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The rogue, originally known as the thief, is a character class in Dungeons & Dragons. They cannot cast spells, but are experts in stealth.

Prior to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, the rogue class was known as the thief. The class was renamed to rogue in the Player's Handbook (3.0) (2000), but retained its iconic abilities.

In AD&D 2e, "rogue" is also used as a category archetype containing the thief and bard classes, while in D&D 5th edition, "thief" is a subtype of the rogue class.


Society and culture

Notable rogues and thieves

For a complete list, see Category:Rogues.

  • Lidda, the iconic female halfling rogue in D&D third edition
  • Ragnar, the iconic male thief in AD&D 2nd edition

Publication history

The class was known as the thief until D&D third edition (2000), where it became known as the rogue.

Original D&D

An early prototype of the thief appeared in a fanzine called the Great Plains Games Players Newsletter, issue #9. This four-page pullout was known as The Thief Supplement. A letter from Gygax in that issue dates his submission to May 15, 1974. Only 25 copies of the fanzine were printed.[1][2]

The thief officially appeared in the first official D&D supplement, Greyhawk (Supplement 1) (1975).

In the Greyhawk supplement, thieves have the ability to open locks, remove small traps, listen for noise, move stealthily, pick pockets, hide in shadows, "strike silently from behind", and climb nearly sheer surfaces; the success rate of these abilities increases with level. They can wear leather armor and wield magic daggers or swords.

The thief's most potent combat ability is to gain +4 to hit and deal double damage whenever they can "strike silently from behind", with the damage multiplier increasing at level 5 and every 4th level afterward. As they progress in level, thieves gain the ability to read most languages (useful for reading treasure maps) and understand magical scrolls.

Characters of any race may be thieves, with no level limit, and they may be any alignment except lawful. They are physically weak, having d4 hit dice.

AD&D 1st edition

Thieves in AD&D appear in the Player's Handbook (2e) (1989).

They retain most of their original abilities, with minor adjustments to percentage chances of success and the level at which abilities are gained. Additionally, they now explicitly have the ability to find traps, not just merely disarm them, and can learn thieves' cant, a language exclusive to thieves. At level 10, thieves gain the ability to set up a base of operations.

Thieves tend to be evil, but may be of any neutral or evil alignment. Thieves now have d6 hit dice. Their ability to strike silently from behind is now known as "back stabbing", and the damage multiplier applies even if the opponent is not surprised.

AD&D introduced the assassin, a specialist subclass of thief with the abilities to use poison and disguises, and a percentage chance to instantly kill when they back stab.

AD&D 2nd edition

The thief class appears in the Player's Handbook (2e) (1989). It is considered a subtype of "rogue", a category which also include the bard.

Instead of a table of percentage chances for thief skills, thieves now have a base percentage chance for each of the eight thief skills, 60 additional points to spread between them at character creation, and 30 points every time the character levels up. Wearing armor penalizes the character's skills.

D&D 3rd edition

In D&D third edition, the thief class was renamed to rogue. It appears in the Player's Handbook (3.0) (2000) and Player's Handbook (3.5) (2003).

Rogues have d6 hit dice, average base attack bonus, and good Reflex saves. They have the most skill points of any standard class, typically spent on what earlier editions of the game called rogue skills, like Move Silently and Disable Device.

Their main offensive ability is sneak attack, similar to the back stab of earlier editions but now deals bonus damage dice rather than a multiplier, and applies when flanking an opponent or in numerous conditions where the enemy's guard is down.

As they level up, rogues gain various abilities to dodge and avoid damage, increased sneak attack damage, and various optional attack abilities.

Thieves' Cant was replaced with the Innuendo skill. In D&D 3.5 (2003), the Innuendo skill was removed in favor of uses of Bluff and Sense Motive.

D&D 4th edition

Rogues appear in the Player's Handbook (4e) (2008). They are a martial striker class.

D&D 5th edition

Rogues appear in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014).

The rogue retains many iconic abilities from D&D third edition, including sneak attack (bonus dice of damage against an opponent if you have advantage), evasion (avoid area attacks) and uncanny dodge (avoid melee attacks). They also recover thieves' cant from AD&D.

Rogues now have d8 hit dice, and gain the ability to move or hide for free each around. They can specialize in skills. At level 3, they can further customize the class by selecting a roguish archetype: the traditional thief, the deadly assassin, and the magic-using arcane trickster.

Creative origins


See also: Invention of the thief

The original idea for the D&D thief class has been credited to a group of early D&D players who met at Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica, California. The initial concept was a character who specialized in picking locks and disarming traps, with the class originally intended for a party henchman.

In a long-distance phonecall, Gary Switzer shared the concept with D&D creator Gary Gygax. Gygax subsequently wrote up his own version of the thief class, which he submitted to issue #9 of the Great Plains Games Players Newsletter in May 1974. Gygax's innovations included backstab, percentage chance of skill failure, and a focus on stealth.[2]


Gygax cites the thief classes' literary inspirations included Fritz Leiber's Gray Mouser series, and other fantasy thieves.

"The Thief was based on Jack of Shadows (Zelazny) and Cugel (Vance) with a touch of REH’s Conan, rather than solely on the Gray Mouser. Mouser was too good a swordsman to serve as the pure model."
— Gary Gygax, Q&A with Gary Gygax part 5, ENWorld (2004).

Reception and influence


In the D&D community, rogue is commonly misspelt as rouge.

This error has occurred even in official D&D products:

  • In the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983), the deity Olidammara is said to be associated with revelry and "rougery".
  • In PHBR1 The Complete Fighter's Handbook (1989), p.38, the reader is suggested to adapt kits for "Rouge Swashbucklers".
  • In Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.126, optional reincarnation rules are described as affecting "Rouge characters".
  • A pair of chitin golems in Dark Sun DSE1 Dragon's Crown, Book Three: Dragon Crown Mountains (1993), p.9, are immune to the psionic powers used by a group of "rouges".
  • In Tale of the Comet, Book 3: Crossing Over (1997), p.42, the PCs are advised to send out a scouting party of "a rouge or two".
  • The index of Dragon #246 (Apr 1998), p.3, misspelled the title of Dale Donovan's article as "Rouges Gallery".
  • In Sage Advice, Dragon #290 (Dec 2001), p.118, regarding weapon proficiencies for Small-sized PCs, DMs are suggested to allow appropriately-sized weapons for "smaller rouges".
  • In the D&D 3e Dragonlance sourcebook Age of Mortals (2003), p. 112, the Dancing Dagger tavern is frequented by corrupt businessmen and "rouges".
  • Polyhedron #145, p.34, advises that the "thug" archetype benefits from the "rouge's sneak attack".


  1. Playing at the World (2012), by Jon Peterson. Chapter 5.2, Selling the Story.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gygax's "The Thief Addition" (1974), Playing at the World, 2012. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "tta" defined multiple times with different content