Inquisitive Rogue 5e: Greatest Detectives in the Forgotten Realms

Inquisitive Rogue 5e Featured

If you’re looking for a subclass that hearkens back to the days of Sherlock Holmes, the Inquisitive rogue in 5e is perfect for you. This subclass is designed for those who like to poke around to discover what truths lie below the surface. With an eye for detail and more than a knack for reading the true nature of people, the Inquisitive is perfect for those who want to get inside their enemies’ minds and crack that uncrackable case.

If you want to play the detective, the Inquisitive archetype is for you. But what are the trade-offs? Let’s uncover what makes this investigative archetype tick as well as explore its weaknesses.

In this guide, we cover:

  • What is the Inquisitive rogue in 5e?
  • What sets the Inquisitive rogue in 5e apart from other archetypes?
  • Abilities and features for the Inquisitive rogue in 5e
  • Tips for the Inquisitive rogue in 5e
  • Is the rogue Inquisitive subclass a good choice?

What is the Inquisitive rogue in 5e?

The Inquisitive is one of the more innovative rogue archetypes. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduced it along with the Mastermind, Scout, and Swashbuckler.

As an archetypal Inquisitive, you excel at rooting out secrets and unraveling mysteries. You rely on your sharp eye for detail, but also on your finely honed ability to read the words and deeds of other creatures to determine their true intent. You excel at defeating creatures that hide among and prey upon ordinary folk, and your mastery of lore and your keen deductions make you well equipped to expose and end hidden evils.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, p. 45

A typical rogue relies on sneaking around, thieving, and setting himself up for deadly Sneak Attacks. But the Inquisitive rogue relies on keen observational abilities to solve problems, get to the bottom of unsolvable mysteries, and end hidden evils.

What sets the Inquisitive rogue in 5e apart from other archetypes?

The Inquisitive rogue is a subclass that thrives outside of combat. This is unique because Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition is a roleplaying game with a heavy focus on combat. The official classes revolve primarily around features and abilities they use in combat. So we don’t see many official subclasses that specialize in abilities and features outside of that.

There are plenty of homebrew classes for that though if you want to explore other less combat-focused archetypes. The scholar is an excellent example of a popular non-combat-focused homebrew class.

Remember, D&D is about your adventuring party, so it’s not as if everyone will die because YOUR character isn’t combat-focused. You still get Sneak Attack and all of the standard features and abilities.

Abilities and Features for the Inquisitive rogue in 5e

Inquisitive Rogue Features & Abilities

  • 3rd Level—Ear for Deceit, Eye for Detail, Insightful Fighting
  • 9th Level—Steady Eye
  • 13th Level—Unerring Eye
  • 17th Level—Eye for Weakness

Ear for Deceit (3rd Level)

This first Inquisitive ability gives you a keen ear detecting deception.

When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you develop a talent for picking out lies. Whenever you make a Wisdom (Insight) check to determine whether a creature is lying, treat a roll of 7 or lower on the d20 as an 8.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, p. 45

One might argue this isn’t a fantastic ability, but it doesn’t need to be. You’re a 3rd level rogue so you already have the foundational abilities and you just received three more abilities for choosing the Inquisitive subclass.

Ear for Deceit helps to prevent you from failing insight checks. The idea is that the Inquisitive is so adept at detecting deception that it’s difficult to fail. As the description of the Inquisitive states, “You rely on your sharp eye for detail, but also on your finely honed ability to read the words and deeds of other creatures to determine their true intent.”

So it’s a good idea to prioritize your Intelligence and Wisdom ability scores after Dexterity. Remember, the Inquisitive is not combat-focused, so double down on what the archetype excels at.

The downside of this ability is that it is made obsolete once the rogue reaches 11th level and acquires Reliable Talent.

By 11th level, you have refined your chosen skills until they approach perfection. Whenever you make an ability check that lets you add your proficiency bonus, you can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10.

Player’s Handbook, p. 96

Some criticize the Inquisitive subclass as a result of this, but is that reasonable? How many other subclasses get three abilities at 3rd level? I think it’s a great compromise to give the archetype a lower quality version of an ability every rogue gets later when the Inquisitive also gets two other abilities at the same time.

Eye for Detail (3rd Level)

The next ability brings the detective nature of the Inquisitive rogue into battle. Eye for Detail expands the Cunning Action feature to include your sharp eye—aka quick Perception and Investigation checks.

Starting at 3rd level, you can use a bonus action to make a Perception (Wisdom) check to spot a hidden creature or object or to make an Investigation (Intelligence) check to uncover or decipher clues.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, p. 46

The Cunning Action feature is already solid. So I like the idea of incorporating the subclass’s flavor into a standard rogue trait rather than granting a separate ability.

In addition, because you can relegate Perception and Investigation checks to your bonus actions, your standard action is freed up for other activities. If a hidden creature is present, you can use your standard action and bonus action to detect it. And if you’re trying to solve a puzzle while fighting off waves of skeletons, you’ll have double the opportunity to search for clues.

Do you want to maximize your detective abilities as an Inquisitive rogue in 5e?

Take advantage of Expertise and double your proficiency bonus in Perception and Investigation. For one, Perception is one of the most used skills in the game. So being more perceptive will help your entire party. Investigation is used less often, but you are a rogue. So ideally you are checking for traps and as an Inquisitive, ideally you are also investigating.

But if you don’t want to double down on Investigation checks, the other Inquisitive ability you receive at 3rd level provides an alternative.

Art by Mainyuu

Insightful Fighting (3rd Level)

The third ability lets you to use Sneak Attack without needing advantage on the attack roll. Instead, you use your bonus action to make an Insight check against the target’s Charisma (Deception).

“At 3rd level, you gain the ability to decipher an opponent’s tactics and develop a counter to them. As a bonus action, you can make a Wisdom (Insight) check against a creature you can see that isn’t incapacitated, contested by the target’s Charisma (Deception) check. If you succeed, you can use your Sneak Attack against that target even if you don’t have advantage on the attack roll, but not if you have disadvantage on it.

This benefit lasts for 1 minute or until you successfully use this feature against a different target.”

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, p. 46

This is great when combined with Ear for Deceit because Ear for Deceit sets a hard floor for your Insight checks. So if you choose Insight with Expertise and you prioritize Wisdom as an ability score, the enemy will have a difficult time rolling a high enough Deception check thanks to your high Wisdom modifier.

You are trading your ability to Disengage or Hide after attacking. But the result is a full minute (10 combat rounds) of guaranteed Sneak Attack damage! So you don’t even need to worry about trying to gain advantage on an attack roll to get that sweet rogue damage.

This is great for situations where you’re fighting a few powerful foes because you’ll be attacking the same enemy repeatedly. And if a foe attempts to run, you’ll get Sneak Attack damage on the opportunity attack!

But it’s not as effective when you’re fighting a large group of weaker enemies because how many attacks will you get in before the enemy dies? In that case, you might be better off trying to gain advantage on an attack roll and using your bonus action for Disengage or Hide.

Steady Eye (9th Level)

You have the foundation to be a great detective, so next we build on it with Steady Eye.

Starting at 9th level, you gain advantage on any Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation) check if you move no more than half your speed on the same turn.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, p. 46

If the description just read, “Starting at 9th level, you gain advantage on any Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation) check,” then I would argue this is a phenomenal feature for a non-combat archetype.

So let’s make the assumption that this can be used outside of combat as long as you can walk slowly.

Combine this with Eye for Details and you’ll be able to spot hidden creatures, traps, and decipher clues without issue. If I was playing this archetype, I would ask my DM if I can modify this to give me advantage on any Investigation and Perception checks.

Art by rudiindra4

Unerring Eye (13th Level)

This next feature grants you the ability to detect magic in the form of illusions, shapechangers (not in their original form), and generally deceptive magic.

Beginning at 13th level, your senses are almost impossible to foil. As an action, you sense the presence of illusions, shapechangers not in their original form, and other magic designed to deceive the senses within 30 feet of you, provided you aren’t blinded or deafened. You sense that an effect is attempting to trick you, but you gain no insight into what is hidden or into its true nature.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once), and you regain all expended uses of it when you finish a long rest.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, p. 46

It never hurts to have more opportunities to detect magical effects and creatures, so this is a valuable ability. And if you’re doubling down on the detective aspect of this archetype, then you prioritized Wisdom, giving you a higher Wisdom modifier which lets you maximize the number of time you can use your Unerring Eye.

This ability would be great for campaigns involving beings with shapechanging abilities like dragons, greatwyrms, vampires, and werewolves.

Unfortunately, Unerring Eye doesn’t give you insight into the source of the magic, just that there is deceptive magic within 30 feet of you. Let’s say you’re in a crowded town square and you use Unerring Eye. You detect there is deceptive magic around you, but you don’t know that it’s Bahumut disguised as a homeless man sitting near the fountain.

This ability is particularly useful if you already know what you’re looking for and have the luxury of narrowing down the potential sources of the magic you’re detecting.

Eye for Weakness (17th Level)

The final ability you receive for a non-combat-focused subclass is a feature that grants you more sneaky damage.

At 17th level, you learn to exploit a creature’s weaknesses by carefully studying its tactics and movement. While your Insightful Fighting feature applies to a creature, your Sneak Attack damage against that creature increases by 3d6.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, p. 46

At first, this might seem underwhelming. You have to use your bonus action for Insightful Fighting, and then your Sneak Attack damage against that creature increases by 3d6.

An extra 3d6 at 17th level?

It doesn’t sound like much, but it is.

At 17th level, a rogue inflicts an extra 9d6 sneaky damage, or an average of 31.5 damage. With Insightful Fighting activated, the rogue’s sneaky damage increases to 12d6 (average of 42 damage) AND you don’t need to gain advantage on an attack in order to inflict that extra damage!

If you are fighting a difficult enemy—at 17th level that sounds reasonable—what’s the damage difference over 10 rounds?

Without Insightful Fighting, that’s 31.5 x 10 rounds = 315 damage.

With Insightful Fighting, that’s 42 x 10 rounds = 420 damage.

That’s nothing to laugh at. And I appreciate how this final skill builds on one of the first abilities the rogue gains as an Inquisitive. It is a sweet cherry on top.

Tips for the Inquisitive rogue in 5e

How do you connect an Inquisitive rogue in 5e to the party?

Compared to the stereotypical lone wolf, it’s easy to rationalize Inquisitive rogues joining a party of adventurers. Maybe you’re on the hunt for a specific individual that the party is also looking for. Maybe you were hired by a wealthy patron to track down a magical artifact. Or maybe the party recruits you to help in unraveling mysteries or hunting down other rogues.

You don’t even need to be an edge lord!

Which race should you choose for an Inquisitive rogue in 5e?

Well, you’re a rogue and you’re playing 5e, so you need Dexterity. And Inquisitive rogues rely on a lot of Insight checks, Perception checks, and Investigation checks, so Wisdom and Intelligence are important.

Below is a list of 5e races that receive bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence or Wisdom.


The aarakocra receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom.

Elf (High)

High elves receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Intelligence.

First, all elves have darkvision so you are better able to perceive and investigate in low light conditions.

As a high elf, you gain access to a cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list. From a roleplaying perspective, I’d look at cantrips like Mage Hand to acquire objects or artifacts that might be out of reach. Or prestidigitation for maintaining your flawless detective outfit.

Elf (Wood)

Wood elves receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom, and darkvision.

As a wood elf, you get Mask of the Wild. This ability allows you to hide when you are only partially obscured by things such as foliage, heavy rain, snowfall, mist, etc. Mask of the Wild is perfect for a sneaky type.

Elf (Eladrin)

Eladrin elves receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Intelligence, and darkvision.

Eladrin elves have Fey Step which grants them the ability to use misty step once after a short or long rest. This is great if you need to get out of a sticky combat situation. In other words, it’s great for rogues, and perfect for the Inquisitive rogue because they are not as combat-focused as the other subclasses.

Halfling (Ghostwise)

Ghostwise halflings receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom.

Halflings get the Lucky trait which allows them to reroll a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. So that’s great for your Perception, Insight, and Investigation checks.

Additionally, they have the Silent Speech ability. This allows you to speak telepathically to any creature within 30 feet.

Halfling (Lotusden)

Lotusden halflings receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom, and the Lucky trait.

These halflings have two useful racial abilities.

One is Child of the Wood which grants you various druid spells at 1st level (druidcraft cantrip), 3rd level (entangle), and 5th level.

The second is Timberwalk. This makes it more difficult for others to track you and it allows you to move normally across difficult terrain made of nonmagical plants and undergrowth.


Kenku receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom.

The kenku make for some of the best rogues, period. Kenku have Expert Forgery to duplicate documents that might be important in your detective work.

Kenku training provides you with proficiency in two of the following: Acrobatics, Deception, Stealth, or Sleight of Hand. So you can use your Expertise to gain proficiency in other skills you want for your detective.

And mimicry lets you mimic sounds and words/sentences you hear. So this can include all of the cheesy detective lines the kenku might have picked up in his apprenticeship. And maybe that someone talks just like Sherlock Holmes.

Tiefling (Feral)

Feral tieflings receive +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Intelligence, and darkvision.

Feral tieflings know the thaumaturgy cantrip at 1st level. Then at 3rd level, you can cast hellish rebuke. Then at 5th level, you can cast darkness. However, as a tiefling, your spellcasting ability is Charisma.

Conclusion—Is the rogue Inquisitive subclass a good choice?

This depends on whether you prefer roleplaying or min-maxing.

I would enjoy playing this archetype because I don’t care much for min-maxing my characters.

“Given the opportunity, players will optimize the fun out of a game.”

I love the roleplaying aspect of Dungeons and Dragons. And I rely on my adventuring companions to play their roles. So if my character is a little weak in combat, that’s ok. Because there are likely other characters in my party who are great at combat.

So if you’re looking for a min-maxed approach, this might not be the subclass for you. There are much better options for maximizing the damage and skill checks you’ll be rolling for. Take a look at Arcane Trickster and Assassin.

If you want to play a classic detective character who uses their wit and cunning to solve mysteries, this is one of the best choices. The Inquisitive receives several bonuses to Insight, Investigation, and Perception checks. And can utilize the detective nature of the subclass to get sneaky damage on enemies without needing to rely on hiding and flanking.

What do you think of the Inquisitive subclass? What would you change, if anything, about this subclass to make it better? Let us know in the comments!

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