Assassins: Tips & Guidelines To Write & Play Them More Believably


When people imagine assassins, they often envision sleek, seductive figures armed with pretty little stabby blades or some other kind of special super weapon. Sensuous scenes are called to mind - eg, a black-clad assassin creeping into the room of a sleeping prince to stab him in his sleep. But the reality is, these fantastic images are just that - fantasy. Real and realistic assassinations and assassins are typically anything but glamorous and sexy, and in general, they wouldn’t work very much at all like people tend to imagine.

Clothes: Any decent assassin is going to want to blend in. This doesn’t mean wearing sleek black catsuits, but rather clothes that someone with legitimate business in the area might be wearing. If your assassin might have to make a quick getaway, xe’ll want clothes that are easy to run in, too. (And before anyone asks, no - catsuits are not all the better for sneaking through air ducts in, because air ducts are horrible for sneaking through.)

Unique/rare weapons: Unique/rare weapons are generally easier to trace and more difficult to replace, service, or find ammo for. If an assassin is going to use a gun, a generic or common model of gun is a better choice than some super high-end model that only exists in limited quantities.

Seduction as a tactic: This is plausible in a world where DNA testing does not yet exist. But in one where it does, any assassin who makes prolonged physical contact with xir target is most likely going to leave DNA evidence all over the body for investigators to find - and the longer and more intimate the contact is, the more DNA will be left behind.

Mentality: Anyone who could making killing people a profession and not suffer some kind of long-term mental trauma as a result would have to lack ability to feel sympathy, empathy, and remorse, and/or feel very strongly that xe is doing the right thing and that the targets deserve or need to be killed. In the real world, this would equate to people who are psychopaths/sociopaths and those who are easily able to dehumanize others in their minds.

What most mercenary assassins get hired for: Contrary to belief that mercenary assassins will get hired to take out politicians and other big-wigs, most of them are hired to bump off people like spouses and bosses for four-figure payments.

Any obvious murder will most likely prompt an investigation. And that could mean trouble for the assassin and/or xir employers. The more important and prominent the target was, the more effort will be put into finding the killer. This could potentially mean that the best way to kill a target would be to make it look like an accident, if possible.

Is your character fighting to look pretty, or is your character fighting to win? If your assassin is going to get into physical combat, you need to ask yourself this. The character who fights to look pretty uses pretty little knives and daggers as primary weapons and dances around with graceful gymnastics. The character who fights to win uses whatever weapon is most suited for the job right now and fights dirty - hair-pulling, eye-gouging, biting, groin-hitting, etc. The character who fights to look pretty has loose flowing hair. The character who fights to win won’t make it so easy to be grabbed by the opponent. The character who fights to look pretty wears tight leather outfits and/or clothes that wouldn’t look out of place on an exotic dancer. The character who fights to win wears clothes that afford reasonable protection and mobility.

A competent assassin will try to avoid getting into a fight in the first place. An actual, physical fight should be the assassin's last resort, not the first.

Training a child up from infancy or early childhood to be “the perfect assassin/killer/soldier” may sound good on paper, but in reality it would not be a very smart move at all. First, you’d be looking at spending time and money on training someone for something-teen years before actually getting a payoff on one’s investment. On the other hand, you could get results a lot faster and with a lot fewer resources by simply starting out with adults or near-adults.

Trying to start a child early in order to desensitize xir to death and violence is a crapshoot, too: there are good odds that child would simply end up traumatized with PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms, which would make xir unsuitable as a soldier or killer. If the child ends up being a sociopath, then you’re not much better off because sociopaths don’t make good soldiers. Yes, you can probably count on them to throw themselves into causing trouble with glee… including at home, in the barracks, or even when left unsupervised in the field with nothing else to take their boredom out on. Plus, people without empathy are very poor at predicting what their enemies will do next, because they can't put themselves in their enemies shoes to try to imagine what they might do.

Finally, how many kids actually end up being everything their parents wanted them to be? How often does training up a child to be a perfect anything actually work? Training a kid up to be a perfect assassin would be no different.

Children-as-assassins make little sense, either. While children can be trained to be strong and capable in their own right, they will still always lack the potential strength, motor control, focus, and decision-making skills of an adult. Thus there are virtually no scenarios that would justify sending a child out to kill someone as opposed to a properly-trained adult.

Assassin ≠ spy. While the techniques of spies and assassins could overlap at some points and someone could potentially have the skills to be both a spy and an assassin, spies and assassins serve two different goals. See Spies: A Few Things Writers & Roleplayers Should Know About Them for more information.


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