Thursday, December 7, 2023

My Life As A Gamer: To Win As An Assassin (Part 3)

(Following from yesterday's post.)

Your Assassin makes out of the street and rises through the ranks to become a Man of Respect. How do you win now?

The Master of Assassins

Your man gets things done. By "done", he means "dead".

With the Thieves under his thumb, he can control the flow of wealth throughout his territory. Using the Thieves as proxies, for which they are paid out of the proceeds, he's able to choose winners and losers in the regional economy.

Those who interfere with how he arranges things meet with unfortunate accidents, get robbed blind, find their organizations riddled with traitors and spies, or are otherwise crippled until they die, go away, or submit to his power.

That includes the magicians. Who controls the flow of vital spell components? Your man does. Who keeps tabs on threatening cults? Your man does. Who suborns the corruptable, keeps out the savage, and yokes the respectable to his will? Your man does.

Deniably, most of the time. In a rare few occassions, where his devotion to his Evil cause no longer benefits--nevermind needs--from being in the shadows, he will rule openly. Most of the time, he will work through a proxy who is kept dependent upon him and his organization. Rig an election here, remove a rival claimant there, dispose of an unreliable asset- all to keep a useful tool in place.

His external threats should be few, and easily monitored if not handled, so that he can focus on the real threat to his continued power: rivals within the organization.

Keeping The Music Going

Becoming first Guildmaster and then Grandfather of Assassins requires executing the death of his predecessor. Nothing is forbidden in doing so, and depending upon who sits in the spot he wants for himself his approach will vary.

He should be wise enough to realize that the same applies to him, and as such he has to play a very dangerous form of the Prisoner's Dilemma if he wants to succeed. This is where the Assassin's play strongly resembles being a gangster, even if he is really a cultist, because power plays within are always something straight out of The Godfather and such fiction- and the history that inpsired them.

What is not figured out is that it is harder to stage such a coup when things are going good for the incumbent. Therefore, the Guildmaster or Grandfather that wants to stay in power needs use his external concerns as tools to manage the internal threats. You send two subordinates that you know are gunning for you, but also hate each other, off on the same mission and imply--but do not state outright--that only one will be rewarded. (Given how AD&D1e works, merely stating what the payout for succeess will be is enough; making "GP for XP" work for you, not against you.)

The high-level Assassin, as a Faction Player, is in small company in being in this position. He nees to keep the good times going as long as he can. So long as everyone under him benefits more than they expect otherwise, the odds of a challenger coming for him remain low--not zero, but low--and those that would are easier to spot and eliminate before they get to be a problem.

It's when things go wrong, but not beyond saving, that your man is most endangered. Pacified rivals now have cause to rise up, as they are now dissatisfied with your man's regime, and have cause to think that they--or someone they back--would be better off in charge.

The challenge that Faction Leader Assassins have is balancing external and internal matters due to this threat being on the table. Using the latter to handle the former will be required, but a lot of the simpler forms of doing so will be easily seen through by challengers (or they would not be in a position to do so), and this will be apparent when those rivals are run by opposing players.

The Wielder of Damocles' Sword

The winning Assassin is the man who, with a word, kills. He turns his subordinates into his tools, and like any other tool he discards them when no longer fit for purpose. He creates chaos and terror, then offers to protect others from it in return for obediance and tribute, but he does so deniably and invisibly- eventually not even given direct orders. He merely expresses opinions, and Things Get Done in attempts to win his favor.

No magic required. No psionics. No gods. Merely the authority built upon a cornerstone of sudden death, a framework of reliable intelligence, and a keen awareness of the power of patronage. He will do favors for you, aid your causes, remove your enemies- but you will owe him in kind, and in time he will come calling to collect. Failure to render unto him what is his will find you and yours begging for mercy, which he may grant but the cost will be your soul.

The Assassin is quiet, patient, and above all ruthless in his pursuit of power. The winning Assassin, the diabolical mastermind that turns even those who wish to usurp him (as he did before them) into his weapons, turns his street-level sucker-punching into a geopolitical artform; he will disguise himself as someone near and dear to you, lull you to drop your guard because you think he is with you, only to find that when you need him most he shivs you in the neck and stares at you with his true face and dead eyes as you die in shock and horror at the enormity of how he killed you utterly.

Stephan Amaris did pull this off. The followup is where he goofed.

That's what winning as an Assassin looks like. Just learn from the mistakes of those who did not stick the landing.

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