This installment of the Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ~1/2 a page of editorial, leaving us with 5 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
First question – what are prestige archetypes? Well, they are essentially a breakdown of a regular PrC into a full-blown 20-level spanning class – so no, these classes don’t necessarily mean that you’ll have a universal archetype (wouldn’t have worked in this context, I think), instead providing a retooled playing experience so you don’t have to work your way up to the PrC via classes you don’t want to play. So that’s definitely a pro-side. On the con-side, *personally*, I treat PrCs as very much tied to organizations etc., emphasizing the “prestige”-component as opposed to archetypes, which are more traditions in my game. I’m not the target audience of these books, but I will take a stab at them anyways.
The Assassin as crafted here must be non-good, receives a good ref-save and 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, proficiency with crossbows, blowguns, daggers, darts, rapiers, short bows, saps, short swords and shields and receive a massive 8+ Int skills per level. They also receive sneak attack, progressing up to +10d6. The assassin also receives the option to forgo 1d6 sneak damage to demoralize targets, more d6 increasing the chances the demoralize works on a 1d6 for +5-ratio. 4th level death attack is two levels below what the PrC receives, seeing it can only be taken after receiving 5 ranks in stealth. Not a fan of this decision.
Better options for hiding weapons, evasion and uncanny dodge – all solid. An awareness of slain targets returning to life is downright brilliant. True Death is unlocked at 8th level and quiet/swift death fit at 10th and 18th level. AQ new dual capstone of master strikes and soul bind manages what the PrC fails at – making resurrection HARD.
The class also provides advice on the option to trade in sneak attack for rogue talents to bring some flexibility back. The favored class options of the core-races are solid.
We also receive NPC-builds of level 1, 5, 10 and 15.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no truly significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Carl Cramér’s take on the assassin can be summed up as a rogue on speed – and it honestly works rather well. Why? Well, for one, the rogue is, even with talented/glory-updates not a powerful class. The death attack, while extremely powerful, still requires a lot of set-up. The resurrection-sense is downright brilliant. the new capstones are actually worth the name. The massive skill-increase to 8 (in contrast to 4 of the PrC) may seem like too much, but for me, it works. From poison use to angel of death etc., all iconic tricks are here – and paid for by a decreased flexibility. Which I would complain about – but the note on alternatively allowing for rogue talent access constitutes this variety: If you think rogues are fine, maintain the linear nature of the assassin as a balance tool. If you think it needs an upgrade, go for the flexible version that can learn talents – glorious.
I love this Prestige Archetype and fans of assassins and rogues may very much want to check this out – it triumphs where the PrC fails, prevents low-level death attack-spamming abuse and provides a damn cool take on the assassin. Two thumbs up – 5 stars +seal of approval!