Do you want to deftly dance through shadows, duel with opponents, and have the skills to pay the bills? If so, a Rogue may be right for you.
Rogues are one of big three classic archetypes of D&D: Fighter, Magic User, and Thief. Although, just to sidetrack here for a moment, in the Original D&D, it was Fighting-Man, Magic-User, and Cleric–but Clerics are more like Fighter/Mages (who use divine magic, but magic nonetheless) from a certain point of view.
The Thief quickly joined those three types in the Greyhawk expansion, adding more cunning/agility to the game. Thieves were good at navigating the environment of the Dungeon.
Technically all characters could look for traps or open locks, but the Thieves were expert at it, complete with a ten foot pole for searching for traps–and when was the last time you used one of those?
Stealing the Show
In 5th Edition, the Rogue fits into a variety of roles–though by dint of their class features, they’re all going to have a few general characteristics. The way the class is constructed, a Rogue gets most of their abilities from their Class, and each Archetype gives two useful combat abilities (3rd and 17th level), and two narrative abilities (9th and 13th level) to add some customization options to your Rogue.
But the baseline things that Rogues are good at are: Skills–Rogues have one of the widest range of skill selections and get Expertise which can really help define what they do when not in combat; Damage to a Single Target–Rogues are great at attacking a single target with their once per turn Sneak Attack, they’ll be able to deal out a ton of damage to a vulnerable target; and finally Mobility–with cunning action and a wide range of skills that enhance mobility, they can get where they need (often to deliver a punishing blow to a vulnerable backline target).
That’s what every Rogue does well–now let’s take a look at the Roguish Archetypes and see how you can steer your Rogue in one direction or another.
Arcane Tricksters are a classic combo–this subclass is all about utility. It gives Rogues access to the Illusion and Enchantment schools of magic, which is a fairly useful school. You can toss out some significant battlefield control though your big features are being able to also do your Roguework at range thanks to Mage Hand.
Assassins take the single target damage of the Rogue and ultra specialize in it. With the ability to generate automatic critical hits (important for sneak attackers) and to layer perform a death strike, you will be good at killing your opponents, one at a time.
Inquisitives combine a Rogue’s love of having the right skills (in this case with a focus on learning secrets) for the right job. Of course, a good inquisitive can also make sure ther sneak attacks hit harder while still being fairly reliable in terms of seeing it land.
Masterminds can manipulate, disguise, and spy on your enemies. But they are also surprisingly good at supporting the party–Master of Tactics and Misdirection are great tools in the middle of a fight, and outside of combat, they are great at making friends.
Scouts are masters of mobility. Cunning action has nothing on the positioning aspects of a Scout. Whether you’re using their abilities to close with your enemies, or to keep them at bay while you whittle them down with ranged attacks, abilities like Skirnisher and Superior Mobility can ensure you’re where you need to be. And while you dont really gain a combat trick until 13th level, both 13th and 17th have some great abilities on offer–who doesnt want to use Sneak Attack twice in a round.
Swashbucklers are perfect for being the most stylish, charming, charismatic brawler you can be. You’ll be great at holding an enemy’s attention, with special abilities like Fancy Footwork helping to keep you alive, while abilities like Rakish Audacity and Master Duelist helping you to punch well above your weight.
Thief of course, is the classic archetype. With abilities that let them do all the normal rogue stuff, but like, turned up to 11. You can thief harder, better, faster, and stronger than the others. You’ll have one of the widest varieties of bonus actions out there as well, with everything from trapfinding, to lockpicking, to straight up taking two turns in a row.
At any rate, that’s the Rogue in all their glory. They’re a little fragile, but can pack a powerful punch and several other actions on their turns.