And STAY Dead!
Assassination In A World Of Magic
The RPGBloggers carnival this month is about assassins, everyone’s favorite black-cloaked n’er-do-wells. My contribution is this collection of items and rituals designed to aid in killing people (and, ideally, not getting caught), when “We can’t question him here… kill him, cut off his head, stuff it in the bag of holding, and carry it with so we can talk to him later” is a perfectly viable strategy, or when the nearly lethal wound you inflicted is instantly healed by some inconvenient cleric a second later. (Or, worse, by some warlord who just shouts at someone until their throat un-slits.)
The items, etc, here, are not so much intended for the assassin class per se, as for anyone, regardless of their class, who engages in the art of removing obstacles from other people’s paths. Assassination, in this context, differs from straight-up combat in many ways: It is usually done solo; the assassin spends time, often days or weeks, studying their victim; and it is best if no one knows who did it.
While the game mechanics here are for Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, the ideas should be readily portable to any fantasy game where magic is, if not necessarily cheap or common, both common enough and reliable enough that the rich and powerful will have access to it for protection, and those who would slay them have access to counter-measures. (In most cases, there aren’t counter-counter-measures, because that game tends to have no end.)
Oil Of Eternal Silence
There are few things worse than having your dead victim rat you out. Even when returning the dead to life is out of the question, they can still speak from beyond the grave. Many assassins carry a vial or two of this substance to use if they suspect they were seen or that their target would have a good guess who got them.
Oil Of Eternal Silence Level 5+ Rare
This oil is thin, black, and yet glistens even in darkness. When ignited, the flames make no noise.
Lvl 5: 50 gp
Lvl 15: 1,000 gp
Lvl 25: 25,000 gp
Utility Power * Consumable (Minor Action)
Effect:When this oil is poured on a corpse, and ignited, any attempt use speak with dead on the charred remains are stymied, with a penalty to the Religion check equal to the oil’s level, plus 5 (-10 for the fifth level potion, -20 for the 15th level potion, -30 for the 25th level potion).
Spider Queen’s Caress
This item is named for the drow, fabled masters of poison, but it is uncertain if it truly originated with them or if this is mere folklore, as the mystique of such things is ruined if it turns out it was invented by some cunning kobold shaman.
The Spider Queen’s Caress Level 8+ Rare
It’s clear, tasteless, odorless, and perfectly safe for you to drink right along with your target… assuming no one is also targeting you…
|Lvl 8||125 gp||Lvl 23||17,000 gp|
|Lvl 13||650 gp||Lvl 28||85,000 gp|
|Lvl 18||3,400 gp|
Utility Power * Consumable (Minor Action)
Effect:This poison must be ingested, and can be slipped easily into a target’s drink or food with a typical sleight of hand check, if anyone’s watching. It is virtually impossible to detect, requiring a Hard Perception check at the poison’s level +5 to notice. (Magic that detects poison with no roll or chance of failure will still have a 10% chance of missing this one.)
Once ingested, spider queen’s caress gives the target vulnerability 5 (poison) and a -2 to all saves against ongoing damage or other effects from a poison of its level or lower, until the end of the second extended rest from when they consumed it. This increases to vulnerability 10 (poison) at 18th level and to vulnerability 15 (poison) at 23rd level. In addition, at 13th level, the first save made against any poison attack automatically fails (this is the first save rolled, whether the normal end of turn save or one granted by magic or healing). At 23rd level, the first two saves fail.
Since the spider queen’s caress is not directly damaging, some daring assassins will risk consuming it, if doing so lulls the suspicions of their target.
Often, merely hearing that someone has been marked for death is enough to make his friends desert him, but some people have annoyingly loyal companions. This weapon quite literally cuts a victim off from support. While it was originally crafted to prevent someone who was “mostly dead” being restored if a healer happened on him at the last minute, it has also become a useful tool for those whose plans of a quiet slit throat in the night have gone awry, and they must kill their victim in the presence of witnesses.
Blessingbane Weapon Level 4+ Rare
One slice of this dagger, and the target finds that no one can aid him, not even himself.
||840 gp||Lvl 19||+4
||4,200 gp||Lvl 24||+5
||21,000 gp||Lvl 29||+6||2,625,000|
Weapon: Light blade
Enhancement Bonus: Attack rolls and damage rolls.
Critical: +1d8 necrotic damage per plus, or +1d12 necrotic damage when making a coup de grace
Property: Any attacks you make with this weapon ignore temporary hit points, and directly reduce the target’s true hit point total.
Power (Encounter): Free action. Use this power after you have damaged a creature with this weapon. Until the end of the encounter, any powers you use that deal ongoing damage to the creature which a save can end impose a -2 penalty to the save.
Power (Encounter): Free action. Use this power after you have damaged a creature with this weapon. Any attempt to make healing checks on the creature suffer a penalty equal to twice the weapon’s enhancement bonus. This lasts until the end of the encounter.
Power (Daily): Free action. Use this power after you have damaged a creature with this weapon. The creature cannot be the target of any beneficial power or effect with the healing keyword. He is not considered an “ally” of anyone, for any purpose, until this effect ends, meaning he will be targeted by area spells which normally do not affect allies, he is not included in any power that allows “all allies” to make an attack, and so on. Likewise, no power he has which targets “allies” will function. This effect lasts until the end of the encounter, or until the wielder of this weapon ends a turn without making an attack against the target.
Rite Of The Deceptive Tongue
While assassins often make a big show of swearing to carry their secrets to the grave, the fact is, many who have sent others to their deaths have no desire to follow after. Torture, magic, or simply a jingling bag of coins can tempt many to spill their guts.
Rite of the Deceptive Tongue
The hooded master of the guild of friendly helpers finished scribing the sign and then waved his subordinate on his way. He knew this was a risky mission, but he knew the killer would die before he revealed any secrets, whether he wanted to or not.
Time: 10 minutes
Duration: 24 hours
Component Cost: 135 gp
Market Price: 680 gp
Key Skill: Arcana; must also be trained in Bluff to use this ritual.
When this ritual is performed, the target of the ritual, who must be willing, is given a topic or closely related set of topics that he cannot discuss honestly. He will be given a cover story or the like, and he will believe this with absolute sincerity, so that any Insight check will reveal he seems to be telling the truth. The Bluff check of the caster of this ritual, +5, is the DC for any Insight or Arcana check to determine that the target is under magical compulsion. Even if confronted with hard evidence that he’s lying, or threatened with death or torture, the subject of the ritual will either stick to his story, or will “crack” and tell a second, different, lie, but at a -5 penalty to his bluff as it will be forced and obvious.
It is not always easy to find these items; they are fundamentally illegal in most nations, as their purpose is self-evidently the antithesis of weal. While the default is often to let the players have them if the DM thinks they should, and otherwise not, a less railroady method is possible.
A streetwise check at a hard DC of the item’s level can be made to locate a likely seller. This check is generally impossible in any village of under 500 people, unless the DM has explicitly placed someone there or the village is exceptionally corrupt and criminal — a drow town in the underdark, for example. It is at a -2 to -5 in any town or city of less than 5000, the exact penalty being based on the size of the settlement and the general tone of the place; chaotic cities in evil empires tend to have a thriving black market.
It is reasonable to assume that professional, full-time, NPC assassins who are working in their home cities, or who traveled with a target in mind from the start, will have resources appropriate to their level. If the NPC is forced, by circumstance, to hunt for such items himself (for example, he has joined the PCs as a hireling and was not able to gather all his items before they teleported half across the world), you can just assume he finds what he needs “offstage”, but it can be more fun to roll for it, as above, and then decide what the NPC does if he’s denied access to some of his favorite toys. This also helps convey a sense of fairness and avoids the problem often seen in 4e, where there’s a giant wall between how the world works for PCs and how it works for everyone else.