Another really good session, this is a good group I have lucked into. We dealt with the fallout of darkspawn attacking the Orlesian Tournament. It’s still not clear why The Chantry was so gung ho to get their guy Bann Dragwood to this contest but I have not forgotten that is why we had to go. Maybe it was a pretext because the GM wanted to do a tournament. But that’s an ace up the GM’s sleeve, who in the Chantry wanted this to happen and why?
Also note I’m just casually throwing out Dragon Age Lingo. The Chantry is The Church in Dragon Age, Catholic Style Yo. “Bann” is a noble title. In Dragon Age they have Bann, Arl, and Teyrn instead of Baron, Earl, and Duke. Orlais is a France inspired place west of Ferelden, much of the third game takes place there. The people are called Orlesian.
So the Tourney is cancelled on account of “Darkspawn killed several of the competitors.” Good reason there. Everyone on the Tourney Grounds gathers for an announcement. Our party Warrior, who is impersonating Bann Dragwood, is named champion as the survivor who was doing best at the time the shit hit the fan. But as he is being named champ an arrow flies into the Orlesian Grand Duke. With dawning horror, I realize I specifically described how I made sure to take my bow to the gathering. I also specifically described myself waiting atop a grassy knoll to survey the crowd from the back rather than pushing my way to the front. In DMing terms, I could not have set myself up worse and the DM just slammed that home. My Elf Rogue was immediately singled out as the assassin and hauled to the front. Fortunately The King (who made my character a Grey Warden last session) spoke on my behalf. The actual shooter was, of course, Tallis the Qunari Assassin.
After that, we handwaved the trip back to Denerim and were given residence in The Castle. We did some great roleplay with Alistair, Lord Commander of the Templars in Ferelden, and The King, who was the Human Noble character from Dragon Age Origins.
At the end of this the king gave us a mission. Our Warrior was named Teyrn of Highever, a castle/city in Ferelden. Officially, we are to go there and rule. Unofficially, we are to go there and clear it of whatever entities may have taken up there as it has been empty/ruined for six years. We get there, I was expecting broken men, but oh no, it is full of undead. Shit.
There was some heavy RP this session. The way it fell on me was that, my character was formerly a city elf. The lowest of low in Ferelden. Now I’m a Grey Warden and I’m being treated like nobility. I’m also coming into this session having been at work from 6am to 7pm. Now I’m being asked to be confident and assertive with a group of people I don’t know. It me. There is no acting or roleplaying here. This is like Robert Downey Jr. being asked to portray Tony Stark. Not the most challenging task in the world. I’m trying to roleplay meeting the king. He’s like, call me Aedan. And I keep stumbling over my words because I’ve been awake for 17 hours, I’m a little drunk, and I’m not really comfortable with these people yet.
So yeah. Great session. Hopefully aided by my method roleplaying.
This is the first time I’ve been a player in a long while. And I guess when you’re a player you tinker with your character. I try not to but it feel inevitable. Where the hell do I see this character going? I like to make more organic story informed choices when it comes to character advancement. That’s me. Processed food, organic RPG characters. As I’ve said before, Dragon Age gives you more small choices than D&D’s fewer bigger choices. You pick a new skill every level, you get a stat bump every level.
My stat increases are very much locked in. At even levels I’m increasing my Perception and Dexterity. At odd levels I’m increasing my Cunning. This has the effect of giving my character real mechanical weight behind becoming less of a fool over time. Each class has three primary attributes that are boosted at even levels while secondary attributes are boosted at odd levels. And each level you get a new ability focus, a relatively small +2 bonus that really informs what your character values. The problem is that as a Rogue there are a great many Ability Focuses I want in my Primary Attributes from the Dextery, Perception, and Communication family.
So what ability focuses (foci?) does Elhar, City Elf, Denerim Alienage Resident, Rogue, and Grey Warden value? And what ability focuses would be more relatively valued (work that Meta, son) in this game? Right now I have bonuses to Perception (Seeing) and Dexterity (Bows). Ask a character I think I should be looking at Communication (Deception), Perception (Hearing), and Perception (Detect Darkspawn). It would be beneficial for combat to consider Dexterity (Light Blades) and Dexterity (Initiative). But, I have good Dexterity already which can cover to some extent not having a +2 bonus to those things. At some point I will likely take Light Blades. The GM generously told me that Backstabbing with a ranged weapon will be allowed if the target is in melee combat as with 5E D&D’s Rogue. I’ve yet to take advantage of this generosity because I’m worried it will leave me, like all loved things.
Right now I’m weighing Hearing vs. Deception. We seem to have tests versus our hearing, as a group, a lot. And we roll poorly, a lot. But I’m also planning to increase my perception anyways, the stat, which would cover not having an ability focus. I’m not planning to raise my Communication stat, which would make those ability focuses more valuable. Also, at level 4, Rogues get the “Bluff” ability. Normally when one Backstabs, a stealth check is required and you cannot be adjacent to the foe before the attack. With Bluff a Rogue can backstab an adjacent foe by beating them on a Deception check (or Test if we don’t want to get sued by WotC). I think I go Deception. When I was a level three character, my Deception and Hearing tests both got a +2 bonus. As a level four character Deception gets a +4, Hearing gets a +3. Or I can make Deception +2 and Hearing +5. I choose breadth over depth in this case. Of course I could take Light Blades Focus and get that +2 for all melee attacks but where’s the fun in that?
Coming up I’ve also got some choices regarding talents and specializations. Talents are the Dragon Age equivalent of D&D feats. Each one of them has three levels. Specializations are the Dragon Age version of prestige classes but they’re parceled out as Talents. I complained about Talents in a previous post. Namely, I feel a lot of the talents create rules for actions that anyone should be able to attempt within the game’s existing rules. If you want to know, what I mean, listen to Total Party Thrill, episode 47, at around the 5 minute mark. They explain this better than I do. I called out the Animal Training and Contacts talents. Both of them give a player abilities that I think anyone should be able to attempt with skills and RP.
So how many choices do I have? Again, not really thinking past level 9 because, hey, ain’t nobody got time for that. I have three talents to pick between now (level 4) and then. Although if I ditched the Specialization I could have more. I’ll get to that later. So I have three choices to make. One is obvious, The 3rd and final level of the Archery Style. This reduces the cost of the “Lightning Attack” stunt. But I don’t want to take that right away as this is not really a combat-obsessed game. No, I think the next thing I take will be one of the Skill focused talents. Several of them give you a free reroll if you should fail a particular skill. It’s not really “Advantage” in the 5E sense as you don’t get two chances to win, it’s only if you fail.
The most attractive options are “Intrigue” and “Observation” and “Thievery.” Intrigue would give me a reroll on Etiquette checks, which The King told me to improve. Thievery gives a reroll on failed Lock Picking, which I’m probably the only person who can do that well. Observation gives a choice between Empathy and Seeing. I have great Seeing, but the price for failing a Seeing test is a surprise round or Tallis Getting Away With Something.
I realize I could take something just fun like “Carousing” for a bonus to Constitution (Drinking) tests. And we have a good GM, he’d make use of it. I don’t know, maybe later. At the Journeyman level, the “Chirurgy” talent restores hit points. But Dragon Age has something of a hit point bloat. Everyone seems to have vastly more HP than their damage. I might wind up taking Linguistics so I can learn Elven. Another interesting choice would be the Poison-Making Talent which does exactly what it says. The problem with this is that 1) Good poisons are goddamn expensive, not for the low of level. And 2) I’m not sure high level opponents are effected by poison. In 5E D&D every monster and their mom is immune to poison above 10th level. It’s also one of those talents I think anyone should be able to do with skill rolls.
At the end of the day, I’m thinking “Intrigue” or “Thievery” would be the best options right now. We’ll see how this next adventure plays out. As I have a higher Dexterity, I have a better chance at succeeding with Lock Picking without the reroll bonus. So a bonus to Etiquette would have more value.
I said I would discuss Specializations. The closest analog to a Dragon Age Specialization is a 3.5 D&D Prestige Class, a 4E D&D Paragon Path, or a Class Archetype for you 5E newcomers. I have my Rogue. My Rogue is doing their Rogue Shit. Dexterity Stuff, backstabs, you know. But not all Rogues are cut from the same black cloth. 5E D&D has the Rogue but then it has the Assassin, Thief, Mastermind, Swashbuckler, Eldritch Trickster, and soon to be the Inquisitive and Scout. This is like an Archetype but it’s optional and you start getting these features at level 6.
In Dragon Age, my choices are Assassin, Bard, Duelist, Marksman, Ranger, and Shadow. Each specialization is structured like a Talent, Dragon Age’s version of Feats. Each Talent has three levels. Unlike Talents, these are a bit more powerful than talents and all of them have direct combat effects. I’m planning to take the Marksman Specialization, because…well that’s who Elhar is. A character can take two specializations and the Marksman seems to be balanced with the Duelist. The first two talents unlock stunts. At the Novice level, the Skirmish and Knock Prone Stunts become cheaper. At the Journeyman level you gain access to a special stunt called “Volley” that is basically Lightning Attack but with Two Extra Attacks instead of the usual 1. At the Master level, the “Pierce Armor” stunt ignores all armor with a ranged weapon. This is very necessary to damage high level monsters. The Duelist gets the exact same feature with melee weapons.
I think I’ve bored you enough. Tune in next time for me building a character for a 5E RAVENLOFT game I’m joining.