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 to get the app. It's probably the easiest way to jump on headphones and chat/play aloud with other players.

3. Roll20
Visit 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!


  1. I really hope I get a chance to join a game this year. Right now I don't think I have the time, and I'm so shy, but it just seems like so much fun. I've been thinking about it a lot.

    1. Captain Savvy, I hope you have joined a game -- or that you will do so, soon! It's so much fun, and I promise, with the right group, your shyness will disappear quickly as you get comfortable with your group. And I hope we get to play together one day!


"Dragon Age: Dreadwolf" Predictions & Ponderings (and "What's in a Name?" Redux)

He doesn't call, he doesn't write, but finally, it looks like we might be hearing from Solas at last (2023?), as BioWare announces t...