Character Building 1-30: Revenant Assassin(Level 1)

Its been a while. These, believe it or not are quite a bit of work. I've decided to keep up with what Wizards has been releasing for 4E, and there are piles of new things to play with. We have two fairly new classes in Assassin and Seeker, and I just picked up my copy of Primal Power today. I'm tentatively planning to do Assassin and Seeker, and follow these with the four classes from Primal Power using the new book. I'm going to start off with the first of these, the Assassin class, one of the most complicated and challenging classes 4E has released. The Primal Power classes might be a little rough, as I'll likely have to build them(at least at first) without my beloved Character Builder as it won't be updated again until November 17th. Unless I waste a lot of time again, I'll be without a Primal Power update when I start these.

I have added a few clarifications and additions to my rules for making these. I will bold them for emphasis:

Simple plan: I take a character concept, build it from level 1-30, explaining my choices each step of the way. I have a few basic rules for this.

1. This isn't an optimization excercise. I want a playable character that is enjoyable at all levels.

2. I'm not going to be gearing these beyond generic enhancement items. Access to gear varies from game to game, so for this blog's purposes gear will remain generic, and I won't be building characters that depend on specific gear.

3. I'm going to keep this fully legal, with no house rules. I will be using every source available through the character builder, as well as the background rules. I will be forgoing Forgotten Realms and Scales of War backgrounds as these are more likely to be excluded from home games. In addition, I will avoid using campaign setting specific character options like Spellscarred and Dragonmarks, as these also are often forbidden in some games.

4. I try to keep non-AC defenses as high as possible accross the board. If I have to skimp on AC a little bit to do this, I will.

5. I take cheesy/broken options when they're the right choice. I don't apologize for it. On the other hand, I try to keep the powergaming within the bounds of good taste. I try not to build a character that a DM would be tempted to hit with the nerfbat. I'm fairly lenient as a DM myself, but there are some things that give me pause. I'll push things fairly far, but not towards the very high end of Character Optimization style powergaming.

On to business...

For our fourth character, we're going to go with the D&D Insider exclusive class Assassin, and are going to take it one step further and take the D&D Insider exclusive race Revenant to go with it, as they are a fantastic fit. One of my players has an Assassin in a Paragon level game I am running, and they truly do work well as a Striker, and do so in a unique manner. Now, in building an example of the Assassin class I'm going to stick to a fairly vanilla take on things, which was likely to happen in any case since the Assassin class doesn't have the pile of options the standard classes have when paired with the accompanying Martial/Arcane/Divine/Primal power book.

Revenant Assassin, Level 1:

Race--Revenant--We choose Revenant because its a great fit for the Assassin class, and to shine the spotlight on the D&D exclusive content. Revenant has a bonus to two of the Assassin's primary stats, Dexterity and Constitution, though we will be using the Charisma build for our Assassin. Regardless, Constitution is still a stat we want a good score in, and it won't go to waste. The Revenant's two main racial features are Unnatural Vitality, which will see good use on a low HP character who spends a lot of time in melee, and Past Life, which we are going to cheese the hell out of. The sexy choice for past life is Half-Elf, which allows us to take Dilettante and all sorts of craziness later on. We get to pick a language, and since we used to be a Half Elf we take Elven for flavor reasons.

Class--Assassin--The Assassin is an interesting take on the Striker role, as it requires patience. The class is built around the concept of saving up for one big hit, instead of trying to do as much damage as quickly as possible. The teleportation and stealth/hiding/invisibility powers of this class make it very elusive, to make up for its Wizard-style HP. Don't let those low HP fool you, as its fairly easy to keep AC high with this class, and its almost impossible for enemies to gang up on you and you have an amazing ability to disengage from combat. I've seen this class in play, and survivability isn't one of its problems. Looking at the Assassin's class features, first is Assassin's Shroud. This is your main source of extra Striker damage, and it gets better if you wait and save it up. What you need to learn to do is to attack one creature, place shrouds on another, and take a big hit when the shrouded creature is bloodied or has four of them. The second feature is Guild Training, of which we choose Night Stalker despite Revenant giving us a Constitution bonus(Constitution boosts the other Guild Training path). Night Stalker gives us a second and independant source of extra Striker damage, with an easy to fulfill condition. Night Stalker hits harder(we're a Striker), and has the more interesting power options, particularly for our Dilettante, so its what we take. We also get Shade Form, which is a subtle and itneresting power. It can be used to escape, defend against being damaged, to hide easily, and has some interesting interactions with Assassin powers. Finally, Assassin gets one of the best mobility class features in the game in Shadow Step. You teleport into someone elses shadow, up to 3/4/5 squares depending on tier. Useful both to get position and to get away(you can teleport next to an ally), and will be your standard mode of transportation.

Background--Occupation(Criminal +2 Stealth)--Our Class already gives us access to most of the skills we're after, so we're looking for a strategic bonus to an important skill from our Background, and Stealth is the most important skill for Assassins. I take Criminal, but anything that gives +2 to Stealth will do.

Ability Scores--We use Dexterity to attack, so putting 16(9pts) into it gives us an 18 with our racial bonus. We are taking the Night Stalker path, so we place a 16(9pts) there as well. We have Wizard HP and are going to be a melee character, so 12(2pts) Constitution gives us a 14 with our racial bonus. We spend the last two points on Strength, as this will become useful later on when we want Hide Armor. We drop the 8 into Intelligence, which does nothing for us, and leave Wisdom at a 10. Our stats end up Str12, Con14, Dex18, Int8, Wis10, Cha16

Skills--Assassin gives us Steath for free, as if we would even think about passing on it. We take Thievery since its rare and we have the Dexterity for it, and also take Acrobatics to go with our high Dexterity. We have a racial bonus to Endurance, and its a useful skill so we take that too. For some reason, Intimidate(Revenant gives +2) isn't a class skill, so we take Bluff as our social skill instead to round things out.

Feats--If I plan to take a Superior weapon, I prefer to take it at level 1 to avoid issues later on with having a non-superior enchanted weapon. Given our fragility, we're inclined to use the Light Shield Assassin gives us, so we spend our feat on Weapon Proficiency(Bastard Sword) for a very nice one handed weapon.


At-Will 1--Shadow Storm--This is the best of the Assassin At-Wills, as it comes with some built in extra damage. Hitting hard is what we do. Shadow Storm is much better for this than Leaping Shades since the Assassin tends not to attack its shrouded target.

At-Will 2--Executioner's Noose--This is a nifty piece of control, as pull 2 and slowed is much stronger than it sounds. It also works as your standard ranged attack.

Encounter 1--Nightmare Shades--Boosted by the fact that we're a Night Stalker, this hits hard, targets Will for accuracy, and sets us up for another big hit on the following round. Its also a fear attack, which becomes important later. Gloom Thief is nice with its added Invisibility and gets some consideration, but Nightmare Shades is hard to pass on.

Daily 1--Targeted For Death--Some of the other powers are interesting, but they don't compete with Targeted for Death in terms of raw Violence. Targeted for Death allows you to shred Elites and Solos, and shredding Elites and Solos is a good thing.

Gear--As I stated previously, Assassin gives us proficiency in the light shield, and we'll take one thanks to our fragility. We spent a feat on a Bastard Sword, so that's our weapon. Leather Armor is our only choice on that front. We have At-Will ranged Implement attacks, so we don't really need anything else. We buy an Adventurer's kit just because we can.

Next up: Heroic Tier

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Revenant Assassin, level 1
Revenant, Assassin
Guild Training: Night Stalker
Choose your Race in Life: Half-Elf
Background: Occupation - Criminal (+2 to Stealth)

Str 12, Con 14, Dex 18, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 16.

Str 12, Con 12, Dex 16, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 16.

AC: 17 Fort: 13 Reflex: 15 Will: 14
HP: 24 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 6

Stealth +11, Endurance +9, Bluff +8, Thievery +9, Acrobatics +9

Arcana -1, Diplomacy +3, Dungeoneering, Heal, History -1, Insight, Intimidate +5, Nature, Perception, Religion -1, Streetwise +3, Athletics +1

Level 1: Weapon Proficiency (Bastard sword)

Assassin at-will 1: Shadow Storm
Assassin at-will 1: Executioner's Noose
Assassin encounter 1: Nightmare Shades
Assassin daily 1: Targeted for Death

Adventurer's Kit, Light Shield, Leather Armor, Bastard sword
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