10 Best Rogue Backgrounds, Photo Sketch of Two Fencers Facing Off

10 Best Backgrounds for Rogues

So, you’ve decided to play a Rogue for your first (or seventeenth) game of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. But, you’re at a loss for what background to choose. Sure, you could go with the classic but what other good options do you have?

This article goes over 10 of the best Rogue backgrounds in D&D 5e so both new and old players can find inspiration for their character.

When pick your Rogue’s background, you should always pick the background that fits your character best. If you pick a background based purely on what you get, then that’s a bit too much like powergaming. While that’s not inherently bad, you might have more fun picking the background that fits the idea behind your character best.

Now, determining the best backgrounds for Rogues is pretty subjective. You can make almost any background work for a Rogue and still have fun playing them. But, this list is a good start for new and experienced players looking for some inspiration for their character.

With that out of the way, here are my picks for the 10 best Rogue backgrounds in D&D 5e.

1. Urchin

Rogue Backgrounds, Photo Sketch of a Newsboy Statue

Urchin is a great background for Rogues in D&D 5e.

You get two Skill proficiencies that line up perfectly with how a Rogue plays. These two skills are also found in the Rogue’s selection to start. But, getting them through Urchin instead from the Rogue itself frees up your options for other skills.

This background also gives a Rogue two Tool proficiencies. Unfortunately, one of those proficiencies includes the Thieves’ Tools which you already get from choosing the Rogue class.

The equipment from the Urchin background isn’t anything too fancy with the exception of the pet mouse. You also get some fun roleplay items to play into your character’s backstory.

Finally, the Urchin’s feature makes traveling in a city easier and faster. Great for urban adventures.

I’ll admit some bias; I love the Urchin background. You get a little mouse pet, a couple of fun skill proficiencies, and a pretty decent roleplaying feature for city-based adventures.

That said, Urchin is still a great background pick for playing a Rogue in 5e.

Choose the Urchin background if you want to play a Rogue who grew up on the streets. They know what it takes to survive in an urban environment and can navigate the busy streets faster than most.

Found in: Player’s Handbook

2. Charlatan

Photo Sketch of a Man Holding a Mask Over His Face

Charlatan is a really fun background for Rogues as they make for great Face characters.

The basic idea of the Charlatan background is your character has a secret, secondary identity. You have all the necessary paperwork to prove that identity and the ability to forge documents.

So, you get a couple Skill proficiencies that help you maintain this false identity and Tool proficiencies for disguising yourself and forging paperwork to further prove it.

You also get the equipment to support your second identity including a disguise kit and an item to corroborate your preferred method of procuring valuables.

When you choose this background, you also choose a Favorite Scheme. Basically, you choose the type of scam you like to commit for your own profit. A fun roleplaying opportunity for use in your game.

Overall, Charlatan is a fantastic background for Rogues in 5e who want to play a more social-focused character.

Choose the Charlatan background for your Rogue if you like the idea of old-timey snake oil salesmen or enjoy the theme of someone hopping from con to con. It’s a great choice for players looking to play a Face for the party.

Found in: Player’s Handbook

3. Criminal

Photo Sketch of a Man with a Tobacco Pipe

Ah, the classic Rogue background. Criminal is probably the most iconic background choice for Rogues in D&D.

As a Criminal, you get a couple Skill proficiencies to help you lie your way out of a tough situation or for sneaking into restricted areas. Both fantastic for playing your typical Rogue.

Now, you also get a couple Tool proficiencies. Unfortunately, one is for Thieves’ Tools. So, it’s kind of wasted since Rogues already have that proficiency. The other is more for flavor than anything else, but could lead to some fun shenanigans during play.

Your equipment is actually pretty bare when compared with other backgrounds. That said, you get a crowbar which I feel like a lot of Rogues forget about. It’s great for breaking into areas when lockpicking fails.

The Criminal background also gives you the Criminal Contact feature. Basically, you know someone. That someone has connections and information that you can trust. Just, don’t ask too many questions.

You also have the option of choosing what type of crime your character enjoys partaking in. So, you have a bit of a reputation when it comes to that particular crime.

Choose the Criminal background if you want to go with the classic Rogue backstory. It’s ideal for players who like the idea of "knowing a guy" for less-than-legal information or aid.

Found in: Player’s Handbook

4. Faction Agent

Photo Sketch of an Elven Woman in a Cloak

The Faction Agent background is a pretty solid choice for a Rogue.

You get one set Skill proficiency good for a Face character and your choice in another from any of the Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skills. It’s recommended you choose one that aligns with your chosen Faction for a better roleplay experience, so talk with your GM on what would be appropriate.

This background also gives you a couple extra Language proficiencies. Again, this is great for a more social-encounter focused Rogue.

Your equipment options aren’t anything too exciting. But, you get an item signifying your place in your faction which might lead to some fun roleplay opportunities.

Finally, you choose what Faction your character belongs to. Now, this depends on what factions your GM includes in the game so make sure to work with them.

Whatever you decide on, your character has access to passwords and identifiers for agents of your faction. This is great for a Rogue as your faction may trade in information or maybe conducts smuggling operations. Regardless, your character has access to safe houses and some available information thanks to a secret network of operatives. Which honestly plays well into the theme of the Rogue class.

Choose the Faction Agent background if you like the theme of having an entire criminal or otherwise secretive organization backing your Rogue.

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

5. Investigator

Photo Sketch of an Old Man Drinking from a Short Glass

The Investigator background is a lot of fun if you want to play a detective-type Rogue.

Basically, characters with this background thrive on solving puzzles. They may investigate a murder or other crime or simply enjoy the process of unlocking the secrets of mysteries.

You get a choice in Skill proficiencies from a selection of cerebral options. Mostly to either help you read people or survey and area for clues. I almost wish they had Stealth as an option as I feel that investigators often need to sneak around to avoid a confrontation, but maybe that’s just me.

The background also gives you a couple Tool proficiencies. Unfortunately, one is Thieves’ Tools, so it’s wasted on the Rogue.

And, your equipment list isn’t terribly exciting. You do get a trinket from a past case (potentially unsolved), so that opens the door for some fun roleplay opportunities at least.

The background feature for Investigator basically makes finding information easier. You know how to get access to people who might have information you need. Or, you have an idea of how to get to said information.

Choose the Investigator background for your Rogue if you like the idea of playing a detective who sneaks around to find the information they need, rules be damned.

Found in: Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

6. Courtier

Photo Sketch of a Noble Man and Woman Looking at Each Other

The Courtier background is an interesting choice for playing a Rogue. But, it plays very well into a character who prefers subterfuge and light spywork.

Basically, a Courtier character is someone familiar with bureaucracy and how noble courts or organizations operate. As such, a character with this background becomes invaluable when dealing with shifty nobles, secretive aristocrats, and clandestine organizations.

Your Skill proficiencies allow you to read people when you talk with them to help discern their intentions or talk your way into restricted areas. Both very important for Rogues looking to fill the Face role of the party.

You also get a couple extra languages to help you navigate more social encounters.

The equipment list for the Courtier is…thin, to say the least. Some clothes and a measly amount of gold and that’s it.

But, the Courtier’s feature, Court Functionary, is amazing for navigating the complex network of bureaucracy. You know how noble courts and organizations work, so you know who the major players usually are, who to talk to for information, and what you need to do to get what you want from these organizations.

Choose the Courtier background for your Rogue if you like the idea of navigating courts and other bureaucracies through wit and guile. You want your character to have a certain level of etiquette and poise to them as they weave their way to well-kept secrets.

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

7. Urban Bounty Hunter

Photo Sketch of a Woman Bounty Hunter

Playing an Urban Bounty Hunter means doing whatever it takes to hunt down someone. This works well and can be very thematic for Rogues.

This background actually comes with an option in Skill proficiencies. From talking your way through a conversation to find leads to excelling in sneaking into restricted areas, you have options to build your character the way you want.

You also get a two Tool proficiencies. Granted, one of them is for Thieves’ Tools which means it’s a bit wasted on Rogues. The other is much more for flavor and roleplaying more than anything.

Your equipment list isn’t pretty bare including just clothes and a good chunk of gold to start.

That said, the Urban Bounty Hunter’s feature, Ear to the Ground, is a lot of fun. Your character basically knows who their chosen quarries interact with and where they tend to hang out. This makes finding information about their bounties easier.

Choose the Urban Bounty Hunter background if you want to play a bounty hunter. You want your Rogue character to find individuals with bounties on their heads and enjoy the idea of sneaking around and finding their whereabouts. It’s a solid background choice for people who want to play a Face or Scout character.

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

8. Mercenary Veteran

Photo Sketch of Two Men Wielding Swords Staring Each Other Down

The Mercenary Veteran background might seem like a strange choice for Rogues. But, they’re a fun and thematic background choice for a unique character.

Playing a Mercenary Veteran Rogue aligns pretty well with the idea behind the class. You’re playing a character who sold their services in exchange for money. Rogues have a reputation of operating in their own self-interest, so having a past in a mercenary company as maybe a scout (or assassin) works well.

Your Skill proficiencies fit fairly well for a Rogue, bolstering their physical capabilities and aiding them in social encounters. They might not be the most typical Rogue skills, but they kind of make up for some of the class’ usual failings.

You also get a couple Tool proficiencies. That said, one is more for roleplay and the other is situationally useful during travel. But, they’re fun and may come in handy during your game.

The equipment list for the Mercenary Veteran background is pretty thematic. You get something that identifies you as a member of your last company as well as your rank along with a roleplay item and a bit of gold.

Mercenary Life is you background feature. This gives you the ability to identify other companies and the ability to find a bit of extra work on the side. Basically, you know some information on other companies and can make extra money. Both things many Rogues would want to know.

Choose the Mercenary Veteran background if you like the idea of your Rogue character to have a light-military background. It’s great for characters who lived a hard life and found meaning in mercenary life, taking jobs for money. This background is also a lot of fun for playing a character with a shady past concerning the actions of their company.

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

9. Sailor (Pirate)

Photo Sketch of a Pirate Wielding a Knife

Now, the Sailor background really only ever works if your game takes place on or at least near an ocean or similarly massive body of water. So, it’s a situationally good background. On the other hand, the Pirate variant of this background fits the theme perfectly.

That said, it is a pretty good background choice for 5e Rogues.

The Skill proficiencies aren’t necessarily inline with your typical Rogue. But, they cover a couple of aspects that other Rogues might be weak in. Including the Strength and observational departments.

Honestly, the same goes for their Tool proficiencies. Also, they’re only useful for sea-based travel. But, if your game takes you on an ocean-based adventure, they’ll become extremely useful.

Your equipment from the Sailor background also isn’t anything special or fancy. You get some extra rope which is kind of nice though. Never underestimate how much rope you need while playing D&D.

Now, you have two options for background feature; Ship’s Passage or the Pirate variant, Bad Reputation.

The base Sailor’s feature pretty much makes it easier to find a ship that will bear you and your companions. A pretty solid feature for sea-based games, and has the potential for roleplaying for any Rogue.

But, the Pirate variant of this background has a much more thematic feature in Bad Reputation. This feature pretty much lets your character get away with petty crimes due to their somewhat fearsome reputation. And, what D&D Rogue wouldn’t love to get away with small crimes?

Choose the Pirate background if you want to play a pirate. Plain and simple. You want your Rogue to be someone of the sea with the bad reputation and all the perks (and trouble) it comes with.

Found in Player’s Handbook

10. City Watch

Photo Sketch of a Man Wearing a Wide-Brimmed Hat

This background might seem antithetical to the Rogue. But, the City Watch background can be a fun way to subvert expectations.

Basically, your character served as a guard, identifying and stopping criminals in their community. Does this fit with the Rogue? Maybe not at first glance, but the same abilities Rogues get to commit crimes could help them in stopping them as well. So, the theme can still work.

Your Skill proficiencies bolster your character’s physical capabilities and their ability to read others in social situations. Maybe atypical for Rogues, but they still fit fairly well when you consider these characters need some strength for all the climbing and running they need to do.

You also get a couple extra languages with this background. Great for any character who wants a bit more of a social focus.

The equipment list is a bit fun for a Rogue. Some stuff to identify your character as a member of the watch and a bit of gold. You do get a horn so you can do your best Boromir impression when your character inevitably gets into trouble.

Your roleplay feature, Watcher’s Eye basically helps you find information on both the local guard and criminal activity. Which, if you’re playing a Face Rogue or a character who enjoys gathering information, is fantastic as you can deal with both sides of the law. Albeit, one may treat your character more favorably than the other.

Choose the City Watch background for your Rogue if you like the idea of playing a character with a somewhat noble past. They use their abilities of infiltration and stealth to serve their community.

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide


What’s your favorite background for the Rogue in 5e? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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