I have started a new Dragon Age campaign. This is the Green Ronin ruleset for the Thedas setting. I set out to lovingly rip-off Curse of Strahd with a trip to the Fade. But today, three sessions in and over a month since I initially met these folks, I took a step back and saw trying to redo Curse of Strahd/Mark of Mercy in a new negative light.
With regard to those two games I have become the stereotypical high school jock. I want to bask in that D&D game that went pretty well two years ago and made me feel smart and good about myself. I want to re-live the glory days. It took me until now to see what I was doing and now this Dragon Age game feels sour. Christ, no wonder I can’t get off my ass and write Eberron content. My D&D brain is still trapped in this little snowglobe realm where I am the tragic invincible magic vampire warlord.
My original idea might not have been original but it was good and in keeping with the spirit of Dragon Age. It is basically the same as The Blackmarsh plot from Dragon Age: Awakening except I put a spin on it. What if, a group of demons took a group of people into the Fade to kind of feed off their negative emotions for a good long while?
In Awakening, this Orlesian noble called The Baroness frees these people from a Dragon but then starts killing them to keep her youth. It is a very Bathory/Ravenloft inspired. Eventually she drags their souls into The Fade until the player happens by. The Player kills a fuckton of wolves and werewolves (again very Barovia). A Darkspawn, called The First, traps the party in the Fade but gets sucked in himself as well. The party meets up with a Spirit of Justice who urges them to oppose the Baroness. The party either allies with the Baroness or Justice to get out of this shithole plane. When they return to the physical realm, the Baroness comes with them and turns into a Pride Demon and attacks. Then later she turns into a Spectral Dragon for some reason.
A bunch of demons keeping a really horrible person in the Fade to milk for emotions is very Dragon Age. The moral quandary comes in when you realize this horrible person is also torturing a bunch of innocent souls for his jollies. Do you take steps to end this whole thing? What if ending it means the demons escape? This was the exact problem from Curse of Strahd/Mark of Mercy. Another thing I thought would be clever but was wholly unoriginal was having one of the Tevinter Magisters, like Corypheus or The Architect, be hiding out in this fade. Either the Priest of Night or the Priest of Mystery, both would be appropriate. Coming into this game I really wanted to use The Architect, I think it’s a cool NPC.
I think even though they’re unoriginal these would be some cool ideas for a high level Dragon Age campaign. This doesn’t really work though for a bunch of people who have never played Dragon Age before, like my group. Trying to pose them to a beginner group is a naked attempt to recapture the good old days. What I should do instead is drop these hooks of what might happen and give them something in the real world to follow up on then get them out of the Fade in 2-3 sessions. My problem with that and in writing something more original is that I’m still struggling to really understand these characters. A big part of that is attendance. We’ve had 3 sessions now with two players who’ve attended all of them. I offered to run for the two of them last time and I normally prefer smaller groups but I think you really need a minimum of three people and a GM for it to feel like a proper game. If you don’t know who’s going to show up you can’t write for them. Maybe that’s not a dealbreaker with too many people but it is with too few.
So, I see the kind of error of my ways and I’m going to try and get on a different course.