May 15, 2013
A Look At The Crunch Of The Dragon Age Role-Playing Game
The Dragon Age Role-Playing Game is based on the hugely popular video games Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II by BioWare. Written and published by Green Ronin Publishing, best known for creating supplemental material for Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition, as well as Mutants and Masterminds and A Song of Ice and Fire Role-Playing Game, the Dragon Age Role-Playing Game allows players to explore the lands of Thedas and see its expansive world in new and exciting ways.
The game features a unique game system known as the Adventure Game Engine, which, to be fair, shares many similarities with the much established d20 system of D&D. Characters have life points, a class, race, attributes, and so on. Pretty basic, right? Well, there are a few things that stand out about the system. Everything is run via a roll of three six-sided dice, with one of them being somehow distinguishable from the others; the “dragon dice.” Any time the dice are rolled and two identical numbers come up, the number on the dragon dice is how many action, or “stunt,” points the character gains to spend on abilities that modify the action they are trying to perform. Say, for example, you are making an attack roll with your weapon and you gain stunt points. You could then use those points to attack a second time, carry your blow through so that it hits multiple targets, deal more damage, put your enemy on the defensive, and so on. It is a highly intuitive way of making an otherwise repetitious combat system dynamic and flavorful.
Also, rather than simply choosing your race and class, you choose an origin for your character. This origin will, many times, determine your race and class for you, though it will sometimes still leave you some choice in the matter. For example, only a mage can be a Circle Mage, though they can be either human or elf. Only an elf can be a Dalish Elf, but they can be of the warrior or the rogue class. The choice of origin also gives you some set skills and abilities that your character starts with. For the most part, most of your characters initial build will come from their origin. From there on, however, characters are highly customizable.
This is not a highly complex system, but it has just enough crunch to it that I would suggest it for new players and veterans alike. Knowing the story of Dragon Age: Origins definitely helps with the enjoyment of the game, but it is far from required. As a whole, the game has a feel of somewhat older generation games, like AD&D or Castles and Crusades, in that it has a somewhat free form system of rules and relies on the imagination of players to flush out their characters rather than trying to build in a system for every aspect of character dynamics.
As of writing this, sets one and two of the Dragon Age Role-Playing Game have been published with set three on the way. Set one includes rules for character creation, rules of play, and information on running a game from level one to level five. Set two expands on this set, giving more options for origin, including playing as Qunari, as well as how to take your character from level five to level ten. Set three, which does have a free beta test PDF available, concludes the game by taking characters all of the way to level twenty. The game is a blast. I have run this game for several different game groups with both people who have and haven’t played either Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age II before, and they have all enjoyed it. So, if you are a fan of BioWare’s game, or just of a darker fantasy game, I highly trying it out.
Image Credit: Green Ronin Publishing