D&D 5E "Fast Hands" vs "Assassinate"


My player want to create a spy or diplomat character, inspired by the NPC spy in the back of the MM.

His observation is that the Assassin archetype fits this concept better than the Thief archetype, which I otherwise would consider to be the "default" archetype for Rogues.

Assassins get to forge papers and create undercover personas, which is perfect. Actually getting your hands dirty (read bloody) on the other hand, that seems brutish and loutish rather than roguish and clever.

(This is D&D, so the character will gladly use Sneak Attack to defeat monsters. I'm talking more of how to fulfil an archetype)

How do you evaluate the proposal to switch 3rd level class features?

Specifically, to have a Rogue character take the Assassin features "Infiltration Expertise" and "Impostor", but to start that off with the Thief feature "Fast Hands" rather than the assassin's "Assassinate".

I am aware subclasses are balanced as complete packages, and that individual features are not meant to be replacable.

Would this be:
a) overpowered - don't allow it?
b) underpowered - don't recommend it?
c) roughly neutral - no major issues foreseen?

Thanks for providing a second opinion.

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Mastermind option in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide?
I should thank you for reminding me of that option, but now I have to wash my eyes with bleach.

That hideous picture is supposed to be a Halfling, right? WotC really need to spit-roast that artist.


I would imagine it's probably fine. I did the same kind of thing when I created a 'Shadowlord' pact for my warlock player, that basically mixed and matched some of the abilities of the three pacts already in the PH at their respective levels (with a fine coat of necrotic paint). As [MENTION=6793942]Pickles III[/MENTION] mentioned above... the character's base warlock abilities far outshine his pact ones, so I don't think I've ever even noticed it.

Li Shenron

I am aware subclasses are balanced as complete packages, and that individual features are not meant to be replacable.

I believe that subclasses features are often quite 'swappable' (officially they are not, but during the playtest the designers mentioned that an 'advanced' way of playing the game would include mix'n'matching subclasses). At least, each class' subclasses features gained at the same level are designed with an eye towards making them roughly equally good. If the subclass feature you swap out is not required by another later on, and if the subclass feature you swap in doesn't require an earlier one, you are good to go!


The player should also keep in mind that assassinate need not be used for killing. It's entirely appropriate for PCs who are good at sneaking up on someone and knocking them out so they can steal their uniform and keep infiltrating. The ability makes them really good at that.
I agree, the assassin should really have been called the "spy", in AD&D as well as today.


Well I would let her use "fast hands" while I "assassinate" her from behind. win-win.
Oh we are talking about class abilities.


If you want to try a half-measure before adjusting class features, what is the player's background? I think it was Charlatan that gave proficiency in forgery or disguise kit and the feature is to have a False Identity. Or you could make a custom background to fit the flavour he is going for.

Another options is to get replace a skill proficiency with a tool proficiency (either forging or disguise). Heck, even taking Magic Initiate and taking Disguise Self could work.


c) roughly neutral - no major issues foreseen

There are two rogues in my current campaign, one has "Assassinate", one has "Fast Hands". Assassinate rarely comes up, but when it does, it's powerful. Fast Hands, on the other hand, comes up all the time, but it's not a big deal. The rogue mostly uses the ability to swap weapons freely, or more rarely, uses the extra interaction to pull a lever, or open and close a door on the same turn, or something similar. It's convenient, but not powerful. So swapping the two abilities should be fine.

I would be pretty lenient in letting a player make this sort of change. The only thing I would keep an eye on is to make sure their character doesn't overshadow other player characters at the table, which seems very unlikely in this instance.

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