Thursday, March 29, 2012

4eMOD: The oAssassin

I can't remember exactly what my initial reaction was when I originally saw the Assassin come out on DnD Insider. I know it involved a lot of staring, shouting, and eventually screaming in joy. I do remember the lasting peace that spread through everywhere and warmed the cockles of my overjoyed heart, though. That was pretty distinctive.

So was my letdown upon seeing the boards. Apparently the Assassin sucks.

Now, this was news to me. My friend Sunohara had played an assassin awhile back in one of my games, and he had a blast. He played the class as it should have been: someone who hides in the shadows, destroys one target with a well-placed blow, and moves on. Granted, in that game I had cut the HP in half and doubled the damage of the monsters, but that's moot, right? Wrong. Turns out when you mess with the math like that it pretty severely skews things in the assassin's favor. I looked at charts and graphs and arguments, and concluded the naysayers were right. Had I not modified the math as I did, Sunohara's assassin (named Blackstar after an anime character who I just now had the... pleasure... of meeting... *twitches*) wouldn't have been nearly as effective. "Well, I thought, we'll just have to fix that." So I did.

The assassin is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and well-designed classes in the game, even if its not one of the most effective. It sets up a style of play extremely effectively, to the point to where I try to push that in all my 4eMOD classes. But, it does need a few tweaks for effectiveness. Here are a few things I would add:

Weapon Finesse: This lets the assassin use Dexterity for his melee basic attack and damage rolls. That little change alone lets the assassin play so much more offensively it's almost ridiculous. Seriously, an assassin can charge now! Laugh if you will, but sometimes that extra movement can make all the difference, especially because of...

Death Attack: If any attack of yours would reduce a target to 10 HP or less you may kill the target as a free action. At level 21 you may kill  a target when you reduce it to 15 HP instead. So what if I stole this from the Essentials assassin, and then made it better? It's a pretty flavorable (and powerful) ability. And really, who wants Essentials to be better?

Poison Adept: An assassin has sold his soul to the Shadowfell, and has gained power from it. His soul itself is death, and your body now oozes a black fluid that's deadly to whomever touches it. As a minor action you may make your next attack gain the poison keyword. If the attack used has the poison keyword already you get a +2 power bonus to the damage roll of the next attack. At level 11 increase this damage to +4, and at level 21 increase this damage to +6. Why have this? It makes the Venom Hand feat tree actually worthwhile now! The assassin should be a poisoner, it's built right into the idea of an assassin. So let's push that as far as possible. This makes the DPS the assassin deals without shrouds more potent, and allows us to get to the Death Attack that much quicker!

Assassin's Shroud: Finally, the ability that got the most tweaks. The Shroud is an awesome idea in theory, but in practice it could have done much much better. So I changed the flavor. Instead of putting "invisible shrouds" on your foe, you make your own shadow a creature of death.

Basically, Noob Saibot from MK9

So all the time spent "building up shrouds"? You're making your own shadow solid, so it can leap out and deal a huge attack when least expected! This is the essence of the Shroud ability, to catch someone so completely unawares you destroy them.

Change the range on Assassin's Shroud to Personal, and the target yourself. And then, change the first line of the second paragraph to this instead:

Before you make an attack roll against any target, you may choose to invoke either all of your shrouds or none of them. 

Add the following special:

Special:  When you invoke your shrouds and have all four of them your shroud dice become d10's instead of d6's and deals normal damage even on a miss. This includes minions.

All powers talking about the target of your shrouds must now be changed to any target. The assassin's only reason for not attacking from round to round is only that he has so few hit points that getting hit once will almost certainly bloody him (especially if he's been an annoyance before).

And we're still not done. More insult must be given to injury. Two of the At-Wills have to be modified, because they're essentially worthless. Make sure Inescapable Blade adds the assassin's dexterity modifier to the damage roll, and leaping shade does 2 extra damage for each shroud you've invoked, not 1 (and 4 extra damage per shroud at 21st level), and the assassin is mostly fixed. And by mostly fixed I mean some of the other powers aren't as great as they could be, but with those baseline fixes to the class the assassin is now a huge threat. I mean, huge. This is a guy who will be pinballing between all available targets to kill them with a deadly mix of poison, well-placed attacks, and his own shadow! The fact that he has such low HP is more of a thrill now, if you ask me! One good hit and you're dead. But the same is true of your target.


  1. I will have to disagree with your flavor text in regard to the selling of the soul product and the shroud. I like the idea of giving/selling a portion of your soul and in its place you get some shadow, but not the entire soul and replacing it with exclusively shadow. Without the essential soul of a character, then the character is dead, or becomes some odd variant of undead.
    Shadow becomes solid and attacks as compared to Noob? I prefer the aspect of zeroing in on a target, taking time to set up the perfect strike in the chaos of battle, and shadows convening together on a singular spot of weakness. I do not want a cheap summoner trick to make someone do my bidding. :P
    Not sure if I like the idea of full Shroud damage on a miss. Perhaps add a bonus to the attack roll instead of guaranteed damaged? Considering that every class (With the exception of essentials magic missile) has to roll to hit, it seems unfair to give assassins a freebie.

  2. The selling your entire soul portion was poorly worded on my part, my apologies. I'll fix that.

    As far as the shroud thing is concerned, to each his own. You don't have to use my flavor text, which is one of the strengths of 4th edition. I prefer the shadow becoming solid, because not only do I think it's cooler but it goes with the flavor that the main 4th edition writers were talking about better. I mean, the Shadowfell basically takes over your shadow and uses it for your ends. How is that NOT badass?

    The problem is that assassins have to wait longer than anyone else to get their full DPS output. It's a way of balancing it out. I'll change it so that way it'll only do full damage on a miss if you store up all 4 shrouds. That's more incentive to play the class as it's intended.

  3. The mechanical reason for changing the range to personal is that if the shrouds are invoked on a target they go away when the target dies. This is a major pain in the butt if your target dies before you get to use the shrouds! The best way to fix this is to make the shrouds empower yourself, so that way you don't have the issue of being forced to zero in on a target that may die before you can build up all the way.

    How do I know people will probably wait to unleash their shrouds? By making the shrouds do d10's and still do normal damage on a miss I'm giving huge incentives to play a particular way. If they don't play that way then they don't get the full reward.

    In essence, a game is only as good as the coherency of its rewards.