Now, we believe you should play a character however you feel like it, but if you are stuck, uncertain on how to play a rogue in 5e, we got you covered. But remember: watch your back and keep a blade handy (and some dice nearby) because you never know who's going to strike first. Along those lines, before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to create and play a rogue, there are two golden rules to playing a successful and powerful rogue: understanding the importance of dexterity, and choosing a sneaky playable race.
When building your character, your abilities will help define that character. A rogue’s strengths are not in strength, and while there are other abilities that can help your class (we’ll get into those when talking about subclasses), when building a character remember that dexterity is what makes your rogue be a rogue. When learning how to play a rogue in 5e, remember that dexterity is what will save the day.
Along those lines, research playable characters. While you can be a rogue regardless of what race you choose, there are a few races that have natural advantages and will help you get an advantage in the early game when playing a rogue:
- The classic, from Bilbo Baggins to today’s D&D games, halflings have always been known as the classic rogue of a party.
- They are small, skilled, and nimble with their fingers.
- Naturally, they have a +2 to Dex (essential if you want to have an easier start when learning how to play as a rogue in 5e), along with lightfoot.
- Elegant, mystical, skilled with a bow, another perfect example of a great rogue.
- They start out with +2 Dex, +1 Int, and get a free wizard cantrip to start.
- Another nimble race, the forest gnome has talents that make them a skilled rogue.
- They start out with +2 Int and +1 Dex and the spell Minor Illusion to start, which is great if you want to trick a wary guard or distract a merchant.
‘Just Between You and Me…’
This is a tip that can really be applied to any type of D&D character, but if you want to know how to play as a rogue in 5e and have fun while doing it, it would be helpful to know your character before you play. Knowing whether your character is good or bad, chaotic or orderly, and what their backstory is can be monumental in how your character will act. Having a backstory is a great way to build this character, giving a logical explanation to why you are playing a rogue a certain way. But of course, writing a backstory off the top of your head can be intense, so if you feel overwhelmed when trying to think, I highly recommend talking to your other players and the DM, who can help flesh out your character, and therefore how you can play as a rogue in 5e.
Workshopping your character with your fellow players and the DM doesn’t just help build your own character’s background, it’s a great way to create world-building together. By workshopping your character with your DM, your DM might open up the possibility of quests focusing on your past, and how you and your fellow players have known each other and the world around them. Working together is what D&D is really about, it’s about collaborating and creating an exciting and heart-pumping story that you can live in with your friends, and all you need is a bit of imagination and a bunch of dice.
But don’t worry! If you can’t build a backstory, a lot of people build a character through simply playing. The best way to learn how you can play as a rogue in 5e is by playing.
Rogue’s are essential to any D&D party because of a few skills:
- Stealth—the selling point of any skilled rogue. Stealth is how you perform sneak attacks, sneak around and pickpockets, steal vital quest items, and cause general mischief as a rogue.
- Lockpicking—who else is going to shimmy open windows, crack open prison cages, and reveal the treasures inside of chests? The answer is no one.
- Detect Traps—another skill that will make your dungeon diving adventures a little more bearable, the ability to detect traps is a literal lifesaver when playing a rogue.
- Sleight of Hand—snatching keys, stealing emeralds, grabbing the map to the treasure, this is how you can (and should!) play as a skilled rogue in 5e. Pickpocketing is a skill invaluable when it comes to finding an alternative to fighting your way through the world.
When building your character, make sure to prioritize these skills. As the rogue, you have a special set of skills no one else in your party can fulfill. And the more you use these skills, the more you realize how invaluable you are to the party.
Knowing Your Subclasses
You can always play the classic rogue, but below are a wide variety of subclasses, and each one can be played a certain way, and changes how you can play as a rogue in 5e.
- If you want to bring magic to the rogue class, this is the subclass for you.
- Not only can you bring illusions and optical trickery, but powerful destructive spells as well.
- Assassins are great at infiltrations and (duh) assassinations.
- This means you’re the ultimate sneaky killing machine, doing even more damage when doing a sneak attack.
- If you want to try playing a rogue that is insightful and perceptive, this subclass is meant for you.
- This is a perfect character to play if your campaign is filled with trap doors, invisible doors, and liars (like a court drama).
- If you want to learn how you can play as a rogue in 5e who speaks to the dead, like a walking, talking, and stabbing ouija board, the phantom is right for you.
- You also will have the ability to use necrotic damage without casting spells.
- Like the inquisitive, the mastermind is best used in a game with a lot of social interactions.
- If you want to manipulate, lie, deceive, and trick your way to the top of the world as a silver-tongued devil, look into being a mastermind.
- The scout is built for a ranged character, so if you want to be a sneaky rogue that mostly attacks with a bow, the scout is meant for you.
- If you want to know how to play as a rogue in a 5e campaign that is in the woods, this is a great choice because the scout has survivalist abilities as well.
- A creature all its own, your playing is psionics-based, coming from a pool of psionic energy allowing you to attack the enemy with psychic blades.
- If you want to try playing a psychic rogue, the soul knife is for you.
- Ahoy! The swashbuckler is a reliable combatant (even when compared to the other subclasses).
- Along with their combat skills, a swashbuckler is a charmer and it is recommended to dump skill points into Charisma. If you ever wanted to see how you play as a rogue a la the classic Jack Sparrow pirate in 5e, the swashbuckler is the perfect fit.
- The classic rogue: reliable, sneaky, and nimble.
- It might sound boring choosing the thief over these other subclasses, but if you want to have a lot of fun without being in over your head, the thief is the perfect place to start.
Losing is Fun
Depending on your DM, D&D can be a difficult game, and sometimes your character just might die. But remember, that thrill—the fear where you don’t know if your character will be caught or will even be alive at the end of the battle—is what makes D&D so much fun. And more importantly, it’s how you learn to play a rogue in 5e. The more you play a certain role, the better you are going to be. Failure is an essential part of life, without failure you won’t learn how you can be the best version of your character, and nowhere else is this more relevant than when you are playing a rogue.
Items are a whole new way to learn how to play a rogue in 5e. Before a character goes out and adventures, they are going to need tools, and a rogue, as a master of tricks and traps, is going to need a whole lot of tools. Do your research on items in 5e.
You’ll fall in love with researching every item because every item could be a new way to solve a problem. Grappling hooks, props, disguises, as a rogue, the world is yours, you just have to be mischievous enough. Playing a rogue is about being invisible, and navigating the world your way.
The rogue is a class full of fun and mischief. Its versatility allows you to learn how to play a rogue in 5e the way you want to. You just have to get out there and see what you like. Don’t be too afraid to break a rule or two. There’s a reason you put all those points into stealth.