Class Primer: Rogue

An Introduction to the Rogue Class for Players New to Dungeons and Dragons 5e


Do you have a general disregard for rules and authority? Do you have a loose definition of what constitutes other peoples’ so-called “property”? Congratulations, you social deviant, you’ve found your perfect match in the Rogue class for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons!

Side note: This guide assumes you have the Player’s Handbook for more detailed information, and is more intended to give you an idea of what this class can do. If you also need help with the process of creating your first character, click here first for my character rolling guide for new players.

Overview: What’s Yours Is Mine

Rogues encompass a wide range of characters. They might be thieves, assassins, con artists, investigators, swashbucklers, or treasure hunters to name a few possibilities. The unifying feature of rogues is their reliance on their skills and cunning to overcome obstacles.

Rogues get more skill proficiency choices than any other class with four, and can boost those skills higher than other classes with their Expertise feature (allowing you to double your proficiency for the skills you choose). This means that whatever skills you decide to be good at with your rogue, you will be among the best.

Role in the Party

Rogues are ideal as Damage Dealers. With their Sneak Attack feature, you will get a bonus to your damage rolls against opponents when you have the upper hand. This feature gives rogues fantastic single turn burst damage, but requires some set-up. This is also why the dagger is a viable choice for rogues despite the low damage die of the weapon; you will be relying on your sneak attack to deal damage in a fight. Their Cunning Action feature makes them incredibly mobile, able to weave between foes with ease to strike from the most advantageous positions and escape before the enemy can strike back.

Your rogue may also fill a few other roles depending on your skill choices, most notable being Scout or Party Face. If you choose to put your Expertise into skills such as Stealth, Sleight of Hand, or your Thieves’ Tools proficiency you could play the classic dungeoneering rogue: scouting ahead for the party, unlocking doors, and disarming traps. If you choose to boost charisma based skills such as Persuasion or Deception, you will be almost unparalleled at talking your party out of sticky wickets.

Looking Ahead: High Level Rogues

At higher levels, you can expect to see features that improve your melee damage, mobility, and skills. High level rogues become very hard to pin down, with abilities such as Uncanny Dodge and Evasion allowing them to negate some of the damage when they do get hit. Eventually, they become so skillful in combat with the Elusive feature that enemies can no longer gain advantage on attacks against the rogue unless they are incapacitated. The skills you choose for your Expertise feature also receive an additional boost with Reliable Talent, which will make your specialized skill checks almost impossible to fail.

At level three, you will have a choice of three subclass options for your Roguish Archetype. Thief will further enhance your skills and out-of-combat utility, giving you features that make your rogue climb faster, jump further, and move more stealthily. You also gain the unique ability to use magic items without class restriction at higher levels in this subclass, which is a much more powerful feature than it might appear on the surface. The Assassin will hone your ability to ambush enemies and end fights quickly, giving you special bonuses on the first round of combat and abilities that help you blend in better to get close to your targets. Finally, the Arcane Trickster supplements your roguish ways with magical abilities – mostly limited to enchantment and illusion spells, though this restriction is likely to serve you just fine as a rogue. You gain a special version of the mage hand cantrip that allows you to pick pockets and locks from a distance, and eventually the ability to distract enemies in combat with your mage hand opening them up for an easy sneak attack.

If you want to be a cunning and skillful combatant, striking the enemy from the shadows when they least expect it, look no further! Just don’t steal from party members if you value your real life friendships.

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