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.