Tag Archives: Dragon Age

AGE of Heroes – Design and Development 1: Broad Changes

I’ve been looking at my superhero skin for the AGE system again recently after starting to watch the first season of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! on Netflix with my wife. After doing some brainstorming, I’ve finally hit upon a couple of key features.

The AGE Engine will tend to produce characters that, while heroic, are generally going to be “just a cut above the rest” when starting out. While this might be fine for the setting the game is designed to be run in (that of the Dragon Age computer games), that doesn’t jive well with superheros, who should be beating the crap out of street toughs by the alleyway full. After thinking of a few ways to address it, I think I’ve hit on it, along with a way to drive the full background the character home.

When creating a character, you select from two background. The first one is the Origin, which describes the “how” of your characters powers. What happened to him that gave him his powers. The second one is the Event, or the “why” of your characters motivation. Something happened to him in his past that turned him towards a life of fighting crime on a super-heroic level. Two backgrounds is going to give you characters a fair bit more power starting out. That, combined with power talents suitable to the feel of the game should go a long way towards making level 1 superheros feel more heroic.

For those curious, I have six Origins, and ten Events.

The Six Origins

Accident: You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe it was the right place at the right time depending on how you view your powers. Maybe you were present when a nuclear reactor went critical and the radiation changed you. Or maybe you were caught in a freak storm and empowered through the energy of the storm when struck by lighting.

Alien: You are not of this earth. Maybe your entire species shares the powers you possess or mayber you are unique among your own people. Whatever the case, you are a stranger in a very strange land.

Endowment: You were given your powers by an outside force. Maybe a dying hero transferred his powers to you, or maybe you discovered an artifact that bestows the power of an ancient hero to whoever is worthy enough to wield it. Or maybe you were just lucky enough to be born as the reincarnation of a fallen hero. Whatever the case, whether gift, blessing, or birthright, the powers are yours now.

Experiment: Whether you were abducted by an outside force or volunteered for it, you were the subject of a more than likely dangerous experiment that gave you your powers.

Mutant: You were simply born different. Whether you’ve known about your powers all your life or developed them later, you’ve always known you were more than a little bit different from everyone else.

Training: You worked hard to develop your powers, be it esoteric karate techniques, mental powers derived from being born with a genius level IQ, or preternatural skill with a certain weapon. (This would be the realm of the “super-normal” archetype.)

The Ten Events

Orphaned: You lost your parents to a violent crime. Maybe you were present and maybe you weren’t. It doesn’t matter beyond the amount of psychological scarring you likely suffered. The point is, this is the event that pushed you towards a career of crimefighting.

Victim: You were the victim of a violent crime. What the exact details of the crime were aren’t important, but it was the driving force behind your call. You don’t want anyone to have to feel as helpless as you did that day, and as long as you have anything to say about it, they won’t.

Last Survivor: Whether you are the last survivor of an alien race sent to Earth or the only surviving member of a monastic order that was attacked, you’ve sworn to honor the memories of those fallen with your deeds until you are able to join them.

Drafted: You have little choice in why you do what you do. Perhaps an organization has information that could damn you if you don’t do what they tell you to do or you were pressed into service early in your powers and your superiors M.O. is all you’ve ever known.

Sense of Duty: You’ve been given these powers for a reason, and while that reason may not be entirely clear to you, you feel you have a responsibility to use them properly. Protecting those who cannot protect themselves may sometimes be a thankless job, and sure, some may misunderstand your true intentions, but you know the world would be a lot worse off without you here.

Revenge: At some point in your past you were horribly wronged by someone. Unlike others who have suffered similar experiences, you are able to direct your pain and rage at an individual who stands over you like a shadow… and you want revenge. Who he is and what he is are irrelevant to your burning desire to bring your justice upon him.

Love: You do what you do out a need to protect someone you love, be it a family member, a wife, a child, or a lover. Whether they are still with you or gone, you fight for them, either to keep them safe or to honor memory.

Restitution: At some point in your past, you did something really bad with your powers. Maybe you caused severe damage to several major cities or worse, maybe you killed an innocent. Whatever the details, you’ve sworn to use your powers to make it right.

Fear: You’ve seen the evil that can be wrought with your powers, either by your own hand or by someone else’s, and now you live in constant fear of seeing it happen again. Training yourself and seeking proper channels to use them is absolutely vital to keeping yourself in check.

Seeker: You’ve always been in search of something. These powers are another means to that end. This could be a lofty ideal, something material, or even something as basic as an adrenaline rush. Whatever the end, these powers are a means to it.

I’ve added a number of new focuses, as well as a number of new talents. The various weapon style talents are gone, rolled into Weapon Training. There are also three “unarmed” styles – Street Fighting, Boxing Style, and Martial Arts, each lending themselves to a slightly different feel of fighter. The classic superpowers are there as well, such as Superstrength, Superspeed, Supersenses, Movement (flight, teleporation, wall crawling, etc), Energy Affinity, Gadget, and Telepathy. I’m also working on a Sidekick talent that should be a lot of fun.

For your edification, I’ll include the first write-ups of the Boxing Style, Street Fighting, and Martial Arts talents in a later posting along with a behind the scenes look at my design and development choices behind them.

Weapons were another sticking point. The Dragon Age game has a number of weapon groups, which is well and good, but those superheroes that do use weapons are so widely varied that its hard to define them into definable “groups.” So, weapons will now fit into one of nine categories: Melee One-Handed, Melee Two-Handed, Thrown One-Handed, Thrown Two-Handed, Shot One-Handed, Shot, Two-Handed, Melee Improvised, Thrown Improvised, and Unarmed. Individual heroes won’t have to worry about being trained in different weapon groups, but various talents will improve the use of their chosen weapons should they go that route. Of course, in a game where its fully possible that your main form of attack could be shooting lighting bolts out of your eyes, weapons can really take a backseat.

There will be more of these – “Design and Development” articles as I continue to work on the skin. Until next time.


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AGE Of Heroes

Justice League – ASSEMBLE!

I don’t usually run Superhero games. It’s never really been my preferred genre.

But I do sometimes get the urge to run comic book villains, and no other genre does it quite as well. The problem is, I’ve never really been able to find a system that does IT for me. There’s lot of games out there that I’ve taken a look at that are interesting, but I’ve so far seen nothing that has made me say “I need to get that on the table!”  The closest I’ve been able to come to this feeling is the GODLIKE/Wild Talents games written by Greg Stolze. This performs admirably and I have a blast every time I run it (as do my players), but the fact that it’s so frelling lethal makes it hard for characters to feel sufficiently… well, super.*

So, I was paging through some rulebooks the other night as I often do for inspiration on some completely unrelated stuff. I wound up in the Dragon Age Set 1 Players Handbook from Green Ronin Pubishing. I don’t know why, but my mind suddenly made the connection, and a lightbulb went off in my head.

“These character backgrounds are practically begging to be used as superhero origins!”

From there, it continued to snowball. As I looked at the book, a number of things immediately jumped to my mind making me believe that this is the perfect system for superhero roleplaying.

-The three class system of Warrior, Mage, and Rogue can be retrofitted to work with the Bruiser, Blaster, and Acrobat hero archetypes.

-Talents as they are written give a natural progression to abilities that scale. Superpowers could easily fit into these existing molds with few problems (the biggest being on making them general enough without making them too general and filling most of a sixty page book).

-Stunts. Well, do I really have to say anything about stunts? I have heard more good things about the stunt system (and witnessed it firsthand I should add) than anything else about this game.

-The game’s fast, not overly lethal, but tough enough that players aren’t not going to be challenged. The small number of rules allows for fast, fun play and really emphasizes the ‘rule of cool’ which is necessary to a game like this.

So, for the past few days I’ve been slowly picking away at this, and I think I’ve made some serious progress. I’ve got a couple of ideas jotted down for some origins, some talents ready to be filled in with crunch and meat, and I’m looking forward to rolling out a ‘first pass’ document sometime soon** and doing some playtesting on it to refine it. I’ve come across a few stumbling blocks, but nothing that’s been insurmountable yet. And if I’ve made it this far, it doesn’t look like I’ll run into any too bad. I’ll keep you updated, Gamer Nation.


*Note that this is by no means a shot at they system. The game is brilliant, and the lethality of it really reflects well on the kind of game it’s designed to simulate. GODLIKE, for those of you who don’t know is supposed to tell the story of normal men and women who have suddenly developed larger than life powers in the middle of World War II. These powers grant them the ability to do things a normal soldier couldn’t do and survive longer than a normal soldier could hope to. However, as is the nature of war, even the supers have a very short life expectancy when the bullets start flying. To date, I’ve run about a half a dozen GODLIKE one shots. I’ve never not killed a player.

** Sometime within the next few months. Don’t be expecting it next week.

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Star Wars: Now With… Dragons?

Not quite. Found myself in a conversation yesterday morning over Twitter with @newbiedm about a very interesting proposition, and one that had come to my mind much earlier, but had abandoned for some reason or another. Porting Star Wars to the AGE system.

For those of you uninitiated, the AGE system is what was developed by Chris Pramas for the Dragon Age Roleplaying Game published by Green Ronin Publishing. He brought up the idea of Star Wars AGE after someone released a very well done version of Mystara, the Known World for AGE.

Hearing that other people were interested in this idea as well galvanized me a little bit. After batting some ideas back and forth, namely how to handle the inclusion of the Force in the game, I found myself furiously scribbling notes and paging through the Dragon Age books as well as the copies of my old WEG books for Star Wars.

While the development is coming a lot easier than I ever dreamed it would, it’s still no where near complete. But I figured I would post up some of the basic stuff I’ve been working on to whet your appetites a little bit for things to come.

Like the Dragon Age game, there are only three classes. These are the Noble, the Scoundrel, and the Soldier. Species selection (as well as Droids) will all be handled through the background system, with broad strokes such as Wookiee Sidekick, Astromech Droid, Protocol Droid, Corellian Pilot, Bothan Spy, Gungan Warrior, etc etc.

The toughest part about this was figuring out how the Force would work. I finally settled on letting the player decide if their character was going to be Force Sensitive right out of the gate. If they wanted to, they could at no additional charge, and they would have access to the Force talents (Control, Sense, and Alter). If they didn’t want to at creation, but decided they wanted to become Force Sensitive at a later point (awakening to their latent power as it were), they could, but it would require them to sacrifice a talent slot and find a teacher. After that, they would have access to the same talents as any other Force Sensitive character. When you take the novice rank in either Control, Sense, or Alter, you get an associated ability, as well as three Force powers grounded in that discipline. Control powers will include things like Accelerated Healing, Force Trance, Detoxify Poison, Reduce Wound, etc. Sense Powers will include things like Telepathy, Mind Trick, and Beast Languages. Alter will include the combat powers, like Force Slam, Force Thrust, Telekinesis, and even Force Grip. Each time you take another rank in one of those talents, you get more associated powers.

Jedi will come into play through specializations. If you are Force Sensitive and can find training, you can take a Jedi specialization when you qualify. The Noble can specialize into Jedi Consular. The Scoundrel gets the Jedi Sentinel specialization. And finally, the Soldier gets the Jedi Guardian specialization.

Look familiar? They should. These are the broad three types of Jedi throughout the Old Republic, made most popular by the Knights of the Old Republic video games. Jedi specialization will also open up the Lightsabers Group proficiency for your character.

A lot of the focuses and talents can be used as written, with a little bit of flavor text rewritten. A few need to be scrapped, like all of the Magic focuses and talents and replaced with Force ones.

Speaking of which, the Magic attribute has been completely removed and replaced with the Force attribute. It does the same thing mechanically, but it fits the milieu a lot better.

I’ve been jumping around the past few hours on various pieces of the game, and will probably continue working that way, bouncing back and forth between this and other projects as well (I’ve got about five of them, and as of yesterday, a new appreciation for Google Docs), but I’ll be sure to post more on this as I write.

To leave you with a little taste here’s how the three Force talents appears right now.

Classes: Noble, Scoundrel, Soldier
Requirement: Must be Force-Sensitive, and you must have a teacher
You have begun to study the Jedi discipline of control.

You have become skilled in letting the Force flow through you, allowing it to help you heal from your wounds more quickly. You add your Force score to any healing your receive. Additionally, you gain three Level 1 Control Powers.

Classes: Noble, Scoundrel, Soldier
Requirement: Must be Force-Sensitive, and you must have a teacher
You have begun to study the Jedi discipline of alter.

You can use the Force to lift small objects with basic telekinesis. You can lift an object within 5 yards and weighing less than 5 kilograms. You can move the object, but you cannot manipulate it. For example, you could pick up a blaster, but you could not fire it. You can try to slam the object into an opponent, making a Force (Alter) test against your opponent’s Defense. Success deals 1d3 damage plus your Force score. Additionally, you gain three Level 1 Alter Powers.

Classes: Noble, Scoundrel, Soldier
Requirement: Must be Force-Sensitive, and you must have a teacher
You have begun to study the Jedi discipline of sense.

You can use your basic powers of telepathy to sense the surface emotions of a creature within 10 yards of you, but you cannot influence the creature. For example, you could sense whether or not the Hutt’s goons are agitated, but not if they are agitated at you specifically and you could definitely not use this power to calm an angry Rancor. Additionally, you gain three Level 1 Sense Powers.

Finally, on a personal note, I’d just like to mention that as of last night, I just crested the 10,000 view mark (I was at 10,001 as the date switch). This is a huge milestone for me, and I’d just like to take a moment and thank you, the people that have been coming here and looking at the site and reading what I have to say on roleplaying games. This is what I love to do, and to have you people even give a passing interest is more than I could have ever hoped for. So once again: Thank you. I’ll see you guys at 25,000. Let’s keep this thing growing. I’ll keep posting if you keep reading.


Filed under Dragon Age, Roleplaying, Star Wars Saga Edition

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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Dragon Age: The Pen and Paper

I had been hearing news about Green Ronin publishing a new pen and paper roleplaying game based on the recent video game release of Dragon Age: Origins. After doing a little more research into the game itself and listening to the latest Green Ronin podcast where they talk to the designer, Chris Pramas, about the game I decided to pick it up when it came out. After looking around their website the other day, I came across a deal I could not resist. In exchange for pre-ordering the first box set of the game, I was able to download the PDFs of the 66 page Player’s Guide and Gamemaster’s Guide.

As excited as I am about the game, and as interesting as it looks (more on that in a bit), one thing that I don’t necessarily agree with is how they are releasing the game. The first box set is designed to support levels 1 through 5. Now, if that were just to be an introductory set with the full versions of both books coming out after a short period of time, that would be one thing. However, they plan on releasing three other box sets, each of them supporting play for 5 more levels, introducing new rules for higher level play in each box. Hopefully, the extra material released in each box set (such as the map and dice set coming in the first box) will make it worthwhile, but I would like to see the later box sets carry a smaller price tag (the first one ran me $29.95 from the Green Ronin website). Even knocking $5 off the later box sets would probably be enough incentive to pick up the later sets (though I can probably see myself doing so anyway, at least the second one for sure).However, I can also understand some of the reasons they are doing their releases the way they are.

Now we get to the material presented in the books. The system itself seems very streamlined, which is nice to see, allowing for less of a barrier for people to get involved into the game (one of the reasons I can understand why they are releasing the game as they are). The game allows for three races: humans, elves, and dwarves, and three classes: warriors, rogues, and mages. Race and class are shaped through selection of a background chosen at character creation. There will be more on this mechanic in a minute.

Each character has 8 attributes: Communication, Constitution, Cunning, Dexterity, Magic, Perception, Strength, and Willpower, each of them with a score between -2 to 4. These scores are determined by rolling 3d6. This number is then compared to a chart given in the creation section which gives you your score. You roll each of the attributes down the line. At the end, you are then able to switch two of your attributes in order to bring them more in line with your character idea.

Then you choose your background. Each background gives your character a set number of perks, be they attribute bonuses or ability focuses. Then you roll 2d6 on a chart to get two random traits from the background based on your race. Certain races can only take certain backgrounds, and certain backgrounds lock out certain classes. It’s an interesting mechanic, and I wonder if they will release more, either in the later releases or with online supplements, because the number is fairly small. For example, they only have one background available for Dwarves, and only a few for people looking to play a Mage, but those are rather small complaints at the moment.

Now we move into the classes. Each class has three primary attributes and five secondary attributes. Each time you level up, you get what are called “ability focuses” which are tied to each of your attributes. Examples include Communication (Deception),  Dexterity (Stealth), and Strength (Axes). Whenever you make a test in that particular field, you add a +2 bonus to your test result, reflecting your own personal skill and specialization in that particular field.

That brings me to the actual mechanic behind the tests. The mechanic states that you roll 3d6 and add your appropriate attribute to it, comparing the result to the target number (TN) of the test. One of your dice is what is known as the “Dragon Die.” On a successful test, the number on the Dragon Die represents how successful the task was, with a 1 meaning your barely squeaked by, and a 6 representing an overwhelming success.

The Dragon Die also serves another purpose in combat. Any time any of the dice on a weapons test (or a specialized form of Magic test that mages get) come up doubles, you get a number of “stunt points” equal to the number showing on the Dragon Die. These stunt points must be spend immediately to modify the attack, and include things like ignoring some of your opponents armor, knocking an opponent prone, or hitting a second target with the attack. This is where the combat system truly shines and I can’t wait to see it on the table. I can already think of a myriad of other ways to use this system in other genres. A Wu Xia game could benefit greatly from a system like this, or even a game utilizing firearms for a “gun-fu” style of gameplay.The last thing I want to talk about in combat is how they worked healing in. There is the standard healing through magic, through sleeping, and through another character using the Heal action (a Cunning [Healing]) check, and the last ability to heal, the Breather, which is one of my favorite abilities they added to this game, and is definitely one that I may be adapting for my other games. It states that you catch a 5 minute “Breather” at the end of a combat and heal a small amount of Health, which you can only gain the benefits of one breather between each combat.

The Magic chapter is fairly small right now, but it appears to be something that will be expanded upon moreso in the future releases. There are four types of magic: primal, spirit, creation, and entropy, each of them dealing with slightly different facets of magic. Mages are the only class that has access to spells, and learn new ones at every even level, as well as through class talents (discussed below). Each spell has a TN that the caster has to beat with his Magic roll in order to cast it as well as a Mana Point cost associated with it, which a mage regenerates as he rests. The spells vary between attack spells, defensive spells, and utility spells, and I look forward to reading more about them in future releases.

The last thing to really discuss on the character development side is the talents, which the classes get at every even level.  There are 22 listed talents, ranging from Animal Training to Primal Magic to Contacts to various Weapon styles, each providing some small benefit. When you qualify for a talent, you can either pick a new one, or increase your ability in an existing one. There’s only two levels in each talent in the first set, and I look forward to seeing how the further ranks progress and how any new ones they put in interact with the rest of them.

The game has a very retro feel to it, which Chris Pramas has admitted to trying to do during development. Looking at the game, it appears that it should run fairly smoothly, and it appears to put a lot more of the emphasis on the story and character development and letting the system and what the character can do in combat to completely destroy the enemy, which I dig.

I’m sure I’ll have more opinions on a lot of these mechanics after I get it on the table, which I might be able to do over the Christmas break. I’ll be back with a play report after I do. Until then, Gamer Nation.

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