GMing the Dragon Age RPG: Revisited

All RPGs need Game Masters (we’re pretty sure). They make the game possible and keep the action rolling to tell a grand story with the help of their players. They give adventures direction, create lovable characters, dangerous encounters, and hope their players will have a session they’ll talk about for years to come! They also keep players from hurting each others’ feelings, schedule times for games, help players build their characters’ stories as well as ask for help building the campaign. GMing is a truly unique experience in the world of hobbies, and we here at the Wonders of Thedas would like to have a little chat about running Dragon Age specifically.

GMing is unique for every game. Some games they don’t even call you GM. DM, Narrator, Judge, Director, Referee, Storyteller, even Animator are some of the titles given to the important job of running the game! Each game comes with its own system, challenges, pitfalls, and excitement. Every game is different, so being a GM for every game is just as diverse.

So what makes the Dragon Age RPG’s role of GM so different? There are a few answers to this question.

GRR2810_450_1024x1024
The handouts are pretty sweet, for starters!

Compared to other, more rule-heavy RPGs, Dragon Age is rather light on rules. This is an important draw for the game as it can be learned quickly and mastered relatively easily. This helps the game run smoothly and avoid the need to crack open rule books to figure out how something works in very specific cases.

That does not mean that this game is immune to that need all the time. Being rules-light, Dragon Age also will occasionally stump players and GMs alike because the game has no rule for something that comes up in session; or the rules might be silent on how to handle a specific case that has several rules bumping together. We’ll be looking at a few cases and our own interpretations in later episodes but we’ve got a few nuggets of wisdom to help keep you floating!

Dragon Age gives the GM a surprising amount of freedom in how they run their games. One of the golden rules of Dragon Age is this: if you don’t have a hard and fast rule for it, use an Ability Test. Page 199 of the core book has a small sidebar titled “Dragon Age in a Nutshell”and it is quite appropriate. Ability Tests are the core of the game: roll 3d6s, add some modifiers, and compare the result against a Target Number. If you meet or beat the number, you succeed. The Ability Test has enough versatility that you can use it for nearly any situation! You can use Success Thresholds to determine more specifics about the tests, and can use Opposed Tests if someone or something is working against them!

This impressive freedom does come with one real caveat: you have a lot of decision-making to do as a GM of Dragon Age.

CmT1b6iWAAEMQab
Is eating this treat an Opposed Test…or Advanced Test…?

While a lot of other games have hundreds of pages of rules to codify every situation, Dragon Age keeps things simpler. This means that when your players ask to do something complicated like picking up a foe and beating another foe with that first foe, you have quite a  few decisions to make about how you want to do that. If your players ask how something works (like how often you can use a stunt that costs 0 SP, or whether stunt point reduction powers stack, or if you can perform actions that are normally regulated to Stunts) you will have to be ready to explain how it’s going to work in your game.

This decision-making power means that the game is more “in your hands” than other systems. While some games have rules for nearly every situation, in Dragon Age the GM has the rules for any situation. This is not to say that the Dragon Age RPG does not have enough rules to get you by, and it in fact has plenty to give you inspiration and guidance for how something ought to be handled, but the system can really become YOURS if that makes any sense. This freedom makes your Dragon Age campaign a somewhat unique experience compared to other campaigns that are in the same system!

Another thing that is unique about being a Dragon Age GM is the subject of house rules. Dragon Age, being the elegant system it is, is pretty easy to design for. This means that house rules are quite common, and there is a swiftly growing list of custom content for the game that GMs are willing to share with others to make the game bigger, better, and more exciting!

cropped-cmpvhsmwgaae7eg.jpg
You might have noticed a button above called “Resources for Your Game”?

GMs are making new things for the Dragon Age game all the time! This crowd of junior designers ensures that the Dragon Age RPG has quite a lively fan base. The forums are abuzz with rule interpretations, greetings for new players, and the latest creations that the people of Dragon Age would like to share with the world!

You as a GM may find that Dragon Age does not have something in it that you need for your game at the moment. The game still has more growing to do, more books are coming out later, and you needn’t worry. The folks of the forums have got your back!

We at this podcast love the creative fires that burn in the hearts of many a Dragon Age GM and we seek to stoke them and let them burn wild and free for everyone to see! So if you want a quick taste, feel free to click on the Resources for Your Game tab at the top of the page. You can see just how hard people work for this game and perhaps understand why this game won two golden ENnies!

cplv3urueaa9d-d
We, personally, did not win this, but we feel it vicariously!

You will also find that people are quite free about tweaking how the game works. Dragon Age makes this quite easy what with being a light game, so this rarely has painful impacts in games. New Talents, Spells, Specializations, crafting systems, readjustments for Ability functions, new Focuses, Health growth, and Mana growth can vary between tables of games.

This variation and ease of modification does not mean that you should research the forums for 12 hours to craft the perfect gaming experience. The game works great on its own, but is easy to adjust if you don’t like some way the game works! Don’t be afraid to tweak if you find something isn’t working for you and your group a few games in!

Finally, and you probably knew this already, but Dragon Age gives you access to the rich and exciting world of Thedas!

 

worldmap1
The best of all possible worlds?

“But hey! There are plenty of RPGs that use pre-established settings! How does this make Dragon Age unique?” We hear you, and the reason why this makes the RPG stand out is two-fold.

First, Thedas is a BIG world. So big, in fact, that the video games are still building more and more of it! That means that there is quite a bit of Thedas that is not yet established. That means that GMs have quite a bit of breathing room when designing their adventures to include unique monsters, foes, organizations, terrain, or magics! Because Thedas has so much blank space, we get to fill it in and make Thedas our own! Should new games come along and make new statements and claims to Thedas that you were building on, who’s gonna know? That part of Thedas, in your campaign, is yours now! We haven’t even mentioned the vast swaths of Thedosian history that may never be visited in the games! Historical campaigns can keep the Dragon Age flavor and feel but give you complete freedom in how your campaign is run! If your players really liked the video games but you think they could have gone differently, play the video game campaigns with the unfettered nature of a tabletop RPG! Thedas can be yours, mine, or anyone’s, so don’t feel afraid to build on the incredible foundation that has been provided by the writers and Bioware!

Second, this world of Thedas has been seen before on television and computer screen across the world. That means that if you have friends who have played the video games, they are practically half-way to understanding the tabletop RPG! They may even end up being blown away by the infinite amounts of player choice that can only be delivered by a tabletop RPG! This makes it very easy to introduce new people to the tabletop game when they have already experienced the video games. They may even come to the table with a handful of ideas that they couldn’t do in the video games! Embrace this cross-medium experience, because it also gives you plenty of artwork, music, and geography to use in your games to help people who have already played the games feel like they haven’t left Thedas for a moment.

Dragon Age GMs have a few extra responsibilities because of the light system, but they have quite a bit of support in not just the community, but the source of inspiration as well! So what are you waiting for? Get that GM’s Kit and run a demo for some friends! Show them just how wondrous Thedas is!

dragon-age-final
The Archdemon won’t slay itself!
Advertisements

Episode 8: A Wizard Did It

Welcome to another episode of the Wonders of Thedas Podcast!

In this perilous episode we discuss the danger and excitement of being an Apostate! Taking the Apostate background means your character is a Mage outside of the Circle of Magi, and your life is not easy. Living a secret life and hiding your magical gift from the Chantry and its Mage-hunting Templars, your talents curse you to a world of running for your life from those who hate you. Magic can seem like a curse to some, and any apostate would agree that it has set their life on this path forever.

We also discuss a common house rule in the Dragon Age RPG in the Codex!

Finally, we share the creations of Grandmagic13 and their crafting talent goodness! If you want to add some crafting to your campaign that keeps the game flowing quick, click here!

As always, if you have any questions about the Dragon Age RPG (and we do mean anything: rules, lore, GMing technique, player problems, character concepts), have some custom content you have created for your own game that you’d like to share, or have any other contributions for the show, please send them to wondersothedaspodcast@gmail.com!

Thanks for listening!

Episode 7: You’re a Wizard!

Welcome to episode seven of the Wonders of Thedas Podcast! In this only slightly sickened episode we discuss GMing opportunities from Green Ronin, new talents made by us, and the Mage class!

One of the more interesting parts of Dragon Age lore, magic, and those who practice it, are seen as dangerous. When you hear about what Mages can do, you’ll understand why Thedas fears them so.

If you want to read the new talents we wrote you can find them in our Resources for Your Game tab!

If you’d like to sign up for notification of Green Ronin GMing opportunities at GenCon 2017, click here!

Do you feel like the Mage still has mysteries? Do you feel like we missed something? Do you want to add anything to our conversation? Do you have any custom Dragon Age content to share? Feel free to leave a comment or send us messages and custom content to wondersofthedaspodcast@gmail.com or send a private message to Kot the Protector on the Green Ronin forums!

Thank you for listening! We hope you enjoy!

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!

Sleeping_dog_(Dragon_Age_II)
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!

DragonAge1
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 wondersofthedaspodcast@gmail.com, 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!

Dalish_elves
Now go have a party! A DRAGON AGE party!

Episode 6: From the Shadows

Welcome again to the Wonders of Thedas, your one-stop-shop for all your Dragon Age RPG needs!

In this episode we slip into one of the more exciting and subtle classes: the Rogue. We get into class powers, Focus and Talent suggestions, and a little bit of why your character might be a Rogue. Step into the dark with characters like Cole, Zeveran, Isabela, Varric, or Leliana, and your enemies will never see you coming…

We also discuss some creative specialization home-brews that you can use in your own campaigns that lack an Alchemist, Artificer, or Rift Mage! You can find the latest versions of these home-made specs here, and under the Resources for Your Game tab above.

We detail new homebrew rules for  blood magic, written by the podcasters, making the dark temptation of ever more power available to all Mages. You can being your quest for power under the Resources for Your Game tab above.

Thank you again for listening, and we hope you enjoy!

GenCon 2016

Greetings fellow Thedosians! We are back from GenCon 2016, the biggest gaming convention in the US, and man was it a good one this year, ESPECIALLY for Dragon Age RPG fans! Wanna know why?

cplv3urueaa9d-d
This is why!

The Dragon Age Core Rulebook took home TWO ENnies from the ENnie Awards! ENnie Awards are big deals, these are the big time accolades that go to the best the gaming industry has to offer!

And the Dragon Age Core Book got TWO OF THEM!

hawke
WE are the Champions!

We want to stress that this is a big deal! Dragon Age distinguished itself among other giants like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder! The Dragon Age RPG is an award-winning RPG, and it should be held high for all to see!

Sadly, we weren’t quite organized enough this year that I could get an interview together, but we did get to meet the legendary Chris Pramas this year, the guy who WROTE the Dragon Age game! We introduced ourselves and hopefully didn’t stammer too much as we mentioned we were making a podcast about his game! It was quite the honor, and we parted ways with some new Dragon Age dice! Speaking of which…

CpHKOHLWAAACRpO.jpg large
Chantry-sanctioned, of course

These beautiful things are the new set of Dragon Age dice from Q-Workshop, and they are quite lovely! People had made complaints about the old set that they were too busy and difficult to read during play. Personally I got used to reading them and might actually have trouble with the new ones but they are available for purchases and you should get some!

We couldn’t ask many questions about the future of the Dragon Age RPG due to a strict schedule we had for ourselves (quite a few games to play) but we expect to be hearing about this for days to come! Chris Pramas, I hope you are proud of yourself! We love your game!

Don’t forget that we have a new episode of the podcast coming out this Thursday! We’ll be covering the Rogue class and we have quite a bit of content planned for this episode! We hope you enjoy!

Thanks again for listening!

Episode 5: Champions of the Just (Or Not)

Welcome to the Wonders of Thedas Podcast, your one-stop shop for all your Dragon Age RPG needs!

In this exciting episode we talk about the Warrior class! If you like to play the rough and tumble brawler, the noble knight dispensing justice, the dark slayer of the battlefield, or the weapon master perfecting another technique, this is the class for you! Join the ranks of mighty heroes like Cassandra, Alistair, The Iron Bull, Oghren, Fenris, or Aveline and take the fight to your enemies! We discuss the class features of the Warrior, and how you’ll become the knight in shining armor of your adventuring group!

In This Week in Thedas this episode we discussed the repairing of the GM’s Kit. This is old news but you can find the PDF fix here. Also it has been rumored that a revised version of the GM’s Kit, along with another print run of the Core Rulebook, are in the works! We don’t have a date to expect either so we’ll try to keep you up to speed!

For our Dissonant Verses we uncovered a recent creation by Green Ronin boards member shonuff: Spell Modification! You can read all about how to keep your spells going strong here!

Don’t forget that if you have any questions, fan-creation submissions, or even episode ideas, feel free to send them to wondersofthedaspodcast@gmail.com, Kot the Protector on the Green Ronin forums, or Kot the Protector on the Bioware forums! You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get updates the moment they happen (and maybe some odd Tweets about our home game)!

Thanks again for listening!

Chevalier21