Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Whether they’re black-clad assassins, nimble thieves, or magical mischief-makers, rogues make up one of the most versatile, diverse, and resourceful classes in all of Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
Rogues are equally at home trading barbed words at a stuffy dinner with aristocrats as they are neck deep in skeletons as they dodge deadly traps to make off with the golden idol.
Class features like Expertise, Cunning Action, and Uncanny Dodge make rogues feel survivable and versatile right out of the gate, and features like Sneak Attack make them powerful single-target damage-dealers.
Rogues’ abilities make them feel highly effective even at lower levels (especially compared to classes that don’t “come online” until later, like the wizard), meaning that they’re prime candidates for “dips” — when other classes take a few levels in rogue to acquire a smattering of basic features.
While rogues keep on gaining valuable features like extra Sneak Attack damage, Elusive, and Stroke of Luck (two of the most useful ultra-late game abilities in 5e), there’s nothing to say that diverting from the rogue path can’t be a great way to either emphasize some of the things the rogue already does well or to compensate for the class’ shortcomings.
What Is Multiclassing?
Multiclassing is a process wherein a character of one class starts taking levels in one (or more – people can get a little nuts about this stuff) additional classes.
When you multiclass into a new class, you start at level one again and must work your way up toward level 20 from scratch.
Because different classes gain different features at different levels – and because some classes synergize better than others – there are some (like the paladin) that are better equipped for multiclassing either into a specific build or that can play nicely with just about any other class.
For a full breakdown of some of the truly wild stuff you can achieve with multiclassing, check out our guide here for a general overview with some examples. With that in mind, welcome to our more focused guide to multiclassing the rogue.
In this guide, we’re going to break down some of the best multiclass options for rogues.
First, however, a warning.
The Problem With Multiclassing
Figuring out how to multiclass a character build is all about learning to balance opportunity cost.
For every level in another class you take, you’re giving up abilities, hit points, spells – you name it – from your own.
As fun as it is to theory craft new and exciting combinations of abilities and class features, there are definitely some serious issues with multiclassing that definitely apply to rogue multiclass builds.
First of all, the rogue itself is a class that starts out strong and then continues to accrue useful abilities all the way up to 20th level.
Sneak Attack damage alone is honestly a compelling reason to stick with this class all the way from 1st to 20th.
Then, there’s the fact that the chances of you actually taking a rogue from 1st to 20th level are more or less laughably small.
In 99.9% of cases, D&D campaigns never make it past 15th level. Most of them never make it as far as 10 when they start out from 1st. Even doing that can take years.
Pretty much every multiclass build I’ve ever seen is written under the self-delusion that you’re going to be reaching 20th level with your Warlock 3/Paladin 5/ Fighter 5/ Bard 5 Frankensteinian multiclass opus that comes into its own at 18th level.
The reality is that your character should be fun to play at 1st level and every level between then and whenever your campaign ends.
If you’re thinking about a multiclass build that only “comes online” around 8th level, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time feeling useless before things get good.
That being said, let’s look at the rogue’s most important levels – when the class picks up new and interesting abilities.
Once you understand any class’s key levels, it makes the cost-benefit analysis of considering a multiclass dip or full split build much easier.
Rogue Key Levels
Essentially, rogues’ Sneak Attack damage keeps climbing steadily as they level up, and most class features lean toward making you more survivable or better at making skill checks.
Choosing to multiclass at any point is going to involve sacrificing key benefits from further down the rogue’s list of class features.
Knowing what makes a good rogue multiclass pairing, then, is essential.
What Makes a Good Rogue Multiclass Pairing?
So, the first thing we want to consider is the rogue’s basic characteristics: the ability scores this class favors, the playstyles it lends itself to, and the things it does better than everyone else.
Rogues 99% of the time are going to be all about Dexterity as their Sneak Attacks are reliant on using ranged and finesse weapons that use this stat.
A rogue’s Dexterity also powers their AC and most of their archetypically “roguish” skills, like Stealth, Sleight of Hand, and Acrobatics.
After Dexterity, rogues tend to divide their attention between Constitution (as a d8 HD martial class, they need all the hit points they can get) and one of the three non-physical stats: Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.
Which one rogues tend to focus on usually depends on their chosen subclass (Arcane Tricksters, for example, use Intelligence to power their spellcasting), which means that an effective rogue can need decent scores in as many as three different stats.
Picking a multiclass build that makes use of ability scores you’re already prioritizing (Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma) is important.
Because of their lowish survivability and high bursts of damage output in combat, rogues tend to be a highly mobile class that picks its targets carefully and tries to avoid retaliation as much as possible.
Out of combat, rogues’ Expertise feature and generally long skill list mean that they can fill just about any role where they’re needed from face to librarian. Heck, they can even sub in for the ranger in a pinch.
A good multiclass pairing accentuates a class’s strengths or compensates for its weaknesses. In general, rogues are defined by two pillars: versatility and damage.
Rogues enjoy some of the highest levels of versatility of any class in D&D 5e.
They get a large suite of skill proficiencies, Expertise to double down on a few of those proficiencies, and a bunch of different things to do in combat — usually involving their bonus action.
Also, with the exception of the Soulknife and Arcane Trickster, which have Psionic Energy Dice and spell slots, respectively, to manage, rogues don’t have any resource-management mechanics built into their class.
Compared to more spell-casting centric classes or half-martial classes with resource pools to juggle, like the monk and the paladin, this means rogues can stay effective whether they’re in their first combat of the day or their fifth.
This makes rogues solid candidates for multiclassing as you won’t end up spreading your resource pools too thin — like if you multiclass between two casters, for example, and have to use one pool of spell slots to basically cast two discrete spell lists.
Unfortunately, one thing rogues do have to manage carefully is their use of actions.
Because Cunning Action and Uncanny Dodge are more or less always good candidates for using up your bonus action and reaction, multiclass pairings that are also heavily bonus-action reliant can be tricky to make work.
Rogues are designed to be able to handle any situation; they’re an expansive toolbox, but sometimes having the time to actually use all your tools can feel like a struggle.
Multiclassing into an entirely different set of abilities can run the risk of compounding that problem.
Rogues are the archetypical single-target damage dealers, thanks largely to their Sneak Attack ability. If you ever reach max level, you can reliably add 10d6 additional damage every single turn.
Of course, you never really get to make more than one attack (two if you’re using two-weapon fighting) per round. Rogues are almost completely reliant on getting advantage, hitting, and applying sneak attack damage.
On turns when your single chance to do damage doesn’t turn into a successful hit, this class can start to feel a little useless — especially when the fighter gets multiple chances to hit each round.
Multiclassing into a character build that gets to take more than one hit per turn can be a great way to up your chances of applying your Sneak Attack damage each turn.
Just remember that every level you put into a class that isn’t rogue is going to slow down your Sneak Attack damage progression.
Rogues can also suffer from a lack of ways to deal damage to more than one target at a time (the lack of multiattack only compounds the issue), so multiclassing in a way that gives you access to area-of-effect damage and possibly a degree of battlefield control are both great options.
Now, for a class that can only ever wear light armor and has a measly d8 Hit Die, the rogue is a surprisingly survivable adventurer thanks to Cunning Action (use your bonus action to disengage, dash away, or hide behind your tankier allies), Uncanny Dodge (use your reaction to halve incoming damage), and later on Evasion (great for nullifying AoE damage) and Elusive (which stops enemies getting advantage on attacks against you).
However, while a 20th-level rogue may be nigh unkillable (what 20th-level 5e character isn’t?), lower-level rogues have to constantly walk a tightrope that revolves around positioning and risk-reward decision-making on the fly.
Therefore, if you want to take a shorter route to being more survivable, multiclassing can be a way to unlock better armor, bigger hit dice, and other survivability-based features.
Rogue Multiclass Builds
Hopefully, the advice we’ve given above should be enough that you can tackle the process of building any sort of rogue multiclass you think sounds cool.
To show you what a rogue multiclass build might look like, we’ve put together a few examples.
Fighters, like rogues, get a lot of really powerful abilities and features in their first few levels, which makes them excellent multiclass candidates.
Just three levels in fighter will give you Second Wind (for a much-needed survivability boost), a fighting style (I like dueling for an extra +2 damage or defense for more survivability), Action Surge (remember how I said the biggest problem rogues have is not enough time? Once per short rest, Action Surge solves that), and a Martial Archetype.
Speaking of martial archetypes, let’s talk about some of the best Fighter subclasses to pair with rogues.
Easily my favorite fighter subclass, the Battle Master gains access to a suite of maneuvers that can give you a bunch of new ways to control the battlefield, disable enemies, and reliably deal extra damage.
Take Trip Attack to knock enemies prone for free Sneak Attack Damage or Feinting Attack for the same.
Played by itself, this fighter subclass is a bit of a snoozefest. It’s very passive with abilities that largely center on increasing your chance to crit.
Hey, you know who already has a bunch of active abilities and loves to crit? Rogues. Say hello to rolling those Sneak Attack damage dice twice.
A highly offense-focused fighter subclass that’s all about giving itself as many attacks as possible with advantage — basically as many ways as you could ever want to ensure the highest possible chance of applying your Sneak Attack damage every single round.
Double Sneak Attack
I should also mention that the fighter/rogue combo is, as far as I know, one of the rare ways you can apply your Sneak Attack damage twice in a single round of combat. Allow me to explain.
Sneak Attack damage can only be applied “once per turn.” Because a turn is different than a round, Action Surge allows you to Ready an attack to trigger on an enemy’s turn rather than your own.
This lets you use Sneak Attack twice per round because Sneak Attack can theoretically trigger more than once per round as long as it’s not more than once per turn.
While they might seem ideologically opposed to one another — not to mention very much the inverse of one another in terms of general vibe — rogues and clerics make an excellent pairing when it comes to multiclass builds.
They bring the versatility of spellcasting to the rogue along with effectively choosing their subclass (divine domain) at 1st level.
Considering most multiclass dips require you to slog through two levels of generic-brand class before you get to the more unique stuff, this is highly appealing.
Options like the Knowledge Domain cleric will let you pad out your insane roster of skills even further (a style of play that pairs nicely with the Phantom roguish archetype).
Also, if you want to dish out insane amounts of damage, the Grave Domain cleric has a 2nd-level feature that lets you effectively inflict double damage.
Pair this with a high-level Assassin rogue, and you can throw out some truly disgusting damage every single turn.
Rogues and rangers are a match made in mechanical heaven. Both can be designed to focus almost exclusively on ranged attacks as well as exploration (both in and out of the dungeon).
The Scout rogue is the obvious choice here, although the Swashbuckler’s emphasis on self-sufficient melee combat also isn’t a bad choice.
Also, the Gloom Stalker ranger subclass with its ability to become invisible in dim light from Umbral Sight and extra damage and attacks on the first round of combat via Dread Ambusher.
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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.