The latest Dungeons and Dragons 5E has been fascinating DnD enthusiasts for years now, and the expansive list of classes and subclasses are an inherent part of that affinity. Dungeons and Dragons feature a diverse range of classes, from Monks, Artificers, Bards, Paladins, Rangers, and Barbarians, to Fighters, Clerics, Druids, Wizards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and lastly, the one we will talk about in this article, Rogues.
Rogues in DnD 5E are a surprisingly versatile class, accompanied by a diverse toolkit that qualifies them as silent scouts, dexterous trap-breakers, and terrific single-target damage-dealers. Assassins are a specific subclass that sharpens the infiltration and single-target damage-dealing abilities of the DnD 5E Rogue class. Here, we will explore the possibilities and limitations offered by the D&D 5E Rogue Assassin subclass.
DnD Rogue Assassin Explained
What is DnD 5E Rogue Assassin? For starters, here’s what the Player’s Handbook has to say about this particular subclass:
“You focus your training on the grim art of death. Those who adhere to this archetype are diverse: hired killers, spies, bounty hunters, and even specially anointed priests trained to exterminate the enemies of their deity. Stealth, poison, and disguise help you eliminate your foes with deadly efficiency.”
Imagine a master infiltrator class that can barge into a heavily-surveilled room and put a knife straight across the target’s heart. That’s DnD Assassin Rogue for you! Want to play as the ultimate spy or the unmatched bounty hunter? You might be staring at the perfect subclass for you!
First, it is essential to know what differentiates the Rogue class from the Assassin subclass. If your character belongs to the Rogue class, you can do a little of everything, given you have the right build, of course. Be it scouting, combat, burglary, or handling social situations, the Rogue class possesses the ability to brave it all in limited capacities. If the ‘terms and conditions applied’ seem like a let-down to you, well, the game developers would not want any class to be invincible and omnipotent, would they?
What sets the D&D Assassin archetype apart from its differently skilled counterparts, such as the Thief, Soul Knife, Arcane Trickster, Phantom, Scout, Swashbuckler, Inquisitive, and Mastermind? The Rogue Assassin subclass takes two specific specializations, namely assassination, and infiltration, making them razor-sharp and full-proof. While you might not possess the expansive utility skills offered by other archetypes under the Rogue subclass, you will surely master “the grim art of death,” as the Player’s Handbook aptly summarizes it.
The D&D 5E Rogue Assassin subclass is hyper-focused as far as mechanics is concerned. Therefore, if you are relatively new to the tabletop game and the Rogue class appeals to you, chances are that the Rogue Assassin is the subclass for you! It is one of the easier Rogue archetypes, which does precisely what it states. There are no gray lines to master. If you grow better in the rogue Assassin gameplay, infiltration and assassination will be a piece of cake to you!
The Rogue Assassin might blend in with his immediate surroundings with uncharacteristic ease and execute his agenda phenomenally. Alternatively, he can choose to keep his distance and take a decisive shot with a crossbow or a simple bow. Here’s where we mention the D&D Assassin archetype’s affinity towards using poison as a viable mode of assassination.
Simply put, the Rogue Assassin executes his task with a combination of stealth play, unadulterated speed, and an element of surprise that manages to bamboozle the target. The Assassinate ability will be online at the 3rd level and will ensure your advantage on any attack you employ against a foe who hasn’t already acted in the combat, on the same turn. The game will reward your stealth ability by deeming any attack you employ that surprises the enemy as a ‘critical hit.’
D&D 5E Rogue Assassin Quirks
How do you use the D&D 5E Rogue Assassin subclass to your advantage? Well, the first rule is to identify the target. A lot depends on who your target is. For a target such as a Wizard, a single Sneak Attack can destroy your enemy proactively. However, with beefier enemies, you might want to deal some level of damage even before the combat begins. A simple arrow or a spell from a fellow party member might be enough to end the enemy after you land an assassination attack.
Action-economy is essential in DnD 5E, so if you manage to take out an isolated enemy slowly and quietly, that’s one less enemy for you to deal with during combat! If you are faced with numerous equally devastating enemies during combat, getting into the enemies’ backline using your stealth abilities might save your day. Follow the simple mantra: pull a sneak attack on stragglers, making use of the advantage for hiding, employ the Cunning Action Rogue ability to effectively take cover whenever essential, and keep repeating this till you are in the clear!
Ranged combat is yet another excellent gameplay option, with increased possibilities to maneuver and hide. Here, you can choose to stay out of the foe’s sight and utilize the surroundings to your favor by striking at the perfect moment. The bottom line of the 5E Assassin Rogue is to surprise the enemy and neutralize them before they become tough to handle.
1. Infiltration Expertise
Once you are at level 9, your D&D 5E Rogue Assassin character gains the infamous Infiltration Expertise quirk. This effectively offers your character a renewed identity, with a particular focus on infiltrating important organizations and inching closer to the targets.
Note that it would require nearly a week’s worth of work- equivalent to almost 25 GP- to carve out the history, affiliations, and professional personalizations of your DnD 5E Rogue Assassin character, and your party must be understanding of the exact requirement.
This works best in campaigns with considerable intrigue. So, in case you need a renewed identity to infiltrate enemy grounds in less than a week’s time, you will most probably not be well-prepared as a Rogue Assassin. You can own varied identities in different cities and towns, making the tabletop game more interesting than its competitors.
Enemies cannot simply roll against your renewed identity like they can, against your disguise. So, this can serve as an effective infiltration toll, worth the gold and the time it costs.
Next in line is the Imposter, which is accessible once your D&D 5E Rogue Assassin character reaches level 13. It adds an extra edge to your espionage skills, thereby qualifying you as an exceptional spy.
If you expend nearly 3 hours analyzing a creature’s behavior, it will allow your DnD Assassin Rogue character to effectively mimic him in every way, from speech, overall behavioral tendencies, to handwriting, given you have observed all three with a keen eye.
To a casual onlooker, the difference between your character and the one you are impersonating will be almost impossible to gauge. If suspicion is raised and someone chooses to explore further, you can use your advantage on any Charisma check to prevent detection.
Like the Infiltration Expertise, this works best if your party is well-coordinated. Here’s an instance of how you can complement your party’s efforts: if your D&D 5E Rogue Assassin character chooses to observe a guard captain and impersonate him, you can go ahead and assassinate him and pass on the critical intel to your fellow party members. This will only work if your party agrees to the kind of gameplay that would allow your espionage skills to shine.
3. Death Strike
Once your D&D 5E Assassin character reaches level 17, you are equipped with the Death Strike ability. Essentially what it means is, if your character manages to surprise a character with an attack, the enemy must employ a Constitution-saving throw, which refers to DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Dexterity modifier. In situations where he fails to do so, the damage your attack dealt would double instantly.
At level 17, your DnD Assassin Rogue character ought to boast a Dexterity score of 20, along with a Proficiency bonus of +6. Therefore, the DC will be 19 unless your character possesses a magic item that inevitably makes it tougher. Essentially, you have an advantage when you attack unexpectedly.
While your assassination ability will ensure a critical hit, it will immediately be doubled by the surprise element. Death Strike doubles the attack once again if the target cannot defend himself. Here’s quick math:
(Critical weapon damage x 2 + Dexterity modifier + critical Sneak Attack x 2) x 2
Limitations of Assassin Rogue
No class or subclass comes without its limitations. After all, you cannot be invincible, can you? That ruins the fun of the game. Let’s look at the limitations of the DnD 5E Rogue Assassin.
Primarily, the subclass lacks in 3 aspects:
- Infiltration skills in combat-centric campaigns
- Dependency on decent initiative rolls
Let’s discuss the limitations in a bit more detail:
In matters of exploration, defense, utility, support, trap disarmament, and other aspects that fall outside the purview of an enemy ambush or infiltration, the DnD 5E Rogue Assassin is not of much help. However, the game is meant to be such that your shortcomings will be aptly compensated by your party members, who might boast of the very skills you lack.
If you prefer to build your character in a perfectionist and flexible perspective that allows you to succeed in every situation, the DnD Assassin Rogue will not be a recommended choice. Therefore, if your mantra is “Jack of all trades, master of none,” you might consider looking elsewhere. That said, this subclass will prove to be an excellent gameplay choice if you like being good at a handful of things.
Now, for a more complex limitation, there could be a clash between the things you are good at. Your Assassinate (unlocks at level 3) and Death Strike (unlocks at level 17) abilities highlight constant combat. In contrast, the Infiltration Expertise (unlocks at level 9) and Imposter (unlocks at level 13) abilities might encourage more roleplay-centric gameplay.
Essentially, what it means is, your Assassinate and Death Strike abilities will seem a tad bit useless when a campaign is purely about veiled threats and courtly intrigue while your character takes a stroll through lush green manicured lawns. Similarly, a classic dungeon crawl which requires your character to walk smack into a hole in the ground, destroy everything inside, and bring out shiny remains to sell, won’t utilize your Imposter abilities at all.
When it is time to roll initiative, it can make the difference in successfully landing a fatal blow in every round and missing a considerable chunk of your attacks if you have a low score. So, it’s essential to ensure your initiative is exponentially high.
Best Races For Assassin Rogue in DnD 5E
Any race that offers a bonus in Charisma, Dexterity, and Constitution or offers access to any Feat or some good abilities should be the priority while choosing races for DnD 5E Rogue Assassin.
The top 3 that stand out are the Human Variant and the Wood Elf (Player’s Handbook) and the Tabaxi (Volo’s Guide to Monsters).
Elves are offered a +2 bonus to Dexterity, which is always a great start. Additionally, you will get Dark Vision, Perception Proficiency, and advantages of saves against charms. If you are a Wood Elf, say hello to yet another +1 to your Wisdom, using Mask of the Wild for stealth (even in challenging environmental conditions), and fast walking. Club them together with Cunning Action and hallelujah!
With the Human Variant, you are allowed a +1 bonus on 2 of the ability scores (you can choose Dexterity as one of them), a Feat at level 1, and a skill proficiency of your preference. It doesn’t sound half as bad, huh?
Now, as for Tabaxi- DnD’s infamous cat people- you get +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Charisma, qualifying this race as the perfect choice for the 5E Assassin Rogue subclass. Additionally, you will be awarded movement speed boost, amped up climbing speed, Perception and Stealth proficiency, and Dark Vision. This is an excellent combination for the Rogue Assassin subclass.
The bottom line is, no class or subclass is perfect and well-rounded. Irrespective of which one you choose to base your character on, you will never be the Jack of all trades. Each subclass comes equipped with its specific set of upsides and shortcomings, but you are expected to take full advantage of the bonuses and proficiency scores offered while making peace with the abilities you lack.
If your party is united in a common goal, the diverse skill sets might be a perfect mix-and-match for your collective quest. If stealth and espionage appeal to you, the DnD 5E Rogue Assassin is an ideal choice for you!