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The Caste of Assassins, also known as the Black Caste, is a mysterious one and the books do not explain a great deal about their Codes, conduct or activities.  No one outside of the Caste is supposed to know their secret Codes though a few elements of their Codes are revealed in the books.  It seems likely that Norman purposefully limited the amount of information he disseminated about the Assassins to maintain an air of mystery about them. Realistically, any such organization would carefully conceal its secrets.  Consider the examples from Earth history of the Assassins of the Middle East, the Ninja of Japan and the Thuggee Cult of India.  Secrecy was imperative to their success.  In addition, fantastic rumors about their prowess and abilities were encouraged to enhance their fearsome reputation.

Assassins are the most hated caste on Gor though it is not considered the lowest of Castes. It is a Low Caste but its exact place within the hierarchy of Low Castes is never given.  Though hated, the Assassins are also feared greatly.  People try to avoid the presence of an Assassin, often leaving a place where an Assassin enters.  They will cross the street to avoid passing by an Assassin.  Some go as far as not even wanting to touch the shadow of an Assassin.  The money of an Assassin is commonly considered "black gold" and many people will not accept it. Instead, some people will simply give the Assassin items for free.

After the events of Tarnsman of Gor, when Pa-Kur, a Master Assassin of Ar, sought to claim the throne of Ar, thus violating the limits of his Caste, the Assassin Caste had to go into hiding.  They were officially outlawed in Ar and hunted down.  Assassins began pretending to belong to other Castes, often the Warrior Caste.  They had lost any respect they had once had. But, after the events of Assassin of Gor, Assassins once again began to appear openly.  Though still hated they are permitted to openly engage in their work.

None of the barbarian cultures of Gor are known to have Assassins. The Wagon People have the Clan of Torturers, who wear black, but they are not Assassins.  They act primarily as interrogators and torturers.  They are not hired to assassinate people.  The only people they kill are prisoners.  The Assassin Caste may also be limited to the cities of the northern hemisphere of Gor.  There is a reference to Assassins being "sleen of the north" (Explorers of Gor, p.241).  This comment is made by a native of the jungles outside Schendi, located in the equatorial region of Gor.  This comment would make sense only if Assassins were limited to the regions above the equator.  None of the other novels indicates that the Assassin Caste exists in the southern hemisphere.

The Assassin Caste is one of the few Castes where you must actively join it to become a member.  It is not a Caste that you are born into.  This is similar to the Castes of the Initiates and Players. The Assassin Caste is very selective in their acceptance of candidates for their training.  They seek certain qualities that have proven over time to lead to effective Assassins.  It is thought that they seek individuals who are quick, cunning, strong and skilled.  Such individuals may also possess a bit of selfishness and greed.  The books state that the Assassins seek men to join their Caste.  There are no Assassin references that indicate women are permitted to join the Caste.  Though there is no explicit prohibition stated in the novels, the evidence and logic tends to indicate women would not belong to this Caste.

"The training of the assassin is thorough and cruel. He who wears the black of the caste has not won it easily." (Beasts of Gor, p.358)  The details of the training of an Assassin are shrouded in mystery though a few matters are known or suspected.  Only about 10% of all trainees actually become actual Assassin members.  It is believed that the trainee failures either die during the training process or are slain because they know too many secrets of the Caste.  Based on these numbers, the Assassins are likely not a very large caste.  The survivors though are likely to be a very close-knit community, a killing elite.

Each trainee is assigned another trainee as a training partner. These pairs remain together for the length of the training period and a close friendship between these partners is encouraged.  Each pair will be pitted against other pairs so it is very important that each pair works well together.  It is natural that such pairs will grow close.  But, the final test for each pair is to hunt and kill your partner.  The Caste wants you to slay your best friend for a few reasons.  First, it wants to make you emotionally cold, to place the Caste above all other relationships.  Second, it is to make its members understand fully what it means to be an Assassin and what is necessary to excel. Third, it is to eliminate any traces of mercy within you.  You are not supposed to feel bad for your victims.  This final cruel test changes a man. "One is then alone, with gold and steel." (Beasts of Gor, p.358)

Assassins must have loyalty only to their Caste.  They do not have Home Stones as that would constitute a potentially conflicting loyalty. An Assassin might hesitate or be unwilling to kill someone from their own Home Stone.  It is unlikely that they would join in Free Companionship.  This might also create a conflict of loyalty. Assassins generally are cold individuals as well and unlikely to form bonds of love.  The murder of their best friend during training would obviously have its impact.

Assassins learn many martial skills and their combat training is similar in many respects to the training of the Warrior Caste.  The similarities would be in the areas of personal combat.  It is unlikely that the Assassins learn much about waging wars.  But they would learn many weapon skills and unarmed combat, including the use of the gladius, spear, knife and crossbow. In one on one combat, an Assassin and a warrior are probably on equal ground.  Pa-Kur, Ar's Master Assassin, was considered one of the finest swordsmen on Gor.  No one is surprised at the swordfighting ability of Kuurus or Drusus.  Assassins and Warriors generally do not get along well with each other.  Each Caste considers itself superior to the other and they also consider themselves natural enemies.

A few quotes demonstrate what some see as the differences between these two Castes.

"The Assassin," he said, "is like a musician, a surgeon. The Warrior is like a butcher. He is a ravaging, bloodthirsty lout." (Beasts of Gor, p.413)

"But Assassins are such arid fellows. Warriors are more genial, more enthusiastic." (Beasts of Gor, p.413)

"An Assassin goes in and does his job, and comes out quietly," he said. "Warriors storm buildings and burn towers." (Beasts of Gor, p.413)

"The sword of the warrior, commonly, is pledged to a Home Stone, that of the assassin to gold and the knife." (Beasts of Gor, p.136)

The Caste color of the Assassins is black and even their helmets are black.  They also use a black banner as their symbol.  Assassins may be referred to as 'killer" and this is actually considered a title of respect.  When an Assassin takes fee for a job, he affixes a tiny and fine mark of a black dagger on his forehead.  It is not known what material is used to affix this mark.  With the dagger on his forehead, an Assassin may freely enter any Gorean city.  No one will stop him from entering or try to interfere with his mission.  Some people who see the dagger worry that the Assassin might be after them.  City rulers will often bolster their personal defenses if they are aware an Assassin with a black dagger is present in their city.

Few things are known concerning the Caste Codes of the Assassins.  Withdrawal from the caste is not permitted by the codes.  Anyone who tried to quit would be likely hunted down and killed.  The Caste does not want its secrets revealed to any outside the Caste.  The Caste might even view such rogues as failures that needed to be eliminated to preserve the integrity of the Caste.  By their codes, they are supposed to make their own kills.  Thus, they cannot subcontract out a killing.  This would also prevent them from using sleens to kill people though not all Assassins follow closely to their Codes.  There have been instances where an Assassin used a sleen for a kill.  The use of poison is also against their codes though their pride alone prevents most Assassins from using poison.  There is little skill in using poison and most Goreans consider it a woman's weapon anyways.  Though it is not against their codes, most Assassins are not tarnsmen.  They will more often ride tharlarions though there are a few Assassins who are accomplished tarnsmen. Assassins also do not carry pouches like most Goreans.  Instead, they have small pockets in their belts.

The primary weapon of choice of the Assassin is the crossbow.  A crossbow has a considerable striking power and can penetrate most shields.  Though it has a slow rate of fire, most Assassins will not be shooting a barrage of quarrels at a victim.  They hope to need only a single iron bolt to slay their target.  The crossbow allows them to strike at a distance thus enhancing their chance of escaping detection.  "More than one triumph in a Gorean city has been spoiled by the bolt of an assassin." (Magicians of Gor, p.90)  Assassins also learn other weapons such as the gladius, knife and spear.

"Scormus of Ar reminded me of men of the caste of Assassins, as they sometimes are, before they begin their hunt.  The edge must be sharp, the resolve must be merciless, the instinct to kill must in no way be blunted." (Beasts of Gor, p.86)  "Scormus would play like an Assassin.  He would be merciless, and he would take no chances." (Beasts of Gor, p.88)  Assassinations are generally well planned events.  The Assassin will begin by gathering information on his intended victim.  This will allow him to better choose a method of assassination, one that will have the greatest chance of success and also allow the Assassin to escape afterwards.  It might entailing following the victim to learn his habits.  Skill and technique are important to Assassins.

No one is safe from the potential of assassination.  If someone has a grudge against you, they could hire an Assassin.  Assassins kill both men and women. Talena, when she became Ubara, feared assassination and Tarl Cabot confirmed that was a real possibility for a woman in her position.  Assassins sometimes serve the purpose of justice.  There is a difference between an Assassin hired to perform the "first" or the "second" killing.  In a "second" killing, an Assassin is hired to avenge someone's murder.  Many Goreans accept the validity of "second" kills as a necessary tool of justice.  It seems there may also be certain protocol for such a hiring.  In one passage from Assassins of Gor, a man in a black robe, with a white stripe down the front and back of it, hires an Assassin to avenge the death of a Warrior.  It is clear that the robe was specifically worn for the hiring.  It also seems clear that most contracts with an Assassin are only verbal.  You pay the Assassin and give him information on the intended victim.  There are few formalities involved in such.  Written contracts are not used, likely due to the illiteracy of many Goreans and also not leave a trail of paperwork to connect the employer and the Assassin.

There are only three major examples of Assassins in the novels although one of those examples is actually Tarl Cabot in disguise.

Pa-Kur is a Master Assassin of Ar who appeared in Tarnsman of Gor.  He was a tall man with a cruel-looking face and inscrutable eyes.  Pa-Kur was an expert crossbowman and said to be maybe the finest swordsman on Gor.  But, he does not play Kaissa.  When the Initiates took control of Ar, Pa-Kur decided to form an army to conquer Ar.  He was able to gather the forces of a number of cities to support his military endeavor.  He was ultimately successful and forced the Initiates to surrender the city to him.  His reign was quite short when Tarl Cabot and others arrived to oust the Master Assassin.  Tarl and Pa-Kur engaged in an exciting duel atop the Cylinder of Justice.  Tarl proved the master of the sword though. Instead of face capture, Pa-Kur leapt from a tall cylinder.  But, Pa-Kur's body was never found and its fate remains a mystery that has yet to be resolved in the novels.  One day, Pa-Kur could return. After Pa-Kur's defeat, the other Assassins that has supported him were captured and made galley slaves.  Assassins were then outlawed in Ar.  As an interesting aside, consider Pa-Kur's name. "Kur" means beast in Gorean but it is unknown what "Pa" means.

In Assassin of Gor, Tarl Cabot disguises himself as Kuurus, an Assassin, to discover who tried to kill him in Ko-ro-ba.  He dyes his hair black and dons the black clothes of an Assassin. This book excels in showing how most Goreans view Assassins, usually with fear and hate.  It also shows that Assassins may be hired by a House in a general capacity almost akin to a bodyguard or trouble shooter. Kuurus is hired by the House of Cernus as a Sword even though he has taken fee for an assassination.  No one questions his superb ability with a sword. It seems natural that an assassin would be skilled with the gladius.

In Beasts of Gor, we encounter the Assassin named Drusus. Drusus works for the Kurii at their base at the polar ice cap.  He attempts to kill Tarl Cabot in a duel but fails to do so.  He later chooses to side with Tarl against the Kurii.  He acquits himself well and the Kurii plans are defeated.  He then heads south with Tarl Cabot though we do not learn what occurs later.  One unusual aspect of Drusus is that he failed to kill his best friend during training.  He was more skilled than his friend but he chose not to kill him.  Yet, Drusus still became an Assassin.  This is highly unusual and would likely be an extreme rarity.  In addition, it is likely that his friend was killed by other Assassins for not being good enough.

Assassins in Role-Play

Using Assassins in Gorean role-play requires special rules if you wish to plausibly and realistically simulate assassination attempts. Assassins have the potential for being abused if the rules are not properly constructed.  Obviously, it would be unrealistic and annoying to have Assassins killing off dozens of players.  But, at the same time, assassination should be a real threat so that the Caste is truly as feared online as in the novels.  Thus, it becomes a balancing game to carefully maintain a happy medium.

In general, rules for Assassins should contain certain essential elements.  First, their combat skills should be basically equivalent to that of a Warrior.  The books support this and it helps to set up the natural adversarial stance of the two Castes.  Second, Assassin should follow the codes of their Caste.  If they are permitted to break the Codes, an unbalancing can result. Nearly all Assassins will follow their Codes.  There should be an excellent reason why an Assassin chooses to ignore a Code in some situation.  Third, special rules need to be constructed to handle the mechanics of adjudicating an assassination attempt..

Assassinations are well planned activities.  Assassins do not just rush out and kill someone. They are very skilled and use those skills to choose an optimum opportunity.  They have no wish to be caught or slain.  Thus, an Assassin should role-play his planning and investigation of a proposed assassination.  He should log all instances where he gathers information about his target.  Maybe he will talk to his target's friends and learn that the target frequents a certain tavern.  Maybe he will learn that his target talks a certain walking path each evening through a local garden.  After gathering all of this information, the assassin should compile a plan of how exactly he intends to perform the assassination.  This plan should give consideration to contigency plans that might be needed in case some unforseen circumstances arise.  Then, based on the skill of the assassin, his prior investigations, and the plan, it needs to be decided what the assassin's chances of success would be.  Some type of proctor should decide on this chance.  A method to resolve the skill attempt, such as dice, can then be made.

Such a procedure emphasizes and enhances the role-play aspects of an Assassin.  Under some online rules for Assassin, dice are basically all that matter.  There is little role-play, planning or investigation involved.  Such rules lack realism or plausibility.  We should always endeavor to make our role-play better.  Proper rules can aid in this matter while poorly constructed rules can detract. Always aim for the best.