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 Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e Guide is for you!
Ahoy me hearties!
- 1 What is the Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e?
- 2 The Swashbuckler’s Role in the Party
- 3 Swashbuckler Rogue Abilities
- 4 Connections
- 5 Is the Swashbuckler Rogue Good?
- 6 Conclusion – The Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e Guide
What is the Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e?
These 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.
The Swashbuckler’s Role in the Party
The Swashbuckler Rogue 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. They can outmaneuver many enemies and even force enemies to duel them with their Panache ability.
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 Abilities
The Swashbuckler Rogue’s abilities are a fantastic blend of style and substance. They’re useful, full of dynamic flavor, and open up tons options for Rogues of any playstyle!
The Swashbuckler is built for skirmishing and the Fancy Footwork ability at level 3 really highlights this.
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 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. If you haven’t read our article explaining Action Economy, that’s one that you should definitely check out!
With the Rakish Audacity ability, you also gain a couple other very valuable abilities when you decide to hoist the Jolly Roger at level 3!
The 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!
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!
Secondly, the Swashbuckler Rogue gets a new way to use their Sneak Attack feature.
Now, the Rogue no longer needs advantage on the attack roll. If they are within 5 feet of their target, don’t have disadvantage on their roll, and there are no other enemies within 5 feet of the Swashbuckler, they get to add their Sneak Attack damage!
There are now very few scenarios in which the Rogue won’t be able to add their Sneak Attack dice to their damage roll. By dancing around their enemies to keep their positioning, the Swashbuckler is poised to cut deep with every successful attack roll!
Combine that with what we covered in the 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. These abilities will form the backbone of your character’s combat style and will only get better as you level up!
The Swashbuckler Rogue is just as charming as they are dangerous. This shows through with the Panache ability that they gain at level 9.
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.
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 the Swashbuckler’s Persuasion roll. If the target fails, they are charmed for 1 minute and regard the 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!
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.
With it, you can use a bonus action on your turn to get advantage on the next Acrobatics or Athletics check that you make this 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!
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!
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 get your Sneak Attack damage!
This ability recharges when you finish a 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 ability for when it really counts.
This is one of those abilities that’s just a perfect “chef’s kiss” on top of an already impressive subclass.
The obvious way to connect a Swashbuckler into 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!
Though 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!
A 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.
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.
Much like in my guide to another Rogue subclass, the Arcane Trickster, I’m forcing myself to reserve judgement until all of the Rogue subclass guides have been published. But I know that the Swashbuckler will likely find itself towards the top of the list when I release the Rogue subclass ranking!
Exactly where, though, we’ll have to see!
But no matter where it falls in that ranking, I would have to give a definitive “yes!” to this Rogue archetype.
Update: You can check out the full Rogue Subclass Ranking here!
Conclusion – The Swashbuckler Rogue in D&D 5e Guide
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!
Everything about this subclass is 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!
Want to get the most out of your Rogue? You’ll need to check out my Complete Guide to the Rogue in 5e!