Table of Contents:
A 5e Guide to Fighter / Rogue Multiclassing
In dungeons & dragons Fighters are the masters of combat, versatile and tough, wielding all manner of weaponry and pushing the limits of physical ability through honed skill and diligent training. Rogues are masters of stealth and subterfuge, only plunging in the knife at opportune moments before disappearing back into the darkness. Put them together and you get a master of the battlefield, able to slip in and around combat to deliver absolutely devastating killing blows. If you’re looking to make a fighter / rogue multi-class then get all those sneak attack dice ready as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play a Fighter Rogue Multiclass?
Fighter is arguably the most versatile class in the game, and rogue has some of the highest martial damage potential. Together they overcome the other’s weaknesses and can be built into several different and powerful builds.
The rogue’s sneak attack ability has an extremely high damage potential that relies on either cooperation with your allies or the ability to gain advantage, while the fighter and particularly its subclasses has a lot of ways to give yourself advantage.
The rogue also suffers from a low number of attacks, a problem that many fighter features solve in spades.
The fighter is typically very one-dimensional with little to do out of combat, combining it with the rogue gives you all the wonderful skill options that class has to offer.
What are the Downsides?
As with any multiclass combination, you give up on late game class features and the progression on some of your other features will be a lot slower.
In this case giving up any levels of rogue will mean slower sneak attack progression, and a lower sneak attack potential overall. Conversely giving up on any levels of fighter means you’ll get fewer ASIs and opportunities for feats, and likely giving up on a potential 3rd extra attack.
When Does a Fighter / Rogue “Kick In”?
Unlike most multiclasses, a fighter rogue can be effective even with just 1 class level in each class and meshes quite well with any number of levels in either class.
There are a few more optimal builds of the multiclass though and most of those activate at character level 6 as they focus on combining the features of a rogue archetype and a fighter archetype, both of which start at 3 levels in their respective classes.
This means that most optimized builds of fighter / rogue multiclasses really take off at 6th level (3 levels of rogue, 3 levels of fighter) but they still function well even before these level markers.
What Class Features Do We Care About?
Because there’s no one single way to make the fighter / rogue multiclass work, there’s no one correct answer, but very few of both classes’ features go unused. We’ll assume we’re building up the multiclass for damage output, but there are also some interesting skill focused builds to be had here.
Significant Fighter Features
- Hit Points. While the upgrade from 1d8 to 1d10 isn’t huge, it’s worth considering that on average every level of fighter you take over rogue will make you a bit beefier.
- Heavy Armor. You don't have to be sneaky as a rogue, and the fighter gives you access to heavy armor and shields right off the bat, now with the added bonus of sneak attacking in them. Depending on your Dexterity you still may be better off with light armor or medium armor, but now you have all the options. (You do need to take your 1st level in fighter to get this benefit.)
- Fighting Style. Obtained with only one fighter level, the Archery, Dueling, Two-Weapon Fighting, and Thrown Weapon Fighting options all provide a bit of extra damage in different ways and for different strategies. The new Superior Technique option also provides a way to pick up a maneuver with only one fighter level and without taking up the fighter archetype.
- Second Wind. Also picked up with only one fighter level this feature gives a decent healing option. It uses the bonus action which isn’t ideal, but emergency healing in the pocket is always useful.
- Action Surge. Gained at 2nd level, this is merely great for “fair” builds, and absolutely bonkers on the “unfair” builds. An extra attack action on the first round when paired with the assassinate feature can deal a disgusting amount of damage.
- Archetypes. We’ll go into them in more detail in a moment, but a lot of the fighter archetypes and even just the initial 3rd level features of those archetypes can be incredible for the build.
- Extra Attack. The high damage output of the rogue is balanced out by its lack of extra attacks, but if you commit enough levels to fighter you’ll unbalance that right back out. An additional attack doesn't mean an additional sneak attack, but when your melee attacks miss you get another chance at it.
Significant Rogue Features
- Sneak Attack. Raw damage on the condition that you either have advantage, or your ally is within 5 feet of the target, and the weapon must either have finesse or be ranged. As we’ll see there are several ways to make this damage happen using fighter features, and a lot of the builds are focused on maximizing the damage potential of this feature and getting advantage on attack rolls.
- Cunning Action. If you’re primarily a fighter with only a dash of rogue, this feature may justify the 2nd level allowing you to dash, disengage, or dodge using a bonus action.
- Archetypes. We’ll need to go into the relevant options in more detail but several of the rogue archetypes offer powerful features for the multiclass, even as early as their initial 3rd level feature.
- Uncanny Dodge. While not as important, the ability to halve damage from a nasty hit is worth considering, and may be a juicy upside if you’re just trying to maximize sneak attack anyway.
- Steady Aim. This is a new optional feature gained at 3rd level, it essentially unlocks ranged sniper rogues as you gain the ability to give yourself advantage as a bonus action if you haven’t moved that turn.
Fighter or Rogue for 1st Level?
During character creation, the class you pick 1st dictates your multiclass proficiencies and you don't get everything you would normally get when multiclassing.
Starting as a Fighter
If you start out as a fighter, you will miss out on 1 skill proficiency but gain heavy armor and all martial weapons proficiency. And your saving throw proficiencies will be Strength and Constitution.
Starting as a Rogue
If you start out as a rogue, you will miss out on heavy armor and all martial weapons proficiency but gain 1 skill proficiency. And your saving throw proficiencies will be Dexterity and Intelligence.
Personally, I'd start out as rogue. You'll almost certainly end up using a rapier or dual shortswords anyway, and as a Dexterity build you aren't incentivized to go for heavy armor. That and you go up a skill proficiency, and Dexterity saving throws are by far the most common in the game and are therefore the most valuable.
Fighter / Rogue Ability Scores
One of the nicest things about this class combination is that they rely on the exact same abilities (assuming you were going with a Dex Fighter).
You want your Dexterity to be as high as possible, with your Constitution as a secondary consideration. Depending on how many fighter levels you go with you’ll also be getting additional ASI’s so you should have no problem getting your Dexterity to 18 or even 20 even while taking a few feats along the way.
After that it really just depends on what skills you care about there are several builds that would care about Charisma or Intelligence but those are more niche.
Fighter / Rogue Races
Your best picks for this multiclass are essentially the same as the best picks for a typical rogue. You’re looking for a +2 Dexterity bonus in particular and the following races provide it:
Aarakocra gain +2 Dex and +1 Wis. As a race with built in flying, the birds get banned from basically every table. If your DM is kind enough to let you take this race then try taking advantage of your supreme maneuverability with some ranged weapons or throwing daggers.
Base elves gain +2 Dex and between all the subraces you’ll be able to pick up +1 in basically anything else. The base elf abilities are decent, but both mechanically and thematically the drow fit quite well. Superior Darkvision is nothing to sneeze at while trying to outmaneuver your foes in the dark.
Feral tieflings gain +2 Dex and +1 Int. This feral variant of tiefling arrived in The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and with the +2 Dex they make far better rogues than the standard version. With that Int bonus they particularly make for strong arcane tricksters, especially with the strong racial spells helping make up for the low number of spell slots.
Goblins gain +2 Dex and +1 Con. Stacking Fury of the Small alongside the rogue sneak attack feature can feel really good as a high damage nova strike. However, a lot of the utility gained from playing a goblin comes from their Nimble Escape feature, which ends up getting wasted on rogues who already get the slightly better Cunning Action feature. While they line up alright, I actually find goblins are better for playing other races a bit like rogues, rather than rogues themselves. Still, the Dex bonus is ideal, and thematically they fit wonderfully, just know some of your utility is not optimal and redundant.
Grungs gain +2 Dex and +1 Con. These little poison dart frogs are technically only from the land of Chult, and they’re locked behind a special supplement. If you do get the opportunity to run them, their Poisonous Skin feature can add a ton of damage to your strikes. Sadly it doesn’t scale though, so grung rogues are really only scary at low levels.
Base halflings gain +2 Dex and between the subraces you can pick up another +1 of your choice. The Lucky feature is enough to justify choosing a halfling all on its own. Lightfoot halflings in particular are usually one of the best picks for most rogues. They pick up +1 Cha and their Naturally Stealthy feature all but guarantees you’ll be able to hide when you need to.
Human (Base or Variant)
Base humans gain +1 to each ability score and the variant human gains +1 to two abilities of your choice (and a feat). Humans may feel a bit boring but they’re always going to be flexible enough to fit any mold. I recommend base human if you’re trying to lean into the skill utility role, as the full spread of ability score increases will ensure you’ll have at least a small bonus in everything.
Kenku gain +2 Dex and +1 Wis. Kenku abilities often feel a bit “meh” but they really shine with rogues. Forging documents and mimicking voices can really come in handy when outwitting the guards and escaping authority. Very strong option if you plan on getting up to no good and relying on subterfuge to subvert obstacles.
Kobolds gain +2 Dex. Kobolds are secretly one of the strongest race options as their feature Pack Tactics is utterly insane, especially as a rogue. Pack Tactics grants you advantage on attacks as long as one of your allies is near them, which means you’ll be able to use your sneak attack every round almost guaranteed. I highly recommend kobolds if you want to build your rogue as a melee fighter.
Tabaxi gain +2 Dex and +1 Cha. Tabaxi rogues have a lot going for them. They pick up free proficiency in Perception and Stealth, Feline Agility gives you a boost of speed when you really need it and the climbing speed gained from Cat’s Claws definitely comes in handy when climbing your way up through windows. Please excuse the pun, but these cats make great burglars.
Fighter / Rogue Multiclass Builds
This subclass combination is incredibly flexible and doesn’t have a lot of “wrong” ways to go. Even just selecting options and class levels at random will yield a pretty viable build. There are however some standout builds that may even be so powerful as to get banned at your play table.
By taking 3 levels of rogue and taking the swashbuckler archetype, and 3 levels of fighter ant taking the samurai archetype, we’re left with a dashing sword master that will essentially always get sneak attack.
Both archetypes have a secondary care for Charisma meaning you’ll want to make Charisma your 3rd highest ability score, but that shouldn’t be a huge concern.
What we’re really here for is the swashbuckler’s fancy footwork and rakish audacity features, and the samurai’s fighting spirit feature, all of which are gained at the 3rd level of that class.
Fighting spirit is powerful in its own right. Up to 3 times per long rest, you can give yourself advantage on all your attacks for the round and give yourself 5 temporary hit points as a bonus action. Advantage is normally great, but with rogue levels it also guarantees you’ll be dealing your sneak attack damage if you hit.
But that’s just 3 times each long rest, which is where swashbuckler comes in.
The swashbuckler’s rakish audacity lets you deal sneak attack damage so long as you and your target are separated and there aren’t any other creatures within 5 feet of you or the target. Which means 9 times out of 10, you’ll be either among allies (and getting sneak attack) or alone with a single target (and getting sneak attack). Then for those last rare times where you don’t meet either criterion, you can fall back on your fighting spirit to grant yourself advantage and get it anyway.
Fancy footwork helps out here because it saves your bonus action for fighting spirit. Normally a rogue would have to spend their bonus action to duck out of melee, but you need that bonus action for fighting spirit. With fancy footwork you can still slip out without reprisal.
I also recommend taking the defensive duelist feat for this build, not only because it’s flavorfully awesome, but because you’ll likely be in the thick of things with a finesse weapon anyway and it gives you a lot of solid survivability.
Alternatively, you can accomplish a lot of what this build does by substituting in battle master instead of samurai. You give up the easy consistency of the fighting spirit but by selecting either distracting attack or feinting attack to give yourself advantage you can gain the versatility of the other battle master maneuver options.
With this build I recommend 4 levels of fighter to pick up the samurai archetype and the 4th level ASI, and 16 levels of rogue to maximize the sneak attack potential. Usually starting with 3 levels in each, taking the 4th fighter level, then putting all future levels in rogue.
Psi-Knife Soul Warrior
By taking the psionic-powered soulknife rogue archetype and the psi warrior fighter archetype, you become the ultimate psionic warrior.
Both archetypes have a nearly identical feature at 3rd level called psionic power that gives you a number of psionic energy dice equal to twice your proficiency bonus to spend on all your fancy psionic powers. Until recently it wasn’t clear how these features interacted, but we have official confirmation that you get two pools of psionic power dice. The catch is that you can’t use one class’s psionic power dice on the other class’s features, but you’re still getting essentially 4 times your proficiency modifier in dice to power your features and all the abilities are running off Intelligence.
This means that by making Intelligence a secondary ability score (get it to 14 or 16) we can effectively combine both psionic subclasses into a delicious master of mental stabbing.
One of the nicest potentials here is using the fighter’s psionic strike in conjunction with the soulknife’s psychic blades. With 5 levels in both fighter and rogue, you’ll be typically doing 2d6 + 1d4 + 12 psychic damage, 1d8 + 4 force damage, and 3d6 sneak attack damage for a respectable 41 average damage a round in some of the least resisted damage types in the game between your first attack and an additional weapon attack.
I really find this to a fun class combination as the numerous psionic abilities give you a ton of versatility and options even outside of combat and you’ll end up feeling like a spellcaster even as a martial build. You get a damage reduction ability, a psychic communication ability, and you just get way more options than a simple melee character.
I recommend 5 levels of fighter to get your fighter’s psionic dice up to d8’s and for the extra attack, and then 15 levels of rogue to maximize sneak attack. I’d start with 3 levels of rogue, then get the 5 fighter levels, then take rogue levels from that point on.
Of all the potential builds for this multiclass this is the one most likely to get banned by the dungeon masters at your game table for the absolutely obscene amounts of damage you can do. We're taking ranged-based archetypes and making the absolute best use of each class feature. For this build you’ll need at least 3 levels of the arcane archer fighter archetype and 3 levels of the assassin rogue archetype.
We’re trying to do one simple thing with this build, kill the target on turn 1 without even giving them a round, here’s how it works:
Firstly, we have the assassinate feature that gives us advantage on attacks against enemies that haven’t acted in initiative yet, and it turns any hits against such creatures into critical hits.
Next, with the arcane shot feature, we can shoot magic arrows that do extra effects and additional damage. Very importantly, some of these options will work (their damage will be multiplied on critical hits) but some won’t. Here’s the list of options that WILL work for our build:
- Beguiling Arrow
- Enfeebling Arrow
- Grasping Arrow*
- Shadow Arrow
*It will work for the initial poison damage, but not the thorny vine damage.
I recommend the shadow arrow not only for the flavor win, but also if your target survives they’ll likely be blinded and allow you another round to finish the job.
Now with your magic arrows in hand, you can sneak up into a tree or some other vantage point, and take aim from up to 150 feet away and lose your deadly payload. With advantage you’re extremely likely to hit.
Here’s where it gets spicy. Assuming you are only 6th level, that’s 1d8 from the longbow, 3 from your Dexterity modifier, 2d6 sneak attack damage, and another 2d6 psychic (shadow arrow) but it’s an automatic CRIT. So now you’re looking at 2d8 + 8d6 +3 for an average of 40 crit damage, and if that doesn’t finish off your target you still have an action surge to fire off another shot (though you can’t do the magic arrow or sneak attack more than once in a turn).
Every few rogue levels this damage gets exponentially higher and at 10th level (7 levels rogue and 3 levels fighter) you’re already up to 2d8 + 12d6 + 4 for a single shot, which is nutty no matter how you slice it.
This build used to be significantly worse before Tasha’s, because getting sneak attack after that first round was difficult. Now though with the take aim feature, you can simply spend your bonus action and keep making sniper shot sneak attacks every round. They won’t be auto crits but a 1d8 + 6d6 + 4 magic arrow is nothing to sneeze at.
It may also be a good idea to take the sharpshooter feat for this build. Less so for the extra damage (though that’s lovely on easier to hit shots) but because it allows you to make these sniper shots from even further away, potentially engaging your opponent from 300 feet away where they are unlikely to even be aware of your existence let alone have the range to attack you back.
I recommend just 3 levels of fighter to get your arcane shots, and then 17 levels of rogue to maximize sneak attack and potentially even reach the assassin capstone. I’d start with 1 level of rogue, then get the 3 levels of fighter, then take only rogue levels from that point onward.
Last updated: January 27, 2019
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