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So a friend of mine for an upcoming campaign was going to be a rogue, specifically arcane trickster. However, he has changed his mind and now is going to be assassin and cross class to wizard.

That's fine with me, my problem is that he wants a special allowance to still have the unique arcane trickster mage hand, which will give him more abilities for no reason in my opinion.

He says it's balanced and there's no lore reason why not. I've argued saying it makes the unique nature of arcane trickster less valued.

Is it unbalanced to allow an Assassin to adopt Mage Hand Legerdemain?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi @SamuelCarpenter, and welcome to the site. I've made an edit to make the question a bit more readable and to focus more on a question than prompting for discussion. If you feel like I've altered your meaning at all, please feel free to edit it some more. Take the tour when you've got a moment, and thanks again for the question. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 12 '17 at 2:00
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Although many tables allow some degree of tweaking in order to make a build match a concept, they usually involve some degree of horse trading, i.e. giving up something to get something else. Assassins get the Assassinate ability at third level. Arcane Tricksters get Mage Hand Legerdemain. Wizards get their own specialties. Unless he is willing to give up something from one of his other classes in order to justify the Legerdemain, you are certainly on firm ground to call him on this. Getting something for nothing is the definition of unbalanced.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "unbalanced" isn't the same as "unfair". Mage Hand Legerdemain is hardly a game-breaking ability. The real problem is that the other players will feel cheated unless they also get an extra class feature from an archetype they didn't pick. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Sep 12 '17 at 13:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Doval "Hardly a game breaking ability" - Only if you lack creativity. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan The Brave Sep 12 '17 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Doval "Game Breaking Ability" is a subjective term. By that reasoning, neither is "Assasinate" nor a Wizard School's 3rd level ability. It remains unbalanced to allow an extra positive without justification or consequence. Otherwise, why not give every character the ability? \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Sep 12 '17 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis I said what I said. I didn't say "you can give any ability to any character", I said you can give Mage Hand Legerdemain to an Assassin. Getting something for nothing isn't inherently bad, and every DM exercises some amount of "giving something for nothing" when awarding players loot, and especially when awarding magic items. You can give a player a magic item for no reason and the game will still run fine. The OP could easily make a Ring of Mage Hand Legerdemain, include it in the next treasure pile and he'd be operating squarely within the game's rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Sep 12 '17 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Getting something for nothing" would be a horrible definition for unbalanced, false more often than not. A warlock 5/sorcerer 15 is unbalanced, but gets nothing for free. \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 12 '17 at 21:53
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I would say "yes"; that's unbalanced. As a rogue, he gets to choose between 3 paths, each with its own benefits. One of the significant benefits of the Arcane Trickster is the Legerdemain, so he should not get that just for free.

As a DM who wants people to be able to play characters that match their concepts, I might be willing to let the character in question have the Legerdemain power in exchange for another power of similar utility, but not as a freebie.

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Unbalanced? No

Would I allow it? No

While it is not easy to decide what is unbalanced and what is not, in case of house-rules I would go with "clearly stronger than RAW options".

Assassin is almost purely combat oriented, while Mage Hand Legerdemain is nearly useless in combat, it helps much more with the other two pillars of adventuring. So he will not outshine other members of the group, or not because of this.

I would still not allow this, because it is a first step down a very slippery slope. If he gets something without giving up something else, the party members might soon ask for stronger, really unbalanced things.

How to balance it

I see two good options:

  1. Take away something similarly minor, just to show it is not free.
  2. Make this a 1st level spell, added to his spellbook for free. For the few times he really needs it, he has to pay the slot.
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you make it a 1st level spell, you should also extend the duration. an invisible mage hand for 1 minute is not worth a 1st level spell. \$\endgroup\$ – Shem Sep 12 '17 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shem it should not be worth it, it was free \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 12 '17 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András would it be fair to do your second idea but not as a free spell? \$\endgroup\$ – Thávŕon Sep 13 '17 at 5:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SamuelCarpenter as Shem said, it is not worth a 1st level spell in its current form. If you want him to select this as one of his 6 first level spells he gets as a wizard, you should make it better. Setting the duration to one hour should be fine. \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 13 '17 at 9:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most applications of mage hand legerdemain are very situational. So I doubt that the duration would make much of a difference in practice. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Sep 14 '17 at 10:40
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At best, I would say that the DM could allow your friend to forfeit their Assassinate ability to have Legerdemain on a mage hand instead. I definitely wouldn't advocate giving them a second ability at 3rd level and, more importantly, I highly doubt their DM will either. Long story short, if your friend wants to have that Mage Hand Legerdemain, then he can just as well play a Trickster.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is horrible advice: Assassinate is the essence of the Assassin (the name might be a hint), Legedermain is secondary compared to spellcasting for an Arcane Trickster. \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 26 '17 at 21:12

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