief’s Reflexes, you get two turns during the first round of any combat. You get your first turn at normal initiative, then your second at your initiative score minus 10. Getting a second turn in the first round is incredibly powerful, and is easily the highlight of the subclass.

Rogue 5E Optimization Tips

Not every rogue character is created alike. There are plusses and minuses to every build, and optimizing those benefits is half of the fun for some of us. If you feel the same way, see our suggestions below for optimizing your next Rogue.

Ability Selection

For many classes, your choice of abilities is pretty easy. With wizards you want intelligence. With bards you want charisma. While every rogue needs dexterity, the rest of your ability points can vary dramatically depending on your specific build.

  • Strength. This is dump stat for virtually every rogue.
  • Dexterity. Your bread and butter. Dexterity controls your combat with finesse weapons, your tools, your AC, and your saving throws. Max it out as fast as possible.
  • Constitution. Like with all characters, hit points are life. In many builds, your constitution score should be your second priority under dexterity.
  • Intelligence. If you are an Arcane Trickster, intelligence is as important as dexterity. For other rogues, it is not as valuable. You still likely want some points in it for investigation checks.
  • Wisdom. Some points in wisdom are always good for perception checks. If you are an Inquisitive Rogue, this is probably your secondary priority.
  • Charisma. Unless you plan on being the party face, you can dump charisma.

Best Races for Rogue in 5E

Like with all of our handbooks, I can’t help but stress that your racial choices should not prevent you from playing the character that you want. sure, some races are a better fit for a rogue than others. That said, these small optimization bonuses do not mean much at higher levels.

Strong Options

  • Aarakocra. A boost to dexterity is nice, but the ability to fly is an incredible use if your rogue fights at range.
  • Elf. The classic rogue race, most variants of Elf have good ability bonuses and other traits that are perfect for this class.
  • Half-Elf. Half-elves are good at most classes, and Rogue is no different. The added skills are especially nice.
  • Halfling. What’s not to love about a dexterity bonus and Lucky?
  • Human. Great at everything, so why not put those ability points to good use and grab a nice feat while you’re at it?
  • Tabaxi. +2 to dexterity is fantastic, as is free proficiency in perception and stealth. Throw in Darkvision and you have a very strong race for a rogue.

Decent Options

  • Gnome. A forest gnome gets a dexterity bonus. These are great as arcane tricksters too, given the bonus to intelligence.
  • Kenku. two free skills are nice, and your ability bonuses also work here.
  • Kobold. Suprisingly good given the potential use of Pack Tactics and Sneak Attack. The ability scores are mostly strong, although strength penalties are lame in general.

Limited Value

  • Aasimar
  • Dragonborn
  • Dwarf
  • Firbolg
  • Genasi
  • Lizardfolk
  • Tiefling
  • Tortle
  • Triton
  • Yuan-Ti Pureblood

Best Available Backgrounds

There are many different backgrounds to choose from, and quite a few work for the rogue. Background selection is fairly important for the rogue, as you will likely need every skill you can get your hands on. With that in mind, these rankings are weighted more toward the strength of the available skills as opposed to additional languages or equipment.

  • Charlatan. A perfect background for the rogue, giving proficiency in two rogue skill and two tool kits.
  • Criminal. Another great option that gives you proficiency in two rogue skills and two tool kits.
  • Noble. Not a bad option for a party face, and History can be useful if you are putting points into Intelligence.
  • Urban Bounty Hunter. Two good rogue-related skills plus some tool proficiencies.

Suggested Feats

There are a lot of feats that make sense for a Rogue – more so than many classes. However, Rogue also suffers from ability spread worse than other classes. It can be a tough decision to take a feat when you are trying to balance intelligence, constitution, and wisdom behind your dexterity attribute.

  • Alert. With a +5 bonus to initiative, the inability to be surprised, and the lack of advantage for creatures hiding from you, Alert is a great fit for any rogue.
  • Lucky. Lucky is good for any character, but especially so for a rogue that often deals the majority of its damage with its first successful strike.
  • Sharpshooter. While only worthwhile if you intend to have an archer build, Sharpshooter greatly extends your range and lets you ignore most cover.
  • Skilled. Accumulating skills is part of the fun of a rogue. With Skilled, you can gain proficiency with three skills or tools of your choice.

Multiclassing Options

While multiclassing your rogue isn’t necessary, there are several good options available to you. Giving up Stroke of Luck at level 20 is a shame, but the vast majority of campaigns will never reach that point anyway. Below are some good options for dipping 1, 2, 3 levels in.

Good Rogue Multiclassing Options

here are our top picks for multiclassing as a rogue.

Bard

The bard is a useful dip, especially if you plan on being the face of the party. It’s also a way to nab some additional skills and utility spellcasting.

Fighter

Fighting Stypes and Action Surge can have a profound impact on your Rogue. This is a great option for Swashbucklers, where medium armor and a shield could come in handy. Taking 3 levels gets you Riposte, which can get you an extra sneak attack each round. If your focus is melee combat, this is a great option.

Ranger

A one-level dip isn’t worth much, but two levels of Ranger will get you Hunter’s Mark which is a nice addition. While very specific, level three lets you choose the Giant Slayer archetype, which can lead to using sneak attack as a reaction every round.

Wizard

If you are playing an Arcane Trickster, picking up a level or two of wizard can greatly increase your access to spells. Two levels of wizard gives you access to the Bladesong subclass, which is a great fit for melee rogues.

Avoidable Options

Some options don’t mesh well with the rogue, while others are simply not worth giving up high-level rogue features. The following classes are generally not worth multiclassing into as a rogue.

  • Artificer. Not terrible for an Arcane Trickster, but probably not worth it.
  • Barbarian. Not a good fit.
  • Druid. Not a good fit.
  • Monk. While this could work, adding levels of Monk likely only makes your stat spread issues worse.
  • Paladin. Not a terrible choice if you are hoarding charisma for a party face build. Smites on top of sneak attacks are also cool. However, this is probably not optimal in most cases.
  • Sorcerer. Not a good fit.
  • Warlock. Not a good fit.

Concluding our Rogue 5E Guide

And that’s it for our Rogue 5E handbook. Despite the lack of magic for most of these characters, the Rogue is a great class that can accomplish a lot. It has a lot of depth but also provides a good option for new players just dipping their toes into D&D.

About Travis Scoundrel 527 Articles
A life long gamer, Travis spends his time writing about and playing games when he's not suing people or hanging out with his family.

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