A Beginner’s Guide to Rogue Subclasses in 5th Edition D&D

That’s the last time. It’ll mean your head on a spike if you keep this up. Packing your cloak and hat into a bag, you steady your breathing and move at the same pace as those around you. The first boats are in and there’s a small crowd pushing towards the dock. With a furtive glance behind, you dart into a tavern. Quick hands aren’t enough anymore. You needed something else back there, a disguise, a spell, a trap – something!

Table of Contents

D&D 5e offers a broad variety of play styles through the rogue subclasses.

We’re here to guide you through these archetypes that allow for such different gameplay mechanics and roleplay styles. All have merit. The best one for you depends in part on what your adventuring party needs. But thinking about what’s most fun to play should be the deciding factor in your choice. 

There’s a roguish flavor to every subclass here. Some are more typical of what we expect from this class like Assassin and Thief. While archetypes like Phantom and Soul Knife add unique elements like spectral weapons and soul trinkets to differentiate themselves from the more traditional rogue archetypes. 

Whether it’s through disguise, poison, impersonation, forgery, spell casting, or by harnessing the power of the dead, there’s so much fun to be had playing a 5e rogue that we struggle to commit to playing as other character classes. Toril world problems!

Read our in-depth subclass guides:

How to Use This Guide

Everything in this guide has an emoji, ranking how useful a given ability or feature is to playing this class effectively.

✅ — An absolutely crucial feature. Often forms the backbone of a class’ look and feel. Will provide some bonus that can’t be found through other means.

🆗 — A solid feature that does its job well. Not game-breaking, and certainly replaceable, but a strong choice that shores up some weakness.

⚠️ — A debatable choice. Could work for a specific build, but otherwise is either a wasted opportunity or is just weaker than other alternatives.

⛔ — Outright bad and detrimental. This weighs down the class and just takes up space on the character sheet. A weakness you will have to accommodate for.

These rankings are meant to help you create an optimized class build, but remember DnD isn’t a game where you need to win to have fun. Weaker but flavorful builds also have their place and can make for fulfilling characters.

✅ Arcane Trickster

With access to cantrips, illusion, and enchantment magic from the wizard’s spell list, the Arcane Trickster is powerful, fun to play, and well-represented in fantasy fiction. There’s a ton of inspiration for magic-using rogues in the work of Fritz Lieber, David Eddings, and Trudi Canavan. Stealthy characters who use illusion and enchantment to increase their effectiveness make sense in a perilous, magical universe. The Arcane Trickster’s mix of combat and non-combat abilities makes them a lot of fun to roleplay and a recommended subclass for everyone to try.

What We Like

The defining feature of the Arcane Trickster is its ability to cast spells. You are (mostly) limited to the schools of Illusion and Enchantment, but thematically this makes sense. Illusion would be ideal for creating diversions and distractions during infiltration operations and spells like Suggestion and Sleep are great for when stealth fails. 

The Gray Mouser, first appearing in Fritz Lieber’s Two Sought Adventure from 1958, is an early example of the Arcane Trickster in fiction. He is stealthy, persuasive, and has developed a set of skills learned through hard living in a dark, low fantasy city. But his background as a wizard’s apprentice gives him the ability to use magical items and illusion magic to augment his more traditionally roguish skills. 

With your 5e Arcane Trickster, all of this is ready to go from level 3. And while you could argue that some of the subclass’ later abilities aren’t that exciting, casting spells to distract enemies then smashing them with Sneak Attack never gets old.

What To Watch Out For

Many Arcane Tricksters use the Spell Thief ability within their own party, asking an ally to cast a useful buff or spell on them before a difficult encounter/entering a dungeon. This allows the original owner of the spell to free up a slot but know that the party has that buff/spell at its disposal. As a DM, I’m all for players making creative use of their abilities and working together like this. Though I might introduce a roll of some kind if they were trying to do this in a stressful situation.

As a DM, I have to remind myself to include a few enemy casters every once in a while if I have an Arcane Trickster in the party. It’s too easy to go several weeks without encountering any hostile magic users, making this ability useless. 

⚔️ DM Tip: Cut The Cloth To Fit The Campaign

Always keep your player character’s key stats and abilities in mind as you prepare for a game or read over a new module. Swapping out generic encounters for ones that target the party’s strengths (and weaknesses) in creative ways helps keep everybody engaged. For new DMs, it’s tempting to be too soft on the players. But as long as you’re fair and consistent, most players enjoy a challenge that encourages cooperation and strategy more than a game where combat seems to have few, if any, consequences. 

Arcane Trickster Class Progress

From level 3 the Arcane Trickster offers unique gameplay options through spellcasting and Mage Hand Legerdemain. Though these abilities get more powerful as you level up, one of the best things about this subclass is how much fun there’s to be had immediately. Right from the start casting illusion spells to cover your tracks and manipulating objects from a  distance feels so fun.

✅ Spellcasting – Level 3

Spellcasting is easily the most exciting part of this subclass and is available right from level 3. Since your Sneak Attack applies to dexterity weapons only, you might be better off choosing spells that offer unique advantages or utility rather than all-out offensive spells. Thankfully, many illusion and enchantment spells are ideal for creating distractions and diversions when stealth has failed or you want to disappear from view.

✅ Mage Hand Legerdemain – Level 3

Already a useful cantrip, your Mage Hand is now invisible and can be controlled as a bonus action. This allows you to pick locks, open doors, set off traps, etc while engaged in combat. You can also use this ability to stash or retrieve an object in a pocket or container worn by another creature. This gives you more options to interact with the NPCs and the environment, more utility to the party, and more opportunities for creative roleplay. 

✅ Magical Ambush – Level 9

As long as you are hidden, Magical Ambush gives creatures disadvantage on their saving throws against your spells. This can significantly increase your chances of success and encourages creative use in both combat and exploration situations. We’ve seen Arcane Tricksters pair this ability with spells like Suggestion, clearing entire areas of guards/enemies without any fighting required. 

🆗 Spell Thief – Level 17

Spell Thief at level 17 means that any spell directed at you or including you in its area of effect allows you to react, forcing the caster to make a saving throw. If the creature fails this throw, the spell has no effect on you, and you have stolen the knowledge of how to cast it for eight hours (provided it’s of a level you can cast). Like we mentioned before, some players use this feature inside of the party, asking a high-level caster to “lend” their Arcane Trickster a lower level buff or spell before a potentially challenging encounter. We like to see this kind of play.

Subclass Key Takeaways

The Arcane Trickster brings magic to the Rogue. There’s clearly a market for this kind of character archetype given its proliferation in film, TV, books, and video games and it’s a subclass that plays well in DnD 5e. Spells from the enchantment and illusion schools both offer fantastic options, swapping utility and trickery for the all-out offensive options of the Assassin or the skill options of the Thief. A fun and well-rounded class from both mechanical and roleplaying perspectives.

Read our complete guide on the Rogue Arcane Trickster here

✅ Assassin

Assassins in fiction are typically presented to us as specialists. This is fitting when discussing the 5e Assassin who, whilst excellent at infiltration and assassination, lacks a broader skillset outside of these two areas. The thing is, this is a popular choice for new players. Those critical hits from Assassinate feel good. But depending on how strictly your DM sticks to the rules as printed in the DMG, the likelihood of achieving as many one-hit-kills as you may first think is low. Surprise is a commonly misunderstood rule and how it’s played can have a serious impact on how effective an Assassin is.

Assassins in fiction are often memorable when they show traits like loyalty or compassion that don’t seem to fit the grim nature of their work. This fits the 5e Assassin who depends on careful cooperation with their party to operate most efficiently. If everyone rushes in blindly focused on getting their own kills, the Assassin loses their chance to shine. 5e Assassins are best when played with a teamwork-focused group. 

What We Like

It feels great when you carefully coordinate with your party, using assassinate to take out the main threat with a single hit. It fits the character archetype, encourages roleplay, and can be pretty cinematic.

What To Watch Out For

Assassinate, this subclass’s key ability is powerful and capable of taking down enemies with a single hit. But 5e’s surprise rule, when played exactly as written, means that a creature can only be surprised if it is totally unprepared for combat. This means being simply hidden from view is not enough. If combat has already been initiated, assassinate doesn’t work. This means it’s a once-per-encounter ability. Ultimately, this is up to the DM. Do whatever works best.

The importance of your Assassin’s proficiencies with the disguise and poisoner’s kit depends on how your DM interprets and implements the rules surrounding these things. Any character can attempt to forge documents and impersonate people. Some would argue that the vanilla version of 5e’s Assassin doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself in these areas.

For a fun, reworked subclass suggestion that addresses many common complaints about the Assassin build, check out this homebrew fix over at Flute’s Loot.

Assassin Class Progress

Assassinate is this subclass’s key ability and ready to go as soon as you begin your path as an Assassin. Your infiltration skills also take a boost at level 3 through proficiencies with the poisoner’s kit and the disguise kit. The higher-level abilities like Infiltration Expertise and Impostor further your capabilities in this area, while Death Strike allows you to do double damage to surprised creatures.

🆗 Proficiency – Poisoner’s Kit and Disguise Kit – Level 3

Depending on how the rules around these are implemented, this can open up a ton of fun options.

✅ Assassinate – Level 3

From 3rd level, your assassin’s first strike against a surprised enemy is incredibly powerful. You gain advantage on attacks against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn in combat yet. Any hit on a creature that is surprised is converted into a critical hit.

🆗 Infiltration Expertise – Level 9

This allows you to spend 25 gold and seven days to create a false identity for yourself. You can’t assume the identity of another living person but can produce official-looking documents and papers needed to satisfy most inquiries into your background.

🆗 Impostor – Level 13

With at least three hours to study a creature, you can mimic its speech, writing, and mannerisms near-perfectly. Combined with an effective disguise or illusion spell, your trick will go unnoticed by a casual observer. You have advantage on any Charisma (Deception) check you make when someone challenges your identity. Combined with your Infiltration Expertise, this ability makes you a master of disguise.

✅ Death Strike – Level 17

When you hit a surprised creature, it makes a Constitution saving throw (DC of 8 plus your Dexterity modifier plus your proficiency bonus). If the creature fails the save, your attack does double damage.

Subclass Takeaways

Assassins are fun to play and make a logical rogue subclass. The argument that they’re a one-trick pony carries some weight but with creative roleplay and/or some homebrew fixes, the Assassin’s abilities of impersonation, disguise, and poison can be greatly expanded. And like we said at the start, crushing the gravest threat to the party with your first strike as your friends wait in the shadows never gets old. Assassin is a simple and highly effective class for new players.

🆗 Inquisitive

While “Street-Sherlock Holmes” sounds a bit reductive and silly, it isn’t far off when describing 5e’s Inquisitive Rogue. Using their insight, perception, and expertise, Inquisitive rogues can easily spot hidden traps or tell when a creature is lying. This makes them invaluable for exploration and social encounters. The combat style of the Inquisitive is focused on smart counter-fighting and interpreting your opponent’s moves until you can deliver a devastating strike.

What We Like

There are few classes to match the Inquisitive ability to notice things and pick out detail in the game world. The extra information the Inquisitive uncovers is often crucial or adds flavor and depth. If you’re the kind of player who likes being asked to figure things out or gain extra insight into the world, the Inquisitive could be a lot of fun.

What To Watch Out For

Some might complain that the subclass doesn’t offer enough ability to engage with the world once you’ve noticed stuff. This is fair. But every class needs its weakness. Inquisitive rogues are another subclass that works best as part of a cooperative team of players who know each other’s style.

Inquisitive Class Progress

The Inquistive’s key abilities involve noticing more detail and picking out clues and information. These abilities define this archetype and are ready to use from level 3. The Inquistive is no slouch in combat, either, using their insight to gain extra Sneal Attacks. As the subclass levels up, they develop keener senses. This allows the Inquisitive to gain advantage on investigation checks, notice illusion magic or invisibile creatures, and further exploit enemy weaknesses. 

🆗 Ear for Deceit – Level 3

At level 3, Ear for Deceit helps you pick out lies from the truth. When you make a Wisdom check to tell if a creature is lying, anything rolled 7 or lower is treated as an 8 

🆗 Eye for Detail – Level 3

Eye for Detail means your Assassin can make a Wisdom (Perception) check as a bonus action. This is useful when being attacked by hidden enemies or traps. You can spot them and return fire in a single turn. It also allows you to make an Intelligence (Investigation) check to look for and interpret hidden clues as a bonus action 

✅ Insightful Fighting – Level 3

As a bonus action, you can make a Wisdom (Insight) check to study and interpret your opponent’s fighting tactics. The creature opposes this roll with a Charisma (Deception) check. If you succeed, you can use your Sneak Attack against that creature even if it can see you

✅ Steady Eye – Level 9

While moving at half your base speed, you gain advantage on any Wisdom (Perception) and Intelligence (Investigation) checks. This is great for exploration and fits the subclass archetype 

✅ Unerring Eye – Level 13

You can sense the presence of shapeshifters, illusions, or any magic intended to deceive your senses within 30 feet. You sense a deception but don’t gain any insight more specific than that. 

🆗 Eye for Weakness – Level 17

At level 17, you can further exploit your enemy’s weaknesses by carefully studying their moves. Any creature that your Insightful Fighting applies to takes an extra 3d6 damage if you land a sneak attack on them.

Subclass Takeaways

The Inquisitive is a strong concept that is slightly let down by some underwhelming abilities outside of noticing things. Still, it is a valuable addition to any adventuring party. If playing as a DnD detective sounds like fun to you, this is worth a try. 

🆗 Phantom

Phantoms are a kind of rogue who has spent so long around death, they’ve made their peace with it. This mystical connection to the dead lets them call on the knowledge of the deceased and ask them for aid in battle and moments of doubt. It sounds dark and edgy but could be fun to roleplay as a light-hearted, breezy character who’s as confused by their mystical connection to death as everybody else. 

What We Like

This is a versatile subclass and one whose versatility is well-supported by the mechanics and surrounding lore. A character who can borrow skills and knowledge from the dead is a strong concept, and like a lot of this subclass’s abilities, begs the question – “Where did they learn that?” There’s lots of room for wacky roleplay here as a half-mad character visited by voices of the dead. We like the abilities and the core concept behind the class.

What To Watch Out For?

Wails from the Grave can only be used twice per long rest at lower levels. This is pretty infrequent for your main combat ability and some people prefer to pad out the Phantom’s abilities at lower levels by splitting up some of its later ones and giving them out early. 

For generally good advice on 5e subclasses and a section on addressing the Phantom’s shortcomings, in particular, check out this link to RPG BOT’s guide.

Phantom Class Progression

From level 3, the Phantom can borrow skills and proficiencies from the dead and even call on their aid in battle. Later abilities develop these concepts further, creating Soul Trinkets that can be used to aid the Phantom in a variety of ways. As the Phantom levels up, they become ghost-like themselves. Capable of walking through walls and creatures with the dead fighting on their side, the Phantom is an intimidating subclass. 

✅ Whispers of the Dead – Level 3

Ghostly presences cling to you as you travel through the world. When you sleep, these ghosts share their knowledge with you, allowing you to gain one skill or tool proficiency of your choice during a rest. This proficiency lasts until you sleep and replace it with another

🆗 Wails from the Grave Level – 3

As an enemy targeted by your Sneak Attack approaches death’s door, you can channel power from beyond the grave to target another creature within 30 feet for necrotic damage. The second creature takes half the number of sneak attack dice damage (rounded up). The number of uses per rest is equal to your proficiency bonus

✅ Tokens of the Departed – Level 9

Not dissimilar in execution to Soul Gems in the Elder Scrolls series, this ability allows you to grab a physical token or essence of a lifeform as it dies within 30 feet of you. After using this power, a tiny trinket appears in your free hand – its form determined by the DM or a roll on the trinkets table of the PHB. 

⚔️ DM Tip: Cut The Cloth To Fit The Party

If you’ve got a Phantom in the party, you’re going to be rolling for a lot of soul trinkets throughout a campaign. The PHB has tables and there are many resources online. But soul trinkets could also present an opportunity to handcraft plot points, background information, MacGuffins, or reveals. Each soul trinket is a fairly blank slate and it’s up to the DM to decide what knowledge, personality, skills, etc the creature had in life.

The maximum number of trinkets you can carry at any one time is equal to your proficiency bonus. Soul trinkets are useful in a variety of ways:

  • With a soul trinket on your person, you have advantage on Death saving throws and Constitution saving throws as the souls bolster your life force
  • When using sneak attack, destroying a soul trinket allows you to use Wails from the Grave without using up one of its limited, per rest uses
  • Destroying a soul trinket (no matter where it’s located) allows you to ask the associated soul a single question. The spirit will answer quickly in a language it knew in life. The creature is under no obligation to be truthful and only knows what it knew in life

✅ Ghost Walk – Level 13

This allows your Phantom to turn into a spectral form as a bonus action. This ghost-like figure can fly up to 10 feet and move through creatures and objects as though they were difficult terrain. Your attack rolls have disadvantage and if you end your turn inside another creature or object you take 1d10 force damage. 

Ghost Walk lasts for ten minutes or until you exit the spectral form as a bonus action. To use this ability again you must either rest or destroy a soul trinket to activate it again.

✅ Death Knell – Level 17

Death Knell at level 17 upgrades two of your existing abilities:

  • Wails from the Grave now hits both creatures targeted with necrotic damage
  • After every long rest, a soul trinket appears in your hand. The spirits of the dead are drawn to you as you sleep

Subclass Takeaways

This is a worthy addition to the rogue. The seemingly grim tone shouldn’t put you off too much either. There are lots of ways to play a roguish character who communicates with the dead. The ability to turn into a spectral, ghost-like form and walk through walls is also pretty fun. A good choice for someone looking for something a little different.

⚠️ Mastermind

Intrigue, misdirection, and manipulation are important weapons to a Mastermind. Fiction has produced many, but Tyrion Lannister is perhaps the best example of this subclass in fantasy literature. He has the courage and the will to defend himself but it’s his intellect he ultimately depends on.

Though they shine in a campaign with a lot of social interaction, this is not a suitable class for a typical hack-and-slash-style dungeon crawl. They aren’t utterly toothless in combat and their ability to give advantage to an ally when fighting makes for good teamwork. But this is a class you should discuss with your DM before going with. Great but not suitable for every campaign.

What We Like

When your huge arsenal of skills and proficiencies mesh with some of your later abilities like Insightful Manipulator, the Mastermind shines. Walking through an enemy camp in a stolen uniform, saluting the senior officer and convincing him of your tale before going straight to the stocks to free your stunned companions is fun. And it’s just the kind of play encouraged by this class. 

What To Watch Out For?

There’s one caveat here – if your game is mostly about beer, pretzels, rolling dice, and crushing orcs in battle (and there’s nothing wrong with that), the Mastermind is not ideal. Social encounters, mysteries, intrigues, and chances to manipulate events in their favor give this class a chance to shine.

Mastermind Class Progression

Helping your allies in battle and infiltrating enemy strongholds to collect inteligence are your bread and butter as a Mastermind. Both these skillsets take a huge boost from your level 3 subclass abilities. Higher level Masterminds are capable of extraordinary mental gymnastics, projecting false thoughts, detecting lies, and inferring valuable information about creatures through observation. 

🆗 Master of Intrigue – Level 3

This gives you proficiency with disguise kit, forgery kit, a gaming set of choice and the ability to speak two languages of your choice. Like we discussed with the Assassin, the significance of proficiency with disguise and forgery kits depends on how your DM runs these things. These are all great tools in the right campaign though. 

You also gain the ability to convincingly mimic another creature’s speech pattern and accent after observing it for only one minute. If you know the language the creature speaks, your impersonation is good enough to pass as a native speaker. 

🆗 Master of Tactics – Level 3

Master of Tactics at Level 3 allows you to help an ally as a bonus action. Help gives your ally advantage on their next roll whether in combat or exploration. 

✅ Insightful Manipulator –  Level 9

From level 9, your insight has developed to the point that you can learn information about a creature’s capabilities merely by observing or interacting with it. After one minute, the DM can tell you if the creature is equal, superior, or inferior in two of the following categories:

  • Intelligence
  • Wisdom
  • Charisma
  • Class levels

The DM can also choose to give you some of the creature’s personality, backstory, or history.

✅ Misdirection –  Level 13

From level 13, you’re so slippery in combat that you can sometimes cause an attack intended for you to hit another target. If another creature is granting you cover while you are being targeted for an attack, you can use your reaction to make sure the attack hits that creature and not you. 

⚠️ Soul of Deceit – Level 17

You have fortified your mind to the point that it can’t be read by telepathy or any other magical means. If someone attempts to read your mind, you can present false thoughts to mislead them by making a Charisma (Deception) roll. This is opposed by the other creature’s Wisdom (Insight) check.

If you choose, your words will always sound truthful, even when you are lying. This ability works regardless of what magically ability the person trying to read your mind uses. 

Subclass Takeaways

The Mastermind will immediately appeal to a certain kind of player. Often, it’s more experienced players that are drawn to this subclass. This is for the best. The Mastermind’s abilities fall outside of many of the typical, combat-focused areas most newer players gravitate towards. A fun subclass in the right campaign.

Read our complete guide on the Rogue Mastermind here

✅ Scout

The Scout is most at home in the wilderness but has enough versatility to always be useful to the party. This might be the best choice if you’re looking to play a ranged rogue. The Scout knows how to stay out of sight and out of damage range, waiting for the right moment to strike with their Sneak Attack. Essential in a wilderness campaign.

What We Like

The skills, proficiencies, and abilities with this subclass all raise interesting questions about character backstory. The Scout is an interesting mix of survivalist, soldier, and rogue. The way your abilities support your ranged attacks with the Scout at higher levels makes this subclass a lot of fun to play. 

What To Watch Out For

The Scout is a near-perfect fit for building a ranged rogue. But if you want your character to be based around melee damage, you might want to look elsewhere. 

Scout Class Progression

The Scout’s abilities are useful and make sense from a lore/rolepay perspective. A slippery, fast-moving Rogue who knows their way around nature, ambushes, and survivalism, the 5e Scout is a gritty sapper that’s tough to kill and fun to play.

✅ Skirmisher – Level 3

Your experience makes you trickier to pin down in battle. Any time an enemy ends its turn within 5 feet of you, you can move half your base speed as a reaction without provoking an opportunity attack. 

✅ Survivalist – Level 3

You gain proficiency in Nature and Survival skills and your proficiency bonus doubles for any ability check related to these two proficiencies. 

✅ Superior Mobility – Level 9

At 9th level, your walking, swimming, and climbing speeds increase by 10 feet.

✅ Ambush Master – Level 13

 Your years of experience on the battlefield have made you a master of striking first. The Scout gets advantage on initiative rolls and the first creature you hit in combat becomes easier for the rest of the party to hit. Attacks against this target have advantage until the start of your next turn. 

✅ Sudden Strike – Level 17

Your Scout has developed lightning-fast speed and timing. Whenever attacking during your turn, you can make another attack as a bonus action. In addition, this action can be a sneak attack, even if you’ve already used this ability on your turn. However, Sneak Attack can’t be used against the same target more than once per turn. 

Subclass Takeaways

This is a great subclass to roleplay as a battle-hardened, former soldier – like something from one of Glen Cook’s Black Company novels. The Scout’s abilities support this kind of play too. There’s a lot of flavor here, but your skirmisher ability only pays off for a ranged build. If dealing damage from a distance is fun for you, this is a good choice. 

For a serious inspiration for sappers and scouts check out some of Glen Cook’s work.

✅ Soulknife

The Soul Knife use psionics as their primary means of attack, dealing psychic damage by attacking their enemy’s minds. Soul Knives are highly sought after as spies by government agencies and organized crime syndicates. Their mix of stealth and psychic power makes them ideal for a range of cloak-and-dagger activities. This can make for some interesting backstories.

⚔️ DM Tip: Borrow Stuff From History (Especially the Renaissance)

The term “cloak and dagger” originally refers to the kind of fighting someone was forced to engage in when their first choice of weapon was unavailable. This became associated with spies and assassins, who in trying to get close to high-profile targets, would have to lay their sword aside. During the Renaissance, fencing masters taught these fighting styles at their academies – an idea you could borrow when it’s time for your rogue to level up.  

What We Like

Soul Knives use a pool of psionic energy d6 to bolster their abilities. Your Psi-Bolstered Knack allows you to roll one d6 from your pool and add the score to a failed ability check. This is a fun mechanic and works well with a psychically gifted character like this. There are other subclasses in the game that use dice pools but with the Soul Knife, you feel like you’re always getting something in exchange for that dice. 

What To Watch Out For

When it comes to how to handle dice pool abilities like Psi-Bolstered Knack, DMs will vary in their approach. It can be inconvenient if, for example, the DM wants to keep information from the party for narrative purposes but the Soul Blade wants to use their ability to retry a failed ability check. The rules help deal with this situation by only taking a die on the successful use of Psi-Bolstered Knack. If the player tries and still can’t beat the check, the dice is left to be used again later. 

Soul Knife Class Progression

Psionic energy is the force which bolsters your abilities and sets you apart from other rogues. From level 3, you can expend a die to create a telepathic link with an ally or reroll a failed ability check. Your Psychic Blades are another manifestation of this energy, dealing psychic damage to your enemies. Invisibility, mind-reading, and further development of psionic-based attacks await you as a higher level Soul Knife. 

✅ Psionic Power – Level 3

At 3rd level, your abilities begin to manifest themselves in a way that you can control for the first time. This is represented by your pool of Psionic Energy dice – each a d6. The number of these dice available to you is twice that of your proficiency bonus. 

Many of your powers expend a die when you use them. Once you’re out of dice, you can no longer use those powers. These dice are regained after a long rest and a single die can be regained as a bonus action once per rest. 

The size of your Psionic Energy dice increases with levels – d8 at level 5, d10 at level 11, d12 at level 17.

The following abilities each expend one Psionic Energy dice each:

  • Psi-Bolstered Knack: Whenever you fail an ability check using a skill or tool you are proficient in, you can roll one of your Psionic Energy dice and add the number to the failed check. The dice is only expended if the roll turns failure into success
  • Psychic Whispers: Your abilities allow you to establish and maintain a perfect telepathic link with other creatures, speaking to them clearly without needing to understand the same language. When you want to activate this ability, roll one of your Psionic Energy dice and choose which creatures (they must be in sight when you activate) you want to link with. The number rolled on the dice is the number of hours the telepathic link is maintained. To maintain contact, the creature must stay within one mile of you. No action is required to send or receive messages. 

This ability can be used once after a long rest with expending a die. Any subsequent uses cost one Psionic Energy dice to be depleted

✅ Psychic Blades – Level 3

Your powers manifest themselves in combat as blades of psychic energy. When you attack, you can make these blades appear in your free hand and strike enemies with them. The blades are classified as finesse/thrown weapons with a range of 60 feet. This ability deals 1d6 psychic damage plus your ability modifier and leaves no visible mark on your opponent. 

After this first attack, you can make a second set of blades appear in your other hand and make another ranged or melee attack as a bonus action. This second attack deals 1d4 damage instead of 1d6

✅ Soul Blades – Level 9

At level 9, you unlock further ways to use your Psionic Energy and increase the power of your Psychic Blades. 

  • Homing Strikes: If your attack with Psychic Blades misses, you can roll a Psionic Energy dice and add the score to your attack roll. If this turns a success into a failure, one dice is expended. If not the dice is kept and can be used again
  • Psychic Teleportation: As a bonus action, you can use one Psionic Energy dice to throw a Psychic Blade at a space up to ten times the number you rolled on the dice in feet (on a rolling a 4, you can move 40 feet, for example). You can then teleport into that space and the blade vanishes

✅ Psychic Veil – Level 13

With a veil of psychic energy, you make yourself and everything you wear or carry invisible for one hour (or until you dismiss the ability). The effect ends immediately if you attack a creature or force it to make a saving throw. 

You get one use of Psychic Veil per long rest. To use this ability again, you must expend one of your Psionic Energy dice. 

✅ Rend Mind – Level 17

At 17th level, you can use your Psychic Blades to directly target a creature’s mind when dealing Sneak Attack damage. This forces the creature to make a Wisdom saving throw (the DC is 8 + your proficiency bonus + your dexterity modifier). On a failed saving throw, the creature is stunned for one minute. At the end of this time, it makes the saving throw again, only ending the stunned status on a successful roll. 

Once you use this ability, you must complete a long rest or expend three Psionic Energy dice to use it again. 

Subclass Takeaways

This is a powerful archetype with lots of options for battlefield control, tactics, and cooperative gameplay. There’s enough at level 3 to be interesting and some of the higher-level abilities make the Soul Knife devastating in the right hands. 

✅ Swashbuckler

Part-duelist, part-dancer, and full-time performer, the Swashbuckler depends on charisma, speed, and grace in near-equal measure. This subclass specializes in single combat and can find ways to exploit an enemy’s weakness using guile and charm. The Swashbuckler is a fun character archetype that’s often full of bluster and bravado. 

What We Like

The Swashbuckler’s Fancy Footwork ability at level 3 makes them very tricky to hit in combat. It’s fun to play as a confident, lethal Swashbuckler, darting around the battlefield, taunting enemies, and picking them off before slipping away. There’s lots of character and it’s a relatively straightforward subclass to play as. 

What To Watch Out For?

The 5e Swashbuckler is useful in combat in a variety of ways but isn’t meant to soak up damage in a slugfest. Many people use their Swashbuckler to dart in and out, attacking the enemies protected by the front line without getting hit. 

Swashbuckler Class Progression

The charismatic Swashbuckler is fun to play and supported by well-executed mechanics and abilities. Fancy Footwork, Rakish Audacity, and Panache are good representations of the effect a cocky duelist might hope to have on opponents and the Swashbuckler’s higher level abilities are the kind of flashy, lightning fast trickery cinema and fiction has led us to expect from this archetype.

✅ Fancy Footwork – Level 3

At level 3, this ability allows you to land a strike and get out of the way before your opponent gets an Opportunity Attack.

✅ Rakish Audacity – Level 3

Your confidence is powerful enough to aid you in battle. You get a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your Charisma modifier. You also no longer need advantage to use Sneak Attack on a creature within 5 feet (as long as there are no other creatures within 5 feet of you).

✅ Panache – Level 9

As an action, you can make a Charisma (Persuasion) check contested by a creature’s Wisdom (Insight) check. For this to work, the creature must be able to hear you and you must share a common language.

If a hostile creature fails the check, it has disadvantage on attacks against all targets other than you and can’t make opportunity attacks against targets other than you. This effect lasts for one minute or until one of your party attacks the creature or targets it with a spell. It also ends if you and the targeted creature are more than 60 feet apart. 

If the creature isn’t hostile and you succeed on your check, the creature is charmed for one minute. During this time, the creature will treat you as a friendly acquaintance. The effect ends if you or your party target the creature with anything hostile. 

✅ Elegant Maneuver – Level 13

Your uncanny speed and skill allow you to use a bonus action to gain advantage on the next Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Strength (Athletics) check you make during that turn. 

✅ Master Duelist – Level 17

Your skill at one-on-one fighting is so great that you can potentially turn a failure into a success. If you miss an attack roll, you can now roll it again with advantage. This can only be used once per long rest. 

Subclass Takeaways

The Swashbuckler is fun, user-friendly, and a useful member of any adventuring party. It’s a fun way to make Charisma work in a rogue build and a recommended subclass for fun-loving extroverts.

✅ Thief

Pretty much a roguish staple since the birth of gaming, the Thief is a classic for a reason. And if this subclass’s title doesn’t sound especially glamorous, we should remember they are equipped with skills that make them as much professional treasure hunters as thieves. It’s fun to roleplay as a thief who takes exception to any association with criminals. 

What We Like

The way a Thief’s superior speed is represented by bonus actions and extra turns is well-executed. It feels good to be able to react lightning fast to disarm traps, use objects, or take things from/plant things in an enemy’s pockets. 

What To Watch Out For?

The Thief’s abilities are a little underwhelming from a combat perspective. Consider some of the many homebrew solutions to this.

Thief Class Progression

With the exception of Use Magic Device, the Thief’s ability unlocks are pretty predictable. That’s not to say they are boring to play – simply that they’re the essentials for what a Thief needs to function. Thieve’s Reflexes represent the kind of sneaky fighting a professional thief might engage in to make up for their lack of brute strength. The Thief’s abilities make them agile, athletic, and a supreme sneak. 

✅ Fast Hands – Level 3

You can use the bonus action granted by Cunning Action to make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. With this action you can use your thief’s tools to disarm a trap, open a locked door, or use an object.

🆗 Second Storey Work – Level 3

You can now climb faster than normal and it no longer costs you any extra movement.

When you make a running jump, the distance it covers increases by the number of feet equal to your Dexterity modifier.

✅ Supreme Sneak – Level 9

From Level 9, you have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks while moving at half your speed.

✅ Use Magic Device – Level 13

Your career has taught you enough about magical items that you can ignore all class, race, and level requirements on the use of magical items. 

✅ Thief’s Reflexes – Level 17

You are so much faster than the enemy that you can take two turns at the start of any combat encounter. The first turn is taken at whatever initiative you rolled and the second at this score minus 10. This ability can’t be used when you are surprised.

Subclass Takeaways

The Thief is an iconic and valuable subclass in most types of adventure. They are a fun, versatile subclass to roleplay and useful in exploration and combat. Don’t go on a dungeon crawl without one. 

Also, this is Dungeons and Dragons – play a thief for the purity of it. This is classic, Bilbo-inspired, heritage-gaming at its finest!

There Can Be Only One

We are cautious about ranking the subclasses in a tier but for an excellent video doing just that, check out the link below from Dungeon Dudes:

Sneaky Options

We’re glad you enjoyed our breakdown of the Rogue subclasses for DnD 5e. Let us know if you’ve got any homebrew fixes or unique roguish takes. This is a classic archetype with a lot of room for unique touches. We’d love t hear from you in the comments below. 

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