Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my players

Discuss our dark fantasy adventure tabletop roleplaying game based on BioWare's computer game, Dragon Age Origins.

Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my players

Postby GroovyTaxi » Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:56 pm

Just to make it clear, I am not posting this to troll or to bash on the game in a gratuitous manner. I would honestly like to know if people agree with me, if I've missed some important things or if I'm just the only one that thinks this game has not received the playtest it needed.

I have played Dragon Age RPG for nearly a year, one game session per week, running the same campaign and a few playtests on the side. My long-running campaign, however, was constantly affected by many elements of the game that made it extremely hard to enjoy, and after months of trying to fix things up, we converted to Pathfinder because we felt like it was becoming unplayable. Here's a list of several reasons why we decided to put the game back in the box for good.

1. The stunt system is a good idea that we thought was ridden with flaws. Some stunts are just useless (Knock Prone or Disarm, for example), which encourages players to always pick the same stunts. Because they're statistically frequent, they don't feel like critical hits / epic maneuvers should and they make fights extremely random, since a poorly equipped soldier only needs to be lucky to land several times in a row a 3d6+strength sword hit due to the lethal blow stunt. To make things worse, most class abilities and powers obtained at a higher level are only activated through stuns and the spending of stunt points, so you basically obtain abilities that you'll only be able to use when the dice say so. My players felt like those abilities were never as good as passive bonuses, and I think they were right. Some magic items also worked with stunts and suffer the same problem. Some players want to make some specific actions too ("I want to push him / disarm him"), yet they need to wait until they land a completely luck-based and random stunt to do so, forced to constantly roll to hit until they can do what they want to do.

2. The classes are not balanced at all from what we've seen. Things are fine from level 1 to 5, but when my players reached level 5-7, things became really messed up. Having nothing to help them deal or soak more damage, the two rogues became completely useless, barely able to land an average 10 damage blow on a backstab, soaked by their foes' armor, reducing it to 5 or 3 damage. Having average HP but low armor, they got downed pretty quickly as soon as they attracted attention. Meanwhile, the fighter soaks 10 points of damage on every hit (with a heavy plate armor) and deals horrible amounts of damage, dominating every single fight since my players have reached level 5. There is absolutely no situation in this game where a rogue can outgun a fighter, not even by taking him by surprise, by flanking him or anything else we can think of. I understand that fighters are meant to kick ass in battles, but with three classes in the game, it's a shame that one of them clearly dominates every single fight while rogues are completely useless, getting downed in only a few hits while barely being able to deal any damage.

3. Mage spells are ridiculously unbalanced. Flame Blast is a poor spell from level 1 to 5, dealing mediocre, regular damage that is soaked by most foes. I know it's an AoE spell, but an AoE spell that deals 3 damage to three foes is just silly. On the other hand, some spells are terribly overpowered : Walking Bomb's save DC can be raised so high is automatically kills any foes that does not get three 6's on his dice roll. It also deals penetrating damage every round that is higher than what most spells deal when cast. It gets even worse on higher levels : "second tier" mage spells (in book 2) deal ridiculously low damage that can barely harm monsters PCs fight at this level, and my party's mage ended up using only his first tier spells because spells like Fist of the Maker barely dealt 6 damage in an area for about twice the mana cost of Walking Bomb. He felt no interest in levelling up.

4. In fights, rolls made with three six-sided dice (instead of, say, a d20) ensure that rolls will be more "average" than very low or very high. This leads to fights in which my party's fighter always landed her hits. Attack bonuses keep going up due to stat increase, but defense bonuses remained the same, which led to boring, predictable fights in which someone not hitting his target is a very rare occurence. Attack bonuses are also so high, they make in-combat modifiers worthless : my players saw no use in tripping their foes and knocking them prone because they were already hitting them all the time, and same goes for disarming and aiming, which my players quickly stopped doing after a few game sessions.

5. Armor soaking damage is a good idea, but armor modifiers and hit points keep going up as PCs gain levels (and gear) and their damage output never seems to go up, except for the barely noticeable +1 to strength every two levels. As players gain levels, fight become increasingly long and dull, and most players just roll in the hope of landing a (completely random yet absolutely necessary in many situations) pierce armor stunt to actually deal decent damage.

6. Skill modifiers go up way too fast. A nearly impossible feat has a difficulty of 21, yet most of my players had one of their main stats at 6 on level 5 and a focus in a few skills related to that stat, meaning they had a +8 and could succeed at near impossible tasks by rolling a somewhat lucky but not uncommon 13. They were barely level 5 and they could already face nearly any skill-related challenge.

7. Because most characters hit their target all the time in combat, modifiers are nearly useless as I've explained in #4. My players stopped giving negative modifiers to their foes or bonuses to their allies and many actions became useless. Since there are no "attacks of opportunity" in this game, there were nearly no tactical decisions : characters just ran at each other, using "aim+attack" all the time, the outcome of a fight determined by character strength and stunts only.

Overall, my experience with Dragon Age RPG was a very painful and dull one for all these reasons. Nearly everything - combat, skill use, magic - felt unbalanced as soon as my players reached level 5, and the fact that some mage spells are absolutely worthless makes me wonder if this game has received the playtest it needed. I'd like to know if you've met the same problems, especially those who took their campaign to level 5 and higher.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Superior1200 » Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:23 pm

I'm not sure about the whole system myself...I loath classes (one reason I don't like d&d or d20), don't get me wrong, I understand their purposes, just don't like them.
With my experiences, I've experienced some similar incidents out of the box in one of our games.

Don't get me wrong, I think it has some real potential and love the basic system mechanic (Abiliy + 2 from Focuses + 3d6), but I'm struggling with going past level 2...

Sorry if I don't help.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Zapp » Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:11 am

GroovyTaxi wrote:Just to make it clear, I am not posting this to troll or to bash on the game in a gratuitous manner. I would honestly like to know if people agree with me, if I've missed some important things or if I'm just the only one that thinks this game has not received the playtest it needed.

I have played Dragon Age RPG for nearly a year, one game session per week, running the same campaign and a few playtests on the side. My long-running campaign, however, was constantly affected by many elements of the game that made it extremely hard to enjoy, and after months of trying to fix things up, we converted to Pathfinder because we felt like it was becoming unplayable. Here's a list of several reasons why we decided to put the game back in the box for good.

Before we start, let me say outright that you made the right call.

For you. You are clearly not pertubed by the insane complexity of d20 games (including Pathfinder), and you value (combat) balance very highly.

So I can only express regret you didn't go to d20 sooner.

As for your specific complaints, I think they're fairly well expressed, and you certainly have more than one point.

But again: it seems you belong to the (very common) group of players who simply cannot understand why a game is "unbalanced", and views any significant imbalance as a distinct negative.

In contrast, I would say Green Ronin designed their game for a different audience. Newbies, who have decidedly different worries than class balance on their minds. Newbies, whose brains would splatter against the wall if they were asked to stat up a level 16 Wizard character.
Oh the hurt of thinking about creating spellcasting NPCs in d20... each hour put towards creating a competent build would result in the NPC surviving another round of actual combat, tops. At least when facing the tricked-out super-power-gamed player characters...

Remember the old (as in "really old") pre-d20 games (games published in the early nineties or even the eighties)? They were often utterly unbalanced, but in the sense that balance wasn't even on the table. They were not so much imbalanced as they were not balanced at all.

I think this was the design aesthetic Chris Pramas aimed for. :)
And to some extent, it is where you end up when you try to make a simple game.

In such a game, fighters are supposed to dominate combat (and possibly "holding heroic speeches") because that's what warriors do. Having one spell to be utterly worthless (both in absolute terms and relative to another, equally attainable spell) is all right. Taking the fight to a fully armored killer knight is insane, when it would be much less trouble to just murder him in his sleep (or even not confronting him at all and instead murder all those he holds dear).

A game where an experienced monster of a warrior can travel together with a teenage girl rogue and where both will have lots of adventures and where both end up equally essential to the plot; not because the rules ensure they do (in fact, they don't), but because the adventures are structured around the concept that your skills doesn't determine your share of the spotlight, your mere presence does.

A game which, ultimately, doesn't need any rules (but provides a quick and easy ruleset just for convenience).

This is not a game for everyone.

More the the point: it is definitely not a game for the D&D combat balance crowd.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Elfie » Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:25 am

Zapp, I'm glad I decided to spend 2 hours this morning playing Guild Wars 2 before sitting down to respond to this, because I think you did a better job than I was going to do :)
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Zapp » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:06 am

Let it be said, Elfie, that I can definitely relate to what it means to be a "combat balancer" too...

...only that would provide a poor answer to what I perceive as the main question of the OP, namely "how could GR release such a poorly balanced game"...

Myself I know my audience and my AGE campaign isn't with my D&D friends. And so I have modified the game beyond recognition*, so my personal experience is not very relevant to the game as written.
*) Or at the least, I've done away with levels, classes and hit points, and most magic spells. And oh: a different campaign world. But other than that, it's the same game... :wink:
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Superior1200 » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:52 am

Call me interested, zapp, I'd love to see your ideas as posted at the bottom of your statement.

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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby GroovyTaxi » Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:05 am

Zapp, I guess you're right, and I actually expected something from this game that it wasn't. But balance isn't my only issue : my players and I thought the fights were just plain boring for everyone safe the fighter. I actually expected from this game something that felt like the video game, in which fighters could receive and deal lots of damage while mages would deal INSANE amounts of damage while being super vulnerable, with rogues that could hardly do anything unless they were positioned right, in which case they'd deal massive damage.

This seemed easy enough to do, and somehow only the fighter felt right. This was my major complaint. I understand the game is made to feel simple and "old school" and it's not a bad thing at all, but simpler games (like Warhammer Fantasy RP) manage (in my opinion and my players') to feel more balanced, more interesting and far less boring than this system in which everyone always hits and in which tier one spells are far better than tier two spells. I know Green Ronin was aiming for a specific audience and that they wanted to make things simple on purpose, but I actually think it would've been possible to implement the stunt system and everything they did while still creating a balanced, exciting experience in and out of combat. I'm just really sad because I feel like they didn't, releasing games that felt rushed to me and my players instead.

And yes, character creation in Pathfinder is excruciatingly painful. I try not to GM it too often because of this, but it felt like the "right" game to convert an epic fantasy campaign into.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Elfie » Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:48 am

So, like I said, Zapp hit it on the head. I just don't think you were playing the right game for your group. But I will still attempt to address some of your specific complaints/concerns.

From your original post:
1. I don't know how anyone could see Disarm as useless unless you are exclusively putting your players up against opponents who don't use weapons (or opponents who can punch just as hard as they can swing a sword). Knock prone can also be extremely useful in a tactical fight. If you're a ranged combatant against a melee combatant, knocking them prone makes them have to choose between continuing to chase you or suffering a constant -1 to their defense. (I know you said that your players seem to hit ALL the time so a -1 isn't a big deal, but I'll address that separately.)

With regard to the stunt system being too random and preventing people from being able to actively attempt to take specific actions (like disarm), I think you're thinking to mechanically. The character can absolutely be attempting to disarm their opponent, but that's not an easy thing to do. It requires just the right mix of skill and circumstance. So, you need to succeed on several fronts. You've gotta hit with an attack roll. You've gotta score doubles on that roll (about a 44% chance). You've gotta generate enough stunt points for a disarm. And you've gotta beat the opponent in an opposed attack roll. But combat isn't all "full success or full failure." So if you fail the opposed roll, you still did combat damage. If you didn't get enough stunt points, you still got in a good hit (and maybe knocked your opponent prone). If you didn't get doubles, your attempt still landed a blow bringing your foe closer to defeat. Those tiers of success feel a whole lot better to me than just, "You attempt to disarm. You fail. Who's next?"

2. I think Zapp mostly covered this. Dragon Age isn't all about combat. And so it's not all about combat balance either. Your players should be able to build whatever character feels right to them and you as the GM should be building encounters (combat and otherwise) that suit their particular strengths and weaknesses. From your specific example, if your fighter was dominating every fight, why didn't you throw up some enemies with penetrating damage? Why not have smart opponents who see that the warrior is a beast and use strategic stunts (skirmish, knock prone, disarm) to keep him busy?

Again, I think you're too combat-focused, but "no situation where a rogue can outgun a fighter" simply isn't true. Give your rogue NPCs poisoned weapons. Stop giving your warrior NPCs full plate armor. For that matter, stop giving your warrior PCs full plate armor.

3. "Balance" again isn't what the game is about. It's about interesting characters. And again it really sounds like your players just want to build combat machines, so the choice of moving to Pathfinder is the right one. But as an example from my game, our party's mage is actually not a very good mage. He's level 6 and only has a 3 in magic. In the early levels, his most used spells were flame blast and heal, and he's made excellent strategic use of both. He took Flaming Weapons as soon as he was able, and with such a low magic score, he almost always failed to cast it. And it was hilarious, and was a fantastic role-playing point for the character. In our most recent battle, this weak little mage with a 3 magic score and his "best" spells still being Heal and Flame Blast, managed to be the last man standing in a party that included a rather beefy warrior. How? Combat strategy. When he saw the enemy mage casting AOE spells, he started keeping himself out of the AOE range. So when everyone else fell (including the huge beefy warrior), the mage was still blasting away. Of course the enemy then went right after him, but again using combat strategy, he knocked the enemy prone and kited her. So she had to either waste a turn standing up, or just accept the -1 defense to keep chasing him. And he had to decide between healing himself or putting out damage. It was a pretty epic fight (which I have summed up in extremely limited detail).

4. Pretty much everyone I've talked to who plays Dragon Age finds the 3D6 system to be infinitely superior to the D20 system for exactly the reason that you don't like it. It puts skill checks (and therefore combat) into a bell curve instead of being totally random. This makes it FAR easier for me as a GM to make target numbers for tests that are at the right level of difficulty for my players. If your players were hitting every single time, it sounds like you should have been giving enemies a higher defense. Yes, if your average roll is already over your target by 5 points, adding or removing 1 point isn't going to make much of a difference, but in a bell curve, if your average rolls is right at your target number or a smidge above or below, that one point can make a huge difference. Again, it comes down to playing towards your PCs strengths and weaknesses.

5. If your fights feel too long, increase enemy damage output and lower their HP. This keeps the fights just as challenging, but makes them happen faster. If your players' gear is never going up in damage output, maybe you need to have another look at the "rewards" section of the GM's guides. Masterwork and rare materials weapons can make a big difference. And unless you're playing an extremely low-fantasy setting (and if you are, good on you), your players should have picked up a magical item or two that could boost their damage outpout. Also, see Poison weapons for a fun damage boost.

6. Again, sounds like players who want to min/max rather than building a character, but you should be able to play toward that. Has a TN 21 actually become "easy" for your players? Then re-define your numeric representation of "near impossible" to be higher.

7. I think I've covered most of this before, but this game is full of opportunity for tactical decisions. But yes, if your players have +8 on all their attack and spell rolls and you're putting them up against enemies with defenses of 12, combat is going to be pretty boring and predictable. This is the one place where I'll say that balance is important, but not balance across classes or across spells. There needs to be balance between what the PCs are capable of versus what the GM puts them up against.

And one thing from your follow-up:
"rogues that could hardly do anything unless they were positioned right, in which case they'd deal massive damage" - it's called Backstab. Did nobody use it?

Really though, none of this matters because Dragon Age probably isn't the right game for your group. Like Zapp said, it's sad to hear that you played it for a year before switching to Pathfinder. Maybe if you had come to us sooner, we could have offered advice on how to balance the encounters for players who want to build combat-heavy damage-machines :wink: But I'd expect that if you've all been that frustrated with it for so long, trying to go back and make some balance adjustments at this point just wouldn't work.

If you can find a local (or online group) that enjoys the game, I'd definitely recommend you try it as a player. I would love for you to be able to see what the game can be. (And if this were February 2013 or later, I'd be pointing you to the episode of Tabletop where they play Dragon Age, cause man, that's gonna be awesome.)
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby shonuff » Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:31 pm

Elfie wrote: 4. Pretty much everyone I've talked to who plays Dragon Age finds the 3D6 system to be infinitely superior to the D20 system for exactly the reason that you don't like it. It puts skill checks (and therefore combat) into a bell curve instead of being totally random. This makes it FAR easier for me as a GM to make target numbers for tests that are at the right level of difficulty for my players.


I like the concept of the bell curve; however I find it problematic over the course of a campaign. At upper levels, I think it will exacerbate the balance issues, as DA seems to be more geared for levels 1-5 than anything later. In fact, I think the first set was published before the higher levels were looked at, as the rule change for ability advancements in Set 2 would suggest.

The issue I have with the bell curve is simply that by level 11, PCs will most likely have 5s and 6s for at least some ability scores and the advanced focus. That's a +8 or +9, and that's not factoring in possible bonuses from specializations, talents, spells, or items.

Elfie wrote:Masterwork and rare materials weapons can make a big difference.


My problem with the masterwork items is that there isn't (in RAW) really a point. The warrior getting the masterwork weapon will most likely already have the focus/talents.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby GroovyTaxi » Mon Sep 24, 2012 9:50 pm

Elfie wrote:And one thing from your follow-up:
"rogues that could hardly do anything unless they were positioned right, in which case they'd deal massive damage" - it's called Backstab. Did nobody use it?

Backstab allows rogues to land +1d6 damage if they succeed both their stealth check and their attack roll. Even when it happens (which happens often at higher levels), it's only +1d6. This means an average +3-4 damage. This is far from massive considering the average foe has at least 20-30 HP and 3-5 armor points. It allowed my two rogue players to land 4 or 5 points of damage to foes instead of landing 2 or 3. For a skill that was supposed to be the rogue's trademark, it felt pretty pathetic in most situations ''^^

I felt disarm was useless because all it did was denying a minor action to the disarmed player. When disarmed, all the player had to do was to pick up his weapon. Since there are no attacks of opportunities or penalties, then all the player loses is a minor action that he doesn't really need for anything, and he can just grab his weapon back and attack (or unsheathe another one, then attack).

Those tiers of success feel a whole lot better to me than just, "You attempt to disarm. You fail. Who's next?"


But they don't feel as good as "You attempt to disarm, you succeed". Whenever my players asked me "can I try to push him down the cliff?" or "can I grab and pin him down?", all I could say was "you need to stunt him first". That felt frustrating to the vast majority of players I've played with. It felt like the game was limiting what they could attempt.

Dragon Age isn't all about combat.

Well, after playing both video games, my players and I expected something that was about 50% combat and 50% roleplaying and story-building. The combat rules felt simple to a fault and can hardly allow anything close to the tactical action found in the video games. I don't think simple systems are bad : Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has one of the most simple combat systems I've seen and I absolutely love this game. I think games that simplify to the point where players feel restricted are bad.

From your specific example, if your fighter was dominating every fight, why didn't you throw up some enemies with penetrating damage?


Are there many enemies that fit in this category? I've tried many things. Shades? They make every single class except the mage completely useless, and using them more than once will be very boring for non-mages. Mages with penetrating damage spells? Their damage output was hardly enough to even threaten the incredibly tough fighter with an insane amount of HP and many spells relied on a Constitution (Stamina) roll, a skill in which the fighter had something like a +8 and could hardly fail at. I might have missed other options, but I've tried these and they weren't satisfactory at all.

Why not have smart opponents who see that the warrior is a beast and use strategic stunts (skirmish, knock prone, disarm) to keep him busy?


With stunts being completely random, most opponents just weren't lucky enough to trip or disarm the fighter, and she just pummelled her way through anything in her path. Whenever one of them was able to trip her, she just used a minor action to stand up and resumed her ass kicking, which leads me to believe most "tactical stunts" are useless in many situations.

Again, I think you're too combat-focused, but "no situation where a rogue can outgun a fighter" simply isn't true. Give your rogue NPCs poisoned weapons. Stop giving your warrior NPCs full plate armor. For that matter, stop giving your warrior PCs full plate armor.


If I'm not mistaken, poison is resisted with Constitution (Stamina). Again, our fighter had a +8 in that stat. I've tried it once, and it didn't really work. I gave up. Maybe I should've tried other uses of poison, but I've tried, believe me. Also, I barely gave my NPCs any full plate armor (except maybe once or twice in our year-long campaign, for specific boss characters) and the heaviest armor my fighter got was heavy chain mail. Armor still felt unbalanced and made fights longer, as it nullified most hits the rogues (and most weak enemies / minions) were able to land.

"Balance" again isn't what the game is about. It's about interesting characters.


Interesting characters can be created in any system. In fact, I doubt you even need a system for that. What I'm criticizing is the game itself, not what your imagination allows you to do with it. With a good party, any game can become awesome. Heck, I've played this game for an entire year and I loathe it! xD What I'm saying is "this game is poorly balanced and combat just isn't fun because most of the systems feel clunky to me and my players". I know balance wasn't the focus of the developers, but I feel the product is unsatisfactory at best and could have been improved in so many ways without affecting the game's lore or focus.

Pretty much everyone I've talked to who plays Dragon Age finds the 3D6 system to be infinitely superior to the D20 system for exactly the reason that you don't like it.


I won't argue with that. I guess it's just a matter of tastes.

If your fights feel too long, increase enemy damage output and lower their HP. This keeps the fights just as challenging, but makes them happen faster.


I should've thought about that. Maybe this would have fixed part of the problem, but I usually follow game rules very strictly and this is what probably ruined most fights.

Masterwork and rare materials weapons can make a big difference.


With the directions my campaign took because of player decisions and campaign context, my players could hardly receive any special gear. They sometimes received rewards, but as the poster above me said, the difference really wasn't noticeable. A +1 here or there barely changed anything.

Again, sounds like players who want to min/max rather than building a character, but you should be able to play toward that. Has a TN 21 actually become "easy" for your players? Then re-define your numeric representation of "near impossible" to be higher.


My players were absolutely not min-maxers (except maybe one of them). Most of my players had absolutely no idea of how character progression worked or how they were going to use their points on their next level, and they couldn't even have min-maxed if they wanted to. They just thought it was logical to put their points in the stat they were using often, instead of placing them randomly. I honestly can't understand why a player wouldn't upgrade his magic stat when playing a mage. This isn't min-maxing, and even players with little experience (which was the case for most of my players) will give their character the stat they feel he "needs" because they honestly wouldn't know where else to put it. It feels like common sense for them, and they shouldn't refrain from giving more strength to their fighter because the game isn't able to keep up.

I could have raised the TN for tasks, but then again, I'm criticizing the game, not the house rules I could've made for it. A nigh impossible task is apparently a TN 21, and it's fairly easy for any well-trained character who put a point or two in a primary stat. I could have raised the TN's, but I hardly see how the game's developers did not see this one coming and decided the hardest tasks in the game needed a result of 21 or higher to be performed, something a level 5 character can attain.

But I'd expect that if you've all been that frustrated with it for so long, trying to go back and make some balance adjustments at this point just wouldn't work.


Indeed, especially after my players and I worked for weeks to convert our game from this system to Pathfinder (which was especially hard when we had to convert the mage). Also, to be honest, I'm tired of the whole Dragon Age universe, but that's my own darn fault. After playing both video games, following the web series and running a year-long campaign that still isn't finished, I've had an overdose of Dragon Age lore and I'm not even interested in this game setting even though I used to be a huge fan of it. I doubt I'll ever play this game again because my experience with it was simply too frustrating.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Zapp » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:11 pm

Just a quickie:
she had to either waste a turn standing up, or just accept the -1 defense to keep chasing him

This I don't understand. How can you keep on running when you've just been dumped on your rump? Are you thinking of the same "prone" as I do? (Being prone to me means "you need to stand up - a minor action - before you can take any meaningful action". I do actively discourage my players from keep on fighting while crawling around.)
Last edited by Zapp on Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Zapp » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:32 pm

Superior1200 wrote:Call me interested, zapp, I'd love to see your ideas as posted at the bottom of your statement.

First off, I highly recommend you to look up the class-less system as posted by... I think his name is draco druid, but am not sure. It's here at the forums anyway. That sorts the classes.

Then (very briefly) I've changed XP so you get perhaps 200 XP per session. Players use these experience points to buy "stuff" or advances - there are no levels to reach, and no automatic goodies. A focus costs 100 XP. A talent (each level) costs 200 XP. Raising an ability costs a hundred times the new value (meaning a 5 costs 500 XP and so on). That sorts the levels.

I also keep armor and hit points low. As for armor, I really haven't changed much, except to say to my players "plate armor is unheard of in this primitive world, and only the rich and mighty warrior use chain". That works rather well, especially since my combat monster player chose to play an Avvari barbarian - and I am only giving him heavy leather, saying Avvari are uncomfortable around "civilized armors". You still start with 30 Health (or so), but you don't get more automatically. Basically, I've added a new talent that gives you 1d6+Con Health for each of its three levels, meaning you can only expect to - at most - double your starting amount.
Since my campaign world is "Viking Ferelden" or "North Age" (instead of "Dragon Age"), there are additional ways to gain Health, most importantly booze: beer, mead, hard liquor, deep mushrooms, even quasi-magical "potions of spirit"... ;)

Backstab: I renamed the game's backstab into "precise strike" (and "shot" since I allow it at range too). The +2 to hit and +1d6 damage, that is. Then I added a proper worthy-of-the-name backstab that doubles damage against an unawares foe. After armor reduction and so on, but still - damn.

And yes, if this were a commercial-grade game, (and as a comment on this thread too) I would most definitely want to add a few checks and balances. I am aware some choices (talents, mostly) are simply better than others. The jury is still out on whether it's better to buy up ability advances first and foci (focuses?) later, or vice versa. But as long as the jury doesn't return, it's all good - for my personal game...



I've tried to create a game where, yes, a two-handed axe is still brutally effective, but where a rogue can still pull her own weight, since with precise strike (the d6 bonus damage) they're not too dissimilar, especially when nobody's carrying around a hundred hit points anymore. And a rogue is - at least in theory - more likely to pull off sneakety sneak tricks that lets them do double damage. (Hint to bandits everywhere: you might laugh at a shortbow, but what you do not want is the archer character sneaking up on you, do "precise" bonus damage, and then double that, or you'll pay with your entrails exploding out of your stomach :green: )
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Bardwulf » Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:18 am

I just want to correct the OP on one thing. Disarm. You're forgetting that the weapon is knocked a number of yards away from the wielder. Hence an entire turn is wasted.
1 Minor trying to break off from the combat to move to the weapon (which I have opposed dex initiative rolls to try - success means you do it, fail means you choose to be either stuck in combat or take a free strike while moving away.
then
1 minor action to pick the weapon up. Voila, one turn wasted.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Elfie » Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:52 am

Zapp wrote:Just a quickie:
she had to either waste a turn standing up, or just accept the -1 defense to keep chasing him

This I don't understand. How can you keep on running when you've just been dumped on your rump? Are you thinking of the same "prone" as I do? (Being prone to me means "you need to stand up - a minor action - before you can take any meaningful action". I do actively discourage my players from keep on fighting while crawling around.)


By RAW, the only thing Knock Prone prevents you from doing is Running. You can still move, attack, cast spells, etc. I understand that "prone" would seem to imply "on your butt," the only thing the rules explicitly disallow is a Run action.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Scott McFarland » Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:40 am

Warriors in armour soaking up damage?

Try an enemy mage with a few entropy spells, because they tend to target things other than Con Stamina.

Try Daze (Willpower (Self Discipline)), Vulnerability Hex (Magic (Entropy)), Weakness (Magic (Spirit)) or Horror (Willpower (Self Discipline)).

Warrior Dazed or the victim of Horror? Well it's not too crazy a house rule to say he loses his Dexterity bonus to defence then. And sneak attacks from a rogue succeed automatically because he can't move to prevent them.

Oh and throw a Grease spell on him while he can't move. And light it up for some penetrating fire damage fun.

A warrior who can't move is going to take a savage beating, no matter what his armour.

No wonder warriors were afraid of Morrigan...
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby shonuff » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:13 am

Also, while I know it's open to both classes, I find rogues more likely to be poison-users, which would boost their damage.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Zapp » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:20 am

Elfie wrote:By RAW, the only thing Knock Prone prevents you from doing is Running. You can still move, attack, cast spells, etc. I understand that "prone" would seem to imply "on your butt," the only thing the rules explicitly disallow is a Run action.

No, no, no... I see what you got wrong, and I also see you've taken this position before here in the forums, so allow me to go wildly off-top to set the record straight:

Prone doesn't mean anything else in this game than what the english language means by the term, and what virtually every other rpg uses it for. You don't move around and act while still being prone. Prone does not mean "knocked off balance but can still do whatever" (an interpretation you suggested in an old thread on the prepare action).

The difference is that the cost of removing your "prone condition" in this game is rather light. The cost is that you must take a move action that only gives you half of its usual benefits. So the cost is "half of a Move", which in itself, being a minor action, isn't too expensive (to be blunt: it won't make you lose your attack for the round). It does carry the opportunity cost in that you can't take another Minor action that turn (unless you're prepared to use your Major action for it, of course).

The bit about the rules disallowing "run" only means what it actually says: you need to stand up (using move) before you can run. It does not say or mean "you can do everything else but run".

It's not as if you can take a full move by saying "I skip the standing up part". It's not as if "prone" is meant as the slightest inconvenience, like being hit by a magic curse that just gives melee foes +1 to hit you.

Where you're going wrong is that "prone" is never actually defined anywhere within the rules. So let's fall back on common sense here.

Do note that yes, like in other games, you can still elect to stay prone and make attacks, cast spells. Again, the penalties are light (melee opponents get +1 but you get no penalties yourself). This is the specific case I was referring to above: I strongly urge my players to simply soak the cost of being knocked prone, namely having to take the Move action instead of Aim or Activate or whatever they'd rather take.

But that's just me. In general, players should be free to attack and cast spells while being prone.

But as soon as they want to stop being prone, they need to stand up (since "not standing up" pretty much is the definition of prone :-)

A fine difference, I know. But a crucial one! Cheers
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby shonuff » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:35 am

Agreed -- RAW prone could be on the butt, on knees, squatting, lying face-down, etc. Possibly the degree of prone could be settled by the Dragon Die?
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Elfie » Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:31 am

So, I was making an EXTREMELY long post where I was quoting every single reference of Prone in any official GR material as a demonstration that nothing in the rules in any way implies that being prone does anything beyond making you slightly easier to hit and preventing you from running. But even while doing that, I was thinking in my head, "He can always just point out that the rules also don't say that you can't make a cannon out of a tree, that doesn't mean that you can."

But then I got to the spell Grease on page 65 of the Set 2 Players Guide:

You create a slick of grease covering an area up to 10 yards in diameter anywhere within 30 yards of you. Anyone within the slick when it is cast, anyone entering the area, and anyone who moves within the area must make a successful Dexterity (Acrobatics) test against your Spellpower or fall prone at each of those times, as they apply. Prone characters may crawl normally.

Since "crawl" isn't a defined action either, and since it has been demonstrated by other forum members that "crawling fast" nets you about the same speed as "walking normally" (if not better), then not only is it perfectly logical to allow a prone character a full "move" action, but it is also (by way of grease) explicitly stated in the rules.

Will you look silly doing it? Certainly. But can a normal human do it? Yes. And do the rules allow it? Yes.

Now, was that the original intention? Who knows, but it's in the Rules As Written.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby zanwot » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:04 am

First of all, I'll agree with Zapp and congratulate you on both realising your preferences, and sharing your thoughts here in a nevertheless constructive manner.

GroovyTaxi wrote:
Dragon Age isn't all about combat.

Well, after playing both video games, my players and I expected something that was about 50% combat and 50% roleplaying and story-building. The combat rules felt simple to a fault and can hardly allow anything close to the tactical action found in the video games. I don't think simple systems are bad : Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has one of the most simple combat systems I've seen and I absolutely love this game. I think games that simplify to the point where players feel restricted are bad.

Dragon Age (the table top RPG) clearly suffers from some inconsistency relative to combat. On one hand it's light rules and rich setting encourage a more story driven game, less combat focused. And on the other when you look at the class abilities they mostly are limited to combat. Basically everything but the rules gears it towards less combat, while the rules gear it towards combat. The computer game of course does not help, but then it is inevitable that the table top game needs to take some distance from the computer source. I am much more interested in combat on a computer than in a (table top) rpg where there is so much more to get from it. The Rogues are essentially described as backstabing figthers, when everything in the setting suggests the Rogue is the non fighting class. I really see Rogues as the non fighting class, and described them to my players as such.

In any case, given the very light nature of the rules, the rule zero of RPGs becomes more important: The GM must not hesitate to twist the rules to his liking (make some up, get rid of some, and adapt others). Now I know and understand that it feels silly, and that rules are made to be followed. But this is symptomatic of more story driven games, but is true even for a combat orientated game, if it is rules light.

For example, concerning stunts. I think it is a fair and obvious point that if one feels stunts are too unreliable one can make a fix. For example one I would gladly permit to my players if they express any interest in it is to let them declare a stunt before a roll, then increase the TN of the roll and if they succeed they get to do the stunt but don't get any stunt points on the roll.

Concerning yoru concerns of TNs being too low. I agree, but this is actually quite classic in games which try to have a sort of balanced (maybe gritty) heroism to them. I think the point is once the characters are level 5+, they really are champions who are capable of incredible feats, which of course is in contradiction with trying to keep the game bith plausible, consistent and challenging from begining to end. But then again in any level based game the whole level syndrom breaks any real realism for me (what a coincidence, the thieves in this new town are a few levels higher than in the previous town!), so what the hell.

Personaly all these problems are still problematic, but I am not afraid to fix as I go along, even though I try to stay as "by the book" as possible because I have other games for other styles of games. But even if I play by the book I consider the lightness of the rules (and my gaming preferences) mean I need to not limit myself to them.
The rules of DA have the merit of being very accessible and encourage some decent playing, I specifically chose them and the game for a group of newbie players without even having played first the computer game, and I can't say I regret it (although I am starting to feel the itch of making them play another game even though we have not really played much).
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Andferne » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:01 pm

GroovyTaxi wrote:But they don't feel as good as "You attempt to disarm, you succeed". Whenever my players asked me "can I try to push him down the cliff?" or "can I grab and pin him down?", all I could say was "you need to stunt him first". That felt frustrating to the vast majority of players I've played with. It felt like the game was limiting what they could attempt.

This might be my own view on the rules or how we use them. But where does it ever say you can't try to disarm a person or push them off a cliff? Stunts to me are something extra, a bonus for getting lucky. If one of my players wants to try something, then no matter how ridiculous it may be I'll give them the chance. I can easily enough make up the target numbers for said tasks or roll opposing checks.
Now I understand there are no official rules on how to disarm a person either, without the stunt chart. But again nothing says a player cannot attempt this. I have seen side rules saying that a skirmish cannot push a enemy over a ledge and we have seen an optional stunt in Where Eagles Lair for such a move. But nothing ever says you as the player and GM cannot let a player try.

I'm not sure if any of that came worded out correctly. That's how I see things and how we have ran things. It's kept combat far from boring. On one instance two players were on a balcony and the enemies were entering the courtyard. One player propelled down the balcony with his rope while the other held onto it. The player who was now on the ground ran past a incoming guard and wrapped his end of the rope around the enemies neck. The player on the balcony then leaped over the balcony which then drug the guard backwards and then up. Effectively hanging him. Now this took a couple of rounds to pull off but is a moment they still talk about.

If your players want to be creative. Let them! Stunts should be (imo) treated as extra benefits, icing on the cake. Not restricted rules where you can't do something unless you have stunts.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Loswaith » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:45 pm

I work much the same way as Andferne.

Stunts I see as the ancillary effect of combat, kind of like added effects. As an example Knock Prone for instance is a heavy or low blow that happens to trip up the character or make them stumble and fall over.
I think allot of people coming from other systems see the stunts as the actions the other systems use (through no fault of their own, it's just preconceived), so can be confusing.

Though as to actions characters can try to achieve that is not limited to a bunch of actions that all have rules (much like other RPG systems), and anything is possible and its up to the GM to set the difficulties for the individual tasks. Much like you had in older RPG systems without the defined combat actions (not sure if there are any modern games that use that philosophy).

I have also found rogues to do considerable damage (especially when stunting), given they use single handed weapons (typically dual-wielding) and often out strip what the warrior can do (two-handed for a warrior end up much the same). While they can also end up stronger or tougher than the warrior at no expense to their primary stats.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby NickMiddleton » Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:40 am

Whilst I largely agree with Andferne and Loswaith, a house rule just occurred to me that is simpler that the "stunt point pool" idea that's often bandied about AND would let players have more direct control over / have more direct mechanical support for characters actions they choose ...

Deliberate Stunts
Any player can, before they roll the dice, explicitly say they are attempting to generate the effect of specific named stunt: doing so imposes a penalty on their roll of TWICE the stunt point cost. Basically, you can try (through skill / talent) to force things to go your way, but it's harder than waiting for the opening and seizing the opportunity when it presents.

This would probably make combat more dynamic (people would probably be quite willing to choose the -2 and -4 penalty stunts quite often), but the "biggies" (Lightning Attack, up to Lethal Blow) would still be pretty much exclusively from stunt points...

One could even go further and add the following:

Opportunity Stunts
If a player states before they roll the stunt they are going to attempt, and their roll results in stunts points such that they can perform that stunt, they get a bonus of one additional stunt point to use immediately OR a bonus of +1 on one subsequent roll. So characters that plan for specific opportunities get a small reward, which would encourage players to describe what their character is doing without expecting to succeed in full every time - "I'll disarm him if I can."

Cheers,

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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby doycet » Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:31 am

Zapp wrote:
Superior1200 wrote:Call me interested, zapp, I'd love to see your ideas as posted at the bottom of your statement.

Backstab: I renamed the game's backstab into "precise strike" (and "shot" since I allow it at range too). The +2 to hit and +1d6 damage, that is. Then I added a proper worthy-of-the-name backstab that doubles damage against an unawares foe. After armor reduction and so on, but still - damn.


Question about this: if you get the "Precise Strike" under the same conditions as the RAW "backstab" when does your other, upgraded version of Backstab apply? I like the idea, but I want to fully understand how it's implemented.
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Re: Dragon Age RPG feels like a broken mess to me and my pla

Postby Ridrith » Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:23 pm

I can understand the Ops reasoning and I think him moving to the Pathfinder system was probably a good idea. I actually just recently bought the Pathfinder books myself and checked it out. To be perfect honest, I think 3.5-3.75 combat is extremely boring, especially as a fighter. I actually prefer 4th edition.

HOWEVER, I think one of the best things about actually playing these types of tabletop games is the fact that you can edit and change anything you want to make it work for you. I GM for my group of players when ever we take on Dragon Age (we usually run with six-person party.) What have we added to make the game more interesting?

Attacks of opportunity.

At-Will - Encounter - Daily Powers.

"Cinematic Rolls" - Players and the GM both get to use a cinematic roll during combat/RP scenarios. We use these rolls to signify a dramatic change that happens during combat. Most of my players usually try to use these rolls to land an epic killing blow on a large enemy or to do something that will disable them in some way for the rest of the encounter.

New Classes - Converted from Pathfinder/D&D.

New Races - Converted from Pathfinder/D&D.

-------------
You can do ANYTHING to make the game play how you want it to play. Always take that into account, if the game isn't fun then I'd recommend moving onto another system or at the very least modify the current system until it's FUN. That's the entire point of the game, isn't it? To enjoy yourselves while sitting around a table with your buddies.
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