Table of Contents:
Warlock Rogue 5e Multiclass Guide
Dungeons & Dragons Magic Shadow Jitsu
Rogues are masters of disguise and subtlety, who lurk in the shadows waiting for the perfect time to make their lethal strike. Warlocks are the signers of arcane pacts, beings who sold their souls or worse for incredible magical powers that would otherwise lie well beyond their mortal reach. Put them together and you get the ninjas of your wildest anime dreams, capable of disappearing into the shadows only to emerge with their dark magical blades already slicing through their foes. Dress for the darkness and grab your pact weapon as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play a Warlock Rogue Multiclass?
Both character classes are very strong multiclassing options on their own, adding sneak attack or a couple warlock spell slots for just a level dip has always been a decent pick. We’re also not far off on the ability scores here, with both classes highly valuing Dexterity and Warlock only adding Charisma into the mix.
By focusing on the martial capabilities of warlock, we can seamlessly blend the classes together into a fearsome stealthy DPS machine. OR, by focusing on some of the odder variants of Rogue and the warlock's magical abilities, we can become a spell sniping powerhouse that can blast enemies apart before they even know where we are. Warlock when built right is a martial class in its own right and doesn't really suffer from many deficiencies in melee combat for our multiclassed character.
What are the Downsides?
The damage output for rogues is tied to their own class levels and dipping or splitting levels will stall us on that damage scaling compared to a single class build. And while warlocks don’t follow the normal rules for spell scaling, it still hurts to get those upgrades even later than usual as a multiclassed character.
Finally, just like any other multiclass options in dungeons & dragons, by taking multiple character classes you’re giving up entirely on capstone features and other late game features, and a multiclassed character gets their mid-game features significantly later. Single-class characters are always going to have the raw strength, and we'll have to rely on variety and synergy.
Just as a side note, rogue and warlock both lend themselves to level dips and really deep multiclass soup builds. From a few levels of cleric for channel divinity, fighter for an action surge and fighting style, to a paladin multiclass for divine smite and heavy armor, a druid class level for some wild magic, or even monk levels for unarmored defense, martial arts and flurry of blows. It's complicated waters and may be hard to justify for story reasons but this starting point makes taking features from levels in other classes a tempting option.
When Does a Warlock / Rogue “Kick In”?
For the builds that focus on a core class with only a single class level dip into the secondary class you’ll feel kicked-in as early as a single level in each class. For the more in-depth builds we’re typically taking advantage of the 3rd level rogue archetype features or the 3rd level warlock pact boon features, meaning we’ll be set up at either 4th level with 3 levels in our primary class, or 6th level with 3 levels in each class.
What Class Features Do We Care About?
Each of our builds is different so not every feature will really matter for every build. Still, you should be weighing and considering the following features when putting your multiclass build together even if you're only getting early features from levels.
Warlock Features for Sorlocks
- Pact Magic: Warlocks don't get their spells in the same way as most casters. Instead of having tiers of leveled spell slots they're always able to cast spells from their spell list at the highest level spell slot available. The tradeoff is they have very few spell slots to work with, but they recharge on a short rest.
- Eldritch Blast: Often called the best cantrip in the game and the most effective spell at consistent damage in dungeons & dragons, warlocks uniquely have the spell eldritch blast on their spell list. Rogues don’t add a whole lot to the blaster caster strategy, but we have some sneaky ways to synergize with it.
- Otherworldly Patrons: Warlocks gain their archetype at first level, and most of these patrons grant additional proficiencies, more spell options for our pool of spell slots, and some other additional spellcasting options. In particular though most builds will want to focus on the hexblade.
- Hexblade: The warlock archetype hexblade gives us access to martial weapons, medium armor and shield proficiency which gives us an excellent chance at blocking incoming damage. It also gets us access to finesse weapons, though we already get the rapier from rogue. Hexblade is essentially the king of obligatory martial options so long as we’re going with a martial strategy.
- Pact Boons: Gained at 3rd level, we get a special gift from our patron that really solidifies our strategy. For any martial strategy this is typically pact of the blade, but there’s also a good argument to be made for pact of the chain since our familiar can provide sneak attack for us.
- Eldritch Invocations: Eldritch invocations are a great big list of invocation features we can pick and choose from carte blanche style. We get to pick 2 of these at 2nd level and then slowly get drip fed more options as we advance in warlock level. There’s a lot to go over but for now know a few of these invocations will be key for certain builds.
Significant Rogue Features
- Sneak Attack: Raw bonus 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. So long as the conditions are met this is free damage, and our builds will help ensure those conditions are met and this additional damage can be forced through.
- Additional Skill Proficiencies: With expertise and a slew of additional skill proficiencies you'll be able to master any skills you plan to use.
- Cunning Action: Gained at 2nd level, cunning action lets you use your bonus action to Hide, Disengage, or Dash which can all be great utility options and defensive options. All this together means you’ll be able to easily zip in and out of melee, usually avoiding repercussions.
- Archetypes: We’ll need to go into the relevant options in more detail but several of the rogue archetypes offer extra proficiencies and powerful features for the multiclass, even as early as their initial 3rd level feature. Sadly, they don't gain more archetype features until 9th level so plan accordingly.
- 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, at the cost of our bonus action and not moving, we can grant advantage on our next attack roll. Note that it’s just attack, not weapon attack, this means we can grant ourselves advantage on spell attacks as well.
Warlock / Rogue Ability Scores
Both classes care about the same physical scores, warlock is just adding Charisma into the mix for our spellcasting ability modifier. This means we can’t min/max as much, but we still shouldn’t be too thinly spread.
Our primary ability scores are Dexterity, Charisma, and Constitution. First off, our highest ability score should be Dexterity, since it applies not only to our AC but also to our attack rolls. Our next highest ability score should be Charisma, which is our spellcasting ability modifier for our warlock spells. Finally, our 3rd highest score should be Constitution, which helps with our hit point total and our ability to maintain concentration on spells. Each of your ability score increases not dedicated to a feat should go towards improving your dexterity.
The three remaining scores, Strength, Wisdom, and Intelligence are all largely irrelevant to us and we can use them all as dump stats.
Note that if you end up going for the more spell focused build with warlock as your core class, you’ll want to swap Charisma and Dexterity around, making Charisma your highest score and Dexterity your 2nd highest score.
Finally, this shouldn't be an issue if you're following the build but remember the minimum ability scores. Each class has minimum ability scores required for multiclassing and the scores for rogue and warlock are 13 Dexterity and 13 Charisma respectively.
Warlock / Rogue Equipment
If we go spell focused our weaponry is significantly important, but for a martial character we need to make sure we use finesse weapons or ranged weapons to trigger sneak attack. Rapiers are the go-to choice, and shortswords, daggers, and crossbows are all fair options. Beyond that we'll be stuck with simple weapons for an offensive option unless we take hexblade. Hexblade lets us use Charisma for our attack and damage rolls instead of Strength or Dexterity which would normally open us up to other weapons, but the stipulations of sneak attack still requires finesse so we should stick to it.
As for armor, we’re stuck with light armor unless we take hexblade, which opens us up to medium armor proficiency and shields. Casting with a shield and weapon in hand will require us to take the war caster feat (more on that later) so until then just go with medium armor and your sword and arcane focus. We’ll likely want to be stealthing around, making the breastplate our best medium armor option in most situations. If you're stuck in light armor you're best off with the old standby of studded leather.
Which Class Should I Start With?
Rogue gains a ton of skill proficiencies if we start out with them with a good skill list, and we don’t get much extra by starting out as a warlock, meaning your best bet is to take your first level as a rogue. We’re getting our medium armor and shield proficiency from warlock in most cases, but we’re getting that from the archetype features, not the actual class skill proficiencies.
Warlock / Rogue Feats
As with most martial caster class combinations, there’s one feat that's a tempting option you may want to consider spending an ability score increase on and that’s War Caster. War caster has three benefits, and all three are powerful boosts if we plan on using both martial options and magical options in combat.
- It gives us advantage on concentration checks made to maintain our spells.
- It lets us cast spells even when our hands are full of weapons or shields.
- It lets us cast spells in place of normal attacks when making attacks of opportunity.
Warlock / Rogue Multiclass Builds
We can work the rogue / warlock multiclass towards all sorts of tempting options, we just have to pick what strategy we want to go for. Ultimately the combination works as a dip for either class, or as a 50/50 split. Let’s take a look at the following builds that you can use as a whole cut or as a starting off point.
We’ll start with the simplest build, which is almost entirely rogue as the primary class with just a single level of warlock as our secondary class for additional spellcasting options. We want to start out with our first level in rogue to pick up the good proficiencies, then we want to take a single level of warlock and select the hexblade patron for among other things the martial weapons. Past that all of our future levels should be rogue levels, and we want to select the swashbuckler rogue archetype.
Our goal here is simply to add some extra magical damage onto our already solid martial capabilities and take advantage of the swashbuckler features that already run off Charisma.
When we take that warlock level, we want to pick booming blade and green-flame blade as our cantrips which should be very familiar offensive options if you’ve done any martial casters before. These cantrips uniquely trigger using a melee attack as part of casting the spell. Normally the big limitation on that for martial multiclasses is that you can’t use features like extra attack don’t work with it. But as a rogue we’re typically only making the one big attack anyway and we might as well throw some extra magical damage on top. They also conveniently use cantrip scaling that goes off your character level not your spellcasting class levels, so the damage will keep scaling for the length of our campaign.
Now we get to the hexblade part. Hexblade at 1st level gets us a ton of value, including medium armor proficiency, martial weapons proficiency, and shield proficiency. It also gets us the feature hexblade’s curse, which lets us curse a target as a bonus action. They’re cursed for up to a minute, and while cursed we add our proficiency to damage against them, we crit on a 19-20 against them, and if we kill them, we regain hit points equal to our Charisma mod + our warlock level (small for us but still nice). Hexblade also opens up wrathful smite as a 1st level spell, which we should snap up.
The swashbuckler part gives us fancy footwork which prevents our targets from making attacks of opportunity against us so long as we attack them first. It also gives us rakish audacity that gets us a nice initiative bonus to our Initiative rolls equal to our Charisma modifier, and essentially lets us sneak attack lone targets without needing allies nearby or advantage.
Finally, once we hit our 4th level of rogue, we want to take the feat war caster, which will really let us take advantage of that shield proficiency and allows us to use those booming blades and green-fire blades as attacks of opportunity.
So, let’s put all together for a 5th level example, with 4 levels of rogue and 1 level of warlock. First off with a +2 in Dex, a breastplate, and a shield, we should be rocking a respectable 18 AC. Next, in combat we want to mark our enemy with our hexblade’s curse as a bonus action, then go in for a booming blade using our rapier while also dealing our sneak attack damage rolls. That all stacks up to 21 damage (1d8 + 2d6 + 1d8 + 2 + 3) plus another 9 (2d8) if they move during their next turn due to booming blade. And thanks to fancy footwork, we’ll be able to move back after our hit scot-free and if they want to come after us they’ll have to move. We make full use of our action economy, keep ourselves safe, and deal a ton of damage at the same time.
We can make this even nastier on later turns by using our bonus action to cast wrathful smite before attacking with booming blade. Wrathful smite will stack on another d6 of damage but it will also frighten our enemy, making sure they can only come after us when we want them to!
Celestial Spell Assassin
For this build we’re going to flip it around and focus on the warlock as the primary class using rogue as a secondary class. To start with we want to take a single level of rogue, followed by a single level of warlock taking the celestial patron. Then we want to take two more levels of rogue taking the assassin rogue archetype, and all our future levels should go into warlock for a final 3 rogue / 17 warlock split. Our goal here is to utterly annihilate unaware targets with magical lasers from really far away.
Firstly, we’re taking the celestial patron because it adds the spell guiding bolt to our spell list. Our strategy here is going to take advantage of spell attacks and guiding bolt is one of the strongest early game spell attacks there is. We also get some healing spells and abilities as a decent upside.
Next, we’re taking the classic min/max ingredient with the assassin archetype. The assassin rogue gets some additional skill proficiencies, but the assassinate feature is what we really care about. Assassinate grants us advantage on surprised targets, and if our attacks hit while they’re still surprised, they’re automatic critical hits! Note here that it just says attacks, not weapon attacks, that means if we surprise somebody with a spell, they’re all made at advantage and critting as well!
Once we get into higher levels, guiding bolt will drop off a bit when compared to our eldritch blast which will be our workhorse spell most of the time. We want to be able to fire off our eldritch blasts from as far away as possible and to do as much damage as possible. To do this we want to take the agonizing blast and eldritch spear invocations. Agonizing blast lets us add our Charisma modifier to each blast, and eldritch spear increases the range of blasts to a whopping 300 feet! Once you get up to a 3rd level spell or higher level spells, also consider the spell vampiric touch which is a strong back up option in case you get cornered.
As a 5th level example with 3 levels of rogue and 2 levels of warlock, we can hide 120 feet away from our enemy and fire off a guiding bolt. This guiding bolt has advantage thanks to assassinate and with just a measly 1st level spell we’ll deal 28 (8d6) radiant damage from a huge distance, and they’ll be lit up for our trouble. Guiding bolt provides advantage on the next attack against the creature, so there’s an excellent chance you’ll get advantage for free on your next massive blast of radiant damage as well!
Finally, we can take advantage of the relatively new rogue feature steady aim gained at 3rd level. Steady aim lets us grant advantage on our next attack in exchange for not moving on our turn, and just like assassinate it only specifies “attack” so spell attacks are free game. This means that as they try to close the distance to you, you can keep on sniping at advantage with all your bolts and eldritch blasts!
For this build we’re looking to rogue as our core class and warlock as our secondary class. Starting with a level of rogue, then 3 levels of warlock taking the fathomless patron, then we want to take all our remaining levels in the rogue class taking the scout archetype ending with a 17 rogue / 3 warlock split. We're doing this as a strong tactical option, to play keep away using a sneak attacking crossbow and a big spectral tentacle and reducing our target's movement speeds.
For our warlock levels, the fathomless patron gets us tentacle of the deeps which functions a whole lot like the spell spiritual weapon. We conjure the tentacle and make an attack with it as a bonus action, and every subsequent turn we can use our bonus action to move the tentacle and repeat the attack. These tentacle attacks deal 1d8 cold damage, which is fine extra damage, but it also slows the target for 10 feet of movement until your next turn which is amazing.
When we pick our warlock pact boon, we want the pact of the chain to get a powered up familiar. For our invocations we want to take investment of the chain master for an even better familiar, and likely armor of shadows for a bit more protection since we'll be stuck with light armor otherwise. Finally for our spells we want to pick up misty step once we get our first 2nd level spells.
From the rogue archetype scout we get some extra skill proficiencies but more importantly we get the feature skirmisher. Skirmisher lets us move up to half our speed as a reaction when an enemy ends their turn next to us. Besides that we get all the standard rogue features and very importantly sneak attack.
Now to put this all together for a 6th level example with 3 levels rogue and 3 levels warlock. As a bonus action we summon our tentacle and smack a target, reducing their movement by 10 feet. Then we fire our hand crossbow (hopefully applying sneak attack) which together should get us a cool 18 (3d6 + 1d8 + 3) damage. Then we simply move away. Assuming a typical enemy with 30-foot movement speed reduced to 20 feet by our tentacle, even dashing they shouldn’t be able to get within melee of us. And if they can get into melee with us, we can use our skirmisher feature to move even further away. If we get totally cornered, we can simply misty step away.
Finally, our familiar comes in as a tactical option. To ensure sneak attack they can simply fly around our target and use the Help action to grant us advantage on our attack. It isn’t the highest damage output possible with this combination of classes, but it’s one of the hardest to get ahold of and you’ll be able to consistently keep up damage while remaining extremely difficult to hit.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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