Friday, December 16, 2011

The Assassination Decree

I have discussed this subject before, but wanted to formalize this policy for my Arandish Campaign:

Assassination (see Advanced Edition Companion p. 10) only works in the context of a planned, premeditated assassination attempt, NOT in the middle of standard melee combat -- unless that melee combat is being staged for the purpose of committing the assassination. In other words, "Assassination" does NOT equal "backstab followed by chance of instant death" unless it is as part of a premeditated Assassination attempt. This houseruling may limit how this ability works vis-a-vis the wording in the AEC, but that's how things are in Ara.

"File yer complains with me, filthy human scum!"


  1. This is the same impression I got from both the Blackmoor Supplement and 1e AD&D. I know some people have run it like the uberstab, but after re-reading it, I'm certain your interpretation is what was meant by the original source.

    Does anyone know if Gary et. al. ever said anything about it?

  2. Funny, that's basically the rule I was going with for the Assassin advanced class in the Wessex game. Assassination only works during a surprise round.

  3. Yeah this is why I've never liked the % chance to assassinate ability. If you let it be used as an über-backstab it's way overpowered. And if you only let it be used for premeditated assassinations then it kind of makes one think that such acts will only be performed perfunctorily or as an aside (where it's ok to determine success with the roll of a single die roll), in the same way as the thief's pick pockets skill might be used. I'm personally not keen on either option.

    What do you have in mind Carter? Would you still require an assassination scene to be played out using the normal combat rules, and then just use the % chance to assassinate when the first blow is struck or something?

  4. I have a post about this:

    To sum up, a Thief can try to backstab, or an Assassin has the choice to backstab or assassinate, but in any case only against a surprised opponent.

    It doesn't need to be planned like a secret mission from outer space or something. It's like a finicky upgraded Backstab. See with both, you need a successful attack roll. If you hit with the backstab, you get a damage multiplier. If you hit with assassinate, you get normal damage plus a chance to kill.

    Here's the thing that I think makes Assassinate not overpowered:

    The table gives a 50% chance for a target of equal level, dropping quickly off for higher level, but not giving a much higher chance for lower level.

    Now take say a 6th level assassin. He probably deals 1d8+2 or so damage on a hit. Maybe he's lucky and has Gauntlets of Ogre Power. That raises his normal damage, but the backstab multiplier is just on the damage die. Point is, his backstab will be 2d8+2 or maybe 2d8+8. Average damage 11 or 17. His enemy is a 6 HD monster with 6d8 HP: average 27.

    That means the backstab would have done around half the monster's HP, but the assassination has a 50% chance to kill it. Pretty much even, in the long run.

    Now what if you bloat HP by, for example, giving monsters maximum HP? That 6 HD monster will have 48, which would require a backstab plus 5 or 6 normal hits. Getting rid of it with a 50% assassiation chance seems a lot more powerful.

    A lot of DMs probably have visions of a boss fight ending instantly too. That's why if you want a "boss fight" you beef up the boss with magical protections like Stoneskin. It's part of why Gygax included a table for chance to spot Invisible attackers based on HD and INT. It's also part of why Assassin caps out at 15th.

    Really the more powerful abilities of Assassins are the use of any weapons, that you keep getting HD and CON bonuses at high level, and the explicit use of poison.

  5. This is off subject, but how's the cooking going?

  6. Ahoy Whisk! I've been submerged in dissertation writing (with some nasty deadlines coming up Thursday and next Monday), and traveled back to Fresno for the holidays with my family. No internet access there. Carter has been in a similar work/travel mode for the last couple of weeks as well.

    When I can take a break I'll post some pictures of my attempt at your paprika chicken dish from a few weeks back. Not quite as photogenic as yours, super tasty.

    Have a Happy New Year!

  7. Endra: Great to hear from you. Here's to beating those deadlines. Great that you got to do some traveling.

    I would love to see those pictures. That's so much fun.

    Have you seen the little cast irons that are square? They aren't terribly big, but I've been grooving on making hamburgs in the broiler with them.

    Haven't posted it yet.

    Cooks the meat nicely. Quick, but nice.

    Okay, best get back to my blog. I'm putting together one about you, Jen and Matt - thanks for making my chicken. It's super duper neat.