Best Rogue Build 5e

Elaine Sutton
• Monday, 30 November, 2020
• 24 min read

Your Rogue may be a criminal who is good at pick pocketing and burglary, an assassin who knows how to kill silently, or an Arcane Trickster who uses magic to deceive others. Regardless of what type of Rogue you play, you’ll need to know how to maximize your skills and abilities for that particular type. Every party needs a “Face” character; somebody who knows how to talk to people.

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They can get allies on the side of the party or lie and manipulate to avoid combat. Choose Con or Wis for your third priority and dump your bad rolls into Int and STR.

If you are going to play a traditional “thief” or “assassin” Rogue, make Con or Wis your second-highest attribute. Con will allow you to survive combat longer, while Wis will help with Perception and Insight.

But if you can make it to levels 9-13, Supreme Sneak will give you an advantage on dexterity checks when you move no more than half your movement speed during a turn, and Use Magic Device will let you ignore all class, race, and level requirements while using magical devices. Once you get to level 9, Magical Ambush will make the victims of your spells face disadvantage on saving throws if you are successfully hiding from them.

Another option is to wait until your foe is distracted by one of the other party members, then sneak in with a short sword and stab him in the leg. Use Perception and Insight to recognize danger and keep your party out of trouble.

If a situation looks too dangerous, leave your party behind and use Stealth to infiltrate the enemy, then report back when you’re done. If you’re playing a Face character, use Persuasion and Deception to find clues, convince guards to let you by, and accomplish other social aims.

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If playing an Arcane Trickster, use Investigation and Arcane to find answers to your party’s questions about non-magical or magical subjects. You can be a pickpocket, burglar, assassin, con-artist, or some other character type that survives by sneaking around and hiding in the shadows.

But no matter what type of Rogue you play, using the class features, skills, and feats in this guide will make you a helpful addition to any party. As a bonus action you can grant yourself advantage on your next attack, at the cost of reducing your movement to 0 until the end of the turn.

This is a massive buff that means you’ll no longer need to rely on surprise or your allies to get the all-important sneak attack. Most DMs rule that Thieves' Cant is not a “language” per se as a closely guarded cypher.

The Arcane Trickster is a character type that’s been around D&D for a long time, and it’s essentially a delicious mix of Rogue and Wizard that works together like chocolate and peanut butter. The 5e Arcane Trickster is an incredibly easy take on the concept that is built into the Rogue Class as an archetype, no multi classing required.

As a mix of Rogue and Wizard, your two most important stats are going to be Dexterity and Intelligence. You’ll usually want to make Dexterity your highest stat, and Intelligence a close second.

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Wisdom and Strength aren’t likely to be important for you, unless you’re doing an extremely strange build or multi class. As Ex and Int are your most important stats, the best races to use are ones that give you a bonus to both.

Beyond keeping Int in mind, you really don’t need to do much else to optimize an Arcane Trickster. The build options are going to come down to what spells you pick and how you want to play your trickster.

Oddly enough, one of the best reasons to BE an Arcane Trickster is a can trip you receive automatically when you select the archetype, Mage Hand. Slip a bomb into somebody's pocket, open a suspicious door from a distance.

If you want to solve this sort of problem, try taking the Message and Minor Illusion can trips to start with, they’re simple ways to get out of a lot of bad situations. You can really rely on your sneak attack as your damage dealer, and just pick and choose utility spells like Disguise Self, Knock, Fly, and Invisibility.

Think of yourself as a problem solver, and you can bypass a lot of threats before they know you’re there. Rogues are already excellent damage dealers, and adding a few spells can increase that rate in a rather sneaky way.

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The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide gave us a couple of wizard can trips that you can cast as part of an attack. I recommend grabbing Green fire Blade and Booming Blade, their big limitation is the use of an action, but as sneak attack can only trigger once a turn anyway, and it can trigger off the attack made as a part of these spells, you essentially get to stack their damage together.

Another’s Guide to Everything gave us the gorgeous spell Shadow Blade. It’s a concentration spell that creates a magical shadowy blade you can make melee weapon attacks with, and beyond how cool that sounds/is it is also a light, finesse, and thrown, weapon that deals a base 2d8 psychic damage.

Let’s count this out, assuming a 7th level Arcane Trickster with let’s say 16 in both Dexterity and Wisdom. Probably one of the best picks if you’re heading into a mystery adventure where you’ll be needing to look for clues.

This is the rogue you play if you want to manipulate events, without putting yourself in harm’s way. Aside from all the unique role play tricks, you also get an ability that makes interesting use of the “help” action.

You can easily keep out of danger, while granting your allies advantage from a distance. Grab this for a role play heavy adventure, and just use your physical abilities as dump stats.

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Grab this if you want to play a rogue dripping with charisma and charm. Blue shift Nine, LLC assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents on the Service.

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ROBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcane content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

Sneak Attack allows them to do a huge pile of damage in a single attack, and their pile of skills allows them to easily handle locks, traps, guards, and many other challenges. Hiding after each attack using Cunning Action is reliable and effective, though it can be very static and repetitive.

Proficiencies: Rogues get all the weapons they need to get by, but thieves' tools, and a fantastic four skills. Pick skills which fit the theme and style of your campaign and your character well.

Cunning Action: This is a fantastic option for bringing your Sneak Attack into play. Archers can use Hide to stay hidden between attacks, and melee Rogues can use Dash and Disengage to move around the battlefield safely and quickly.

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Arcane Trickster : Use illusions and enchantments to confuse and outsmart your foes. Assassin : Masters of infiltration, disguise, and dealing high-damage sneak attacks at the beginning of combat.

Uncanny Dodge: If you only draw a handful of attacks this can prevent a huge amount of damage. Blind sense: Locating invisible creatures can be very hard, and even if you can't hit them easily it goes a long way to know where they are standing.

Slippery Mind: Your Wisdom probably isn't 't great, but at this level your Proficiency Bonus is bug enough that this goes a long way. Stroke of Luck: Essential when the chips are down, and you can't afford to fail.

Dexterity is key for any Rogue, and Intelligence is important for Arcane Tricksters, but your Wisdom and Charisma depend largely on your choice of skills and role in the party. However, you're not forced to use Dexterity to make Sneak Attacks so long as you use a suitable weapon, so Strength-based rogues are technically possible.

They add to your skills, your tools, your attacks, your damage, your AC, and your best save. Int: Arcane Tricksters need Intelligence for their spells, but other Rogues only need it for Investigation.

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Dexterity bonuses are critical, and Dark vision is fantastic for sneaking around in the dark. Flying makes getting places much easier, especially where things like walls are an issue, and it keeps you out of range of enemies.

Bugbear GTM : The Strength increase is totally wasted on a rogue, but reach is hard for rogues to get, you get Stealth proficiency for free, and Surprise Attack stacks with Sneak Attack, so you can deal 3d6+weapon damage at first level and one-shot many enemies. Dark vision is particularly helpful, and a Constitution increase is always welcome, but since so much of the Rogue's capabilities rely on Dexterity it's still a challenging way to build a character.

Hill PUB : Extra hit points are nice, and a bit of Wisdom helps with Perception, but without a Dexterity increase you'll lag on core rogue competencies like Stealth. Mountain PUB : Strength and medium armor are both useless for most rogues, but the combination makes a Strength-based possible.

You only need the 14 Dexterity to max out medium armor, and you can be just as effective in combat as a Dexterity-based rogue. High Strength also means that you can be good at things like Athletics which most rogues are bad at.

Elf PUB : A bonus to Dexterity and Dark vision are perfect for a Rogue. Aladdin MTBF : On par with the High Elf, Fey Step is a massive benefit for a class so dependent on stealth and surprise, and occasionally on running when a fight turns sour.

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While the High Elf is better for Arcane Tricksters, the Aladdin is great for other builds, especially if you're playing the party's Face. High Elf PUB : An Intelligence boost is good for Arcane Tricksters, but any archer Rogue will enjoy proficiency with Longbows, and a free can trip offers some interesting options (Green-Flame Blade is a go-to option for the easy damage boost).

Sea Elf MTBF : Potentially useful in an aquatic campaign, but otherwise nothing special. Wood Elf PUB : Wisdom is great for Perception, and any archer Rogue will enjoy proficiency with Longbows.

Mask of the Wild is situational, but it offers some helpful options for stealth. Genus EEC : A Constitution bonus never hurts, but Rogues who take a lot of damage don't live very long no matter how many hit points they have.

Deep (Svirfneblin) EEC / SCAG : Fantastic in a subterranean game. Forest PUB : Dexterity is great for a Rogue, and combined with the base Gnome's Intelligence bonus this is a fantastic choice for an Arcane Trickster.

Rock PUB : The Constitution buff is the only thing with any significant game effect. Goblin GTM : The ability scores are fantastic, but Nimble Escape is totally redundant with Cunning Action.

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Draw SCAG : Arcane Tricksters get access to similar options. Keen Senses SCAG : The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifics that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage.

Wood SCAG : Mask of the Wild is tempting, and Fleet of Foot is great for hit-and-run tactics, but there are better options. Halfling PUB : A Dexterity bonus is great, and Lucky is always helpful, especially since Rogues generally only get one or two attacks.

Ghost wise SCAG : Silent Speech is a fun trick, but you'll get more mileage out of other halfling subrace traits. Stout PUB Good for a durable Rogue, but not as stealthy or charismatic as the Light foot Halfling.

Hobgoblin GTM : The ability score increases don't help much, but Saving Face is great on a class which frequently needs to depend on a single attack per round. Vanilla : Rogues have enough skills that they can reasonably justify having several good ability scores, so take advantage of the point buy method and Human's ability modifiers, and boost a bunch of base 13s.

Variant : You still get crucial bonuses to Dexterity and something else, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1. Menu GTM : Good ability score increases and two free skills.

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Kobold GTM : Pack Tactics is insanely powerful for rogues. Get a familiar, a summoned creature, or a friend to stand next to whatever you want to kill, and you get automatic Advantage.

I'm still furious that ROTC re-introduced ability score penalties, but I'm sure all the kobold rogues running around with 6 Strength will get through life just fine. Located LR : The Dexterity increase and the free skills are decent, though Athletics won't see much use for most rogues.

You don't get to select from a list of skills like the Menu does, but basically every Rogue in existence wants Perception and Stealth anyway. Amadeus PUB/MTBF : The ability scores don't work as well as Feral, but not bad for a Face.

Disputer MTBF : Good ability spread, and interesting spell options. This is a great option in a campaign with a lot of intrigue, espionage, and social interaction.

Legacy of Marble offers useful spell options normally only available to arcane tricksters. Variant: Devil's Tongue SCAG : Tempting if you are building a Face with decent Charisma, but better as a Bard.

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Variant: Hellfire SCAG : If you're casting Burning Hands then you're not using Sneak Attack. Variant: Winged SCAG : On a Rogue I would absolutely take flight over the free spells.

Dexterity, Charisma, extra Face skills, and the ability to change your appearance at will allow the Rogue to conduct all sorts of subterfuge. However, because the Changeling's capabilities are so heavily devoted to social situations, you may have trouble delving dungeons compared to other races.

Swift stride : The ability score increases are great, but the Shifting Feature doesn't give you anything that you couldn't already do with Cunning Action. Wild hunt : The ability increases are fine, but the Shifting Feature is almost useless.

War forged EARLY : The flexible ability increase can give you the crucial Dexterity increase, but the bonus to AC isn't as important to the Rogue because it's so easy for the Rogue to remove themselves from situations where they would take damage, and you can rely on Uncanny Dodge to mitigate any damage you do suffer. If you get proficiency with shields, you can manage an AC of 20, and with Uncanny Dodge you'll be difficult to kill despite relatively poor hit points compared to the Fighter.

Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragon marks, if you're not playing a spell caster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragon mark character who can't cast spells. Mark of Detection : The flexible ability increase can go into Dexterity, and the spell casting adds divination options which the Arcane Trickster can't usually cast, allowing you to use magic to improve your scouting abilities.

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Mark of Storm : The ability increases work for the Rogue, and while the innate spell casting is underwhelming the expanded spell list adds several excellent utility options for the Arcane Trickster. Rogues tend to stay alive when things go poorly for the rest of the party, so having access to Healing Word is a benefit which is difficult to ignore.

Mark of Hospitality : The ability score increases work fine, but the spells aren't especially useful for a class with access to so little spell casting. Mark of Handling : Thematically a scout rogue makes sense, but to benefit from the spell casting you want to play an arcane trickster.

The ability score increases work fine, and the spells are neat, but I would only consider this if your DM will allow you to tame creatures in a way that goes beyond your class features. Mark of Making : The ability increases work for the Arcane Trickster, but the spell casting does surprisingly little to help you.

Magic Weapon doesn't affect Shadow Blade, which becomes a central part of your combat repertoire. Mark of Passage : Perfect ability score increases, and the spell casting adds a ton of useful options for the Arcane Trickster, who typically has very little access to teleportation.

Satyr Moot : Dexterity, Charisma, two free skills, and Magic Resistance. Pallid Elf : Wisdom is great for Perception, and Incisive Sense offers a significant bonus on skills which the Rogue is often expected to be good at.

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Blessing of Moon Weaver is a great addition, but while Invisibility is perpetually useful Sleep will be obsolete by the time you get the ability to cast it. Lotus den : An interesting concept and absolutely workable, but the spell casting might not be as useful as traits provided by other halfling subraces.

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices.

Acolyte PUB : Insight and Religion can be decent options for a Rogue with the right abilities, and extra languages are helpful for a Face. City Watch SCAG : Athletics doesn't do much for Rogues, but Insight and free languages are great for a Face.

Cloistered Scholar SCAG : Two knowledge skills and two language can be excellent additions to a Face with decent Intelligence. Criminal PUB : Two important Rogue skills, and two tool kits.

Entertainer PUB : Disguise Kit proficiency is really the only interesting piece. Faction Agent SCAG : Fantastic for a Face, and it allows you to fill in a social skill which you couldn't get elsewhere.

Far Traveler SCAG : Two excellent skills for a Rogue, a bonus language, and proficiency with an item that you'll probably never use. Guild Artisan PUB : Two important skills for any Face, but the tool proficiency isn't very helpful.

Mercenary Veteran SCAG : Athletics is occasionally useful for Rogues, and any face needs Persuasion. Sage PUB : An Arcane Trickster might have enough Intelligence to justify two knowledge skills, and the extra languages are nice for a Face.

Urchin PUB : Two important Rogue skills, and two tool kits. Waterdavian Noble SCAG : Potentially good for a Face with decent Intelligence.

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

Actor PUB : Complements the Assassin's disguise and infiltration abilities very nicely. However, you can accomplish the same thing by throwing daggers (though your range is considerably reduced).

The ability to use ranged weapons while adjacent to enemies is also tempting, but that's what Cunning Action is for. Defensive Duelist PUB : Very tempting for melee Rogues, but Uncanny Dodge also uses your reaction, and fills roughly the same function.

Dual Wielder PUB : The best case scenario for this feat is upgrading from two short swords to two rapiers, and the tiny bit of extra damage is hardly worth a feat. The +1 AC is nice too, but raising your Dexterity will get you the same AC and damage boosts, plus it will improve your Dexterity saving throws, Dungeon Delver PUB : Handling traps and secret doors frequently falls to the Rogue, and with the Rogue's skills this can make you extremely effective in a dungeon-heavy campaign.

Elemental Adept PUB : Offensive spells (except Green-Flame Blade) aren't a good option for Arcane Tricksters because you can't apply Sneak Attack, and if you're worried about damage resistance you can use Booming Blade instead since almost nothing resists sonic damage. Thanks to Fast Hands, you can use a Healer's Kit as a Bonus Action, allowing you to revive dying allies and restore a small amount of hit points.

In fact, you might just take Magic Initiate with Bard, Cleric, or Druid to get Healing Word for the rare times when your party's spell casters can't do the job because you'll also get two can trips and because Healing Word works at range. Inspiring Leader PUB : A Rogue with good enough Charisma to use this feat is an excellent choice.

Temporary hit points hugely reduce your need for magical healing, and there is little reason not to use this before every fight. Magic Initiate PUB : The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide introduced Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade, both of which are an Action and allow you to make a melee attack with a weapon, thereby allowing you to use them in conjunction with Sneak Attack.

Since Rogues never get Extra Attack, these can trips can be a significant boost to both damage and utility. Booming Blade is a great way to discourage enemies from following you after you hit them and using Cunning Action to Disengage, and Green-Flame Blade grants some easy bonus damage, plus it allows you to damage a second target, which is particularly nice since Rogues are so bad at handling crowds of enemies.

You may also consider options like True Strike to get easy advantage (it only has somatic components, so you can easily use it while hiding). Martial Adept PUB : One maneuver per short rest isn't enough to justify this for the Rogue.

Mobile PUB : Hit-and-run tactics are great for melee Rogues, but moving out of a creatures threatened area is normally dangerous. You can use Cunning Action to Dash, allowing you to move considerably further in one round, and possibly to hide behind difficult terrain.

Observant PUB : Potentially helpful if no one else in your party has Investigation or Perception, but probably overkill. Resilient PUB : Constitution or Charisma saves are both passable options.

Ritual Caster PUB : A great way for Arcane Tricksters to improve their utility options if your party lacks dedicated spell casters. However, you may find it difficult to apply Sneak Attack because you can't guarantee positioning or Advantage on other creatures' turns.

An enemy could easily move around within your reach until it is no longer adjacent to one of your allies before leaving your threatened area, thereby avoiding the bonus damage from Sneak Attack. Swashbucklers will be able to make the best use of this part of the feat since their positioning requirements are so easily met.

It's also unlikely that enemies will attack your allies while you're in reach because rogues are relatively soft targets. With light armor and 1d8 hit points, you're among the most frail melee characters.

Just be sure that you have Advantage, or you're going to miss frequently, and hitting so that you a delivery Sneak Attack is more important than the damage boost from Sharpshooter. Shield Master PUB : A Swashbuckler with Expertise in Athletics can make excellent use of the first benefit, and the added bonus to your already excellent Reflex saves will make the third benefit especially potent.

Skulker PUB : Very helpful for archer Rogues who like to rely on sniping. The reload property doesn't matter since rogues don't get Extra Attack.

Dagger : Great for Two-weapon fighting, and you can throw them if you need to, but the Short Sword has a slightly larger damage die. Comparable to daggers, but you can't throw them Short bow : Light crossbow is strictly better.

Artificer : An interesting option for the Arcane Trickster, the Artificer offers access to additional spell casting (including options like Guidance and Cure Wounds) and some magic items. If you can handle 3 levels, Battle smith will let you use Intelligence for your attack rolls, so you could build an Intelligence-based Arcane Trickster.

You also need to make the attack using Strength rather than Dexterity, which is a hard way to build a rogue most of the time. Swashbucklers might consider the Fencing style and pick up a shield (and possibly even medium armor) so that they can make good use of Panache.

If you can suffer three levels of Fighter, the Battle Master offers some useful options. If you're going for a Strength-based build, starting with 1 level in Fighter gets you heavy armor in exchange for the Rogue's additional skill and tool proficiencies.

Three levels opens up a Ranger archetype, and the Hunter can select Giant Slayer as their 3rd-level ability. If you stick to spells which don't require spell attacks or saving throws (utility options and options like Booming Blade), you could benefit from this class dip without more than the 13 Charisma required to multi class into Sorcerer.

Warlock : Sadly your can't deliver Sneak Attack with Eldritch Blast, but there's still plenty here to make a Rogue +Warlock enticing. Wizard : One level gets you some spell casting, including ritual casting and access to great options like Booming Blade and Find Familiar.

Blade song grants a nice AC boost (especially for Arcane Tricksters) and some other great benefits, and access to Wizard spells removes the need for the Magic Initiate feat. Since you have more spell options than Magic Initiate provides, pick up Find Familiar and have your familiar use the Help action to grant you Advantage (and therefore Sneak Attack) on your attacks.

When your eyes are at the same level as everyone's pockets, it's really hard to resist the urge to pick them. This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible.

If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start. With the options available to us in the Basic Rules and the SRD, we'll build our rogue as a combination Face, Scout, and Striker.

These are the Rogue's typical roles, and this build can cover all the bases reasonably well at the same time. Our Face and Scout emphasis will be a balance because each will consume our limited choices of skill proficiencies and Expertise.

I'll present some suggested options, but I encourage you to customize your build to suit your tastes. They're almost identical to the suggested ability scores presented above for “most rogues”, but they're tweaked a little to take advantage of the Light foot Halfling's ability score increases so that we can get as much out of our build as possible.

Dexterity and Charisma is likely the best ability score spread we can get for a thief, and the Light foot Halfling's other racial traits offer a bunch of other useful tricks. If you choose the Criminal background, you'll get a redundant Stealth proficiency which you can trade for Insight or Intimidation.

History proficiency isn't a great choice for our low-Intelligence build, but you get Persuasion, a gaming set, and a language, and Position of Privilege is a great way to role play yourself into places with nice things to steal. Feats Rogues get one more ability score improvement than most classes, and you only need to bring on ability score (Dexterity) to 20 to be successful, so there is a lot of room for you to pick up feats if you're willing to deviate from the Basic Rules and the SRD.

Levels Leveled(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics1 Expertise Sneak Attack 1d6 Thieves' Cant For your starting equipment, take a short sword, a short bow, any of the pack options, leather armor, two daggers, and Thames' tools.

Sneak Attack is still picking up steam, but 1d6 is a big chunk of damage at this level, so do everything you can to get it. In combat, you can either fight at range or jump into melee as the situation warrants.

If you're fighting at range, you're totally dependent on an ally to be adjacent to your target, so make sure to communicate with your party's front-line characters. If you're fighting at range, find cover (potentially behind a medium-sized ally) to hide behind.

Attack with your short sword, then use Cunning Action to Disengage and move away safely. If you hit and kill your target, consider using Cunning Action to Dash and put some extra distance between you and anything dangerous.

3 Sneak Attack 2d6 Roguish Archetype (Thief) Fast Hands At 2d6, for Sneak Attack damage should roughly match the total damage from your weapons and your Dexterity bonus.

Fast Hands is easy to overlook, but the “Use an Item” action covers a lot of great options. You can do all of those things as a Bonus Action, so you could attack, throw down some caltrops, then move to safety all in one turn.

Since it uses your Reaction, it won't cut into your normal activity during your turn. In some cases you might risk provoking an Opportunity Attack knowing that you can use Uncanny Dodge to reduce the damage if you get hit.

If you decide to stay still, you can mitigate some damage with Uncanny Dodge but remember that you only get one Reaction per round so creatures with multiple attacks may be a problem. Fast Fingers allows you to perform Sleight of Hand checks and to use your Thieves' Tools for certain tasks as a bonus action.

Evasion makes many AOE effects, including breath weapons and fireballs, less threatening. Your Dexterity saves should be excellent, so you'll frequently be able to fully avoid damage from applicable effects.

There are very few magic items with restrictions which this will bypass, but you're going to feel really special if you find one and get to break the rules to use it. 14Invisibility becomes more common at high levels, and unless you have a spell caster handy it's often very difficult to deal with.

This helps quite a bit, but remember they you'll still have Disadvantage to attack the creature because you can't see it. Two turns in the first round of combat means two opportunities to deal a Sneak Attack early in the fight.

Target foes which you can eliminate quickly so that your party starts the fight with an early advantage. 18Short of Pack Tactics, most enemies don't have easy ways to gain Advantage against players, so this won't matter frequently, but the few times it comes up you'll be glad to have it.

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