Dragon 391: Essentials Assassin...

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My rules may be shaky on this, but the level 1 poison Nitharit Poison has an alternate use that causes a creature to lose poison immunity until it takes an extended rest. Seeing as how the ability has the poison keyword, a creature with immunity to poison would be immune to this alternate effect.


That's pretty funny! Your reasoning seems sound to me, unfortunately.
A few quick questions:

-When using Unseen Spearhead and Garrote Strangle is the following correct?

I think you move close to your target while Stealthing, shift behind him, and then attack. I think you check for Stealth after the move but not after the shift. If you suceeded then I believe the shift is part of the attack, one that breaks stealth whether successful or not. The end result is a hit which reveals you or a miss that also reveals you.


-Ki Focus. Can someone explian this to me? How do I use it? What modifiers does it give me? Is it always on giving me some plus to attack or damage?

-With Unerring Shuriken, can I move my max, throw the weapon for damage and then move again up to my speed?
Welp, we get a price and weight for the poison kit finally in the compiled issue of Dragon 391...

10 gp; 1 lb.

That is all,

Bryan Blumklotz
Any other changes of note in the finished article? I haven't had the time to compare yet...
I sent the following to the email in the beta article:


Let me begin by saying that most of the Assassin is mechanically sound, there are a few issues, but i'm sure you have heard about those issues aplenty, what i wish to talk about is the assassins flavor. I do not discus the guild executioner in this correspondence.

I will begin by reiterating the dual power source of the assassin, both martial and shadow. 

However amongst the core class features, it gets almost nothing from shadow.



Attack finesse makes for a fine class feature, however it is rather bland. I understand more accurate strikes giving the dex base to melee attacks, but IMHO that does not really justify the bonus damage dice. However if their weapons were wrapped in the stuff of shadows, which is toxic to most creatures, and the bonus damage dice dealt something like necrotic, poison, or cold damage. It isn't quite as bland, and it only mildly alters the feature. The main change is the flavor. All of the following are solely my opinion and will have little effect on the way the assassin is played. 



Assassin's strike is a wonderful class feature, i see nothing wrong with it.



Ki focus is another class feature that is very good as is, the only thing missing is Ki focus Expertise as a feat, beyond that it is a very nice class feature.



The guild weapon attacks are underwhelming, they are all melee based, with not even a nod to the shadow power source and they are the classes at wills, the attacks that generally offer up the main mechanics of the class. A couple of them require stealth to initiate, but the assassin has no real way to gain stealth once it has been lost. I'm hoping for more options here as well once the official version comes out, and maybe the guild training also has a few shadow tricks up their sleeves as well, as it stands this class feature is also rather bland.



Poison use is a wonderful but flawed feature, I don't believe that the poisons should at any point be an item. How is 10g supposed to afford enough of all these rare ingredients to make such potent poisons, and how is he supposed to disguise the fact that he has poison on him, and how are the ingredients seemingly harmless when most of them are supposedly toxic in their basic form. And even if they overlook the "harmless" ingredients, how are they going to miss the vials of poison on him that are definitely active? To overcome this, give the poisons a shadow source, allow the assassin to channel the shadows in different manners for a variety of effects, the shadow dissipates quickly after use, is impossible to detect before it is used, because to use it he simply draws shadow stuff onto his blade, he may even have to meditate at some point in the day to prepare the shadow infusions. This would also give the assassin more control over his poisons, say he gives his target a dose of poison that is potentially lethal, but then has a change of heart, or the assassination is called off, or he discovers that he has poisoned the wrong target, or the wrong person consumes the poisoned food. If it was a shadow infusion he would also be able to dismiss the effects by making the shadow stuff dissipate instantly instead of running their course. 



The utilities up to level 10 carry a nice balance of martial and shadow powers with some nice flavor elements, but after level 10 you no longer have any choices and all of your utilities become predetermined, i find this appalling. I suspect that this will be modified in the final version, or at least i hope it will. If you get nothing else from this please note that you need to be able to choose your utilities instead of having one particular utility shoved down your throat every few levels.


Death attack is a very nice feature, but it may be better to divide its progression amongst more levels. Perhaps give this as a level 1 class feature, but with a value of 5 then every five levels give it a 5 point bump. Or start it at two and bump it by 2 every other level.



Flawless disguise is essentially useless, to improve it the assassin would need to have bluff as a class skill, additionally this feature would be even better if it allowed you to be considered hidden as long as you remained disguised.



*Shadow coffin is an interesting flavor, not too bad, not real good, but interesting nonetheless...


*Untraceable step is another mediocre ability it may help you get the drop on your target for certain abilities though so not too bad...


*Ignore barriers is very useful for infiltration and exit



*Should be presented with options when these are gained instead of here, "You get this utility, don't like it? Too bad." Let me build my own character please?



Thank you,

Xynthoros



I will begin by reiterating the dual power source of the assassin, both martial and shadow. 

However amongst the core class features, it gets almost nothing from shadow.


That is not true. It gets plenty of utility powers from the shadow power source. Its utility features is why it is a dual power source class. It uses martial attacks, and shadow utility... and personally, I like it that way.


Attack finesse makes for a fine class feature, however it is rather bland. I understand more accurate strikes giving the dex base to melee attacks, but IMHO that does not really justify the bonus damage dice. However if their weapons were wrapped in the stuff of shadows, which is toxic to most creatures, and the bonus damage dice dealt something like necrotic, poison, or cold damage. It isn't quite as bland, and it only mildly alters the feature. The main change is the flavor. All of the following are solely my opinion and will have little effect on the way the assassin is played.



But it would also make the class feature weaker... those types of damage are more likely to be resisted. Still, I wouldn't bat an eyelash if they did something like that.


Assassin's strike is a wonderful class feature, i see nothing wrong with it.

Ki focus is another class feature that is very good as is, the only thing missing is Ki focus Expertise as a feat, beyond that it is a very nice class feature.



Agreed.


The guild weapon attacks are underwhelming, they are all melee based, with not even a nod to the shadow power source and they are the classes at wills, the attacks that generally offer up the main mechanics of the class. A couple of them require stealth to initiate, but the assassin has no real way to gain stealth once it has been lost. I'm hoping for more options here as well once the official version comes out, and maybe the guild training also has a few shadow tricks up their sleeves as well, as it stands this class feature is also rather bland.



I have no real opinion. I love the powers we have. I don't want to see them go anywhere. I personally don't feel the need for more shadow themed at-wills. But more options is never bad. It would be really nice to see all these powers get the "Assassat At-Will Attack Level 1" tag so that you could choose to take one of them, or one of the assassin attacks from the previously released article.


Poison use is a wonderful but flawed feature, I don't believe that the poisons should at any point be an item. How is 10g supposed to afford enough of all these rare ingredients to make such potent poisons, and how is he supposed to disguise the fact that he has poison on him, and how are the ingredients seemingly harmless when most of them are supposedly toxic in their basic form. And even if they overlook the "harmless" ingredients, how are they going to miss the vials of poison on him that are definitely active? To overcome this, give the poisons a shadow source, allow the assassin to channel the shadows in different manners for a variety of effects, the shadow dissipates quickly after use, is impossible to detect before it is used, because to use it he simply draws shadow stuff onto his blade, he may even have to meditate at some point in the day to prepare the shadow infusions. This would also give the assassin more control over his poisons, say he gives his target a dose of poison that is potentially lethal, but then has a change of heart, or the assassination is called off, or he discovers that he has poisoned the wrong target, or the wrong person consumes the poisoned food. If it was a shadow infusion he would also be able to dismiss the effects by making the shadow stuff dissipate instantly instead of running their course.



I disagree with this in every possible way. An assassin can use his stealth skill to hide the consumable on his body. Having him make poisons is wonderfully flavorful. It is a great way to show that the 4e mechanics can be more than they currently are. And the idea of making them all conjurations that he pulls out of the stuff of shadows is just yuck. Maybe make an assassin utility power that allows the assassin to hide object in "shadow pockets" that can not be found at most. Please, for the love of god, don't listen to this portion of the feedback! The poisons are GREAT! One of my favorite things about this new class. Don't ruin them by listening to this. Poisons are not a flawed feature AT ALL. Though, there does need to be a Ki Focus Expertise and a Ki Focus "Focus" set of eats which apply their bonuses to attack and damage with attacks made via the poisons...


The utilities up to level 10 carry a nice balance of martial and shadow powers with some nice flavor elements, but after level 10 you no longer have any choices and all of your utilities become predetermined, i find this appalling. I suspect that this will be modified in the final version, or at least i hope it will. If you get nothing else from this please note that you need to be able to choose your utilities instead of having one particular utility shoved down your throat every few levels.
Death attack is a very nice feature, but it may be better to divide its progression amongst more levels. Perhaps give this as a level 1 class feature, but with a value of 5 then every five levels give it a 5 point bump. Or start it at two and bump it by 2 every other level.



Um, the assassin has access to all of the utilities from the previously released assassin class. He is hardly at a loss for utilities to choose from...


Flawless disguise is essentially useless, to improve it the assassin would need to have bluff as a class skill, additionally this feature would be even better if it allowed you to be considered hidden as long as you remained disguised.



I don't think it is a useless class feature. But it does seem like an assassin should gain training in the bluff skill for free if he gets a class feature like that. Perhaps the assassin should get a choice between two different class features at that level? One might be the disguise feature. The other might be some sort of athletics/acrobatics class feature.


*Shadow coffin is an interesting flavor, not too bad, not real good, but interesting nonetheless...
*Untraceable step is another mediocre ability it may help you get the drop on your target for certain abilities though so not too bad...
*Ignore barriers is very useful for infiltration and exit
*Should be presented with options when these are gained instead of here, "You get this utility, don't like it? Too bad." Let me build my own character please?



Any of those powers which are given a Utility [Level] tag in their power description are tradable for utilities of an equal or lower level from the previously released assassin article. The rest are bonus class features. I don't see a problem here.


I was just stating my personal opinion on the matters, if no one agrees with my feedback, then i doubt anyone at wizards will take no note... so have no fear I doubt it will be changed, this is just the feedback I sent to wizards, if you have a divergent opinion, send it your opinion to wizards, it is a play test for a reason...
I was just stating my personal opinion on the matters, if no one agrees with my feedback, then i doubt anyone at wizards will take no note... so have no fear I doubt it will be changed, this is just the feedback I sent to wizards, if you have a divergent opinion, send it your opinion to wizards, it is a play test for a reason...



Oh, I know. I have no problem with it being your opinion. But the devs do keep an eye on these forums in order to witness our discussions in regards to our opinions on these articles. Basically, I posted what I did to let the devs know where my opinions were similar or diverged.

The things I sent in are:


1) The Red Scales says that they gain proficiency in unarmed attacks, but there is no information on what that includes (proficiency bonus or damage).
 
2) All Executioners need a poisoner's kit for their poisons, but their is no price given for one. (apparantly this was fixed in the full download)
 
3) Unarmed Throw is pretty bland for a standard action and doesn't do much unless you throw the target off a ledge. Prone is a good At-Will effect, but the monk deals 1d6 + dexterity modifier damage and knocks the target prone.
 
4) Some poisons (like the Carrion Crawler Brain Juice Poison) don't aid ranged users as much as melee units as they last the whole encounter, but ammunition can only be used once (this is mostly for crossbows and blowguns as enchanted throwing weapons return to the users hand).
 
5) Insanity Mist (a level 15 poison) is almost the same as Id Moss Powder (Level 1 poison), the difference is the ongoing damage is 10 instead of 5 (if hit), but Id Moss Powder makes the target make a basic attack against an ally for each failed save, and the Insanity Mist hits fortitude instead of Reflex. In addition, Id Moss Powder does more damage than the Insanity Mist does when placed in a container. Id Moss dealing instant 2d10 + Dex poison damage and ongoing 10 psychic (save ends) vs. Insanity mist's instant 2d10 poison damage and ongoing 10 psyhic (save ends). They also both have the same miss effect (half damage and ongoing 5 psychic (save ends).
 
6) What happens if you put multiple poisons in the same place/drink/food? Would all effects apply? Can you only put one poison in one thing? There is nothing that specifies what happes, I assume that they would all apply. So, if an executioner placedd Ungol Dust and Eye of the Basilisk in a container that gets opened by another creature. Would that creature be exposed to the Eye of the Basilisk's attack as well as taking 3d10 poison damage and ongoing 5 acid damage? Or could you poison a longsword twice (lets say with Dark Reaver Powder and Carrion Crawler Brain Juice) Would a basic attack deal 2[W] + Dexterity modifier damage + 10 (Dark Reaver Power) +2 (Carrion Crawler Brain Juice) as well as slowing and dazing the target until the end of the executioner's next turn?
 
7) What happens if an Executioner poisons a food item or a drink, does a creature have to consume the entire thing for the effects to happen, or do they happen if any is consumed?


Most have already been said by others though.

Question 

for level 7 is states
Guild weapon Training

Benefit: You gain one additional guild weapon attack.

does that mean I get 2 attacks?
Question 

for level 7 is states
Guild weapon Training

Benefit: You gain one additional guild weapon attack.

does that mean I get 2 attacks?



No, it just means that you gain another guild weapon at-will attack. You start with two and at level 7 you gain another. You'd then have 3. Hope that makes sense.
The more I think about it, the more I'd really prefer poisons to be broken up by level instead of tier.  Build in a "spellbook" element that allows a level of of flexibility if you want, but currently the feature hews wildly off of the standard power progression.  As it stands, this class doesn't get a 9th-level Daily, they get a third-string 1st-level Daily.  Even if they all average out to 5th-level Dailies, that's a decent power fluctuation over the course of a tier.
Ok, so, the unseen spearhead attack is super flavorful. I REALLY like it. It both feels very much like the sort of move an assassin would try and pull, but it is also an unusual and unique weapon for the assassin. This both captures the theme of the assassin and adds something new to it. I love it! However, it does have one problem that needs to be fixed. The point of the power is to use every part of the spear/javelin in order to perform a deadly attack. First you sneak up and choke the target with the haft. Then, once you get a better grip, you continue to hold the target in a choke hold with one hand while you pull away the weapon with the other, and then use the weapon to stab the target in the back. But, there is no mechanical reason for anyone to ever use their javelin or spear to stab the person. The power only states that you treat the target as helpless for as long you maintain the grab. There is no reason for the assassin not to use his quick swap ability to pull out a more powerful weapon, and then perform his coup de grace with that. I would suggest that the hit line of Unseen Spearhead gets rewritten as follows:

You grab the target. If you are still grabbing the target at the start of your next turn you treat the target as helpless, with any attacks you make with the javelin or spear, for as long as you continue to grab the target



I'm not so sure I like that. I think I like it just fine how it is. Picture this:

The assassin springs from the shadows and catches the guard by the throat with the haft of his spear and begins choking him with it. As the guard struggles, the Assassin maintains the hold with one hand and then quickly and deftly draws his curved kukri blade and uses it to draw a red line across the guard's exposed throat.

That's a perfectly good synergy of two weapons, something that the Quick Swap feature itself seems to be made for. It seems to me that an Executioner assassin should be swapping out weapons for whatever's most useful at the time. I like the power the way it is.
Planes Wanderer
Here's my feedback on the Essentials Assassin:

Attack Finesse - It's my opinion that every class should have an accurate basic attack. So seeing this rolled into the class is excellent as far as I am concerned, and the striker damage feature is good as well. It's simple and thematic.

Quick Swap - Mechnically this is practical. As others have suggested I would recommend that it gets extended to drawing a vial of poison as well. This would alleviate having to burn through two minor actions to get your "daily" attack off in combat.

Assassin's Guild - Not really a fan. Thematically, I imagine assassins to be pretty practical, adaptable, and flexible. I don't like the idea of all-melee assassins and all-ranged assassins. To me, a respectable assassin would be deadly in melee and at a distance. I think the at-wills should not be separated by Guild, especially considering that the Red Scales at-wills are so situational. Rather, allow an assassin to choose from all of the at-wills, to diversify an assassin's options and allow more customization. It makes little sense to me that an assassin would choose to only be able to kill people at a distance or vice versa. I'm not sure what could replace the benefits of a Guild choice, but I'm sure others more gifted than myself can come up with a suitable solution.

Guild Powers (Red Scales) - Two powers require you to be hidden from your target, making them very situational in most combats (but out of combat they are awesome, more below). Another requires you to charge, which may or may not see a lot of use. The fourth power requires you to be unarmed and deals no damage. This means that our very thematic and awesome assassin is likely going to be using a basic attack most of the time, but without stances (so not like Knights, Slayers, and Thieves). I'm not a designer, so I don't know how far my suggestions will go, but here is what I think:

Garrote Strangle - Very much yes! This is awesome. Hoo boy. My only issue is that the assassin has very few ways to consistently be hidden outside of conventional methods, which may not be enough to use this in a typical combat encounter. In my experience, the party doesn't usually get to hide before an encounter starts, so how often this power will get to see use *in combat* is hard to say. I think this power is fine as is, but needs some support from the class itself to see some play.

Kukri Lunge - Meh. I guess the idea here is that the assassin can close the distance on an enemy with some decent damage. Considering the restrictions on the other Red Scales attacks, I'd suggest not limiting this to charges, but simply giving it the option to be used on a charge. It's also a little bland, and this class is all sorts of inspiring as far as I'm concerned. Maybe if the target is bloodied or if you use the attack as part of a charge you can reduce the damage by 1[W] but add that amount as ongoing damage? Seems thematic (the kurki is a slashing weapon), and makes it more than just a basic attack. But not sure if it's worth not having the damage front-loaded in those cases. (Allow me to reiterate that I am not a designer.)

Unarmed Throw - I can't figure out a use for this in actual play. As others have mentioned, other classes have at-will pushes and prones that also deal damage, so this power seems pretty strange to me. Unless your enemy is near a ledge and has a 50% chance of leaving the combat, trading any damage at all to simply prone your target does not seem worth it. I would definitely add damage to the power. If the damage+control is a concern, I would change the Push to Slide and indicate that it must be into a square adjacent to you. Otherwise, the power needs damage to be competitive. Also, the proficiency bonus for the assassin's unarmed attacks needs to be indicated somewhere as well. Maybe an alternative to adding damage would be to add that it can be used once per turn as a reaction to some trigger. Perhaps if an enemy misses the assassin on an attack, or moves into a flanking position or something along those lines.

Unseen Spearhead - I want to love this power but I can't get past the thematic disparity. I don't imagine assassins with spears, so I don't like the addition of this weapon type to the class. I think a lot of care was taken to move this Essentials assassin class closer to what we typically associate with assassins, so the inclusion of javelins seems out of place. I would prefer that this power require the dagger instead, as the image of holding a dagger to someone's neck to force compliance is pretty iconic/thematic. A dagger, like a garrote or kukri, is pretty easy to conceal, unlike a spear, and fits more thematically for that reason as well. And like with Garrote Strangle, this power would benefit from Stealth support for this class. I wouldn't ask that either power be able to be used every round, but if you don't start an encounter hidden, it doesn't seem you can reliably get hidden during combat on your own in order to use your at-will. And since you only have two to begin with, choosing either Unseen Spearhead or Garrote Strangle and not being able to use either most of the time seems like a waste.

Guild Powers (League of Whispers) - I'll reiterate that I don't like the idea of an assassin with ranged-only powers.

Bolas Takedown - This is essentially the Bola Training feat. I don't mind this like I do with Unarmed Throw because I think Immobilization+Prone can actually be worth forgoing damage in some situations. The range also makes it superior to Unarmed Throw for targeting fliers and keeping other enemies at bay.

Close-Quarters Shot - A nice option against adjacent enemies. The Shift 2 effect is very nice.

Precision Dart - I like this a lot. I think the trade-off in damage is well worth the accuracy+saving throw effect.

Unerring Shuriken - I don't think I would normally like this power but in the case of having a power like Ghost of the Rooftops, I can see the appeal in a free Move when combined with leaping or climbing to get away from an adversary. That said, the power is otherwise pretty basic.

Assassin's Strike - I like it. The burst damage is thematic when an assassin jumps out of hiding and strikes his mark. Out of combat, assassinating targets in their sleep may actually be done in one turn!

Ki Focus - Pretty much necessary for any class that handles more than one weapon. Being able to get a Focus feat on it would go a long way.

Poison Use - This is by far one of my favorite pieces from this article. The out of combat applications really opens up the in-game possibilities. I wish that all classes had such mechanical features that could be used effectively out of combat (though I wouldn't know what those could be for each class). I agree with others that more poisons are definitely needed though.

Nimble Drop - I saw it mentioned somewhere else to move this up to level 6. I respectfully disagree. This is great as a feature and thematic as well. Leave it as is please.

Flawless Disguise - As others have mentioned, this option will be hard to take advantage of if the assassin has not trained the Bluff skill. Perhaps some other options not related to Bluff should be added at this level to reflect that.

All in all, I think this is a great execution (no pun intended) of the assassin class. Some other things that come to mind at the moment:

- Please get rid of that Light Shield proficiency. Archtypical assassins do not use shields, and the shield interacts poorly with Quick Swap. Other classes have built-in defense bonuses. Some people have bemoaned the seemingly small amount of shadow-related mechanics in this incarnation of the assassin class. Perhaps adding a built-in +1 AC/Reflex bonus and connecting it to some sort of shadow-force armor is appropriate. I am not a fan of the Parrying Dagger proficiency because I do not want to pigeon-hole the class into dual-wielding.

- If nothing is added to increase the assassin's ability to hide in-combat and each a target while hidden, then the powers not requiring the assassin to be hidden should be boosted in some way to make up for the limited use of those other at-wills. Basic attacks may be fine on classes that get stances, but not for this class.

- If the inclusion of Charisma is a typo in the Ability Scores section, then I would suggest to leave it as Dexterity only. This would give each player the freedom to pick whatever other ability scores he would like to focus in. Stronger assassins would be better at climbing, leaping, grabbing, and what have you, while charismatic assassins will be much better at lying, seducing, and intimidating their targets. This would also broaden the multiclassing potential that the assassin has.

That's it for now I suppose.
I just wanted to say, I have slowly been won over to the side of people who would really like to see unseen spearhead become a dagger based attack. I like the fact that WotC is trying to give the assassin some new flavor via the spear. But, grappling, and then performing a hyper lethal knife attack, is sort of a staple of fiction. Halo Reach has its heroes doing it. Turok had its hero doing it. In most fiction about spec-ops style characters someone does it. In most fiction that utilizes a strong/weapon wielding assassin (which is what a grappling assassin will end up being) there is a character that does it. So, not being able to do it, unless you wield a spear, is a little disappointing...