Assassin (Dungeons & Dragons)

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Role Striker[1]
Power source Shadow[1]
Alignment Any evil (1st to 3.5 editions)
Publication history
Editions 1st, 2nd (kit), 3rd (prestige class), 3.5 (prestige class), 4th (unpublished)
(as a standard class) 1st, 3rd (prestige class), 3.5 (prestige class)
Source books Blackmoor, Player's Handbook (1st), The Complete Thief's Handbook (2nd),[2] Dungeon Master's Guide (3rd, 3.5), D&D Insider (4th, unpublished)[3]
First appearance Blackmoor (supplement)
Image image
Stats OGL stats

The assassin is a playable character class in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game.[4] It first appeared in 1975 in the Blackmoor supplement, as a thief sub-class. It next appeared in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons again as a thief sub-class. It later appeared as an optional kit for rogues in the second edition and as prestige class in the third edition. Assassins are killers and spies; the class is modeled on perceptions of real-world historical assassins.

Publication history[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons (1974–1976)[edit]

The assassin first appeared in the Blackmoor supplement, as a thief sub-class. It had greater weapon options and more hit points than a thief, but fewer followers, and less skill in the thief special abilities. The class also had an ability to create a very convincing disguise. Finally, they were capable of performing "assassinations," often for an additional XP reward, although there was a chance for failure on this.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)[edit]

The assassin was one of the standard character classes available in the original Player's Handbook.[5]:84–85 The assassin was one of five subclasses presented in the original Players Handbook.[6]:145 In 1st Edition D&D, assassin was a sub-class[7] of thief and available to characters starting at 1st level. The class included most class abilities of the thief class with an expanded weapon list and the ability to use shields. Assassins also had the "assassination" ability, offering a percentage chance to perform an assassination against a target.

Dungeons & Dragons (1977–1999)[edit]

The assassin was not available as a character class in the game's "Basic" edition.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)[edit]

The assassin was removed as a standard character class for the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.[5]:84–85[8][9] The Complete Thief's Handbook presented assassins as a "kit" (class variant) for the Thief class.[2][5]:109 The assassin was also reintroduced in The Scarlet Brotherhood and, thematically, in The Complete Ninja's Handbook.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000–2007)[edit]

With the release of the third edition rules, the Assassin was reintroduced as a prestige class.[8]

To become an assassin, the character must be of an evil alignment. He must also be skilled at disguising himself, moving silently and hiding from his targets. The final step is to prove his worth by hunting down and killing a target in cold blood, for no other reason than to prove his worthiness of the title.

The abilities of an assassin are aimed at being able to kill or incapacitate a target while reducing the risk to the individual assassin. They are skilled at dealing unexpected damage from sneak attacks and can poison their blades without the risk of accidentally poisoning themselves. With training they can deliver sneak attacks that can instantly kill their targets; alternatively, if the target is wanted alive they can merely paralyze the target, allowing time for them to be tied up, placed in manacles or otherwise restrained. At higher levels assassins can even hide themselves while in plain sight of an enemy.

Assassins gain a limited amount of magical talent, allowing them to cast arcane spells with a high enough intelligence. The spells are cast spontaneously in a similar manner to a bard or sorcerer in the 3.5 revision; in 3rd edition they cast more similarly to a wizard. The spell effects are generally those that make it easier to approach or kill a target, or those that aid the assassin's escape if discovered.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–)[edit]

In Dragon magazine 379 the assassin was released as a separate class. Announced in June, the assassin was the first D&D Insider exclusive class.[3] It has the Striker role and the Shadow power source.[1] It has the shadow power source because they gained power from the Shadowfell that allows them to manipulate shadows.

In 4th edition, a rogue may take the Shadow Assassin paragon path upon reaching 11th level. This gives the rogue access to several new abilities, as well as increasing sneak attack damage significantly. Martial Power includes the Perfect Assassin epic destiny.

The Avenger character class detailed in the Player's Handbook 2 includes a "Zealous Assassin" paragon path that focuses on using teleportation to gain advantage over enemies or to make a quick escape after an attack.

4th edition also includes assassin NPCs, such as the Monster Manual's Doppelganger Assassin, Rakshasa Assassin and Snaketongue Assassin monsters.

A Dragon article titled "The Art of the Kill" contained information for having characters that were assassins due to skill rather than the more magical touch the assassin had in 3rd and 4th edition.

In Heroes of Shadow, the Assassin build of "heroic executioner" is presented with an altered build that focuses more on a martial version of the shadow powers and emphasis on poison use.


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Livingstone, Ian (1982). Dicing with Dragons, An Introduction to Role-Playing Games (Revised ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0-7100-9466-3. 
  5. ^ a b c Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  6. ^ Ewalt, David M. (2013). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. Scribner. ISBN 978-1-4516-4052-6. 
  7. ^ Turnbull, Don (Dec/January 1978-1979). "Open Box: Players Handbook". White Dwarf (review) (Games Workshop) (10): 17.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ a b "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  9. ^ Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, McFarland, p. 64, ISBN 078645895X