Assassins in My Game

I am not a big fan of the assassin as a specific rules set in my games. I play Pathfinder, or 3.5 and in the core rulebooks of these systems, there is an option to be an assassin as a prestige class, but to what end? These extra class rules do not give enough advantage when compared to well “built” player character, seriously, death attack… yawn.

I run games with players who try things outside their class abilities all the time, as the Game Master, I have to make rulings on whether these impromptu tactics will work and proceed from there. I encourage players to think “outside the box” and will reward them when they come up with something really cool. If a game requires the players to kill someone, then for that game, they are all assassins as a group, the need for the “death attack” in a game group is silly, since the players all want a chance to “get em”, so the assassin class is one that I consistently passed over, since oh, 2000, as a neat idea but not as a really playable in my games. Come to think of it, no one at my table in the past 10 years has ever asked to be an assassin, a kobold once, but never an assassin.

When you present the assassin up as a player challenge, say as a monster or a NPC, I tend to use the rules for ranger, with favored enemy humans, or whatever the target race is, and a rogue combination with poison use. Also, I have a cool magic item called the coin of the dead that the assassins in Alidor have access to.

Coin of the dead
Placing the coin in the mouth of a recently dead person will cause the victim to rise as a mindless zombie undead, 1d4 rounds later. Only resurrection can return a victim to life, raise dead and reincarnate will not work. The coins work on a one coin, one use basis.

Zombie copper coin; Aura Moderate necromancy; CL 10 Slot –; Price 11,000; Weight —
Plague Zombie silver; Aura strong necromancy; CL 15 Slot –; Price 92,000; Weight –

The coins added flavor to the game, and I think they work better than the “death attack” ability in 3.5, and are more fun than “true death” in Pathfinder. I had a game where an assassin killed a noble and the party was left fighting the zombie. At the end of the battle they found the coin, and through some clever “role play” followed the leads back to the necromancer that made the coin and convinced him to hand over his client book, which lead to the assassin right before she killed another victim, breaking the party into two groups. One spent the game hoping to get the assassin before the victim was killed, and the other group made plans to stop the assassin before she dropped the coin into the victim. It ended up being a fun team effort, and a great game session.

I also played in a game once, with an assassin NPC and a particularly evil GM, who killed a player with a death attack and the table broke down to arguments and chaos, because no one believed the assassin had three rounds to study.

In Advanced Dungeons and Dragons of the 80s the assassin was a subclass of the thief. All my friends played them, because they got better weapons and armor than a normal thief and you could spy with them and on a good sneak attack could kill a victim in one stroke, I think it was a 50 percent chance of a perfect kill or something. These days, with Pathfinder and party team work, and like a zillion feat combos to choose from, I think the assassin as a player character class is finally dead.

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About shent_lodge

Shent_lodge, AKA Jon, started this website, in 2000, initially as a player's guide to his home game. He has run through, and run for, hundreds of players of the Dungeons and Dragons game since 1980. These days he plays, or runs games using the WORST RPG rules set.


  1. Great article! I’m 100% agree with your concept about the assassin, it’s quite a nonsense, ’cause you have lots of options to be much more efficient than the real assassins without choosing the prestige class,as you said, for example a ranger with favoured enemy: “humans” .

    The Coin of dead is a brilliant idea! very useful if you want to extend the game a little bit with some extra monsters and intrigues after the combats.

    I wrote antoher article following the idea of RPG Carnival tips, in spanish, I hope it won’t be a problem. xD

    Greetings from Spain! // ¡Un saludo desde España!

    PS: Sorry about my English level, its a little bit oxidized…

  2. Thanks Midas. I am just contributing to the carnival. My English is a bit oxidized too.