Sunday, December 6, 2020

Playing the Dragon Age RPG (and Gathering Your Party)


Hello, all you lovely kadans and lethallen!

First off, thank you for helping to make #DragonAgeDay our most successful ever! Thus far, we've raised over $12,400 to benefit the NAACP Legal Defense Fund -- and we still have lots of amazing items left for auction! You'll have two more weeks to grab some of those last delectable reward items, or to simply add your donation to the tally, so we hope you'll stop by Tiltify and take part! 

Meanwhile, one thing that came out of this year's series of videos and streams for Dragon Age Day was a lot of appreciation for the Dragon Age tabletop RPG, and a frequent wistful expression from many viewers that they would really love to play the DA RPG, but they either can't find a group in real life to play with, or they aren't sure how to do so.

This is where I hope I can make a difference. I thought, here, that I'd give you a really simple intro to the DA RPG game (and how to play online with others), and then send you over to Discord, where my group's very kind and talented GM Pat "SnarkKnight1" (whom you may remember from this year's DA RPG panel and one-shot) has generously created a permanent open invitation to join a Discord group called Dragon Age: Discord to help you get started, ask questions, connect, and more!

As far as this little intro, please do note that I am not an expert in any way! I've only been playing Dragon Age RPG for about two years, and there is still so much for me to learn (just recently, I realized I'd goofed on adding spells to my spell slots, so I am really a dork on this stuff). But Pat is terrific, as are many in this community, so this is just to get you started.

Getting Started with the DA RPG

What do you need to get going? Not much! 

It's really easy to get started playing the Dragon Age RPG, and while the rulebooks are incredible (more on those in the next paragraph), you don't necessarily need those to start playing.

Because Green Ronin is fabulous, they offer some incredibly helpful free files that mean you can jump right in, super fast! These files include instant, wonderfully useful downloadable PDFs -- I'm also including one from Roll20 as well:

Larger Resources

The Dragon Age Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook should definitely be on your wishlist at some point though. The game eventually led to the Fantasy Age engine, and every once in awhile, Green Ronin has even given away PDFs for free. And then there's the Faces of Thedas sourcebook, which was released after Inquisition, and which further expands on lore, history, and more. Pat just reshared his past review of this, along with pros and cons, as well.

Meanwhile, on a side note: In addition to creating the new Discord space, Pat very nicely helped to give me a little more description on the progression of the Dragon Age RPG system from Green Ronin:

"Green Ronin released three box sets, each one had more rules and supported levels 1-5, 5-10, and 10-20. Then, after Inquisition came out, they released the Core Rulebook, which combined all the box sets and cleaned up some of the rules. They then released Fantasy Age as the generic version of the ruleset." He adds, "Fantasy Age has rules for Halflings, Orcs, and some additional rule changes, and it also cleans up a few things like how in Dragon Age, magic is all that mages need. Fantasy Age splits that between willpower and intelligence. It got rid of magic as an ability and brought in Accuracy and Fighting as abilities to balance things a bit better."

Meanwhile! As far as the Game Core Rulebook, do me a favor and don't panic when you read this sucker. Because while it's beautifully written by Chris Pramas (with bonus Genitivi sidebars from Mary Kirby!), flawlessly produced, and it's thorough and incredibly useful, it can also be intimidating. It's 440 pages long. So as you start off, just maybe use it as a reference -- get the info you need, and keep in mind that this game can be as intensive as you choose for it to be, if that makes sense.


Meanwhile, if you're a GM, or looking to become one, you might consider getting the Dragon Age Game Master's Kit, which includes a three-sided hardback screen that puts the basic information right in front of you, and which also includes a lot of simple, useful information that helps you get started quickly on your campaign.

Next, you'll need the following:

1. Internet access

2. Discord
Visit https://discord.com/ to get the app. It's probably the easiest way to jump on headphones and chat/play aloud with other players.

3. Roll20
Visit https://roll20.net/ and sign up for a free account. Your GM should ideally already have a game link for you there, but if they don't, or if you are the GM, Roll20 makes it easy for you to create your online game space.

Roll20 has some useful features that make it easy for you to get going, and that I found really helpful to me when I was a new player.

These include:

  • An online chat option (extraneous if you're using Discord)
  • An online dice roller (it's easy to use but no substitute for the satisfying feel of using real dice!)
  • Character Journals for all participating characters, and where you will create your own character journal and access their character sheet. Each Journal includes:
  • Your Character Bio and Info -- general info on your character (and where you can jot down your character's life, experiences, details and physical attributes.
  • Your Character Sheet -- this is the single most important thing for me on Roll20! More on the character sheet farther down, along with tabs for Persona, Powers, Focuses, and Magic.
  • Attributes & Abilities worksheets
  • Handouts, which are extra lore items you can share with other players about your own character's past or experiences.
  • As well as some fun options for GMs and players with stuff like a lore Compendium, online Jukebox, etc.

Building Your Character Sheet


You have some great decisions as you begin when it comes to race, class, and character, and very much like Dragon Age Origins itself, you have an incredibly diverse amount of options when it comes to your character's history and experiences because these will have direct impact on your character's talents -- on everything from what classes they can play, what languages they speak, what their talents are, and more!

For instance, if you're a mage, are you a Circle Mage, a Magister from Tevinter, or an Apostate hiding your nature? Are you an elf who believes in the Creators, a Chantry faithful, a Tal Vashoth, or a Grey Warden?

The best part of all this, though, is if you've played the Dragon Age videogames already, you've already absorbed much of this information and can use that to inform your choices!

True to Dragon Age, you can choose from four races for your character: elf, human, dwarf, and qunari.

You can then choose from three classes: Warrior, rogue, and mage. Where it gets interesting is choosing your subclasses, or specializations, and these will arise from your character's chosen backstory. And let's face it, as most of us know from Dragon Age Origins and beyond, these specializations can be incredibly rich and specific.

The Character Sheet

Your Character Sheet is so much fun to fill out, and your GM can help you do that if you're starting from ground zero.

As with most tabletop systems, you'll start with the following basic categories (the Dragon Age versions are very similar to those found in Dungeons and Dragons, although not identical):

  • Health (your life force/total health)
  • Mana (your "power" or "magic" source)
  • Speed, Defense, and Armor
  • Communication
  • Constitution
  • Cunning
  • Dexterity
  • Magic
  • Perception
  • Strength
  • Willpower

All of the above will evolve and potentially increase as your character progresses.

You'll also be able to use your sheet to fill out your Attacks (and applicable ranges), Weapons, Spells, and other Equipment. You can also note how much money you have in Currency.

Dice, Your Dragon Die, and Stunt Points

Plus, ideally, at least three (3) 6-sided dice (with one of a different color, recognizable as your "Dragon Die"). Everything in Dragon Age RPG comes down to your 6-sided dice, and all ability checks, for instance, are simply rolling those 3d6 and seeing what fate has in store.

What's fun, though, is the inclusion of "stunt points" in the gameplay. Stunt points happen if you roll for an ability test and succeed, and two of those dice are doubles. Depending on how high the doubled dice are, the more stunt point options you'll have.

For instance, let's say you roll a 16 for dexterity -- two 5s and a 6. This means -- if you succeed -- you have 5 stunt points, which you can "spend" as either Combat Stunts, Spell Stunts, Exploration Stunts, or (my favorite) Roleplaying Stunts. If you choose roleplaying stunts, you can spend your points on charismatic moments, jokes and bon mots, flirtations (ALWAYS CHOOSE FLIRT), or on actions that increase your willpower or that deliberately enrage your opponent.

And, like I said, while you can use Roll20 for online dice rolls, honestly, get some physical dice. Because there's something wonderful about actually rolling the dice! And before you know it, you'll be collecting dice, hoarding them in dice bags, and purchasing things like dice trays! Good times.

Gathering Your Party and Moving Forward

And don't be intimidated. All you really need to get started with the DA RPG is you, the Internet, a basic knowledge of Dragon Age, a character you create, and three 6-sided dice. Don't stress yourself out as you start, just have fun, allow yourself to make mistakes, and do what's most fun for you, whether that means playing yourself as a character, or playing someone who is truly unlike you at all! Bonus points if you try playing with an accent! (And be kind to others who do so -- accents are TOUGH.)

As I mentioned, the fabulous Pat (Snarkknight1) has generously launched a carefully organized and categorized channel on Discord that offers a space where you can learn the ropes, ask questions, and connect with other players seeking groups across the globe!

I hope this helps you get out there and play the wonderfulness that is the Dragon Age RPG tabletop game. My favorite thing about it -- beyond the terrific friendships and fun with others in my group (and with the groups of friends -- an ever-widening circle) is the way it brings you into Dragon Age in a new and very strangely immersive way.

As I mentioned in our recent Dragon Age RPG tabletop discussion for Dragon Age Day, the tabletop game can really change your perceptions in fun ways. Like, I'd never gotten the real and visceral fear of being an apostate in Thedas until playing the game, when it became quickly apparent that my elven apostate was a constant target, despite her clumsy attempts to disguise her mage staff as a "fishing pole." Every city street became a minefield, so that even a simple walk through a new town was filled with the dangers of templars and other potential enemies.

I've been playing the Dragon Age RPG for two years, and it has brought me so much fun, as well as in-game moments of adventure, tension, laughter, betrayal, sadness, grief, and joy! I hope the gameplay does the same for you.

Gameplay Startup and Resources

As you connect with other potential groups, keep in mind what kind of playstyle you think you might prefer -- hardcore roleplay, hardcore tabletop gameplay, or more casual approaches? My own advice is that you look for a friendly mix of experienced and new players -- new players can bring so much fun to the experience, and experienced gamers can be wise and wonderful guides to those first battles and hurdles, too.

Last but not least, just in case it helps, here's a final overview of some resources you might want to check out, including all the links I referenced here throughout as well:

 

I'll look forward to seeing you in Thedas!


Friday, December 4, 2020

Mysterious Answers from Solas, Cole, and Bull!

In celebration of #DragonAgeDay 2020 (OUR BEST EVER, PEOPLE), I received a mysterious e-mail from the always awesome Patrick Weekes, who was nice enough to forward on answers from characters beyond the Fade!

So here we go!

Which would you pick? Earth 2020, or Thedas during Blight, Meredith’s Kirkwall, or the Breach?

SOLAS: The Breach is far too close to home, reminding me of my regrets. I would not live there if I had the option.

I could not bear to watch the Blight destroy the world of Thedas, so I chose your Earth, and sought to share my wisdom.

Wikipedia did not like my citation, “Witnessed in the Fade.”

Would you undergo The Joining?

THE IRON BULL: I get to fight monsters AND there are free drinks?

What's your weapon of choice?

COLE: No rhythm, so the worm doesn’t come. He’s dancing again, like before when he sold music. Laughing, leaping, but they always say he’s walking.

Which demon would show up to tempt you at your personal Harrowing?

IMSHAEL: Choice. Spirit.

What's your personal canon/favorite race and class in Dragon Age?

SOLAS: Each race has their own majesty, a beauty almost tangible, and each in their own—

THE IRON BULL: Just say “elven mage.” We all know you’re thinking it.

Your literary read of the day: Swords and Shields, Hard in Hightown, or The Randy Dowager?

THE IRON BULL: I think that Swords & Shields has a more compelling love story, but it also steers into some problematic territory.

KREM: He has a subscription to The Randy Dowager.

THE IRON BULL: For the ARTICLES.

Which Dragon Age follower CHARACTER would you romance?

SOLAS: I cannot give away my heart, for knowing what regrets will come would tarnish any momentary solace.

BRIALA: I have so many questions about ancient elven culture! If only someone could explain it to me!

SOLAS: Oh, no

And y'know, y'all, I'm just leaving it here. It's just so good. HAPPY DRAGON AGE DAY! And thank you to Patrick for sharing their secret access to some of our most loved/hated characters! 

Dragon Age Audio Wizard Presley Hynes Shares Even More Silly Answers...

Presley Hynes is a talented audio artist at BioWare, and recently shared answers to our diabolical silliest (and unsilliest) questions for Dragon Age Day. Check out Presley's answers below!

Which would you pick? Earth 2020, or Thedas during Blight, Meredith’s Kirkwall, or the Breach?

PRESLEY: Thedas because Mabari.

Warden, Hawke or Inky -- which are you, at heart?

Hawke.

You wake up with the Anchor/Mark. What do you do?

Probably scream. Then start figuring my life out.

Would you undergo The Joining?

NOPE.

What's your weapon of choice?

Bow and arrow usually. Daggers as a side weapon.

What do you name your Mabari?

Bambam.

What's your personal canon/favorite race and class in Dragon Age?

I will forever love any kind of elves and that will literally never change, so Elf Rogue is my life.

Which demon would show up to tempt you at your personal Harrowing?

Envy or Pride.

Which Dragon Age follower would you romance?

DORIAN.

Who's your favorite Dragon Age villain and why?

Solas because I want to punch him.

What's your favorite romance ship? (Canon or non-canon, platonic or romantic)?

Krem/Bull.

You get beamed to Thedas: What's your job--and would you survive?

I’d just follow people around with coconut shells and Monty Python it. Whether or not I survive for more than a day is up for interpretation.

Your literary read of the day: Swords and Shields or Hard in Hightown, or The Randy Dowager?

Hard in Hightown.

Favorite Dragon Age herb or plant?

Unsure on how to answer this plant question.

Who do you feel is the most misunderstood Dragon Age character?

Bull.

Which quarters at Skyhold would YOU pick for yours?

Unsure about quarters.

What would be your approval rating at Halamshiral during Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts? Are you prim and proper or dancing on tables?

Oh... 2? Maybe? I'd be on the tables FOR SURE.

Favorite Dragon Age creature?

NUG.

Favorite Qunari or Elven term?

Ma vhenan... my heart.

Favorite Inquisitor mount?

Harts!

What would be your Dragon Age "watchword?" 

I'm laughing too hard to answer this one.

Last but not least... what are your feelings on Plaidweave?

It's the one true high fashion.

Now on to the UNSILLY questions! What was your role (or roles) in working on the Dragon Age games?

I'm an audio artist on the upcoming Dragon Age.

What does increasing inclusivity and diversity in the games industry mean to you?

SO MUCH. I think everyone will be better off with diverse teams and ranges of backgrounds.

What's your favorite book?

GOOD OMENS, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

I love that book so much. I've read it a dozen times, literally. Meanwhile, what's your favorite movie?

Into the Spider-Verse.

So gorgeous! Meanwhile, who's your favorite artist?

Barenaked Ladies, Astrid S, Dua Lipa.

Who or what inspired you to work in the games industry?

I’ve been a gamer all my life. Seeing the amazing audio work being done in games made me really interested in learning more.

What's your favorite thing about your work?

The creativity and passion I see in everyone around me. It’s an amazing atmosphere filled with incredible minds.

What's your favorite thing about being part of the BioWare team?

Everyone is so in love with what they do and the games they’re making. BioWare really does seem to attract amazing people.

What was your proudest accomplishment with BioWare so far?

Designing the audio for the Luminary in Anthem. I was only here for a few months at that point, and the fact that the team trusted me to make something really cool for it so early on was an honor, and was very encouraging.

What was your proudest contribution to Dragon Age?

I’m working on the newest game and haven’t been here for the others, so I can’t say much, but being a part of the creature team and working with the animators and gameplay designers to make the creatures come alive and feel fun to encounter has been an incredible experience and I’m super proud of the work I’m doing on them.

What part of your work is most challenging or satisfying for you?

Most challenging is probably keeping my creative energy focused. Sometimes it’s tough to really stick to ONE idea when so many things can be done with a new feature, and sorting it out and focusing on a smaller part of it can be rough. Most satisfying is when we start seeing a creature come together for the first time. Meshes are in place, VFX are in place, sound is in place, and suddenly it’s a living, breathing organism.

What’s your funniest moment on Dragon Age work?

We did a recording session of a bunch of percussion instruments and found out that a squeaky horn squeaked into a timpani while manipulating the timpani’s pitch is an absolutely HILARIOUS sound and we have a bunch recorded, but don’t know what to use it for.

What was a favorite team or collaboration moment for you?

NOTE: BIOWARE REDACTED THIS. (Shout-out to the devious MAD BEE!)

Which Dragon Age team member(s) did you always want to call out as deserving of special praise?

Esther Ko is an incredible human. She is always so passionate in her work, she’s outspoken and does everything she can to make sure everyone on the team is not only happy and satisfied with work, but also makes sure everyone feels included and that their voices are heard. She is amazing to work with.

Is there a song or music style that inspired your work on Dragon Age?

This is a tough one, ha ha ha ha ha. The Lord of the Rings soundtrack comes to mind. Trying to hear all of my sound design within Middle Earth has been fun.

Thanks so much for taking part, Presley!

Playing the Dragon Age RPG (and Gathering Your Party)

Hello, all you lovely  kadans and lethallen ! First off, thank you for helping to make #DragonAgeDay our most successful ever! Thus far, we...