Last Updated on November 29, 2023
In just about any TTRPG, knowledge is power. Having an understanding of your surroundings gives you what you need to create the perfect plan of attack no matter what scenario you find yourself in. This concept of awareness and planning is what fuels the Mastermind Rogue subclass in D&D 5e.
Today, we’re taking a look at the features of this subclass, how they fit together, and, overall, how good of a subclass this really is.
- This subclass aims to be a resourceful, scheming roguish archetype.
- The features of this subclass don’t work toward its goal in a cohesive manner.
- Base class rogue features already let you do most of what this subclass strives for with high odds of success.
The Mastermind Rogue Essentials
The flavor guide to the Mastermind Rogue in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything tells us that this is a subclass focused on people and on the influence and secrets they have. With features like Master of Tactics and Insightful Manipulator, the Mastermind Rogue is a roguish archetype that collects information to create the perfect plans.
On the surface, this is a really interesting archetype that could set up an exciting 5e playstyle. As the “mastermind” name suggests, this is a Rogue who can easily set themselves up as the party’s face and the go-to planner whenever the group comes across obstacles.
Of course, that sort of playstyle requires features to back it up, and it also requires you, the player, to want to take on that role. We’ll look at the roleplaying pieces of this later, but for now, let’s talk about those subclass features.
Mastermind Rogue Subclass Features
The Mastermind Rogue doesn’t necessarily put forward a cohesive collection of features. Instead, it gives us an array of abilities that, once you see them together, create the general vibe this subclass was leaning toward.
Master of Intrigue
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with the disguise kit, the forgery kit, and one gaming set of your choice. You also learn two languages of your choice.
Additionally, you can unerringly mimic the speech patterns and accent of a creature that you hear speak for at least 1 minute, enabling you to pass yourself off as a native speaker of a particular land, provided that you know the language.
As the starting feature for our subclass, this makes a lot of sense.
The real thing that stands out could honestly be its own separate feature. The ability to mimic speech patterns and accents in order to pass off as a native speaker is… well, it’s interesting.
While this ability might be incredibly useful in a sort of political intrigue campaign with many different dialects of the same language and a whole lot of social roleplay, it isn’t something that fits into the core mechanics of 5e super well.
It gives us some useful things but isn’t going to be the core of our character.
Master of Tactics
Starting at 3rd level, you can use the Help action as a bonus action. Additionally, when you use the Help action to aid an ally in attacking a creature, the target of that attack can be within 30 feet of you, rather than 5 feet of you, if the target can see or hear you.
Master of Tactics is an ability you’ll be using time and time again throughout a campaign as a Mastermind Rogue.
For those of you who didn’t know, the help action gives an ally advantage on an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw, so in a game where dice control your fate, it’s incredibly helpful.
Starting at 9th level, if you spend at least 1 minute observing or interacting with another creature outside combat, you can learn certain information about its capabilities compared to your own. The DM tells you if the creature is your equal, superior, or inferior in regard to two of the following characteristics of your choice:
- Intelligence score
- Wisdom score
- Charisma score
- Class levels (if any)
At the DM’s option, you might also realize you know a piece of the creature’s history or one of its personality traits, if it has any.
Insightful manipulator is an interesting feature since it doesn’t provide any direct benefit to your character. Instead, it gives you the player meta-relevant information that can be used to plan out certain aspects of your party’s plans.
You choose two of the aspects available (INT, WIS, or CHA score or class levels), and your DM tells you if a target creature’s aspects are higher, lower, or equal to yours. We can start by ignoring class levels since very few NPCs have actual class levels in 5e.
Then, we’re left with the three “mental stats” in 5e. Knowing another character’s mental stats can be helpful in a few different scenarios, but it takes some precision planning to pull it off.
It’s clear that this was an attempt to create some sort of tangible insight-based feature, but it really misses the mark because it has no direct impact on the game.
Beginning at 13th level, you can sometimes cause another creature to suffer an attack meant for you. When you are targeted by an attack while a creature within 5 feet of you is granting you cover against that attack, you can use your reaction to have the attack target that creature instead of you.
If your table has never paid attention to cover, this is probably going to be a very confusing ability for you to wrap your mind around. Cover is provided to a character if a large enough object is between them and the source of an attack.
There are different types of cover, but we’re really only looking at half-cover with this ability since creatures tend to only provide half-cover to other creatures.
This can definitely be helpful, but it means constantly moving around to put another person between you and your attacks.
On paper, this ability looks great because it allows you to just put any damage you might take onto your enemies. In reality, though, this feature requires a level of planning and foresight that is near impossible to pull off in a 5e combat scenario.
Soul of Deceit
Starting at 17th level, your thoughts can’t be read by telepathy or other means, unless you allow it. You can present false thoughts by making a Charisma (Deception) check contested by the mind reader’s Wisdom (Insight) check.
Additionally, no matter what you say, magic that would determine if you are telling the truth indicates you are being truthful if you so choose, and you can’t be compelled to tell the truth by magic.
Our capstone ability for the Mastermind Rogue is probably the coolest thing here.
You’ve become such an incredible Rogue that your thoughts are imperceptible to any form of telepathy, and you can lie so fantastically that not even magic can detect your deceit.
This is one of the most powerful social abilities you’ll come across in 5e that isn’t straight-up magical influence.
The only bad part of this ability is how late you get this.
Unfortunately, the soul of deceit is just another peppering of social abilities that makes you a bit better at what you do. It doesn’t give you any real power or influence.
How Good Is the Mastermind Rogue?
The Mastermind Rogue is an incredible concept, but it’s not one that translates into the mechanics and overall playstyle of 5e well.
Sure, 5e is an RPG that can really bend to the whims of its players, changing to match the desires of any group.
Still, at the end of the day, it’s a fantasy adventure RPG that doesn’t quite have room for the sort of “behind the curtains” character that is portrayed with this archetype.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.