Best DnD Rogue Subclasses (Top 5)

best d&D rogue subclasses
Going rogue takes on a different meaning (sometimes) in Dungeons & Dragons.

What Are The Best Rogue Subclasses in D&D?

Rogues use quickness and dexterity to maneuver the battlefield and evade harm. They wield the ability to make precise strikes that make them particularly lethal combatants. Every rogue possesses a skill set and areas of expertise that make them unique to their parties.

Overall, the rogue is a flexible Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition class, open to numerous builds and characterization. The class just happens to have a natural affinity for unlocking doors or getting into places others normally couldn’t. However, the archetypes change how different rogue characters work mechanically and can inspire how you play them narratively. In this article, I’ll share with you my choices for the top rogue subclasses.

5. Inquisitive (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)

 

The Inquisitive subclass leans heavily into the investigator theme with a focus on unearthing mysteries and secrets that others fail to notice. Your rogue gains uncanny abilities to dissect lies, notice hidden creatures or objects, and decipher clues. The Inquisitive is also potent at detecting illusions, shapechangers, and other forms of magical deceptions. While these descriptions give the subclass a lot of narrative potential, the Inquisitive also holds its own in combat by improving the rogue’s Sneak Attack feature.

What's awesome about this subclass:

  • You become the resident Sherlock Holmes. The subclass enhances your Perception and Investigation skills. A rogue with expertise in both becomes near infallible in their mystery-filled endeavors.
  • Your Sneak Attack opportunities increase. Most subclasses have to rely on allies or advantage to their attack roll to get Sneak Attack. However, the Inquisitive’s Insightful Fighting feature gives them the ability to get Sneak Attack solo.
  • You have a more potent Sneak Attack. The Inquisitive’s capstone ability lets them add more damage dice to their Sneak Attack against creatures affected by Insightful Fighting. Now, they’re not only more autonomous but also more lethal!

4. Thief (Player’s Handbook)

Imagine leaping from building to building after a night’s heist. Mid-jump, you lose your footing on an edge! As you fall, you take out your grappling hook and rope, and after a quick toss, you swing to safety. 

The Thief gives us the stereotypical...thief! This subclass specializes in having quick hands, scaling buildings, and sneaking better than any other rogue. Plus, they have a knack for using items (both mundane and magical) that no other rogue has.

What's awesome about this subclass:

  • You’ll have the fastest hands in the west (and beyond). The Thief’s Fast Hands feature lets you use your bonus action to make a Sleight of Hand check, use your thieves’ tools, or take the Use an Object action. And before you ask, no, activating magical items doesn’t count for this feature. Nonetheless, this ability can really open your options in and out of combat, especially if you discuss what counts for an Object with your Dungeon Master.
  • You're a master of items. Your Thief can already use items quicker than anyone else. Eventually, you’ll be able to bypass class, race, and level requirements to use any magical item. Now, your rogue can use wands, scrolls, or even that Holy Avenger your paladin friend was eying. Just, uh, try not to step on anyone’s toes.
  • You're a first-round monster. The Thief’s capstone lets you take a second turn during the first round of combat. The most obvious advantage here is the opportunity to get Sneak Attack twice in the same round to do a lot of damage, but with your other Thief features, you’ll have a lot of options. Since you take your second turn at your initiative roll minus 10, you could potentially act twice before anyone else can with a high enough initiative! 

3. Scout (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)

Now we have a rogue that can be more at home in the wilderness than in a city! You might hear the Scout be called the spell-less version of the ranger class, but the base rogue chassis makes for a more well-rounded character. The Scout has abilities that make it the go-to survivalist subclass for rogues. In combat, they specialize in setting up ambushes and skirmishing.

What's awesome about this subclass:

  • You have a lot of mobility. When an enemy ends their turn beside you, the Scout’s Skirmisher feature lets your rogue move up to half their speed (without provoking opportunity attacks) as a reaction. Later on, your walking speed increases by 10 feet, making it even harder to catch up to you or pin you down.
  • You add a nature focus to your rogue. The Scout gains proficiency in the Nature and Survival skills. Plus, your rogue gets to double their proficiency bonus for any check they make using them. Just those two skills alone can make the Scout a formidable survivalist.
  • You make the first round of combat excellent for your entire party. At level 13, the Scout gets advantage on initiative rolls, making them more likely to go first. Plus, any creature they hit during the first round of combat becomes easier for everyone else to hit. Add in the Scout’s capstone ability. Now, your rogue can also Sneak Attack two different creatures in the first round, so you get even more incentive to attack multiple targets.

2. Swashbuckler (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide)

 

A battle rages aboard the swaying ship! As the waves crash against the hull, the sword-swinging rogue darts in and out of the clashing crowds. The Swashbuckler strikes their enemies swiftly before slipping out of reach. They chime into fights with banter and a smoldering smile, positively oozing with a charm that masks their lethal skills. This rogue subclass specializes in single combat, though the Swashbuckler can be a deadly fighter regardless of the situation.

What's awesome about this subclass:

  • You can double as the party face. One part of the Rakish Audacity feature lets a Swashbuckler add their Charisma modifier to their initiative rolls. This means that a high Charisma score really helps them. Their Panache ability, which lets you charm creatures outside of combat, also benefits from proficiency and expertise in the Persuasion skill. So, it’s not hard to understand why a Swashbuckler could hold his own in a battle of words as well as in a battle of swords!
  • You’re made to go into melee combat. The Fancy Footwork feature lets your Swashbuckler weave in and out of combat after making a melee attack against an opponent—and it doesn’t even have to hit! The other part of Rakish Audacity also makes it easier to get your Sneak Attack damage. By being within 5 feet of only your target, you can proc your Sneak Attack without having advantage to attack it or your allies near them.
  • You are an excellent duelist. Since the Swashbuckler can autonomously get their Sneak Attack against opponents, they can hold their own in duels. Plus, the Panache feature incentivizes a hostile creature to attack only you, so it potentially forces one-versus-one fights. The Swashbuckler capstone ability also gives them a free do-over with advantage per short rest on a missed attack to turn the tides of any fight.

Swashbuckler subclass guide: A Rogue’s Guide to Playing a Swashbuckler

1. Arcane Trickster (Player’s Handbook)

As a merchant haggles with a customer from across the street, the rogue carefully watches. His fingers move as if to grab something. Moments later, a pouch hovers over to the Arcane Trickster as the invisible hand finishes philtering its mark. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise you that magic and mischief go hand in hand. 

The Arcane Trickster is your run-of-the-mill rogue with a very special twist: spells. Access to magic is tremendous for any character because spellcasting provides a lot of versatility. Your Arcane Trickster’s spell selection gives you a lot of room to really customize your rogue, letting you achieve feats that other subclasses can only hope to mimic. 

What's awesome about this subclass:

  • You use magic. The Arcane Trickster’s defining feature is its Spellcasting feature. They can normally choose from the wizard class’s illusion and enchantment spells and can occasionally cherry pick a few from any school of magic. The Arcane Trickster’s spell choices can make them even better at being rogues, such as by creating illusions or turning invisible. Or, they can do other things normally beyond the rogue’s capabilities, like teleporting or conjuring a familiar.
  • You control an invisible mage hand. An Arcane Trickster gains the ability to cast the mage hand cantrip, but with a twist: it’s invisible! And, it can also do a lot of other things normal mage hands cannot. Your mage hand can take or plant items on another creature, use thieves’ tools, and even distract other creatures to make them easier for you to hit! This feature leaves a lot to the imagination but is inherently prone to shenanigans.
  • You can eventually steal spells. This subclass has a capstone ability literally called Spell Thief. At level 17, the Arcane Trickster can steal a spell that another creature casts. Plus, they can cast the spell if they have the appropriately leveled spell slots for it. Mechanically and thematically, this feature is unique to the Arcane Trickster.

Arcane Trickster subclass guide: Magique Filou: The Arcane Trickster's Guide

 

Not every subclass has its own guide yet, so check out these other rogue class guides if you want more insight:


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When Ianara isn't eating, sleeping, or working a day job, she can be found in her natural habitat: a corner of her home where she plays games, manages D&D campaigns, and writes about her experiences.
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