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D&D 5E Do Assassins suck?


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Immoralkickass

Explorer
There's too many variables to really judge Assassin. First of all, it depends on your setting and campaign. The more mundane the better it is for the Assassin, because common bandits like to set up camp, orc have strongholds and gnolls have lairs etc, which you can infiltrate and plan your ambush.

If you are in a setting where you are exploring unknown mystical lands, most likely the monsters spawn out of nowhere, or are disguised as something else like plants, or are invisible. You are hardly going to get your Surprise.

IMO at low levels Assassins are mostly fine, but gets worse as they level up. Their absolute stinker of high level features contribute a lot to this. The 7 days requirement is absurd, and Disguise Self/Disguise Kit can imitate it. 3 hours is a long time, especially when feats like Actor can do what Imposter does for 1 minute. Death Strike is also terrible, because everyone and their mothers have Legendary Resistance by 17, and have bonus to Con saves up the wazoo. That is also assuming you meet all the requirements for Surprise in the first place.

Basically if you dont surprise your enemies, you don't have a subclass in combat.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
There's too many variables to really judge Assassin. First of all, it depends on your setting and campaign. The more mundane the better it is for the Assassin, because common bandits like to set up camp, orc have strongholds and gnolls have lairs etc, which you can infiltrate and plan your ambush.

If you are in a setting where you are exploring unknown mystical lands, most likely the monsters spawn out of nowhere, or are disguised as something else like plants, or are invisible. You are hardly going to get your Surprise.

IMO at low levels Assassins are mostly fine, but gets worse as they level up. Their absolute stinker of high level features contribute a lot to this. The 7 days requirement is absurd, and Disguise Self/Disguise Kit can imitate it. 3 hours is a long time, especially when feats like Actor can do what Imposter does for 1 minute. Death Strike is also terrible, because everyone and their mothers have Legendary Resistance by 17, and have bonus to Con saves up the wazoo. That is also assuming you meet all the requirements for Surprise in the first place.

Basically if you dont surprise your enemies, you don't have a subclass in combat.

Pretty much and doesn't work as advertised.

Arcane Trickster us probably the best one if your a powergamer but you can balls it up as well.

Scout and Swashbuckler are the best rogues for the casual player and still great for power gamers maybe not quite as good at AT depending on level.
 

Horwath

Hero
There's too many variables to really judge Assassin. First of all, it depends on your setting and campaign. The more mundane the better it is for the Assassin, because common bandits like to set up camp, orc have strongholds and gnolls have lairs etc, which you can infiltrate and plan your ambush.

If you are in a setting where you are exploring unknown mystical lands, most likely the monsters spawn out of nowhere, or are disguised as something else like plants, or are invisible. You are hardly going to get your Surprise.

IMO at low levels Assassins are mostly fine, but gets worse as they level up. Their absolute stinker of high level features contribute a lot to this. The 7 days requirement is absurd, and Disguise Self/Disguise Kit can imitate it. 3 hours is a long time, especially when feats like Actor can do what Imposter does for 1 minute. Death Strike is also terrible, because everyone and their mothers have Legendary Resistance by 17, and have bonus to Con saves up the wazoo. That is also assuming you meet all the requirements for Surprise in the first place.

Basically if you dont surprise your enemies, you don't have a subclass in combat.
Yes, higher level (crap)abilities of assassin does not help much, if at all. until 17th level death strike. which should been from level 9 at smaller impact. without a save.

So one suggestion is;
Death strike: 9th level; against surprised targets attack that has sneak attack damage applied deals 3×damage in dice instead of 2×dice damage. I.E. if you have rapier/longbow and +5d6 SA damage dice, your single surprise sneak attack critical would be 3d8+15d6. 66 damage plus some static bonuses.
At 13th level that attack deals 4×dice damage,
at 17th level that attack deals 5×dice damage.
remove current 9th,13th and 17th level features.
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
Assassins are OK but they really need gear and feats to boost their damage. You want weapons that grant additional damage dice and have additional crit damage, and feats like Savage Attacker to keep the damage averages up. Overall, I feel Assassin is the weakest subclass for Rogue and Arcane Trickster is probably the best followed by the highly underrated Thief. Access to spells changes everything. There are many spells that can add damage dice your weapon attacks, and even grant multiple attacks. Spells act as like another class building feature and allow you to create a fighting style of sorts.
 

IMO at low levels Assassins are mostly fine, but gets worse as they level up. Their absolute stinker of high level features contribute a lot to this. The 7 days requirement is absurd, and Disguise Self/Disguise Kit can imitate it.

The 9th level assassin ability allows for nigh on undetectable infiltration, and when you add the 13th level ability to it, you can infiltrate undetectably as somebody else. It can actually be really cool when used, but it is extremely campaign-dependent. If it's a typical AP-style adventure where the party rides the choo-choo train from one killing site to the next, it's a borderline useless ribbon. Or if the DM just isn't into that sort of thing. Hard to know at level 3.

because everyone and their mothers have Legendary Resistance by 17, and have bonus to Con saves up the wazoo. That is also assuming you meet all the requirements for Surprise in the first place.

I find this one particularly funny, given that the Thief subclass gets two turns on the first round, every combat, and therefore most likely gets his sneak attack twice. So the assassin's sneak attack gets 4x damage on the first round if the DM allows it.

Basically if you dont surprise your enemies, you don't have a subclass in combat.

This is probably its biggest weakness. Some DMs just hate letting the party get the drop on monsters, which is why I have fairly clear house rules for how you can do it.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I still think that an assassin without a ''save or die'' feature at higher level is kinda dumb.
Open Hand monks have it at higher level, for a pretty small cost; assassins should be able to pull that off with a small setup!

Assassinate
Starting at 3rd level, you are at your deadliest when you get the drop on your enemies. At the start of your first turn of each combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn't taken a turn in the combat yet and the first hit you score against such a creature on your turn is a critical hit.

Implements of Death
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with the poisoner kit and your choice of disguise kit or forgery kit. Furthermore, you can give yourself a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your proficiency bonus.

Cunning Infiltration
Starting at 9th level, you gain the ability to unerringly mimic another person's speech, writing, and behavior. You must spend at least 1 hour studying these three components of the person's behavior, listening to speech, examining handwriting, and observing mannerism.

Furthermore, you can unfailingly create false identities for yourself. At the end of a long rest, you can spend 25 gp to establish the material documents, history, profession, and affiliations for a false identity. You can't establish an identity that belongs to someone else.

Your ruses are indiscernible to the casual observer. If a wary creature suspects something is amiss, they have disadvantage to all checks made to detect your deceptions.

Hobble Pursuit
At 13th level, whenever you hit a target while you are hidden from them, the creature must make a Constitution saving throw against a DC equals to 8 + proficiency bonus + Intelligence mod. On a failed save, the creature receives a -10 penalty to their Initiative and have their speed reduced by 10 feet for 1 hour or until they receive magical healing. On a save, the creature is immune to this effect until the end of their next long rest.

Death Strike
Starting at 17th level, you become a master of instant death. Whenever you hit a target with your Assassinate feature, it must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 8 + your Intelligence modifier + your proficiency bonus). On a failed save, the creature is reduced to 0 hp.
 
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Assassinate
Starting at 3rd level, you are at your deadliest when you get the drop on your enemies. At the start of your first turn of each combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn't taken a turn in the combat yet and any hit you score against such a creature is a critical hit.

Would make this the first hit you score to avoid MC munchkinism.
 


auburn2

Adventurer
Pretty much and doesn't work as advertised.

Arcane Trickster us probably the best one if your a powergamer but you can balls it up as well.

Scout and Swashbuckler are the best rogues for the casual player and still great for power gamers maybe not quite as good at AT depending on level.
How can you you screw up an Arcane Trickster? There are not many options in the way of spells because almost all have to be enchantment or illusion. If you take Find Familiar then all of the others until 8th level or so need to be. That class is really fun in my experience, but there are not a whole lot of choices you can get wrong.
 

How can you you screw up an Arcane Trickster? There are not many options in the way of spells because almost all have to be enchantment or illusion. If you take Find Familiar then all of the others until 8th level or so need to be. That class is really fun in my experience, but there are not a whole lot of choices you can get wrong.
Quite easily. I had a player pick Tasha's Eldritch Brew instead of Find Familiar, and they didn't go anywhere near the blade cantrips.
 


Yeah the Assassin would never be on my high end list pick of Rogue subclass choices. The auto crit, seems like it would require too much work. Although, in one of the first dnd sessions I was in, we did have an Assassin rogue hide behind a bar counter, use the Tasha's Aim add-on, and would fire his crossbow at the opposing drow we were fighting. Said Drow were too focused on us and I think he got the pick of the first turn surprise round when it happened.

Maybe, ultimately, such an ability would work better if the Assassin rogue was more of a Military Sniper with an Anti-Material/Sniper Rifle.
 

I'll throw in here that one reason I've come to dislike WotC published campaigns is that, since they're designed for any party to be able to complete by following the bread crumbs and killing the stuff in their way, they're not terribly amenable as written to these sorts of ribbon abilities. Maybe I'm just bad at running them, but it feels like players really do just get hurried along to the next point. By contrast, players have found it easier to get more mileage out of their abilities in the completely open-ended scenario presented in Temple of Elemental Evil.
 

As I see it there are 5 basic weaknesses to the subclass:
1. The core level 3 ability is really two abilities (advantage against enemies who haven't gone and auto-crits against surprised enemies), but is described briefly and as one ability such that people often get confused, play a few levels getting auto-crits against any enemy who hasn't gone yet, and then are disappointed when someone at the table later realizes they've been doing it wrong.
2. The surprise part of the level 3 ability is highly DM dependent and may just never come up at your table.
3. The advantage on anyone who hasn't gone yet is theoretically great, but it's a bit belt and suspenders for a rogue in the first round who is often already going to be attacking from hiding or something.
4. The level 9 and 13 abilities are minor, highly situational benefits. It is questionable whether the level 9 one gives any benefit that every character shouldn't already get through good roleplay, albeit perhaps with a few more ability checks.
5. The level 17 ability again requires that elusive surprise that spoiled half of the level 3 ability, so given how little time you are going to play at that level, if your characters get there, it likely only comes up once or twice ever if you're lucky.

Now weakness 1 is not actually a real problem with the subclass, just a problem with how people perceive the class and a rules interpretation problem caused by poor wording in the PHB. It's bad writing and bad public relations, but that's all. Weaknesses 5 is of no relevance to most campaigns. Weakness 4 is of limited relevance to most campaigns; since the second round of Rogue subclass abilities comes pretty late Rogue subclasses basically live or die on effectiveness based on their 3rd level features.

So the real question is whether the two features of Assassinate save the subclass. If you get surprise frequently the autocrits probably make it all worthwhile. If you don't find other ways of consistent first round advantage then that also might make it worthwhile. When the subclass was released it probably did. Now however, we have Swashbucklers and Inquisitives able to get sneak attack without advantage more easily, optimization guides have taught everyone that their Arcane Tricksters should take Find Familiar to generate easy advantage, and Tasha's added the Steady Aim feature to make extra double sure that Rogues can always generate advantage when they need it. I think the niche for playstyles where Assassin is mechanically optimal for the sake of advantage is pretty small these days.

Mechanically it is still relatively strong as a multiclass dip. If you aren't really playing as a Rogue than the fairly uncomplicated "advantage when you beat someone on initiative first round" is pretty awesome, and only shines more with extra-attacks and any feature that improves initiative (which makes Gloomstalker probably the most conspicuous peanut butter to its jam, but there are lots of solid combos).

As a pure Rogue however, unless you have a DM who just gives you surprise all over the place or makes it impossible for you to get easy advantage by normal Rogue techniques it doesn't really hold up to competing subclasses. If the lore of it calls to you it's certainly not worthless, but it's mechanically underwhelming in most campaigns at most tables.
 

auburn2

Adventurer
Quite easily. I had a player pick Tasha's Eldritch Brew instead of Find Familiar, and they didn't go anywhere near the blade cantrips.
I think it depends on your build. The blade cantrips are great in melee, but I don't see them as a must have for an AT. I was playing ATs before SCAG and BB/GFB came out and they were pretty awesome then without those even available.

My must have cantrip for an AT is message. After that, BB ,Prestigation, Mending, GFB, dancing lights and light or all viable options for the second spot depending on what I am going for in the character. If it is melee damage it will be one of the blade cantrips, but that is rarely what my character is built around.
 
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