Dragon Age: On the Table Review

I finally got around to getting the Dragon Age Pen and Paper on the table earlier this evening thanks to Spring Break taking away some of my Star Wars players and a fiance in California taking another one away for the weekend. So, I got together with the rest of the regular group and the brother-in-law of one of them who wanted to learn how to roleplay. I was going to finish rewriting a Star Wars Saga Edition one shot and do that, but then decided that Dragon Age would be fun to get on the table, and is a lot simpler of a system to pick up than any d20 game, even one as elegant as Star Wars Saga Edition.

I wasn’t thinking and forgot to bring my laptop with me which had my .PDF copies of the book that I got when I preordered the box, so character creation went a little bit slower than I had anticipated with one book for four players, but even with that, it was amazingly quick. Everyone had their fully done character within a half hour. I really like the ease of the background system of the game, and can’t wait to see the introduction of new ones, and adaptations of these for games using this engine in other settings (one of which I’ll talk about later).

The existence of just three classes worried me at first, but there’s enough diversity in the choices you can make after 1st level that they aren’t going to wind up looking similar after that point except in sheer broad strokes such as Favored Stunts and a few other iconic things for each class, and I wound up getting to see each class in action. When all was said and done, I had two Mages (Human and Elf Apostates), a City Elf Rogue, and a Surface Dwarf Warrior.

I decided to run the pre-written adventure The Dalish Curse found in the Gamemaster’s Guide, so if you don’t want any spoilers, be forewarned, there may be some here.

During the initial combat with the Blight Wolves, the party got beat up one pretty good, with a couple of wicked rolls on my side leaving two wolves with 6 stunt points to use in one turn against two of the PCs. But once they got their rhythm, they came back easily enough and carried the rest of the battle, the Warrior scoring the first kill, the Elven Mage having fun with the Walking Bomb spell, and the Rogue getting the last kill with a great shot as the last two were running away.

It took the players a few rounds to get the hang of stunts, but they rolled doubles well enough that they soon learned what they were doing, both with regular combat stunts and spell stunts. This is where the combat system really shined for me, and where I can see a lot of flavor being injected into a game world. One of my pet projects is going to be excising the core engine of the system and dropping it into the trappings of an eastern martial arts game and see how it works. Heck, I might even throw some sci-fi trappings on it and see how it handles Star Wars.

After finding Eshara, the party decided to stay at the farm, encountering a number of th villagers there as they went to check on why no one had seen the Fuldor Family. The Human went and spoke with the men while the rest of the party wrapped Eshara’s unconscious body fully in blankets and carried her off to town, overhearing from the talk outside of the problems Vintiver had had with the Dalish in the past few weeks. They got Eshara into town and completely bypassed the angry mob through clever use of the blanket, and no one knowing Eshara was brought into the village. The next morning they took her with them and ran into the ambush by Coalen and his men who didn’t trust the PCs and claimed they were working with the Dalish Elves against the village. The party managed to talk Coalen’s thugs down (using the advanced test from Mob Justice that they had bypassed) and managed to avoid a fight.

To end the session they reached the Dalish Camp and had just defeated the Revengers and discovered their true form as things wrapped up for the evening. I’m hoping to finish the adventure next weekend, though I’m quite pleased at the quality of the material as presented. It’s very well written and well thought out, and provides several fun and interesting encounters for the PCs to tackle, both combat and non-combat, which is something that every good module should be trying to do.

All in all, I’m quite pleased with this system. While seemingly simple, it’s capable of some surprising depth and runs incredibly smoothly when people get their heads around it, which doesn’t take much more than a few minutes. Even the guy who had never roleplayed before was rolling dice without problems by about the third round of combat. It was well worth the money I spent on it and I can’t wait to see what they do with the next level tier of gameplay in the next release.

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