Assassin’s Amulet is too big a book to review in one post, so I’ve split it up. (If you’re looking for the first part, it’s here.) In this installment, we’ll look at some of the high points of the content. There’s so much content that I’m just going to focus on a few choice morsels and you’ll have to pick up the Assassin’s Amulet book and read it yourself to get the rest of the goodies.
The maps are gorgeous throughout the book, detailing the assassins’ lair and proving that interior decorating is alive and well in fantasy RPG materials. But what really blew my mind were the room descriptions. Chapter 2 goes through room by room, describing each room to an impressive degree. For example, in the “Arcane Chantry” there is an impressive list of books – “40 volumes totaling approximately 9600 pages.” These books include the “Treasury of Family Recipes” which grants a +1 Profession (Cook) skill if the character has less than 8 ranks in the skill. Or the “Black Tome of Engraving and Woodwork” which grants up to a +2 to any checks for concealed traps or secret doors… There are 40 of these entries, some with longer descriptions than others, some offering bonuses and other just curiosities worth a few gold to the right buyer.
Chapter 3, “GM Advice,” offers such a wide variety of information that it will appeal to different GMs for different reasons. For example, the “126 Assassin Hooks” section breaks the hooks into different categories offering some intriguing thoughts on different assassins (not just those working for the goddess Cyrene). My favorites include #4 – “At three feet tall, nobody suspects this jester of being the infamous ‘Nightstalker.’” and #56 – “Still an apprentice to the world’s greatest assassin, a trainee secretly takes small contracts to pay for extra equipment, special herbs and magic.” There are plenty of others offering motivations for clients to hire assassins, assassins to seek revenge, assassins entrenched in politics or in disagreements between guilds… The list goes on.
Also included in this chapter are essays on effective combat tactics (using feats, weapons, and traps more effectively in close and ranged combat), different ways to contact and hire assassins, and one of the most interesting articles from my point of view – “The Price of Murder” – which offers a way to set the price for an assassination. I’ve never seen anything like it that codifies murder in terms of game mechanics. Between guild size, target assassination factors, contract factors, and campaign level, there are some interesting machinations for computing a contract between 900 and 2.85 million gold pieces. If I was an NPC, I’d want to be worth a big contract simply so that my death was quick and clean vs. done by the lowest bidder.
And my other favorite essay is “How to Set Up an Assassination Attempt without Upsetting Your Players.” Though I’ve run games in the past where characters were either part of a thieves’ guild or helped run a thieves’ guild, I always considered assassinations a bit taboo. The essay uses very common sense suggestions, such as running combat by the book and letting your players run their PCs as they will (i.e. don’t dictate their actions as “pre-destined” and don’t fudge the dice). Thankfully, most of the in-game assassinations I’ve been a party to have obeyed most (if not all) of these guidelines. But I can see where GMs trying to steer the story might get on the players’ bad side…
Lastly I want to talk about the description of Cyrene in Chapter 4. Ever since reading my copy (now lost) of the D&D 1e Deities and Demigods and discovering the multiple layers of myths and legends, I’ve been a fan of using gods and goddesses in my campaigns. The statement “Cyrene is a complex deity whose worshippers derive from as many lifestyles as she has incarnations” only barely scratches the surface. Depending on your character’s background, they may come to Cyrene’s flock in different ways. Everyone from the fisherman simply trying to eek out a living to travelers seeking a safe journey to the assassins working for Cyrene to stop those folks trying to extend their lives beyond the natural order of things… each has a different story, a different way of honoring the goddess.
Of course, I haven’t talked about the assassins themselves, or the props, the miniatures, the multiple classes and NPCs available, the cool ideas behind “Legacy Items” that I hope to explore in other games… So let me restate what I said yesterday. This thing is bursting at the seams and will be received in different ways by different GMs.
Ultimately, it’s the sheer size and scope of Assassin’s Amulet that’s the only thing that gives me pause. I’m sure there are reasons the writers left it all in one piece, but I have to wonder if it might have been a bit easier to digest in smaller, bite-sized chunks.
That said, I look forward to diving back into this book whenever I’m considering assassinating a NPC (or a PC), regardless of the system I end up using. There’s as much material here that would work in any game as would work in D&D 3.x/Pathfinder RPG. I wonder what’s next for this trio of writers to work on, but hopefully they’re generating ideas already for the follow-up!
Pick up your own copy of Assassin’s Amulet at LegaciesCampaignSetting.com today!
- Book Review: Assassin’s Amulet by Michael K. Tumey, Mike Bourke, and Johnn Four from Roleplaying Tips, Part 1 (gameknightreviews.com)
- How to Contact and Hire an Assassin from Roleplaying Tips (roleplayingtips.com)
- Roleplaying Assassins: An excerpt from Assassins Amulet (campaignmastery.com)
- Cyrene Revealed: an excerpt from Assassin’s Amulet (campaignmastery.com)
- 50 Assassin Hooks (campaignmastery.com)
- Assassin Blog Carnival Wrap-Up – September 2011 from Roleplaying Tips (roleplayingtips.com)
- Dark Shadows In The Night: Lessons from the writing of Assassin’s Amulet (campaignmastery.com)
- Assassins – September’s RPG Blog Carnival from Roleplaying Tips (roleplayingtips.com)
- Five (Plus One!) Effective Combat Tactics for Assassins (campaignmastery.com)
- 5 Effective Combat Tactics For Assassins from Roleplaying Tips (roleplayingtips.com)