Why is the Assassin Prestige Class so terrible? Better options?


Advice


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Looking over the Assassin, it looks like the Death Attack is its main feature, but the 3 rounds of study make the Death Attack a waste of time. Most Rogues can put out enough DPR against a single target over three rounds to kill it, kill it, and kill it again.

What are some better options for a TWF DPR Rogue?

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Just don't take the prestige class.

That's the better option.

Most of the PrC out there aren't great, at least 1st party prestige classes.

Slayer is a better assassin than the prestige class assassin.


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Erm ... partially the assassin PrC is a nod to the 1e AD&D class.

Keep in mind that you get a one-shot potential melee kill without one iota of magic involved at 6th level. That's the reason for the 3 round studying requirement. It lets you potentially begin combat with a group of enemies by straight-up killing one of them on the surprise round that they may not get to act on at all.


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This might be of use: Legendary Assassins.


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3 rounds of hacking and slashing can alert the enemy's friends.... death attack might not. Y'know... like an assassin.


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Assassin got a substantial nerf from 3.5e to Pathfinder, losing a great selection of minor spellcasting without any prerequisites for being a spellcaster beforehand.

Much of the previous Assassin's spellcasting got stuck onto Paizo's own creation, the Red Mantis Assassin.

It effectively made the Assassin prestige go from situationally useful (trade rogue class level abilities for spellcasting whilst keeping sneak attack) to worthless.

It was an arbitrary decision during Paizo's development of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook which I honestly feel was unneeded.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Pretty much on top of it, if you play the surprise round rules legally...it is even more of a pain.

Some GMs are little kinder to their stealth based characters...but yeah if you try to assassinate someone and use the surprise round rules at the same time...it is just a pain in the ass.


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Green Ronin had a 20-level assassin base class in the v.3.5 version of their Freeport setting. IIRC, it was not included in the most recent setting book for Pathfinder, most likely because the ninja and slayer classes fill the same niche. The one very high level assassin in the setting was restatted as a single-classed ninja.


I strongly feel the Assassin PrC could be made awesome with just a little tweaking... but it's tweaking that it will never receive, because Paizo, as a general rule, doesn't seem to like their players taking PrCs (feeling, from what I can tell, that it should be only for flavor, never for power).

A better BAB, some method of increasing the number of non-studied assassination attempts per day, or a method of making it a ranged strike could all go a long way.

Of course, another unfortunate part of the Death Attack mechanic is that it is chained to the Sneak Attack mechanic. Something like the slayer's or investigator's Studied Strike, or even a variant of the Smite rules would, I think, work better to associate the Death Attack with than the Sneak Attack mechanic - but that's a general weakness of the SA and the fact that it's broadly associated with "rogue-ish" classes (like the Assassin is presumed to be).

To be clear, SA isn't horrible, but it's far too situational. The Assassin is all about situational abilities anyway, and even when they kind-of-sort-of synch, like they do for Death Attack and Sneak Attack, the fact that you have to meet all the prerequisites makes it a sticky wicket to get off.

As it stands, the Assassin works as a decent NPC class, though only for certain game groups - after all, not everyone likes to be told, "Sorry, your character got insta-killed by failing a fort save, and can't be raised, 'cause caster-level curse." - that's not a bad style of gaming, but it's a very narrow one.

Though I agree that the loss of spellcasting was an unneeded nerf, the concept wasn't bad - in fact, I like the idea of an Assassin that doesn't need spells to be effective. Unfortunately, this PrC just needed a bit more polish and strengthening to ever be worth taking by PCs.


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The slayer class has a better version of the assassin's death attack as an advanced slayer talent.

So, if you want to be an assassin, be a slayer.


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Red Mantis Assassin is pretty solid if you want to play as an Assassin.

Liberty's Edge

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There's also the serial killer vigilante archetype, which is pretty good.


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DrSwordopolis wrote:
There's also the serial killer vigilante archetype, which is pretty good.

I call that one "the Dexter option".


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I think the assassin prestige is better for a NPC. As a dm what do I care if they kill my npc and he can't be resurrected but do that to a pc whole nother story.


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Vidmaster and ShroudedInLight think about it as I do. Paizo *hated* the amount of multi-classing and prestige-classing in 3.5, so they used some carrots to encourage characters to single class and took a giant nerf stick to PrC's. Additionally, by buffing base classes, you inherently cause prestige classes to become less valuable.

Paizo wants prestige classes to (mostly) just be flavorful options. Like many archetypes, they exist to give the GM a handy toolbox for making NPC's. Additionally, Golarion's Red Mantis needed its own PrC, and it was easier to make them stand out as "the better assassins" if the other assassin PrC wasn't as cool.

But an assassin antagonist is a great option, especially since some sneaky monsters have only a role-playing requirement before they can take it right off the bat.

Pathfinder Reference Document wrote:

Alignment: Any evil.

Skills: Disguise 2 ranks, Stealth 5 ranks*.

Special: The character must kill someone for no other reason than to become an assassin.

Move a couple of skill points around, or give the monster a slightly higher Int and...

Four nasty possible assassins


As far as PCs go, if you want to be a competent combatant with a death attack, play a slayer. Your skills, BAB, and saves will be better and you'll have a niche besides death attacks, too.

Frankly I'm leery of assassin NPCs for the same reason I'm not a big fan of "open the door to see a lich already casting circle of death." If they are successful in what they're supposed to do, they beat the party's perception checks, and then a member of the party lives or dies based on a saving throw. Zero tactics, zero chances for the PCs to have done something differently, it's just dumb luck.

If the assassins AREN'T successful in what they're supposed to do, mainly they are noticed before launching the death attack, they will usually be EXP pinatas because an assassin is a rogue who's even worse at fighting against enemies that can fight back, which whittles their options pretty neatly down to "kill the enemy with a death attack before there is a fight" or "gargle your own teeth when the death attack whiffs."


Intentionally printing bad options so players won't take them seems to be a thing in PF.


I think their just for NPC's


Alexandros Satorum wrote:
Intentionally printing bad options so players won't take them seems to be a thing in PF.

I feel like this is fine. GMs read these books too, and if the gimmick for an archetype or PRC is something that gives the GM a fun idea for an NPC, it's worth it no matter how impractical it would be fore a PC to do the same.

Some things like the Celebrity Bard or that Witch archetype that has to sleep on a pile of treasure inherently don't really travel well, but work perfectly well as someone who is in one place until the PCs come to them.

I mean, I know I make way more characters when I GM than when I play, so it's not even a loss.


As a DM, I found that having a bunch of bad options haven't helped me at all in any aspect of the game. YMMV.


I have used weird powers that have specific uses. They are only good in this situation kind of powers. Just put npc in that situation and let him shine in the one thing hes good at then never use him again.

Besides whole thing is way to subjective anyways.


As a GM, I appreciate when material is published for use as an NPC with class levels. As a player, I don't appreciate when the publisher takes a class from a previous version, downgrades its abilities, then creates a copy of that class using their own IP and tacks the abilities back on their own special snowflake.

Assassin was fine as printed in 3.5e, and if Red Mantis Assassin needed more bloat, they could have done something special with it. Instead, we get two disappointing prestige classes, one a cheesy rip-off of the other.


The Mad Comrade wrote:
Keep in mind that you get a one-shot potential melee kill without one iota of magic involved at 6th level. That's the reason for the 3 round studying requirement.

6th level of the prestige class - you need to have 5 ranks of stealth before you can start taking Assassin levels, so it's actually a level 11 PC ability.

A Ninja can take a Master Trick at level 10. One of the Master Tricks available is Assassinate. Study time required: 1 standard action. And the ninja can turn invisible, which makes approaching the enemy a lot easier.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion Subscriber
Blackwaltzomega wrote:


Frankly I'm leery of assassin NPCs for the same reason I'm not a big fan of "open the door to see a lich already casting circle of death." If they are successful in what they're supposed to do, they beat the party's perception checks, and then a member of the party lives or dies based on a saving throw. Zero tactics, zero chances for the PCs to have done something differently, it's just dumb luck.

I don't think the intent is to assassinate the PC's. Assassins make good bad guys when they're attacking someone important that can't make their Perception checks, but the party can - and now they have a brief opportunity to save a life, but drawing weapons when the assassin is still unnoticed could get THEM attacked instead...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
The Mad Comrade wrote:
Keep in mind that you get a one-shot potential melee kill without one iota of magic involved at 6th level. That's the reason for the 3 round studying requirement.
6th level of the prestige class - you need to have 5 ranks of stealth before you can start taking Assassin levels, so it's actually a level 11 PC ability.

Where do you get that idea? You can have 5 ranks of Stealth by 5th level.

Edit: Ah, you were thinking the ability comes at Assassin6. He was talking about Death Attack, which is at Assassin1.


Its a strange PrC thats for sure....


Slayer is a good alternative to what you are looking for.

You can debate if you want to go D. Agility route with Horizon Walker dip so you can D. Door several times a day. But I feel Slayer does embody the skills and abilities of the Assassin without going into a bad PRC.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
that Witch archetype that has to sleep on a pile of treasure inherently don't really travel well,

It's 1,950 gp worth of treasure at 20th level. You can carry it as a single gem stone. It isn't even enough to cast Raise Dead.

In fact, I thought it would be a cool idea to make a "Leprechaun" character as a Gnome Wyrmwitch with a "pot" of holding for his hoard.


As many has stated, either ninja or slayer make better PC assassins. Heck, unchained rogue would work really well, just minus the 10th lvl better death attack the others have, but plenty of offensive abilities and debuffs as well. The 1st 2 classes mentioned their assassinate ability only needs 1 round of studying vrs 3 rounds for the PrC class, but you don't get that until 10th lvl vrs 6th with the PrC.

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