This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Roleplaying Tips, and the topic of the month is assassins. With that in mind, I figured I'd blow the dust off my old "Character Types" series, and add a new addition. In other words, today we're going to be talking about assassins: both running them as a GM and playing them as a player.
What Is An Assassin?
Now this may seem obvious to some of you, but others might be wondering and I prefer to start with definitions so everyone is on the same page. An assassin is a craftsman or artist very much like other craftsman and/or artists. The key difference here is that their art/craft is killing people. Now there are various ways to go about doing this, and hollywood is absolutely full of stories about assassins of all kinds, but the key thing is this: an assassin is someone who kills people (specific people, mind) for money. Whatever the history from the crusades, that is what an assassin is now and if you're going to be playing one - or having one in your game - it is important for you to understand this. In much the same way your job involves taking money for completing a task, so does an Assassin's job. Their task is just ending a life.
Whether you are playing or running an assassin, one of the first places I like to start with detailing the assassin themselves is with their professional integrity. How they view their job will tell you a lot about the character and how that character works. Do they take pride in their work? Is it just a job to them? Or do they fully realize what they're doing and thus take steps to make sure they only kill people who deserve it. How do they rationalize what they do, or do they even bother/feel a need to defend themselves?
These are good questions to ask of any character, but with an assassin they can be particularly poignant due to the nature of their key role: killing people.
What Kind of Assassin?
Assassins have a long and storied history of killing targets, and there are as many ways to kill someone as there are types of assassins. Watch the movie Leon: The Professional and you get introduced to one type of assassin. This is the kind of assassin that Hollywood loves to show us. However, even in that there are multiple kinds. Does your assassin prefer to keep their distance and kill from a relatively safe place, or do they want to be up close and personal? Do they directly kill the person with some sort of weapon, or do they do it indirectly in some manner? Does your assassin have a signature method of killing people, multiple favored ways, or do they find that such restrictions aren't worth the effort to pull off?
Plan Before The Kill
Enough about defining the type of assassin, let's get down to the nitty gritty. One of the key things you're going to want to do as an assassin is plan before you do a job. Sure, you can improv by just driving a bus through the window and shooting everyone in your way, but part of the idea here is that you're a professional. Also, the kind of person that someone will pay money to have killed will usually have bodyguards and security measures in place, and knowing those measures can be the difference between success and failure. In this way, a good assassin plays like a good thief. You take/pick the job, do your research, make your plan, and then execute. Again, you can improvise - and you'll have to once you're doing the job - but planning and research can still be a big help, so do it.
Warning the PCs
I've mentioned this before on this blog, and this is only for the GM, but you'll want to warn a PC that has an assassin after them. This is to stop from blindsiding your PC with the death. Now there are lots of ways to do this. For one, you can have the PC just hear that a contract is out on their head - at which point they can go defensive or leave themselves exposed - or you can actually have the assassin try a direct/close approach and fail as the introduction. Either way, a bit of warning can go a long way from making the IC gank into a fun sequence for everyone.
Efficiency is Key
While I stand by the fact that you can play your assassin as you want, the typical assassin in stories is a professional, and that is presumably what you are going for here. As such, something you'll want to consider to really sell that feeling is a sense of efficiency. Don't waste energy, don't waste ammo, and try to be as curt and to the point (whether it be to the kill, or just in other things) as you can be. Remember, killing is your job and while you may love your job, it is still your job with everything that comes with that.