The Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e operates with speed, elegance, and charm.

Quick and crafty, the Swashbuckler makes for a formidable duelist and is able to easily outmaneuver their opponents.

Whether you are looking to be the dueling GOAT, plan to hoist the Jolly Roger, or both, this full guide to the Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e is for you!

Ahoy me hearties! Set sail!

What is the Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e?

Swashbuckler Rogues focus heavily on combat and perform particularly well when fighting enemies one-on-one. As talented fencers, their agility lets them expertly dart around their opponents as they make quick and decisive strikes.

These characters bring a remarkable blend of expert swordplay, dashing showmanship, and quick thinking to the table.

Sure, enemies clad in heavy armor wielding massive weapons can be scary. But the Swashbuckler Rogue knows that the trick to defeating any opponent is to outwit and outmaneuver them!

While this subclass’s theme definitely conjures up images of dueling pirates on the high seas, you aren’t locked into playing a pirate. A Swashbuckler can just as easily be a duelist from any walk of life, provided they have the speed and charm to live up to the name!

The Swashbuckler Rogue archetype was introduced to D&D 5e in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and later republished in the fantastic Xanathar’s Guide to Everything book.

Role in the Party

The Swashbuckler Rogue subclass in D&D 5e combines the Rogue’s damage output with a level of mobility that also makes them a bit of a defensive powerhouse!

Mobility is the absolute key to the Swashbuckler archetype. Keeping light on their feet, these characters can outmaneuver many enemies.

With their Panache feature, they can even force enemies to duel them.

This means that a Swashbuckler Rogue can focus on keeping a high-threat enemy busy while their party cleans up the rest of the field. Once that’s done, if the Swashbuckler’s adversary is still standing, the party can dogpile them!

Swashbuckler Rogue Features 5e

The Swashbuckler Rogue’s features are a fantastic blend of style and substance. They’re useful, full of dynamic flavor, and open up tons of options for Rogues of any playstyle!

Let’s check them out!

Fancy Footwork (Level 3)

The Swashbuckler is built for skirmishing and the Fancy Footwork ability at level 3 really highlights this.

During your turn, if you make a melee attack against a creature, that creature can’t make opportunity attacks against you for the rest of your turn.

Effortlessly bobbing and weaving in combat with Fancy Footwork, the Swashbuckler doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity from creatures that they have made a melee attack against. Because this lasts for the rest of the Swashbuckler’s turn, they will have a much easier time keeping their ideal positioning in combat!

As it is, Rogues already have the Cunning Action ability which lets them use a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide actions.

The Swashbuckler takes this a step further by effectively getting a free Disengage action. That bonus action can then be used for something else!

You might choose to dual-wield and gain a second chance at landing a Sneak Attack before taking your free Disengage action to adjust your positioning.

On the other hand, you might instead use your Cunning Action to Hide or Dash as a bonus action. Getting to double your speed or slip into the shadows before launching another sneak attack against your enemies is insane!

The Swashbuckler quickly becomes a master of Action Economy. You’ll have no trouble getting the most value possible out of each of your turns!

Rakish Audacity (Level 3)

With the Rakish Audacity feature, you also gain a couple of other very valuable abilities when you decide to hoist the Jolly Roger at level 3!

You can give yourself a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your Charisma modifier.

This first benefit is simple but great: you add your Charisma modifier to your Initiative rolls. Your odds of going early in the combat greatly improve with this which is vital to getting and maintaining the best positioning in combat.

Getting bonuses from your Dexterity, Charisma, and any other sources is something with major effects on your character’s role in combat.

There are few substitutes for the tried-and-true strategy of hitting the enemy fast and hard before they can even react!

But the next part of the Rakish Audacity feature is where things get absolutely insane…

You also gain an additional way to use your Sneak Attack; you don’t need advantage on the attack roll to use your Sneak Attack against a creature if you are within 5 feet of it, no other creatures are within 5 feet of you, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll. All the other rules for Sneak Attack still apply to you.

First things first, take a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor. Yes, this is just as amazing as you might imagine!

As a Rogue, dealing your Sneak Attack damage as often as possible is vital. You should have very few problems landing those attacks now, so keep your pile of sneak attack dice handy. You’ll be using them a lot!

Now, you no longer need advantage on your attack roll. If you are within 5 feet of your target, don’t have disadvantage on your roll, and there are no other enemies within 5 feet of you, you get to add your Sneak Attack damage!

There are now very few scenarios in which you won’t be able to add your Sneak Attack dice to your damage roll. By dancing around enemies to keep their positioning, the Swashbuckler Rogue is poised to cut deep with every successful attack roll!

Combine that with what we covered in our Sneak Attack Guide and you’ll be a beast!

Right out of the gate at level 3, the Swashbuckler Rogue has already done well to stand out, eh?

Rest assured, these features will form the backbone of your character’s combat style and will only get better as you level up!

Panache (Level 9)

The Swashbuckler Rogue is just as charming as they are dangerous. This shows through with the Panache ability that they gain at level 9.

As an action, you can make a Charisma (Persuasion) check contested by a creature’s Wisdom (Insight) check. The creature must be able to hear you, and the two of you must share a language.

If you succeed on the check and the creature is hostile to you, it has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you and can’t make opportunity attacks against targets other than you. This effect last for 1 minute, until one of your companions attacks the target or affects it with a spell, or until you and the target are more than 60 feet apart.

If you succeed on the check and the creature isn’t hostile to you, it is charmed by you for 1 minute. While charmed, it regards you as a friendly acquaintance. This effect ends immediately if you or your companions do anything harmful to it.

It’s worth noting that this ability changes slightly depending on whether or not the creature is hostile to the Swashbuckler Rogue.

We’ll start with a hostile situation. Using the Panache ability, the Swashbuckler can use an action to make a Charisma (Persuasion) check against an enemy that can both hear and understand them. This is contested by the enemy’s Wisdom (Insight) check as the Swashbuckler attempts to taunt and goad them on.

If the creature fails, it has disadvantage on its attack rolls against all targets but the Swashbuckler. Furthermore, it can’t make attacks of opportunity against anyone but the Swashbuckler as well!

This effect lasts for 1 minute unless one of your allies attacks the target or you find yourself more than 60 feet away from the taunted enemy.

Panache in Combat – A Couple of Things to Be Aware Of

There are a couple of considerations that you will want to keep in mind when using the Swashbuckler Rogue’s Panache ability in combat.

First, the disadvantage applies to the enemy’s attacks. This means that spells that require a saving throw like Suggestion or Fireball can still effect the targets without penalty.

That evil Wizard might be more inclined to focus these kinds of spells on you, but they aren’t penalized if they don’t. That largely falls to your Dungeon Master’s ruling.

Secondly, this ability does add a level of tank-like defensiveness to the Swashbuckler Rogue’s role within the party. While they may be quick, your Swashbuckler is still squishier than, say, a barbarian.

They can certainly distract their target for a few rounds, but they’re right in the face of danger! Looking for new ways to increase your Armor Class and keeping your party’s healer nearby are both very good ideas.

Using Panache When Not In Combat

But what about using Panache in non-combat situations?

The check works the same way with the target rolling Insight against your Swashbuckler’s Persuasion roll. If the target fails, they are charmed for 1 minute and regard your Swashbuckler Rogue as a friendly acquaintance.

As you probably expect, harming your new friend will immediately end this charm effect.

You will want to make sure that you scoop up Persuasion with the Rogue’s Expertise feature at either level 1 or level 6 to help your odds of success with this ability.

It’s possible that a creature might be hostile but not in combat with you. If you can get a conversation going, you might make a new friend for just long enough to be on your merry way before things get ugly!

Recommended: Complete Guide to the Rogue in D&D 5e

Elegant Maneuver (Level 13)

Hitting level 13, the Swashbuckler Rogue lets off the gas a little bit.

Elegant Maneuver isn’t a bad ability, though it’s not quite as exciting as the one’s we’ve gotten leading up to this point.

You can use a bonus action on your turn to gain advantage on the next Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Strength (Athletics) check you make during the same turn.

In situations that rely on you sticking a landing, scaling a wall, or some other similar thing, this is useful.

It’s unlikely that the Swashbuckler will be making many attempts to trip or grapple an enemy. They might need to make the occasional Athletics or Acrobatics check as they maneuver around the field, but it probably won’t be a common occurrence.

Still, this can be useful to have in your back pocket in a pinch.

I can jump over this pit” or “I can climb this tower” have been the last words of all too many Rogues! For all of the Swashbuckler’s bravado, few things can be as humbling as taking falling damage during what you expected to be a dramatic moment!

Master Duelist (Level 17)

Do you want to never miss an attack again?

With so many ways for the Swashbuckler Rogue to outmaneuver their opponents, it’s rare that you won’t hit your mark. But your level 17 ability is here for you when it does happen!

If you miss with an attack roll, you can roll it again with advantage.

Once you do so, you can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.

With the Master Duelist, the Swashbuckler doesn’t let a failed attack roll stop them. If you miss with an attack, you can reroll the attack with advantage.

Yes. With advantage. Because you’re just that awesome.

And because that roll was at advantage… you guessed it! You get your Sneak Attack damage too!


Now, be aware that you only get one of these per short or long rest. So you should still be somewhat picky about when you use it.

If your party tends to take a fair amount of short rests, there is no reason to save this! If they tend to enjoy long marches through dungeons (and other #JustAdventurerThings) with no rests, you may want to save your use of this feature for when it really counts.

This is one of those features that’s just a perfect “chef’s kiss” on top of an already impressive subclass.


The obvious way to connect your Swashbuckler to the world around them is as… well… a Swashbuckler! They might be a pirate with the Sailor background which makes them well-accustomed to the seafaring life.

This is especially useful if your group is looking to run adventures like those in the phenomenal Ghosts of Saltmarsh book!

However, the Swashbuckler Rogue isn’t limited exclusively to being a pirate. Any duelist who focuses on quick movements, decisive strikes, and a fair amount of bravado can embody this archetype!

For example, your character might be a Noble who learned fencing from the greatest dueling instructor their family could afford.

Alternatively, they might be more of the “rough and tumble” type who had to learn the hard way that speed can often beat strength in the dark alleys of their home city.

Those who fit this roguish archetype come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they’re certainly never boring!

The options for connecting this subclass into your story are limitless!

Is the Swashbuckler Rogue Good?

The Swashbuckler Rogue archetype is exactly what I look for in a subclass. There’s just so much to enjoy here!

The way that this class expands on the Rogue’s agile fighting style to create something dynamic and useful is just fantastic. The very mechanics of this subclass lend themselves to creating sweeping descriptions of what’s happening in combat.

Even by the standards of other Rogue subclasses, the Swashbuckler has very little difficulty consistently dealing their Sneak Attack damage. This results in a truly impressive amount of damage output as long as you can maintain good positioning in combat.

But that’s honestly not difficult to achieve as a Swashbuckler. After all, these characters are all about skirmishing and dancing all around the battlefield to isolate, outmaneuver, and punish enemies!

All in all, the Swashbuckler Rogue is an incredibly fun subclass to play. If you can keep an eye out for maintaining good positioning and isolating key enemies, you’ll be an absolute beast in combat!

And why not then put that Charisma to good use with your stories of daring-do over a round of ales in the next tavern you visit? (Feel free to embellish a few details, of course!)

The Swashbuckler may not have the same out-of-combat utility that the other Rogue archetypes have, but it simply dominates combat scenarios.

The biggest threat to be wary of for the Swashbuckler is finding themselves jumping too deep into the fray. While they have plenty of mobility, they don’t want to dive in so far that they end up getting dogpiled by the enemy!

Related: Check out the full Rogue Subclass Ranking here!

Conclusion – The Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e Guide

I hope you’ve found this guide to the Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e helpful!

Everything about this subclass is so exciting and cinematic that it feels like it’s almost impossible to have a boring combat if there’s a Swashbuckler in the party.

If you’re playing a Swashbuckler, get into character and look for clever ways to interact with your environment. Describing how your character jumps back from an enemy’s attack, grabs the ship’s mast, and spins around it before lunging forward with their rapier adds cinematic excitement.

If you’re a DM, try to set up moments where the Swashbuckler can really show off their agility and bravado!

Do you have a character concept for a Swashbuckler Rogue that you’d like to share? Got any questions I can help with? Let’s chat in the comments!

And don’t forget to sign up for the Tabletop Joab newsletter below to get updates on all of the latest guides, tips, and more!