Phantom Rogue 5e: Macabre Agent of the Dark Gods

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Most rogue subclasses are different specialized flavors of the rogue. The Inquisitive is great at playing the detective and the Scout excels at wilderness survival and ranged combat. But the Phantom rogue in 5e is a different beast.

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced the Phantom to Dungeons and Dragons as a rogue who dances a fine line between life and death.

The Phantom rogue lives on the Material Plane but draws his or her power from the Negative Material Plane, otherwise known as the Plane of Death.

In this guide, we cover:

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

What is the Phantom rogue in 5e?

The Phantom is a rogue that possesses a mystical relationship with death. Phantom rogues steal and learn from those who have passed and allow themselves to be consumed by energy from the Negative Material Plane. Eventually, a Phantom can use that energy to phase into the Negative Material Plane like a ghost. As a result, they make excellent spies.

Art by LucasParolin

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

The Phantom rogue in 5e draws power from the dead while most other archetypes rely on physical abilities to accomplish their objectives. Phantom rogues start off with the ability to “throw” half of their Sneak Attack damage on one target to a second target.

Then they gain access to soul trinkets which allow for a variety of benefits including advantage on Constitution and death saving throws to being able to ask questions of the dead.

Finally, Phantom rogues can become incorporeal and fly, granting them an edge over other rogues in and out of combat.

Abilities and Features for the Inquisitive rogue in 5e

Inquisitive Rogue Features & Abilities

  • 3rd Level—Whispers of the Dead, Wails from the Grave
  • 9th Level—Token of the Departed
  • 13th Level—Ghost Walk
  • 17th Level—Death’s Friend

Whispers of the Dead (3rd Level)

With this ability, you call on the dead to imbue you with their abilities. At the end of a short or long rest, gain proficiency in one skill or tool of your choice. You lose the proficiency when you use Whispers of the Dead to choose a different skill or tool.

Heading out into the wilderness? Call on a spirit to impart upon you her knowledge of Nature or Survival.

Making your way to an abandoned wizard’s tower? Go for proficiency in Arcana.

Pick up a new set of tools? There’s bound to be a dead guy with a proficiency for that!

Whispers of the Dead allows you to adapt and prepare for scenarios you know you’re walking into. This is a solid ability because you can use it after a short or long rest. A short rest is a great idea any time you know you’re walking into danger.

Art by allyartse

Wails from the Grave (3rd Level)

Sneak Attack is a rogue’s specialty. Most rogue subclasses include at least one ability that amplifies Sneak Attack in some way. Wails from the Grave is that ability for the Phantom rogue in 5e.

Use Sneak Attack on one creature and use Wails from the Grave to transfer your momentum of death to a second target. The second target must be within 30 feet of the first target and you roll half the number of Sneak Attack dice to deal necrotic damage. The second target is assaulted by the deafening sounds of wailing dead.

Your proficiency bonus is the number of times you can use Wails from the Grave. And you regain all uses after a long rest.

Being able to hit multiple targets with half your normal Sneak Attack dice is a great addition to the Phantom rogue. The rogue playstyle generally consists of darting in and out of the action to get Sneak Attack damage in while avoiding one-on-one confrontation.

So being able to throw some damage at a nearby enemy when you land a Sneak Attack is excellent. It’s even better if you take a ranged approach because you can better target closely grouped enemies without running around the battlefield.

Tokens of the Departed (9th Level)

Vanquish an enemy and collect a sliver of the creature’s soul. Open your hand, palm up, and use Tokens of the Departed as a reaction when a creature dies to cause a Tiny trinket to materialize in your hand. The dying creature must be within 30 feet of you and you must be able to see the creature.

The DM chooses the form of the trinket or asks you to roll on the Trinkets table (page 160 of the Player’s Handbook).

The maximum number of soul trinkets you can possess is equal to your proficiency bonus.

What do soul trinkets do?
  • Carry a soul trinket on you to strengthen your life force. You gain advantage on death saving throws and Constitution saving throws.
  • Destroy one soul trinket (on your person) to use Wails from the Grave without expending a use of the ability itself. This must be done on your turn when you deal Sneak Attack damage.
  • Destroy one soul trinket to summon the spirit associated with the trinket and ask it one question. You do not need to be in possession of the trinket to destroy it. The spirit answers your question in a language it knows, it is not obligated to tell you the truth, and it gives you as concise an answer as possible so it can depart. The spirit only knows what it knew in life.

This is a great ability because of its versatility and the flavor it adds. Firstly, strengthening your life force just by carrying a soul trinket encourages players not to destroy them recklessly, to always have at least one on them.

Secondly, destroying one amplifies your Sneak Attack damage with a free use of Wails from the Grave. But it still makes you think strategically because you might not want to use it if you’re running low on soul trinkets in a tough fight because of my point above.

And lastly, if your party kills someone you need information from, capture the soul in a trinket and take care of the task later. Also, if someone in your party has the spell speak with dead, you might be able to get away with asking one extra question with the soul trinket.

Phantom rogue in 5e ghost walking through a door between two guards
Art by JoeSlucher

Ghost Walk (13th Level)

Your Phantom becomes a phantom.

Use your bonus action to adopt an ethereal form with:

  • a flying speed of 10 feet per round
  • the ability to hover
  • disadvantage on attack rolls against you
  • the ability to move through creatures and objects treating them as difficult terrain (but you take 1d10 force damage if you end your turn inside a creature or object)

Your spectral form lasts 10 minutes or until you use another bonus action to end it. You regain use of Ghost Walk after a long rest.

However, if you destroy a soul trinket during the bonus action you use to activate Ghost Walk, you do not expend a use of Ghost Walk.

Death’s Friend (17th Level)

Your intimate relationship with death allows you to deal necrotic damage to both creatures when you use Wails from the Grave.

Additionally, the spirits of the dead are generous enough with their souls to place a soul trinket in your hand at the end of a long rest if you don’t have any.

Drow Phantom rogue in 5e with two daggers
Art by captdiablo

Tips for the Phantom rogue in 5e

How do you connect a Phantom rogue in 5e to the party?

Phantom rogues are sought out for their espionage abilities, so might the party be in need of a spy? Conversely, maybe someone hired you to spy on the party. Your mission could involve acting as a friendly companion to the party while you spy on them for a minor or major villain. You and the DM could work on a redemption arc in which you come to like the party but still have a mission to accomplish and so you have to make a choice between revealing your true identity and staying loyal to your employer.

Can Wails from the Grave target the same creature?

No. The description specifically states you choose a second creature you can see within 30 feet of the first.

Which race should you choose for a Scout rogue in 5e?

You chose the rogue class and you’re playing 5e, so you need Dexterity. Beyond that, the Phantom doesn’t rely on other ability scores. If you want to play it safe, look at races which offer bonuses to Constitution in addition to Dexterity.

Conclusion—Is the Phantom a good rogue?

Yes, but the power of the Phantom rogue in 5e kicks in when you acquire Tokens of the Departed and Ghost Walk. So if your campaign is likely to end before level 9 or level 13, consider one of the other rogue subclasses.

At 9th level, Tokens of the Departed provides you with versatile soul trinkets. You can carry at least one to gain advantage on death saving throws and Constitution saving throws, destroy one to amplify your Sneak Attack damage without expending a use of Wails from the Grave, and destroy one to talk to the recently departed soul. Then at 13th level, Ghost Walk enables you to move through solid matter, fly, hover, and you can use soul trinkets to negate expending a use of Ghost Walk.

The chemistry between the Phantom’s abilities is exceptional. But again, if your campaign isn’t likely to reach those levels, all you get is an extra proficiency and extra Sneak Attack damage.

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

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