The edgelord is such a common stereotype when it comes to D&D characters. “I was left in an orphanage”; “I grew up on the streets”; “My family was murdered in front of me so I vowed to take revenge.”
All of these are some pretty cliche backstories, but cliches aren’t always bad.
When building a character that has more edge than the blade they wield, look no further than the tiefling rogue. Descendant from devils, these sneaky fiends have a lot of versatility and can make for one of the best rogue builds out there.
Quickstart Guide: Tiefling Rogue
Stats: Dexterity is always the primary ability. After that it’s either intelligence or charisma, with a heavy lean towards charisma to boost the tiefling’s spells.
Armor and Weapons: Leather armor and a rapier will bring you far.
Offensive Actions: SNEAK ATTACK! Did I scare you? Anything and everything that you’re doing on the battlefield should be bringing you closer to your next sneak attack.
Defensive Actions: The synergy between defense and offense is amazing here, because your best defense is hiding away as much as possible. There are a few tiefling spells that might boost your AC, but that’s more for a paladin build, stealth is still your best bet.
Subclass Decisions: Soulknife and Swashbuckler are perfect fits, with Arcane Trickster being a solid runner up as long as you pick the Feral Tiefling Variant.
Creating a Tiefling Rogue
This race and class combo feels like a no-brainer, you take two dark, misunderstood character types and mash them together for a great mix. Of course, we also want to see how all of the mechanics line up, so I’ll take you through everything we know.
Rogues always want to prioritize dexterity, the root of their weapon attacks, armor, stealth, and more. After that, things get more complicated, and really depend on the build you’re going for. Intelligence and charisma are the two competing secondary abilities, and if you have one you don’t really need the other.
Intelligence aligns well with a rogue that focuses on insight and figuring out what’s going on. It can also be used for the Arcane Trickster, one of the best subclasses out there, a rogue that utilizes spells and cantrips from the wizard’s spell list to create an excellent combo.
On the other hand, charisma-based rogues are masters of deception and persuasion, using their abilities to control friends and foes alike. A great example is the Swashbuckler, a roguish archetype built around being snarky combatant with quick remarks ready at any moment.
Tiefling Racial Features
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2.
Age. Tieflings mature at the same rate as humans but live a few years longer.
Alignment. Tieflings might not have an innate tendency toward evil, but many of them end up there. Evil or not, an independent nature inclines many tieflings toward a chaotic alignment.
Size. Tieflings are about the same size and build as humans. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. Thanks to your infernal heritage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. 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.
Hellish Resistance. You have resistance to fire damage.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Infernal.
This probably looks extremely underwhelming, and that’s because it is. The main class doesn’t offer much for a rogue, although fire resistance is always nice. Even the ability score increase isn’t really what we want to see.
The tiefling race shines through its many subraces, the various devilish bloodlines of the lords of hell. Each offers its own unique set of abilities, typically a set of spells fitting a general theme, along with a +1 to another ability score.
Then there are the variant options, allowing you to choose another set of ability score increases entirely (Dex +2, Int +1) and to choose from a few more infernal legacies (the spells). One of the optional legacies even gives you wings!
This makes the tiefling a great option for a lot of different classes, just picking and choosing which bloodline or variants you need to make the build right.
For the rogue, we’re going to focus on a few bloodlines and the variant option, exploring a charisma focused build and an intelligence-focused build.
The Feral variant allows you to switch out the ability score increases of your bloodline with +2 Dexterity and +1 Intelligence. This is perfect for an INT based rogue. As for the other features of the race, you have plenty of spell sets to choose from, giving your Arcane Trickster a great starting advantage.
Alternatively, if you don’t choose an Arcane Trickster and have no use for spells, you might want to go with the Winged variant to pick up a flying speed of 30 feet.
Bloodline of Glasya
Coming in with a +1 to dexterity, this makes a great CHA based rogue (still benefiting from the main class’s +2 to CHA). It also has one of the most roguish spell sets. Minor Illusion cantrip at 1st level, Disguise Self at 3rd level, and Invisibility at 5th level put you on track to be extra sneaky.
The spells here also make a great choice to base a Feral Arcane Trickster’s bloodline in.
Bloodline of Dispater
Another +1 to dexterity with a spell set that’s very similar in theme. This time we’ll get the Thaumaturgy cantrip at 1st level, Disguise Self at 3rd level, and Detect Thoughts at 5th level.
Instead of extra sneaky, this is an extra deceptive rogue spell set. The spells here also make a great choice to base a Feral Arcane Trickster’s bloodline in.
A CHA based rogue will want to stay away from other bloodlines because then they won’t be getting any boost to their primary ability, dexterity. An intelligence based rogue using the feral variant is essentially free to pick any spell set that fits their build.
They should avoid any choices that let them use mage hand if they’re going for an Arcane Trickster, because Arcane Tricksters will always have that cantrip stocked as part of their arsenal.
One of my favorite options is the Bloodline of Zariel, which will provide a few really nice smites to get lots of damage in on your melee attacks.
Rogues are the most skilled class out there. They get to choose four proficiencies from their class along with expertise doubling a few of their proficiency bonuses down the line.
Most rogue subclasses will make it very clear which skills are the most important. A Swashbuckler relies on persuasion checks to goad their foes while an Inquisitive should be making as many insight checks as they can to get more sneak attacks in.
Otherwise, stealth is a top priority for any rogue, followed by sleight of hand, deception, insight, and persuasion. Plan your skills around your subclass, don’t just choose a variety of skills and then figure it all out once you make it to third level.
I’m a huge proponent of backgrounds being used to further who your character is, not what they can do. When you choose a background, think about why you sneak around, or maybe how you gained the skills to do so.
Remember that these are a template for your backstory, but you can change whatever you have to to make it yours.
Some backgrounds that fit more stereotypical narratives are as follows:
- Criminal / Spy – Proficiency in Deception and Stealth is a great freeby, letting you have 6 of the recommended rogue skills. There are plenty of types of criminals, but spies specifically have training in espionage that might prove to be very useful.
- Smuggler – Proficiency in Athletics and Deception. This is a great choice, especially because if you’re going between a lot of cities you’ll be able to take advantage of safe houses you have connections to, or maybe even ones you’ve set up yourself.
Basically, the only thing left to do in filling out your character sheet is to choose your starting gear. Each background has their own list of equipment that you’ll add on, and the class itself has a few options for you. I’ve bolded my selections for the options provided to you below.
- (a) Rapier or (b) a shortsword
- Rapiers are finesse weapons which you’ll need to pull off your sneak attacks.
- (a) Shortbow and quiver of 20 arrows or (b) a shortsword
- A ranged option is really nice to have.
- (a) a burglar’s pack, (b) dungeoneer’s pack, or (c) an explorer’s pack
- The burglar’s pack has some of the coolest contents of any of the starting packs. There are plenty of ways you can use the contents of these bags to create or disarm traps, depending on what the situation calls for.
- Leather armor, two daggers, and thieves’ tools
- The built in equipment is perfect, you’ll definitely want to use that leather armor, and thieves’ tools come into play quite frequently.
Making the Best Choices: Subclasses and Feats
Now let’s get to actually building our character. We’ll choose which subclass fits us best and then plan out our progression with some feats.
As we already talked about in the ability scores section, there are two types of subclasses available to rogue. We’re going to look at a charisma based subclass, an intelligence-based subclass, and one that just focuses on dexterity.
Respectively, these subclasses are the Swashbuckler, Arcane Trickster, and the Soulknife rogue.
You start getting a bonus from your charisma as soon as you pick up this subclass with the Rakish Audacity feature which lets you add your charisma modifier to your initiative roll.
That same feature gives the Swashbuckler an extra way to activate their sneak attack, letting them deal that extra damage far more often.
This subclass also makes a great combination of goading foes into attacking them and then slipping away without provoking opportunity attacks. Naturally, charisma is also used for that process to work.
This archetype is based upon character’s like the three musketeers and Jack Sparrow, character’s who, while definitely rogues, are less focused on hiding in the shadows.
The arcane trickster is a ⅓ caster that adds spells from the wizard’s spell list into a rogue’s arsenal. Making the most out of cantrips to increase weapon damage and spells that have a lot of bang for their buck can make this the best rogue class.
It is a bit overwhelming having to choose spells, so check out our guide on that.
A good starting set of spells and cantrips is as follows:
- Cantrips: Mage Hand, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation
- 1st Level Spells: Disguise Self, Charm Person, Sleep
In fact, Mage Hand will always be on your cantrip list, making that a pretty easy choice. Your feature Mage Hand Legerdemain will give you plenty of extra uses for this typically dull cantrip, even distracting your foes through the classic shoulder tap at one point.
There’s a whole lot of versatility to be found here, and your tiefling spells will give you some more freedom when choosing wizard spells to add to your own personal spell list.
Definitely my favorite rogue subclass, you could only pump dexterity and still have an amazing soulknife rogue. The pool of psionic energy die you gain are tied to your proficiency bonus so you’ll always have a good amount, and the namesake’s psychic energy blades are an unlimited resource at your disposal.
This just has so many cool resources, teleportation (via throwing your blade), two-way telepathy, the ability to add dice to your ability checks and attack rolls, etc. There isn’t a single thing about this class that isn’t exciting and powerful.
Putting this on a tiefling that already has some sort of innate magical powers just makes this character that much more powerful.
Feats are really important, they give you the ability to improve upon your character in ways that neither the race or class can. Each feat represents a particular area of study or skill that your character has honed.
The feats that are the best for a rogue, unsurprisingly, depend on which subclass you choose, and how you want to build your character.
Arcane Tricksters will favor feats like Magic Initiate, Spell Sniper, and War Caster, things that allow them to cast more spells or cast their spells better.
Soulknife rogues will likely pick up a healthy split of martial and arcane feats, grabbing up things like Defensive Duelist, Mage Slayer, and Telekinetic.
Swashbucklers provide an entirely different goal, focusing on martial feats which diversify their potential in combat, such as Defensive Duelist, Martial Adept, and even Fighting Initiate.
Using Your Abilities: Sneaky Spells
Chances are, you’re going to end up with some spells from this build, even if they’re just from your tiefling racial features. We’re not taking just any spells though, we’re looking for spells that can let us do what we do best, sneak attacks.
Invisibility is one of the best options for this reason, letting us really get to wherever we need without being detected. Disguise Self is another common one that we might make use of if we’re trying more infiltration methods in our campaign.
Whichever spells you choose, make sure to use them to either give yourself advantage or to set yourself up to deal damage on a later turn. The focus of a rogue’s spells isn’t to play support or let off a barrage of Eldritch Blasts, a rogue’s spells should always be used to heighten a rogue’s basic abilities.
Also, remember which spells you’re casting. Spells from the tiefling bloodlines will always have charisma as their spellcasting ability, whereas Arcane Trickster spells will utilize Intelligence.
It can be a bit M.A.D., but considering that you’re casting a max of three spells a day from your racial features, it shouldn’t be that important.
At the end of the day, the tiefling build might be iconic for its flavor and all the fun it brings to the table, but if you’re looking for a rogue that really brings the synergy, check out our guide on the halfing rogue.
You’ll get some fun in playing a sneaky tiefling, but try that race on and you’ll be hiding in plain sight then jumping out to unleash hell.
As always, happy adventuring!