Well, naturally. Thieves and assassins.
To my mind, cities are divided along two foci ... people and money. However the manner in which they are associated with the city, both pool in the same place and the problems of a city are the problems of having too many people and those people having too little money (often, just to suit themselves).
Money, obviously, falls into the thief's territory. On the other hand, where it comes to studying people, watching them, following their patterns and motivations, knowing what to expect of them and where to find them when the time is right, that is certainly the assassin's territory.
Many DMs don't like assassins, and I think the reason is this:
|"Lisa, if you don't watch the violence,|
you'll never get desensitized to it."
I like assassins. I don't have many players play them, and usually they're played like a sort of poor, rambling thief who bothers to use their assassination skill every four levels (their choice, not mine), but personally I like having them in my world and I like the way they work. They make excellent NPCs and they are scary as shit. Just like real assassins are.
The other day I dug out my copy of Sydney Pollack's Three Days of the Condor, from 1975. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a decent copy of the scene ... but there dialogue runs like this. It is late in the film, and the main character Turner is talking to Joubert, the assassin:
Turner: I'd like to go back to New York.
Joubert: You have not much future there. It will happen this way. You may be walking. Maybe the first sunny day of the spring. And a car will slow beside you, and a door will open, and someone you know, maybe even trust, will get out of the car. And he will smile, a becoming smile. But he will leave open the door of the car and offer to give you a lift.
Turner: You seem to understand it all so well. What would you suggest?
Joubert: Personally, I prefer Europe.
Joubert: Yes. Well, the fact is, what I do is not a bad occupation. Someone is always willing to pay.
Turner: I would find it… tiring.
Joubert: Oh, no — it's quite restful. It's… almost peaceful. No need to believe in either side, or any side. There is no cause. There's only yourself. The belief is in your own precision.
It's a simple presentation of an assassin who is not a gleeful killer or a nutjob, who is not sexually driven or depressed. In other words, its a very rare Hollywood presentation. There are good reasons for that. Hollywood does not want to present sanity and cool-headedness mixed in with casual murder. It scares Lisa.
(last night, watching this Ted Talk, in which the speaker earnestly wants to share the shit out of you, there's discussion of one of those scenes from the Bourne movies with forty people in a room packed with screens and computers, tracking the movement of everything on the planet ... except that it is terrorists manning the tools. We don't see this in a movie because Americans don't want to see three Arabs sitting in a van tracking Bruce Willis using satellites that were privately launched in Sudan. It's just a little too creepy)
Okay, let's go back to Joubert's character. I particularly like the line where Turner says, "You seem to understand it so well ..." To me, this is the crux of the good assassin. Not the one that flies into the house and slaughters everything, no. The one that watches the house for days, works out where the target sleeps in the house, what the target eats for breakfast, whether or not the target likes his job or is good at it, etcetera. And in the larger sense, how the target's street identifies the target and all the target's friends, and how they're going to behave when the target is dead. In short, how do people relate to each other, how do they function in the world? In the grand scheme, an assassin ought to be able to stand at a corner, gaze at the crowd and work out which one of them loves his wife.
It's a difficult thing to hammer into a game mechanic. So I'm willing to be flexible where it comes to the roleplay. Still, there are things that can be calculated, and most of them come under this Infrastructure idea I've had for about a week now.
It's the assassin who ought to be able to tell you if the people are healthy or not. It's the assassin who would know who are the toughest guards, or which one ought to be struck first in a fight. Imagine having a character who can ask you, the DM, "which one has the most hit points?" and getting back an accurate answer, more accurate as the assassin increases in levels. It is the assassin who would know if a lawyer was honest; or if the king ruled for real or as a puppet; or what the guards were doing when not on their rounds. Want to find a good, safe inn with the best food? Ask the assassin. He or she would know just from looking at the people walking in and out.
To kill people, you have to know people. You have to watch their little habits, their gestures, their tells. The thief has his or her eye on the little pouch, and how well the carrier protects it ... but the assassin is watching the carrier's soul, and how well the carrier is protecting THAT.
That's the sort of theft that interests an assassin.