Sinister, quiet and deadly. Assassins lack the charisma, social etiquette and basic regard for sentient life that the lower-tier sneaks possess, but they are no less cunning, stealthy or resourceful. Death may come quickly. Death may come slowly. Death may be silent, bloody, or fiery. But death will always come.
- POISONED BLADE: Starts with the APHEELSIK glyph, gains 40% bonus damage against poisoned monsters. Starts with -20% bonus damage.
- LIGHT FOOT: Exploring the area around a monster gives the player first strike.
- SWIFT HAND: attacking a lower level monster always grants an instant kill. This will overwhelm every other status effect in the game.
Note that spaces that fall off the edge of the board count as "revealed" for the purpose of light foot, so you can gain first strike against edge-hugging monsters in this manner. The swift hands ability ignores abilities such as first strike and death protection, meaning you face no risks when attacking monsters like gorgons or animated armors as a higher-level assassin. In rare scenarios where the boss is lower than level 10, it's entirely possible to kill him with swift hands.
With an emphasis on attack damage, the Orc Assassin makes for a more combat-oriented assassin. He is great at regen-fighting monsters and has a strong early-game. The Orc Assassin benefits more from fighting poisoned enemies than a Human, but is less efficient in dealing with the undead. Against bosses this is a serious consideration, but for regular enemies, it is a more than fair trade-off for the orc, since he excels at taking down his chosen targets and can deal with the others later using Swift Hands. His highly efficient regen-fighting allows him to conserve black space for the late game while setting aside higher-level popcorn than most class/race combinations can manage. The Orc Assassin must strive to raise his attack bonus; if you are not bringing preparations that raise attack bonus then the Human is generally superior.
One problem melee assassins face is that their lack of resistances gets in the way of regen-fighting very high level monsters. This can be solved by worshiping Binlor Ironshield, one of the favorite deities of every Orc in general.
Human Assassin is a strong alternative to the Orc who trades away some raw power and an easy leveling phase in exchange for being more reliable against bosses. Because his racial bonus cancels out the Assassin's natural attack bonus penalty he functions better than the Orc in situations where you cannot deliver poison (for instance, magic immune or undead foes). While orcs can achieve higher damage than the human with the poisoned blade attack bonus, they require preparations to increase their attack bonus to do so at higher levels. The Human Assassin requires no melee-oriented preparations to function effectively, freeing slots for caster-based items and bonuses to build a better hybrid or to play purist.
The Human Assassin provides a more reliable baseline than the Orc Assassin, and is better equipped to pursue a hybrid melee/spellcasting approach than any other race. The Orc Assassin deals more damage, but requires more extensive preparation and dedication to do so.
One of the most powerful spellcasting combinations in the game is the Elf Assassin. With vastly expanded mana, the elf assassin makes a potent spellcaster. The biggest difficulty that dedicated spellcasters face is that they often neglect their attack damage and have difficulty fighting lower-level monsters that should be easy. Using swift hands, this is not an issue for the assassin, allowing him to focus totally on spellcasting in a way that even the Wizard cannot. Other races can still make potent spellcaster assassins, but they won't be as good as the elf.
The Goblin Assassin is the ultimate class/race combo for level-up catapults. By using swift hands to kill weaker monsters and converting items and glyphs for extra experience, a goblin can gain as many as five levels over the course of a boss battle, fully regenerating his health and mana each time. Very few bosses outside of vicious difficulty can survive this sort of persistent onslaught, and even those in vicious difficulty will often fall to it. Since you can begin the boss battle very early with this character it's likely you'll be able to use poison antics as well. The Goblin Assassin is one of the best ways to obtain badges in most dungeons, including the coveted vicious badge.
The Assassin is one of the game's most potent classes, and is well-suited to a wide variety of approaches. At low levels, he has a strong and reliable opener with the APHEELSIK glyph, and at high levels he can cleave through strong monsters to gain a few extra levels that can make the difference. His greatest weakness is that he has very few class features to improve his combat abilities, and capitalizing on his situational First strike is very important. Because he has no bonus to regeneration or resistances and his initial attack bonus against poisoned monsters is only 20% (net), the Assassin actually makes a sub-par regen-fighter without additional items or boons. The assassin is most similar to the Fighter in this respect, and he can build towards almost any type of character by using the right combination of bonuses.
Although at first glance it may not be apparent, the Assassin is actually a very strong class for spellcaster strategies. One of the biggest problems dedicated spellcasters face is that they neglect their attack damage, and may be easily worn down by low-level monsters. An assassin will never face this problem, even on vicious-difficulty levels, and can therefor focus all his attention on the boss.
Because the assassin can easily 1-hit-kill monsters that are lower-level than him, he should never fight a monster that is equal-level to him unless he has no other choice. There is no bonus XP given for defeating a monster of equal level to yourself, and once you gain a level you can kill him effortless. Always focus your efforts on fighting stronger monsters to earn bonus XP.
Assassins can leverage an early Amulet of Yendor to great effect. The 50 bonus experience is enough to reach level 5, which puts most of the dungeon monsters at lower level (and thus subject to Swift Hands). This frees up the player to select a race other than Goblin and still be able to reach Level 10 only having to fight a handful of monsters to do so. The drawback is that after using up the prepped Amulet, you will need to reclaim it for an additional 50 Gold cost if you want to use it again.
The Assassin works well with a broad range of deities due to his personal flexibility. A couple deserve warnings, though: Glowing Guardian severely limits the ability to use poison until you can convert out. Taurog dislikes all glyphs, but with moderation, it is very easy to go positive on piety for part-time or even full-time worship.
Tikki Tooki can be high-maintenance during the leveling phase, since he doesn't like it when you take damage, but he likes poison. It is particularly easy to earn a late-game piety spike by converting in, using Swift Hands and Learning to reap massive XP benefits with piety left over for Reflexes. Full-time worshipers just need more caution and discretion when choosing to accept piety penalties, and can rely on fireballs and first strike a bit more to make it work.
With Dracul, an assassin is hilariously inept at keeping blood cows alive for lifesteal, but he can effortlessly create the maximum number of blood pools for Sanguine refills or for The Earthmother's Plantation boon.