Why do assassins have to be evil?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


For a contract killer type assassin I can see them always being evil. However, couldn't a secret agent type character a la James Bond be neutral or even good?

Silver Crusade

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People who take the Assassin Prestige Class have to be Evil, but other types of Assassins (Slayers, Rogues, Vigilantes, etc) do not.


It's a question of what type of person chooses to become a killer for hire. To be willing to make a profession of killing anyone for the right price, a person needs to have a disregard for the value of life which is an "evil" disposition from D&D/Pathfinder standards.

In my mind James Bond is probably a True Neutral Gunslinger or Rogue (mechanically the assassinations being Sneak Attacks).


Yqatuba wrote:
For a contract killer type assassin I can see them always being evil. However, couldn't a secret agent type character a la James Bond be neutral or even good?

I would imagine a secret agent type character would be taking master spy not assassin. Which doesn't have any alignment requirements.


There is a big difference between someone who is willing to kill when they deem it necessary and someone who kill simply for profit.

The Assassin prestige class is actually not that good of an Assassin anyways. A Slayer is a lot better at taking down its target than an Assassin anyways. The only advantage the Assassin prestige class has is they get Death Attack a few levels sooner than the Slayer. When the slayer does get the Assassinate talent it is better than the Assassins. The Assassin has to spend 3 rounds studying the target while the Slayer only needs 1.

The Slayers full BAB not only increases his chance to hit, but also allows him to qualify for a lot of combat feats earlier than the Assassin. It also allows them to take better advantage of many of those feats. A Slayer with power attack has the same chance to hit as the Assassin without power attack, but does a lot more damage per hit.

Since the Slayer class came out there is not really any reason to take the Assassin prestige class.


I never got why the designers took out the 3e Assassin's spellcasting ability away, that was a big blow to that PrC's efficiency... and Mysterious Stranger is right about it, it seems the slayer was created with intent to make the assasdin obsolete, as if the game had not de emphazized PrCs enough...


4-level spellcasting isn’t very impressive, and the assassin’s soellcasting audfered from ASF, which makes wearing armor tricky, which is not good for a weapon-wielding class.


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Killing for money is bad.

Liberty's Edge

Going back to the AD&D Player's Handbook (the assassin class was a subclass of the thief class), "...the taking of intelligent life for profit is generally held to be the antithesis of weal."


An assassin is pretty much someone who kills for money or for a specific benefactor. Usually in cold blood, and usually without a face to face confrontation when possible.

It's pretty evil.

James Bond is a spy, not an assassin. His goal is not to specifically kill people. And depending on the incarnation has avoided killing people unless necessary.


You could take the Crimson Templar prestige class instead, it is for lawful good assassins.


One of the the class Requirements is to kill someone for no other reason than to become an assassin. That's evil to me.


It’s just a legacy from the d&d days of imposing arbitrary moral judgements. Why do monks need to be lawful, barbarians chaotic or druids neutral? I can’t say I’m particularly fond of hardcoding alignments and morality into classes, spells and abilities.


Monks, barbarians, and druids all have components are representations that are not the iconic alignments mentioned though.

Assassins are pretty much always presented as evil. The best you can do typically, is not-evil, but definitely not good. That's usually the assassin that's "doin' it for the greater good".

But always remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Decimus Drake wrote:

It’s just a legacy from the d&d days of imposing arbitrary moral judgements. Why do monks need to be lawful, barbarians chaotic or druids neutral? I can’t say I’m particularly fond of hardcoding alignments and morality into classes, spells and abilities.

Monks need to be lawful because they epitomize discipline. Druids have to have a Neutral alignment because they have to maintain a balanced viewpoint, and a barbarian is chaotic because their fighting style is all about throwing off restraint.


Back in 1st ed I allowed variant neutral and good assassins, with the alteration of several abilities that swapped killing for capture/subdual. Bounty hunter was the usual term for such a character.

But with the newer options of ninja, slayer, vigalante, master spy, etc.. It isn't necessary to tweak the assassin PrC to build such a concept.


Assassin incidentally makes a very good two level dip for people going into Master Spy...

Shadow Lodge

Claxon wrote:
James Bond is a spy, not an assassin. His goal is not to specifically kill people. And depending on the incarnation has avoided killing people unless necessary.

As I recall, the 'double-ohs' were generally closer to assassins then spies: Blunt implements with a typically short lifespan, often sent in to 'send a message.'

Unlike the assassin prestige class, however, they tended to act 'for queen and country' rather than their own personal enrichment, which might be enough to keep out of the 'evil' alignments (no guarantees, of course).


Just because you are evil it doesn't mean you can't act for a good cause. Good people stick to Good methods. Neutrals agonize over doing the 'right' thing or taking the 'easy' way out. Evil types do what benefits them most and don't need to consider morality.

James Bond and those other 00's have the legal authority behind them to ignore legal bounds. They are legal agents of the Brittish Authority to commit any atrocity they want to in the name of expediency. They will have to answer to their superiors, but really its a government black project. Of course it and its agents are evil, for a purpose.

And James Bond himself has been known to do many acts while on assignment that benefit himself or women he has taken a liking to. He has also been known to go against instructions from his superiors. While it all works out in the end, isn't that the actions of a chaotic being?

James Bond is Chaotic Evil and working for an organization that doesn't respect the laws of other sovereign countries they aren't at war with. i.e. a Neutral or even Chaotic organization. One willing to disavow any responsibility or even knowledge of its agent's actions. So its probably chaotic evil as well.

Just because you are evil it doesn't mean you don't have things you want to protect. It just means you have no problem using any method to accomplish your goals.


I haven't really seen any James Bond movies but does he ever kill the innocent?


MageHunter wrote:
I haven't really seen any James Bond movies but does he ever kill the innocent?

No, but a lot of arguably innocent people invariably get killed by the baddies when Bond is in the general vicinity, or as a result of Bond using them to get somewhere and a bad guy just wanting to spit him. Especially in the Daniel Craig era, where bond became more of a bad boy anti-hero... Watch the earlier Bond films for a much better, less edgy depiction.

Anyway, the assassin prestige class is weird because it's drawn from a really old class, the Red Mantis Assassin, which appeared in the first Campaign Setting (P. 230) book and is still a thing in the lore. The Red Mantis are an organization of assassins who basically view the act of targeted killing as an art, and want to be as good at it as they can possibly be. They differentiate it from murder or needless killing, and they model themselves after the Mantis God Achaekek, who the other gods created specifically to assassinate anyone who aims to steal a deity's divinity but as a caveat is literally incapable of harming a true deity, E.G. the Red Mantis assassins will NEVER kill a rightful monarch. However they'll kill anyone else if they deem the task worth their skill, and for the right price, and they'll remove anything that gets in their way in much the same cold efficiency as Achaekek himself.

Lore wise, they tend to be Some combination of lawful, neutral and evil, but there ARE a number of members who are pretty easily put in the "Good" category. The big thing is just that their profession is to kill for money, complete the contract regardless of who it is, and never kill a rightful ruler. Assassin Prestige Class is more or less an updated version of the old class. Honestly if I ever run it (which I have, assassin is hands down my favorite class in the game) I ask the DM if I can be chaotic/neutral good. Assassins in the Red Mantis are free to refuse or accept any contracts they want, and it's entirely possible to be a contract killer who only accepts contracts for villainous targets.

Silver Crusade

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Uh, the Assassin Prestige Class predates the Red Mantis one by quite awhile (it's an update to the DnD one like most of the Prestige Classes in the Core book).


Rysky wrote:
Uh, the Assassin Prestige Class predates the Red Mantis one by quite awhile (it's an update to the DnD one like most of the Prestige Classes in the Core book).

Actually, no, in the weirdest example of a retcon (I think) that I've ever seen. Campaign Settings was released in august 2008, while the CRB was released in august 2009; a full year later. The CRB had nothing about the red mantis assassin class that was featured in Campaign Setting, and instead had the prestige class. By simple publication date, it looks like they decided to drop the red mantis assassin class as it's not been referenced at any time since, at least to my knowledge, and have it's role filled by the prestige class.

As for what it's based off in DnD, I had only sparse experience with 3.5 DnD and don't really have anything on that.

EDIT: Here's the book I'm referencing https://pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/Campaign_Setting

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Assassin as a prestige class actually dates back to 3rd edition D&D, published in 2000, so it wins.


I guess slayer would work. Also, some people don't seem to have read my original post since I specifically said that an assassin who kills for money would always be evil, just that the secret agent type may not be.

Silver Crusade

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Sean Brinson wrote:
As for what it's based off in DnD, I had only sparse experience with 3.5 DnD and don't really have anything on that.
... then maybe you should have read up on that a bit before making statements as correct facts? As I and Val'bryn2 mentioned, the Assassin PC predates the Red mantis as it showed up in 3rd edition DnD.
Quote:
it looks like they decided to drop the red mantis assassin class as it's not been referenced at any time since, at least to my knowledge,

It's been referenced a lot actually, they even have a second Prestige Class about assassinating undead targets.


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

That's pretty damn evil. Granted, one could move the goalposts back and ask "why do assassins have to kill someone for no other reason than to become an assassin", but then you can do that for pretty much any class/feat/whatever.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Cause murder for hire.


There is a difference between killing and murder. Murder is always evil, killing is only usually evil. The difference is subtle, but there is a difference. It is sometimes hard to figure out if something was murder, or killing. Assassins murder people and are therefore evil. Many of the characters in fiction are probably not assassins.


blahpers wrote:
Quote:
Special: The character must kill someone for no other reason than to become an assassin.
That's pretty damn evil. Granted, one could move the goalposts back and ask "why do assassins have to kill someone for no other reason than to become an assassin", but then you can do that for pretty much any class/feat/whatever.

do you really want to hire someone as an assassin who has zero experience doing it?

of course not. It's catch 22 of job experience all over again. So you have to intern first.

Sczarni

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Sean Brinson wrote:

By simple publication date, it looks like they decided to drop the red mantis assassin class as it's not been referenced at any time since, at least to my knowledge, and have it's role filled by the prestige class.

Since 2008 the red mantis have a number of references, here is the reference are from their wiki page:

(2008). Campaign Setting, p. 196-197.
(2016). Armor Master's Handbook, p. IFC, 3
(2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 270-271.
(2015). Dirty Tactics Toolbox, p. 5.
(April 21, 2008). The Red Mantis, Paizo Blog.
(2008). The Red Mantis. Escape from Old Korvosa, p. 67-68.
(2018). Cheating Death. The Twilight Child, p. 78.
(2016). Achaekek. Inner Sea Faiths, p. 6.
(2016). Arcane Anthology, p. 24.
(2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 35.
(2009). Ilizmagorti. Cities of Golarion, p. 27.

Other noted references not incorporated into the page yet are:
(2015) Agents of Evil
(2013) Faiths & Philosophies p9
(2011) Faiths of Corruption p21


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
4-level spellcasting isn’t very impressive, and the assassin’s soellcasting audfered from ASF, which makes wearing armor tricky, which is not good for a weapon-wielding class.

It wasn't just 4th level casting, it was 4th level casting at double speed (which works out to normal speed). The spell list was small, but did a lot of things to help your sneakyness.

They didn't suffer ASF since "an assassin casts spells just as a bard does". That DOES create the problem that an assassin's spells always have verbal components though.


Sidetrack: Wouldn't the PCs also be evil, in pretty much every published adventure ever? In every AP, module, or what-have-you, there are human adversaries that need to be defeated. Yeah, evil is evil and needs to be stopped, but rarely do the PCs have any real authority over their targets. You can make it a point to subdue them nonlethally, but there are never (AFAIK) repercussions for killing bad guys. And if you're rewarded for doing a mission which involves killing humanoids, aren't you an assassin as well?

Hell, even the premise of the Pathfinder Society matches that of contract killers. Make sure Thing X happens/doesn't happen/is obtained, and so on, and any casualties on the way are just unfortunate accidents. The Society is basically a group of mercenaries, but that doesn't put them above the law.

Most of this can be summed up as "adventurer life is weird," but still.


Quentin Coldwater wrote:

Sidetrack: Wouldn't the PCs also be evil, in pretty much every published adventure ever? In every AP, module, or what-have-you, there are human adversaries that need to be defeated. Yeah, evil is evil and needs to be stopped, but rarely do the PCs have any real authority over their targets. You can make it a point to subdue them nonlethally, but there are never (AFAIK) repercussions for killing bad guys. And if you're rewarded for doing a mission which involves killing humanoids, aren't you an assassin as well?

Hell, even the premise of the Pathfinder Society matches that of contract killers. Make sure Thing X happens/doesn't happen/is obtained, and so on, and any casualties on the way are just unfortunate accidents. The Society is basically a group of mercenaries, but that doesn't put them above the law.

Most of this can be summed up as "adventurer life is weird," but still.

Go ask some PFS players about the Decemvirate. Those people give Asmodeus a run for his money.


Quentin Coldwater wrote:

Sidetrack: Wouldn't the PCs also be evil, in pretty much every published adventure ever? In every AP, module, or what-have-you, there are human adversaries that need to be defeated. Yeah, evil is evil and needs to be stopped, but rarely do the PCs have any real authority over their targets. You can make it a point to subdue them nonlethally, but there are never (AFAIK) repercussions for killing bad guys. And if you're rewarded for doing a mission which involves killing humanoids, aren't you an assassin as well?

Hell, even the premise of the Pathfinder Society matches that of contract killers. Make sure Thing X happens/doesn't happen/is obtained, and so on, and any casualties on the way are just unfortunate accidents. The Society is basically a group of mercenaries, but that doesn't put them above the law.

Most of this can be summed up as "adventurer life is weird," but still.

While 'adventuring' basically breaks down to home invasion robbery and aggravated murder, by most communities standards nobody would hold the 'adventurers' responsible for said crimes. In fact, most people consider what 'adventurers' do as 'heroic', even if that heroism is opportunistic and self interested.

'Assassination' is the practice of taking money to kill specific people. Professional assassins don't take contracts on people they are associated with because its easier to link them to that sort of crime. Professional assassins also don't steal things from their targets because that isn't part of the job and can result in the assassination being traced back to you via whatever you stole. The entire goal is to commit murder and not get you or your employer blamed for the deed.

While someone that practices the profession of 'Assassin' might go on 'adventures', 'adventurers' rarely act as professional 'assassins'. Usually people witness the deed. If it is committed in a town the witnesses usually aren't killed just because they were witnesses. Usually adventurers are perfectly willing to steal objects that can be identified as belonging to the target and will either keep them in their possession or sell them off to normal merchants. Also generally speaking 'adventurers' don't demand contracts and neutral third party arbitrators to identify the details of the assassination or provide payment after the deed is done.

And if you are one of those middlemen that handles said contracts, you probably want your new assassin to do a 'job' to make sure he has no qualms about killing people because you said to. The last thing you want is an assassin with a conscious.


Quentin Coldwater wrote:

Sidetrack: Wouldn't the PCs also be evil, in pretty much every published adventure ever? In every AP, module, or what-have-you, there are human adversaries that need to be defeated. Yeah, evil is evil and needs to be stopped, but rarely do the PCs have any real authority over their targets. You can make it a point to subdue them nonlethally, but there are never (AFAIK) repercussions for killing bad guys. And if you're rewarded for doing a mission which involves killing humanoids, aren't you an assassin as well?

Hell, even the premise of the Pathfinder Society matches that of contract killers. Make sure Thing X happens/doesn't happen/is obtained, and so on, and any casualties on the way are just unfortunate accidents. The Society is basically a group of mercenaries, but that doesn't put them above the law.

Most of this can be summed up as "adventurer life is weird," but still.

Authority is a law vs chaos issue, not a good vs evil. Even if I have full legal authority to kill someone does not mean it is a good act. By the same token I may have no legal authority to kill someone, and it can still be a good act.

Let’s say that the character owns a slave in a society where slavery is legal. In this society the slave has no rights at all and is considered property. A master decides he want to kill his slave. Since the slave has no rights even to life, the master is fully within his legal rights to torture the slave to death. That is still an evil.

On the other hand someone who has no legal authority to kill happens to be in a position to save a bunch of people from being slaughtered. This character has already determined that there is no other way to save multiple innocent lives, but to kill the murderer. The character with no legal authority killing the murderer would be a good act.


In a world of moral and ethical absolutes (where what they are are defined by deific will and ordained by gods) Assassination is controlled by evil gods and outsiders.

Dark Archive

KujakuDM wrote:
In a world of moral and ethical absolutes (where what they are are defined by deific will and ordained by gods) Assassination is controlled by evil gods and outsiders.

As long as you have the empyreal lords of spies, vengeance, scars, determination, executions, death, I am fine with that.

As an adventurer you mostly get paid for killing people. Sentients, humans. And sometimes they are not even evil, but just mercenaries or standing on the wrong side.


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Agyra Eisenherz wrote:
KujakuDM wrote:
In a world of moral and ethical absolutes (where what they are are defined by deific will and ordained by gods) Assassination is controlled by evil gods and outsiders.

As long as you have the empyreal lords of spies, vengeance, scars, determination, executions, death, I am fine with that.

As an adventurer you mostly get paid for killing people. Sentients, humans. And sometimes they are not even evil, but just mercenaries or standing on the wrong side.

And most player characters aren't the embodiment of 'good'. Within an alignment there is quite a bit of wiggle room before the GM says "you know, you aren't acting within your alignment" unless you happen to be playing a Paladin or somehow have other codes of conduct that dictate your actions in a less than forgiving way that conforms to alignment in Pathfinder and D&D.

Even Paladins often don't choose the most 'good' route they could. It is usually 'good enough' to kill evil, with no real attempt to redeem. After all, any intelligent creature isn't 100% bound by alignment. Even outsiders can be coaxed away from their natural alignment without the use of magic. But that doesn't generally make for a good adventure. Especially for a group of players that aren't all redemption minded paladins. Concessions are made to keep the game fun and moving.

Generally speaking, as long as there is a thin moral justification violence in a Pathfinder game is expected from good characters. The lack of any moral justification is seen as evil.


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Murdering people for monetary gain is bad, mmmkay? :P


Quentin Coldwater wrote:

Sidetrack: Wouldn't the PCs also be evil, in pretty much every published adventure ever? In every AP, module, or what-have-you, there are human adversaries that need to be defeated. Yeah, evil is evil and needs to be stopped, but rarely do the PCs have any real authority over their targets. You can make it a point to subdue them nonlethally, but there are never (AFAIK) repercussions for killing bad guys. And if you're rewarded for doing a mission which involves killing humanoids, aren't you an assassin as well?

Hell, even the premise of the Pathfinder Society matches that of contract killers. Make sure Thing X happens/doesn't happen/is obtained, and so on, and any casualties on the way are just unfortunate accidents. The Society is basically a group of mercenaries, but that doesn't put them above the law.

Most of this can be summed up as "adventurer life is weird," but still.

Kill people and take their stuff! You're quite right, but we wouldn't play a game where people were people were all friends - good in real life, but boring in fiction:-)


Ryze Kuja wrote:
Murdering people for monetary gain is bad, mmmkay? :P

Doing it for nice loot and XP is cool!

Good thing that we can go into a fantasy world and play ...


It's a prestige class intended for NPCs rather than PCs. If you actually read what the Assassin does, this is readily apparent. Please keep that it is intended for NPCs in mind.

There is a difference in being an Assassin (the prestige class) and being an assassin (someone who is hired to kill a target). Part of the act of becoming an Assassin is to kill someone for the sole purpose of being initiated as an Assassin and for no other reason. This is considered an Evil act of enough magnitude to change a person's alignment to Evil. Even if the person you kill is Evil, simply taking a life to become a member of a guild/gang/cult is an Evil act in the RAW Pathfinder universe. If you have your heart set on an Assassin character, you could take levels in the class and then go on a story arc of redeeming yourself back to a Neutral or Good alignment if being Evil is a true ethical dilemma for you. However, the abilities you gain will be of limited use to you.

If you want to play a much more viable Good or Neutral assassin style character, I suggest the Ninja as an alternative. No sketchy initiation ritual, stealth kill abilities right out of the gate, and some pretty cool looking miniatures available all make it much more attractive than prestiging into Assassin.


...This reminds me of that old 'Why are vampires evil?' thread where the argument kind of boiled down to, "Well, if you ignore all the flavor text around them telling you why they're evil, there's nothing inherently 'Evil' in their stat block other than their alignment."

This feels similar to that. If we ignore the fact you have to kill someone for no reason other than to qualify for the class, ignore the inherent morality issue that comes with making an occupation consisting solely of killing people, and the whole killing people is BAD thing, then sure, they aren't really that Evil if you squint really hard and turn your head. But you're still dealing with a remorseless, cold-blooded, calculating murderer. That's not Good no matter how you look at it, and it's a stretch to call a complete disregard for life as 'Neutral,' though arguable. That leaves Evil as the only real place it fits comfortably.

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