The Scout puts a more “Ranger” appeal onto the traditional role of the Rogue Introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the Scout’s designed as a survivalist; the eyes and ears of the party. They’re the first into combat, and fight with the ferocity of the animals they share this world with. Most at home in naturalistic parties (with Barbarians, Druids, and Rangers), the Scout can still fill the damaging eyes role in a more traditional dungeon crawler. Does that make them competent in those roles? Let’s find out in our Scout 5e Guide.
Conquer the Wild: Scout 5E
The Scout Rogue takes the tools of the traditional Rogue and adds on some nature skill. What it focuses on more is a range-loving build with spectacular movement options, great first-turn power and the best level 17 option a Rogue can ask for, in terms of damage. While it may not have much in terms of natural flavor, the Survivalist ability adds two more skills to your Expertise docket – Rangers wish they could track as well as you can!
Most abilities with this name involve hitting someone with your weapon and then becoming immune to Opportunity Attacks. The Scout takes a… different, spin on things.
Starting at 3rd level, you are difficult to pin down during a fight. You can move up to half your speed as a reaction when an enemy ends its turn within 5 feet of you. This movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
This ability isn’t bad! But it’s mainly useful only on ranged builds.
Because this is when an enemy ends its turn, it’s already made it’s attacks or cast whatever spells it wants. Uncanny Dodge fills the role of lowering damage taken, so you’ll have a tough decision to make. If your GM has flanking rules, then this is a pretty easy way to get the drop on a new melee opponent… but if they’re smacking you, you’d probably want health a little more than you want advantage.
As a ranged build, this puts you in a perfect spot! Escaping from an enemy swing would normally cost a bonus action, so now you can bail out with just a reaction. Then you can be in a good position to keep firing on enemy lines, preferably using Skirmisher to get around cover.
The end-of-turn limitation actually does help in the case that an enemy moves up and hits your Paladin instead. That means you can decide on Skirmisher if you don’t need Uncanny Dodge, and give yourself some preemptive movement.
Theoretically, if you’re sneaking around without anybody noticing you, you can use this ability. Then you’ll be adding 10-15 feet to how far you can go every round with stealth or Invisibility. That’s useful for if you’re really deep behind enemy lines.
Not the best, not the worst. Decide between this and Uncanny Dodge depending on the situation.
Rogues get two abilities at level 3. This one is absolutely absurd.
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain proficiency in the Nature and Survival skills if you don’t already have it. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of those proficiencies.
Suddenly, you’ve just become the best tracker in your group… Eventually.
Nature checks are primarily used for identification (so, knowing what a Beast is, or what that mushroom does). That’s normally the job of a Druid or Ranger, but having the Rogue cover it means that other classes can focus on other elements.
Survival is the reason you might not want a Scout and Ranger on the same team. Survival is the Ranger’s thing, and two people with great Survival is usually not required. The skill is good for finding direction when you’re lost or hunting for food, and it’s not too hard to dominate the basic food-finding DCs. If both a Scout and a Ranger do that, then you might just be asking for overkill.
And you’ll eventually destroy the Ranger’s Survival check. Doubling your Proficiency is rather insane, especially later on. Currently, this just gives a +4 on top of your ability check. Eventually, it’ll give a +12. Just try to hide tracks from a Wisdom + 12 check!
Nature tends to be a bit less important to have at such an extreme degree, since 5e isn’t a huge fan of high CR beasts (or even high CR Fey!). But, in the early and midgame, you’ll be insanely useful.
While you don’t quite cover the Ranger’s role, the Ranger might not feel happy about you attempting to usurp them. Talk with your party about build paths before you choose this archetype, just to avoid undue strife.
After 6 levels of making the Druid feel bad about their lack of natural knowledge, you get another benefit. This one’s great in basically every situation.
At 9th level, your walking speed increases by 10 feet. If you have a climbing or swimming speed, this increase applies to that speed as well.
Increasing your movement speed does a lot! Now, your Skirmisher moves you 20 feet, you get 40 feet on every move action, and Dashes move 80 feet! Heck, you can even Stealth to move 33% faster. That’s amazing!
Walking speed doesn’t do much to overland travel by the rules. However, your GM may rule that this movement speed increase will let you scout ahead more easily and speed the party up in that way.
Not too much else to say about this; you’re a bit faster. Unfortunately, this ability doesn’t help Fly Speed, so you’re not getting that fast speed in the air.
Tangentially, you’ll probably want to put your Level 3 Expertises in Perception and Stealth, since you’re the party’s scout. This feature really cements that role, and you’ll likely be the best option for your entire party.
Yet again, the Scout gives you more combat abilities. This level is actually insane, though, rather than the “good” stuff from before.
Starting at 13th level, you excel at leading ambushes and acting first in a fight.
You have advantage on initiative rolls. In addition, the first creature you hit during the first round of a combat becomes easier for you and others to strike; attack rolls against that target have advantage until the start of your next turn.
Advantage on initiative basically guarantees you’re going first. Well, maybe not first… Early. You’ll be going early.
The benefits of this are actually kinda small. Going first is far from bad, but not letting the Wizard cast buffs or Fireball before you might not be too smart sometimes. That might mean you may end up sneaking up and Readying an action, and… that doesn’t feel great.
However, this does mean that if your Paladin fails their Stealth check and the Lich sees the party, you can still sneak up and get an attack off early. That’s great, and you’ll be grateful for those situations where you can instantly end a threat before it even gets a turn.
Speaking of ending a threat, the Advantage clause. Giving a creature this massive of a target on their face is so good! Try to always land that first hit from Stealth so you have the best chance to hit. Then, your entire party gets to absolutely destroy that important target with attack rolls. Against most casters, that’ll be a death sentence. Then, it should be easy for your casters to destroy the other opponents nearby.
A ton of Roguish archetypes have a first-turn ability, which is fine. This one’s pretty fantastic! And on top of that turn 1 ability, you get great initiative rolls, something that reverberates for the entire combat. Scout is a truly special beast!
And it just keeps getting special! At level 17, you become – theoretically – one of the highest damage non-magic users in the game.
Starting at 17th level, you can strike with deadly speed. If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can make one additional attack as a bonus action. This attack can benefit from your Sneak Attack even if you have already used it this turn, but you can’t use your Sneak Attack against the same target more than once in a turn.
Two sneak attacks? Two? That’s absolutely crazy!
This is the primary reason that a Ranged build works so well for this class. The ability to make 2 sneak attacks in a turn is great, but it has to be on two different targets. That means, for a melee build to work, you would need to have two targets adjacent to an ally and yourself, within movement speed distance. With a ranged weapon, you at least make it only require adjacency to allies, since you can snipe across most battlefields.
Your bonus action is now reserved for attacks, since dealing 10d6 + Weapon Damage is worth it. You also don’t need to do anything involving two-weapon fighting from now on, so use non-Light weapons.
It’s a bit of a shame that you can’t target the same creature twice, but this is such a massive boost to your damage per round! Even if you have to shoot random creatures instead of the main threat, you’ll clear encounters so much faster.
And hey, if you couldn’t get Sneak Attack with the first hit of the fight, Ambush Master at least gives you advantage on the Bonus Action. That’s worth something, right?
Best Race for Scout Rogues
The Scout Rogue needs Dexterity to land those brutal sneak attacks at level 17. Melee Rogues should invest heavily into Constitution to avoid getting pushed to the side like you’re nothing. If you’re ranged, Constitution isn’t as necessary. You can instead look into either Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, depending on what skills you want to focus on. I’d recommend Wisdom; Wisdom saves are extremely important to succeed on, and getting Nature, Perception, and Survival higher is good for you.
If your GM let’s you use this race from the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion, then you’re in for a good time. Aarakocra have +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom. Perfect! The most important part of the Aarakocra are their Fly speeds. Being able to fly 50 feet in a round is a godsend, even if Superior Mobility doesn’t help much. You can use Skirmisher to fly 25 feet in a direction, which is wonderful! Flight also helps you scout, since you can fly above a treeline and look for smoke signals, or chase birds for food. Your talons are, sadly, useless… unless you want to randomly multiclass into a Monk. That’d be a build!
Grung are pretty strange creatures. The titular race from One Grung Above, the Grung are small frog people with a lot of skills! They get +2 Dexterity, +1 Constitution, which works for you. Your speed is split between Walking and Climb, both at 25. That’s great, since Superior Mobility applies. Immunity to Poison is nice, and Poisonous Skin can save you from unarmed combatants. Secrete Poison can be a devastating debuff for enemies, and Standing Leap increases your already impressive mobility.
There are two downsides. One is Water Dependency, forcing you to find water or carry around an impressive amount of it. Or forcing your Cleric to spend a spell slot. The other is that these guys are not legal for play in the Adventurer’s League… so, don’t walk in with a Grung scout expecting anything.
The Pallid Elf from Wildemount might not be your most traditional Scout, but they make good ones! Pallid elves get +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom, which is perfect for you! Darkvision is great for scouts, and Fey Ancestry is useful for any build. Free Perception is absolutely perfect, as well! Pallid Elves bring advantage on Investigation and Insight checks – not necessarily your job, but still two great skills to be able to roll twice! Eventually, Pallid Elves can cast Sleep and Invisibility on themselves, which is great for sneaking around.
Alternatively, you could be a High Elf, but the stat increases are worse and you only get one cantrip. You’d only do that for Longbow proficiency.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Scout 5E
The Scout is the best-ranged rogue by far, and has a lot of great utility moves. You won’t be great at combat until level 13, and not devastating before 17. Even so, Rogue’s base class features are good enough to get you there, and your party’s gonna be really effective in forests. If you’re looking for just a good rogue, that’ll eventually become absolutely essential for your party’s strategies, then you’ve got exactly what you’re looking for!