Basic Combat Rogue Guide (3.5e Optimized Character Build)

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Your basic combat rogue build with many variants to show off the possibilities.


  • Complete Warrior
  • Complete Scoundrel

Game Rule Components[edit]


Race: Halfling (alternatively, Whisper Gnome if Races of Stone is allowed)

ECL Class/HD/LA Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Feats Class
Fort Ref Will
1st Rogue 1 +0 +0 +2 +0 Two-Weapon Fighting Sneak Attack +1d6, Trapfinding
2nd Swashbuckler 1 +1 +2 +2 +0 Weapon Finesse
3rd Rogue 2 +2 +2 +3 +0 Optional Evasion
4th Rogue 3 +3 +3 +3 +1 Sneak Attack +2d6, Trap Sense +1
5th Rogue 4 +4 +3 +4 +1 Uncanny Dodge
6th Swashbuckler 2 +5 +4 +4 +1 Daring Outlaw Grace +1, Sneak Attack +3d6
7th Swashbuckler 3 +6 +4 +5 +2 Insightful Strike, Sneak Attack +4d6
8th Swashbuckler 4 +7 +5 +5 +2
9th Swashbuckler 5 +8 +5 +5 +2 Improved Two-Weapon Fighting Dodge Bonus +1, Sneak Attack +5d6
10th Swashbuckler 6 +9 +6 +6 +3
11th Swashbuckler 7 +10 +6 +6 +3 Acrobatic Charge, Sneak Attack +6d6
12th Swashbuckler 8 +11 +7 +6 +3 Greater Two-Weapon Fighting Improved Flanking
13th Swashbuckler 9 +12 +7 +7 +4 Sneak Attack +7d6
14th Swashbuckler 10 +13 +8 +7 +4 Dodge Bonus +2
15th Swashbuckler 11 +14 +8 +7 +4 Optional Grace +2, Lucky, Sneak Attack +8d6
16th Swashbuckler 12 +15 +9 +8 +5
17th Swashbuckler 13 +16 +9 +8 +5 Acrobatic Skill Master, Sneak Attack +9d6
18th Swashbuckler 14 +17 +10 +8 +5 Optional Weakening Critical
19th Swashbuckler 15 +18 +10 +9 +6 Dodge Bonus +3, Sneak Attack +10d6
20th Swashbuckler 16 +19 +11 +9 +6

At level 20: Rogue 4 / Swashbuckler 16

Optional Feats[edit]

  • Craven (Champions of Ruin) to add more sneak attack damage
  • Improved Buckler Defense (Complete Warrior) for more AC
  • Shadow Blade (Tome of Battle) to add dex to damage
  • Deepspawn (Lords of Madness) for more attacks per round
  • Snap Kick (Tome of Battle) for more attacks per round
  • Vexing Flanker (Player's Handbook 2) for for a higher attack bonus when flanking
  • Telling Blow (Player's Handbook 2) when combined with a keen kukri will let you Sneak Attack more often
  • Sacred Strike (Book of Exalted Deeds) upgrades your sneak attack dice from d6 do d8 against evil creatures
  • Staggering Strike (Complete Adventurer) will limit your foes to a single standard action
  • Go Human or Changeling and pick up Able Learner (Races of Destiny) to have the opportunity to maintain trapfinding skills (Search, Disable Device) high throughout your progression

Optional Items[edit]

  • Sword of Subtlety is a steal, giving you massive boosts when Sneak Attacking
  • Rogue's Vest (Magic Item Compendium) for an extra 1d6 Sneak Attack damage
  • Bracers of the Hunter (Secrets of Xen'drik) for an extra 1d6 Sneak Attack damage
  • Deadly Precision enhancement (Magic Item Compendium) for an extra 1d6 damage when Sneak Attacking
  • Blurstrike enhancement (Magic Item Compendium) to easily Sneak Attack when alone
  • Deathstrike Bracers (Magic Item Compendium) to Sneak Attack foes that you couldn't normally hurt
  • Use Magic Device on a wand of Hunter's Eye (Player's Handbook 2) for more sneak attack damage
  • Use Magic Device on a wand of Wraithstrike (Spell Compendium) to target Touch AC
  • Use Magic Device on a wand of Grave Strike, Vine Strike, or Golem Strike to sneak attack Undead, Plants, or Constructs respectively. (Found in Complete Adventurer and Spell Compendium)
  • Bracers of Murder (Drow of the Underdark) Profane Bonus +2 as well as Any result of a 1 on Sneak Attack Reroll

Optional Classes[edit]

  • Pick up the Penetrating Strike alternate class feature in Dungeonscape to add extra Sneak Attack-like damage foes normally immune
    • A lesser form of this (only works on Undead) is Death's Ruin found in Complete Champion
    • A greater form is found in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft
  • The Shield of Blades alternate class feature in Player's Handbook 2 will net you extra AC whenever you attack with both weapons
  • Two levels of Swordsage (Tome of Battle) will net you wisdom to AC when in light armor, Weapon Focus, open up the ability to take the Shadow Blade feat, and net you some sweet maneuvers, especially if you take the first after level 4 and the second at level 8 or 9. These include...
    • Adding 1d6+IL to all attacks in a round (Burning Blade)
    • Attacking with both weapons as a standard action (Wolf Fang Strike)
    • A short-range teleport (Shadow Jaunt)
    • Shoring up a low saving throw modifier if you invest in Concentration (Moment of Perfect Mind, Mind Over Body, Action Before Thought)
    • The ability to use Greater Invis that lasts during your turn for free Sneak Attack (Cloak of Deception)
    • Being able to flank alone through the use of a summoned flanker (Distracting Ember)
    • Allowing you to move as a swift action so you can continue full-attacking (Sudden Leap)
    • The ability to easily flank when you and an ally are adjacent to the same foe (!!!) (Island of Blades)
    • Gaining an extra +2d6 Sneak Attack when you flank normally and don't require Island of Blades (Assassin's Stance)
  • Invisible Blade (Complete Warrior) will continue advancing your Sneak Attack progression while giving you full BAB and some nice class features. The original author offered a change of prerequisites found here (9th post down)
    • Saved another version here in case the other one's taken down
  • Nightsong Enforcer, Shadowbane Inquisitor (Complete Adventurer) and Ronin (Complete Warrior) are three other classes that advance both full BAB and Sneak Attack


  • This build allows you to maintain a high Sneak Attack progression while keeping the high BAB needed to hit foes while under the penalty of Two-Weapon Fighting

Let's take a look at a basic combat rogue at level 20 while flanking, with the above progression. The optional feats will be Martial Study (Shadow Hand maneuver), Martial Stance (Island of Blades), and Shadow Blade. We'll be fighting with two +5 Shadow Hand Flaming Frost Corrosive Shock Swords of Subtlety. Base Dex is 16, +2 from halfling.

  • Dexterity: 16 (Base) + 2 (Racial) + 6 Item) + 5 (Level) + 5 (Tome) = 34 (+12)
  • Attack: 19 (BAB) + 12 (Dex) + 5 (Magic) + 3 (Shadow Hand) + 4 (Subtlety) + 1 (Size) - 2 (TWF) +2 (Flanking) = 44/44/39/39/34/34/29
  • Damage: 1d6 (Shortsword) + 4d6+5 (Magic) + 12 (Shadow Blade) + 4 (Subtlety) + 10d6 (Sneak Attack) = 73.5 on average
  • On a full attack against an AC of 40 that's 441 DPR (the SA damage will be halved if the target is normally immune to Sneak Attack due to Penetrating Strike)

Combat Sequence[edit]

  • Get in close in a flanking position and full attack as much as possible

Munchkin-Size Me[edit]

  • Have a friendly caster cast Haste or Snake's Swiftness on you


  • Creatures with a lot of DR or those immune to Sneak Attack

DM Counters[edit]

  • Usual melee defences apart from AC (illusions, concealment, distance, etc)
  • Creatures that don't stay in one place

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