Assassin (character class)

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The Assassin is a character class common to many role-playing games, often but not always representing the historical Assassin or Ninja. Such characters typically combine combat ability with strong stealth skills, and specialise in defeating an enemy without becoming involved in a protracted melee. Assassins first appeared in many role-playing games including Dungeons & Dragons and its rivals, which influenced later appearances in video games. In many of these, the Assassin class is only available to the player after having advanced in another class, such as the Thief.


The Assassin class was first introduced in role playing games in the Blackmoor supplement to Dungeons and Dragons in 1975.[1] It was introduced at the same time as the similar yet distinct Thief class. In its original incarnation, the Assassin class was a sub class of the Thief. Later iterations of Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs featured the Assassin as a standalone class. The first MMORPG to feature the Assassin class by name is Ragnarok Online[2] in 2002.

Avalon: The Legend Lives released in 1989 [3] is an on-line text based multi-player role playing game notable for being the first to introduce fully developed professions and skills released the Assassin specialisation as a crowning skill during 1999[4]. Unintentionally following the earlier Dungeons & Dragons Thief advancement model. It later introduced a specific Assassins Guild which split from its Thief Guild in 2005[5].

Game Mechanics[edit]

High Damage and Critical Hits[edit]

Assassin classes usually have attacks that cause a high amount of damage in a short amount of time. This type of damage dealing is often referred to as burst damage by players. Typically, once the Assassin player expends resources during the offensive, the player is left defensively vulnerable and unable to continue the offensive until said resources are regained, hence the "burst" moniker.[6][7] Also, Assassins have a chance of scoring something known as a critical hit, which is when an attack made by the Assassin does significantly more damage than normal.[8][9][10] The critical hit is a common game mechanic in the RPG genre, varies from game to game, and is usually implemented into every character class, but Assassins are usually given traits and abilities that make them more likely to score critical hits, furthering their ability to deal out burst damage.[7]

Damage over time[edit]

In addition to the burst damage concept, the Assassin class is often designed with another mechanic known as damage over time. This is damage that slowly depletes the enemy's health without the Assassin physically attacking the enemy. This is most commonly achieved through poison and bleeding mechanics.


One major factor of the Assassin class is their ability to interrupt the enemy, or forcing the enemy to stop its current action and often rendering the enemy defenseless, or otherwise incapacitating the enemy. For example, in the game Guild Wars, the Assassin class is given a lot of techniques that either interrupt the opponent instantly or knock the opponent down. Also, in the game World of Warcraft, the Rogue class is given the ability to stun and remove the opposing player's ability to retaliate at all. In many games, while the opposing player is incapacitated, the Assassin player is often able to continue with offensive actions.


In many portrayals, the Assassin class is often restricted to using weapons that are small, lightweight, and often concealable. Many weapons associated with real-world historical assassinations are used with Assassin classes, such as daggers, throwing knives, shortswords, fist weapons, bows, and pistols. Additionally, some games allow the player to make poisons to be used with the weapon. These weapon types often compliment the in-game story elements of the Assassin class. Also, one common mechanic in the RPG genre is the strength associated with the size of the weapons. Smaller weapons typically do less damage and larger weapons do more. Due to how the Assassin class is structured in alignment with the "burst" damage concept outlined above, many game designers only allow them to use the smaller weapons in an attempt to preserve balance.


A hallmark of the Assassin class is that they have the capability of and excel at acts of stealth. Usually, game mechanics use an Assassin's stealthiness as a form of engagement, allowing the Assassin to engage the target and cause damage before the enemy can realize it. This is often achieved by granting the Assassin abilities that allow them to be invisible or hard to detect and abilities that allow the Assassin to approach the target quickly. Also, the Assassin's stealthiness is used to perform thievery, espionage, or other acts of subterfuge in the context of the game's storyline.


The Assassin class is often given armor with low protection value. In-game, the armor is typically made of a lightweight material such as leather. This reflects on real-world assassins, who often wear lightweight protection in order to preserve mobility. This also serves as a game balance mechanic. Additionally, the Assassin class may be given evasive techniques in order to attempt break away from an offensive engagement.


In-game lore and plot[edit]

Despite the context of its namesake, the Assassin class is not necessarily always portrayed in an evil alignment. They are seen in a variety of ways in in-game universes and can fill a number of character archetypes including the thief, the rogue, the ninja, and if female, the femme fatale.


In MMORPGs with a PvP mode and other RPGs with a multiplayer mode, Assassin classes are usually the physically attacking "glass cannon". They will often be used to attack soft targets and avoid encounters that could potentially run longer than the Assassin can last for.

Examples of Assassins in computer games[edit]

  • World of Warcraft - The Rogue class has a set of skills categorized as Assassination. Additionally, it has another set of skills categorized as Subtlety which gives the Rogue the abilities of the traditional Assassin class.[11]
  • Guild Wars - Assassins are a melee class that relies heavily on burst damage, damage over time, and incapacitation. Assassins in Guild Wars, however, cannot become invisible.[12] They were succeeded by the Thief class in Guild Wars 2.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Assassins are fast moving, agile characters that rely on stealth, alchemic poisons, and kiting to combat their enemies.
  • Demon's Souls & Dark Souls - The Thief classes start off with daggers that utilizes in critical attacks, and small shields that allow them to parry and riposte enemy attacks. They also have high maneuverability, allowing them to efficiently dodge enemy attacks at the cost of low defense.
  • Avalon: The Legend Lives. - Assassins hold the Thief profession, utilizing the skills of Thievery, Stealth, Poisons and Trapping. They are slick, agile fighters, using knives, ropes and trickery.
  • Ragnarok Online -Assassins are the only job class in the game to dual-wield daggers, swords, and one axe with one dagger. They are also the only job class that can use Katars (कटार) (in the game, is considered a two-handed weapon). Their damage, depending on the build, relies heavily on the status points. (Critical Build->Luck, AGI/DEX, Dagger, etc.). In addition, they deal extra damage on the initial attack on the enemy when cloaked.
  • Maplestory - Thieves, are known for their ability to dish out huge, consistent amounts of damage in a short fashion and inflict toxins on their enemies, all while having high avoidability and being extremely mobile. They are one of the most common classes in Maplestory.
  • Aion: The Tower of Eternity - The Assassin is an offensive class with various acrobatic attack skills that can inflict severe damage on the enemy within a short amount of time. While their defensive capability is relatively low, Assassins possess exceptional evasion skills. They can perform many counterattacks that can stun opponents and, in some cases, leave them open to attacks from behind.
  • AdventureQuest - The Flash-based in-browser MMORPG features the Assassin class in a progressive style. One must take on the Rogue class to the maximum, the Scholar class to level 5, and the Ninja class to the maximum in order to achieve the Assassin class.
  • Dragon Age: Origins - This game features the Rogue class a base class that can be specialized into a Bard, Duelist, Assassin, Ranger, Shadow, or Legionnaire Scout class.[13]
  • Team Fortress - The spy class is able to disguise as the enemy while being able to dispatch enemies with a single knife to the back. Also capable of invisibility, the spy class fills a support role and can be further customized via equipment.[14]
  • Warframe - The Warframes ash or loki suit well for stealth gameplay. Both having ability to become invisible and Ash having ninja-like agile abilities, meanwhile Loki focuses on non-damaging confusing, manipulative abilities.
  • Ultima Online - While Ultima Online doesn't have character classes per se, it does have a Ninja character template that is used to implement the Assassin role in that game.[15]



See also[edit]