Sherlock Holmes – Unearthed Arcana Inquisitive Rogue Archetype Build Test (D&D 5e)

This month’s Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Heroes provides us with 3 new playtest ready player options, which include the Revenant subrace, Monster Hunter archetype for fighters and the Inquisitive archetype for rogues. A month ago I ran an investigation one-shot and a PC build using this archetype would have been an excellent fit. This week on the Campaign Trail, I thought I’d take a break from looking at dungeons to try out the new Inquisitive archetype by creating a level 20 Sherlock Holmes inspired rogue. I’m hoping this build and analysis will help you figure out if the Inquisitive is a good fit for your game or if it needs more work in the lab.

About the build:

  • I used 27 points to roll abilities.
  • My goal was to match up the Inquisitive archetype for the Rogue to the movie version of Holmes played by Robert Downey Jr. versus the contemporary Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch (or going 100% min-max/munchkin to create the perfect Inquistitive).
  • For weapons, I’m using my Steampunk Weapons List for the cane and the pistol from the list of firearms in the Dungeon Masters Guide.
  • For armor, I just went with leather armor which could be re-flavored as a coat or even a body suit he invented. My Steampunk Armor List might provide some other options that could work.
  • While the recent errata made everyone proficient with unarmed strikes, I decided taking the Tavern Brawler feat to get more damage and be proficient with improvised weapons was a good thematic match for the Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Holmes. It would be nice to bump up Wisdom a bit more, but I feel like Downey’s Sherlock is a little too buff for an average-ish 10 in Strength. I couldn’t figure out a way to get unarmed sneak attacks, as you need a finesse weapon (any ideas?).
  • The Sage background with a specialization in Alchemy is a solid match and provides 2 extra languages. Knowing a total 4 languages matches up with my idea of Holmes.
  • This Holmes isn’t proficient with the Disguise Kit, I couldn’t find a way to fit it in – but I put a kit down in the equipment anyway.
  • I went with the angle that Sherlock is generally socially disagreeable, taking a -1 modifier in Charisma as his dump stat. This might match up better with the Benedict Cumberbatch version of the character.
  • I didn’t detail the Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws for this article, but the movies, books and shows provide plenty of ideas, especially for his flaws.


Rogue (Inquisitive) 20

Human, Sage, Chaotic Neutral

Armor Class 15 (Leather Armor)
30 ft.
Hit Points:
103 (20d8)
12 (+1) 16 (+3) 10 (+0) 20 (+5) 18 (+4) 8 (-1)
  • Saving Throws. Dexterity+9, Intelligence+11, Wisdom+10
  • Skills. Arcana+17, Deception+5, History+11, Insight+16, Investigation+17, Perception+16, Slight of Hand+9, Stealth+9
  • Senses. Blindsense 10 feet, passive Perception 31
  • Feats. Keen Mind, Observant, Tavern Brawler
  • Languages. Common and three other languages


  • Melee Attack:  Rapier +9, damage: 1d8+3 piercing
  • Melee Attack:  Cane +9, damage: 1d4+3 bludgeoning
  • Melee Attack:  Unarmed Attack +9, damage: 1d4+3 bludgeoning
  • Range Attack: Pistol +9, damage: 1d10+3 piercing

Rogue Build:

  • Rogue Features. Expertise x 2, Sneak Attack 10d6, Thieves’ Cant, Cunning Action, Uncanny Dodge, Reliable Talent, Blindsense, Slippery Mind, Elusive, Stroke of Luck
  • Inquisitive Archetype Features. Eye for Deceit, Eye for Detail, Insightful Fighting, Steady Eye, Unerring Eye, Eye for Weakness

Other Equipment:

  • Bullets, Thieves Tools, Disguise Kit

All in all, I think the Inquisitive archetype allows for a pretty good rogue build inspired by Sherlock Holmes, but it has some misses too. I think Insightful Fighting can be a fun and interesting combat option, similar in many ways to using the Swashbuckler’s Charisma based features. This build takes a pretty big hit on attack rolls with a Dexterity of only 16 (+3). If I wasn’t trying to build a Sherlock, I’d go with a Wood Elf, avoid the Tavern Brawler feat and lower strength down to 10. Overall, this archetype is a better than the Mastermind at combat, but you shouldn’t try to create a combat focused PC with it. If you do want a PC that is excellent at investigation and has plenty of interesting options in combat, then it might be worth a try.

Let’s take a look at this archetype level by level…

Level 1-4

Human Variant: Sherlock was born to be an Inquisitive with +1 to both Intelligence and Wisdom, the Keen Mind feat and proficiency in Perception

Rogue Features: 

  • Level 1 & 2: Sneak Attack, Thieves’ Cant, Cunning Action are gained as Sherlock other side of the law to become a master detective
  • Proficiency in Investigation and Deception
  • Expertise in Investigation and Perception
  • Level 4: Ability Score sees Sherlock work on his observation skills, taking the Observant feat gaining +1 to Wisdom and bumping up passive Perception and passive Investigation by 5

Inquisitive Archetype Features:

  • Ear for Deceit bumps up Wisdom (Insight) to a minimum 8+Modifier
  • Eye for Detail lets Sherlock quickly use his powers of observation, even in combat
  • Insightful Fighting lets Sherlock apply what he observes to counter the tactics of his foes

Sage Background: Sherlock hit the books hard, earning the Researcher feature, proficiency in the Arcana and History skills and two extra languages

Level 5-8

Level 5: Uncanny Dodge allows Sherlock to use his martial arts training to reduce damage by half as a reaction

Level 6: Expertise bumps up proficiency for Investigation and Perception, adds in Arcana and Insight

Level 7: Evasion makes Sherlock even harder to hit as he anticipates his enemies attacks with his sharp mind

Level 8: Ability Score Increase rewards Sherlock’s mental exercises and meditation with a +2 to Intelligence, bumping up both Arcana and Investigation

Level 9-12

Inquisitive Archetype Features: Steady Eye
Sherlock has honed his Perception to be able to find hidden foes even in the chaos of battle

Level 10: Ability Score Increase grows Sherlock’s awareness with a +2 to Wisdom, bumping up Insight and Perception

Level 11: Reliable Talent rewards Sherlock’s practice and patience with a minimum of 10 in skill check rolls for which he is proficient

Level 12: Ability Score Increase sees Sherlock working on his fisticuffs and martial arts, taking the Tavern Brawler fear, gaining +1 to Strength and proficiency with improvised weapons

Level 13-16

Inquisitive Archetype Features: Unerring Eye
you can detect magical deception within 30 feet

Level 14: Blindsense sees Sherlock’s hearing has become so focused that it allows him to use it to find those hidden within 10 feet of him.

Level 15: Slippery Mind rewards Sherlock’s mental strength providing him with proficiency in Wisdom saving throws

Level 16: Ability Score Increase rewards Sherlock’s mental exercises and meditation with a +2 to Wisdom, bumping up Insight and Perception

Level 17-20

Inquisitive Archetype Features: Eye for Weakness
You can add an extra 2d6 of sneak attack damage when you use Insightful Fighting, topping out with the potential of rolling 12d6 sneak attack damage dice starting at level 19!

Level 18: Elusive rewards Sherlock’s training and tactics allowing no advantage to be gained against him as long as he can fight (not incapacitated).

Level 19: Ability Score Increase rewards Sherlock’s mental exercises and meditation with a +2 to Wisdom, bumping up Insight and Perception

Level 20: Stroke of Luck rewards Sherlock’s long career with a capstone that provides him an uncanny knack for succeeding in combat or with a skill checks, providing an automatic success.

Level 20 Summary

Sneak Attack: Potential of rolling 12d6 sneak attack damage dice


  • Sherlock is an intelligent investigative powerhouse
    • Proficiency in Intelligence saving throws
    • Investigation rolls get +17
    • He can use Eye for Detail to investigate in the middle of combat
    • Observant feat bumps up passive Investigation by 5
    • Passive Investigation is a massive 32 (10+Double Proficiency+Observant+Mod)
  • Sherlock is Insightful:
    • Insight rolls get a +16
    • Ear for Deceit bumps up Wisdom (Insight) to a minimum of 24 (8+Mod+Double Proficiency)
    • Sherlock can use his insight to find a way to sneak attack an opponent and even its weaknesses
  • Sherlock super powers of perceptive:
    • Proficiency in Wisdom saving throws
    • He can use Eye for Detail, Steady Eye and Unerring Eye to find hidden creatures with greater ability as he gains levels
    • Perception rolls get a +16
    • Observant feat bumps up passive Perception by 5
    • Passive Perception is a huge 31 (10+Double Proficiency+Observant+Mod)
    • Blindsense 10′
    • Ability to detect magical deception with Unerring Eye
  • Other Skills
    • Arcana+17, Deception+5, History+11, Slight of Hand+9, Stealth+9
    • All proficient skills can roll no lower than 10

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Maybe I’ll try creating the world’s other greatest detective next, the Batman using Pathfinder’s new Vigilante class.



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Shawn Ellsworth

Shawn is an author and co-founder of He first got into tabletop RPGs through ninjas and then by playing a Kender in Dragonlance. Years later, he can be found running games in the Nentir Vale and his own Seas of Vodari campaign setting.