Human: these are the baseline. Their chief advantages are a low xp penalty and lack of vulnerabilities.
H-Elf & H-Drow: functionally the same as humans. Their main disadvantage is the half-strength iron/mithril vuln, but that's somewhat mitigated by the "thinned bloodlines" edge.
Arial: advantages are higher dexterity, higher intelligence and permanent flight. The lightning vuln, while still coverable, is harder to cover "permanently" via gear now that the ancient dragons have been changed. Arials can't wear spike-toed boots, which significantly boost kick damage.
Felar: advantages are higher constitution (read: more hp) and the ability to dual-wield claws while using spears and staffs. There is also some nice felar-only gear that is generally more available than comparable gear that's wearable by any race. Some disadvantages are: the inability to dual-wield anything besides claws, low intelligence, and the inability to wear spike-toed boots. Felar can, however, wear rear-claw extensions, which seem to provide a less significant boost to kick damage. Since they can only wield one weapon at a time, felar generally don't need to carry as many weapons.
Drow: advantages are high intelligence and auto-sneak. Disadvantages are the mithril vuln, high xp penalty and low constitution (read: less hp).
General thoughts: All the races (besides drow) have their advantages and there is no clear "best" race. A lot depends on what alignment you plan to choose, whether or not you intend to join the Battle cabal, and whether you intend to be an "assassinating" assassin or a general all-around combat assassin. To wit:
- If you plan to be good-aligned, then felar can be nice since the claw attacks make spear/staff more viable weapon choices. Good-aligned assassins fight thieves, anti-paladins and orcs more often than evil assassins, and except for certain orcs those classes don't parry staff well. Good-aligned assassins also have the option of becoming Marans, which largely cancels out the felar vuln_fire.
- If you plan to be a battle rager then arial can be nice because of the perma-flight, since ragers can't quaff flight potions.
- If you plan to focus solely on assassination then felar lose some of their appeal since you can't assassinate with a spear or staff.
When it comes to intelligence differences I've generally found them to be a non-issue. With drow you will probably not need to spend any time practicing skills at all. With felar I did, but it wasn't outrageous. I wouldn't consider the intelligence difference between a felar and human to be a significant factor in my choosing between the two.
Good-aligned assasins (and thieves) are somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that a significantly larger percentage of their enemies (compared to an evil assassin) will have the ability to detect hidden. Duergar for one, but also other thieves and assassins, since both classes tend to skew evil. That said, for non-arials, Maran powers are (in my opinion) preferable to the other options (excepting Emperor powers).
Contrary to the other FAQ, I advise against choosing neutral as an alignment then "playing evil". Depending on how egregious your behavior is, you run a significant risk of being turned evil, meaning you will lose skills.
Contrary to the other FAQ, I do not suggest gearing for "mad hp" (to the detriment of hitroll and damroll) with an eye toward making fights last "as long as possible". Long fights just give your opponent more time to flee once he realizes you've totally debilitated him. That said, if your goal is merely to assassinate as many people as possible then wearing lots hp gear is definitely the way to go.
As for weight, the staff has said that it is a "sliding scale" with dodging being more and more impacted the closer you get to your max carry weight. It may be worth carrying some extra weight if doing so allows you to exploit a wider array of vulnerabilities. Don't obsess about staying below any set limit like 1/2 or 1/3 of maximum carry weight. Just make weight one of your considerations when choosing gear.
Thses are the main ones:
Caltraps: Minor dexterity and damroll reduction Goes on with duration "-1" but disappears on the first tick where the target isn't in melee. They rarely miss.
Nerve: Depending on the location, nerve does a stackable -2 to some stat. It is very rarely used in PvP combat, mostly because you almost always have better options.
Kotegaeshi: Strengh and dexterity malediction to the tune of -7/-7 at hero. The "crunch" version removes your opponent's ability to use his off hand.
Kansetsuwaza: Strength and dexterity malediction to the tune of -9/-9 at hero. The "crunch" version confers a slow-like effect, meaning your opponent will dodge worse. Certain skills are also impossible when slowed, such as knife and vanish.
Mark of the prey: Marking someone allows you to always see them, even when you're blind. This includes duo'd transmuters, though you will not be able to attack them while they're two-dimensional. Certain edges also give combat advantages vs. your mark. You cannot stalk your mark.
Locate mark: In a guild, you have a chance to get the name of the room your mark is in as well as a list of other player characters in the room with him. This costs about 2 gold. You can locate every 12 hours.
Stalk: Accumulating stalks on a target increases your odds of successfully assassinating him, and gives you combat bonuses against him when in martial trance. In order to stalk someone they must not be able to see you. It is not a requirement that you be hidden, as long as they can't see you for other reasons.
Martial trance: Gives damage reduction comparable to sanctuary (i.e. 50%) for approximately 5 hours. Can be used once every 24 hours. Can't be used when under the effect of any berserk-like skill/spell/commune (e.g. zeal, feral growl, frenzy, berserk, etc.) Certain edges (Buki) cause martial trance to confer additional benefits. These are significant. I definitely recommend taking one of the Buki edges.
Tigerclaw: Silences the target, i.e. no casting, singing, talking, etc. Not super useful in PvP because people tend to just leave once clawed. Extremely useful for cabal raids and retrievals. Must claw twice: once to start, then once before the cabal outer dies.
[Added by Death_Claw : Lasts 1 hour (two ticks).]
Bind wounds: Heals about 100hp and has a chance to cure blindness and poison. The ability to cure blindness/poison can be enhanced by edges. Takes you out of the shadows.
Hide: Assassin hide is different from thief hide. Assassins can hide in non-field wilderness rooms. When doing so, they can be seen by rangers, but not by thieves or duergar. Assassins can't hide while their adrenaline is high from combat. Assassins can move and remain hidden in certain wilderness terrains (e.g. forest trail) but not others (forest, mountain, etc.) Generally speaking if moving into a room causes you to step out of the shadows but you can hide in that room, then its one where rangers can see you but thieves/duergar can't. If you can move into a room without stepping out of the shadows then rangers can't see you there but thieves/duergar can (e.g. plains).
Vanish: Teleports you inside the area. Can't do while slowed. Less reliable when used during combat. The "Master of Nin Dogu" edge possibly helps here. The "smoke and mirros" edge modifies vanish so that you immediately hide, meaning nobody in the area has a chance to see you when you vanish.
Trip: Lags target and assassin 2 rounds. Can open with trip. Can't trip flying people. Least likely skill to miss, as long as your dexterity is high.
Throw: Lags like trip. Can't throw other assassins or h2h specs. Has a chance to land ground control. Reduced success rate against targets larger than the assassin and targets not aiming at the assassin.
Wheel kick: Damage only. You should never use this once getting the other kicks. Lags assassin for 2 rounds.
[Daurwyn -- Wheel kick can drain moves (unless I'm confusing it with sweep kick, but it is one of the two), which can be useful at lower ranks where people are less likely to have potions to escape.]
[[[Death_Claw]] : It's sweep kick, not wheel kick, which drains moves. A small percentage, still useful but its not like entangle or anything.]
Sweep kick: Lags like trip, which is to say lags both target and assassin 2 rounds.
[[[Death_Claw]] : Only when you knock people down with it in case it's not self-explanatory.]
Side kick: When it lags, lags like pincer, which is to say lags assassin 3 rounds and target 2 rounds. When doesn't lag, lags assassin 2 rounds.
Scissor kick: Lags like pincer all the time, which is to say lags assassin 3 rounds and target 2 rounds.
Mule kick: Strict damage. Can't mule kick the person you're aiming at. Rarely used in PvP, but occasionally useful.
[[[Death_Claw]] : Also feints, only one round lag.]
Crescent kick: Damage and has a chance to disarm, even when the assassin is blind.
Axe kick: Has a chance to crunch the target's collar bone giving fairly significant strength and dexterity malediction. This is more likely when the assassin is larger than the target and less likely (read: near impossible) when the target is larger than the assassin.
[[[Death_Claw]] : Around -6/-4 dex/str]
Mountain storm kick: Lags like trip but does decent damage.
Double spin kick: Lags like pincer and does good damage. Essentially double what mountain storm does. Misses more often than mountain storm and/or rising phoenix. If you don't need the extra damage, then go with throw or mountain storm kick instead. The following was a frequent refrain of mine: "I would have killed that guy if I hadn't missed that last double spin kick when he was convulsing". Double spin is typically the wrong kick to use on a convulsing person.
Rising phoenix kick: Like mountain storm kick but hits everyone aiming at you.
All the standard advice applies when considering what weapon(s) to use. Try to use a weapon your opponent doesn't learn since he won't be able to parry it well. Then try to exploit a vulnerability. Keep in mind that many characters with racial vulnerabilities may either have them negated by gear, or may use preps to achieve the same effect. For instance, don't assume that a fire giant is vuln_cold just because he's a fire giant.
Contrary to the other FAQ, I do not advise starting every fight with caltraps. In fact, at hero, I hardly used it at all. It is definitely helpful while ranking, however, since afaik it lowers a mob's damroll.
Also contrary to the other FAQ I do not advise always going with kotegaeshi as your first move. If your opponent relies on having the use of both wield slots then he will often retreat immediately once you remove one.
Typically you will open with either murder or assassinate, or, more rarely, strangle or blindness dust. Obviously you only want to open with assassinate if you have adequately stalked the person. Blindness dust as an opener is mostly useful for making it difficult for your opponent to escape on foot, such as when you're attacking him in an area he can't recall or teleport from. Or maybe if you know for sure he lacks the ability to transport himself.
[ Daurwyn -- one use of strangle that I've never seen people actually take advantage of is that it enables an assassin to move unseen to a target, and then the rest of his group to get to the target without the target escaping, even if they are not stealthy. Gank ensues. ]
Some people like the tactic of strangling a foe, then blinding him, poisoning him, slowing him with poison darts, then attacking with murder. I don't like this tactic at all. Mainly because it completely ruins the element of surprise, and assasins do not have an "opener" move that can lag. When you've strangled someone and blinded/poisoned/slowed him, most of the time he'll immediately flee/quaff once you attack.
Your first move after combat starts will usually be mark of the prey, kotegaeshi, kansetsuwaza, owaza or double spin kick. Ideally you'll want to have already marked the person prior to attacking, preferably without him noticing. When you're opening with assassinate, though, this isn't possible, since you can't stalk your mark. Upon failing an assassinate, unless you think you can kill the person by immediately going for lag (e.g. double spin kick) then usually you want to mark him immediately. This is for two reasons: first, if he flees and word or teleport you can locate him and go stalk him again. Second, he blinds you and flees wounded, he usually won't expect you to immediately chase and re-engage.
Using owaza as your first move after combat has begun is fairly niche, but can be useful for opponents you seriously outgun but who would be smart enough to flee if you immediately started spamming lag moves. Here the idea is to let your opponent think he has a chance by (ostensibly) not doing anything. He's then hit for big damage by owaza, which you follow up with a double spin kick and finish him off. As mentioned, this is only really viable for people against whom you enjoy a large melee advantage.
Most of the time your first move (after getting the guy marked) will be kotegaeshi. If it lands then you'll either go with kansetsuwaza, start with your lag moves if the guy is pretty hurt, or do an owaza and start lagging after it goes off.
Martial trance is huge. There are many warriors against whom assassins will have little chance sans martial trance. However, martial trance is incompatible with assassinate.
Outside trance, you'll want to use the standard ones. Note however that if you're too small to be bashed by someone then you can't assassinate them either. Consequently, when I expected to be bashed I would sometimes enlarged instead.
Flight is essential unless you're an arial or have it from mantle of the phoenix. At least, it's essential when fighting people you expect to trip you. This is mainly thieves.
Resist mental is huge when fighting bards. Huge. At hero, outside assassinate, you pretty much don't even want to bother fighting a bard unless you have resist mental.
Protection is nice because it has a 24 hour duration. That means you can use it before you start stalking someone and not have to step out of the shadows again once the stalking has begun.
Haste is generally beyond your reach since you can't use scrolls or talismans. There are other esoteric damage reduction preps you can find, but they're not appropriate for this FAQ.
Much effort has been throw into figuring out what affects assassinate, without much to show for it. The latest info from the staff is this:
- Using a vuln weapon helps, using a weapon the target is resistant to hurts.
- More stalks = better.
- Using hands ignores vulns and resists.
- Being seen by the target via "where" definitely hurts.
- Being seen in the room by the target via "look" definitely hurts.
- Attempting when the target is resting/sleeping may help. (This is up for debate.)
When starting out, even under ideal conditions you will only land maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of your attempts. As your skill at assassinate increases you will more frequently get the "partial" effects on a miss. When perfected you'll succeed maybe 1/2 of the time under ideal conditions. The "partial" effects are still quite useful:
- Sword = significant strength and dexterity malediction, plus bleeding.
- Dagger = significant bleeding, plus can't cast/sing for a short period.
- Hands = some sort of befuddle like effect, possibly making walking difficult.
With 100% assassinate it seems that three stalks is "adequate". With 75% assassinate typically you want to have at least six. Once you get up around ten or twelve its probably time to go ahead and attempt.
The trick with assassinate is gauging how likely your target is to continue sitting around letting you stalk him. If I have six stalks on a guy in some random area in the middle of nowhere then he might stick around and let me get another six. Or he might recall at any time and most likely ruin my chance to assassinate him.
When stalking someone who is ranking it's often helpful to mark one of his group mates. That way if the group relocates after you attack you can use "locate mark" to easily determine where they moved to. This is necessary because you can't stalk your mark.
Lots of classes will chew up a hero assassin who isn't in martial trance. Giant warriors and anti-paladins. Orcs. Certain thieves. Rangers. Transmuters. Invokers. Some shapeshifters. Necromancers.
Generally speaking you need to worry about people who can bash or bearcharge you, people who can knock you out (bards, thieves, necromancers), and muters (mostly because of neuro). Thieves in particular are your bane, since you can't always hide from them like you can the others. And, even if they don't kill you, they can most likely knock you out and steal all those weapons you're carrying around to hit vulns on assassination attempts. Duergar are also often a problem.
Against some opponents you will need your skills (e.g. kotegaeshi) to land on the first attempt. If they don't, and you're getting beaten up, don't be afraid to bail on the encounter.