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5E Assassins, Alignment, and Archetypes

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I’m toying with the idea of allowing poisoners Kit to make tinctures that give the assassin a boost at the cost of a hit die.
Maybe only in the subclasses, though, so they’re tailored for that.

And not if there isn’t a concept for one. Not gonna force it. The Peryton getting Keen Sense and the ability to see detail from up to a mile away, for instance, is what prompted this idea.

Maybe the Manticore can really dig into this idea.
 

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I'm increasingly worried that the shroud system doesn't tell the story you want it to. If the assassin is the guy who formulates and executes precise plans, a trickle of "free" damage resource at the start of each turn seems contrary to that -- it looks more like a battlemaster or monk with a few extra bookkeeping hoops to jump through. In order for the player to feel like they're consciously plotting, plotting needs to be a conscious decision with some sort of meaningful opportunity cost (but, of course, balanced to be worth it). A couple of brainstorms:

One Step Ahead
Even as you finish one move you are busy plotting the next one. When you roll initiative, and at the end of each of your turns, you can choose a tactic for your next turn from the following options.
Execute. Choose a creature you can see. The first time on your next turn you hit that creature with a weapon attack, you deal [a lot of damage], or [even more damage] if it is vulnerable. If its hit points afterwards are less than or equal to [that damage], you can immediately reduce it to 0 hit points.
Cripple. Choose a creature you can see. The first time on your next turn you hit that creature with a weapon attack, you apply [some condition that triggers vulnerable].
Riposte. Choose a creature you can see. The time it makes a melee attack against you before the start of your next turn, it has disadvantage on that attack, and if the attack misses, you can make a melee weapon attack against it as a reaction.
Reposition. On your next turn, your speed is doubled, your movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks, and you have advantage on Dexterity checks.

Hit List
Whenever you roll initiative, you create a hit list, an order in which you intend to kill your enemies. You can put on this list any number of surprised creatures you can see, plus a number of non-surprised creatures you can see equal to your Intelligence bonus (minimum of one), in the order of your choice. Once per turn, when you hit the first creature on your hit list with a weapon attack, you deal [some damage]. If the creature's hit points afterwards are less than or equal to that damage, you can immediately reduce it to 0 hit points.
When the top creature on your hit list is reduced to 0 hit points, you can cross it off your list, and the next creature on the list moves to the top.
As an action, you can discard your current hit list and make a new one.

And a parallel thought for spicing up Expertise, making the assassin a sort of "skill wizard" to the rogue's "skill sorcerer":

Expert Planning
Whenever you finish a short or long rest, you plan which of your skills and tools will be most necessary for the coming action. You can make a number of plans equal to [some level-based formula]. For each plan, choose a skill or tool in which you are proficient. You can choose the same skill or tool for multiple plans. When you make an ability check using a skill or tool for which you have a plan, you can expend the plan to reroll the check, doubling your proficiency bonus for the reroll, and use the second result if it's higher. Alternatively, if you could take an action to make an ability check using that skill or tool, such as the Hide action for Stealth or the Search action for Perception, you can expend the plan to take that action as a bonus action, doubling your proficiency bonus for the check.
Plans last until you expend them or you finish your next short or long rest.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'm increasingly worried that the shroud system doesn't tell the story you want it to. If the assassin is the guy who formulates and executes precise plans, a trickle of "free" damage resource at the start of each turn seems contrary to that -- it looks more like a battlemaster or monk with a few extra bookkeeping hoops to jump through. In order for the player to feel like they're consciously plotting, plotting needs to be a conscious decision with some sort of meaningful opportunity cost (but, of course, balanced to be worth it). A couple of brainstorms:

One Step Ahead
Even as you finish one move you are busy plotting the next one. When you roll initiative, and at the end of each of your turns, you can choose a tactic for your next turn from the following options.
Execute. Choose a creature you can see. The first time on your next turn you hit that creature with a weapon attack, you deal [a lot of damage], or [even more damage] if it is vulnerable. If its hit points afterwards are less than or equal to [that damage], you can immediately reduce it to 0 hit points.
Cripple. Choose a creature you can see. The first time on your next turn you hit that creature with a weapon attack, you apply [some condition that triggers vulnerable].
Riposte. Choose a creature you can see. The time it makes a melee attack against you before the start of your next turn, it has disadvantage on that attack, and if the attack misses, you can make a melee weapon attack against it as a reaction.
Reposition. On your next turn, your speed is doubled, your movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks, and you have advantage on Dexterity checks.

Hit List
Whenever you roll initiative, you create a hit list, an order in which you intend to kill your enemies. You can put on this list any number of surprised creatures you can see, plus a number of non-surprised creatures you can see equal to your Intelligence bonus (minimum of one), in the order of your choice. Once per turn, when you hit the first creature on your hit list with a weapon attack, you deal [some damage]. If the creature's hit points afterwards are less than or equal to that damage, you can immediately reduce it to 0 hit points.
When the top creature on your hit list is reduced to 0 hit points, you can cross it off your list, and the next creature on the list moves to the top.
As an action, you can discard your current hit list and make a new one.

And a parallel thought for spicing up Expertise, making the assassin a sort of "skill wizard" to the rogue's "skill sorcerer":

Expert Planning
Whenever you finish a short or long rest, you plan which of your skills and tools will be most necessary for the coming action. You can make a number of plans equal to [some level-based formula]. For each plan, choose a skill or tool in which you are proficient. You can choose the same skill or tool for multiple plans. When you make an ability check using a skill or tool for which you have a plan, you can expend the plan to reroll the check, doubling your proficiency bonus for the reroll, and use the second result if it's higher. Alternatively, if you could take an action to make an ability check using that skill or tool, such as the Hide action for Stealth or the Search action for Perception, you can expend the plan to take that action as a bonus action, doubling your proficiency bonus for the check.
Plans last until you expend them or you finish your next short or long rest.
Those are all really cool mechanics, but I think they’d add too much “moving parts” complication to a class that already has a lot of features.
OTOH, Shrouds represents intense focus on a single target. Careful planning comes in with synergy of class features, which...maybe the increased crit range of shrouds should require the target be vulnerable and under your Shroud, then make the target vulnerable if they are being affected by blood in the cut, and maybe add an ability to study a creature while hidden, as a bonus action, to make them vulnerable. I’ll think on it.
 

Those are all really cool mechanics, but I think they’d add too much “moving parts” complication to a class that already has a lot of features.
Yeah, one of my general critiques of the class is that it could stand to trim down on the features. But note how, for instance, One Step Ahead conceptually combines Shroud, Lethal, Blood in the Cut, Riposte, and Shadow Move into a single moving part that sells a distinctive narrative and playstyle. I'm not saying that specific idea is the perfect solution and you should immediately copypaste it into your document -- there's a lot that could be criticized there. But that's the sort of thing I'm talking about. Taking all these disparate perks and powers, and focusing them in to try to find the core of the class.

OTOH, Shrouds represents intense focus on a single target.
Let's game this out. Assassin is in a fight, what happens on his turn? He puts a shroud on whatever he wants to attack this turn, and then takes a swing at it. If he hits, he invokes the shroud and deals a die of extra damage, because why wouldn't he take damage when it is offered, so now the board is clear of shrouds again and on his next turn he can rinse and repeat with whatever target he wants. Pretty battlemasteresque, in my eyes. If he misses, things get a bit more interesting. The shroud sticks to the target until next turn, and then he'd be well advised to drop his new shroud on the same target and go for two dice of damage. So what the shroud is effectively doing is incentivizing doubling down on targets you miss, while rewarding hits with freedom of choice.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah, one of my general critiques of the class is that it could stand to trim down on the features. But note how, for instance, One Step Ahead conceptually combines Shroud, Lethal, Blood in the Cut, Riposte, and Shadow Move into a single moving part that sells a distinctive narrative and playstyle. I'm not saying that specific idea is the perfect solution and you should immediately copypaste it into your document -- there's a lot that could be criticized there. But that's the sort of thing I'm talking about. Taking all these disparate perks and powers, and focusing them in to try to find the core of the class.


Let's game this out. Assassin is in a fight, what happens on his turn? He puts a shroud on whatever he wants to attack this turn, and then takes a swing at it. If he hits, he invokes the shroud and deals a die of extra damage, because why wouldn't he take damage when it is offered, so now the board is clear of shrouds again and on his next turn he can rinse and repeat with whatever target he wants. Pretty battlemasteresque, in my eyes. If he misses, things get a bit more interesting. The shroud sticks to the target until next turn, and then he'd be well advised to drop his new shroud on the same target and go for two dice of damage. So what the shroud is effectively doing is incentivizing doubling down on targets you miss, while rewarding hits with freedom of choice.
Well, no. The assassin attacks, doesn’t invoke, moves and hides, next turn places maximum shrouds, and does a big hit.
 




Because it’s only 1d10 damage, compared to waiting a turn or hiding before placing the shroud, and getting d10s =1/2 level rounded up.
Unless I'm reading it wrong, the assassin gets all that on the next turn anyway, so not invoking on the first turn is just passing on a free(ish) 1d10 damage. I don't see any incentive not to invoke whenever you hit.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Unless I'm reading it wrong, the assassin gets all that on the next turn anyway, so not invoking on the first turn is just passing on a free(ish) 1d10 damage. I don't see any incentive not to invoke whenever you hit.
from that perspective, whether they invoke on that turn is irrelevant to whether the intended playstyle is encouraged. They’re still planning for next round, as long as they set up vulnerability for placing full shrouds on the next turn.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
To be clear, I have no interest in or intention of designing a class that has to sit on its hands for a round in order to do its cool thing. That is, IMO, inherently bad design.

edit: what I will do is look at creating more incentive to plan ahead, use stealth, and play smart. But I won’t make a class that forces an exact turn by turn process every time, every character. There has to be playstyle fluidity or it isn’t worth making the class. Full stop.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I don't see any incentive not to invoke whenever you hit.
Also, to this point. It’s a limited resource. IME, monks don’t Flurry or Stun every turn, simply because Ki is limited.

Now, an interesting thing for a subclass might be to have an ability that speaks to training to fight as part of a team, as an assassin. Something like making a minor attack that only does 1d4+Int mod damage and force a BItC save, and make it so that an enemy suffering from that feature takes extra damage when hit, or is more vulnerable to saves, etc.

if this attack doesn’t break stealth, and contributes to the “nova strike” next round, it might be enough to keep the assassin engaged but careful until it’s time to strike.
 

To be clear, I have no interest in or intention of designing a class that has to sit on its hands for a round in order to do its cool thing. That is, IMO, inherently bad design.

edit: what I will do is look at creating more incentive to plan ahead, use stealth, and play smart. But I won’t make a class that forces an exact turn by turn process every time, every character. There has to be playstyle fluidity or it isn’t worth making the class. Full stop.
My worry is you're ending up with a class that does the same process within a turn every turn: shroud, strike, back off. Think about casters. They can't cast their most powerful spell every round. They have to pick their moment. Whether that means they aren't doing their "cool thing" in other rounds depends on one's definition of "cool thing" -- they are certainly casting other spells, which may be support effects or control effects that can help set up the moment for the big spell.

Now, to me, "pick your moment" sounds like a great phrase to sum up the playstyle of an assassin character. So, you're right, literally spending a turn in the middle of combat doing nothing but staring at an enemy is probably a bad idea. But doing other, lesser "cool things" like dodging and skirmishing before setting up for a big strike -- that's very much in the realm of possibility.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My worry is you're ending up with a class that does the same process within a turn every turn: shroud, strike, back off. Think about casters. They can't cast their most powerful spell every round. They have to pick their moment. Whether that means they aren't doing their "cool thing" in other rounds depends on one's definition of "cool thing" -- they are certainly casting other spells, which may be support effects or control effects that can help set up the moment for the big spell.

Now, to me, "pick your moment" sounds like a great phrase to sum up the playstyle of an assassin character. So, you're right, literally spending a turn in the middle of combat doing nothing but staring at an enemy is probably a bad idea. But doing other, lesser "cool things" like dodging and skirmishing before setting up for a big strike -- that's very much in the realm of possibility.
Again...limited resource. The assassin literally cannot do their big spike damage every turn. They have as many shrouds as a monk has ki.

Beyond that, I already suggested a setup strike, but even without that, the normal setup is going to be attacking and then returning to stealth, and either leaving the enemy to bleed out while the next turn is spent on the real target, or stacking up that bleed with a spike hit.

The Assassin isn’t a caster. It’s perfectly okay if they can move in and out of the shadows every round, with some rounds featuring a big spike damage hit with a higher crit chance.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I didn't realize until just now you limited shrouds to X per day instead of X per target (which you also limited.

My balancing thought was just based on shrouds per Target and unlimited per day.

This probably explains why we are world's apart in balance....I think your design limited to X shrouds per day is SUPER underpowered throughout a day but still tweaked towards the max for damage per round.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I didn't realize until just now you limited shrouds to X per day instead of X per target (which you also limited.

My balancing thought was just based on shrouds per Target and unlimited per day.

This probably explains why we are world's apart in balance....I think your design limited to X shrouds per day is SUPER underpowered throughout a day but still tweaked towards the max for damage per round.
The intention is to regain shrouds per short rest, which I think puts it pretty close to right. You can max out damage a couple times per short rest at most, generally 1-2/combat unless you're blowing it all on one fight. Which may actually be too little, still, but you also get conditional extra attacks and a damage over time feature after level 5, and some control. The subclasses should bring the rest of the heat needed to keep an assassin character in the same damage tier as other damage focused characters.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I have added to the assassin's shroud;
"With maximum shrouds on a target, you reroll shroud damage dice results of 2 or lower, until the result is higher than 2.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Maybe that could require that your attack be from stealth or against a vulnerable target, so that you are incentivized to plan to get full shrouds, and to use tactics to max the potential of your actual big shroud strike?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle

Update. I made later levels a bit more weird and wild, like other classes are. Also made the specialized tool choices more impactful, so they don't end up like favored terrain for the ranger.
cleaned up some wording issues.
 

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