Assassin Rogue subclass — how to play in DnD 5E

Dive into the deadly shadows with Assassin Rogue 5E. Perfect the art of stealth and deliver lethal strikes.

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The blade in the shadows, this Rogueish Archetype focuses on infiltrating the ranks of their enemies and launching devastating first strikes. In this Assassin Rogue 5E mini-guide, we’ll break down what this Archetype provides you, as well as give you an insight on how to play this interesting subclass.

The hidden blade: Assassin features

Level Three

Bonus Proficiencies – You gain proficiency with disguise kits and poisoner’s kits. Depending on your DM, this is either largely thematic or a significant boost to your infiltration and assassination skills.
Assassinate –Any attack rolls you make against a creature that hasn’t yet taken a turn in combat has advantage. Additionally, when you hit a surprised creature, that hit is considered a critical hit. Your premiere feature, this helps ensure that you will land your Sneak Attack on the first round of combat. Surprise is often too unreliable, so you should consider that portion of the ability a bonus when it comes up. To make the most of this feature, be sure to invest in your Stealth modifier and boost your initiative modifier, for example by taking the Alert feat.

Level Nine

Infiltration Expertise By spending 25 GP and 7 days, you can create a false identity including the necessary affiliations, history, and profession. Once you have established an identity, you can disguise yourself as that person, other creatures believe you are that person unless given an obvious reason to question otherwise. This identity must be original, you can’t use this feature to impersonate an existing person. A feature that works best in games more geared towards intrigue, rather than dungeon delving, this is potentially useful for infiltration purposes, but very, very niche in most games.

Level Thirteen

Imposter – By studying another person’s behavior, speech, and writing for three hours you can faultlessly copy it. If a creature is wary of this impersonation, such as a guard, you have advantage on any Deception (Charisma) you make to avoid being detected. Between this and your disguise kit, you should hopefully be able to impersonate any NPCs you need to, in order to get where you need to go. However, much like Infiltration Expertise, this is a very niche ability that requires you to invest in Deception, even if it’s just proficiency.

Level Seventeen

Death Strike – When you hit a surprised creature with an attack, it must make a Constitution saving throw, the DC = 8+ your proficiency bonus + your Dex mod. If the creature fails this saving throw, the damage from your attack against it is doubled. Potentially an incredibly powerful capstone, as it would stack with Assassinate, meaning you would be doubling the damage from a critical hit! Unfortunately, relying on surprise means that this won’t come up as much as you’d like, and will be ultimately up to the DM.

Rogues with style – sample build

The First Strike (Half-Elf Rogue 20)

Here is a suggested Ability Score Array for this build using the point buy method, before applying racial ability score increases:

Str 8 Dex 15 Con 13 Int 12 Wis 12 Cha 13

Your half-elf ASI will push your Charisma to 15, whilst the floating +1s will push your Dex to 16 and your Constitution to 14. Skill Versatility will be used to grab Persuasion and Investigation, which will round out your skill selection overall. The importance of this race is a mixture of being able to afford a good Charisma score, providing enough skills for a very skill-heavy build concept, and finally granting you access to Elven Accuracy to capitalize on the first-round advantage.

This build is all about maximizing both the chances of going before your enemies and making the most out of the advantage you’ll have against them in the first round. A robust list of skills and stats will help with any challenges that arise from your life of subterfuge, whilst you’ll push your initiative higher and leverage your personal source of advantage to land more critical hits, hopefully.

Key Levels

1-4: As you start out your duplicitous life you should choose Stealth, Deception, Perception, and Insight for your Rogue skills, with your Expertise going to Thieves’ Tools and Stealth. It’s recommended that you use a background such as Soldier to grab Athletics and Intimidation, shoring up the hole in your Strength score. Your 4th level ASI should be used to get Elven Accuracy, boosting your Charisma to 16 and giving you ‘super advantage’, greatly increasing the value of Assassinate.

5-10: Your additional Expertise can be used for whatever you’d like to strengthen, Investigation and Perception are excellent choices. You’ll also gain access to Uncanny Dodge and Evasion during these levels, significantly increasing your durability for the times when your mission may go a little awry. Your 8th and 10th level ASIs will be used to take your Dexterity to 20, though if you are guaranteed to hit higher levels you may wish to increase your Dex with a feat like Piercer. This will slow your Dex progression, but increase your damage slightly and make your critical hits a bit more impactful. Infiltration Expertise at 9th level can help you in some campaigns, but will likely rarely come up.

11-15: Immediately you’ll get the game-changing feature that is Reliable Talent, making anything you have Expertise in an auto-success on most difficulties and greatly increasing your chances of getting surprise through Stealth rolls. For more suave missions, the Impostor feature will pair very well with your Deception Expertise and Disguise Kit proficiency. Otherwise, in this level range, you’ll get Blindsense which is primarily a ribbon ability and the much more valuable proficiency in Wisdom saving throws. ASIs in this level range can be used for whatever you like, but you might want to consider taking feats that either give you new abilities or increase your damage in tougher fights. Examples that would accomplish these goals are Fey Touched to be able to cast Misty Step and one other spell and Fighting Initiate to grab a Fighting Style, which can give you a wide array of benefits depending on your choice.

16-20: The end of your adventuring career brings you two more ASIs, the powerful defensive feature that is Elusive, and both your class and subclass capstones. The ASIs should be spent on rounding out anything you feel has been lacking up to this point or grabbing something that you thought would be fun, but couldn’t justify before now. Death Strike is not likely to come into play often, due to the combination of needing to Surprise the monster and it then needing to fail a typically strong monster saving throw, however, when it does work you have the potential of devastating powerful creatures in a single hit. Stroke of Luck guarantees you land that automatic critical hit when you do manage to Surprise your enemies.

We hope that you’ve found this article helpful and are now prepared to strike at your targets when they least expect it. If you’re interested in more Rogue information, then check out our Rogue 5E guide, or if you just enjoy reading about the game, then check out our how to play section. Until next time, may your initiative rolls be high and your enemies oblivious.

How to build a Rogue Assassin in DnD 5E?

Place your Expertise in Stealth and Perception to maximize your chances of getting surprise and focus on leveraging your first-round advantage.

What stats are most important for an Assassin Rogue in DnD 5E?

Dexterity and Wisdom are the most important, with at least a modest Constitution strongly advised.

Are Assassin Rogues good in 5E?

They can be, but they tend to be swingy and dependent on your DM and campaign. If you are playing a game where you can leverage your disguises, and your DM remembers to use surprise, it can be rewarding but likely not the strongest Rogue.

Expert Editor-in-Chief