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Assassin Guide


Advice


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Hello all! So I've always loved the class guides found here, and noticing a distinct lack of one of my favorite prestige classes, got together with my buddy to put one together. Eagerly looking forward to thoughts and opinions.

The guide is here: Guide


This is without a doubt the most finely crafted guide I have ever laid eyes on.

~BHoF


awesome. I love this class, but rarely get to play it.
Time to read!


What do you think about natural attack builds? They have the same advantages of a TWF build (many attacks), but all the attacks hit at full BAB and you never have to deal with drawing your weapon. Similar question about unarmed strike builds (either through flurry of TWF), since they would never have to consider hiding their weapon. I particularly like the idea of a ranger with a dip of Master of Many Styles to grab snake style (I mean, you stab people...with your arm)

Also, are you thinking of expanding a section for races? One of the races with the most obvious advantage as an assassin would be the kitsune. With its ability to change into a human shape, as well as feats that allow it to copy specific appearances (a +10 to disguise!)and even gain a pounce attack, it is hard to beat.


You rate gunslinger as blue, but Death Attack doesn't work with ranged weapons.

Also the best advice for prospective assassins is "play a ninja instead", since they get Death Attack too except better.


Roberta Yang: Thanks for catching that, that was before we realized that death attack had to be a melee. (And many tears were shed.)

lemeres: As for natural attack builds, I hadn't actually given it a lot of thought but I don't personally have a lot of experience with them. As for a section on races, I have no problem on that. I just wasn't sure if it was really necessary for a prestige-class guide.


lemeres: There were many different directions we could have approached this guide from. In order to avoid getting too complicated, we decided to avoid discussing multiclassing before entering the PrC. We also chose to focus on build advice that would help an Assassin utilize death attack more effectively. There are plenty of ways to optimize damage, but far fewer ways to optimize the death attack mechanic, itself. Natural weapons certainly do make things less complicated for an Assassin.

I can definitely see the appeal of either tactic from a combat point of view. Specifically, I like the idea of a strength focused snake style build that makes use of a primary bite attack in some way. I currently play a serpent shaman druid who is slowly working in all the snake style feats in addition to Feral Combat Training. It is quite feat intensive, but turning out quite well.


Sorry, got hyper there. I mostly wanted to combined unarmed strikes (which work best when a bit of monk is thrown in) with something that got a higher general rating in the guide. It also allowed me to voice some random idea I had floating about for a while.


on the topic of boosting the DC
there is a dagger that's special property gives a +1 to the DC of death attack


lemeres: No problem. Get all the hyper you want.

Zwordsman: That is definitely one of the must haves. We do already have it listed. Thanks for the suggestion, though!


Why is the Rogue blue but the vivisectionist gets no mention at all? Both him and Saboteur might be worth looking at. Also I haven't finished it but have you considered ability focus? I did a quick search and didn't see it. :) Okay off to finish.


I was toying with an idea of Alchemist+MOMS, using pinpoint poisoner. it would use touch ac, apply poison and (according to some of hte new FAQ apply unarmed strike damage from monk levels as well) to apply my death attack. I lost the sheet but it was pretty good, though it was a hodgepodge of weird mutli classing with very few actual Assassin levels. I think it was mostly mindchemist for the boost in int,2 in either MOMS or I think it was the monk archetyp that givins punishing kick and MOMS. picking up kirin strike..

So it was a dex build.
Using pinpoint poisoner for the first strike to apply death strike, poison, hand to hand damage (which with that monk robe was decent, and I could apply a lot of buffs to amy of mighty fists--my gm was looking at being able to apply Assassin's Dagger's +1 buff to other items as its a straight cost buff not a +# buff (you can remove the cost of the other effects and it works perfectly)) or use the dagger, sneak attack from assasin class.
Then in main battle I had bombs as well. I dont remember if mind chemist stacks with the sneak attack alchemist archetype but if it did that might be good if your pure sneaky but I liked having the ability to whip out a bomb for groups, loud combat, or clouds to escape.
Later on depending on how much i valued the bombs or exctracts was looking at master spy; it stacks with assassin for death strike and affords a lot of sneakability
I also had ability focus so my DC for death strike was pretty darn high for my level. I wasn't sure how to raise it more; past taking more assassin levels or master spy levels. (I was reformed good so I couldn't take more assassin)

sorry for the maaany typos. Its one of those nights


Winfred: I did take a look at Vivisectionist, and it does look cool. However, none of the tradeoffs actually support the death attack mechanic. Don't get me wrong, I loooove me some sneakattack. But, if you really want that, there are plenty of classes that are better suited in my opinion. As for Saboteur, the bonus to stealth checks would be useful if you were continuing to level in that class. However, as with all bonuses that scale with class level, it is not as useful when multi classing or entering into a PrC. The climb speed is cool, though. But again, plenty of ways to obtain that.

As for Ability Focus, I am not sure you are supposed to be able to use that for class features. I always viewed this feat as something to be used with monstrous special attacks. (Energy Drain, etc. Inherent special attacks that a monster has) I do realize that many DMs allow using the feat in this way, however. So if that is the case, then go nuts!


A Vivisectionist Mindchemist gets extracts of invisibility and can use Cognatogen to boost Death Attack DC's. That sounds like it supports Death Attack to me.


Roberta Yang wrote:
A Vivisectionist Mindchemist gets extracts of invisibility and can use Cognatogen to boost Death Attack DC's. That sounds like it supports Death Attack to me.

Indeed, boosts to Intelligence do help an Assassin. However, a normal Alchemist can also acquire this Cognatogen discovery as early as 2nd level. Attaining it 1 level earlier is interesting. As for Invisibility, a normal Alchemist can also acquire this. One could argue the merits of effectively freeing up a discovery if you never intended on using Mutagen in the first place.


All I need for a guide to the assassin is a reason to play one over a ninja.


Master of the Dark Triad wrote:
All I need for a guide to the assassin is a reason to play one over a ninja.

Intelligence base over charisma base adn the potential for higher AC and attack bonus depending on your entry levels.


BackHandOfFate wrote:
Roberta Yang wrote:
A Vivisectionist Mindchemist gets extracts of invisibility and can use Cognatogen to boost Death Attack DC's. That sounds like it supports Death Attack to me.
Indeed, boosts to Intelligence do help an Assassin. However, a normal Alchemist can also acquire this Cognatogen discovery as early as 2nd level. Attaining it 1 level earlier is interesting. As for Invisibility, a normal Alchemist can also acquire this. One could argue the merits of effectively freeing up a discovery if you never intended on using Mutagen in the first place.

Normal Alchemists don't get Sneak Attack, though. Of course Rogues/Ninjas do, but Rogues can't turn invisible at all, and if you're going Ninja 5 / Assassin X, Ninjas can only turn invisible for five rounds (barely enough time to study your target and attack). And of course neither boosts Intelligence.

TarkXT wrote:
Master of the Dark Triad wrote:
All I need for a guide to the assassin is a reason to play one over a ninja.
Intelligence base over charisma base adn the potential for higher AC and attack bonus depending on your entry levels.

Intelligence base instead of Charisma is arguably a bad thing. Assassin-type characters generally enjoy having good Charisma for things like Bluff and Disguise, and Ninja's death attack being Charisma-based synergizes with Ninja getting other Cha-based abilities (like Ki). Assassins have their death attack DC based on Int but don't get anything else out of Int. Sure, there's the skills per level, but at 4+Int compared to the Ninja's 8+Int it doesn't look like the Assassin is winning there either.

Assassin doesn't get higher attack bonus unless you enter them from something like Fighter, and even then the difference is marginal - laughably, a Rogue 5 / Assassin 1 has the same BAB as an equal-level wizard. The assassin doesn't get anything that boosts AC, whereas Ninjas get Ninja tricks and Ki stuff for self-defense.


Since this might keep coming up I just want to point out that if you're going "Why should I play an assassin instead of ninja" the answer is... Why not? The guide isn't meant to be a reason to favor assassin over any other class, merely a way of making an effective death-attack assassin period. There's multiple reasons you'd play an assassin. For flavor. For setting. Because maybe your GM hates Ninjas. Maybe YOU hate ninjas.

All the more power to ninjas, but trying to argue X class vs Y isn't really the point of this guide so I won't be trying to do so here either.


The problem here is that you have to hit the opponent and force them to fail a fort save, which is not easy at high levels. You would need ability focus, and I think there is a weapon that boost the death attack DC. You also have to pump intelligence which means another stat is losing out. I would likely dump charisma if the only goal is to make sure the death attack works. Dex or strength might also need to be dumped.

Shadow Lodge

Forgot to add the dervish dance feat. It is (for all the cheese and cookie-cutter builds around it), great for one-handed dex fighting. Dex to damage with scimitars.


An alchemist seems like it would have the highest DC for the actual death attack. +4 alchemical bonus and +4 enchantment. They also have access to true strike which, as an extract not an actual spell, wouldn't draw as much attention as casting. They could attack from 20ft with Aklys.
while a witch with evil eye (-2 to saves Supernatural ability so no components like spells to give her/him away), bane familiar (-1 saves SU), misfortune (Re-roll and take worse result SU), Ill omen wand used by improve familiar (if it stacks with misfortune that's three rolls and the worse result...) would have the best chance of death and would rely on hair hex to hit (INT to attack)


concerning the mentions of sneak attack in pre assassin classes, that assassin prc doesn't requires sneak attack to gain in. (in this thread)
though with how the char fights its typically set up to sneak attack damage.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

One thing to consider when assessing classes to get into any prestige class is what you actually get from the prestige class versus what you don't get.

There is very little reason for a ninja to go into assassin. You'd really only be in it for True Death because your GM keeps raising dead villains.

There's not much reason for a sorcerer or wizard either. By the time the Death Attack DC is up to snuff you could have cloudkill, dominate person, feeblemind, magic jar, baleful polymorph, and Phantasmal Killer and not have to get your hands dirty or Hold Monster if you find getting your hands dirty satisfying.

Druids have even less reason. If a druid wants someone dead they turn into a diminutive animal and hit them with contagion or hide in their bedroom until they fall asleep and then either drop wildshape and coup de gras them with a scythe or at least turn into a venomous animal with a poison DC determined by your con and hit dice rather than the much lower con and hit dice of the venomous animals you could conceivably milk for something to spread over your weapons. Turning into the biggest earth elemental you can while hiding in the rafters is going to tend to turn victims into puddles of gore. If you can't think of a way to kill someone as a level 6-16 pure druid after having three rounds to prepare while hidden you shouldn't be playing anything rogue derived.


I'm gonna have to ditto what K.B. said regarding the subject of X vs: Y. The purpose of this guide isn't to make the claim that the Assassin PrC is superior to other classes when it comes to doing whatever it is you want to do. We created this guide as an attempt to help people utilize this PrC more effectively if they should so choose.

The tiers of power have been well established for years. If you want to become a wizard and completely dominate reality, or a druid that wildshapes into "Celestial Blink Raptor Jesus", then more power to ya (literally and figuratively). Do whatever lets you and the people you play with have fun.

However, when you become accustomed to this level of power, you may lose sight of the satisfaction you can get out of rising to a challenge by using the road less traveled. Assassin is definitely NOT the most effective killing machine. It's a killing machine of a different sort. It is one that presents a challenge to a player that both requires and rewards careful planning and creativity. Will your target always fail their save vs death? Maybe not. Will some opponents be more difficult to hit than others? Most definitely. That doesn't mean you can't have fun trying.

PS: Thanks to everyone who gave suggestions.

~BHoF


Races? Yes I know humans = extra feat, half-orc = intimidate etc but the death attack mechanism means something like a dex-focussed Halfling could be exceptionally formidable at stealth and hitting reliably - worth exploring.

Also some of the monk combat styles e.g. monkey style (+ Wisdom to acrobatics), snake style (sense motive to ac), etc. may be worth exploring as options to assist an assassin.

Spell-wise Vanish is a 1st level spell and @ 4th level cater plus you can vanish, observe the target for 3 rounds then strike, this means a 2 level dip into wizard/sorcerer/bard with Magical Knack gets you your 4 rounds. Invisibility is better but Vanish adds to the number of times you can pull off this tactic.

Overall though a good guide, thanks

G


I just read through your guide. I like it a lot, good work.
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A few questions/submissions for the list:
1. Gear/Boots - Did you consider Boots of Speed?
2. Gear/Head - Have you considered the Headband of Ninjitsu?
3. Gear/Chest - You have a lot of great chest items on your list. Have you seen the Bane Baldric? Unfortunately, it would only be 5 rounds a day.


Shadowlord wrote:

I just read through your guide. I like it a lot, good work.

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A few questions/submissions for the list:
1. Gear/Boots - Did you consider Boots of Speed?
2. Gear/Head - Have you considered the Headband of Ninjitsu?
3. Gear/Chest - You have a lot of great chest items on your list. Have you seen the Bane Baldric? Unfortunately, it would only be 5 rounds a day.

Boots of Speed are pretty good (not 4 star good since you're generally shooting for just one hit to take your foe down, although it would be fantastic for someone trying to rack up sneak attacks or just get around the battle field better.) Not sure why it was overlooked so I'll add these in.

Headband of Ninjitus's only saving grace is that bonus to sneak attack and allowing sneak attack against concealment. But that's a pretty big saving grace. I'm just not sure whether it'd be a two-star or three-star item.

Bane Baldric I'm not so sure about. Yeah, Bane is fantastic, but this is one of those items that just makes me squint. If you're not playing an Inquisitor base, then you're not getting maximum potential, and the fact you need to attune your items for 24 hours... and can only do so for one weapon... for a limited number of times a day... All this for 10k gold? Ehhh, I think you'd just be better off slapping Bane on one of your weapons.


Hm.. this is verrryy far away, next year. but with how it was in the play test, an Investigator would make a pretty interesting Assassin.
Either with a small dip in assassin or more for higher DC. Though sneak attack won't be a major part of the build since you'll only get from Assassin.


The Boots of Speed would be primarily for the first round of combat, right after the surprise round Death Attack. This could be useful for your target's bodyguard if he is within reach, or within 5' step range. It could also be useful if the Death Attack fails. Activate boots on the next round and take a full attack against your flat-footed foe. Also fantastic for a Spring Attack build.

The headband and baldric were items I saw recently on the boards and found interesting. The headband is good for delivering SA to foes with concealment although, hopefully, an Assassin would have other methods of seeing through concealment. The +2 to Sneak Attacks increasing the chance to hit for most of your Death Attacks, which is nice. The baldric though, the more I consider it the more I agree it probably isn't worth it for an Assassin.


huh. never considered death from above. now i'm seeing assassins creed air takedowns.

have you taken a look at hellcat stealth and IEH (shadow) for sources of HiPS? i mean you already suggest skill focus (stealth), and they're great for approaching targets.

theres a wayfinder you can activate for invisibility purge for a while, in case someone tries to escape.


AndIMustMask wrote:

huh. never considered death from above. now i'm seeing assassins creed air takedowns.

have you taken a look at hellcat stealth and IEH (shadow) for sources of HiPS? i mean you already suggest skill focus (stealth), and they're great for approaching targets.

theres a wayfinder you can activate for invisibility purge for a while, in case someone tries to escape.

I was THIS close to including hellcat stealth but I wasn't sure how far reaching I wanted feats suggestions and whatnot to be. After all, now we're getting into some more specific sources than the core. But yes it's a fantastic feat choice.

Sczarni

Just a small nitpick about Spring Attack (in your feat section). I don't think it can be used in the surprise round at all as it's a full round action... I could be wrong. At any rate it's just another reason for a character using this feat to also have improved initiative. The best fights are the ones that are over pretty much as soon as they start.


Krodjin: Ahh! You are absolutely right. That was an error on my part. Not an error to include the feat itself. But, I forgot to add that it can only be used like that if you found a way to take a move and standard action in the surprise round. I know there were ways to do that... An item, perhaps? Time to search.

Sczarni

I like the guide by the way! I think there's a Rogue archetype that allows an extra action of some sort in the surprise round (bandit maybe?). I've not looked into in awhile though...

Sovereign Court

Its a very fun guide. I like assassins but sadly, with the evil requirement, I end up only using them as npcs against my pcs. Magus/Assassin must admit that never crossed my mind but it makes so much sense.


You mention in your Archetypes section that Ninja has no archetypes. It does because it's an alternative class to the Rogue. The only limitation is the replaced class abilities they have in common; Ninja can only benefit from Rogue archetypes that replace class abilities that Ninja also has. Those class abilities are Uncanny Dodge and Improved Uncanny Dodge. Thus, Ninja can select from the following archetypes:

Bandit
Sanctified Rogue
Scout
Trapsmith
Catburglar (Catfolk)

The other alternate classes (Samurai and Anti-Pally) don't share any traded abilities in common so neither can benefit from respective Cavalier and Pally archetypes.


i thought samurai can qualify for musketeer AT, iirc.


Samurai don't have Expert Trainer which the Musketeer archetype trades out.


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I FOUND THEM.

Sandals of Quick Reaction! Gives you the ability to take a move and a standard action during a surprise round. I KNEW there was an item that did it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Dot.


Kazaan wrote:
Samurai don't have Expert Trainer which the Musketeer archetype trades out.

ah, seems so. my mistake.


Could you give your thoughts on hybrid classes like the slayer leading to assassin and then implement it to your guide? Also i find it to lack suggestions on equipment. There were a few mentioned in this thread but not nearly enough to satisfy me. It would be nice to see how good a character would be on levels 5,10,15,20, or something like that but this being a prestige class would be difficult, I assume.

Also, forgive me any spelling errors because english is not my main language.


hmm. for equipment i'd say go look at the "improving your class with items" guide in the guides sticky, since that's got loads of stuff for whatever base classes you're using to get into assassin, and the rogue section in it has useful stuff for sneak attack-boosting.

also, for general noting: either darkvision (usually by race) or the shadow strike (i think that's the name) feat are REQUIRED if you plan on doing any sneak attacking, since otherwise you straight-up cant SA due to the concealment darkness grants.


There's a few base classes and some feats you missed. Look into the Psionics material. I'd say Soulknife alone offers something handy towards being an assassin. Especially if the Cutthroat Archetype is used (Hmm, wonder why they call it that?).

That something handy by the way is being able to manifest a weapon at will.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I enjoyed reading your guide. I am looking to build an assassin, and with the recent release of Ultimate Intrigue, I am eyeing a vigilante very closely for a cha and/or int assassin very closely. Right now, I'm debating taking some levels in vigilante and some in alchemist. My race is drow, so I can pick up void bombs which are just sick if your target is trying to flee (make the reflex save and still only have movement speeds--including flying, etc--reduced to 5 feet for a single round. Throw-in throat jab from vigilante where the target can't speak and figure out how to make the area difficult terrain, and the target can't move for an entire round--pretty nasty.

Anyway, thoughts on the vigilante (stalker) class?

Good guide!

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