An edited excerpt from the upcoming book for game masters, Assassin’s Amulet.
Assassins make awesome NPCs. Thing is, they often have paper-thin character development. Well, you can fix this right now. Start by giving your next assassin one of the tasty hooks below.
Some hooks concern motives, others personality traits, and others situations or objectives. Use your chosen or randomly selected hook as a starting place to help you run a deeper NPC.
Be sure to combo your hook with these assassin roleplaying tips.
Below are but a few of the hooks we created for Assassin’s Amulet. There are over 125 hooks in the book, but we can only reveal some of them here because of spoilers (and we even had to edit several of these 50 to make them safe for public consumption).
We don’t want to ruin the cool twists and turns we’ll arm you with to surprise and shock your players.
- An assassin takes on contracts but always tries to find a way to save the victim.
- This assassin founded a suicide cult involving family and friends but could not go through with his own death, and as the sole survivor, his twisted spirit now seeks solace in the killing of others.
- Deeply in debt, an assassin struggles to earn enough from killing to fund his paradise getaway and retire.
- By day, this assassin is a timid scribe; at night, wielding his intelligent sword Black Razor, he kills without mercy.
- At three feet tall, nobody suspects this jester of being the infamous Nightstalker.
- The assassin’s day job is as the commander of the day shift of the city watch.
- An assassin delivers fresh milk daily to the homes of the wealthy, enabling him to monitor the health and activities of those who can afford to flout the law.
- A member of the watch paid to have a romantic rival eliminated, but he short-changed the payment. Now the assassins must punish the cheater without arousing the wrath of the watch.
- An arrogant noble has cheated the guild and thinks he has gotten away with it by becoming a vampire and surrounding his castle with dangerous creatures. To reach him, the assassins will pose as porters for a party of adventurers (the PCs) hired by a third party (actually the assassins) to rid the land of the threat posed by the vampire and his pets.
- A mage who has dabbled in dark powers seeks to avoid paying his debt to a devil, which is disguised as a lay preacher, by sending the assassins’ guild after him.
- An assassin has travelled from a far land to sell a rare gem, the payment for his last commission, only to discover it is a fake. Without funds, he must start building his reputation all over again, in a land where (as a foreigner) he is already a subject of suspicion.
- An assassination is paid for with a magic item, but the command word given seems to be wrong. The assassin has to get the (very recognizable) item identified without revealing his identity.
- The most famous bard of the realm receives an unexpected commission to compose music to honor a particular baker, and becomes suspicious when the baker’s income far outstrips his profits from selling bread.
- A consignment of rare spices is purchased by a secretive party (the assassins’ guild) from afar; the PCs are hired to guard the shipment.
- Noble sons who frequently relax at the highest-priced brothel in the city are surprised when a mason and candlemaker become regular patrons of the establishment.
- The King’s pastry chef is renowned as the best cook in the kingdom, and regularly receives commissions to cater feasts for minor nobles and wealthy merchants on the side. However, he has never been asked to bake a cake with black icing before….
- A glutton is furious when a rival outbids him for a consignment of rare Green Dragon Pate, and hires the Hands to punish the rival and retrieve the rare food.
- The Count’s son is tired of waiting to inherit his father’s estate. The father suspects his son’s plans and hires the Hands to stop him.
- A Baron has many children, all of them spoilt rotten. He hires the Hands to try to kill them, one by one—they will prove themselves worthy by surviving.
- The Captain of the City Watch is a semi-retired adventurer who fears losing his edge, so he hires the Hands to stage a series of mock assassinations. One of his lieutenants wants a promotion and has paid the guild to make these attempts more real than the Captain is expecting.
- A wealthy merchant’s business is under threat from a new trading consortium. He hires the Hands to disrupt the trading consortium.
- A collector of art hires the Hands to assassinate the painters of several of his pieces to increase their value.
- The Captain of the Guard is pressing for permission to launch an official search for the rumored assassins. He secretly desires to destroy the proof that he paid to have his first wife assassinated. The Hands might leak the information to discredit him, but the contract was organized through a third party, so they do not know what they have and are puzzled by his motives.
- A somewhat paranoid assassin out to enhance his reputation hires the PCs to scout the defenses of his next target. He poses as a member of the target’s household concerned for his safety.
- An assassin’s wife is discovered having an affair. Distraught, he performs an unsanctioned kill, before fleeing, disguised as a guide or porter working for the PCs, and is now hotly pursued by the Hands….
- The merchant who supplies the hidden assassins with additional foodstuffs on the side contracts the guild to watch over his son, who is a hotheaded lothario, certain to end up in a duel and get himself killed without protection. The guild assigns several of their members to watch over him and intervene as necessary, but one of the assassins falls head over heels for the amorous son.
- An assassin’s daughter, whom he loves dearly, is kidnapped by someone who then forces him to divulge guild secrets and kill on their behalf. Knowing he cannot turn to the guild for help because he has betrayed them, he hires the PCs to rescue his daughter and kill the kidnapper to protect the guild secrets he has divulged. Unknown to him, the daughter gave him up to the enemy in the first place in a bid to attempt to force him into an honorable line of work, and the kidnapping is a sham. She does not know her naivety is now being exploited by someone she trusts and confided in.
- The enemy took his girl and he doggedly pursues her while working for a secret organization of killers.
- Thieves’ guilds and assassins guilds frequently make uncomfortable bedfellows, sharing information sources and hidden paths through the city—the sewers and rooftops. Eventually, one of the two tries to take exclusive control of these vital resources, and an underground war breaks out.
- The wife of a guild victim becomes an amateur assassin herself and begins staging a series of murders to raise public outcry against the guild.
- The half-crazed partner of a victim of the Hands was made penniless years ago when the trade coalition put together by the victim collapsed in the wake of his death, and was left to rebuild his fortune in a foreign land. Now armed with wealth, exotic powers and abilities, and a completely new identity and appearance, he has returned. His mission is threefold: to expose the Hands, discover who commissioned the contract on the victim, and kill them and their families in revenge.
- The 10th anniversary of the Guildmaster’s achievement of his rank approaches, and the members of the guild have begun shopping for appropriate gifts and planning a social gathering.
- It has become traditional for the guild to gather for a celebration following the completion of a contract in a certain inn in the city. Unknown to them, their most recent victim turned the tables on his would-be killer and used magic to take his identity. The PCs just happen to be staying at the same inn as the (private) celebration gets underway….
- The assassin was the King’s champion until a setup caused his downfall; now he seeks vengeance against his foes. Note: this hook can be interpreted either as a member of the Hands with a preference for certain types of target, or as an assassin who is saving what the Hands pay him until he can purchase contracts of his own against his enemies. If the latter, it should manifest as a subplot while the assassin is gathering funds, and the main plot should be the carnage he has purchased.
- The King’s men killed his parents, and after years of training, the assassin is finally ready to exact revenge, but the King and his family are now more powerful than ever.
- He founded a death cult but was converted by a paladin, so now an assassin targets the cult at every opportunity. Note: this implies that Cyrene also has an order of paladins in her service for more public activities. You should think carefully about how these paladins will interact with the Hands of Cyrene before employing this hook.
- The assassin cuts an ear off every victim and keeps them at home to remind himself he will one day find and slay the torturer who sliced off both his ears years ago.
- On a recent mission everything that could go wrong, did, and a relative nobody did not merely thwart the assassins, he humiliated them, without even noticing that anything was taking place. Now the assassins want to reclaim their pride and dignity by targeting the nobody, who has taken to hanging around a group of adventurers (the PCs).
- Dovan the Sage, aka The Beloved of Dragons, was paid to lie to the guild to protect one of his customers from assassination. Dovan the Sage is now a dead man walking. However, his nickname is a bit of a worry….
- The PCs encounter a skilled but young street urchin and pickpocket. A little later, they see an older man hand the child a small pouch of coins and lead the boy away, hand-in-hand. However, this is not what it might seem to a modern audience: the older man is an assassin, and the young boy is going to be the guild’s newest recruit. Will the morals of the PCs lead to a confrontation with the bringers of death? Alternatively, if they do nothing and later encounter the young assassin on the job, will they blame themselves for what he has become?
- A freight hand at the docks is a slow-witted but strong brawler. When a fight breaks out between a stranger and another dockworker, he intervenes in what quickly becomes a general melee that draws in all those nearby (including the PCs). In gratitude, the man—secretly a member of the assassins’ guild—takes the freight hand into the guild.
- Still an apprentice to the world’s greatest assassin, a trainee secretly takes small contracts to pay for extra equipment, special herbs and magic.
- Thinking they are chasing a would-be thief, the PCs become embroiled in a race across the rooftops as assassins are trained to navigate the city this way.
- A poisoned trainee assassin must follow a series of clues to decipher the name of the antidote he needs before it is too late. He inadvertently involves the PCs in his desperate search when he mistakes one of them for the next link in the chain.
- After an especially messy public assassination, the guild needs a fall guy. They choose a member of their order who is suspected of taking commissions on the side. They manufacture evidence of his being the lone assassin and arrange to have it fall into the hands of the PCs. The difficult part will be ensuring he can never reveal the secrets of the guild, so another guild member poses as a long-lost relative of the deceased who is obsessed with revenge (and who can take out the fall guy at an opportune time).
- The assassin slew the previous Guildmaster but could not hold power and now hides from his enemies and former allies; he only takes work after thoroughly investigating clients for fear of a trap.
- A mercenary at heart, this assassin is willing to accept higher payments from victims to return and slay the one who placed the original contract; he is happy to bounce back and forth several times until somebody gets killed at the end of his bidding war.
- The assassin specializes in sending a message with his killings according to his employer’s wishes, but secretly he is a frustrated and underappreciated poet who cannot make a full-time income from his books.
- A drug addict, and dulled because of it, an unskilled assassin feeds his need by taking on work from clients too poor to pay killers that are more competent.
- A famous bard, and friend to the PCs, is known to possess a Hat of Disguise, which he uses in his role as the greatest stage actor in the kingdom. An assassin has decided he needs that hat to fulfill a difficult contract, but the bard will not give it up willingly.
Did you hear about the cover contest? Hurry up if not because it ends Thursday. Tell us which cover you want most for Assassin’s Amulet for a chance to win a copy of this awesome book. Enter now.