From the TV Screen to the GM Screen

Those of you who have played the Dragon Age video games may be hearing for the first time that there is a Dragon Age tabletop RPG (possibly because said RPG just won some huge awards!).

First of all, welcome! The Dragon Age RPG is an award-winning RPG where the only limit to your adventures in Thedas is your imagination! Dragon Age has a huge world that is ever-expanding its list of locations, characters, and secrets that are all waiting to be discovered and experienced. The Dragon Age RPG puts you in the role of one of Thedas’ few beacons of hope. Like the Warden, the Champion, and the Inquisitor, you may be all that stands between peace and war, victory or annihilation, or even between your loved ones and danger.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “does my knowledge of the Dragon Age videos games give me an edge?” The answer is yes and no.

Yes it will give you an edge because you know how the classes feel, who the people of Thedas are, what might make a good story in Dragon Age, or what is worth exploring in Thedas. You know the names of many abilities the and spells the character have access to, and you know what a Rock Salve or Swift Salve might do if you rub it on your character’s skin. You know about the politics of Orzammar, the dark depths the Magisters of Tevinter would reach into for more power, and you know who’s an adorable puppy, yes you are, yes you are!

Don’t pet him right now if you like your hands…

No it will not give you an edge because the game itself is played through an entirely different medium. You don’t get a controller or mouse to hold, and the action may seem a tad slower. You roll dice to see if your hero can accomplish their tasks, you narrate the action yourself, and some person calling themselves the GM on the other side of the table guides you and your friends along your Dragon Age adventure. You still have a character sheet like the games, but the numbers are different, and there are abilities on the sheet you don’t recognize. There are no staggered, sundered, shocked, burning, chilled, or BEES! conditions, and the numbers are also much smaller than the video games. An 84 Strength in Origins just means you hit obscenely hard with your swords. An 84 Strength in the tabletop RPG likely means you can juggle planets (abilities technically also cap at 12 in the RPG).

The major benefit of playing a tabletop game to the video games, however, is the production value. Bioware does a fantastic job of crafting the look, sound, and feel of Thedas through the video games. The games have dozens of choices your character can make to affect the story line of future games, and the conversations are all lovingly voice-acted to help bring Thedas to life. But have you ever had a moment in the video games where you were given a list of choices on a dialogue wheel and just thought you didn’t like any of the choices? The video games can only realistically make so much content for the players because all of that production value costs real money and time to develop.

However, with the tabletop RPG, you can make up new dialogue options. The only limit is what you as a player can conceive! If your character decides they want to ally with Corypheus, they can do that! If your character decides they want to stomp up to Knight Commander Merideth’s office and demand she resign from her position in Act 2, go for it!  If your character wants to sneak into the palace at Denerim and assassinate Loghain for what he did at Ostagar, just tell your GM and it can be done!

In the tabletop RPG, you are not constrained to a few dozen roleplaying options. You are free to make any choice, walk any road, or fight anyone you choose! All you have to do is ask your GM and they can help you do it!

I mean, maybe some choices don’t help much but…

Now, beyond the unfettered freedom that the medium of tabletop RPGs provides, what’s the same and what’s different between the video and tabletop games?

  • Unlike having a computer do the math for you, you will have to keep track of things like damage, Health, Mana, or other points. Thankfully, these numbers are pretty small, so don’t worry too much about it. (the highest die roll number you might ever see is a 30, and that requires some work)
  • You will need 3 six-sided dice to play this game. One must be a different color from the other two because that one is the Dragon Die. You will make much use of it!
  • You still have the core six abilities: Constitution, Cunning, Dexterity, Magic, Strength, and Willpower. You’ll notice that the tabletop game has two new abilities: Communication and Perception. In Origins the Communication ability was represented as the Coercion skill, and the Perception ability was similar to the Survival skill. But because the tabletop genre is a bit more flexible than video games, these skills were likely expanded to make new abilities that help the heroes interact with the world more effectively.
    • You can use dice to randomly determine what abilities your character has, or you can spend points into the stats to build them yourself.
  • Character creation does not involve choosing a race, but has you select what is called a Background. If you played Origins you might see some similarities to the Origin stories you selected once you had a race and class. Backgrounds are full packages that give you your upbringing, ethnicity, race, education, class options, languages, and a handful of extra boosts to represent your character’s past. There are currently 30 Backgrounds to choose from, with more to come with future releases!
  • While most of the video games’ actions are centered around combat, the tabletop game has mechanics and examples of what are called roleplaying and exploration encounters. Roleplaying encounters are essentially what took place whenever your character had a dialogue wheel or list appear and you were prompted to give your character’s response. You will be asked to roleplay your character’s opinion with your voice, you will not be given a list of options. Exploration might involve hunting animals, exploring a run-down castle, navigating dense wilderness, or even racing your opponents towards a goal.
  • When you decide your character is going to take an action, you tell the GM and they ask you to roll an Ability Test. These Tests will have you roll your dice and add your ability to see if you successfully completed a task.
    • These Tests come in many different forms, like Basic Tests, Opposed Tests, and Advanced Tests. You’ll have to listen to podcast to learn more!
  • Both games have three classes: Mage, Rogue, and Warrior.
    • Mages are still spellcasters with access to a large selection of incantations (if you played Origins you will recognize nearly every single one). They can be healers, damage dealers, enfeeblers, or whatever kind of spellcaster they feel they should be!
    • Rogues are still quick killers but now have abilities that help them contribute to roleplaying and exploration, making them a sort of jack-of-all trades class. They still have Backstab but it works in multiple new ways now since the game does not track which direction people are facing in combat.
    • Warriors still get the heaviest armor, the biggest weapons, and the nastiest fighting styles. They gain mostly abilities that lend themselves to combat encounters, but can still hold their own in other struggles.
  • All classes still get Specializations. There are currently seven Specializations for each class, with more coming in future books! The tabletop RPG has one Spec the video games do not: the Chevalier! The RPG currently does not have: the Artificer, the Knight-Enchanter, the Rift Mage, or the Tempest.
  • Your character can select Talents when you level up, much like the video games. Also like the video games you can choose to improve your abilities in specific talents or gain new ones when you hit certain levels.
  • The tabletop RPG has what are called Focues. These represent particular training or aptitude in specific realms of study. Your character may have a good Communication ability, but if they have the (Deception) Focus, they are very adept at lying and feinting. These give you a simple +2 on any roll where you can apply your knowledge.
  • The tabletop RPG tracks your Mana if you are a Mage, but you do not have Stamina as a Rogue or a Warrior. This is because, unlike a Mage, you do not have as many abilities you can fire off like a spell.
    • Instead of abilities that you activate like in the videos games, your character (regardless of class) can perform what are are called Stunts! When you roll two of the same number on your dice you get Stunt Points that you immediately spend on performing cool maneuvers, devastating attacks, sudden bursts of inspiration or deduction, or flashes of charm and wit. They are a bit more random than the video games, but they occur surprisingly often so learn them and love them!
  • Like in Origins, you can still craft poisons, grenades, and traps! Unlike Origins, crafting potions is not part of the core rules. There are plenty of fan-made rules for Herbalism, however!
  • If you want to run organizations as small as a Dalish clan or as big as the Inquisition, you can do that with Organization rules!
  • Magic weapons and armor are a bit more rare and hard to come by in the tabletop game than they are in the video games. This is to make sure that they stay special, that when you get that magic sword it’s a big deal compared to the 17th magical sword you just sold today to get enough money to buy blueprints for an even bigger bigger sword.
  • You can still join the Grey Wardens, explore the Fade, or fight darkspawn and demons!
  • The tabletop game currently goes to level 20, but we here at the podcast are writing rules for later levels!

We hope this has been helpful, and if you still have questions you can feel free to send us an email to, leave us a comment here, reach out to use on Facebook or Twitter, or post on the Green Ronin Dragon Age forums!

Thanks for reading and listening!

Now go have a party! A DRAGON AGE party!

Author: Portal-Crafter Reyn

I'm an amateur sound designer, gamer, and game-master, and I love to bring people grand worlds and rich stories through several mediums.

3 thoughts on “From the TV Screen to the GM Screen”

  1. A great and inspiring summary. It’s worth noting that all the main writers for the video game (including David Gaider who basically invented Thedas) started off as pen and paper role-players.
    I’d certainly encourage people who enjoy the computer games and who want to explore the world of Dragon Age more, to find or start a tabletop group. It will be years before DA:4 is released, but you can start adventuring again tomorrow!

    Liked by 1 person

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