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Yes I am a tad dramatic…you know this about me by now. Unless your new to my blog then…well you know too! Moving on! I am talking about Dragon Age only not the Video Game Series (which is awesome!) THIS Dragon Age is a dark fantasy RPG game!! It is based off of the Dragon Age: Origins Video Game except in this game your imagination shapes how you play.
Whether you have played the video game or not won’t matter for the game play. Green Ronin did a great job of making this a stand alone game while tying in elements from the Video Game series. This game is based off of Dragon Age: Origins so if you have played the Video Game you will find a lot of familiar things in Dragon Age RPG.
It has been hundreds of years since the last Blight ravaged the world of Thedas. Many believe that it can never happen again, that the Dragon Age will pass without the rise of such evil. They are wrong. Beneath the earth the darkspawn stir. A new archdemon has risen and with it a Blight that will scourge the lands and darken the skies. The nations of Thedas need a new generation of heroes, but who will answer the call?
If you have never played an RPG before this is a great game to start with. However, you should do some research online (Wikipedia has a good page on it) or find someone who has played and get them to teach you the basics. You will have questions, you will be nervous or skeptical at first but you WILL have fun.
Now this game is WAY too big for to explain everything or even come close to everything. I will explain some basics, go over some key words and do my best to explain how to get started. There is a lot of information so you will have to experience the game for yourself and I will try not to confuse you…though that might happen. Let’s begin!
Words and Terms to Know:
Here are a few words or terms you will hear (well read) a lot while playing. You will hear (read) a LOT more but these few are the ones you should know first or will use often. I will start with the one or two common terms for those who have never played an RPG before that apply to Dragon Age.
- D# – If you see (or hear) D4, D6, D20 all this means is D = Die and the # is the sides it has. So a 10 sided die is a D10. Now let’s cover some standard RPG terminology.
- Dragon Die – This die is specific to this game. In the Set 1 box you get 2 dice of one color and 1 die in a different color. The Dragon Die is the Red (or off colored) die and is used as a tie breaker, determines how many stunt points you get during combat and during ability tests determines the level of success.
- Ability Test – This is the most common dice roll in the game and is used to resolve actions and reactions.
- Initiative – Each round you roll to see the player turn order with the highest roll going first. Dragon Die is used to break ties.
- Speed – This determines how far a person can move during a move action or double their speed during a run action.
- Game Master – Or GM is the person who runs the game and acts as referee, storyteller and is in charge of the monsters and other random things.
- Stunt/Spell Stunt – A Stunt is a special move you can make in combat on a doubles roll. Spell Stunt is the special enhancement a Mage can make under the same circumstances.
- Target Number – (TN) This is the number you need to meet or beat in order to succeed at an ability test.
Before we get started we should go over what comes in the box for the Dragon Age Set 1. This box is for characters level 1-5 which means that if you follow the campaigns in the box you will be level 5 by the time you are done. It is also sort of an intro to Dragon Age (or Role Playing Games if you have never played).
Set 1 comes with the Quickstart Guide, Player’s Guide, a Game Master’s Guide, a poster map of Ferelden, and 3 D6.
Yes, that is all but it is also all you need to get started. So essentially if you add your imagination you have an entire adventure (or several) in one box.
First you have to select a GM. There is usually someone willing to be a GM but if several people have never played you may want to have someone who has been a GM before. The GM will need to read everything in the Quickstart guide (if they need the tutorial) and print out the character sheets and set up anything else.
Each person playing should then choose a character or you could create one if you want to and are comfortable with it. If you are creating one then follow the guides to do so and have fun! If you are using a pre-generated character then choose yours now.
We played with a Warrior, Rogue, and a Mage, all of which were human. I would have been an Elf Rogue, but I was the GM since I was playing with 3 people who wanted to be characters and could help me be a GM. I need the practice…
You will ask yourself (and others) “What do I do?” a lot during an RPG. You might ask in your head or if you are like me you ask out loud and wonder why no one is telling you. That was only for a little bit..then I figured it out. It is entirely up to ME what I want to do. Well that and once I choose what I want to do then the roll of the dice determines if I succeed or not. I have no luck with dice…
The GM will describe a situation and it is up to the characters to decide what they want to do. They can work together or not, sometimes a die roll is needed and sometimes just a conversation happens. Try to think like you ARE the character and that character can be as nice or mean as you want them to be. Dragon Age focuses on moral choices as well as adventure/survival based choices.
Keep all that in mind when you begin your first adventure. I would recommend (especially if you have never played an RPG before) doing an Arl’s Ransom from the Quickstart guide. I am not going to go into too much detail about that adventure. I don’t want to give anything away or walk you through an adventure. You should experience your own and have fun with it.
We decided to play An Arl’s Ransom which is the introductory adventure found in the Quickstart guide. The 3 characters..I mean people…playing all had a decent amount of pen and paper RPG experience but most of that was with various versions of Dungeons & Dragons. They were very interested in trying a new one and this is a quick and easy adventure.
This is a great starting adventure because it is designed so that no matter what kind of crazy choices the players make there will still be an adventure with plenty of choices. It was also a great adventure for someone who has never (or not often) been a GM to get into the swing of things. I liked testing the guys moral character during this one.
I told the background story and set the scene as best I could. Turns out I am actually ok at telling stories to adults too. They went through the beginning of the quest, listening to the Arl’s request and starting out on their journey to meet his kids on the road. They were hired to protect them.
Shortly after leaving they ran into a group of 3 Genlock’s and a Genlock Alpha. The battle didn’t get off to a great start. The Genlocks all hit the warrior with their throwing axes. The warrior was taking a pretty considerable beating until the rogue and mage got some good hits on one of the Genlocks. Of course that only made him angry. The mage didn’t like that angry Genlock when it decided to charge him.
Luckily he stayed far enough out of the fighting that the Genlock’s first charge wasn’t quite enough and the group was able to finish him off. Things really got interesting once they started to roll doubles and were able to use some stunts. The warrior took out one of the Genlocks when he had a lucky damage roll with his battle axe, used the lightning strike stunt and did enough extra damage to finish it off.
The other successful use of stunts came when the Rogue managed to sneak up behind the last Genlock and backstab it. His attack roll was awesome – two 5’s and a 6 on the Dragon Die – which gave him 6 stunt points (the maximum for an attack) that he used to first reduce the Genlock’s armor and then add two extra die worth of damage, along with the extra die he got from backstabbing. After that it was only a matter of time before they wore the Genlock Alpha down.
As you can tell a LOT can happen in a short amount of time during an adventure but since the story is in your hands an adventure can last as long as you want it to depending on your choices and how lucky you are with the dice.
So many other things can happen during your adventure that there is never a dull moment. The group came upon a ravine during the adventure and the Rogue attempted to jump the ravine with a rope so he could tie it to the other side. Noble thought but ultimately left up to the luck of the dice. Which was not with him that day…After failing to make it across the ravine and falling down it, he lost almost all of his health. When he recovered enough to continue he managed to climb back back up and tie the rope so the rest of the party could make it across.
There were some very interesting plot points and choices to make during An Arl’s Ransom but I am not going to spoil any of that. Eventually the group was slaughtered thanks to some very horrible die rolling. Two blight owls got them too…but everyone enjoyed themselves and cannot wait for the next adventure.
The role-playing mechanics are pretty similar to your standard pen and paper RPG. I like that the pre-made campaigns place a larger emphasis on moral choices and how those choices affect the party/world moving forward. It seems like those types of choices are encouraged for GMs running their own campaign, but that’s up to the GM. Which in this last case was me…and I like that sort of thing.
Player races have an affect of how the character functions and how the world treats the character. The Dragon Age world is very richly built and because of that realistic prejudices exist. For example Elves are barely tolerated and usually hold menial jobs like cleaning and labor. A player’s class (warrior, rogue, mage) not only affects how the character works in combat, it also affects a number of non-combat abilities and will likely play a large part in a character’s background.
This game is great for teens and adults BUT can be adapted for younger kids. LOTS of adjustments would need to be made but here is a basic idea of what to change.
- Take out the moral choices. You can leave in a few small ones here and there to encourage kids to choose a good path, like returning a found valuable to its owner but avoid random violence.
- Keep combat simple but focus ONLY on fights against monsters. Not humans. Depending on the age they might not understand that it isn’t ok to fight people.
- Point out the abilities their character can use and you WILL have to help them remember how many die to roll and when. Limit abilities if there are a lot and gently remind them of their abilities before a choice is made.
- Adjust the story so that you are only fighting monsters and retrieving items. Less scary and easier for kids to understand. Monsters stole a crown for example.
- Try to use a map even if it if hand drawn and use squares for building, X’s for monsters etc. Kids do better with visuals.
- Remove the prejudices from the story parts as a GM. We don’t wan to teach any of that at any age.
- Adjust as needed throughout the adventure but try to keep each adventure short. Depending on the age attention spans will be short.
You know your child better than anyone so if you are playing with just your kids or kids you know well then you can adjust the story lines to suit the group you have. Just read through the guides thoroughly and adjust play accordingly.
Dragon Age Set 1 is the perfect RPG to start with. If you are familiar with the games at all you will recognize the areas, races, abilities and enemies. Even if you are not familiar with the video games you will love the detailed descriptions in the guides and in depth explanations and help you have available to you. Combine that with your imagination and the ability to make up your own adventure and you can (and will) have the adventure of a lifetime right at your own table. (or your friends table but you get the idea).