Relatively easy tweaks to the Executioner that would make it better at its design concept.

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1) Assassin's Strike


In the Design and Development article on the Executioner, it was mentioned that the "difference between (the Executioner's) at-will and damage output is similar to other classes." Once the excitement of an Assassin who was built for an alpha strike wore off, it didn't take long with just a casual glance at the numbers, then comparing it to other E-classes, to question the validity of this statement.
 
Since the article also states that Assassin's Strike is supposed to do the serious damage regardless of the weapon you're using, let's compare the current figures of Assassin's Strike to that of Power Strike using a maul, the strongest weapon available to an E-character without taking an extra feat (typically used by a Slayer).

Assassin's Strike vs. Power Strike (Maul)


Assassin's Strike (usable 1/encounter ever, never rechargeable):
L1: 1d10 = 5.5
L3: 2d10 = 11
L7: 3d10 = 16.5
L13: 4d10 = 22
L17: 5d10 = 27.5
L23: 6d10 = 33
L27: 7d10 = 38.5

Power Strike (Maul) (usable 1/encounter before L3, 2/enc before L13, 3/enc at L13+, is rechargeable via Martial Mastery):
L1: 2d6 = 7
L17: 4d6 = 14
L27: 6d6 = 21

Now at each of the levels in question for Assassin's Strike, you must multiply the extra damage from Power Strike by the number of times you can use it per encounter to get the total damage benefit from Power Strike over the course of the encounter. The results here are:

L1: 7*1 = 7
L3: 7*2 = 14
L7: 7*2 = 14
L13: 7*3 = 21
L17: 14*3 = 42
L23: 14*3 = 42
L27: 21*3 = 63



With this more than casual breakdown, it's evident that Assassin's Strike holds up well enough against the total damage output of Power Strike over the course of an encounter ... until L17. At that point, Power Strike gets its extra [W] upgrade and its total damage output for the encounter rockets past the damage you add with Assassin's Strike, and Assassin's Strike never catches up. It gets even worse at L27.

Now, one could mention Guild Executioner as a way to catch up (an extra 11 avg. damage on Assassin's Strike at L11). OK, but then let's have the Slayer take Mythic Slayer (not that most optimized ones do anyway, just for comparison's sake) for an extra use of Power Strike past L11, and again the Guild Executioner's total encounter damage boost falls behind at L17. So Guild Executioner, in this comparison, is irrelevant.


CONCLUSION: Assassin's Strike does not scale well starting at L17, and its damage needs to be upgraded.


- At L17, bumping Assassin's Strike up to 7d10 gets the figure to 38.5, which is a little behind the Slayer's total E-encounter damage output (42), but not egregiously so.


- At L23, Assassin's Strike can go up to 8d10 just fine (44 vs. 42 for the Slayer).


- At L27, Power Strike's extra [W] bump again takes the gap far in Power Strike's favor, so another jump needs to happen for Assassin's Strike to keep up with Power Strike's total output. 11d10 gets Assassin's Strike up to 60.5, a little behind the 63 from Power Strike, but again, not egregiously so the way it is now. (In fact, the way it currently stands, even if we DO allow you Guild Executioner, it still doesn't measure up.)

The revised Assassin's Strike should scale as thus, in summary:
L1: 1d10
L3: 2d10
L7: 3d10
L13: 4d10
L17: 7d10
L23: 8d10
L27: 11d10

EDIT: Now let's talk about the Guild Executioner for a second. The bonus to his Assassin's Strike needs to be given a bump in Epic Tier.

Power Strike with Mythic Slayer at L27: 84 total output.
vs. a Hypothetical 13d10 Assassin's Strike at L27: 71.5 total output.

Again, you see the gap widen. An extra 2d10 for the Guild Executioner (making it 15d10) would bring it to 82.5. Very competitive now.

So for the Guild Executioner, the change to Devastating Assassination needs to have added: "At 21st level, increase the extra damage your assassin's strike deals to 4d10."

2. Hidden Stab


As it's been known for quite some time now, the key to getting burst damage that scales with higher levels is to get a reliable source of extra attacks in an encounter. Incidentally, at L7, when the Executioner gets Hidden Stab, this is at about the point when high [W] attacks become less of a viable nova and extra attacks are needed to keep up with the burst damage output expected of a Striker. Especially one supposedly designed with serious burst damage as its concept, such as the Executioner.

Furthermore, Hidden Stab's utility is rather questionable to begin with, and highly situational at best. The damage, for starters, does not add your DEX modifier. Second of all, if you don't boost your STR (or CON) and your DEX (which is contrary to the preferred stats that are in the Executioner's class description), the enemy stands a good chance of escaping your grab before you even get to apply supposedly the selling point of this power, which is applying Assassin's Strike on your follow-up attack even if you miss with that follow up.

The only remotely reliable way to get that Assassin's Strike clause to be relevant is if you pop an action point after hitting with this power. But wouldn't just a nice charge + AP be better anyway?

Proposal:

Hidden Stab would be of much more general use, and would fit the alpha-striking and burst damage concept of the Executioner much better, if it were changed to a minor action. Then, as a means to check its ability to be spammed, add this special line:

Special: If you decide to release your enemy from the grab before the start of your next turn, you may not use this power on your next turn. If you release your enemy from the grab during your turn, you may not use this power on that turn.

With those changes, Hidden Stab becomes a viable power for burst damage, even one you can do multiple times in an encounter if feasible, without being completely spammable for a cheap DPR boost.

Damage now is better than damage later. It's one of the major parts of class design, and the entire purpose of assassin's strike. AS does less damage, but it kills monsters right away. PS does more damage, spread over turns. A dead monster doesn't do damage, and it's *far* better to kill a monster round one than two monsters round three.

Make sure to add in Death attack, which it gets instead of encounter powers (no matter what the devs say, this is how it's balanced). I don't have enough experience with Death Attack to state any numbers, but it adds a significant amount when it triggers.

As for hidden stab, minor action at-will attacks are a very no go. The purpose of Assassin at-wills is utility, not damage.

Multiattacks are not handed out to everyone, they're specifically for certain classes, as it turns out. Especially in an Essentials context - they've been trying to limit multiattacks, hard.
Damage now is better than damage later. It's one of the major parts of class design, and the entire purpose of assassin's strike. AS does less damage, but it kills monsters right away. PS does more damage, spread over turns. A dead monster doesn't do damage, and it's *far* better to kill a monster round one than two monsters round three.


And, yet, if you actually bothered to look at the numbers I posted, as well as the link I posted, instead of merely trying to stalk and troll me at every turn, you would see that (a) the developer intended Assassin's Strike to be the summation of all the extra damage from an encounter, and (b) Assassin's Strike actually succeeds at that for the first 16 levels, then drops off significantly.

That's a design flaw.

Make sure to add in Death attack, which it gets instead of encounter powers (no matter what the devs say, this is how it's balanced). I don't have enough experience with Death Attack to state any numbers, but it adds a significant amount when it triggers.


Death Attack is irrelevant. From Lv. 3-16, the damage Assassin's Strike adds matches the total output from Power Strike with a maul just fine, but at Lv. 17 onward it lags horribly. I don't know why you're bringing Death Attack into this equation.

As for hidden stab, minor action at-will attacks are a very no go. The purpose of Assassin at-wills is utility, not damage.


Uh, what? That's ridiculous. Assassins are strikers, or have you forgotten? Damage is their MO, and it's been proven that Executioners are on the low end of it (albeit not quite as bad as the Vampire or O-Assassin).

Multiattacks are not handed out to everyone, they're specifically for certain classes, as it turns out. Especially in an Essentials context - they've been trying to limit multiattacks, hard.


Which is the reason for Martial Cross-Training, right? And for Rain of Blows being so severely crippled with the Class Compendium article, right? Oh, wait, that second part didn't happen.

Assassins are supposed to, uh, assassinate. And they fail at it. Even the Executioner. And if you read the change that I proposed, instead of, again, just trying to troll me at every turn, you'd see that I added a special line to make it very difficult to spam every round.
Martial Cross-Training is absolutely broken beyond belief and has no place in the game. I lost all of my hope in the devs when it hit the table. Like.. WHAT!?

The design flaw is with Power Strike, not Assassin's Strike. It sucks. A lot. And scales really awkwardly. First 16 levels, Power Strike is bad. Then it gets okay.

Assassin's Strike stays okay the whole time. Note that multiattacks are *not okay*, don't compare the game as it should be to the game as it is. Fix the problems, don't just buff every striker. For short proof of that - fights 2 levels higher are supposed to be difficult. Multiattacks make them NOT difficult. Game is not working as intended.

And it's not that a spammable extra attack is the problem - it's that an extra attack is one. That's for priveledged Martial classes, which no longer need to ascribe to things like "game balance".

Saying that assassins should assassinate is... Saying that a Striker should be good at killing things. Not relevant. They have a pretty good burst encounter power, and do decent damage when they stab things, as well as having a lot of utility powers.

Assassins in D&D are not the same as Assassins in real life - never have been. They're rogues who like poison, and having extra tools (3e was spells, 4e is at-wills).

To sum up, yes, the Assassin is one of the weaker strikers - and perfectly in line with where Strikers should be.
While I agree with the suggested Assassin's Strike changes, I disagree with changing Hidden Stab to a minor action.  I see it as a good setup for a Poisoned Dagger in a situation where you don't already have CA.  And if you put some energy into your grab defenses, you've basically got a fair way to keep CA without investing in Cunning Stalker.  It does all right, although Whispers Executioners could definitely use a better option.

Be that as it may, what I'd really like to ask is that Garrote Strangle have some way to deal with OA's from your victim.  As it stands, if I manage to sneak up on that artillery and kill it like it oughta be done, the artillery can turn around and hit me with its worst ranged Will-targeting attack.  Everyone else gets to deliver a lovely OA when an artillery they've caught pulls something like this.  It might be an elaborate fix, but having Garrote Strangle let you use an OA specifically linked to Garrote Strangle, and only for your victim, would fix the problem.  And no, the -2 attack penalty is not a good enough substitute for not being able to make OA's.

Maybe some text like:
"If the target of your grab provokes an attack of opportunity from you, you may deal [1W] + Dex to the target."

Alternatively, the garrote attack could daze till end of next turn when sustained, which would give the target the choice between doing something to provoke an OA, or trying to escape.
Martial Cross-Training is absolutely broken beyond belief and has no place in the game. I lost all of my hope in the devs when it hit the table. Like.. WHAT!?


You're probably alone on that. Indeed, the people who are complaining about Martial Cross-Training are those who are saying that it's a feat tax for what the E-Martial classes should've had for free. Which I'm not sure I agree with, either, but at least I can see where they're coming from. You, on the other hand, seem to be among the group who wants to turn 4e into the Special Olympics, judging from the rest of your post.

Assassin's Strike stays okay the whole time.


Except that it doesn't. Check my numbers again.

Note that multiattacks are *not okay*, don't compare the game as it should be to the game as it is. Fix the problems, don't just buff every striker. For short proof of that - fights 2 levels higher are supposed to be difficult. Multiattacks make them NOT difficult.


Yeah, OK, so you are indeed among the nerf-everything crowd. To you and to everyone else in that group: No, nerfing the strong is NOT the way to fix it. Buffing the weaker options is.

Also, multiattacks by themselves aren't a problem. An otherwise non-optimized Ranger even with Twin Strike isn't going to do that great. It's when experienced optimizers get a hold of all the damage bonuses that the damage can go crazy, but I have no problem with that as long as all Striker classes have the option to do so. And the Executioner right now, sadly, doesn't. And it's an easy fix to one power which is widely considered a dud in his arsenal to allow him to do that.

Game is not working as intended.


Uh, yes it is. The better designed Strikers do their jobs by offing enemies in the first two rounds with as much burst damage as they can muster. That's very much an intended part of the system. A mere minor spike in burst damage, which really can't be called burst damage, just doesn't match up.

Saying that assassins should assassinate is... Saying that a Striker should be good at killing things.


Uh, that kinda is in their role description. The rest of your stuff is hardly relevant.
While I agree with the suggested Assassin's Strike changes, I disagree with changing Hidden Stab to a minor action.  I see it as a good setup for a Poisoned Dagger in a situation where you don't already have CA.  And if you put some energy into your grab defenses, you've basically got a fair way to keep CA without investing in Cunning Stalker.  It does all right, although Whispers Executioners could definitely use a better option.


All of that, sadly, just doesn't add up to much gain. The only time I could ever see using Hidden Stab in current form is with an action point, and even then it's on shaky ground. I definitely don't see how it's a setup for Poisoned Dagger any more than any other follow-up.

Executioners need SOME sort of extra attack power to keep up in the damage race past Heroic Tier. And what better than to make Hidden Stab useful, i.e. make it a minor.
Special: If you decide to release your enemy from the grab before the start of your next turn, you may not use this power on your next turn. If you release your enemy from the grab during your turn, you may not use this power on that turn.



Wouldn't it just be easier to say:

Special: You can only use this power once per round. 

A list of CharOp Handbooks I'm currently updating:

Heart of the Dragon: A Dragonborn's Handbook

Infernal Wrath: A Tiefling's Handbook

Problem there is you could still release the grab and then immediately use the power again, thus making it spammable every single round. I think it should remain an at-will power, but not be spammable.
With the way you worded it, Hidden Stab may as well be a no action encounter attack that could deal assassin strike damage hit or miss. Much easier to deal with that way, and with some tweaking might just make up for the damage discrepency between assassin's strike and power strike.

I think they should be allowed the use of Assassin's Strike once per tier, but I'm not sure on how much that'd screw with the math.  If it "breaks" their damage output expectations, maybe give them a second use around level 15 or 16.
Here's an alternate way to beef up Hidden Stab:

Dazed/Stunned enemies count as Helpless to your next attack while you are grabbing them with Hidden Stab. Alone, Executioners can't really daze or stun all too much without the use of a poison, so it shouldn't be too abusable. There's also needing to keep a grab maintained.

The Executioner also has attack finesse which allows him to add another 1d8/tier to an attack once/turn.  This means another 4.5/9/13.5 at each tier.  Since each of these is by turn, that equates to 4.5/18/40.5 additional damage when added to the assassin's strike considering the amount of turns equal to the number of power strikes you can have.   When you combine this with the Death attack benefit I think the Executioner comes out ahead.  The benefit of front-loading your damage is better than spreading it out over 3 rounds. 
The Executioner also has attack finesse which allows him to add another 1d8/tier to an attack once/turn.  This means another 4.5/9/13.5 at each tier.


Irrelevant. Attack Finesse is the Executioner's at-will extra damage mechanic, much like Sneak Attack, Hunter's Quarry, Heroic Slayer and upgrades, etc. To include it in any sort of comparison to Power Strike is silly, unless I were to include the Slayer's damage bonus in my original calculations. And then we'd be right back where we started, with Assassin's Strike looking flat-out sorry.

The benefit of front-loading your damage is better than spreading it out over 3 rounds. 


The problem is that it simply isn't enough front-loaded damage. As it is right now, the Slayer can shatter the total output from Assassin's Strike in 2 uses of Power Strike.
Agreed with all your original suggestions.

WOTC, implement.

Also, fix Vampire as it's damage is laughable, especially for being a squishy striker. 
The Vampire is not that squishy in play, by all accounts.  It's surprisingly durable, given that it has surges as an ecnounter resource, and can always regen up to bloodied as long as it's over 0.  It does, however, have dire damage.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
The Vampire is not that squishy in play, by all accounts.  It's surprisingly durable, given that it has surges as an ecnounter resource, and can always regen up to bloodied as long as it's over 0.  It does, however, have dire damage.



It can be, arguably, but then, we probably have different DM's ;)

At it's core though, yes, it's the abysmal damage, and the abilities not performing as you'd  at a minimum expect.

Anyone else feel like the entire book Heroes of Shadow's classes were poorly created? 
No.  The blackguard' solid-to-good as both striker and tank, and the executioner, whilst not perfect, is still capable.

The Vampire, specifically?  Yes.  The healing mechanic is very interesting, the rest feels like someone's just thrown it together haphazardly at the last minute.  Couldn't speak much to the rest - but the Binder, by all accounts, is pretty useless.  I think the Mage schools and Death Domain are solid though.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
What about the TWO HOLE PAGES of feats?
What's a hole page?

That aside... what about them?  Some of them are pretty lame, many of them are actually very useful to the right build, or with the right item (Born of Shadow tree + Enshrouding Candle = yumminess).  They're pretty good.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Um... you're a hole page. 

The issue is not the quality of the feats at all. Its that there's about 20% of what we reasonably expected there should be. It's missing all of the Revenant and Assassin feats from the Dragon articles. The Feats section is only another example of how this book is at least 20 pages short, not counting those obnoxious Essentials-style fluff-packing that waste at least 10 pages.

Essentials books feel like getting a box in the mail that contains a used Transformer you bought on EBay and the ****ing packing peanuts keep respawning while you're trying to get your new toy out.
+1 vote for Litigation's suggestions, as well as seconding the need for garrote strangle to inflict a daze effect as long as you grab. It makes thematic and mechanical sense in regards to the executioner, and it makes one of the executioner's specialties shine just a little bit more.
+1 vote for Litigation's suggestions, as well as seconding the need for garrote strangle to inflict a daze effect as long as you grab. It makes thematic and mechanical sense in regards to the executioner, and it makes one of the executioner's specialties shine just a little bit more.



That would be way too much. An at-will daze is far too powerful.
Well, seeing as the executioner has no encounter powers, poisons are a very mixed bag in terms of actually being useful, and as it stands, there is no reason to actually use Garrote Strangle besides being cool, as the enemy can just turn around and attack you every turn, something needs to be fixed. And it wouldn't be daze all the time. It would be daze as long as you are grabbing the enemy. So you are using your standard action every turn to possibly deprive your opponent of 2 actions, which actually makes the gamble of grabbing as such a frail character worthwhile.  Not to mention the fact that you have to be hidden from the target to even make the attack, so unless you are able to constantly gain cover somehow, you realistically have 1 shot at even using the power, which leaves you to rely on your other red scale at-wills, one of which can only be used with a dagger, and only has use if you use your poison ( a daily resource), or an attack that doesn't even add your primary ability modifier to the damage. And this coming from a class that is supposed to be able to take out enemies quickly, yet probably does it slower than a fighter. The daze effect makes using garrote strangle actually worthwhile, and thematically makes sense as the enemy being disoriented by suffocation.  

If you have some suggestion as to how else a bump in power might be applied to the executioner, please, post.
It would be worthwhile because it would be massively overpowered. :P

I like Litigations suggestions, personally. Make Assassin's Strike scale better, and give them some multi-attack capabilities. 
I agree with Litigation wholeheartedly. Why a class who's name brings to mind someone who one-shots an opponent is so sucky at this is beyond me. I also agree with dazing with Garrote Strangle, and possibly Assassin's strike 1/tier. I might just try to slip Litigation's Assassin Strike damage past my DM...

EDIT: I would just scrap Hidden Stab for a more useful power. Or put it more in line with the unseen spearhead power. Now THAT would be useful. 
Think the Ossassin sucks? Think again! Check out my attempt at a fix!
Or you could turn Hidden Stab into an encounter power with this special line.
Special: If the target escapes the grab or is reduced to 0 HP or fewer, you regain the use of this power.
How does that sound?
Think the Ossassin sucks? Think again! Check out my attempt at a fix!