5E Assassins, Alignment, and Archetypes

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
That’s certainly part of the concept, part of the core of the concept even. But the concept has grown bigger than that, and includes characters like Black Widow, Hawkeye, Winter Soldier, the AssCreed Assassins (Connor fights), and others who are quite capable in a fight. And it makes sense. What if the only way into the lord’s chamber is through a door that is never unguarded? Come outta nowhere and knock heads into the wall, while being strong enough to make sure the bodies fall slowly and quietly. Or, again, that scenario where the kill can only happen under guard, and you’re just gonna have to run a fighting escape.
And that’s the thing, you aren’t a Fighter. You just know how to fight your way past some people to get to a target or get away.
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.
Oh I agree. It doesn’t need an official release or anything. But hey, if we’re home brewing, is that really an important concern? 😂

But yeah, from the AssCreed games to The Winter Soldier and other MCU assassins, to 007, I’d say it’s an archetype with some real legs. Nice legs. Good strong thicc legs. Happy Valentine’s Day Y’all.

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.
For sure. That’s why I want to be able to apply a shroud when init is rolled, but also as a bonus action, and get something like Extra Attack. you’re competent in a normal fight, like say, The Winter Soldier, but you’re truly lethal when you have prepared the kill.
since shrouds reduce crit range and add damage dice, striking from stealth (and thus with advantage) is really lethal.
Maybe they should be “the best at stealth in combat”? When you crit or drop a creature to 0, you can use any remaining movement, and Hide as part of the Attack Action used to make the attack?
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,
Yes. min fact, I can see a subclass that uses its allies as weapons, applying shroud damage when an ally hits the target.

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... :)
Got a couple non-starters in there, for me, but there are some good ideas too. 1/encounter is a hard no, as is any alignment restrictions of any kind.
And the combat weakness, tbh, at least how you describe it. Watch some videos on how combat works in the first 3 Assassins Creed games. The assassin can tangle, they have to be able to sometimes, because sometimes the only way to get to a target is to bypass guards that you will then have to fight to escape the scene. So, things like Bonus action Dodge, Reaction counterattack on a miss.
Disengage (no action) when you drop a creature to 0hp. Etc. Combat mobility and slipperiness, differently than the rogue does it.
But, yes to light armor, no weapons bigger than a short sword (for most subclasses), d8 hit dice.
Evasion, but Bonus Action Dodge instead of Uncanny Dodge.
Maybe instead of a normal Extra Attack, or as a level 11 thing, or something, you can move and make an attack as part of the same action when you drop a creature to 0hp. Get that Assassins Creed thing where you leap from the guy you just ganked to gank another dude, in one quick burst of lethal movement.

As for poison and disguise, they should be proficiencies, but not a big focus of the base class.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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".
Arya is a great Assassin.

edit: I’d even say she should be part of the inspiration for the subclass that focuses on disguise. Maybe using mystical arts to become something like a changeling.

oh! What do we all think about using “monsters” as inspiration for the names of the subclasses?

Assassin of the Doppelgänger/Wraith/Displacer/Manticore Enclave/School/Guild?
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Oh I agree. It doesn’t need an official release or anything. But hey, if we’re home brewing, is that really an important concern? 😂

But yeah, from the AssCreed games to The Winter Soldier and other MCU assassins, to 007, I’d say it’s an archetype with some real legs. Nice legs. Good strong thicc legs. Happy Valentine’s Day Y’all.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
LevelFeatureExploit WeaknessLethal Strike
1Exploit Weakness, City Secrets1d8-
2Fighting Style, Identify Target1d8-
3Archetype, Ghost walk1d8-
4ASI1d8-
5Extra Attack1d8-
6Lethal Strike2d85
7Archetype2d85
8ASI2d85
9Slayer's Instinct2d85
10Archetype2d85
Executioner (basic)



Hit Point: 1d8
Proficiency: Light, Medium armor, shields simple and martial weapons
Saves: Dex, Int
Tool: Disguise kit, Forgery kit
Skill: 3 from: Acrobatics, Athletics, Stealth, Deception, Intimidate, Investigation, Insight or Perception

Exploit Weakness. Once per turn, when you hit a poisoned, blinded, stunned, surprised or unconscious creature, you deal an extra 1d8 damage. This damage increases as shown on the Executioner table.

Cities Secrets. At the end of a long rest in a city or village, you can designate the place you just rested in as your hunting ground, knowing all its secrets. When in your hunting ground, you have double your proficiency bonus in all dexterity, intelligence and charisma skill if you are already proficient in them. You also gain the following benefit:
  • Difficult terrain doesn't slow your group's travel.
  • Your group can't become lost except by magical means.
  • Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.
  • If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace.
  • While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area
You can only benefit from one City Secret at a time.

Identify Target.
If you spend at least 1 minute observing or interacting with another creature outside combat, you can learn certain information about its capabilities compared to your own. The DM tells you if the creature is your equal, superior, or inferior in regard to two of the following characteristics of your choice:
  • Armor Class
  • Current hit points
  • Resistance and Immunities
  • Total class levels (if any)
Ghost Walk. When you are in an area of dim light or darkness, you can use your action to become invisible until you move or take an action or a reaction.

Slayers Instinct. You can give yourself a bonus to Initiative equal to your Int modifier. You also gain +5 to passive perception and passive investigation.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That’s certainly part of the concept, part of the core of the concept even. But the concept has grown bigger than that, and includes characters like Black Widow, Hawkeye, Winter Soldier, the AssCreed Assassins (Connor fights), and others who are quite capable in a fight. And it makes sense. What if the only way into the lord’s chamber is through a door that is never unguarded? Come outta nowhere and knock heads into the wall, while being strong enough to make sure the bodies fall slowly and quietly. Or, again, that scenario where the kill can only happen under guard, and you’re just gonna have to run a fighting escape.
And that’s the thing, you aren’t a Fighter. You just know how to fight your way past some people to get to a target or get away.
Most of the examples you list here (Black Widow etc.) say "Fighter with extras" to me far louder than they say Assassin. Ditto James Bond; he's got Assassin skills to be sure, but he's also got a whole lot of Fighter levels (and Fighter hit points!) backing that up.

Arya Stark says Assassin, as does the guy (whose name I forget) who gave her the coin. Stealth in, do the kill, never fight anyone you don't absolutely have to, and make it look like someone else did the deed.

If the only way in is through a door that's never unguarded, you need to find a way of making said door unguarded for just long enough. Or quietly kill a guard elsewhere and disguise yourself as that guard.

Got a couple non-starters in there, for me, but there are some good ideas too. 1/encounter is a hard no, as is any alignment restrictions of any kind.
I'm a huge proponent of the philosophy "no benefit without penalty". Poison expertise is a benefit. The alignment restriction it carries is a penalty.

The 1/encounter is to avoid an Assassin being able to auto-kill every round in a typical melee. In fact, if an Assassin is in any combat that goes on for longer than one strike she's doing it wrong.

And the combat weakness, tbh, at least how you describe it. Watch some videos on how combat works in the first 3 Assassins Creed games. The assassin can tangle, they have to be able to sometimes, because sometimes the only way to get to a target is to bypass guards that you will then have to fight to escape the scene.
I've never played those games but from what little I've seen the impression I get is far closer to Rambo than Arya Stark. And Rambo ain't no Assassin.

So, things like Bonus action Dodge, Reaction counterattack on a miss.
Disengage (no action) when you drop a creature to 0hp. Etc. Combat mobility and slipperiness, differently than the rogue does it.
I like the free Disengage and extra dodging. The rest are too Fightery for me.

As for poison and disguise, they should be proficiencies, but not a big focus of the base class.
To me those are the two key things that make the base class what it is.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
but the main damage thing is stacking shrouds to add dice to an attack after you know you hit. Like a planning oriented smite.
I've tried stacking effects like 4E shrouds and found them kind of frustrating in 5E play. It's just too slow when the average combat is about three to five rounds. I suggest instead a single, binary shroud effect. Especially if you can shroud multiple creatures at once -- nobody needs to track all those numbers.

So, things like Bonus action Dodge, Reaction counterattack on a miss.
This is hella OP unless it's on an encounter limit, has some other resource cost, or is conditional.

Disengage (no action) when you drop a creature to 0hp. Etc. Combat mobility and slipperiness, differently than the rogue does it.
But, yes to light armor, no weapons bigger than a short sword (for most subclasses), d8 hit dice.
Evasion, but Bonus Action Dodge instead of Uncanny Dodge.
To me, these mechanics say "different than the rogue for the sake of being different" rather than "actually different than the rogue". They're still telling the same story as Cunning Action and Uncanny Dodge, they're just using different rules to to it. You see where I'm coming from?

If the hook for the assassin is going to be observation and preparation, maybe instead the assassin can expend a shroud to turn a hit from the target into a miss, because they've figured out the attack pattern. Find some way to tie the slipperiness directly into preparedness.

Maybe instead of a normal Extra Attack, or as a level 11 thing, or something, you can move and make an attack as part of the same action when you drop a creature to 0hp. Get that Assassins Creed thing where you leap from the guy you just ganked to gank another dude, in one quick burst of lethal movement.
I would avoid too many "do thing when you drop a guy" features because they can be frustrating in fights without cannon fodder to trigger them. In my mind's eye, a solo boss fight should be a place where the assassin shines and a swarm of mooks should give them some trouble, not the other way around. Shrouds, burst damage, poison, other single-target debuffs, these are the sorts of mechanics that reflect that fantasy to me.

Don't get me wrong. My own assassin design does the Assassin's Creed thing. It's a super cool thing. But it's their 20th-level ability, a cherry on top of the class, not a substitute for Extra Attack or other bread-and-butter DPR source.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
I'm a huge proponent of the philosophy "no benefit without penalty". Poison expertise is a benefit. The alignment restriction it carries is a penalty.
An alignment restriction is not a penalty. A 10th-level, say, wizard is exactly as functional if they are evil as if they are good. If you gave the wizard a bonus spell but said they had to be evil to use it, that would just make the evil wizard stronger than the good wizard, with no counterbalance.
 
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... :)
Yeah, no. Not so much. You need to let go of your hate and anger Luke. Let go of your preconceptions about alignment. Let go of your narrow non-melee vision. Lead to the dark side those things do.

The assassin in your post is pretty categorically not what's on the table here. I also find that assassin intriguing, but only as a NPC. A better set of comps might be Kalam Mekhar or Apsalar from the Malazan books, or Rallick Nom from the same series. Or Caine from the Acts of Caine series. The kind of fantasy fiction assassin we're talking about is very much melee competent - fast, accurate and deadly. Precise and skilled rather than brutal, but deadly nonetheless. Poison probably shouldn't be a factor either, or at least it wouldn't be for me - I'll either add deadly poisons to my game or not, but they aren't just a toy for one class, nor just for the good guys. The whole "only one chance" idea above is precisely why the Rogue archetype won't cut the mustard either - that emphasizes solo play and makes the character generally useless (and not fun to play).
 
I think crits are the way to go personally, although DBWs shrouds idea has some merit as well. I think it would be fun if the class really rewarded tactical play. My thought there was to give them expanded crits, extended when attacking with advantage, but also give ways to extend the range further. For example, if the class has a 19-20 crit range generally, it could be 18-20 with advantage, and 17-20 with both advantage and a condition on the enemy (prone, stunned, whatever). That would force the character to really work with the party to get full range out of his abilities. Provided the class doesn't have an immense ability to stack damage dice (although some synergy there is cool) and is generally using light weapons, I don't think the DPR would be out hand even at the 17-20 range. Keeping the emphasis on mobility and exploiting weaknesses and tactical openings created by other characters seems like a fun character to play.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
The morality of poison use highlights a divergence between D&D mechanics and reality.

In D&D, a poisoned weapon just does some extra damage. Helps you win the fight faster. It's effectively no different than a smite or an enhancement bonus or whatever, and so logically wouldn't be any more wrong. But in reality, the reason a poisoned weapon is so frowned upon is that it doesn't help you win the fight any faster, or at least is unlikely to do so. Instead it just makes the other guy more likely to die of their wounds afterward, once whatever is to be resolved with violence has been resolved and there's no good reason for them to die. The only reason to use poison is if killing is itself the goal, rather than self-defense or some military objective. That's pretty evil, or if you don't like the label "evil", war-crimey. There's a very similar situation between attacking healers in D&D (definitely legitimate) and attacking medics in reality (definitely not).
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
Improved crit range doesn't seem to fit for me. When I think of assassins, I think of precision and certainty, not flailing around hoping for a lucky hit.

How about these two abilities:
Lethal Techniques:
If an attack of the executioner's would leave a target with less remaining hit points than the executioner's level, the target is reduced to -1 hit points instead. For the purposes of this ability, any poison damage taken from a situation that the executioner arranged is also considered an attack.
This ability works against Humanoids and Beasts. At level 5 it works against any creature not considered an Undead or Construct. At level 11 it works against any creature.

Certain Death
As an action, the executioner makes an Intelligence (Investigation) or (Insight) against a target that they have observed for one round. If they are currently in melee combat with the target, they may make this check as a bonus action. If successful, then the next time the executioner damages the target with an attack or with poison, the damage is increased by 10x the executioner's proficiency bonus.
The executioner regains the ability to deal this extra damage after a short or long rest.
-(I'm unsure of what the check should be opposed by on the target's side. Any thoughts?)
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Improved crit range doesn't seem to fit for me. When I think of assassins, I think of precision and certainty, not flailing around hoping for a lucky hit.

How about these two abilities:
Lethal Techniques:
If an attack of the executioner's would leave a target with less remaining hit points than the executioner's level, the target is reduced to -1 hit points instead. For the purposes of this ability, any poison damage taken from a situation that the executioner arranged is also considered an attack.
This ability works against Humanoids and Beasts. At level 5 it works against any creature not considered an Undead or Construct. At level 11 it works against any creature.

Certain Death
As an action, the executioner makes an Intelligence (Investigation) or (Insight) against a target that they have observed for one round. If they are currently in melee combat with the target, they may make this check as a bonus action. If successful, then the next time the executioner damages the target with an attack or with poison, the damage is increased by 10x the executioner's proficiency bonus.
The executioner regains the ability to deal this extra damage after a short or long rest.
-(I'm unsure of what the check should be opposed by on the target's side. Any thoughts?)
Those are nice. I'd remove the type restriction for Lethal technique but the target must be living.

I'd go for a Dex save instead against a 8+Prof+Int DC, like, your enemy cannot block your hit, its must avoid it at all cost for a chance to survive the vicious attack.
 
I'm not sure how observation and a tactical approach to combat equal 'flailing around'. It could just as easily be read as "four times as likely to land a telling blow due to precision and planning". Keep in mind that it's also just one mechanic and it applies to all the assassins attacks. Part of the program was to make a more DPR assassin, so single-use nova abilities, while cool, don't really hit the sweet spot. I'd layer on another couple of abilities to synergize with that one. The crit idea also emphasizes mobility, which fits very well with the general assassin image we're building.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think crits are the way to go personally, although DBWs shrouds idea has some merit as well. I think it would be fun if the class really rewarded tactical play. My thought there was to give them expanded crits, extended when attacking with advantage, but also give ways to extend the range further. For example, if the class has a 19-20 crit range generally, it could be 18-20 with advantage, and 17-20 with both advantage and a condition on the enemy (prone, stunned, whatever). That would force the character to really work with the party to get full range out of his abilities. Provided the class doesn't have an immense ability to stack damage dice (although some synergy there is cool) and is generally using light weapons, I don't think the DPR would be out hand even at the 17-20 range. Keeping the emphasis on mobility and exploiting weaknesses and tactical openings created by other characters seems like a fun character to play.
I like and prefer this.
Shrouds, btw, would be something you can max out in round one if you have stealth and/or surprise, and then you have to work to build up in subsequent rounds. Full shrouds could expand crit range, or that could be separate. So, the class incentivizes using stealth as a combat tactic, and gives tricks for gaining stealth.

Maybe you can apply more shrouds with a bonus action if have advantage against them, and get advantage when the target is frightened, poisoned, or charmed by you or your ally?

These would all synergies to make you lethal as hell when you can plan for it, and competent when you can’t.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
Those are nice. I'd remove the type restriction for Lethal technique but the target must be living.
That is probably better, but at higher levels, the character should be able to use it on anything to prevent it from becoming too situational.

I'd go for a Dex save instead against a 8+Prof+Int DC, like, your enemy cannot block your hit, its must avoid it at all cost for a chance to survive the vicious attack.
The intent is that the executioner can continue to observe and make checks until they discover how to make a deadly strike, and then kill their target. Its why the damage is what refreshes after a rest rather than the entire ability itself.
I don't think that a Dex check fits. Its not some armour-piercing attack, it is working out the best way to kill someone specific. An executioner could observe from stealth or just while in public until they make the check for example.

I wasn't sure whether a save-or-die ability would be appropriate, but that would probably have to be higher-level, and I thought the ability to pick a target and kill it was iconic enough that it should be available to the class at lower levels. I decided on 1/short rest because if it wasn't restricted, it would not be able to be as powerful and decisive. I wondered about making it an automatic crit, but that would simply encourage use of greatswords and similar, and I wanted this ability to be close to as deadly with a dagger as it was with a glaive.

Lethal techniques is an effective damage boost for murdering through mooks. Certain Death is for picking a target that you decide needs to die.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
That is probably better, but at higher levels, the character should be able to use it on anything to prevent it from becoming too situational.


The intent is that the executioner can continue to observe and make checks until they discover how to make a deadly strike, and then kill their target. Its why the damage is what refreshes after a rest rather than the entire ability itself.
I don't think that a Dex check fits. Its not some armour-piercing attack, it is working out the best way to kill someone specific. An executioner could observe from stealth or just while in public until they make the check for example.

I wasn't sure whether a save-or-die ability would be appropriate, but that would probably have to be higher-level, and I thought the ability to pick a target and kill it was iconic enough that it should be available to the class at lower levels. I decided on 1/short rest because if it wasn't restricted, it would not be able to be as powerful and decisive. I wondered about making it an automatic crit, but that would simply encourage use of greatswords and similar, and I wanted this ability to be close to as deadly with a dagger as it was with a glaive.

Lethal techniques is an effective damage boost for murdering through mooks. Certain Death is for picking a target that you decide needs to die.
I’d make it only require a check during combat. If you can study the target for a minute or more, they’re yours. In my model, this would be advantage on all attacks against the target, and max shroud damage on a crit, probably. With no shroud dice, simply adding dice is the best bet. Any multiplication of dmg just multiplied incentive to use bigger dice.

what about a feature that lets the assassin deal more damage with light, concealable, on-brand weapons? Directly incentivize sticking to the preferred weapon list?

although, I’m fine with weapons up to and including the longsword and rapier, spear, even axes.
 
If we want to wreak havoc with extended crit ranges perhaps keeping the weapons to a d6 or less makes sense? We could tie the class abilities to light weapons, which gives some choice but keeps it at a d6.

Shrouds could work with the extended crit too, for sure. As I mentioned above, if we tie them to observe your enemy, that could either by with surveillance on the first round, or after a round or two of observation in combat. Both make sense for the same mechanic. If those dice are d10s it makes the class hit pretty hard. The number of d10s could stack with level too. Or, alternatively, the crit multiplier could move past x2 to x3 or even x4 at tier 4. With light weapons that's not out of hand IMO, so long as there aren't too many d10s and you can't stack them.

Another thought I had, especially if we stick to light weapons, is that the class's attacks could also involve a condition - 'bleed' which could do additional damage every round unless treated. There's all sorts of shenanigans we could get up to there. It also fits nicely inside the 'attack the weak spots' vibe we're headed for. For example, what if every successful hit added a bleed die, call it a d4. That would help drop mooks in spots, and if they stacked it could really pump the Assassin's impact on longer combats versus bigger targets. It would also make it worthwhile to really press the mobility aspect, because there's an actual mechanical reason not to focus fire, especially against mobs. Anyway, it seems like a very cool and different kind of character to play in melee.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
If we want to wreak havoc with extended crit ranges perhaps keeping the weapons to a d6 or less makes sense? We could tie the class abilities to light weapons, which gives some choice but keeps it at a d6.

Shrouds could work with the extended crit too, for sure. As I mentioned above, if we tie them to observe your enemy, that could either by with surveillance on the first round, or after a round or two of observation in combat. Both make sense for the same mechanic. If those dice are d10s it makes the class hit pretty hard. The number of d10s could stack with level too. Or, alternatively, the crit multiplier could move past x2 to x3 or even x4 at tier 4. With light weapons that's not out of hand IMO, so long as there aren't too many d10s and you can't stack them.

Another thought I had, especially if we stick to light weapons, is that the class's attacks could also involve a condition - 'bleed' which could do additional damage every round unless treated. There's all sorts of shenanigans we could get up to there. It also fits nicely inside the 'attack the weak spots' vibe we're headed for. For example, what if every successful hit added a bleed die, call it a d4. That would help drop mooks in spots, and if they stacked it could really pump the Assassin's impact on longer combats versus bigger targets. It would also make it worthwhile to really press the mobility aspect, because there's an actual mechanical reason not to focus fire, especially against mobs. Anyway, it seems like a very cool and different kind of character to play in melee.
I really like the Bleed idea. Especially if a bleeding target has their speed slowed. Really nice way to get past mooks to your real target.

I don’t dig crit multipliers so much. Extra dice on a crit, I could get behind, or maybe steal 4e’s brutal mechanic and reroll any 1 or 2 until they are higher than 1 or 2 on shroud damage. That would raise the average, and do so even more on a crit. Another option would be to double the Lethal threshold on a crit?

I also still like the idea of gaining a “destroy target” ability where if you deal half their HP in damage and they are CR [n] or lower, they must save or drop to 0hp. Maybe that could be what makes crits special?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I've tried stacking effects like 4E shrouds and found them kind of frustrating in 5E play. It's just too slow when the average combat is about three to five rounds. I suggest instead a single, binary shroud effect. Especially if you can shroud multiple creatures at once -- nobody needs to track all those numbers.
Focused killer. 1 shroud target at a time, for sure. Also, the idea is that you can place a shroud when you roll initiative and can see an enemy within 100ft. If you are hidden from them, or they are surprised, frightened, poisoned, or charmed by an ally of yours, you can place more than 1 shroud (possibly full shrouds, we will see how things look). On your turn, as a bonus action, you can add a shroud or move your shrouds to a new target. If you are hidden, or if you otherwise have advantage on attack rolls against them, you can place up to 2 shrouds instead of 1.

So, you aren’t waiting 3 rounds in to use the shroud, you’re doing a shroud Attack the first time you hit in a fight.


This is hella OP unless it's on an encounter limit, has some other resource cost, or is conditional.
I disagree, but I’d be fine with a resource cost for the bonus action Dodge. I would make the base class have a disengage related feature with a low action economy cost, though. Riposting a miss as a reaction I discuss further below.


To me, these mechanics say "different than the rogue for the sake of being different" rather than "actually different than the rogue". They're still telling the same story as Cunning Action and Uncanny Dodge, they're just using different rules to to it. You see where I'm coming from?
I was more thinking about the monk, there. The class needs defensive features, and multiple good uses for bonus actions, and light skirmishers in 5e have bonus action tricks. The rogue at will, the monk with Ki.

If the hook for the assassin is going to be observation and preparation, maybe instead the assassin can expend a shroud to turn a hit from the target into a miss, because they've figured out the attack pattern. Find some way to tie the slipperiness directly into preparedness.
I like that. But I’d still make it a riposte, not a parry. Maybe a reaction to try to parry, and spend a shroud to riposte if successful.


I would avoid too many "do thing when you drop a guy" features because they can be frustrating in fights without cannon fodder to trigger them. In my mind's eye, a solo boss fight should be a place where the assassin shines and a swarm of mooks should give them some trouble, not the other way around. Shrouds, burst damage, poison, other single-target debuffs, these are the sorts of mechanics that reflect that fantasy to me.

Don't get me wrong. My own assassin design does the Assassin's Creed thing. It's a super cool thing. But it's their 20th-level ability, a cherry on top of the class, not a substitute for Extra Attack or other bread-and-butter DPR source.
I think 1 such feature is probably fine, but it could also be modified to include “or when you crit against your shroud target”, to make it also good against bosses.
 

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