His bloody hand still clutches his ill-gotten gains, an artifact that will change the destiny of empires! Burned, bitten, and shot, Slinky Underhill makes it to his Shire in bad shape but alive. Welcome to an Uncanny Dodge 5e Guide.
Bottom Line on Uncanny Dodge
Uncanny Dodge is a Feature for the Rogue class that reach 5th level and above. It allows to character to reduce all damage from opponents that the character can see by half.
How Does Uncanny Dodge Work?
Here are some examples:
Slinky Underhill, a 5th-level, male stout halfling rogue with 43 hit points (HP), is engaged in fierce combat with a dire wolf. The dire wolf scores a hit and does 10 damage points.
Because Slinky has Uncanny Dodge, only 5 points are deducted from his 43 HP, bringing him down to 38.
Slinky eventually kills the dire wolf but gets shot in the back by a goblin sniper for 5 damage points.
Because Slinky can’t see the sniper, he takes a full 5 points from his remaining 38 HP and is reduced to 33.
Slinky gets hit on the next round by the sniper for another 5 points of damage, but this time, Slinky can see the sniper.
The 5 damage points are halved to 2.5 damage points. The Player’s Handbook (PHB) doesn’t say whether we should round up or down. My grade school math teacher said you’re supposed to round up unless told otherwise. Slinky loses another 3 points from his 33 and is reduced to 30 HP.
Slinky manages to use his Stealth hide, outflank the sniper, and slit its throat. Just as he’s about to loot the body, he sees a fireball head towards him and dives for cover.
The fireball is worth 24 points of damage. Slinky has a 16 Dexterity, so he easily makes his saving throw, reducing the damage to 12. Some strict DMs may rule that Slinky would have to see the wizard casting the fireball, not just the fireball itself. As a DM, I would allow for Uncanny Dodge to reduce the damage to 6, provided that Slinky can see the fireball and is not surprised.
Regardless of whether he is down to 18 HP or 24 remaining HP, Slinky has decided that he is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!
Who Can Use Uncanny Dodge?
As per Player’s Handbook (PHB) rules:
- Rogues 5th level or higher
- Rangers with the Hunter Archetype, 15th level or higher
Is Uncanny Dodge good?
Uncanny Dodge is better than good. It’s automatic.
Unlike a feat, you do not have to buy it. Unlike an archetype or a fighting style, you do not have to choose it. If you are a rogue and you survive long enough to get to 5th level, congratulations, you have Uncanny Dodge.
Uncanny Dodge is the equivalent of Barbarian Rage Resistance for rogues, only better.
Uncanny Dodge vs Barbarian Rage Resistance
In most situations, Uncanny Dodge turns your mid-level rogue into a tank. Here’s how Uncanny Dodge stacks up against Barbarian Rage Resistance, the defensive bonus of possibly the tankiest class in the game. (Bear Totem Warriors not included)
|Damage Type||Barbarian Rage Resistance||Uncanny Dodge|
|Attacks While Asleep||No||No|
Ability Scores for Uncanny Dodge
What’s the most important Ability Score for Uncanny Dodge?
Wrong. Most rogues have a high Dexterity, but it’s irrelevant as to whether or not you can use Uncanny Dodge to halve the damage. What will affect your capability to use Uncanny Dodge is your ability to see your opponent.
That usually means your ability not to be surprised, your Perception, which is determined by your Wisdom.
Wisdom for ASIs (Ability Score Increases) is included with the following PHB races: wood elves and hill dwarves. Wood elves tend to be great Wisdom Rogues since they have ASIs in both Wisdom and Dexterity.
Dexterity is important, however, for making Uncanny Dodge not needed in the first place. The better your Dexterity, the less often you get hit. The less often you get hit, the less often you will need to halve your damage with Uncanny Dodge.
Constitution is also important for maxing out your Uncanny Dodge. Uncanny Dodge effectively doubles your hit points. The higher your Constitution, the more hit points you have to double.
Which Roguish Archetype Is Best for Uncanny Dodge?
All three archetypes can make great use of Uncanny Dodge. The amount of damage reduced by Uncanny Dodge is not stat dependent, but the maximization of its impact on the game is determined by certain abilities:
Roguish Archetypes and Dump Stats
If you want to max out 3 Abilities, you’re going to need some dump stats. Since your other archetypes are going to need high Abilities other than Dexterity and Wisdom, this could mess up your dump stat strategy.
Thieves who want to max out the Second-Story Work feature can’t use Strength as a dump stat. While they will use Dexterity for a running jump, any climbing maneuver is part of the Athletics skills proficiency and uses Strength as its Ability Modifier.
With that, if my rogue can’t use Strength as a dump stat, there’s no point in being a rogue. In 5e, there’s almost no point to having both a maxed-out Dexterity and a maxed-out Strength with the advent of finesse weapons. Back in 1e, Climb Walls was a Dexterity-based skill.
Arcane Tricksters won’t be able to use Intelligence as a dump stat because Intelligence is their modifier for casting spells. If you want to max out both your Dexterity and your Intelligence, the best PHB builds are probably forest gnomes and high elves. Their ASIs are identical.
Therefore, if you play an Arcane Trickster, you probably don’t want to use Wisdom or Constitution as dump stats. Therefore, your only options for dump stats are Strength and Charisma. If you use a standard array, this would be your raw stats before the ASIs are added: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.
|Customized Sequence||8||15 Gnome 14 Elf||13 Gnome 12 Elf||14 Gnome 15 Elf||12 Gnome 13 Elf||10|
|Racial ASI||+1 G/+2 E||+2 G/+1 E|
|4th Lvl. ASI||+2|
|Ability Scores Total||8||18||13 G/12 E||16||12 G/ 13 E||10|
*Note that G stands for forest gnome and E stands for high elf.
Of course, if I want to play a spellcasting rogue, I have a better option. It’s called a bard.
Assassins who want to max out their Imposter skills won’t be able to use Charisma as a dump stat. The same can be said for any rogues that like to use Charisma for some popular rogue skills proficiencies: Deception, Intimidation, Performance, and Persuasion. Obviously, if you want double 16s for Dexterity and Charisma, your best PHB options are drow, half-elves, and lightfoot halflings.
Of the three, half-elves get an additional plus +1 ASI to put wherever they want, so half-elves make the best Charisma Rogues. Since I’m not playing an Arcane Trickster, I’ll use Intelligence and Strength as my dump stats.
|4th Lvl. ASI||+2|
|Ability Scores Total||8||18||12||+0||14||16|
Of course, if I want to play a charisma rogue, I have a better option. Again, it’s called a bard.
Obviously, Wisdom Rogues are not a Roguish Archetype, but if you want a rogue to max out Wisdom and Dexterity, that’s what I would call a Wisdom Rogue.
I’ve already said Wisdom is the best way to max out the reliability of your Uncanny Dodge. The best PHB Wisdom Rogues are wood elves with their ASIs +2 Dexterity +1 Wisdom. My dump stats will be Intelligence and Strength.
|4th Lvl. ASI||+2|
|Ability Scores Total||8||18||12||+0||16||13|
I’m tempted to say that if you want to be a Wisdom Rogue, be a Ranger, but I won’t. Rangers have Stealth, but they can’t duplicate most of the other Rogue Skills in the way that Bards do.
Of course, if you really want to tank out, you need to max out your Constitution instead of your Wisdom. You still need good Wisdom for your Perception Checks, but maybe you’d prefer to settle for good Wisdom without maxing out Wisdom.
If you want to be a Constitution Rogue, your best PHB option is a stout halfling with Strength and Intelligence as your dump stats.
|4th Lvl. ASI||+2|
|Ability Scores Total||8||18||16||+0||16||13|
What’s the real application of Uncanny Dodge? Tankiness.
What’s the best Ability for tankiness? Constitution.
Let’s take my Constitution Rogue and make him a male halfling stout named Slinky Underhill. I’ll make him 5th level so he can have access to Uncanny Dodge and give him non-magical studded leather armor:
- Armor Class (AC) = 16
- Hit Points (HP) = 43
Not bad for a 5th-level character, but most martial classes can do better.
I was just JOKING with you, folks! Let me show you the REAL stats for a 5th-level Constitution Rogue:
- Armor Class (AC) = 16
- REAL Hit Points (HP) = 86
Unlike even bear totem warrior Barbarian Rage Resistance, Uncanny Dodge is effectively a cantrip in that you can use it all day long. Uncanny Dodge effectively doubles your hit points! Let’s see how Slinky stands up against the other martial classes with equal levels (5) and equal Constitutions (16). I’ll eliminate Barbarian Rage Resistance for the reasons already mentioned.
|CONST Rogue||5d8||86||16||C16, D16, S8||Studded|
|Barbarian||5d12||55||16||C16, S16, D12||Shield|
|Bard Valor||5d8||43||18||C16, D16, S8||Studded and Shield|
|Monk||5d8||38||17||C12, D16, W16||None|
|Fighter||5d10||49||20||C16, D10, S16||Plate and Shield|
|Paladin||5d10||49||20||C16, D10, S16||Plate and Shield|
|Ranger||5d10||38||18||C12, D16, W16||Studded and Shield|
Slinky may be giving away a few AC points to some of the classes, but 16 AC is still good and will get better as he levels up. It’s worth those AC points considering the HP advantage. Slinky nearly doubles all of the martial classes when it comes to HP! He doesn’t double the Barbarian but his HP is still 50% higher.
Why Should Rogues Max Out Uncanny Dodge?
Rogues need every Class Feature they can get to get to keep them from being underpowered. Why? Let me give you some D&D history.
Back when 1e came out, rogues didn’t exist as rogues. They were called thieves and had most of the Class Features that we now see in rogues, plus a few extras that no longer exist:
- Check For Traps
- Disarm Traps
- Set Traps (modified variant introduced by Dragon magazine
Stealth was called Move Silently and the only classes that could do it in the original Player’s Handbook were Thieves and Monks. Monks weren’t a problem because they were seriously underpowered. (1d4 for hit points)
So, if you wanted a ninja, a thief was usually your best option. Rangers didn’t have Stealth, but they had a 50% chance of surprise. That’s better than thieves at the lower levels, but thieves could catch up to and pass rangers as they leveled up.
If you wanted a super-ninja, a multi-classed thief was your best option. R.A. Salvatore’s professional assassin character Artemis Entreri was not an Assassin Thief subclass but rather a fighter-thief multi-class, and the Icewind Dale trilogy clearly states that Artemis had been trained in Stealth by a Thieves’ Guild. (I believe that was mentioned in Streams of Silver.)
5e Rogues and Stealth
Stealth in 5e is way more accessible than Moving Silently was in 1e. You don’t need to be a rogue to have Stealth anymore.
In 5e, the following classes can choose Stealth through a Class Feature: rogues, bards, monks, and rangers. Bards don’t even really need to pick Stealth, because at 2nd level their Jack of All Trades Class Feature kicks in, and they automatically get every proficiency anyway, minus a couple of proficiency points.
That means a 1st level Rogue can use Stealth to sneak up on an enemy and do an extra 1d6 worth of damage with Sneak Attack.
A 1st level Bard can use Stealth to sneak up on a whole squad of enemies and wipe them out with a Sleep Spell.
Hmm, which class should I choose?
That’s just for Class Features. I can also use Backgrounds like Criminal and Street Urchin to choose the Stealth skills proficiency. In my Drow 5e Guide: The Character we Love to Play, the Monsters we hate to Fight, I build Semiramis, a drow warlock with an Archfey patron. She chose Stealth with her Street Urchin Background and can ambush whomever she wants with Sleep Spell, Eldritch Blast, Hex, and then when she levels up: Phantasmal Force, Cloud of Daggers, Hold Person, Shatter, etc.
Because she’s a drow, it wasn’t hard for her to have double 16s in Dexterity and Charisma. Thus, she has +5 Stealth at 1st level. I could have also done the same with a sorcerer.
Had I wanted a wizard with Stealth, I could have made my character into a high elf and have 16s in Intelligence and Dexterity and chosen Stealth with my Street Urchin background.
5e Rogues and Sneak Attack
But, Rogues do more damage with their Sneak Attack as they level up, right?
Yes. By the time your Rogue has Uncanny Dodge, you’ll be doing an extra 3d6, average 9 damage points, with your Sneak Attack.
So, the Sneak Attack puts Rogues on an even footing with the other classes, right?
Not if you’re talking about fighters and rangers in a melee. That’s because they can choose the Two-Weapon Fighting Style and thus get one extra attack as a bonus action. As they level up, they can gain multiple attacks.
In my Mage Slayer 5e Guide: Is It Worth it? I included a character build for a 5h level wood elf ranger Moonwhisper and made my case for why rangers make better assassins than actual assassins, rogues with the Assassin Roguish Archetype.
As a 5th-level ranger, she has Extra Attack, and she chose the Two-Weapon Fighting Style for a total of 3 attacks per turn. Like most rangers, she has Stealth.
Let’s say both characters now have 18 Dexterity and both are using double shortswords (1d6 damage/attack). Moonwhsiper is using Two-Weapon Fighting the Fighting Style (TWFFS), and Slinky is using Two-Weapon Fighting the Bonus Action (TWFBA). Moonwhisper will get 3 attacks/turn and can use all modifiers on all attacks. Slinky will get 2 attacks/turn but will only be able to use his modifiers on 1 attack/turn, not his bonus action.
Even when Slinky uses Sneak Attack and Assassination, he only gets to use his damage modifier once per turn. Sneak Attacks and Assassination do stack, however, as explained in PHB p. 196 in the Critical Hits section.
Let’s compare damage:
|Attack Type||Prof Bonus||Dexterity||Sneak Attack||Assassinate||Grand Total|
2/turn w Sneak Attack
|+3/+0||+4/+0||3d6||NA||Normal Attack + Sneak Attack = 6-16 +3-18 = 9-34 damage total|
2/turn w Assassinate
2x Sneak Attack and Base Damage + Add Modifiers
|3d6 + 2d6= 5d6 /5-30 damage.
5-30 2x =10-60
10-60 +4 = 5-64 damage for Assassination with 2 shortswords
Slinky’s Sneak Attack makes him only a little better than equal to most rangers and fighters that practice TWFFS, and that’s only for one round. After the first turn, the Sneak Attack is over, and he goes back to 6-16 damage points/turn provided that he hits with all bonus action attacks, which he probably won’t considering that gets zero modifiers on those attacks.
Of course, when you factor in Assassinate, Slinky more than doubles Moonwhisper’s damage for that one precious round, provided that he hits with his zero-modifier bonus attack. After that, Moonwhisper will double his damage with her 3 attacks/turn.
You can say that that’s a victory for the rogue class, but at what price? My cute, furry-footed hobbit has been transformed into a cold-blooded chaotic evil Assassin! Even if he chooses Thief or Arcane Trickster, he only gets to match Moonwhisper, not double her, for that one precious round.
The point of ripping apart all of these other Rogue Class Features is to show you just how important Uncanny Dodge is to the Rogue class. You should plan to max out your Uncanny Dodge with decent stats in Wisdom and Constitution while including your rogue’s newfound tankiness in your party’s combat strategy.
As the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield exclaimed before his D&D character got killed off,
“Rogues get no respect!”
Question: Do monks have Uncanny Dodge?
Answer: No. Monks have Deflect Missiles, Patient Defense, and lots of other defenses but not Uncanny Dodge.
Question: Can Uncanny Dodge work for falling?
Answer: No. Uncanny Dodge protects against “an attacker,” and gravity and the ground do not qualify as attackers. My colleague Emily Medlock has an excellent article about fall damage in 5e on this site.
Question: Does Uncanny Dodge stack with successful saving throws?
Answer: Yes. See Slinky’s fight at the beginning.
Question: Can I use Uncanny Dodge with Dodge?
Answer: Yes. You can use Dodge as your action and reduce the likelihood that you will get hit. Then, if you do get hit, your damage will be reduced by half. Uncanny Dodge is not an action; it is a Class Feature that is constantly in effect.
Question: Can I use Uncanny Dodge against Vicious Mockery?
Answer: Yes and no. You can use Uncanny Dodge against the psychic damage but not against the disadvantage on a failed save.
Question: What if you can detect your opponent with your other sense, but you can’t see them?
Answer: RAW PHB p. 96. “an attacker that you can see.” That being said, if I were the DM, I would amend it to “an attacker that you can accurately sense.” Rogues are underpowered enough as it is.
Question: How does Sunlight Sensitivity affect Uncanny Dodge?
Answer: It doesn’t as long as you’re not blinded. You don’t have to see your attacker well, you just have to see them.
Question: How does Darkvision affect Uncanny Dodge?
Answer: Like Sunlight Sensitivity, if you can see in darkness as if it were dim light, you can see your attacker and use Uncanny Dodge.
Question: How does Blind Sense work with Uncanny Dodge?
Answer: RAW, it doesn’t, “an attacker that you can see.” Again, if I’m the DM, Blind Sense works for Uncanny Dodge because Rogues are underpowered.
Players of rogues should plan out their journey from 1st level to 5th level. They should know that Uncanny Dodge is one of the few Class Features that keeps them from being underpowered, especially in relation to bards. They don’t need to have an 18 Wisdom, but it should be 12 at the minimum, and they must acquire the Perception proficiency by 5th level, or they will be sorry.
I hope DMs appreciate the case I’ve laid that 5e rogues, at least within PHB, are underpowered. When a rogue player petitions to use one of their Class Features, like Uncanny Dodge, in a way that doesn’t perfectly align with RAW, I hope the DMs would allow some latitude. This game isn’t just about killing monsters and taking treasure; it’s about good role-playing, problem-solving, and collaboration between players and DMs on a great story.
Most great stories don’t require someone running around with a lute. Some stories have those characters, but we don’t want them over-represented in our stories. Rogue characters like Artemis Entreri have added so much to the game. It would be a shame to see rogues fade out because DMs adhere to RAW, knowing that this class is underpowered.
“Nerfing,” reducing bards and other classes to restore balance, is probably not the answer. “Buffing” rogues to be more competitive is. Until the game catches up and does that, I would encourage DMs to homebrew Rogue buffing and players to cite this article when they petition their DMs on behalf of their rogues.