Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dragon Age: Tabletop RPG

I've been rambling a lot lately about finding the perfect RPG for me (here), and comparing the ones I've played most so far (here).  A while back I was at The Great Escape and saw a good price on the Dragon Age roleplaying game.  I only picked it up because it was cheap, and I was looking for something to read on my trip to Dragon*Con.  I'm funny that way, when I can't get in the mood to read an actual novel, I like to read gaming books.

Reading through the Player's Guide, here's some of the things that jumped out at me:

Simplicity - The player's handbook is only 64 pages, and from what I've read it looks pretty easy to learn.  Unfortunately a few of the most important rules were found in strange places (IMO), and were hard for me to find by just flipping through.  It wasn't until I actually sat down and read it straight through that I managed to catch up on some of the basic fundamentals.  So for me, anyway, the book almost has to be read in order.

Races/Classes - There's only three races and classes in the basic set.  First you also have to pick a background, which effects which races/classes are available to you.  Players of the video game should be familiar with the selections, and already know about the limitations of the universe (for example, Dwarves can't be mages).  I'm not sure if more races or classes are available in the other books.  Of course, each class is somewhat customizable, so your warrior might not play anything like your friend's warrior.

Stats/Skills - There are eight stats: Communication, Constitution, Cunning, Dexterity, Magic, Perception, Strength, and Willpower. Instead of full stats and stat bonuses, you just have lower stats. So instead of stats ranging from 8 to 20 (with bonuses of -2 to 5), your starting stats generally range range from -2 to 4 (with the occasional 5 if the conditions are right). Your skill checks are generally done using the governing stat, but you have Focuses that give you an additional +2 to specific skills  like Leadership (Communication) and Stealth (Dexterity).  The game does ask you to roll your stats randomly, in order, so you may not end up with decent numbers for the class you wanted to play.  But you are allowed to swap one pair of stats once you're done rolling, so you at least have some level of control.

Feats - Talents are pretty much feats.  Some let you wear better armor, some improve your skills, and some improve your ability to use specific weapons.  Each class starts with one or more Talents, and you gain an additional Talent at odd-numbered levels.  Each Talent has two levels, so instead of taking a new Talent you might choose to upgrade an existing Talent from Novice to Journeyman.  For example, if you take the "Horsemanship" Talent, at first you're a Novice, and the Talent just allows you to mount a steed as a free action.  If you later upgrade Horsemanship to Journeyman, it also gives you a +2 bonus to speed when riding.

Dice - Each player needs three six-sided dice, where one is a different color than the other two.  These are the only dice used in the entire game. The odd-colored die is called the "Dragon Die", and is used for special circumstances, such as Stunts.

Stunts - When you roll doubles on your attack rolls, you get stunt points which you can immediately spend to add a little extra oomph to your attack.  Depending on how high you rolled on the Dragon Die, you can do things like hit a second target, shift, knock your target prone, disarm, change your position in the initiative order, etc. For spells, the stunt points can be spent to do things like reduce the mana cost, increase the damage, and so on.

Armor - You have both a Defense score and an Armor score.  Defense works like AC - you have to beat that number to hit the target.  Armor works like damage reduction - you subtract your armor score from whatever damage you take.

Healing - The healing system seems to be a good compromise between hardcore and video gamey.  In addition to the mage's heal spell, all players can attempt to heal other players for a few hit points (standard action, must pass ability test, heals 1d6+Cunning).  However, this heal skill can only be used once until the victim takes more damage.  You can recover a few more hit points during a 5 minute rest (5+CON+Level), but you can only do that once after every combat.  So you can't just keep taking 5 minute rests until you're full.  You can recover even more hit points with a full night's rest (10+CON+Level), which I think is a pretty good average between D&D 4e's cheese (recover everything) and Pathfinder's stinginess (1 or 2 hp per night).

Magic - Funny, I was just saying how I'd like to try a PnP RPG that worked this way.  Dragon Age uses mana points, just like most video games.  Different spells cost different amounts of points to cast, and you keep track of how many points you have left just like your hit points.  You get some mana back during a short rest, and all of it back with a long rest.  Additionally, mages also have one basic ranged spell (Arcane Lance) which uses no mana, so they're never completely without magic. 

Distance - The game measures everything in yards rather than feet.  If you use miniatures, it suggests letting each square or hex represent two yards.  This could get confusing at first, but I think I'd get used to it.

Death - There is no such thing as negative hit points.  If you hit zero, you stay at zero and are considered dying.  If no one heals you within a certain number of rounds (2+CON), you die.  I haven't come across anything about resurrection; so far it looks like death is permanent.  The good news is that everyone has the ability to heal, so if you just stay near each other, somebody should be able to heal you.

I have read a few reviews, but they vary a lot. Most were positive. Of the bad reviews, some complained it was too much like the video game, while others complained that it wasn't enough like the video game.  The reviews that weighed the game on its own merits (as opposed to comparing it to other formats) were generally the most positive.

Since I've yet to actually play the game, I can't say whether or not I recommend it yet.  I wasn't expecting much when I picked it up - it is based on a video game, after all - but now I'm actually looking forward to trying it sometime.  While there are some things in there that wouldn't be my preference, it still looks like an interesting game that should be a lot of fun to play. 

No comments:

Post a Comment