Monday, November 16, 2015

Holmes Rules: The Assassin

[this is the my final subclass post in this series I started waaaay back here. I do still plan to do a half-elf post, and I'm tempted (O So Tempted) to do Holmesian versions of the bard and half-orc, too, despite them not being mentioned in the original passage that touched off this project. I do plan on doing an "index post" when all this is over, BTW]

Assassins -- thieves who possess a strength, intelligence, and dexterity of 12 or better may choose to become assassins: members of a sect skilled in stealing lives the way thieves steal valuables. Characters of good alignment may not be assassins, and assassins who change to good alignment may no longer advance (though they retain their abilities). Unlike thieves, assassins may use shields.

Real assassins don't wear white.
While assassins have the same ability to move silently and hide in shadows as thieves, their other skills differ as their training is focused on getting close to a target for purpose of murder. Assassins may disguise themselves as any humanoid of roughly equal size (height cannot vary by more than three to five inches, either way). An assassin can attempt to manufacture poisons (100gp per dose attempted) that inflict the damage listed; such poisons are applied to edged weapons and must be introduced to a victim's bloodstream to inflict damage. Digestive poisons may be created as well (for the same price) and do double damage, but are slower acting (D6 turns to take effect) and victims are allowed a saving throw to detect "something off" before consuming enough poisoned food or drink to suffer damage.

Assassins enjoy the same +4 bonus that thieves do if they can achieve surprise of a victim; however, instead of doing double damage the assassin has a percentage chance to automatically kill the victim, as shown. Assassination only works on living humanoid targets (not undead, nor constructs like living statues and gargoyles), and may not be used against monsters large than humans unless the assassin has at least as many levels as the creature has hit dice. In the case of human and demihuman adventurers, a saving throw is allowed only if the target is of equal or greater level than the assassin. Should the assassination attempt fail, the opponent still takes normal damage (and poison damage if the assassin uses poisoned weapons).


Level
Disguise
Brew Poison*
Poison Damage
Assassinate
Apprentice
20
30
D6
15
Bravo
30
35
D6
20
Thug
40
40
D6
25
Killer
50
45
D8
30
Cutthroat
60
50
D8
35
Murderer
65
55
D8
40
Slayer
70
60
D10
45
Executioner
75
65
D10
55
Assassin
80
70
D10
65
Senior Assassin
85
75
D12
75
Expert Assassin
90
80
D12
85
Master Assassin
95
85
D12
95
*There is a 20% chance on a failed roll of accidental self-poisoning.

Assassins may never have hirelings or followers. As stated, assassins belong to a sect or clan; while generally left to their own devices, they sometimes are given missions they are obligated to fulfill (a 1 in 6 chance checked by the DM at the beginning of an adventure). Failure to accomplish a mission results in harsh consequences for the character. An assassin of maximum level may aspire to become the head of the sect; usually this is achieved by assassinating the current sect leader.

[this may be my favorite version of the assassin ever]

6 comments:

  1. I like your idea of the assassin possibly being on his or her own mission. There are lots of possibilities. Maybe the mission is not related to or conflicts with the goals of the party (including the assassin's own). A little bit like Paranoia.

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    1. @ Darn:

      It could also give the PC some intelligence about what awaits in the adventure: "There's an evil magic-user named Zartan lairing on the 2nd level; take him out." Probably wouldn't require the PC to take out a fellow party member.

      Probably not.
      ; )

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  2. I don't know...you might want to wear white in a really white room with plastered and white washed walls.

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  3. While this is overall a good effort, the death attack is extremely overpowered -- there needs to be a save or something, because as-is the class is "I win" after name level.

    Also, I don't know how it works in B/X, but you'd never be able to use this kind of assassin against the PCs, particularly at high level -- the rate that they'd get their death attack in means the PCs would be cut to ribbons.

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    Replies
    1. Not sure how this merits "extremely overpowered." There is a saving throw allowed for characters of equal or greater level than the assassin, the percentages are generally lower than an AD&D assassin, and there's no doubling or quadrupling or quintupling of damage on a failed assassination attempt.

      Let's consider a small team of 7th level assassins attack a party of 9th level adventurers. Assuming they get surprise (and are thus allowed to make a single assassination attempt) what is the actual chance of success?

      Let's say one assassin is assigned to attack the fighter, and we'll consider his magic armor & shield bonus is off-set by the assassin's +4 to attack. Still needing a 15 to his AC 2 (surprise doesn't negate the fighter's shield) means a 30% chance to hit. Multiply that by 45% (his assassination chance) and multiply that by 30% (the chance that the fighter misses his save) and you have an overall chance of death equal 4.5%...which is about half of what it would be in AD&D (not counting that a poisoned blade in AD&D might well carry a chance of auto-death in addition).

      What if it was a 9th level assassin versus a 9th level fighter? The chance would still only be 7.8% which I wouldn't exactly call "cutting him to ribbons." Chance would go up to 26% if the fighter was 8th level (against a 9th level assassin) and thus NOT entitled to a saving throw. The AD&D version of the 9th versus 9th, by the way, is 19.25% and that's not taking into account the possibility an assassin gets a bonus to hit (for high strength), nor the poison chance.

      Against a magic-user (another prime target) the chance of assassination is better due to the lack of AC (considering the assassin's +4 is only offset by a +1 ring of protection); the percentages look like this:

      7th versus 9th: 10.8%
      9th versus 9th: 17.6%
      9th versus 8th: 58.5% (no save)

      [though if I'm throwing multiple 9th level assassins against an 8th level party, there's something seriously wrong]

      Again, for comparison, these percentages in AD&D would be 30% and 49.5% (for a 9th level assassin versus both an 8th or 9th level MU...presuming no additional bonuses for STR or magic weapons and no poison on the blade).

      But what if we were talking the real cream of assassins...a team of 12th level masters against a group of equally powerful PCs (since it would be kind of silly for master assassins to attack lesser foes en masse)? Presuming they achieve surprise, the chance of the 12th level fighter being assassinated (assuming the offset to the bonus) would be 5.7%. The chance against the 12th level magic-user would be 12.8%. Personally, I don't think that's very good, and probably I need to alter the saving throw bonus to +1 per 2 levels (which would change the assassination chance to 17.1% and 38.4% respectively). The AD&D chance for 12 vs. 12 is 15.8% and 40.1%...increasing to 22.5% and 47.5% at 13 vs. 13 (AD&D assassins go up to level 15).

      All in all, I don't see this as "over-powered." An assassin with surprise gets one shot at killing her target...after that, she's just another thief with D4 hit points per level.

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