How The Rogue's Sneak Attack Works In D&D 5e

avatar-user Latanskiy Nick 2024-05-27
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In the realm of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, the rogue class stands out for its unique mechanics and playstyle. Unlike other martial classes like fighter, barbarian, and monk that focus on straightforward methods of dealing damage, rogues bring a blend of cunning, strategy, and teamwork to the table. Among the various features that set rogues apart, Sneak Attack is the most combat-oriented, providing a distinct way to maximize damage through careful planning and precise execution. However, the conditions for Sneak Attack can be intricate and sometimes challenging to manage.

Understanding the Rogue's Unique Role

The rogue class and its subclasses are distinct in D&D for emphasizing skills and abilities that cater to out-of-combat scenarios. This design encourages players to adopt a trickier, less direct approach that suits characters like thieves or assassins. One of the standout features is Expertise, which allows rogues to excel in skill checks. When applied to skills such as Stealth, Sleight of Hand, or Thieves' Tools, Expertise makes the rogue a master of sneaking into hostile areas or pilfering items with minimal risk.

In combat, however, the rogue's strategy revolves primarily around Sneak Attack. This feature not only makes rogues formidable in battle but also integrates their out-of-combat cunning into their combat tactics.

How Sneak Attack Works For 5e Rogues

Extra Damage Under Specific Conditions

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From the very first level, rogues gain access to Sneak Attack, which allows them to deal extra damage on attacks that hit, but only under certain conditions. Firstly, the attack must be made using a weapon with the finesse or ranged properties, such as a dagger, rapier, or bow. Secondly, the attack must either have advantage or target an enemy that has another hostile creature within five feet. Lastly, Sneak Attack cannot be applied if the attack is made with disadvantage or if the target is incapacitated.

Sneak Attack begins with an extra 1d6 damage, usually of the same type as the weapon used, and adds an additional d6 for every two rogue levels, scaling up to 10d6 at level 20.

Practical Applications and Examples

To illustrate, consider a rogue who successfully lands an attack on an enemy with the party's fighter standing next to it. In this scenario, the rogue can apply Sneak Attack damage even if the attack was made without advantage. Similarly, if a rogue attacks a Prone enemy, they attack with advantage and can apply Sneak Attack if the attack hits, regardless of other creatures' proximity. Conversely, a rogue attempting an attack while blinded will roll with disadvantage, rendering them unable to apply Sneak Attack until the condition is resolved.

Cunning Action and Its Impact

At second level, rogues gain the Cunning Action feature, allowing them to Dash, Disengage, or Hide as a bonus action. This capability lets rogues attack in the same turn they use any of these actions. Successfully using the Hide action, though situational and somewhat dependent on the Dungeon Master's (DM) discretion, enables rogues to attack with advantage, providing an additional method to self-sufficiently apply Sneak Attack.

One DM-dependent ruling permits rogues to apply Sneak Attack on Opportunity Attacks, which are reactionary attacks made when an enemy leaves the rogue's reach. This ruling allows rogues to circumvent the once-per-turn restriction of Sneak Attack, adding another layer of tactical depth to their combat strategy.

The Importance of Teamwork and Strategy

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Rogues thrive on teamwork and strategic positioning. Unlike other martial classes that can rely on brute force or multiple attack rolls, rogues must carefully plan their actions to ensure they can apply Sneak Attack. This often involves coordinating with party members to position themselves advantageously or to create situations where enemies are surrounded or distracted.

For example, a rogue might work with a fighter to flank an enemy, ensuring the conditions for Sneak Attack are met. Alternatively, a rogue might use their Cunning Action to hide and then strike from the shadows, leveraging their stealth to gain advantage on the attack.

Advanced Tactics and Subclass Synergies

As rogues advance in levels and choose subclasses, they gain access to additional features that can further enhance their Sneak Attack capabilities. Subclasses like the Assassin or the Arcane Trickster offer unique abilities that synergize with Sneak Attack, allowing for even more devastating combinations.

The Assassin's Assassinate ability offers advantage on attack rolls against any creature that has yet to take a turn in combat, and any successful hit on a surprised target becomes a critical hit. This ability, paired with Sneak Attack, can lead to a significant burst of damage at the commencement of combat. In contrast, the Arcane Trickster can leverage spells such as Invisibility or minor illusion to create situations that allow for Sneak Attack by either gaining advantage or altering the dynamics of the battlefield.


The rogue's Sneak Attack is a defining feature that sets it apart from other martial classes in D&D 5e. By requiring specific conditions to deal extra damage, Sneak Attack encourages rogues to be strategic, cunning, and collaborative. The mechanics of Sneak Attack, combined with the rogue's other features like Cunning Action and Expertise, create a playstyle that is both challenging and rewarding.

Whether you're a player aiming to perfect your rogue skills or a DM interested in grasping the finer points of this class, understanding the intricacies of Sneak Attack is crucial. With strategic planning, teamwork, and a touch of cunning, rogues can turn into powerful adversaries and indispensable comrades during combat.

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