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I have generally low health in our 5e D&D campaign, and my first level-up hit point roll (at level 2) got 1 (Constitution 11). All of the other players ironically got the max possible number for their rolls (8).

As a Rogue, I know that later on I can get feats, abilities, etc, to help protect myself from taking damage by dodging. However, none of that matters much if my character dies before getting that far. So until then, are there any general strategies I can use to compensate for having such comparatively low max health?

The other members of the party are a Ranger, Druid, Bard, and Paladin.

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There are two basic strategies you should be employing to survive your early, "squishy" levels, and luckily they're both available to you at level 2:

1. Avoid taking damage

a. Make attacks from range: most enemies you face will find themselves having to choose between trying to take out the ranged attacker (you) in the back vs. the melee combatant right in their face, and will choose the melee combatant. Being at range generally decreases your frequency of being targeted.

b. while you're at range, make use of cover: after taking your shot you should be able to duck back behind something, giving you a bonus to AC. (See PHB p.196 for details; note that even having an interposed ally should bump your AC--many tables forget about this.)

c. use your cunning actions: at level 2 you've already got the ability to Dash, Disengage, or Hide in addition to attacking. There's almost no round of combat where one of those can't help you avoid being harmed.

(You are foregoing fighting with two weapons by emphasizing cunning actions, as either choice consumes your one bonus action. But that's alright, because you'd need to be up in melee to make good use of two weapons, and you (currently) don't want to be there!)

2. Rely on your companions

And sometimes you're going to get knocked down. Hopefully you're getting sneak attack on your ranged attacks so doing 1d6(shortbow)+1d6(Sneak Attack)+DEX from range. This is really good damage to deal at level 2: your companions should see you as a valuable contributor during combat. Worth healing, perhaps. (I mean, every one of your companions could choose cure wounds at this point; hopefully someone has. And the paladin has 10HP in laying of hands....)

But even if nobody wants to spend actions and spells slots healing while in combat, it's certainly worth your paladin and wild-shaped druid friends soaking damage and holding a front line to allow you to do your thing.

But you shouldn't just assume this is the case: discuss with your party your current need to stay free(er) from harm, and make sure the the front-liners don't mind taking the majority of damage and appreciate your contribution.

(While you're at it, make sure you coordinate tactics with them: making sure that you have an enemy to target with an ally adjacent almost doubles your damage, thanks to sneak attack!.)

Coda: fix the problem

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that you'll do better on average, in the long run, taking the fixed HP value at level-up than by rolling. (See Why would I ever choose rolling hit points?.) Even if you like the excitement of rolling, the impact of increased variability when you're at a low level can be... problematic. As you've learned =)

Encore: it gets better

The first few levels of 5e are notoriously dangerous for PCs. Two hits can easily take anyone down at L1, and there's precious-little healing in a L1 party. Spare the dying and drag off the bodies is the best you can do some days.

Remember that these first levels ("tier 1") are considered "apprentice" levels (PHB p.15). Your character's not really expected to be great yet, they're developing the skills and habits of greatness. You rolled badly, so your tenuous L1 experience is stretching into L2. This, too, shall pass, and quickly it will pass. And just think about all the cool things you'll get at level 3: an archetype, a second sneak attack die, party-mates with second-level spells... it's going to be awesome!

(As one commenter points out, at L4 if you want to stay a ranged-rogue, you may want to consider the Crossbow Expert feat. Or you may want to start making your way into melee, being a stabby-stabby rogue. Either one can work very well, and I don't think you've yet closed off either option.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer. Staying away is probably the best possible precaution. Many monster abilities are limited to 30 or 60 feet range, or trigger when they get hit by an adjacent enemy. Additionally it's generally impossible to sneak up on someone for a melee attack in combat, but it's possible to shoot from a good hiding spot. Also, Crossbow Expertise should get an honorable mention as a middle ground between two-weapon fighting and ranged attacks. You can shoot a hand crossbow twice and still stay at least 30 feet away. \$\endgroup\$
    – Doval
    Dec 4, 2016 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just because I love the sound of it: up to level 3 is sometimes called "Rusty Dagger Shanktown", because you absolutely can get killed by a simple bandit with a rusty dagger and a (un)lucky crit. \$\endgroup\$
    – John Doe
    May 3 at 13:32

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