Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Welcome to our guide to making a Kobold Rogue in Dungeons & Dragons 5e, including how to build a kobold character and which equipment, feats, and roguish archetypes pair best with small, murderous lizard-dog-dragon people.
Stats: Dexterity will be your main priority, followed by either Constitution or whichever stat powers your Roguish Archetype.
Armor and Weapons: Rogues love ranged and finesse weapons. Rapiers, daggers, shortswords, hand crossbows, and slings are all great choices for offensive gear. You won’t be wearing anything bulkier than light armor, however, so keeping your enemies distracted or at a distance is always a good strategy.
Offensive Actions: While rogues rarely get to attack more than once per turn, they excel at dishing out huge damage using their Sneak Attack ability. The kobold’s pack tactics also excels at giving your attacks advantage when your allies are nearby, which is huge for a class that still only attacks once per round at 20th level.
Defensive Actions: Rogues prefer not to tank damage, opting instead for never getting hit at all. Your Evasion, Uncanny Dodge, and Cunning Actions can all be used to keep you alive and stabbing for longer.
Subclass Decisions: The Arcane Trickster and Assassin are both solid candidates for a kobold rogue, but by far the best option, both thematically and mechanically, is the Thief.
Little Dragon Men: Meet the Kobolds
Kobolds are one of Dungeons & Dragons’ most consistently underestimated creatures.
As monsters, they’re frequently treated as low-level cannon fodder that even the most low-level adventuring parties can cut down without too much difficulty.
However, a lifetime spent at the bottom of the dungeon food chain has taught the average kobold that the direct approach rarely makes for a particularly long or successful life.
As such, kobolds are, above all, adaptable, wily, and resourceful and tend to be very lateral thinkers.
This outlook, combined with their racial traits, makes kobols ideally suited for playing as rogues.
How Do I Make a Kobold Rogue in DnD 5e?
To make a kobold character, you can choose one of two options. You can either use the rules for monstrous races found in Volo’s Guide to Monsters or use the custom lineage options from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Using Volo’s Guide to Monsters
These rules for creating a playable kobold are probably the most suited for a rogue and emphasize the classic image of kobolds as sneaky, underhanded weaklings.
From a game-design point of view, Kobolds are an interesting anomaly in D&D 5e.
While earlier editions of the game more commonly featured races with mechanical disadvantages baked in, in 5e, the drawbacks inherent to playing a particular species (like Tieflings) are usually handled narratively.
Kobolds break that pattern and are one of the only races in 5e with inherent ability score disadvantages as well as bonuses.
The trade-off, for Kobolds at least, is that they also have access to some seriously powerful buffs – all of which synergize nicely with the rogue’s skillset.
Ability Scores: Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Strength score decreases by 2.
Age: Kobolds reach adulthood at age 6 and can live up to 120 years but rarely do so.
Alignment: Kobolds are fundamentally selfish, making them evil, but their reliance on the strength of their group makes them trend toward law.
Size: Kobolds are between 2 and 3 feet tall and weigh between 25 and 35 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Grovel, Cower, and Beg: As an action on your turn, you can cower pathetically to distract nearby foes. Until the end of your next turn, your allies gain advantage on attack rolls against enemies within 10 feet of you that can see you. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Pack Tactics: You have advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of your allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.
Sunlight Sensitivity: You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive are in direct sunlight.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic.
Source: Volo’s Guide to Monsters
While sunlight sensitivity seems at first to be a huge drawback, rogues tend to do their best work at night. Also, the game is Dungeons & Dragons, not Standing Around in Direct Sunlight & Dragons.
This isn’t as much of a problem as it initially appears.
Then, there’s all the good stuff. Grovel, Cower, and Beg is an awesome ability bursting with flavor that takes advantage of other cultures’ preconceived notions of kobolds.
It’s a great way to open a fight, giving all your allies a chance to get in position and land a flurry of deadly blows.
Then, there are Pack Tactics. The ability to gain advantage on attack rolls against creatures within 5 feet of an ally is amazing for rogues.
It’s a great way to increase your chances of applying sneak attack damage, which is the cornerstone of any rogue’s build.
Using Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Instead of choosing from one of the game’s races at 1st level, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything’s custom lineage rules let you basically craft a character from scratch and then add its race as something of an afterthought.
Creature type. You are a humanoid. You determine your appearance and whether you resemble any of your kin.
Size. You are Small or Medium (your choice).
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Ability Score Increase. One ability score of your choice increases by 2.
Feat. You gain one feat of your choice for which you qualify.
Variable Trait. You gain one of the following options of your choice:
- Darkvision with a range of 60 feet.
- Proficiency in one skill of your choice.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language that you and your DM agree is appropriate for your character.
If you choose to go down the custom-lineage route for a kobold rogue, I would recommend putting your +2 bonus into Dexterity and choosing darkvision rather than a skill proficiency (rogues get loads of those anyway).
As for Feats, we’ve put together a list of some of the best feats for a kobold rogue, which you could also take at 4th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 16th, and/or 19th levels if you’re happy with your current ability scores.
An oblivious kobold is a dead kobold.
The Observant feat dramatically improves your chances of spotting traps, monsters, treasure, and useful information, not to mention giving you the ability to read lips and a nice +1 buff to either your Wisdom (probably the best choice) or Intelligence (choose this if you go down the Arcane Trickster route).
Restricted to characters with a Dexterity score of 13 or higher, the Skulker feat is a rogue’s best friend. You can try to hide when you are lightly obscured from the creature from which you are hiding.
When you are hidden from a creature and miss it with a ranged weapon attack, making the attack doesn’t reveal your position. And lastly, dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on sight.
This – paired with darkvision – makes you perfectly at home in the shadows living your best, sneakiest kobold life.
Rogues love piercing damage, from crossbow bolts to rapiers and shortswords.
The Piercer feat (in addition to a pretty sweet +1 Strength or Dexterity buff) lets you reroll damage dice and, when you crit, bump up the extra damage even further.
Rogues and hand crossbows go together like poisoned chocolate and blood-soaked peanut butter.
Picking up the Crossbow Expert feat allows you to ignore the loading quality of crossbow weapons, attack with a hand crossbow as a bonus action, and ignore the penalty for firing crossbows at enemies 5 feet away. Pew pew.
Which Roguish Archetype Subclass Is Best for a Kobold Rogue?
While you could make a case for any subclass of kobold rogue (especially if you’re using custom lineages), the racial feats in Volo’s Guide to Monsters make them especially suited to a few specific examples.
Harkening back to the earliest days of D&D, the Thief subclass is all about gaining access to restricted areas, disarming traps, and getting away with the treasure while the rest of the party deal with pesky inconveniences like actual monsters.
Thieves can also use their Cunning Action to pickpocket enemies as well as their Second Storey Work feature to nimbly climb up surfaces faster than anyone else, and they have some of the best stealth abilities of any character in the game.
This is all thematically and narratively perfect for a kobold.
One of the best things about the Arcane Trickster is its access to the spell Find Familiar.
By summoning an Imp, Pseudodragon, or other familiar type, you can virtually guarantee Sneak Attack damage and activate your Pack Tactics ability.
Not to mention you can use your Mage Hand to pick pockets and do other useful stuff. Other great spells to pick up include Sleep, Invisibility, and Knock.
Just remember to put ability score points into Intelligence as a secondary concern to your Dexterity.
A controversial rogue subclass due to its over-reliance on being first in the initiative order, the Assassin can nevertheless dish out a fearsome amount of damage.
The image of a seemingly harmless little kobold bursting from the shadows to inflict over 100 points of damage on an unsuspecting foe is too good to pass up.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.