The words “holy” and “assassin” don’t necessarily go together like “peanut butter” and “jelly,” but when you’re at war with agents of Vecna, you use whatever tools are at your disposal. When you need someone taken out, call an avenger. They’re the best at what they do, and what they do involves lots of teleportation.
I have to admit, when I realized the Player’s Handbook 2 was going to feature eight new classes, I was worried that there wouldn’t be much to differentiate them besides alternate power sources (which don’t really have much of an in-game effect). “Oh, the shaman! It’s like a cleric, but Primal!” But the Avenger is the fifth class we’ve reviewed so far, and I’d say Wizards of the Coast has done a good job of creating unique and interesting classes. As more classes are introduced, the niches they fill will likely get smaller and smaller, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
This brings us to the avenger. This class takes the striker archetype (characters that deal damage to single targets) and carries it out to an extreme level of dedication. The avenger’s inherent abilities and powers mostly revolve around picking one target in a fight and making absolutely sure of two things: 1). that target has no desire to attack anyone other than the avenger, and 2). the avenger is always standing right next to the target, slamming away with melee attacks.
In tactical terms, the avenger in a party is the one who picks out the enemy spellcaster or healer, hits him with Oath of Enmity (which lets the avenger roll twice for all attack rolls vs. that target), then teleports, phases, shifts or foxtrots across the battlefield to take up a position adjacent to the poor bastard. Then the avenger unloads a barrage of attacks like Oath of Divine Lightning (you think my sword hurts now, wait until it’s covered in lightning!) or Sequestering Strike (the avenger and the target teleport a short distance away from the rest of the fight).
There are a number of different ways to approach avengers from a role-playing perspective. Their powers make them perfect assassins, with plenty of invisibility, teleportation and phasing. However, they aren’t just mercenaries – avengers must be tied to a specific deity, and have to take that deity’s alignment. The PHB2 recommends against following a good or lawful good god, but I think you could craft an interesting character who is so overly zealous he’s been banished from his order, yet goes around slaughtering people in the name of his god anyway. On the other hand, an avenger who worships the Raven Queen is perfectly in line with her precepts as he goes about his grim job.
So if you want to go with the whole “dark anti-hero” thing, the avenger is the way to go. My 15-year-old self would have eaten this up – the avenger brings every Wolverine/Batman/Punisher fantasy straight into D&D.