When building a rogue with the phantom archetype in DnD 5e, consider the following:
- Choose a creepy race with Dexterity: kenku, feral tiefling.
- Build classic rogue with thieves’ tools, finesse weapons and Stealth.
- Use Phantom abilities: Whispers of the Dead, Wails from the Grave…
- Remember higher-level rogue abilities: Uncanny Dodge, Evasion, Reliant Talent…
In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, the Phantom archetype is introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, creating a rogue connected to death with ghostly abilities. This supernatural theme can work for several rogues: thieves who pass through walls, agents who gather intel from spirits or assassins who master necrotic damage. Naturally, I’ll want to focus on Dexterity as my strongest ability score.
Choose a creepy race with Dexterity: kenku, feral tiefling.
Naturally, I want some flavor with this otherworldly rogue mixed with a decent Dexterity bonus. Therefore, the raven-like kenku or demon-like feral teifling are my favorite choices.
Kenku receive a +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom ability score bonus, along with several cunning racial abilities. Mimicry gives me the ability to expertly impersonate a sound or person. Plus, I can’t actually communicate with words, so this how I communicate in game. However, this makes fun roleplaying opportunities and comes in handy. I can also use Expert Forgery with anything I see, copying skill sets of other people.
Feral tieflings make for lethal assassins with a +2 Dexterity/+1 Intelligence bonus and innate magic. Hellish rebuke dishes out 2d12 fire damage as a reaction against targets who land hits against me. However, I also gain resistance against fire damage along with darkness and thaumaturgy spells.
Build classic rogue with thieves’ tools, finesse weapons and Stealth.
Starting out, I want to build this rogue with classic abilities and weapons. I’ll choose Stealth, Perception, Acrobatics, Insight and thieves’ tools. Plus, I’ll arm my starting rogue with Dexterity-based weapons like a rapier, shortsword, daggers and a shortbow.
Also, I gain key rogue abilities Expertise, Sneak Attack and Thieves’ Cant at level 1.
Expertise doubles my proficiency in 2 skills and/or thieves’ tools. I’m always keen on using this Expertise with Sneak and thieves’ tools because those are such crucial abilities for a rogue. However, I wouldn’t blame someone for doubling their Acrobatics check.
Sneak Attack grants me additional 2d6 damage to targets I have advantage against, which grows quickly as I level. I don’t even need advantage if an ally is within 5 feet of my target.
Thieves’ Cant is a secret language between rogues. This language can be picked up through secret symbols and codewords. Sometimes, an investigation takes the party to shady parts of the city. Rogues can tap into the culture to get the dirt on the city.
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Cunning Action comes at level 2, giving me the ability to Dash, Disengage or Hide as a bonus action. Naturally, this allows me to move through the battlefield without taking attacks of opportunity and set up Sneak Attack.
Use Phantom abilities: Whispers of the Dead, Wails from the Grave…
Level 3 grants me my Phantom Archetype along with an ability introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything: Steady Aim.
Steady Aim grants me advantage on my next attack as a bonus action. However, I can only use this action if I haven’t already moved during the turn. Plus, it makes my speed 0 until the beginning of my next turn. Therefore, I’ll probably want to use this with ranged weapons or in dire circumstances.
Level 3 also introduces me to my first spooky abilities: Whispers of the Dead and Wails from the Grave.
Whispers of the Dead gives me proficiency in any skill or tool after a short or long rest. The idea is that a spirit guides me for the day, granting me its knowledge. I can choose one skill or tool proficiency at a time, but this offers so much versatility to an already proficient character.
Wails from the Grave grants me additional damage to a nearby enemy after hitting a foe with Sneak Attack. I can choose a foe within 5 feet of the target and deal half as much Sneak Attack damage in necrotic form to them. I can use this an amount of times equal to my proficiency bonus, so I’ll want to save it to thin out groups of enemies.
My next ability learned (level 9) is Tokens of the Departed, granting me a small trinket whenever creatures die around me. I can carry a maximum amount of trinkets equal to my proficiency bonus. Then, I can use this trinket for several effects:
- While a soul trinket is on my person, I have advantage on death saving throws and Constitution saving throws. Hopefully, I’ll use this ability for more Constitution throws than saving throws, avoiding magic effects.
- When I use Sneak Attack, I can destroy one of the soul trinkets to immediately use Wails From the Grave. I’ll just replenish the trinkets as my foes drop.
- I can destroy a soul trinket to summon the spirit attached to it. I can ask the spirit 1 question and free it. However, it doesn’t have to give me an honest answer.
High-Level Phantom Abilities
Ghost Walk (level 13) gives me a translucent form as I partially phase into the realm of the dead. I can move through objects and creatures as if they were difficult terrain. However, if I end my turn inside such a space, I take 1d10 force damage. I can cast this as a bonus action and stay in this form for 10 minutes. I’ll need to finish a short or long rest to regain the feature.
Death’s Friend (level 17) is my final ability, enhancing my other abilities. I can now deal the same necrotic damage to both the first and second target when I use Wails From the Grave. Plus, I gain a soul trinket for free every day.
Remember higher-level rogue abilities: Uncanny Dodge, Evasion, Reliant Talent…
Adding to my ghostly character, I still gain cool rogue abilities from the basic class.
- Uncanny Dodge allows me to use my reaction to half the damage I take from a melee attack. —Level 5.
- Evasion grants me the ability to take 0 damage on successful Dexterity saving throws for magical area effects—Level 7.
- Reliant Talent allows me to treat a d20 skill check of 9 or lower as a 10. Before adding my modifiers, I can’t roll anything less than a 10. This only works for proficient skills, including my thieves’ tools—Level 11.
- Blindsense gives me the ability to sense creatures within 10 feet of me when in total darkness. This means total mastery of darkness, which suits this archetype well. Level 14
- Slippery Mind gives me proficiency with Wisdom saving throws, allowing me to escape traps and spells—Level 15.
- Elusive is the ultimate defensive tactic for the rogue class, negating any advantage on my enemies’ attack rolls against me.
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