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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Game Day: Enter the Dragon Age

by Ken Newquist / March 24, 2013
The cover art for Dragon Age, Set 2. Credit: Green Ronin

Inspired by the Wil Wheaton's Tabletop episodes, my lunchtime gaming group decided to put Ragnarok on hold and try our hand at Green Ronin's Dragon Age RPG.

We're using Dragon Age RPG Set 1, which meant rolling up characters Old School-style rather than using the point buy system from Set 2. It was a hell of a lot of fun, probably the most fun I've had with character creation since Spirit of the Century. I loved how the players wrestled with the implications of their die rolls. Where do you stick that skill with the -2 modifier? And why was the GM lucky enough to roll a +4 Strength for his non-player character barbarian?

Yeah, I rolled up a character too. How could I not? There's something irresistable about rolling dice and consulting random tables to see what you got, and with four players in the group it's helpful to have a little NPC backup.

The randomness forces choices, and takes you down paths you might not otherwise travel. For example, the Apostate character (a renegade mage in the setting) ended up taking the "Linguistics" talent because her abilities didn't qualify her for other options. One of the fighter's strength scores wasn't mighty enough to wield the truly huge axe he wanted, so he had to settle for a more average battle axe.

It's not for everyone, but personally I love working with what the dice give me (even when they dont' give me a +4 Strength). For me working from a random poll of stats can be just as much (if not more) fun than hand-building characters with a point-buy system. It forces you out of your comfort zone, and it creates unexpected outcomes.

Character creation yielded the following roster:

  • Henry Stonebreaker: Male Surface Dwarf / Warrior
  • Moria: Female Human Apostate / Mage
  • Rowan: Female Freeman / Warrior (twin sister of Moria)
  • Kol of Clan Stormhold: Male Avvar Hillsman / Warrior (NPC)

Like so many adventurers before them, they met on a road. This particular road was outside of the village of Vintiver, located on the borderlands of Ferelden, near the Brecilian Forest. It's part of the setup for "The Dalish Curse", which is the adventure included in the Game Master's Guide in Box Set 1.

The twins -- Moria and Rowan -- are on the run from the Chantry and their mage-hunting Templars. Kol and Henry are swords for hire. While on the road -- the twins headed towad Vintiver, the sellswords having just left it after being kicked out of a bar -- they come across a massive flock of crows tearing at dead bodies in a farmer's field. They also catch a glimpse of some wolves skulking around, looking for a way to get closer to the corpses.

Without warning, the birds suddenly took flight and headed straight at the PCs. The flock, comprised of dozens, if not hundreds, of birds, swept over the road. Everyone but Kol hid behind shields (or in Moria's case, behind her sister) but the barbarian warrior decided to lash out with his great axe. The encounter ended in typical Dragon Age fashion, with Kol covered in gore and features, and the dwarf Henry half-coated with the castoff spray.

Naturally everyone had a perfectly normal conversation afterwards, ignoring the blood splatter and decapitated birds.

Like I said ... typical Dragon Age.

Combat will come soon; the tough moral choices that define the game will follow not long after that. I'm not sure how long we'll play Dragon Age, but I expect to at least finish the first adventure. In anticipation of a few weeks of play I've ordered Dragon Age Set 2 and the Dragon Age Game Master's Screen; the former for supplemental rules like exploration stunts, the latter as a quick reference.

I'm optimistic. Everyone at the table wanted to play Dragon Age, and if the first game is any indication, folks are really enjoying the setting and the mechanics.