Sneak in close, then stab. Hide in the shadow, then shoot. While the enemy is attacking your friend, stab them. Rogues are the clandestine characters, weaving through darkness and carefully watching their targets like prey.
It seems like this class should simply be hiding and attacking, but fifth edition has collected some fantastic archetypes for you to choose from:
- Arcane Trickster
- Mastermind (SCAG, XGE)
- Swashbuckler (SCAG, XGE)
- Inquisitive (XGE)
- Scout (XGE)
What kind of combinations can be made with the rogue?
Although you’re choosing an archetype to classify your character as, you can customize your character to fit all kinds of identities. We’ve done some research to help create some ideas that we hope inspire you to your own custom build. For these builds, we’re looking to level 5 to see what kind of variations we can come up with, leaving you to choose the path from there on out.
We haven’t included race. Instead, these are builds focused around a theme in the class choices, abilities, feats, and more.
Hex the enemy, then stab or punch them to death, moving through shadows for advantage or safety.
Rogue (Any class), Warlock 1 (Hexblade), Monk 2
- Hidden Hex: Start with the warlock Hex spell, giving disadvantage on perception checks. Use the rogue’s cunning action to hide, giving you advantage for the sneak attack. Additional movement from monk speed means accessing shadows is easier.
- Enhanced Critical & Hex – Your hexblade curse gives you a better chance to get a critical strike, which affects your sneak attack and the bonus action attacks with the monk.
- Monk grants additional BA attacks to use with Hex. Used with flurry of blows grants means a bonus action of two unarmed strikes (2d4) plus hex (1d6 for each strike=2d6) plus dexterity or strength bonus (eg. +2) is an average of 18 damage.
- Warlock ranged attack, like eldritch blast, scales as you level and combines with Hex to do more damage. At level 5, this is two blasts (2d10) plus hex (1d6 for each blast=2d6) which is an average of 24 damage.
- Rogue path of your choice to continue in further levels. Since the sneak attack scales with your levels, you will always be capable of a massive attack, and you have room to choose to be even deadlier options (eg. assassin), or focus on other skills and abilities.
Track anyone down by thoroughly understanding them, even if you’ve never met them before.
Rogue (Inquisitive), Ranger 2-3 levels (Monster Slayer)
- Hunter’s Mark is the key Ranger spell to focus on, not just because of the damage bonus, but because of the tracking bonus.
- Two levels in Ranger gives you a favourite enemy, favourite terrain, some spells, and a fighting style. This alone will help focus with the insights granted from your hunter’s mark and rogue abilities.
- Three levels in Ranger will get you the first major ability for the subclass, which can be the monster slayer’s hunter sense and slayers prey. This gives you insight to any creature’s weakness and strengths, while also granting a damage bonus.
- Insightful Sense: Combine the inquisitive rogue’s “Insightful fighting” with the monster slayer’s “Hunting Sense” and you are a walking encyclopedia who can understand any creature you encounter.
- Martial Proficiencies: Taking a level of ranger means you can get yourself martial weapons, which includes the longbow. Give yourself that sniper-like feeling: combine with your sneak attack and your damage output will outclass the usual rogue stuck with shortbows.
- Hunter’s Sneak Attack: Combine the hunter’s sense (1d6), hunter’s mark (1d6), sneak attack (1d6), plus the attack modifier (eg. strength/dexterity +2), while using a longbow (1d8) and you’re getting an average of 19 damage (minimum of 6, maximum of 28). Add a fighting style and this bumps up even more.
- Stylized rogue: The dip into the ranger allows you a bonus to a fighting style of your choice, such as archery, defense, dueling, or two weapon fighting. Primarily being a rogue, this choice is probably best suited to archery for added bonuses, or try to get more sneak attacks with your off-hand attack by choosing dual-wielding.
- Rogues later levels in the inquisitive archetype give you abilities to see through shape changing and illusions, increasing your skill in hunting anything down. But you might find inspiration in the later levels of another rogue for later on. What do you think?
Stay hidden in shadows. Kill the target without ever being seen.
Rogue (Any), Sorcerer 3 – Shadow
- Eyes of the the Dark – At sorcerer level 3, you will get the ability to cast darkness and be able to see within it. This will cost you 2 sorcery points, and you’ll only have three.
- Sneaky Shadow Blade – At sorcerer level 3, get the shadow blade. While in your own darkness, you will have advantage for the sneak attacks, and you can double your chances by using an off-hand dagger.
- Green flame blade – Enhance your melee attacks, and the damage you do to others nearby, with the green flame blade cantrip. This spell scales as you level, so it will keep you balanced with everyone else. When using the green flame blade (1d8), with your shadow blade (2d8), with a sneak attack (1d6), you’ll do an average of 19 damage (minimum 4, maximum 29). You’ll also do 1d8 + your spellcasting modifier to a nearby enemy.
- Magical sneak criticals – That’s a lot of dice in the above green flame blade, and they all get doubled with your sneak attacks. This can really add up: green flame blade (2d8) + shadow blade (4d8) + sneak attack (2d6) is an average of 38 damage (minimum 8, maximum 60)
Doesn’t often hide, focusing instead on assisting team-mates. Able to heal and offer support.
Rogue (Swashbuckler/Mastermind), Warlock 1-Celestial (Heal options)
- Roguish Healing – Celestial warlock will give you a small pool of healing you can use in a pinch. While it may not be a lot to bring someone to max health, it may be perfect for getting someone up from being unconscious.
- Sacred Flame and Light – While the utility of light is dependent on your campaign, sacred flame will always be a useful spell for you as it will continue to scale with your levels.
- Hex can often continue for as long as you can concentrate, giving you some big damage bonus and a debuff on the target.
- Healing Kits or More Magic? – Your ability score improvement could offer a lot more depth into your hybrid role of damage and support. By taking the Healer, you don’t have to rely on spell slots to heal someone, and you’ll be better at bringing someone back from unconsciousness. But, you may want the more diverse choices that more magic can offer you, and Magic Initiate can offer you a lot more choices. Magic initiate can also help you with the above choices as you’ll be able to make both, in most cases.
“Jack of all Bags of Tricks”
You’re skilled in everything. You’re an expert in creative use of tools and items, or you’re the expert in planning and executing tactics.
Rogue (Thief/Mastermind), Bard 2
- Expert Jack of Trades – Combining the skill bonus of the Bard’s Jack of All Tades and the skill bonuses with the Rogue’s Expertise, you will have a high skill bonus in actually everything. At level 5, your two expert skills will have +9=modifier (+2), proficiency (+3), jack of all trade (+1), expertise (+3). Your jack of all trades bonus continues to scale as you level, so this will only continue to grow with your proficiency bonus too.
- Healing & Skill Support－ Bardic inspiration will act as your support for your allies, and remember your song of rest for healing in downtime.
- Bard Cantrips include two of the most versatile cantrips out there: Minor Illusion and Prestidigtation.
- Comprehend Languages/Cure Wounds/Identify/Detect Magic/Faerie Fire – You get 5 spells with the Bard, and we recommend these choices for ritual casting choices, a healing option, and a concentration spell that will help give you sneak attacks on enemies.
- Thief – Add to the theme of your bag of tricks by using your Fast Hands bonus action to use objects like the hunting trap, caltrops, ball bearings, etc. Many of these items can render your target prone, giving you advantage for your sneak attacks.
- Mastermind – If you prefer to get yourself more tool proficiency, the mastermind gives you disguise kits, forgery, a gaming set, and two languages. The additional ability, Master of Tactics, gives you the ability to use the Help action in a 30ft range, which can give advantage to all sorts of actions of your allies. Combine with your bardic inspiration for skill checks and your plans will be like a chess master.
- Level 6 – Skilled – Double down on your skill bonuses. There are 18 skills in D&D and, with this feat, you’ll be proficient in 9=Background (+2), Bard Class (+3), Rogue multiclass (+1), Skilled feat (+3). This means that, for at least half of the skills, you’re getting proficiency (+3) and the jack of all trades bonus (+1)=+4.
- Level 6 – Magic Initiate – Alternatively, the magic initiate is a great choice to expand your spell list. Guidance is an easy pick to give you a +1d4 bonus to any ability check. For the other cantrip, we’d recommend any of the elemental cantrips (eg. Gust, Shape Water, Control Flames, Mold Earth)
Get the Wizards ritual spells, find yourself a familiar, and hunt down your prey.
Rogue (Assassin), Wizard 2 (War)
- Ritual Spells – Since you won’t be taking many wizard spells, you’ll want to pick spells that can always be beneficial to you. This approach will benefit most from ritual spells, because they won’t cost you slots, and can give you long lasting value.
- Find Familiar, for example, will allow you to get yourself a small pet. Your familiar can take the Help action which will give you advantage on your attacks, giving you sneak attacks.
- Unseen Servant will be useful for disarming traps or exploring areas for you so that no one is put into danger.
- Arcane Rogue Parry – War wizards ability, Arcane Deflection, is a reaction which gives you +2 to AC or a +4 to a saving throw. The only price you pay for using this is that you can only cast cantrips until your next turn. Being a ritual rogue, this is an easy price, which means you can almost always give yourself the bonus, something a squishy rogue can really benefit from.
- Tactical Assassin – Combining the War Wizard’s Tactical Wit initiative bonus with the Assassin’s Assassinate action gives you a greater bonus to getting that first sneak attack.
- Utility Spells – Rogues are very skilled, but don’t often have a lot of utility abilities. The ritual spells and cantrips offer you a whole new toolset, like Prestidigitation, Minor Illusion, Mold Earth, etc.