5E Assassins, Alignment, and Archetypes

Now, I didn’t expect an Assassin class in the PHB, but when I read the Assassin Rogue archetype...<whistle> nope! That’s certainly a type of Assassin, sure. I mean, it doesn’t follow through on having poison proficiency, it’s too hyper focused on “false identity infiltration”
The 1e PH Assassin was quite the disguise artist, right down to faking other alignment languages.

First, though, what would the base class do?
Erm? Kill people? Obviously SA, poisonings, trap-setting, and faking causes of death would seem to be high on the list. Infiltration, be it stealth and/or disguise, of course, and Escape & Evasion if not prone to suicide missions (hardly out of the question, in concept).

Then we get to Archetypes. Folks question why “any class can’t be an assassin”(any class can be a thief, too, folks.)
Anyone can be paid to kill people, sure. Anyone can predict the future, too - Diviners are just a lot better at it. It's a matter of having the skills!

or insist that there aren’t enough viable archetypes tomake a full class worth it.
Well, there's obvious stuff like the actual etymological-root hashīshīn, there could be Royal secret assassins, above-board/legal Executioners (Lictor, Carnifex, &c), Avengers carrying out divinely-dictated death sentences, Spies, and, of course (gag) ninjas. Oh, and the supernumary shadow-magicky assassins from DDI, which 5e nodded to with a Monk subclass, and, if we are going into magic, a "poison maiden" or other curse-delivery-service could be a sort of assassin, too.
Edit: oh, and Bounty-Hunters, similar skill set, just might bring 'em back alive, sometimes.

Sorry, just brainstorming, what did you have in mind...

Below is a short list of assassin archetypes, and what they’d do.
Executioner. Fast, parkour, climb speed, reaction attacks when an enemy misses, some poisons.
Covenant Agent. Religous Assassins
Wraith. mystic assassins
Spy/Social Infiltrator.
Sounds good.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
People v. Superior Court, 157 P.3d 1017 (Cal. 2007)
"Decker did not want to kill these women himself — as he explained, 'he would be the prime suspect' and 'would probably make a mistake somehow or another' — so he sought the services of a hired assassin. "

People v. Bruno, 111 AD 3d 488 (NY Ct. App. 2013)
"When asked to elaborate as to why she described defendant as the assassin, the witness, who testified through an interpreter, explained that 'he was the one who shot [her].'"


....and so on. It's all over the place. Like, everywhere. To refer to people who hire people to kill people (I should break out the Streisand ... people, who hire people .... to kill people ... are the luckiest people in the world).

Here, how about in the news?


NY Post article-

"Instead, the man, identified as 'witness 2' in court documents, went to the cops, who sent an undercover officer to play the role of assassin. "

No offense, but you are just, 100% wrong. It is NOT A FANTASY THING, unless I'm living in a fantasy world.


looks around

Eh, maybe I am. Point still stands.
Fair enough, I guess.

The etymology of the word is probably very secondary to the task at hand, as interesting as the conversation might be.
Also fair.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
@lowkey13 : real quick, I wonder if what might be going on here is a division between the way the word “Assassin” is used and the way the word “Assassination” is used. What I’m thinking of is when people talk about “the assassination of so-and-so,” which (again, in my experience) seems to almost always be about political attacks rather than contracted killing. But your references are generally along the lines of “so-and-so hired an assassin to kill so-and-so.” Could it perhaps be that colloquially “assassin” has come to mean “one who kills for money,” while “assassination” has come to mean “politically motivated murder?”
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
@lowkey13 : real quick, I wonder if what might be going on here is a division between the way the word “Assassin” is used and the way the word “Assassination” is used. What I’m thinking of is when people talk about “the assassination of so-and-so,” which (again, in my experience) seems to almost always be about political attacks rather than contracted killing. But your references are generally along the lines of “so-and-so hired an assassin to kill so-and-so.” Could it perhaps be that colloquially “assassin” has come to mean “one who kills for money,” while “assassination” has come to mean “politically motivated murder?”
I don't doubt it. Words have connotations, both generally and contextually.

As a general rule of usage, I would normally say that an assassin (hit man) is someone who is hired to murder someone.

Whereas an assassin (as in assassin) is the person who carried out an assassination (killing of an important person).

The terms can always be ambiguous; for example, some would say that John Lennon as assassinated, even though he was neither a political nor a religious figure (other would just say that he was murdered).

Here's the rub- which of these sounds correct:

"I hired that guy (assassin) to murder my business partner."

"I hired that guy (assassin) to assassinate my business partner."

v.

"I hired that guy (assassin) to murder the Governor of Noexistia."

"I hired that guy (assassin) to assassinate the Governor of Noexistia."

So yeah, I totally agree with you.
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
The D&D alignment system was much more ridged in earlier editions. Firstly it accepted (as do many legal codes) a moral distinction between killing in battle or for self defence, and murder. And secondly it made neutrality the norm. An ordinary decent person who never hurts anyone would be neutral. In order to qualify as good, it was necessary to be actively altruistic - i.e. seeking the benefit of others without reward for yourself. It would be difficult for a mercenary to be "good" under those definitions, since no matter how heroic your actions are the instant payment is accepted it is considered neutral.
yeah I know AD&D was a lot more rigid about alignment, I still find it dumb that mercenaries basically get away with murder re: alignment while assassins have to be horrific people by default. like what if I made an assassin who only ever killed evil targets? would absolutely refuse to kill anyone good or even neutral? maybe this character counts as evil, idk, I never liked alignment anyway.
Mercenary jobs are more often "win this fight". If a job was offered that was basically "kill this person", then it is indeed likely that only evil mercenaries would apply for it.

The 3.5 edition assassin was required to be evil because of the requirement to enter the prestige class, which was a set of specialised skills and magic taught be a specific organisation. A DM who waived the entry requirement would likely have no issue with non-evil assassins.
and how do you win fights as a warrior again? 🤔
(I know someone's gonna go into nature of medieval combat and ransom etc. I don't care, we're talking about D&D right now)

I know evil was a prerequisite in 3.5, but WotC did put out an april fool's article that detailed a "new" prestige class called avenger that was almost the exact same thing as assassin except good.
1581706497660.png

I have a feeling someone at WotC felt the same way lol.
Also, the idea that “assassin” means “murderer for hire” is kind of a weird fantasy-ism. Assassination is politically-motivated murder, which is something D&D adventures of all classes engage in from time to time. I see what @doctorbadwolf is going for here, but I’m not sure “assassin” is the best name for the class. Too much baggage tied up in that name, I think it might be better described as like a “Nightblade” or something.
I disagree. In day to day life, when I hear the word “assassination” it’s generally about the killing (or more often attempted-killing) of a political target. Only in the context of fantasy do I see the word being used to describe killers for hire, and even in that context it’s inconsistent. For example, fans of A Song of Ice And Fire often refer to the Faceless Men as assassins, but the fiction itself does not. The Order of Assassins in Assassin’s Creed is motivated by political philosophy rather than money, and are canonically direct successors of (a factionalized version of) the actual Ḥashashiyan. Heck, even in fantasy fiction that features assassins who do kill for money, the money itself is usually a secondary motivation at most, used to fund the order. That’s what seems to really define assassins in most fantasy fiction, is organization. The Faceless Men, the Order of Assassins, the Dark Brotherhood, they’re all political and/or religious orders first and contract killers second.
I mean I think I hear more about people talking about the "correct" use of assassinate more than I hear pepople "misuse" it. I think most people just associate assassinations with the murder of high profile people and don't give it more thought.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
yeah I know AD&D was a lot more rigid about alignment, I still find it dumb that mercenaries basically get away with murder re: alignment while assassins have to be horrific people by default. like what if I made an assassin who only ever killed evil targets? would absolutely refuse to kill anyone good or even neutral? maybe this character counts as evil, idk, I never liked alignment anyway.
You mean, like ... someone who did something that was fundamentally evil, but adhered to a code so that, just maybe, it was less evil.

There's a word for that!

I know it..,..


Tip of my tongue ....

Wait for it....



LUMBERJACK! That's it!
 
There's hard ways and easy ways to approach this project. Poison, frankly, is the hard way. There are excellent 3PP supplements for it anyway and some DMs might be fine with the class but not want rampant poison use. Poison as a class feature is goofy - either the game has poisons nastier than PHB or it doesn't, and if it does its tool based, not class based.

Light sneak attack against a hobbled target sounds like a pain in the butt. Extended crit range with advantage is a cleaner mechanic - advantage can be manufactured by the assassin more easily than a condition so it's less dependent on other characters. You can play around a lot with crit range too - extend the d20 range, either in general or under certain conditions, plus you can monkey around with the number of dice. I think it indexes better DPR rather than nova, and that's more fun to play IMO.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Assassin is a tricky concept to make a solid D&D class out of IMO because combat is such a significant part of the game, and an assassin isn’t really a combatant. If they’re doing their job right, there shouldn’t be a fight. If they’re really good, there shouldn’t even be a death. Just a knife in the pillow to show they could kill you if they want and a note with their demands. At least, that’s my view of assassins, as opposed to mere hit-people.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Again I think that while @Fenris-77 and @Charlaquin raise good points, and while I personally don't think that the class needs to be added as a full class to 5e, I also think that there's a rich line of fictional "assassins" that people often want to model.

What that says about us as a society, eh, that's a different topic of conversation! But between videogames, film, and TV, I get the archetype and desire for it.
 
We really need to get past the name. Call them Nightshades, or Ghost Killers, or Grey Men, or Rainbow Warriors, whatever gives you feels. The thread is going to keep calling them assassins, as per the OP. The thread is not about common hit men, or amoral killers for hire. Think of it as highly skilled special operatives who specialize in high power targets. Infiltration, stealth, and efficient and precise melee rather than brute force. More specifically, how to realize that idea in a class that manages to feel separate from from Rogue and Fighter. This assassin is a combatant, as is usually the case with fantasy assassins, and one of the design goals is to make a class that isn't as "on it's own" as the rogue archetype of the same name.

I don't think that bringing our own baggage about real world assassins and assassination is helping the thread at all.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
We really need to get past the name. Call them Nightshades, or Ghost Killers, or Grey Men, or Rainbow Warriors, whatever gives you feels. The thread is going to keep calling them assassins, as per the OP. The thread is not about common hit men, or amoral killers for hire. Think of it as highly skilled special operatives who specialize in high power targets. Infiltration, stealth, and efficient and precise melee rather than brute force. More specifically, how to realize that idea in a class that manages to feel separate from from Rogue and Fighter.
The thing is, it sounds like you’re describing a rogue or a Dex-based fighter here. I can only speak for myself, but what I am trying to do in discussing what is or is not an assassin is trying to suss out what exactly the archetype we’re trying to capture here is. I suspect I’m not alone in this.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Implementing something like shrouds, if we are likening that to finding weak spots, could be accomplished in two ways. One, you observe the target for X time, call that the stealth method; or two, after fighting an opponent for a round (or something to that effect). So it works on the "case your target basis" but also works in normal melee but would be indexed at larger target and not so much mooks. In both cases observation is the key.
I kinda prefer a bonus action, so that you can, sometimes, just gank a scrub in the first round. I’d even add the ability to do it when initiative is rolled as a reaction at mid level, making you even more dangerous in round one.
 
If you want dangerous in round one the Rogue archetype is great at it. I'd suggest mechanics that support more than one play style, whatever that looks like, but generally pointed at solid DPR and some nova rather than insane nova potential.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
I remember an article of Dragon Magazine in 3rd Edition about different types of assassins.

I imagine assassins as stealth class with some spells or martial maneuvers linked with the shadows.

Today that famous Ubisoft's videogame saga is a great influence for many players, but that type of "black ops" are totally different of the classic dungeon crawling.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
I remember an article of Dragon Magazine in 3rd Edition about different types of assassins.

I imagine assassins as stealth class with some spells or martial maneuvers linked with the shadows.

Today that famous Ubisoft's videogame saga is a great influence for many players, but that type of "black ops" are totally different of the classic dungeon crawling.
My build for a Sniper in 5E is still perhaps my favorite class concept that I've been able to pull off, in terms of min-maxing.
 
Today that famous Ubisoft's videogame saga is a great influence for many players, but that type of "black ops" are totally different of the classic dungeon crawling.
I'd suggest that it isn't. SpecOPs clearing rooms in any video game is pretty dungeon crawly. Plus it's a lot more team oriented than the Rogue Assassin, which is, I think, key to what the OP is looking for,
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
Dragon Magazine 313, the oppresor, the replacement killer and the poisoner.

My own experencie with snipers in Fornite: Save the world is big monsters are too fast to point litle zones and the candence weapons are too slow to face hordes with lots of husks, and also some enemies have got also ranged attacks. Snipers are more useful in open spaces outdoors, but climbing to a higher zone isn't so easy, and sometimes you have to change to another position. If you know the mission then the best option should be a kill-box, a base with traps in the corridors.

In some survival horror videogames, for example the evil within, sometimes stealth is the best option.

How do I imagine a "good" assassin? how a monster terminator, for example a vampire-hunter. Other option would be like Iy, the elf archer heroine from "Orcs must die: Unchained", here in this game the most of kills were by traps, because she was a good ranged DPS but weak endurace.

* In a shooter videogame you haven't to worry about hidding corpses or avoid noises to not be discoverd by the rest of centinels. Do you know the videogame "Shadow Tatics: blades of the shogun" or Spanish "Commands", and Splinter Cell?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What does (or should) an Assassin-class character do better than anyone else? What should its niches be? What should its weaknesses be? Let's start from there, basing it off Rogue.

What does (or should) an Assassin do better than anyone else, and what should its niches be?

Disguise. This should be a true niche of the class; have them be by far the best at physical disguises (which, note, things like True Sight will still be fooled by); other classes can try this at low-ish odds of success but Assassins can do it almost perfectly right out of the gate.

Poison. This should also be a class niche. Assassins are trained to recognize poisons, apply and administer them, treat or cure them with antidotes, and - at later levels - develop their own. Other classes can try some of these but at low-ish odds; except apply and administer which anyone can do only the Assassins is at much less (or zero) risk of accidentally administering poison to him/herself.

Killing. Against the right sort of targets (I'd suggest humanoids only, with size range increasing as level advances) this should be a class niche: only Assassins can one-shot kill on a good strike. This would require some tweaking of how 5e handles damage; in the specific case of Assassins a melee sneak attack that rolls 5 or more over what's required to hit bypasses hit points completely and either a) kills the target on the spot if the target is equal or lower level/HD than the Assassin or b) puts the target at 0 h.p. and into death saves if above the Assassin's level/HD. On a roll to hit that succeeds by less than 5 normal sneak attack damage still applies. Best of all, when attacking an unaware opponent they'd strike as if a Fighter of their level for the first attack.

Higher-level Assassins can use two weapons when doing this, with either one capable of a one-shot kill.

Stealth. Shared niche with other Rogue-type classes, with abilities about on par with Rogue for things like hiding, stealth, etc.

What should its weaknesses be?

Frontal melee. They're just not very good at it. They're unable to use anything other than light armour and their combat training (other than for killing strikes) is only slightly better than a Wizard.

Alignment. They have to be evil, because - and this is a 1e definition that I quite like - poison use is an inherently evil act.

Killing. Yes, this is also a weakness: the Assassin only gets to attempt the killing strike attack once per encounter; and if it misses the opponent(s) become(s) aware of the Assassin and the Assassin's in trouble. Note this differs from Rogue sneak attacks which they can keep using; an Assassin only gets one good shot.

That's enough to start with... :)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
There's hard ways and easy ways to approach this project. Poison, frankly, is the hard way. There are excellent 3PP supplements for it anyway and some DMs might be fine with the class but not want rampant poison use. Poison as a class feature is goofy - either the game has poisons nastier than PHB or it doesn't, and if it does its tool based, not class based.

Light sneak attack against a hobbled target sounds like a pain in the butt. Extended crit range with advantage is a cleaner mechanic - advantage can be manufactured by the assassin more easily than a condition so it's less dependent on other characters. You can play around a lot with crit range too - extend the d20 range, either in general or under certain conditions, plus you can monkey around with the number of dice. I think it indexes better DPR rather than nova, and that's more fun to play IMO.
The issue with relying primarily on crits is that it’s less in the players control than other class mechanics.

I’d start with some specialized ways to gain advantage, bring 19-20 crit at level 3 or so, 18-20 at 11, and expand the ways to have advantage there as well.

but the main damage thing is stacking shrouds to add dice to an attack after you know you hit. Like a planning oriented smite.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
Chemical weapons are against the Geneve Convention.... but can I summon monster or natural allies with poisonous bite?

Killing is evil... if the victims are innocent civilians. If my PC is a sniper who shoots against high officials of an invader force (for example the white walkers)...report me!

Yes, we are used to imagine the assassin like one-hit-kill (and in the real combat this should be like this) but in the game it may break the balance of power.

Arya Stark is closer to assassin than rogue or swashbuckler, isn't she?

* Have you seen the 1972 movie "the mechanic", with Charle Bronson as main character? a true hitman whose work "has to seem an accident".
 

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