How to handle assassinations.

I’m playing an Assassin and I’m wondering how you other guys are handling this class’s primary function: Assassination.

When I picture an assassin, they primarily kill from the shadows, quickly, quietly and secretly.

In game mechanics, we have made this a complicated skill test: Usually a Scout vs. Scout test (or something similar) for her to get into position, then a Fighter vs. Health test for the kill. If either test is failed, she gets caught and we figure out where to go from there (chase, kill, whatever.)

However, the problem with this is that it is extremely anti-climactic. It feels like a simple test. Like she’s picking a lock or something. I spend a level or two chasing down my mark, deciding if he really deserves to be assassinated, get him where I want him then…two skill checks and he’s dead…or not.

But, if we go the other way, it becomes a regular Kill conflict, which doesn’t feel like assassination, but just fighting and killing.

I thought about coming up with an Assassination conflict, but that would likely leave the rest of the party out.

I discussed this during our last session (the Winter session where we discussed the last several adventures). Right now we’re thinking that my assassin might incorporate her companions into the assassination, making it a more complicated set of tests involving most, if not all, of the party. It might even work into a conflict, depending on the situation.

I was just wondering how you other guys are handling this. Any thoughts?

I have never played an Assassin nor have I had one in any of my games, so take these comments with a grain of salt.

You’re definitely right that you either end up with a normal conflict or something that feels somewhat anti-climactic with the above.

Since we only have the first 5 levels, there is still room to fill in the progression yourself. I could see one of the high level abilities being something like choosing to have one of your enemies die as a result of a compromise outside of a Kill conflict.

I was told by Jared Sorensen in another thread that the higher levels for Wanderers are “coming soon”. Not sure when that will be, but looking forward to it. However, I like where you’re going. We could be in an Argument conflict (for example) and my character could use the conflict as a distraction and “assassinate” his target as part of the compromise. Interesting thought. My assassin will reach L5 during the next town session, so I have a while before I need the L6 abilities. Maybe something will come up then. We’ll see.

Dwarven Adventurers don’t have the problem of other party members not being able to contribute to their Adventure conflict or their Adventure roll being anticlimactic.
Halfing Burglars don’t have this problem with their Criminal/Scout roll being anticlimactic, or their Lockpicking conflict being solo.

I’m thinking the problem is spending too much time on Your Thing, maybe?

Or maybe you have just learned the truth behind assassination - if you fail, it’s climactic and everything goes balls up. If you succeed, nothing is exciting and you take the trait “killing quietly and without a fuss turns me dead inside”.

Um…what “adventure conflict”? Or “lock picking conflict”? Every conflict is technically an “adventure” conflict because adventuring is what a party does. And lock picking is not (normally) a conflict, but a skill test. Also “killing quietly without a fuss turns me dead inside” isn’t really a trait.

On the other hand, your interpretation of assassination is interesting. The act itself is simple and anticlimactic compared to a true kill conflict. And the idea that another person’s death could be so simple kills the assassin a little bit inside. That is something to think about…

Here’s the thing: you will RARELY assassinate anyone in a dungeon. Assassin living as murder hobos are either slumming or undercover. That said, you’re basically a fighter-thief with some special darkness-related combat abilities and the option of SPOILER>>> using cleric prayers at higher levels… You’re good at killin’ though.

I think that was exactly his point.

You might think based on the name that the Burglar should be breaking into homes and robbing them, and come up with rules to make that interesting- but that’s not really the focus of the game. As you say, adventuring is what the party does. So being an assassin will mainly come into play through how you apply that skill set to adventuring. If you want to perform an assassination as a job, it’s fine to handle it as a single roll, because that’s not really what the game is about.

My big question is, well, what exactly do you want to be able to do?

When it comes to special abilities, I think spellcasting is a great example of how the rules can be played with, giving a class flavor:
A) Change the skill needed to make a test, like by substituting the skill used (Wizard’s Aegis is a very direct example)
B) Make a different route available for conquering an obstacle (Wisdom of the Sages, Destiny of Heroes)
C) Perform a utility function (Dance of the Fireflies to create non-item light)

Otherwise, like ctrail and Jared pointed out, a character’s class is closely tied to the kinds of skills they’ve cultivated, rather than the ability to make unique tests.

When you say that you want your character to assassinate somebody, what exactly do you want that to entail? Is it a way to bypass a lengthy Conflict with a potentially deadly Leader? Is it a way to take out a few mooks before the party rolls for Disposition? Is there some other interesting thing that would differentiate an Assassin from a more combat or stealth-focused class, like some skill substitution they should use in some situations?

If it’s just two rolls, yeah, that’s pretty anti-climatic, but why would it ever be two rolls? How did you get to the guy? Presumably you’re behind enemy lines, navigating difficult terrain (because the easy terrain is patrolled), and possibly having to bypass locked doors and such. That’s all part of the assassination, part of the tension that’s built. Then there’s the matter of what happens after he’s dead. Isn’t someone going to notice he’s either screaming in agony, or at least missing? Either the GM is making it too easy or you’re doing a fantastic job of setting things up. If the latter is the case, then there’s a certain grim satisfaction to how effective and clean you are, and yeah, that interesting in a story sense as others have pointed out. Plus, you’re going to start getting quite a reputation if you are that effective.

Then again, I do kind of agree that “Assassin’s Creed” doesn’t really fit with the themes and mechanics of Torchbearer as written.

Assassination Town Rules

Searching for Someone Lifestyle Cost: +1
Go Visiting: You can visit any of your contacts or relations who reside in this town. There’s no cost.
Personal Business Lifestyle Cost: +1 to make a Criminal test to break into a dwelling or a Scout test to ambush them in a dark alley. If they’re able to fight back (ie: armed), it’s a Fighter test.

So, a minimum of +2 to Lifestyle for finding some schmoe and doing some killin’.

Assassination Town Rules

Searching for Someone Lifestyle Cost: +1
Go Visiting: You can visit any of your contacts or relations who reside in this town. There’s no cost.
Personal Business Lifestyle Cost: +1 to make a Criminal test to break into a dwelling or a Scout test to ambush them in a dark alley. If they’re able to fight back (ie: armed), it’s a Fighter test.

So, a minimum of +2 to Lifestyle for finding some schmoe and doing some killin’.

BTW, I wrote up a paragraph for Wanderers, Outcasts & Exiles on finding fight clubs for the Minotaur Pit Fighter. I may just nuke that section and advise GMs and players to the use the “Personal Business” Town Rules from the basic game. They’re pretty simple and abstract enough to cover this kinda thing.

Yeah, you’re right Jared, for the spirit of Torchbearer that probably makes the most sense. But it’s also probably not an event central to the plot that way, nothing big and political, no weeks or months of planning. Just quick and easy to make a few coins so that you can get back to the meat of the game, dungeons. Probably, mostly taking out cheating husbands, rival merchants, and people who don’t pay their debts.

The more political type of assassination would probably be more appropriate for a BW game, or maybe some Torchbearer hack that shifts the focus to town intrigue instead of dungeons.

All interesting points, guys. Thanks for the input. Gives me stuff to think about. I understand the concept that assassination is simply what she was trained at, not particularly what she does now. But, we do try to tie character concepts and backgrounds into the story lines. For the most part, her tracking and investigating her target happens during town phases. The actual assassinations have happened during the adventure phase. But, I’ll talk to my GM about mixing it up a bit, utilizing a lot of these ideas. I’m actually thinking she might leave her assassin’s guild. That could bring on a whole new story hook.

That always goes so well.

What? Just because every movie ever made and every story every written about a criminal leaving his/her organization ends in disaster, that doesn’t mean it will happen here. Her boss is a nice lady. She wouldn’t hold it against her. :wink: