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DnD 5e - The Rogue Handbook

Last Updated: July 26th, 2018

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

Temporary Note: I am currently waiting to include content from the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron. According to Dragontalk (the official D&D podcast), it's in a semi-finished state and is still subject to change, which could mean that character options in the book will see major changes before final publication. Once the book is complete, physical copies will be released and I will update to address the new content.

Introduction

Rogues are the quintessential Face, Scout and Striker. Sneak Attack allows them to do a huge pile of damage in a single attack, and their pile of skills allows them to easily handle locks, traps, guards, and many other challenges. While a party can function just fine without a Rogue, it's hard to compete with the sheer number of important skill and tool proficiencies offered by the Rogue.

Rogues split into melee or ranged builds. Melee Rogues frequently go for two-weapon fighting because it provides a second chance to score Sneak Attack, and hit-and-run tactics are great way to get into melee to attack before retreating behind your party. Ranged rogues (archer Rogues) typically rely on sniping. Hiding after each attack using Cunning Action is reliable and effective, though it can be very static and repetitive. Arcane Tricksters expand on these options with magic, but when it's time to kill stuff even tricksters use the same tactics.

Rogue Class Features

Hit Points: 1d8 hit points is dangerous if you go into melee alone, so be sure to have a nice tanky ally nearby and a healer waiting in the wings.

Saves: Dexterity saves will protect you from things like fireballs, and Intelligence saves also exist I suppose. Evasion further improves your Dexterity saves.

Proficiencies: Rogues get all of the weapons they need to get by, but thieves' tools, and a fantastic four skills.

Expertise: Rogues are truly the master of skills. Pick skills which fit the theme and style of your campaign and your character well.

Sneak Attack: Sneak Attack is the source of most of the Rogue's damage, and should define your combat tactics. You can only use it once per turn, which is disappointing for two-weapon fighting builds, but once per turn is plenty. Also note that it's per turn, not per round, so you can potentially use your reaction to Sneak Attack a second time in a round.

Thieves' Cant: Really only matters for flavor.

Cunning Action: This is a fantastic option for bringing your Sneak Attack into play. Archers can use Hide to stay hidden between attacks, and melee Rogues can use Dash and Disengage to move around the battlefield safely and quickly.

Roguish Archetype: See "Subclasses - Roguish Archetypes", below.

Uncanny Dodge: If you only draw a handful of attacks this can prevent a huge amount of damage.

Evasion: Between this and uncanny dodge you are very durable.

Reliable Talent: This is especially nice for your Expertise skills, and it's great motivation to pick up the Skilled feat.

Blindsense: Locating invisible creatures can be very hard, and even if you can't hit them easily it goes a long way to know where they are standing.

Slippery Mind: Your Wisdom probably isn 't great, but at this level your Proficiency Bonus is bug enough that this goes a long way.

Elusive: Between this, Uncanny Dodge, and Evasion you are very difficult to kill.

Stroke of Luck: Essential when the chips are down and you can't afford to fail.

Subclasses - Rogue Archetypes

Abilities

Dexterity is key for any Rogue, and Intelligence is important for Arcane Tricksters, but your Wisdom and Charisma depend largely on your choice of skills and role in the party.

Str: Dump stat. Nothing that the Rogue does uses Strength.

Dex: Rogues run on Dexterity. They add to you skills, your tools, your attacks, your damage, your AC, and your best save.

Con: Hit points are always important, especially for melee Rogues.

Int: Arcane Tricksters need Intelligence for their spells, but other Rogues only need it for Investigation.

Wis: Helpful for Insight Perception, but otherwise useless. Inquisitives will want a bit more to power Unerring Eye.

Cha: Rogues make a great Face, and you can't be a Face without Charisma.

Most Rogues Arcane Trickster
Point Buy Standard Array Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 11
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10

Races

Dexterity bonuses are critical, and Darkvision is fantastic for sneaking around in the dark. Size doesn't matter sinc Rogues don't use heavy weapons.

AarakocraEEPC: Fantastic for an archer Rogue. Flying makes getting places much easier, especially where things like walls are an issue, and it keeps you out of range of enemies. Bonus Dexterity is also nice.

AasimarVGTM:

BugbearVGTM: The Strength increase is totally wasted on a rogue, but reach is hard for rogues to get, you get Stealth proficiency for free, and Surprise Attack stacks with Sneak Attack so you can deal 3d6+weapon damage at first level and one-shot many enemies.

Dwarf: The Dwarf's abilities are tangentially helpful for the Rogue, but they have trouble competing with races which provide a Dexterity bonus. Darkvision is particularly helpful.

DragonbornPHB: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

ElfPHB: A bonus to Dexterity and Darkvision are perfect for a Rogue.

FirbolgVGTM: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

GenasiEEPC: A Constitution bonus never hurts, but Rogues who take a lot of damage don't live very long no matter how many hit points they have.

Gith: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

Gnome: Intelligence and Darkvision work for an Arcane Trickster, but other Rogues won't get as much benefit from Intelligence.

GoblinVGTM: The ability scores are fantastic, but Nimble Escape is totally redundant with Cunning Action.

GoliathEEPC: Goliaths are Strength-based melee monsters, which really don't work for the Rogue.

Half-Elf: Darkvision, two free skills and some really great ability buffs. Great for any Rogue, but especially good if you plan to play a Face.

Half-OrcPHB: I really want to use Savage Attacks with the Assassin's Assassinate ability, but the Half-Orc's ability bonuses just don't help a Rogue.

HalflingPHB: A Dexterity bonus is great, and Lucky is always helpful, especially since Rogues generally only get one or two attacks.

HobgoblinVGTM: The ability score increases don't help much, but Saving Face is great on a class which frequently needs to depend on a single attack per round.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

KenkuVGTM: Good ability score increases and two free skills.

KoboldVGTM: Pack Tactics is insanely powerful for rogues. Get a familiar, a summoned creature, or a friend to stand next to whatever you want to kill and you get automatic Advantage. Sneak Attack is basically guranteed. Oh, and the ability increases are fantastic. I'm still super angry that WotC re-introduced ability score penalties, but I'm sure all of the kobold rogues running around with 6 Strength will get through life just fine.

LizardfolkVGTM: Natural armor will provide more AC than manufactured armor can, and two free skills are a nice complement to the Rogue's already expansive skillset. Lizardfolk do great when built to emphasize Dexterity, but Hungry Jaws is always dependent on Strength, so emphasizing Dexterity may mean giving up on Hungry Jaws.

OrcVGTM: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

TabaxiVGTM: Everything about the Tabaxi is perfect for the Rogue. You don't get to select from a list of skills like the Kenku does, but basically every Rogue in existence wants Perception and Stealth anyway.

Tiefling: Fantastic for a charismatic rogue .Darkvision and the free spells offer some interesting options, especially with the numerous Tiefling subraces.

TortleTP: Rogues can't make effective use of Strength or Wisdom, and none of the Tortle's other traits are especially appealing.

TritonVGTM: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

Skills

Background

Rogues can do a lot, but they also need a lot of skills to do it all. Look for backgrounds which fill in proficiencies which are already on the Rogue skill list but which you couldn't get with yoour choice of two skills.

Feats

Weapons

Armor

Multiclassing