There's little doubt that the release of the new Assassin Creed II video game has inspired quite a few character concepts amongst roleplayers over the world. d20 OGL classes like the Assassin, Shadowdancer and Rogue are likely getting increased attention from those keen to follow in the exploits of the video game's characters. For those playing the Pathfinder RPG, The Genius Guide to the Shadow Assassin offers a good option to explore if you want something along those lines or just want something that's a little different to the norm.
The Genius Guide to the Shadow Assassin is a short 9 page pdf product, and the second product (of three on the date of this review) in a series of character-aimed books presenting new and hopefully unique classes, templates, spells, and magic items. This particular product presents the Shadow Assassin, a new 20 level core class for the Pathfinder RPG. The product is written by the well known Owen K.C. Stephens.
This product is very neatly and professionally presented, with good use of new artwork and the occasional stock art piece. Writing and editing is good, and the layout is in the less common three-column format. This makes the text a little crowded on the page and more difficult to read, but that's largely a minor point. It still baffles me a little why publishers are unwilling to add a few extra pages to improve layout and readability. Overall, though, this is a very well presented product, with a high standard of execution and presentation.
The Shadow Assassin core class is built on stealth, deadly attacks against single opponents and fighting with light (easy to conceal) weapons. It blends parts and aspects of the Assassin and Shadowdancer prestige classes from the d20 OGL, while adding a touch of its own flavor essentially modifying the core abilities to suit the class. So the Hide in Plain Sight Shadowdancer features is present in an alternative form where it grants various bonuses to Stealth at low levels, while at higher levels the class can turn into living shadow or travel via shadows. The Deadly Focus ability is similar to the Assassin Death Attack, but much more streamlined, evolved, and easier to implement and use. In essence, the Shadow Assassin takes known abilities and makes them more playable as it combines them into the class. I really appreciated the level based development of all the class features, as you can see the difference between a higher level Shadow Assassin and a lower level one by their execution of signature abilities.
The class also incorporates some of the Rogue class abilities like Evasion and Uncanny Dodge, and includes useful weapon fighting styles to highlight the classes skill with specific weapons. Very useful advice is provided on how to use this class as both an NPC and PC class, paying particular attention to the fact that this class doesn't have to be evil like the Assassin. Overall, a solid mechanical base, making a workable and easy to understand/use class with none of the Hide in Plain Sight issues that the Shadowdancer had. In one sense I'd have preferred the Shadow Assassin's abilities to the Hide in Plain Sight class features as it's much simpler and in a way more elegant.
Overall, while the Shadow Assassin class is not the most unique implementation I've ever seen, it does have good mechanics and elegant use of mechanics to build an interesting and more importantly playable class. The product is well worth a look at for those fans of Pathfinder that are looking for a darker class to play that has some good potential for both roleplaying and combat. Good class and a good product.
[4 of 5 Stars!]