Roguish archetypes dnd 5e

Roguish archetypes dnd 5e DEFAULT


I love to play rogues. My first D&D character ever was a rogue, back in 2nd edition when the class was called thief. As much as I liked playing rogues and thieves I also liked theorycrafting the class to the absolute extremes. So I thought I’d take a look at the Rogue as it is today, in 5th edition, and try my hand at ranking the potential Roguish Archetypes characters can choose from at 3rd level. We just got a few more options from the Sword Coast Adventures Guide, so it gave me a lot to work with.

To set the stage… Back in the early editions of D&D, the party rogue was a sort of walking toolkit of skills and abilities. Rogues were always finding secret doors, disarming traps, picking pockets and locks, all that fun stuff, leaving things like combat to the Fighters and Rangers. By 3rd edition, the rogue had gotten a combat upgrade. Their classic ability “Backstab” was retooled into the much more versatile “Sneak Attack,” but some of their classic thief skills had been redistributed to other classes or were now generally available to any character. In the 5th edition, rogues are slightly more rebalanced into their role as versatile finesse characters. They are still fantastic in combat and can be built to emphasize either a suite of skills or social interactions or some combination of both. Third level Rogues take what is essentially a subclass (but charmingly called a “Roguish Archetype”) and that’s what we’re ranking here today.


Until the introduction of Swashbucklers, the Assassin was supposed to be the more combat savvy variant, but this didn&#;t exactly play out. Their “assassinate” ability is pretty impressive but can only be used once, maybe twice, each combat. Their later unique options are interesting, especially “infiltration expertise” which allows you to set up fake identities at the cost if some gold and seven days work. However, these abilities really need some investment from your Dungeon Master to play into and many published adventures simply won’t provide opportunities to use it (or have seven days to let it work anyway). Also, back in the days of overly censored internet chatrooms, the word “Assassin” would be autocorrected to “Bunsbunsian” and that’s just embarrassing.



This is one of those magic-hybrid classes that might have been designed before the fifth edition’s multiclassing rules made splashing a few levels of wizard or sorcerer so easy. Still, there is a unique charm to the Arcane Trickster, and its ability to use Mage Hand as an extension of its thievery skills is surprisingly useful. They also have the best capstone ability: the 17th level “Spell Thief,” which basically allows you to negate the effect of spells used against you and then cast the spell back at the enemy while denying them the ability to use the spell again for 8 hours. Woof. Of course, every character is pretty badass at 17th level and the fact that this ability tops out at level 4 spells is somewhat of a hindrance. Really, the biggest strike against Arcane Trickster is that it doesn’t exactly do magic or thievery as well as other options. Still, it&#;s fun, and planting evidence on a patsy with your Mage Hand is extra fun.


One of the two new options from the Sword Coast guide, Mastermind is my personal favorite, but still only #3. Masterminds add a lot of utility to the rogue class with a focus on social interaction and manipulation. Still, if your game tends to be more combat based, then all that is out the window. There is some tactical support in the Mastermind archetype, including the ability to use your cunning action to grant your allies advantage on attacks, but mostly you’ll be wanting to use your skills for political intrigue which some adventures simply won’t provide. Complicating matters, the Mastermind shares its social interaction focus with other characters like Bards and some Wizards, which can leave you competing to be the one who does the talking but leaving the party deficient on more traditional thievery skills. I still play a Mastermind though, and love every minute of it.


Speaking of thievery skills, the prototypical rogue archetype is Theif, and what it lacks in personalization or flair, it makes up for in surprising versatility. Being good at running and climbing and sneaking is never a bad thing and their “Fast Hands” feature allows you to use your cunning action to do everything from picking a pocket to drinking a potion. I can not stress enough how useful the “use an object” action granted by this ability is. If you worry this archetype won’t deliver on the combat side, remember that being hidden grants you advantage on attack rolls which in turn gives you your sneak attack bonus. (Hide, rogue, hide! It’s what you do.) Really the only thing holding this one back is that it doesn’t have that snazzy splash of color that the other archetypes have. Still, these rank and file rogues have been holding up this class from day one and will be for a long time coming.


This was the big hit from the new Sword Coast book and it’s rare to find a party without a Swashbuckler today. They really lean into combat with abilities at 3rd level to avoid opportunity attacks, go earlier in the initiative order, and apply sneak attack in single combat. Swashbucklers are also highly capable fighting with two weapons, which really increases their damage output in the early levels. They gain all this without much of a loss to their thievery skills, only passing up what they might have gained going with another archetype. The added combat skills (and survivability) really make this a fantastic way to build your Rogue&#; but then again it might not have the flavor you are looking for.


In the end,these class options are really about how you imagine your character. If that rogue in your head is more sneaky, go Thief. If you want to reenact the sword fights from the Princess Bride, go Swashbuckler. If you want to do the Forgotten Realms version of Mission: Impossible, play a  Mastermind. These archetypes are always going to be ranked according to your tastes more than anything arbitrary, but then again, maybe you do have the definitive rankings and you’re ready to take us to school. We can’t wait. If you disagree with this list or have interesting character builds to share, great! Let&#;s talk about Dungeons & Dragons, folks… we always want to talk about Dungeons & Dragons.

Thanks to Amy Vorpahl for donating the images for this piece. You might have seen her on a couple of the Twitch streams lately or on her other show Saving Throw.  The photographer behind it all was Keren Lynn .

Agree or disagree, let us know how you rank the rogue subclasses in the comments, or just shower Amy Vorpahl with complements for her kindly donated images. What classes do you do a little too much thinking about? Maybe we&#;ll look into them next! 

All Image Credits: Amy Vorpahl | Photographer Keren Lynn


5e, 5th Edition, Amy Vorpahl, Arcane Trickster, assassin, D&D, DnD 5e, dungeons and dragons, Mastermind, rogue, Swashbuckler, Thief


DnD 5e – Rogue Subclasses Breakdown

Last Updated: October 11,


Rogue subclasses are extremely powerful, frequently granting features at 3rd level which define how your character plays for the rest of their career, and offering a tempting prize for builds which can handle a 3-level class dip.

Table of Contents


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

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

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.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Rogue Subclasses

Arcane TricksterPHB

The Arcane Trickster brings magic to the Rogue. Enchantment and Illusion spells both offer fantastic options, giving the Arcane Trickster powerful options utility and trickery, but also bringing powerful offensive magic options.

Because it’s the only rogue subclass with a spell list (or with any decision points made after level 3), the Arcane Trickster is the most complex rogue subclass to build and in many ways it’s also the most complex to play because you have so many options to consider in any given situation. I don’t recommend the Arcane Trickster for new players, but managing the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting is not nearly as complex as that of a full spellcaster like the Sorcerer or the Wizard, so an arcane trickster may be a good stepping stone if you’re nervous about playing a spellcaster.

Because your choice of spells is so central to the Arcane Trickster, I strongly encourage you to read my Rogue Spell List Breakdown.

  1. Spellcasting: The Arcane Tricksters defining feature. You’re limited almost exclusively to Enchantment and Illusion spells for your leveled spells, but both of those schools work very well for Arcane Tricksters. When selecting spells, remember that Sneak Attack requires Dexterity-based weapon attacks, so you can’t apply it to spell attacks. Instead, you’ll generally rely on spells like Booming Blade and Shadow Blade.

    For help selecting spells, see my Rogue Spell List Breakdown.

  2. Mage Hand Legerdemain: Controlling the hand as a bonus action means that you can pick locks and pick pockets while you’re doing other things fighting or casting other spells, and since the hand is invisible you can send it off to do those things unnoticed while you and your allies are busy hiding, fighting, carousing, or whatever else you do with your day.
  3. Magical Ambush: Since your spell DC likely won’t be as good as that of a dedicated spellcaster this can really do a lot to improve the reliability of your spells. I’m still nervous to recommend spells which require saving throws as a go-to optionfor the Arcane Trickster, but mathematically it makes sense. Disadvantage works out to slightly more than a -3 penalty, so if your Intelligence is 14 or higher your spells can be roughly as reliable as those of a wizard with 20 Intelligence.
  4. Versatile Trickster: Advantage allows you to Sneak Attack the target. Remember that you will need to move the hand into range for this to work, but you can use your Cunning Action on the previous round to do so thanks to Legerdemain and since your Mage hand is invisible enemies won’t know that you’re doing so.

    This feels redundant with the Steady Aim class feature, and since most rogues won’t make more than one attack per turn, in a practical sense they have the same effect. You cold use this with spell attacks like Scorching Ras, but hitting with Sneak Attack is less expensive and deals comparable damage so that’s generally a bad combination. You’re much more likely to use your hand to get Advantage before attacking when you can’t be invisible for whatever reason.

  5. Spell Thief: The obvious use it to steal spells from enemy spellcasters, but in a game when you might go several levels without seeing a spellcaster, a better option is to “steal” spells from your party’s other spellcasters. Have them cast a useful low-level spell on you, like a buff spell or Polymorph, and cast it on your own without needing to consume other spellcasters precious spell slots.


Assassins are good at two things: Infiltration and (you guessed it) assassination. If you want to get into places unsuspected or just straight up murder people, the Assassin is the way to go. However, they lack utility options for handling situations outside their specialized skillset.

Assassins have a weird divergence in their subclass features where Assasinate and Death Strike emphasize frequent combat, while Infiltration Expertise and Imposter both work in campaigns where you’re doing a lot of spying, infiltration, and intrigue. This doesn’t stop them from being excellent in your typical dungeon crawl, but if you’re going from levels 1 to 20 in a full campaign you may rarely see some features come into play.

Because their premise and their features are so simple, the Assassin is one of the easiest rogue subclasses to play. They don’t have resources to track or complicated additional mechanics, so if you’re comfortable with the complexity of the Rogue’s core features you’re already ready to handle the Assassin.

  1. Bonus Proficiencies: Both tool kits are fantastic and open up wonderful options for the Rogue.
  2. Assassinate: To make this work, you really want to go first in combat. Maximize your Dexterity as soon as possible, and consider the Alert feat. If magic items are available to you, try to get a Weapon of Warning.

    Critical hits are very powerful for rogues because critical hits multiply your Sneak Attack damage. Imagine how satisfying it is to roll that big pile of d6’s, then consider how good it will feel to roll it twice. Your weapon’s damage is also multiplied as normal, but your damage die will be a tiny portion of your overall damage so don’t stress too much about trying to find a big damage die.

  3. Infiltration Expertise: Situational, but very flavorful, and absolutely fantastic in some situations. If you’re getting a reputation for being an assassin, maybe it’s time to take on a new identity. Start fresh. Introduce yourself to your party as a completely different assassin that’s definitely not the same person who has been in the party since level 1. Or maybe the party knows what’s up and they just need to start calling you by a new name or something.
  4. Impostor: Very rarely useful in most campaigns, but very flavorful and usually hard to accomplish without magic.
  5. Death Strike: Combined with Sneak Attack and Assassinate, this is an absolutely huge pile of damage.


If you want to be really good at Insight and Perception, this is the way to do it. Combined with Expertise there’s no one who could reasonably compete with the Inquisitive’s powers of perception.

However, the archetype offers very little to do once you notice stuff. It would be great in a campaign that includes lots of traps, hidden doors, and people who lie to you, but in situations not specifically tailored to the Inquisitive’s skillset they fall back on basic Rogue class features. In combat, the Inquisitive’s only new features are Insightful Fighting and Eye for Weakness. Insightful Fighting can be replaced by having one ally who’s fighting in melee, and Eye for Weakness is weak compared to other subclass features at the same level.

The Inquisitive is a cool concept, but it needs something active to do once it spots things beyond Sneak Attack. As a fix: Allow the Inquisitve to ignore Disadvantage when attacking invisible foes which you have targeted with Eye for Detail, and add the Rogue’s Wisdom bonus (or Proficiency bonus, but that might be too much) as a damage bonus against targets affected by Insightful Fighting.

  1. Ear for Deceit: This only applies to Wisdom (Insight) check to determine if a creature is lying, and while it’s nice to have that level of insurance, it’s still only situationally useful and it’s easy to misread this and assume that it applies to Eye for Detail and Insightful Fighting.
  2. Eye for Detail: Finding hidden creatures normally requires an Action to attempt, which is a serious problem if you’re ever attacked by stealthy enemies which like to hide and snipe at you from afar. Of course, in a typical party you can handle invisible enemies with magical options like Faerie Fire or Glitterdust.
  3. Insightful Fighting: I hope you took Expertise with Insight, because it’s your signature feature and if you can’t reliably pass this check you’re basically back to core rogue features in combat.

    The effect lasts for a full minute so you have plenty of time to benefit without repeatedly spending your Bonus Action on the same target. Even if you lose the opposed check, you can try again the following round, and the every round after that until you succeed. Of course, if you have another ally fighting your target in melee, this gets you absolutely nothing.

    Compare this to the Steady Aim Optional Class Feature: Steady Aim is a Bonus Action, doesn’t require a check that you might fail, and grants Advantage on your attack rather than simply enabling you to use Sneak Attack. Insightful Fighting lasts for a full minute, but only if you don’t change targets.

  4. Steady Eye: Combined with Eye for Detail you’re extremely reliable at spotting traps and hidden enemies, but the limitation on movement might be a problem in combat, especially if you’re built for melee. If the movement issue isn’t a problem, this makes Insightful Fighting much more reliable.
  5. Unerring Eye: Wisdom isn’t an especially useful ability score for most rogues beyond skills, so it’s frustrating that this ability is Wisdom-based. The effect is extremely useful, but you’ll likely get no more than two or three uses per day, and you need to either already know that illusions are present or you need to guess.
  6. Eye for Weakness: Extra damage never hurts, but it’s not very exciting and compared to other subclasses this is a pittance. Compare this to the Thief’s Thief’s Reflexes feature or the Assassin’s Death Strike feature. In a long fight, additional Sneak Attack damage may eventually outshine other options, but a typical fight lasts just 3 to 4 rounds, and you need to climb the mountain of additional damage that’s being dealt by the Arcane Trickster with bonus damage from spells like Shadow Blade, the Assassin with Assasinate, and the Thief with a second turn from Thief’s Reflexes.


Okay, but what if Ouija boards were a subclass? What if, like, you got class features from talking to dead people? And what if those class features included necrotic damage and turning into a ghost? Enter the Phantom.

The Phantom is a novel exploration of interactions with the dead as a class feature, making necrotic damage and death-related stuff available to a class with no ability to cast spells. Normally, interacting with the dead is primarily done by clerics and certain necromancy spells. The Phantom has a much more direct connection to the spirits of the dead, gaining proficiencies, damage output, and the ability to turn (mostly) into a ghost.

The Phantom’s most novel and interesting mechanic is their pool of Soul Trinkets. These trinkets allow the Phantom to fuel their most interesting features by gathering trinkets when creatures die nearby, then spend those trinkets for extra damage or to ask dead creatures questions. Tragically, this feature doesn’t become available until 9th level. Waiting for creatures to die rather than being reduced to 0 hit points also makes it important for the DM to track death saves for enemy creatures, which is a minor annoyance that most DMs are happy to avoid, so discuss how your DM would prefer to handle that aspect of the subclass.

Players may also find that Wails from the Grave is underwhelming at low levels compared to other subclass features at the same level. Phantom definitely builds slowly, and may not feel really satisfying until level 9. As a quick fix, give players the Soul Trinket mechanic at level 3 instead of level 9, but don’t grant them Advantage on Constitution saves or the ability to spend Soul Trinkets to ask dead creatures questions until they reach level 9. Essentially, you’re splitting the Tokens of the Departed feature into two. At low levels, the player’s low Proficiency Bonus will keep Wails from the Grave from getting out of hand, and even if they’re spamming it constantly the damage is minor so it’s not going to result in a massive boost in damage output. This change will make the subclass more satisfying to play and will give access to the subclass’s signature features earlier without significantly changing the balance of the subclass.

  1. Whispers of the Dead: The ability to pick up a proficiency on short notice is incredibly useful. If you can combine this with other buffs like Enhance Ability and Guidance, you can get around nearly any skill-based or tool-based challenge if you have time to prepare.

    Most of the time you can leave this on a low-importance skill proficiency, but most tools won’t come up unless you’ve got time for a short rest. No one is going to ambush you and ask you to break out the Brewer’s Tools and make them some beer (I’ve made beer. It takes a few hours, and spending one hour to take a nap first isn’t a big ask. I’ve done that, too.).

  2. Wails from the Grave: Starts very slow (1d6 twice a day), but ramps up exponentially as your Sneak Attack damage and your Proficiency Bonus increase. The damage is necrotic, which is rarely resisted, and it’s automatic provided that you made a successful Sneak Attack so it’s great for enemies that may be difficult to hit. Even as it gains in power, you don’t want to throw this around needlessly. You’ll never get more than 6 uses (not counting Tokens of the Departed) and they’ll never deal more than 5d6 damage, so you need to be strategic.
  3. Tokens of the Departed: I love everything about this feature. The theme is cool, the mechanic is fun, the resource pool is appropriately limited but easy to restore, and the benefits are fun, thematically appropriate, and really good. You get three benefits at level 9, but at level 13 you can recharge Ghost Walk with a trinket and at level 17 you wake up from longs rests with a free soul tinket.

    The first benefit is without doubt the best of the three, and it’s good enough that you should nearly always keep a Soul Trinket handy. Advantage on Constitution saves isn’t quite as good as proficiency, but it’s close. Unfortunately, the Phantom doesn’t need to worry about Concentration unless you take Magic Initiate or Multiclass, so you don’t get to wave your token around every time you cast a Concentration spell.

    The second benefit helps with Wails of the Grave, and it’s easily your most frequent way to spend trinkets. Wails from the Grave is a decent bit of damage by this level, matching what a spellcaster can do with many cantrips. However, the Proficiency Bonus usage limit won’t get you far, so you can destroy a trinket to get a free bit of damage. Every time you think “is a new trinket worth my Reaction right now?”, remember that it’s a small pile of easy necrotic damage when you need it later.

    The third benefit is basically Speak with Dead, but you only get one question. Otherwise, it has all the same problems where the subject can be vague, misleading, or otherwise unhelpful. Very situational, but if you can somehow make it work it’s excellent. This also has a curious edge case where the creature which allowed you to produce the token might be alive again, especially in cases where your allies die and a raised from the dead. You might use this to ask a question of a creature who is currently alive, leading to hilarious situations where the ghostly apparition of a living creature appears in the same room as that creature only to say something totally unhelpful before disappearing.

    The one flaw in the whole thing is that it falls prey to the classic “Bag of Rats” trick. You can kill any creature to generate a new Soul Trinket, so if you have a bag of rats or access to other easily-expendable creatures, you can kill them out of combat to recharge. Your DM might justifiably make some adjustments to disallow that (requiring a CR above 0 may be sufficient, especially at 9th level), so try not to lean on the abuse case too much. This generally won’t work with summoned creatures (they need to die, not just be reduced to 0 hit points), and since death and being reduced to 0 hp suddenly mean different things, I encourage DMs to start tracking death saves for enemies.

  4. Ghost Walk: A 1-minute duration on this would be good. A minute duration on this is fantastic. 10 minutes is obviously plenty if you’re using this in combat, but it’s more important outside of combat where you might need to move through walls, floors, or ceilings while scouting. The 10 ft. move speed is tiny, but remember that you have Cunning Action so you can Dash as a Bonus Action. If you can get buffs like Longstrider, they’ll do a lot to help both because any flat numeric increase is relatively large compared to 10 ft. and because you can essentially double the effect by dashing without spending your Action.
  5. Death’s Friend: At this level Wails of the Grave deals 4d6 damage, just short of its maximum at 6d6. Adding that damage to your primary target when you use Wails of the Grave means that your Sneak Attack deals 50% more damage, though it’s not clear if you can multiply the damage on a critical hit. I believe that you can’t because the damage is applied to the target from a separate source rather than added to the damage of original attack like effects like Divine Smite.

    The second benefit of this feature ensures that you have at least one Soul Trinket at the end of a Long Rest. This is a crucial benefit so that you can benefit from Advantage on your Constitution saves, so try not to burn your trinket the first time you want to use Wail of Souls. But since you get the trinket for free, this also makes it easier to spend your last trinket right before you take a long rest. Of course, you could just use the bag of rats trick to get free Soul Trinkets, so this benefit isn’t as impactful as WotC wanted it to be when they wrote it.

MastermindSCAG / XGtE

The Mastermind works best in a game with a lot of intrigue and social interactions. The only feature which applies in combat situations or in a dungeon crawl or something is Master of Tactics; everything else is for social situations. You can scrape by on core rogue class features, but outside of a highly social campaign, the Mastermind is going to struggle compared to other rogues. Even in campaigns where the Mastermind is well-suited, you will need to work to make your features meaningful and your DM will need to tailor the game to your capabilities.

  1. Master of Intrigue: A pile of proficencies which you might never use, but in an intrigue game this offers some very exciting tools.
  2. Master of Tactics: Help gives the target Advantage, which is pretty great for a lot of characters. Of course, as a Rogue no one needs Advantage as much as you. Using this as a bonus action prevents you from using Cunning Action or two-weapon fighting, so your Bonus Actions will always be a very difficult trade-off. A good use case would be to use Master of Tactics to give your party’s Fighter-equivalent Advantage, then ask them to Shove a target prone so that you can get Advantage on subsequent turns.
  3. Insightful Manipulator: A fun way to metagame, but not always useful since in most games you typically won’t get to spend a minute chatting up enemies before weapons come out. In intrigue games this could be a neat way to learn about a creature, but you don’t get a clear mechanical way to make this information useful, so it’s often little more than trivia and a hint at how the creature is built.
  4. Misdirection: Lightfoot Halflings have the ability to hide behind creatures one size larger than they are, which will often also give you cover. It can be a bit rude to shuffle attacks onto an ally, but if you’re using a well-armored ally as cover, sometimes your ally may be better suited to absorb the attack, and your party’s Defender generally goes into combat explicitly hoping that they’ll draw attacks away from you and your other squishy allies.

    I think the intent is to use enemy creatures as cover while you’re being attacked at range, but that situation is uncommon, and enemies will typically choose to shoot one of your other allies instead rather than try to overcome your high AC thanks to cover.

  5. Soul of Deceit: Very situational. Characters in a typical campaign might be subject to such effects once or twice if they run a full campaign from levels 1 to 20, and even in a intrigue campaign where you might face other sneaky people with options like telepathy or spells like Zone of Truth, those options are typically limited to powerful characters and won’t be applied to you so frequently that this is justifiably as a level 17 feature.


Scouts easily outcompete Rangers in skill use with Nature and Survival, but lack any of the actual Ranger flavor. If you want to play a Rogue in a wilderness game, you could definitely do worse, and it’s hard to think of a better way to make a Rogue that uses a bow. The Scout manages to keep you at a nice safe distance, keeping you safely out of attack range while your allies distract enemies long enough for you to Sneak Attack them.

  1. Skirmisher: Spectacular for ranged builds, but less helpful for most melee builds, and since it works as a Reaction it can conflict with Uncanny Dodge. Cunning Action can also solve the same problem, so Skirmisher feels like a miniscule addition your capabilities.

    You can’t use this until an enemy ends their turn, so they’ve already done any attacking which they plan to do, and you may have used your Reaction on Uncanny Dodge to mitigate damage from a hit. If you’re built for melee, using this often means spending more movement on your turn to get back into melee, so reserving your Reaction for Uncanny Dodge is a better investment. If you’re built to fight at range, you can use this to get out of almost any creature’s reach, then you’ll still have your movement and your Bonus Action on your turn to use Cunning Action for something else more exciting than Disengage.

  2. Survivalist: Two new skills and Expertise in both of them, giving you Expertise in a total of four things (provided that you’re not also getting Expertise from other places). Both skills are Wisdom-based, and Survival isn’t especially important, but Expertise will easily make up for a relatively poor Wisdom score compared to a druid or a ranger.
  3. Superior Mobility: Really helpful in conjunction with Skirmisher and your need to stay as far away as you can.
  4. Ambush Master: Consider the Alert feat for the bonus to Initiative rolls. You want to go first to maximize the utility of this feature. Encourage your allies to focus on your target and quickly eliminate high-priority targets early in the fight before worrying about other enemies.
  5. Sudden Strike: This extra attack consumes your bonus action, so two-weapon fighting is redundant. Allowing you to Sneak Attack twice in a turn effectively doubles your damage output, which is amazing at any level. Unfortunately, you can’t Sneak Attack the same target twice in the same turn with Sudden Strike, so this is considerably easier to use with a ranged weapon.

Soul KnifeTCoE

The Soul Knife is a psionics-based option for the rogue. Your subclass features are fueled from a pool of Psionic Energy dice which work in many way like the Battle Master Fighter’s pool of Superiority Dice (spend a die to do a thing, and you typically roll the die and add it to the effect in some way).

The most notable aspect of the Soul Knife is how safe it is to use Psionic Energy Dice. Rolling dice to use your subclass features is almost never a gamble for the Soul Knife, and few other classes/subclasses with similar resources can say that. Battle Masters gamble their Superiority Dice. Bards gamble their Bardi Inspiration. Even the Psi Warrior gambles their Psionic Energy Dice to some degree.

With some exceptions, the Soul Knife always get something for their Psionic Energy Dice, and if you fail on whatever roll you often get to keep the die you used. That makes it easy to stretch your limited resources through the day, and it’s an incredible comfort for players who have consistently poor rolls (or who feel like they do).

The Soul Knife’s reliable resource pool makes them a comforting option for players who might have trouble weighing risk/reward calculations at the table when handling things like spell slots. But even if you’re fine with those decision points, it’s an all-around reliable and effective subclass with a lot of offer.

  1. Psionic Power: Your pool of Psionic Energy Dice are your defining resource. You get a number equal to double your Proficiency Bonus and the size goes from d6 to d12 over the course of your career. That sounds like a big pool, but they mostly recharge on a Long Rest, and between long rests you can recharge just one die as a Bonus Action once per Short Rest.

    If your DM adheres to the Adventuring Day rules, that means you can recharge as many as three dice per day. Across a full day of adventuring that’s a small pool to work with and you need to be cautious about spending your dice rather than burning through them in the first encounter. The Soul Knife’s Psionic Energy Dice are much easier to retain than the Psi Warrior’s because they often aren’t expended if you fail a roll, but even so at low levels you’ll need to be prudent about when something is worth a die.

    • Psi-Bolstered Knack: Even though this only works with skills and tools, it’s still really good. If you fail the check you can roll a die even if the chances are incredibly slim that it will make a difference, and if you still fail it costs you nothing. Every other ability like this requires you to gamble the resource on the possibility of success.
    • Psychic Whispers: Rary’s Telepathic Bond is a 5th-level spell, and you’re replicating its effects (mostly) at level 3. Rary’s Telepathic Bond also notably has a 1-hour duration, and you get 1d6 hours (up to 1d12 hours at 17th level). You’re limited to adding 2 allies when you get this (you’re in the group for free), but the number increases with your Proficiency Bonus.

      Don’t forget: you get this once per day for free, so there’s little reason to avoid using it.

  2. Psychic Blades: This is your primary combat option. You can attack with the blades equally well in melee and at range, and with a range of 60 feet your range is much greater than that of a rogue using daggers. The fact that this deals psychic damage is great, too, since it’s so rarely resisted and easily bypasses common resistances to non-magical weapon damage. Oh, and it’s a d6 damage die instead of the dagger’s d4.

    The ability to make a second attack as a Bonus Action if you have another free hand is great. Two-weapon fighting is already a great fallback option and since you don’t need to draw daggers to repeatedly throw them you don’t need to strain your Free Item Interaction every turn to keep your hands full of pointy things. But the benefits go further. The second attack applies your Ability Modifier to damage since you’re not actually using the two-weapon fighting rules. Sure, the second blade uses a slightly smaller damage die, but who cares? That’s such a tiny, meaningless difference that I’m surprised they bothered to print it.

    However, this feature does have some drawbacks. You’ll be unarmed after attacking with both blades, which means that you can’t use Opportunity Attacks to get extra Sneak Attack on other people’s turns (unarmed strikes are still possible, but don’t qualify for Sneak Attack). You can mitigate this somewhat by drawing and stowing a dagger before or after attacking on alternate turns, but that trades your Free Item Interaction every turn for the ability to make meaningful Opportunity Attacks every other turn. That’s a hard trade, not to mention how annoying it is. You could also get Fighting Style (Thrown Weapon) which will allow you to draw a dagger as part of the making the Opportunity Attack, but that may not be worth the cost to do so.

    Also, since your Psychic Blades can only deal psychic damage, if you run into something immune to it you lose half the functions of your subclass. You’ll need to carry a dagger (ideally a magic one) as a backup.

  3. Soul Blades: Two ways to turn your Psychic Energy Dice into solutions to frequent problems.
    • Homing Strikes: Use this on the last attack of your turn (maybe you don’t want to attack with both of your Psychic Blades every turn; Cunning Action also exists), provided that you can deal Sneak Attack with that attack. If you miss the initial attack, you can try to turn a near miss into a hit. If you still miss, this costs you nothing. If you do hit, you’re trading your Psionic Energy Die for a Sneak Attack. That’s a very good trade.
    • Psychic Teleportation: Even moving the minimum of 10 feet is enough to get you out of grapples and many area control effects, as well as through many tight openings like arrow slits. However, if you need to cross a large gap you’ll find that the unpredictable range is frustrating. Fortunately, you choose whether or not you want to teleport after you roll the die so you never need to worry about accidently teleporting yourself above a pit of acid or something, but you’re committing to spend the die before you roll it so look for other options if you’re not likely to get as far as you need to go.
  4. Psychic Veil: Invisibility for a full hour, and you get it once per day for free. An hour is a long time, and you can do a lot of things without breaking Invisibility, including things like disarming traps and taking the Help action to help allies in combat. You can spend a Psionic Energy Die to recharge it, but that’s an easy way to spend your dice very quickly when mundane Stealth checks will often suffice.
  5. Rend Mind: Note quite as good as Hold Monster, but about as close as you can get without casting it. Stunned takes the target out of the fight and makes it very easy to kill them. Since the DC is Dexterity-based your DC will match that of spellcasters. You get this once per day for free, but it’s probably worth spending three Psionic Energy Dice to recharge it if you find another target with poor Wisdom saves.

SwashbucklerSCAG / XGtE

The Rogue’s biggest challenge in combat is applying Sneak Attack reliably. While that’s relatively easy in 5e, there are still times when you won’t manage to Sneak Attack. The Swashbuckler all but eliminates these times, making the Rogue an even more reliable source of damage. In addition, the Swashbuckler has fantastic abilities for moving through combat, evading enemies, and even forcing them to engage the Swashbuckler, thereby allowing the Rogue to serve as the party’s Defender on top of their typical roles as a Scount and Striker.

On top of their excellent combat abilities, the Swashbuckler encourages you to invest in Charisma and play a Face, allowing the Swashbuckler Rogue to thrive both in combat and in social situations. If you diversify your skill proficiencies, you can be just as effective in exploration scenarios as other rogues, but you may find that you’re strained for skill proficiencies unless you get extra from your race or pick up a feat like Skill Expert. It’s hard to be amazing at all three pillars of the game (exploration, social interaction, and combat), but the Swashbuckler manages it without relying on magic. Few characters can say that.

  1. Fancy Footwork: You only need to attack the target, not hit them, so if you miss and don’t want to stay in melee range you’re free to retreat unimpeded. Using two light-weapons for two-weapon fighting allows you to move past and attack two enemies if you feel the need. The choice between using Cunning Action to Disengage and relying on Fancy Footwork will depend both on what you’re wielding and on how many enemies you need to evade.
  2. Rakish Audacity: This is absurdly good. Any Rogue can Sneak Attack if an ally is within 5 feet of the target. Rakish Audacity allows you to Sneak Attack if no one except the target is adjacent to you, which means that as long as you’re not getting mobbed you can reliably Sneak Attack whenever you hit.

    As long as you can get away from other enemies (such as by using Cunning Action to Disengage) you’re nearly guaranteed to be able to Sneak Attack. Since you still need to be within 5 feet you’re likely making melee attacks, but you could technically use a crossbow with Crossbow Expert.

    Oh, and as if this wasn’t absurdly good already, you add your Charisma bonus to Initiative checks on top of your Dexterity.

  3. Panache: Be sure to take Expertise in Persuasion to make this work. It’s worth the investment.

    Tanking generally isn’t in the Rogue’s skillset, but the first portion of this feature is a taunt mechanic. The DM could technically end the ability by having the creature walk out of the 60 foot range before returning, but that would be a cheap metagame trick, so feel free to shame your DM if they try it. With passable AC and Uncanny Dodge, you can easily handle being one creature’s sole focus for extended periods, leaving the rest of your party to handle the rest of the encounter until one section of the party comes to help the other.

    Out of combat, you can use this to Charm creatures, making them a very loyal friend for a very brief period. The effect doesn’t let the creature know it was charmed or that you did anything unusual, and since it doesn’t grant temporary immunity or have a usage limitation, you can use Panache on the same creature repeatedly to keep it Charmed. If you can succeed on the initial Charisma (Persuasion) check, this will trivialize social interactions with single creatures that aren’t already hostile to you.

  4. Elegant Maneuver: Advantage is great, especially on a skill like Athletics which is used to Shove enemies prone. Unfortunately, this uses your Bonus Action just to grant you Advantage, so you still need to use your Action to use the skill, leaving you no opportunity to attack. You’re most likely to use this to escape grapples, to leap over difficult terrain, or do other fancy stuff like that.
  5. Master Duelist: Sometimes you can’t risk missing, and in those cases this is a life saver. Most of the time you can still use Fancy Footwork to move away and return to attack later, but sometimes that just isn’t an option and you need to deal damage right away rather than letting things drag on.


The Thief is the iconic Rogue, but that is not to say that it’s boring. A Thief is reliable and very effective at the tasks which you most associate with Rogues.

Most of the Thief’s complexity is tied up in Fast Hands, and if you can’t get a good understanding of Fast Hands you’re going to struggle with the Thief. Be sure to read my Practical Guide to Fast Hands, then load of up on caltrops and flasks of oil and get ready to rock.

  1. Fast Hands: Disarming traps and open locks can typically wait until you finish combat, but using an item as a Bonus Action can include cool things like caltrops, healer’s kits, even attacks with certain items. This is the most complex part of the Thief, so I strongly recommend reading my Practical Guide to Fast Hands to get clarity on how this works.
  2. Second-Story Work: Very situational, and several years into 5e’s life, this feels like a weird relic from much earlier in the games history. At this point, there are abundant options for climb speeds and magical flight, so this is only impactful when those options are unavailable to you. Still, adding up to 5 feet to your jump distance makes it easy to jump over difficult terrain and other obstacles.
  3. Supreme Sneak: If you combine this with Expertise, you are as close to undetectable as you can get without being magically silenced and invisible. But as nice as this is, you can replicate it with a Cloak of Elvenkind, which is an Uncommon magic item.
  4. Use Magic Device: This opens up all manner of weapons, wands, and staves which are normally limited to specific characters. Go poke around in the magic item sections of my class handbooks and look for treasures to steal.
  5. Thief’s Reflexes: Two entire turns is crazy. You can Sneak Attack twice and use Fast Hands to throw two vials of alchemist’s fire, possibly all before enemies get a chance to act if your initiative roll was really good.
  1. Trane fan blade
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  3. 64 47 channel human design
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  5. C10 front air dam

Dungeons & Dragons: The Roguish Archetypes, Ranked

A Dungeons & Dragons party hardly seems complete without a Rogue. With their sticky fingers and calculating minds, it's often the Rogue who opens locked passageways for their companions, detects and disarms traps, locates hidden gems the rest of the party might have overlooked and sees the hidden truths of the world around them. While other classes hone their athletic abilities to smash enemies with blunt force, Rogues hone their fighting skills to make calculated, precise strikes that often deal as much, if not more, damage as the fighters they travel with.

Many Rogues share similarities in personality and motivation, but no two are exactly the same. Some are outright thieves, while others are criminal masterminds. There are also Rogues who rely on magic to aid them in their craft, and others still who share a connection with death itself that makes them valuable spies and infiltrators. When crafting a Rogue, it's important to carefully examine all of the archetypes to determine the most suitable one for your character.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: The Bard Colleges, Ranked

The Scout

Rogues who take the Scout archetype at level three are masters of stealth and navigation. Whether they grew up on the streets and back alleyways of a bustling city or survived on the outskirts of civilization, scouts have the ability to make themselves unseen as they move ahead of the party to scope out what lies ahead. They are often valuable assets to war bands moving across the land, as they slip through places unseen and unheard to gather information and secrets to report back to their leaders.

Scouts easily play the role of spy or bounty hunter, and often find themselves leading stealthy ambushes designed to catch foes off guard. The skills offered to scouts include proficiency in nature and survival and increased movement speeds that aid them in getting in and out of places quicker than others. They also get advantage on initiative roles as they level up, which potentially puts them first in line when a battle starts.

The Inquisitive

Inquisitive Rogues have keen minds for lore and secrets that allow them to put their finger on the pulse of the world around them and discover hidden details others might overlook. They have a keen eye for details and abilities that allow them to examine the words and actions of others to determine their intent. Inquisitives are the perfect addition to a party who may be negotiating with unknown organizations, politicians, royals, clergy and cultists because they see through the lies and deception to the root of another's motivations.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons: Is the Starter Set Worth It?

The ability to seek out that which is hidden also makes them the perfect ally for exposing wolves in sheep's clothing. As the Inquisitive levels up, their senses and abilities improve, as they receive bonuses to Insight and Investigation checks. They also learn how to study their opponents and expose hidden weaknesses that make defeating them that much easier.

The Thief

When people think of Rogues, this is usually archetype that first comes to mind. Masters of burglary, larceny and banditry, thieves have no qualms cutting purse strings or dipping their hands into other's pockets to take whatever they want. Ownership, in the mind of a thief, is possession, and once they take something into their possession, it is theirs to do with what they will. They consider themselves to be professional treasure seekers, always on the pursuit of the next big score -- and the skills they specialize in all but guarantee a payday of some kind wherever they might go.

The Thief archetype grants these Rogues bonuses when making sleight of hand checks to pick pockets, disarm traps and spring open locks. Climbing becomes easy for them because, in their line of work, they're often prompted to infiltrate through second story openings. These Rogues also gain supreme stealth tactics, allowing them to sneak into places undetected or surprise their enemies with calculated first strikes. In time, they even gain mastery over magical items, ignoring class, race and level restrictions to use them in ways others couldn't even dream.

RELATED: Dungeons & Dragons: Why It's Smart to Learn a Feat When You Level Up

The Swashbuckler

Pirates, brigands and duelists often fall under the Swashbuckler archetype, and they focus their skills on the art of the sword. Their methods are fluid and swift, and the fancy footwork they achieve makes their attacks appear almost effortless, like an intricate and mesmerizing dance. They have the ability to dual-wield swords, sweeping in with a flourish of carefully placed attacks before darting effortlessly away to safety without provoking opportunity attacks.

Swashbucklers tend to be very charismatic, like The Three Musketeers, taunting and pushing hostile creatures into disadvantages on their attack roles against any target who isn't the Swashbuckler. Non-hostile creatures become charmed for up to a minute, regarding the Swashbuckler as a friend and ally until it is provoked or attacked.

These Rogues' swift and agile movements only improve as they level up, and so does their swordsmanship. By the time a swashbuckler reaches level 17, they are so skilled with the blades they use that they can actually re-roll a missed attack roll (at disadvantage) and attempt to land the blow again.

Related: Dungeons & Dragons Proves Why You Can Never Trust a Warlock

The Mastermind

Those who choose the Mastermind archetype make it their business to artfully unearth the secrets of others and manipulate them to their own gains. Spies, courtiers and schemers fall into this category, and the lives they lead are as intriguing as they are dangerous. They know exactly what to say and do in nearly every situation, and the words they speak are often just as dangerous as the blades and poisons they employ for a carefully calculated kill.

Not only do Masterminds have fluency in other languages, they are also able to mimic the speech patterns and accents of anyone they've heard speaking for at least a minute. They're masters of disguise and forgery who can change their appearance and personality to suit nearly any situation they find themselves in.

Masterminds can also redirect threats meant for them, inflicting them on a nearby creature instead. As they grow more powerful, they even learn how to guard their own minds from infiltration through means of telepathy or other methods. They can even hide their deception skillfully, duking out of spells like Circle of Truth to present themselves as honest and truthful -- even when they aren't.

RELATED: Dungeons & Dragons: 5 Ways to Homebrew a Witcher

The Assassin

Spies, bounty hunters and murderers for hire, the Assassin archetype is as mysterious as it can be terrifying. It grants Rogues the ability to strike fast, unseen and hard from the shadows, dealing instant death in some cases. They rely on stealth, deception and poison to take out foes in ways they rarely see coming. They are master infiltrators and imposters, studying the art of deception so well they can integrate themselves into a place without anyone even knowing who they are or where they came from.

Proficient with disguises and poisons, they move through crowds unidentified, making it easy for them to get the drop on an enemy who didn't even know they were there. They have unique abilities, like Assassinate, which grants them advantage on attack rolls against creatures who haven't taken a turn yet in a combat round, or an instant critical hit when a creature is surprised. Combined with sneak attack damage, a surprise hit could potentially be powerful enough to take an enemy out before the battle even starts.

RELATED: Dungeons & Dragons: Curse of Strahd - How to Substitute Playing Cards for a Tarokka Deck

The Arcane Trickster

Some Rogues discover early on that magic is as useful a tool for their trade as lockpicks, poisons and blades. Not only does it provide them with the skills they need to bolster their physical skills, but it grants them abilities with magical enchantments and illusions. Arcane Tricksters are often pranksters at heart, taking a certain amount of satisfaction from the results of the mischief they make all around them. The fact that they take pleasure from their antics, however, doesn't make them any less dangerous when encountered.

Starting at level three, this Roguish archetype gains the ability to cast three cantrips. This includes Mage Hand, which allows them to reach out and grab small objects from a significant distance, ensuring they don't actually put themselves in harm's way. These Rogues can actually make their Mage Hand invisible, using it to reach out and grab something unseen.

As they level up, Arcane Tricksters can choose from a number of different Wizard spells, eventually learning spells from other classes as well. In time, the Arcane Trickster can even learn how to steal magical knowledge from an enemy caster and cast it right back at them. When successful with this endeavor, they can cast the spell using their spell slots, and the original caster can't cast the spell for eight hours.

RELATED: How Dungeons & Dragons Is Working to Eradicate Fantasy Racism

The Soulknife

The prospect of a Rogue infiltrating one's defenses is terrifying for targets, but the Soulknife archetype takes infiltration to a whole new and horrifying level. The Soulknife carves through enemy defenses (both physically and psychically), drawing on psionics and channeling it to carry out their work.

Those who walk the path of the Soulknife often discovered their unique abilities as children, the strange and mysterious power haunting them until they sought refuge and knowledge to understand what was happening inside them. Mastering their skills takes time and dedication, not unlike the training of a Monk, and expending psionic power relies on the use of Psionic Energy dice.

Soulknives can summon psionic blades, use their psionic abilities to succeed when their physical capabilities fail and telepathically infiltrate the mind of those they need to glean information from. In time, they can even mask themselves to hide in a veil of psionic energy, or break the minds of their foes, leaving them stunned for up to a minute.

RELATED: What the Dungeons & Dragons Expansion At Hasbro Means For Fans

The Phantom

Because Rogues tend to stick to the shadows, many earn a rather ghoulish reputation for their ghastly deeds. The Phantom archetype plays skillfully upon this deception, granting a Rogue a mysterious and beneficial connection to death itself. Phantoms immerse themselves in negative energy that grants them the macabre ability to move through the world like ghosts. Their connection to the dead makes them fine confidants for those who practice necromancy. In some instances, Phantoms can even lend their skills to a Goddess like the Raven Queen, hunting down those who seek to cheat death.

This archetype grants Phantoms unique proficiencies, as they draw from the knowledge of spirits connected to them. They can also capture soul trinkets in a number equal to their proficiency bonus. At the Dungeon Master's discretion, those trinkets can take form and grant the Phantom intriguing boons.

In time, and with enough dedication, Phantoms can also learn to phase in and out of the realm of the dead, becoming ghostlike with a flying speed of 10 feet and the ability to move through creatures and objects in their spectral form.  This flexibility and uniqueness makes the Phantom archetype the best option for Rogues.

KEEP READING: Ravenloft: What You Should Know About D&D 5e's Next Sourcebook Setting


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Rogue Subclass Tier Ranking (Part 2) in Dungeons and Dragons 5e

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&#;What Roguish Archetype should I choose?&#; Let&#;s find out! Rating systems are useful for helping you select your Rogue subclass for your upcoming character for D&D 5e.

Each official Roguish Archetype subclass has been rated and ranked by me. You can find a list of all the Rogue subclasses ranked in order at the end of this article.

Premise and Rating System

I hear mixed opinions about the Rogue class, but I love Rogues because I understand them on a spiritual level. Rogues are the essential rapscallions of D&D, inspiring keen players to wreak mischief and trickery on short-sighted plans. While they may not be brawling bruisers or reality-bending archmages, Rogues are versatile characters that can specialize for massive skill check bonuses. Sneaky in nature, Rogues embody the adage that a dagger in the night is as good as an army in the day (as long as the rest of the party doesn’t mess it up.

Though I love the Rogue class unconditionally, I can’t say the same for all of its subclasses. I decided teamwork would be a good option for Rogues since there is a low-key player tendency to go lone wolf when playing Rogues, but it’s better to use teamwork. I’ll briefly summarize each subclass and rating it by my own criteria: fun, game design, power, teamwork, and versatility. Subclasses are rated in alphabetical order.

Favorite Rogue Subclasses from the 5e Community

Dash to Your Rogue Subclass of Interest

Let’s roll Initiative on these ratings and get started! You can Cunning Action to your favorite subclass with these quick links:

— Arcane Trickster
— Assassin
— Inquisitive
— Mastermind
— Phantom
— Scout
— Soulknife
— Swashbuckler
— Thief

Arcane Trickster (PHB) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★★★
  • Fun: ★★★★★
  • Power: ★★★★★
  • Versatility: ★★★★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (5/5): Spellcasting is potent if you know what you’re doing. It’s balanced to force the Arcane Trickster to mostly depend on spells that thematically match it (illusion and enchantment). Since Rogues don’t depend on multiple attacks, you can freely increase damage with cantrips like Green-flame Blade or Booming Blade that scale for greater damage as you level up. Mage Hand is a good cantrip on its own for a Rogue, allowing interesting maneuvers like removing bars from barred doors while being on the other side.

While the Magical Ambush ability is good, I wonder if it matters to this class that probably will focus on spells that benefit allies rather than attempting to harm enemies. You can definitely choose spells that will depend on enemies failing saving throws, but you’ll want to invest heavily in your Intelligence score. Since you’re a 1/3rd spellcaster, you get spells much later than full spellcasters, meaning blast spells won’t really help you against many enemies that will be beefier and scarier in the latter phases of a campaign.

The Spell Thief ability is also flawed in that it will usually not do much against high-level spellcasters. Versatile Trickster is also pretty weak and potentially tricky to utilize at higher levels. Basically, the Arcane Trickster&#;s abilities are not great, but you can’t go wrong with spellcasting. If I recall correctly, this is the most popular Rogue subclass. My very first character was going to be a Thief/Wizard because I liked the concept from the Baldur’s Gate games, but the Arcane Trickster reveals with D&D 5e solved that multiclass build for me by letting me be a Rogue with a pinch of Wizard.

Since spellcasting is so strong, I think it might actually be smart game design to make the subclass’ abilities circumstantial-to-bad. Nice work by the game designers making the abilities crappy… I guess… It makes it feel less cool, though! So I gotta lower the fun rating by one star, which will just barely cost this subclass a 5/5 overall rating.

You can read my recommendations for selecting spells as an Arcane Trickster here.

Bonus proficiencies: NA

Bonus cantrips: Mage Hand and choice of several others.

Summary of the subclass: Use Mage Hand with greater effectiveness and versatility while learning cantrips and spells as a 1/3rd spellcaster. Spell options are limited to illusion and enchantment magic except for freedom at several levels to choose spells from any school of magic from the Wizard spell list. When you ambush enemies, you can spring surprise spells that catch them off guard. You can also absorb spells when you reach higher levels.

Assassin (PHB) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★
  • Fun: ★★
  • Power: ★★
  • Versatility:
  • Teamwork:

Flutes’ Evaluation (2/5): While it’s balanced to make it difficult to achieve a one-hit kill on someone, this class falls short for many people who expect to be assassinating folks all the time. I also cringe when players choose this subclass because I know that after explaining how the Surprise condition works, they will forget how it works and require a review every session. It slows down the game and feels bad, so you end up helping them out. As an experienced player, I think I enjoy theory crafting about what could be done with this subclass in the right campaign.

Many players are also disappointed about how useless some of this subclass&#;s mid-level abilities are, and rightfully so. The kit proficiencies are also unclear as to how to use them, and you can bet 95% of players aren’t going to do their own research to find out what kinds of poisons there are in the game. This class is also the ultimate lone wolf subclass for Rogues since they can’t rely on the less stealthy scrubs that populate the party. The Assassin subclass likely sounded good to designers before 5e came out, but time has shown it to be a flawed concept in practice.

Regardless, I have to admit I love this subclass for what it is. That&#;s just my bias. My love for the Assassin motivated me to write a revision of it. You can read my version of the Rogue Assassin in this other article.

Bonus proficiencies: disguise kit, poisoner’s kit

Summary of the subclass: Deal massive damage when you get the drop on enemies. Develop aliases and learn to poison people.

Inquisitive (XGtE) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★
  • Fun: ★★
  • Power: ★★★
  • Versatility: ★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (2/5): The immediate utility of Eye for Deceit is useful because I’ve yet to meet a D&D player that hasn’t tried to determine if someone is lying. Eye of Deceit is like a mini Reliable Talent feature that the Inquisitive gets early on. Eye for Detail, another level-three ability, is comparatively less useful since most DMs I’ve played with have not required a search action in combat. The DMs allowed a character to look around freely. It’s a good thing you get both of these abilities at level three, but you’ll also get Insightful Fighting that allows you to size up a foe to gain advantage against them for one minute potentially. Don’t forget that advantage on attacks will work as a Sneak Attack enabler.

Steady Eye at level nine has the same problem as Eye for Detail; your DM might not require you to search in this way, but at least you’ll have advantage outside of combat as well. Unerring Eye is an overly circumstantial ability akin to the Cleric class’ Turn Undead ability. Eye for Weakness is a negligible damage boost for your Sneak Attack, considering it’s a level-seventeen ability. While this class starts strong at level three, it does not keep up the pace at higher levels. This subclass will be strong in the right game with hidden threats and illusory tricks, but the average game will weigh the Inquisitive and find it light.

Bonus proficiencies: NA

Summary of the subclass: Become swift and skilled at searching for threats, noticing hidden details, and reading people’s motives. Your insights will allow you to see through illusions and strike predictable foes for additional sneak damage.

Mastermind (XGtE) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★★★
  • Fun: ★★★
  • Power: ★★★
  • Versatility: ★★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (4/5): The Mastermind makes a strong multiclassing dip because, at level three, you’ll gain so much, the best of which is the ability to Help as a bonus action from thirty feet away. I love this design choice because players usually don’t think to use the Help action. Helping your allies is an important part of teamwork often neglected because players would rather use their actions for their own amazing abilities, but Masterminds can do both. After level three, the subclass abilities slow down in usefulness (a common problem with Rogue subclasses).

Though the other abilities are not as powerful, they are thematically rich, shining in suitable circumstances. Sizing up foes to compare to yourself can be useful in gathering information and seeing through deception. Misdirection is an ability that you’ll need to be very mindful of because most DMs don’t treat creatures as partial cover, so it won’t feel natural for you to do so. Misdirection suffers from similar problems to the optional flanking rules,  making the game slightly more cumbersome to process, therefore getting left behind. Soul of Deceit is pretty cool, but it’s nearly useless in most campaigns. I’m playing in a campaign that would put it to good use since it’s a high-magic political game where knowing information is dangerous as memory can be extracted and distorted by many people.

Bonus proficiencies: disguise kit, forgery kit, gaming set of choice, two languages.

Summary of the subclass: Help your allies and learn interesting skills. Size up people’s mental capabilities as you guard your own thoughts and position yourself so others will accidentally take a bullet for you.

Phantom (TCoE) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★★★★
  • Fun: ★★★★★
  • Power: ★★★★★
  • Versatility: ★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (5/5): This subclass hits all the right buttons. Its theme is strong, it offers unique abilities that suit a Rogue, and it&#;s not game-breaking. As a bonus, the art is inspiring and makes me want to play this class. Rogues that can phase through walls and snatch souls to squeeze for information and power? Sign me up! The Wails from the Grave feature is cool but not crazy powerful, so it&#;s a good game design. You can only trigger Wails from the Grave on your own turn. Sneak Attack can be used on other turns, but not Wails from the Grave.

The level-seventeen ability, Death&#;s Friend, is an excellent capstone to punctuate this subclass&#;s previous features. You&#;ll be dealing immense damage to your primary target and secondary target with Wails from the Grave once you also have Death&#;s Friend. It&#;s like a combination of Scout and Assassin subclasses at this point. I appreciate that this subclass doesn&#;t rely on sneaking around on its own to assassinate or ambush people; it can stand on its own while sticking with the party.

I love this subclass and believe it&#;s one of the most well-designed subclasses we&#;ve received in a long time, especially in contrast to other Rogue subclasses we&#;ve received that were pretty &#;meh.&#; Remember, this subclass is slower to come online. Most Roguish Archetypes gain their defining features at level three, but the Phantom takes more time to really shine. You&#;ll be fine if you remember this point and find it agreeable.

Bonus proficiencies: Skill or tool of your choice which you can change when you rest.

Summary of the subclass: Snatch fragments of souls of the departed to use to your own ends: defend yourself from death, ask questions of the departed, or use your Wails from the Grave an additional time. Deal necrotic damage to a second target when you deal Sneak Attack damage. Phase through walls as a specter.

Scout (XGtE) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★★★★
  • Fun: ★★★★
  • Power: ★★★★
  • Versatility: ★★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (4/5): Like other Rogue subclasses, the Scout comes front-loaded with incredible benefits to enable your wilderness maneuvering lifestyle. You get a unique reaction with Skirmisher that allows you to move away from approaching aggressors. You’ll also get what is essentially Expertise in two abilities: Nature and Survival. Scouts differ from other Rogue subclasses in that their abilities at higher levels are good! You’ll get additional movement speed, which is almost always nice to have (I say ‘almost’ because movement speed boosts are often useless in theater-of-the-mind games). You’ll crush your initiative rolls with advantage and eventually attack twice per round with Sneak Attack against separate foes.

I love this subclass! It follows a clear theme of scouting and ambushing, and the abilities are actually good all the way through to level twenty. Subclasses excel when they feel unique without having to wait until high levels to feel like you’re playing the character you envisioned. It may not have spellcasting, but this subclass is massively useful. Unlike the Assassin, the Scout has abilities that reward teamwork instead of lone wolfing it. I recommend playing it, especially if you like to play as a Tabaxi (I had heaps of fun playing a Tabaxi Rogue for a one-shot adventure).

Bonus proficiencies: Nature (x2 proficiency), Survival (x2 proficiency)

Summary of the subclass: Navigate the wilderness with ease and move quickly as you set up ambushes. Spring into action when trouble shows its face to make surgical attacks on multiple foes as you trim the enemy forces as soon as possible.

Soulknife (TCoE) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★★★★
  • Fun: ★★★★
  • Power: ★★★★
  • Versatility: ★★★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (4/5): This subclass has a cool concept and some niche abilities that help very much with Roguish skill checks. Each ability seems tailored to making sure a Rogue can succeed when it normally wouldn&#;t, offering a few cool tricks like invisibility without requiring concentration as the Invisibility spell would, and teleportation like Misty Step with potentially longer range. It&#;s cool to have summonable blades like a Pact of the Blade Warlock for when you are captured and disarmed, and I like that you can dual wield them.

I&#;m not as excited to play a Soulknife Rogue as I&#;d be to play a Psi Warrior Fighter. This is because the Soulknife doesn&#;t offer a lot of new tools for a Rogue. All the features can be partially replicated by the Arcane Trickster with spells. Rend Mind is unique, but it can only be used once per long rest, regardless of whether the target fails the saving throw; however, Rend Mind&#;s DC is based on your Dexterity modifier instead of a mental stat, so it&#;s feasible for a Soulknife Rogue to have a high DC.

Psychic Veil&#;s one-hour invisibility doesn&#;t use a Psionic Energy die the first time it&#;s used, fortunately. It can be used multiple times if you&#;re willing to use Psionic Energy dice to do so. Invisibility is very useful, but it may not be great in every campaign if Stealth is sufficient for the scenarios to be faced by the Soulknife. For this reason, I want to think of ways to gain concentration spells that can be active during the Psychic Veil invisibility.

It&#;s noteworthy that you can cast spells while invisible with Psychic Veil if you have spellcasting from a feat or multiclass combination, not breaking your invisibility until you deal damage or force a saving throw. What comes to mind immediately is Detect Thoughts from the Telepathic feat, the Invisibility spell from the Shadow Touched feat (which you could cast on another person to make them disappear), or the Hex spell from multiclassing as a Warlock to give a foe disadvantage on Perception as you skulk about. There may be additional fun ideas yet to discover that would work with Psychic Veil. This subclass might make an excellent infiltration expert since it can summon weapons, turn invisible, communicate telepathically, and bolster skill/tool checks.

The Soul Knife is very consistent at low levels and tapers off at higher levels. This contrasts with the Phantom Rogue that ages well.

Bonus proficiencies: NA

Summary of the subclass: You manifest psychic blades and use Psionic Energy dice to create psionic effects. You&#;re able to achieve invisibility, teleportation, and a stunning strike as you progress in levels.

Swashbuckler (XGtE) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★★★
  • Fun: ★★★★
  • Power: ★★★★
  • Versatility: ★★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (4/5): Since its release, the Swashbuckler has been a popular Rogue subclass. I suspect players enjoy the theme and imagery of a swashbuckling rebel. Players also enjoy the option of getting a Sneak Attack against a single opponent without relying on allies to be adjacent or attack with advantage. I, however, enjoy the base Sneak Attack feature without having to use Rakish Audacity. I do like that Fancy Footwork is like a mini version of the Mobile feat in that you can safely move away from someone you’ve attacked (even if your attack misses). Rakish Audacity also gives you an incentive to invest in Charisma, which fits the theme and empowers later abilities.

Panache requires an action to beguile someone, so it’s tough to rate it highly. Elegant Maneuver is not a powerhouse feature, but it has its place for grappling and flashy moves. Master Duelist can help you to gain advantage if you miss an attack, but you can only do so once per long rest. 

Bonus proficiencies: NA

Summary of the subclass: Perform elegant maneuvers as you strike with precision in one-on-one combat. You would never want to lose face in a duel, so you charismatically woo foes into a false security as you end them with flair.

Thief (PHB) Rogue Subclass

  • Game Design: ★★★★
  • Fun: ★★★★
  • Power: ★★★
  • Versatility: ★★★★★
  • Teamwork: ★★★★★

Flutes’ Evaluation (5/5): The Thief is among the most undervalued subclasses in the game. This subclass dramatically expands the possibilities of the Rogue’s Cunning Action while enabling interesting gameplay that involves scaling walls, stealing items quickly, and implementing items that other Rogues would be barred from using. I inversely recognize that some of the Thief abilities will be useless in particular games of D&D; for example, if your DM doesn’t use items that are limited by class or other criteria, the Use Magic Device feature will be less useful. You can use certain wands and all spell scrolls that would normally be unusable to you.

The option to act with the Use an Object action as a bonus action (that’s a mouthful) is handy at lower levels, but it might drop off as you level up and have less powerful options for items to use. If your DM gives you interesting items at high levels, you’ll still be able to make use of your bonus action, almost like an additional regular action. Your ability to disarm traps as a bonus action will only be useful if your DM uses traps in combat encounters, which I’ve found to be rare.

The level-seventeen Thief’s Reflexes ability affords you two turns in a you’re-not-surprised first round of combat; it’s unique and powerful, allowing you to have an immediate impact in a fight as you go where you need to go and do what you need to do. Stealing a spellcaster&#;s arcane focus or other important material spellcasting component before they draw it can take a battle from dangerous to demeaning. You could even swipe a shield or weapon before a martial opponent can get ready. Second-story Work could potentially enable you to quickly jump over gaps and difficult terrains without slowing down or detouring around.

If you really want to excel with this class, look through all the different items that would usually cost you an action, excluding magic items like wands and potions because Use an Object doesn&#;t count for magic items, and picture yourself using them as a bonus action without sacrificing an attack with sneak damage. Killer!

If you want to learn more about how the improvised attack of items like Alchemist&#;s Fire and acid flasks function, here&#;s a dizzying discourse from J-Craw on Twitter years ago.

Bonus proficiencies: NA

Summary of the subclass: Steal faster, use objects with ease, and jump farther. You’ll eventually get two turns in a round of combat while using wizard wands and bard instruments as if you were either, and you’ll be nearly undetectable when you get advantage on stealth checks while tiptoeing.

Roguish Archetype Rankings Best to Worst

  1. Arcane Trickster
  2. Thief
  3. Phantom
  4. Soulknife
  5. Scout
  6. Swashbuckler
  7. Mastermind
  8. Inquisitive
  9. Assassin

Arcane Trickster ranked the best. Assassin ranked the worst. Several ratings were even between subclasses, so general community impressions, accumulated years of playtesting, and personal preference served as tiebreakers.


Rogue class features are strong enough that subclasses can afford to slack off, but there are still several exceptional subclasses while others have niche fits in D&D 5e. Rogues excel when you get creative, so don’t let the game mechanics limit your choices. A Rogue’s job is to keep DMs on their toes. Pick a subclass that suits your creativity, then run with it. I highly recommend the Arcane Trickster, Scout, and Thief subclasses, but you can have fun no matter your subclass because you are a Rogue!

What do you think of my subclass ratings? Do you think I was fair or unfair? Cast Sending in the comments below to let me know what you think. I also invite you to browse some of our other articles about Rogues, so here are a few:

&#;A splendid poem in this guppy!&#; (translation in Thieves’ Cant: “Happy Adventuring!”)


Dnd roguish 5e archetypes

DM DavePosted in GM Tools

For a long time now, this has been my most popular article. Recently, I got off my lazy butt and finally decided to create a PDF for this. You can get it on my Patreon. That way, you can download it and read it on your own time.

Get the PDF of this article

Design Notes

Here is the thought process I took for developing a roguish archetype. Hopefully, it will help you build your own, original, balanced roguish archetypes.

Step #1 &#; Overview of the Roguish Archetypes.

As of this writing, there are seven rogue archetypes. They are arcane trickster, assassin, inquisitive, mastermind, scout, swashbuckler, and thief.

Some things to know about roguish archetypes:

  1. Rogues select archetypes at 3rd level which offers two or three features once selected.
  2. At level 9, 13, and 17 rogues get additional features from their archetypes.

Step #2 &#; Categorizing the Roguish Archetypes

Next, we want to identify the hidden role behind each of the archetypes. Here are my thoughts on each backed up by internet research.

Arcane Trickster &#; The arcane trickster is a half-caster that boosts its normal roguish abilities with magic. It also has a lot of unique abilities tied to the use of its mage hand. I should note that the arcane trickster feels more like a mage with rogue abilities than a rogue with magic abilities. The biggest drawback it has, though, is that its spell choices are limited only to enchantments and illusions.

Assassin &#; Assassins have two main parts to their structure. First, they&#;re big-time damage dealers, getting huge boosts to their attacks when they catch opponents by surprise as reflected in their 3rd and 17th level features. Second, they&#;re awesome spies, as they have infiltration expertise and imposter abilities. So not only are they cool in combat, but have a lot of flavor in roleplaying situations as well.

Inquisitive &#; Inquisitive rogues are great at detecting secrets. Right from the beginning, they&#;re experts at Insight, Investigation, and Perception checks. In fact, it even helps them with their sneak attacks, too, which improves at 17th level.

Mastermind &#; Masterminds are the archetypical &#;villain&#;, sort of a Game of Thrones&#;esque rogue that uses subterfuge and manipulation to get their way. They can sense the mental abilities of others, misdirect attacks on themselves, and trick mindreaders. Of all the archetypes, this is the weakest in combat, although, may act as a party buff when used right. However, I think it&#;s intentionally designed that way.

Scout &#; The scout is excellent at stealth and survival. At 3rd level, they can move up to half their speed when someone gets near them and at 9th they get another 10 feet of movement. Later, they gain proficiency in nature and survival and become experts in those skills. To round it all out, they can make two sneak attacks per turn, one of which is a bonus action! In my opinion, this is the strongest of all the archetypes.

Swashbuckler &#; Swashbucklers are fancy fighters and crowd controllers. At 3rd, they avoid opportunity attacks from movement and get to add their Charisma bonus to their initiative. Plus, they get to sneak attack if they are the only creature within 5 feet of a creature. Later, they can charm creatures with their Charisma alone which gives creatures they&#;re up against disadvantage against targets other than you (they &#;hey, fight me, ya jerk!&#; power). At 13th, they can use their bonus action to gain advantage on the next Acrobatics or Athletics check they make. And finally, at 17th, if you miss an attack roll, you can roll it again with advantage (usable once per long rest).

Thief &#; The thief is the classic rogue, capable of breaking into just about damn near anything. One of their strongest powers is their ability to take two rounds during the first round of combat (!!!) which they get at 17th level. They also get a number of boosts to their Stealth and Sleight of Hand skills and can climb fast.

Step #3 &#; Determine Power Levels for Roguish Archetypes

Now that we&#;ve observed all of our roguish archetypes, we need a way to observe their power levels. This part is a little trickier since there are no real rules for class or subclass creation in any of the official Fifth Edition material, yet. However, what we can do is know a few important things about the overall design of classes and subclasses:

  1. The most important &#;power&#; levels are at 5th, 11th, 17th level. Typically, if a class feature falls on one of these levels, it&#;s much more powerful than the others.
  2. The DMG&#;s rules for monster creation gives us a lot of insight into how the game is balanced. In fact, I believe that pages &#; of the DMG are effectively &#;the Rosetta Stone&#; to how everything in Fifth is balanced.
  3. Each subclass class comes with an inherent mechanical style that directs the flow of the broader class&#; &#;engine.&#; For example, assassins are meant to always have surprise. Thiefs are good at breaking into things. And swashbucklers are one-on-one combatants.

With the following power level lists, I analyzed the archetype features and determined whether or not it gives the rogue a defensive bump, offensive bump, or if it was just pure utility. I use the term &#;CR bump&#; a lot, referencing the boost certain features affect monsters&#; challenge ratings.

Power Levels for the Roguish Archetypes

Arcane Trickster

  • 3rd &#; Spellcasting. Arcane Trickster&#;s spellcasting mostly adds utility. However, it does give it access to two powerful defensive spells: shield (an effective Defensive CR bump of 2 levels) and mage armor (allows the rogue to go without armor to get a base 13 armor class).
  • 3rd &#; Mage Hand Legerdemain. This is strictly utility and doesn&#;t move the needle too much in terms of CR.
  • 9th &#; Magical Ambush. This is mostly situational. However, it does give a bit of an offensive advantage on your spells. If the rogue had more damage dealing powers in its repertoire, I&#;d say that it warrants a boost in offensive CR, but I&#;m going to say it keeps things stable.
  • 13th &#; Versatile Trickster. Now, it might seem like it&#;s a bonus to your action economy since it allows you to use this power as a bonus action, it actually takes away from the rogue&#;s greatest power, which is its Cunning Action feature. Regardless, it&#;s perfect for letting you get in a sneak attack. I don&#;t believe it really changes things too much for the rogue since it&#;s just giving it a new way to use its bonus action to give itself advantage.
  • 17th &#; Spell Thief. This one is pretty excellent, basically giving the rogue a free use of counterspell (a 3rd-level spell) and then gets to use the spell within the next 8 hours without the expenditure of a slot. This has the potential of being extremely devastating. However, it&#;s crazy situational and can only be used once per long rest. But I&#;d say it warrants a single shift in overall CR.


  • 3rd &#; Bonus Proficiencies. Both of these are mostly utility but factor heavily into the assassin&#;s later abilities. However, the assassin is likely to use a lot of poison (or at least should).
  • 3rd &#; Assassinate. This is probably the most devastating of all the assassin&#;s abilities. If the assassin wins initiative, it gets advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn&#; taken a turn. Plus, it gets a crit on surprised creatures. Combine all this with its sneak attack, any poison it uses, etc. and you&#;re looking at at least 2 levels worth of offensive CR bump. Keep in mind, though, this power is only usable in situations where assassins win initiative (I&#;d highly recommend they take the Alert feat to get that sweet, sweet +5 initiative bonus) and its most effective during the surprise round, which only happens once per encounter.
  • 9th &#; Infiltration Expertise. This is mostly roleplaying utility but really adds some cool dynamics to the game.
  • 13th &#; Imposter. Again, this is pure utility to add some interesting storytelling hooks to the game.
  • 17th &#; Death Strike. Swinging back to the other end of the assassin&#;s repertoire, death strike lets you double the damage of your attack against surprised creatures on a failed saving throw. Again, this is another significant boost in damage output, warranting a big fat offensive CR bump. Once more, it&#;s totally situational and probably unlikely to occur each and every combat.


  • 3rd &#; Ear for Deceit. Utility here.
  • 3rd &#; Eye for Detail. More utility.
  • 3rd &#; Insightful Fighting. Another cool way of gaining advantage against creatures (instead of having to constantly hide), which arguably, is more useful than hiding since it lasts for 1 freakin&#; minute. Definitely a double rank bonus to offensive CR on this one.
  • 9th &#; Steady Eye. Advantage to Perception and Intelligence if you move no more than half your speed. Useful, but probably not enough to warrant a CR bump.
  • 13th &#; Unerring Eye. You can use your action to see through illusions. It has limits though (which, with its action economy cost seems kinda pricey) weighed against your Wisdom modifier (making the rogue more MAD) which you gain back after long rests.
  • 17th &#; Eye for Weakness. A big damage bump, giving an average of 10 (3d6) more damage when using the Insightful Fighting feature. Another bump in offensive CR rank.


  • 3rd &#; Master of Intrigue. Some cool utility powers here for the rogue.
  • 3rd &#; Master of Tactics. You can use Help as a bonus action, plus your range for Help extends to 30 feet. This is cool and ends up offering your pals bumps in offensive CR.
  • 9th &#; Insightful Manipulator. Very similar to the Battlemaster&#;s &#;Know Your Enemy&#; power, you can get a bead on an opponent, but instead of its physical skills, you can read its mental abilities. Still, this is mostly for utility&#;s sake.
  • 13th &#; Misdirection. You can misdirect attacks so long as you&#;re hiding behind another creature. Seems a little situationally awkward, unless you mostly use it to make your teammates take the hit. And since you&#;re already getting a +5 bonus from cover, it&#;s really not that different from a defensive standpoint.
  • 17th &#; Soul of Deceit. Interestingly, this is one of the weakest 17th level archetype features there are as it is purely roleplaying related (with the exception of a few spells that could potentially affect you in combat). The lack of offensive or defensive abilities here makes me think that Mastermind is the most &#;roleplaying-ish&#; of all the archetypes. If anything, it&#;s a support role.


  • 3rd &#; Skirmisher. Not only does this increase your action economy by giving you a cool reaction, but it also keeps you from getting hit with opportunity attacks when you move. Obviously, it&#;s worth a couple of bumps in defensive CR.
  • 3rd &#; Survivalist. Expertise in two new skills (Nature and Survival), of course, equals utility.
  • 9th &#; Superior Mobility. An increase in your movement speed is cool, but overall utility. However, when combined with skirmisher, can be quite powerful.
  • 13th &#; Ambush Master. Advantage on initiative rolls, plus you and all other allies have advantage on attacks against the first creature that you hit until the start of your next turn. I&#;d lean towards an offensive CR bump, but it only lasts for one turn. At most, it might be worth one offensive CR bump.
  • 17th &#; Sudden Strike. If you hit, you get an extra attack as a bonus action. Plus, that attack gets Sneak Attack. Not only do you get a boost to action economy here, but you can use Sneak Attack twice in a round which you otherwise would not normally be able to (just not against the same target)&#;worth offensive bumps. For my money, this one feature plus Skirmisher makes the Scout archetype by FAR the best archetype for combat.


  • 3rd &#; Fancy Footwork. On a hit, you avoid attacks of opportunity. Good, but not as good, as say, the scout&#;s Skirmisher feature.
  • 3rd &#; Rakish Audacity. Here&#;s the good 3rd-level combat power. While it might be tough to clear out creatures within 5 feet of you, once you do, you get to make auto Sneak Attacks. Definitely worth a bump of offensive CR.
  • 9th &#; Panache. This one isn&#;t so hot for combat, but could be fun for outside of combat. Basically, you can charm creatures using Charisma (Persuasion) alone. Otherwise, it eats up your action economy.
  • 13th &#; Elegant Maneuver. You can use a bonus action to give yourself bonuses to Athletics and Acrobatics. Somewhat situational and much more useful outside of combat than in.
  • 17th &#; Master Duelist. This is probably the deadliest of all the abilities a Swashbuckler has as it effectively allows you to roll THREE dice and keep the best to make an attack. However, it&#;s only usable once per short or long rest. Probably worth at least one offensive CR bump, but I can&#;t imagine much more than that as its usefulness is far too limited. However, this is for sure the power you break out when fighting a BBEG.


  • 3rd &#; Fast Hands. You get to use Dexterity (Sleight of Hands), thieves&#; tools usages and Use an Object action as bonus actions. This is primarily utility.
  • 3rd &#; Second-Story Work. More utility, giving you better jumping distance and faster climbing.
  • 9th &#; Supreme Sneak. A big boost here as you have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks if you move no more than half. I&#;d say that&#;s worth at least one rank of defensive CR since this will mostly be used to hide to get the jump on hostile creatures and get sneak attack.
  • 13th &#; Use Magic Device. Another really cool one that is hard to quantify, this feature allows you to use any magic item you want. It all comes down to what your GM gives you, of course.
  • 17th &#; Thief&#;s Reflexes. This is the biggest and best feature for Thieves as it allows you to take two turns during the first round of combat. That in itself warrants ranks worth of offensive CR bump.

Analysis of Power Levels

So what did we learn from looking at these seven archetypes? Here&#;s what I saw:

  • 3rd level always offers one or two utility/flavor powers, and then one power to boost combat, typically no more than 1 rank in either combat or defensive abilities.
  • 9th and 13th level rarely offer anything more than utility. The only exception being maybe the Thief, which doesn&#;t give any CR bumps at 3rd (unusually) and instead does so at 9th.
  • 17th level is always the big power and it tends to lean towards offensive. Only the Mastermind gets the shaft with its 17th level power, but I think that&#;s because it&#;s more of a &#;roleplaying&#; archetype than one used for combat.

Step #4 &#; Create a New Roguish Archetype Concept

My patron requested a roguish archetype that relied heavily on Stealth. Therefore, that&#;s what I&#;m going to do. Interestingly, none of the other archetypes really double down on Stealth. Certainly, they all use it in interesting ways, but there&#;s no actual stealth expert among the bunch.

I think I&#;ll call this roguish archetype the Unseen. Mostly &#;cause it sounds cool AF.

Here&#;s a rough idea of how I&#;ll balance the Unseen roguish archetype:

  • The Unseen will have a third level utility power that boosts it while it is hidden or using Stealth.
  • Its other third level power will give it advantages while it is hiding, or at the very least, make it easier for it to hide.
  • At 9th level, it will have a non-combat related stealth power to give it some more interesting options outside of fighting. We need to be careful not to duplicate the Supreme Sneak power for Thieves (which would have worked perfectly).
  • Also, at 13th level, it will have a power that lets it use its Stealth in situations away from combat.
  • Finally, at 17th level, its archetype feature will allow it to deal more damage with its stealth than normal. I&#;m thinking it might be cool to completely vanish (ie turn invisible) until you make an attack.

To build on this stealth class, we have to understand a number of things about hiding and stealth, too, which has kinda wonky rules in Fifth Edition.

Here is everything you need to know about Stealth in Fifth Edition (as it pertains to Rogues):

  • It normally requires an action to Hide during combat. However, Rogues of 2nd level or higher can Hide as a bonus action.
  • Normally, the DM decides the circumstances for hiding.
  • Hide checks are Dexterity (Stealth) checks contested by Wisdom (Perception) checks.
  • You can&#;t hide from a creature that can see you clearly, and you give away your position if you make a noise.
  • An invisible creature can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, and it does have to stay quiet.
  • In combat, if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you unless it&#;s distracted.
  • Most Stealth contests are made versus a creature&#;s passive Perception. Passive Perception is adjusted up by 5 when a creature has advantage and down by 5 when it has disadvantage.
  • During overland travel, adventurers must move at half their speed in order to do so stealthily.
  • When a creature targets you while you are hidden and it can&#;t see you it does so with disadvantage to its attack roll.
  • In addition, the creature must guess your location, which means it could automatically miss you.
  • When a creature can&#;t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.
  • Whenever you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

Step #5 &#; Create the 3rd-level Utility Feature

First up, we need to figure out what the utility feature is that the Unseen gains at 3rd-level. We want this to be a total stealth machine. Of course, any self-respecting rogue is going to have Stealth as one of the skills they are proficient in and probably use their 2nd-level Expertise to boost it. So we can cross both those out.

I think the best use for the 3rd-level ability is to allow the rogue a feature similar to the ranger&#;s Natural Explorer ability where if you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace. But let&#;s take it one step further and allow it to do so at a fast pace, too.

Step #6 &#; Create the 3rd-level Combat Feature

The first idea I got to help out our stealthy rogue was to make it so making attacks from hiding wouldn&#;t reveal its position. Some might argue that doing it just like that might seem overpowered. However, I would rebut that it isn&#;t. And here&#;s why: Insightful Fighting uses a bonus action to make Wisdom (Insight) checks contested by a target&#;s Charisma (Deception) check. If you succeed, you get to use your Sneak Attack against that target even if you don&#;t have advantage. That&#;s huge! The only weakness is that it doesn&#;t rely on Dexterity to use it, making it somewhat MAD. So that&#;s where the balance comes in.

But the thing about Insightful Fighting is that it is leveraged against a skill that you&#;re obviously going to be an expert in versus a skill that rarely pops up on monster stat blocks (Deception). Whereas, Perception comes up quite a bit in stat blocks.

I think the only limit I&#;ll give it is that its attack must be ranged (like a sniper).

Step #7 &#; Create the 9th-level Utility Feature

For the 9th-level power, I want to make it so that if a Rogue uses its bonus action to Search an area, it automatically gets advantage on its next Hide check. This is good inside or outside of combat as its sort of a way to set up surprises against creatures that are on the way. It could also be helpful to put the rogue in a position where they could spy on an enemy.

Step #8 &#; Create the 13th-level Utility Feature

Next, I think that it would be cool to have a stealth power that&#;s always functioning. Kind of like a &#;passive Stealth.&#; And this plays in well to the Reliable Talent feature that you pick up at 11th level.

You no longer have to use your action or bonus action to take the Hide action; you are always considered hidden and your Stealth is 10 + your Stealth modifier.

Of course, this is pretty freakin&#; potent so I would say that you probably need to be in at least a lightly obscured or heavily obscured area for this feature to work. And just because you&#;re in Stealth mode doesn&#;t mean you&#;re optimally hidden either.

However, the rule would be that your passive Stealth is the lowest you could get for your Stealth checks (which is already the case with Reliable Talent anyways).

Step #9 &#; Create the 17th-level Combat Feature

Finally, we have our &#;capstone&#; archetype feature at 17th. Before I decide what I want this to be, let&#;s take a look at our build here from 1st level to now.

  • At 1st level, the rogue gets Expertise, Sneak Attack, and Thieves&#; Cant. As an Unseen Rogue, it will have maxed out Dexterity and double proficiency in Stealth, giving it an effective +7 to its Stealth skill.
  • At 2nd level, the Unseen rogue picks up Cunning Action, which allows it to Hide as a bonus action.
  • Upon hitting 3rd level, the rogue can move overland at full speed while practicing Stealth. In addition, it does not reveal itself when it attacks from hiding.
  • At 4th level, the Rogue gets a bump to Dex, giving its Stealth skill a +8.
  • Then, at 5th it gets another +2 to its Stealth, thanks to the proficiency raise.
  • Fast forward to 8th level, and the Rogue gets another ASI, maxing out its Dex. It now has a +11 to its Stealth ability.
  • At 9th level, the Unseen Rogue can use its bonus action to search an area. If it gets a 10 or higher, it can make its Stealth check with advantage. Plus, the rogue also gets another proficiency bump at 9th level. So this is an effective +18 to Stealth for the rogue. At this point, the Rogue is damn near invisible when it hides.
  • At 11th level, the Unseen Rogue picks up Reliable Talent. That means that the rogue can never have less than a 23 on its Stealth checks.
  • Then, at 13th level, the Unseen Rogue gets passive Stealth. This means that the rogue never has to use its action or bonus action to hide. It automatically hides with a 23 Stealth check. This is pretty damn potent stuff, so this is limited to only situations when it is in lightly obscured or heavily obscured areas.

And that brings us to level What to get the hidden rogue that&#;s already totally invisible? Seriously, at this point, not even Greater Invisibility is as good as the rest of its skills. And if you remember from my analysis of the power levels for each of the rogue subclasses, the Unseen Rogue needs to get at least two ranks worth of CR-boosting goodness at

Looking back at the stealth and hiding rules from above, here are the few limited drawbacks that this rogue will have:

  • If a creature can see you clearly, you can&#;t hide from it.
  • If you make a noise, you reveal your position.
  • Although you are effectively invisible, signs of your passage may be noticeable.
  • If you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it notices you.

All of these could easily be swept away with one last buff, but that doesn&#;t really give us the boost we need. I think maybe we take care of all these abilities and then also give the Unseen Rogue some bonus damage at 17th, probably equal to 3d6 similar to the Inquisitive&#;s Eye for weakness.

Step #10 &#; Putting it All Together

At 3rd level, a rogue gains the Roguish Archetype feature. The following Unseen option is available to a rogue, in addition to those normally offered.

The Unseen

You are a myth. A rumor. A ghost. Your presence rarely goes detected. The only trace you leave is the whisk of a crossbow bolt fired from a location unknown. Even those that are close to you may have trouble perceiving you as you spend your entire life in the shadows.


Beginning when you select this Roguish Archetype at 3rd level, whenever you make a ranged attack from hiding, you do not give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

Swift Stalker

At 3rd level, if you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal or fast pace.

Concealment Evaluation

When you reach 9th level, you can perform a quick search to find the best place to hide. As a bonus action, you can Search the area that you&#;re in. When you do so, make a Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation) check (your choice) against a DC On a success, your next Dexterity (Stealth) check used to hide in that area is made with advantage. This effect lasts until the end of your next turn.

Passive Stealth

Starting at 13th level, hiding comes so naturally to you that you are always considered to be hidden. As long as you are in a lightly or heavily obscured area, you can use your Dexterity (Stealth) skill passively. Your passive Dexterity (Stealth) equals 10 + all modifiers that normally apply to the check. You may still choose to use your action or bonus action to use the Hide action in order to get a higher result.


At 17th level, your mastery of stealth makes you nearly invisible. You gain the following benefits:

  • You can hide even when a creature can clearly see you.
  • When you make noises, you do not reveal your position.
  • While moving using stealth, you can&#;t be tracked by nonmagical means unless you choose to leave a trail.
  • If you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it does not notice you until you attack it or make a noise.
  • Attacks that you make from hiding deal an extra 3d6 damage on a successful hit.

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Rogue Archetypes for D\u0026D 5th edition

Class Features

As a rogue, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

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


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


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

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


At 1st level, choose two of your skill proficiencies, or one of your skill proficiencies and your proficiency with thieves' tools. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of the chosen proficiencies.

At 6th level, you can choose two more of your proficiencies (in skills or with thieves' tools) to gain this benefit.

Sneak Attack

Beginning at 1st level, you know how to strike subtly and exploit a foe's distraction. Once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. The attack must use a finesse or a ranged weapon.

You don't need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn't incapacitated, and you don't have disadvantage on the attack roll.

The amount of the extra damage increases as you gain levels in this class, as shown in the Sneak Attack column of the Rogue table.

Thieves' Cant

During your rogue training you learned thieves' cant, a secret mix of dialect, jargon, and code that allows you to hide messages in seemingly normal conversation. Only another creature that knows thieves' cant understands such messages. It takes four times longer to convey such a message than it does to speak the same idea plainly.

In addition, you understand a set of secret signs and symbols used to convey short, simple messages, such as whether an area is dangerous or the territory of a thieves' guild, whether loot is nearby, or whether the people in an area are easy marks or will provide a safe house for thieves on the run.

Cunning Action

Starting at 2nd level, your quick thinking and agility allow you to move and act quickly. You can take a bonus action on each of your turns in combat. This action can be used only to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.

Roguish Archetype

At 3rd level, you choose an archetype that you emulate in the exercise of your rogue abilities. Your archetype choice grants you features at 3rd level and then again at 9th, 13th, and 17th level.

Arcane TricksterPlayer's Handbook
 AssassinPlayer's Handbook
 InquisitiveXanathar's Guide to Everything
 MastermindXanathar's Guide to Everything
 PhantomTasha's Cauldron of Everything
 ScoutXanathar's Guide to Everything
 SoulknifeTasha's Cauldron of Everything
 SwashbucklerXanathar's Guide to Everything
 ThiefPlayer's Handbook
D&D Beyond Partnered Content
 Wild CardLegends of Runeterra: Dark Tides of Bilgewater
Archived Unearthed Arcana
PhantomUnearthed Arcana 72 - Subclasses Revisited
 RevivedUnearthed Arcana 64 - Fighter, Ranger, Rogue
 Soulknife ()Unearthed Arcana 66 - Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
 Soulknife ()Unearthed Arcana 71 - Psionic Options Revisited

Steady Aim (Optional)

At 3rd level, as a bonus action, you give yourself advantage on your next attack roll on the current turn. You can use this bonus action only if you haven't moved during this turn, and after you use the bonus action, your speed is 0 until the end of the current turn.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 10th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Uncanny Dodge

Starting at 5th level, when an attacker that you can see hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to halve the attack's damage against you.


Beginning at 7th level, you can nimbly dodge out of the way of certain area effects, such as a red dragon's fiery breath or an Ice Storm spell. When you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you instead take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, and only half damage if you fail.

Reliable Talent

By 11th level, you have refined your chosen skills until they approach perfection. Whenever you make an ability check that lets you add your proficiency bonus, you can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a


Starting at 14th level, if you are able to hear, you are aware of the location of any hidden or invisible creature within 10 feet of you.

Slippery Mind

By 15th level, you have acquired greater mental strength. You gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws.


Beginning at 18th level, you are so evasive that attackers rarely gain the upper hand against you. No attack roll has advantage against you while you aren't incapacitated.

Stroke of Luck

At 20th level, you have an uncanny knack for succeeding when you need to. If your attack misses a target within range, you can turn the miss into a hit. Alternatively, if you fail an ability check, you can treat the d20 roll as a

Once you use this feature, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest.


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