Rogues in Dungeons & Dragons are often seen as stealthy, nimble characters who excel at striking from the shadows and avoiding direct confrontation. However, the Rogue class is deceptively resilient and can, in many cases, take on a tankier role in a party. So lets discuss the surprising survivability of Rogues and explore how they can contribute to a party's frontline. And hopefully help you share the burden the next time your barbarian or paladin is struggling to hold back a tide of orcs.
Evasion and Uncanny Dodge
One of the key features that contribute to a Rogue's survivability is their Evasion ability, which allows them to take no damage when they succeed on a Dexterity saving throw against an area effect, such as a Fireball spell, and only take half damage on a failed save. Coupled with their high Dexterity scores, this makes Rogues particularly adept at evading dangerous situations. As a general rule, preventing damage is better than healing from it, so rogue’s ability to always take less damage, and sometimes take none, can be a gamechanger. So the rogue has little to fear when clumping up with fellow melee, as most area of effect consequences are easily handled.
Additionally, Uncanny Dodge enables Rogues to use their reaction to halve the damage from an attack that hits them, further increasing their damage mitigation. While this takes some skill to use well, the amount of damage it can prevent is staggering. Rogue’s typically already have a solid AC thanks to their Dexterity, so they can afford to wait until taking a heavy hit to cut the consequences in half.
This combination of abilities allows Rogues to avoid or reduce incoming damage, contributing to their overall tankiness. Most classes lack strong defense at both attacks and saving throws, and rogues get both at fairly early levels.
Tip: As a Rogue, consider positioning yourself in a way that maximizes the benefits of Evasion and Uncanny Dodge. For example, when facing a spellcaster, try to stay within the area of effect spells to take advantage of Evasion.
Cunning Action and Mobility
A Rogue's Cunning Action grants them the ability to use their bonus action to Dash, Disengage, or Hide, making them incredibly mobile on the battlefield. This mobility allows them to easily reposition themselves, avoid opportunity attacks, and engage in hit-and-run tactics, keeping them relatively safe from harm. Most monsters are slow. Very slow. Especially when compared to a rogue. And if you are behind total cover, you cannot be attacked. This is key to the rogue’s survivability. You can last a very long time on low hit points by hiding after your turn, moving out of range, or moving so fast enemy creatures can’t keep up.
Tip: To make the most of your mobility as a Rogue, plan your movements carefully and use Cunning Action to disengage from enemies, move to a more advantageous position, or hide to set up a sneak attack on your next turn.
Sneak Attack and Hit Points
While Rogues may not have the highest hit points in the party, their Sneak Attack ability allows them to deal significant damage, potentially eliminating threats before they have a chance to strike. This can indirectly contribute to a Rogue's survivability, as removing enemies quickly means fewer attacks directed at them. Whats more, rogues are uniquely talented at targeting specific foes. They can rapidly approach weaker targets across great distances, attack at range, or even navigate tricky obstacles with ease. This ensures few vulnerable targets are safe from a talented and cunning rogue.
Tip: As a Rogue, always look for opportunities to maximize your Sneak Attack damage. Coordinate with your party to gain advantage on attack rolls, or attack enemies engaged with your allies to ensure you can land those crucial hits.
Defensive Feats and Multiclassing
Rogues can further enhance their survivability by selecting defensive feats, such as Tough or Mobile, which can increase their hit points or provide additional mobility options. Additionally, multiclassing into a class with more defensive capabilities, such as Fighter or Barbarian, can offer increased hit points, access to medium or heavy armor, and additional damage reduction abilities. Rogues get more ability score increases than most classes, so picking up a feat for your defensive is less expensive than it is for other classes. Definitely worth it depending on the party composition.
Tip: When considering multiclassing or selecting feats, weigh the benefits of increased survivability against the potential loss of Rogue-specific abilities or Sneak Attack progression.
Rogues are more than just stealthy assassins; they possess a surprising level of survivability and tankiness that can make them a valuable asset in the thick of combat. By understanding and utilizing their defensive abilities, mobility, and damage output, Rogues can defy expectations and hold their own on the front lines.