Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

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Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Admiral Yacob » Fri May 11, 2012 6:42 am

Hello all,
So my group is very against the idea of the joining resulting in death (they're not big on the, to use an old 2nd ed term, Save vs. Death or Die system). I decided to create a set of tests/tables to see what will happen if they join and what the potential "side-effects" will be. My logic is looking at the average adventurer which will have a 1 in each stat and basing it on the idea of failing slightly more than half and a threshold high enough to be challenging but not unobtainable, especially considering the bonuses they get for joining. Remember this is instead of the potential of instant death. I'm hoping to get feedback and advice (are things too difficult, too penalizing, too lax, too light, etc). Thanks for the help all.

Also, this was made in Excel with columns and everything so it looks a bit worse here on the forums but I didn't want to host such a small file. Thanks.


Each candidate attempting to join the Gray Wardens must make two advanced tests
Both advanced test allow 4 rolls, have a TN of 12 and a threshold of 14
One is for Constitution (Stamina) and one is for Willpower (Self Discipline)
If successful, no negative side effects, if one fails, reference the correct table below

Constitution (Stamina)
Total Success Points
11-13 Pale skin tone, regardless of sun exposure, No Mechanical Penalty
8-10 Weakened Fortitude and appearance, -1 to Con (Stamina and Running) tests
6-7 Hair loss and pale skin tone, -1 to all Com tests involving appearance
3-5 Scabby appearing skin and hair loss, -1 on Dex (Acrobatics) and Communication tests involving appearance
0-2 Above appearance changes, -2 to all communication tests involving appearance and -1 to Con (Stamina and Running) and Dex (Acrobatics)

Willpower (Self-Discipline)
Total Success Points
11-13 The song is a whisper in your mind, distracting at times but not too powerful
8-10 Dark thoughts and whispers fill your mind, -1 on Willpower (Courage and Faith) tests
6-7 The song is ever present and distracting, -1 to checks in Advanced Cunning tests
3-5 The Darkspawn whisper to you, are you sure you are not meant to be among them? -1 to attack rolls vs darkspawn
0-2 The song fills your thoughts constantly among the whispers, -1 to all Cunning tests, -1 to Willpower (Courage and Faith) and -1 to attack rolls vs darkspawn
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Elfie » Fri May 11, 2012 7:02 am

To me, some of these penalties seem harsher than death, because they're permanently crippling. But if your players would rather play a character with these terrible ailments than risk actually dying, then I guess they work.

Are your players the kind of people who get attached to NPCs? If so, I'd recommend endearing several NPCs to them. Depending on the time you have to set up for this, make these NPCs really important to the PCs personally. Then have those NPCs participant in the joining as well. PCs automatically pass by virtue of being PCs, but NPCs have to follow the much harsher rule of TN 14 roll with no abilities applied. That makes the danger very real, but makes it so the players don't have to keep track of a situational penalty forever.

I speak from experience that a permanent situational penalty is annoying for everyone. For a while I gave everyone a penalty of -1 on all willpower tests where you do not have the focus. It sounds pretty simple, right? But this was so confusing to everyone, we forgot to apply it so often, and it led to so many "wait, when does it apply?" questions, that we all agreed that though it was harsher, we all preferred just a straight up -1 to willpower all the time.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Hellebore » Fri May 11, 2012 7:37 am

Something other than death is always interesting, although I see elfie's point.

In the stuff I've been writing I have this:

A sense of challenge can still be generated by inflicting penalties on a character’s tests or reducing Health for a certain number of days due to the side effects of said ritual/hangover/post traumatic stress from committing your first murder etc. The lead up to the joining of an organisation can also be arduous, presenting the character with difficult tasks rather than a test or die scenario.


If you are concerned with permanent penalties. A post join 'hangover' that lasts for the next adventure or two is probably all you need to get the point across in that respect.

Otherwise I reckon they look good.

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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Guardian of the Peak » Fri May 11, 2012 9:48 am

While they seem a bit harsh at first I think they make the Joining a bit more interesting than, "Drink; Now you either die or don't die." And while the repercussions for failure seem harsh I think that in the end it would give the more in-to-it players more chances for character development as well. Unfortunately for me, only one (perhaps two) of my PCs wanted to become Gray Wardens but it still allowed me to mess with the joining a bit myself. Though I do have a few ideas of my own. For example I had the idea that because of the blight being so strong within one of my players that his spirit was corrupted to the point that he doesn't dream of the Archdemon when he goes through the joining. Instead he is sent to the fade to do battle with his own corrupted spirit in order to see weather he'd live or die. Some might say that that's a bit too high fantasy though. But my Players have been pretty cool with the minor additions and changes I've been adding so far.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby shonuff » Fri May 11, 2012 11:04 am

This also goes along with the magical mishap where you save or become an abomination. Save-or-die penalties work with some groups, but they are not for me. That's not to say I'm against penalties, but IMO PCs shouldn't be dying without the player's input (doing something stupid counts as player input).
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Lynata » Fri May 11, 2012 3:02 pm

Doesn't the game automatically assume all PCs pass the Joining and the test being completely optional? Granted, this coincidence may seem somewhat "cheap" compared to a true risk like it exists in the background, yet it's no different to how the CRPG handled it. In my opinion, substituting death with penalties of any sort would lessen the Joining's "extremism", as it has always been described in a "you live or you die" way with absolutely nothing in-between. That being said, I'm very conservative in terms of setting consistency, so if everyone in your group thinks this would be a better way to handle it ...

Alternatively, simply do it without any tests and - to keep the Joining's air of danger alive - have some NPCs partake in the ritual, out of whom some will die. With any luck, not everyone in the group wants to take the Grey Warden class (as without the risk of dying as its only drawback, its bonuses become somewhat of a no-brainer to take), but if they do, perhaps you can work a large-scale Joining ritual into your campaign where your players will travel to Weisshaupt Fortress where a hundred new Wardens will be inducted into the Order to combat the Blight. This gives you the opportunity to keep the ratio of survivors.
Or, if you want to keep it small, have the NPCs partaking in your group's Joining ritual how rare it is that so many candidates make it. It could be played up as "the Maker's blessing" or something like that.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby shonuff » Fri May 11, 2012 9:01 pm

Lynata wrote:Granted, this coincidence may seem somewhat "cheap" compared to a true risk like it exists in the background, yet it's no different to how the CRPG handled it.


IMO, it's a better option than losing a character over 1 roll.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby 5trangeCase » Sat May 12, 2012 2:39 am

Do the bag of white stones test.

Get a black pouch. Fill it with white stones. Then you can do any number of things: just put a black stone in there and throw a 1 in 200 chance to your players; say there are a number of black stones in there and if they pull one out they die or if you are skilled in sleight of hand, appear to put one (or more, depending how deft you are) black stone in there but don't actually put it in. Then have your Joining folk pull stones from the bag. White means live, black means die.

Scares players suitably. If they are cunning/have seen it before, learn sleight of hand so it looks really convincingly like you have actually put a black stone in there.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Bardwulf » Sat May 12, 2012 2:43 am

If they want the free bonus that comes with being a GW, they're gonna risk dying in my game.

I'm thinking of something along the lines of 3D6 roll.
16-18 is automatic death.
maybe something like 13-15 is Constitution stamina or willpower self discipline versus an appropriate TN to not die.
And 1-12 being fine.

Just a rough figure on the spot.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Hellebore » Sat May 12, 2012 3:06 am

My problem with the concept isn't the chance of dying per se.

I just see it devolving into this:

PC wants to be a grey warden, GM allows but only if they roll.
PC dies. Player creates new character that wants to be a Grey Warden.
PC dies. Player creates new character that wants to be a Grey Warden.
PC dies. Player creates new character that wants to be a Grey Warden.
PC dies. Player creates new character that wants to be a Grey Warden.
PC dies. Player creates new character that wants to be a Grey Warden.
PC dies. Player creates new character that wants to be a Grey Warden.
PC dies. Player creates new character that wants to be a Grey Warden.
PC lives. Player is now playing a grey warden.

Now the above obviously doesn't follow the actual probability. But whether they die or not the first time or the first 50 times, if the PC WANTS TO BE A GREY WARDEN then they will keep making characters until they are.

Now imagine 4 PCs that all want to be grey wardens.

In then end it just seems like the GM allows you to be a grey warden, or they don't. Letting the dice fall in this regard seems like too much hard work...Bards Suck.

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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Bardwulf » Sat May 12, 2012 3:18 am

If every character wants to be a GW, that's just the player failing to make his characters vary from who he is. This is a roleplaying game. If we want to go around bashing things until loot falls out as ourselves, we can play computer games for that.

I'm lucky I guess in that regard that my party won't want to do that very thing with every character. But someone who does, I would limit the amount of opportunities each of their newly rolled characters get. it's not like they can be anywhere in the world and just press a grey warden button after all. They have to be somewhere with Grey Wardens where a joining attempt is plausible. Miss that and you'll have to wait until another comes.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Hellebore » Sat May 12, 2012 4:13 am

Sure, but the GM is in control of those opportunities. In the end you are still basically dictating whether they can be one or not. Giving players a character limit on chances to be a grey warden isn't much different from denying/allowing them to be one. There's nothing stopping a player saying that they decide to go looking for grey wardens to become one, so it stil comes back to whether you want them to be one or not.

I just think in these circumstances, it would be simpler to tell players at the beginning that they can or can't be one. You can still put interesting obstacles/penalties in there to reinforce the difficulty of becoming one, but the PCs will either end up as one or not. How people justify it to themselves doesn't change the outcome, which is an either/or situation.


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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Lynata » Sat May 12, 2012 6:34 am

Bardwulf wrote:If every character wants to be a GW, that's just the player failing to make his characters vary from who he is. This is a roleplaying game. If we want to go around bashing things until loot falls out as ourselves, we can play computer games for that. [...] it's not like they can be anywhere in the world and just press a grey warden button after all.
Not to mention that few characters should even want to be Grey Wardens. There's a reason the Order is small and prefers to recruit from prisoners "these" days.

I'm not ruling it out for my current character (would depend on the circumstances I reckon), but my previous one - a City Elf rogue - would've flipped 'em a finger if they'd asked her. :P
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Guardian of the Peak » Sat May 12, 2012 8:57 am

shonuff wrote:Save-or-die penalties work with some groups, but they are not for me.


You and me both. I for one enjoy setting up a challenging game, fun encounters, and an interesting story for my players, but I hate instant death traps and circumstances. Another perfect example is the poison making mishap where your tools explode and you instantly die. I hate cheap deaths and seriously, how anti-climactic would it be for a powerful hero to be brewing an acid flask or something only for his apparatus to explode and blow him into chunky salsa?
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Loswaith » Sat May 12, 2012 10:28 pm

I personaly (like others) see that becoming a Grey Warden is more a story aspect, and thuly inthe control of the GM anyway. If there is some reason for the character to become a Grey Warden (or have the oppertunity to become one) it generaly means the story itself has a certain bent to what is going on, and there is likely a reason for it to be available. To me they dont seem the kind of organisation to just accept any individual off the street.

So given that I dont see any real penality to just letting characters make it through the joining.

However at the end of the day its more about what works for an individual group. If the alternate rules work for your group then by all means use them.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Zapp » Mon May 14, 2012 3:07 am

Loswaith wrote:To me they dont seem the kind of organisation to just accept any individual off the street.

They do however accept individuals that later on die from the Joining. In fact, they even slaughter individuals that change their minds about taking the test. Messily.

So I'm not so sure about that. They can screen applicants for courage and valor in battle, but they can't screen for what's really important; how your system (and mind) handles the Joining.

Unless you accept that your PC is "more" than a regular NPC - like the game - it seems hard to remain faithful to the source material's depiction of the Joining without having an uncontrollable, unpredictable save vs death (and possibly a Morale check just beforehand)...
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Bardwulf » Mon May 14, 2012 8:45 am

Hellebore wrote:Sure, but the GM is in control of those opportunities. In the end you are still basically dictating whether they can be one or not. Giving players a character limit on chances to be a grey warden isn't much different from denying/allowing them to be one. There's nothing stopping a player saying that they decide to go looking for grey wardens to become one, so it stil comes back to whether you want them to be one or not.

I just think in these circumstances, it would be simpler to tell players at the beginning that they can or can't be one. You can still put interesting obstacles/penalties in there to reinforce the difficulty of becoming one, but the PCs will either end up as one or not. How people justify it to themselves doesn't change the outcome, which is an either/or situation.


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If they go looking for one, it had better be out of Fereldan, because there's not many in the land, as we know.
I'm not talking about denying them being one. I'm just on about making their newly made character wait until a new opportunity arises.

I'd love my players to try becoming them. Only some of them will die, sometimes :yar:
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Bardwulf » Mon May 14, 2012 8:48 am

Loswaith wrote:I personaly (like others) see that becoming a Grey Warden is more a story aspect, and thuly inthe control of the GM anyway. If there is some reason for the character to become a Grey Warden (or have the oppertunity to become one) it generaly means the story itself has a certain bent to what is going on, and there is likely a reason for it to be available. To me they dont seem the kind of organisation to just accept any individual off the street.

So given that I dont see any real penality to just letting characters make it through the joining.

However at the end of the day its more about what works for an individual group. If the alternate rules work for your group then by all means use them.


Definitely. I as a GM would for sure consider letting a fun player (if it's just one of the party) who wants to be a GW, off the hook. This would be selfish reasons, which is good. GM's have to be selfish and reward the players that entertain them. Conversely, they should also punish or ignore those that don't until they learn.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Loswaith » Mon May 14, 2012 5:07 pm

Zapp wrote:
Loswaith wrote:To me they dont seem the kind of organisation to just accept any individual off the street.

They do however accept individuals that later on die from the Joining. In fact, they even slaughter individuals that change their minds about taking the test. Messily.

So I'm not so sure about that. They can screen applicants for courage and valor in battle, but they can't screen for what's really important; how your system (and mind) handles the Joining.

Unless you accept that your PC is "more" than a regular NPC - like the game - it seems hard to remain faithful to the source material's depiction of the Joining without having an uncontrollable, unpredictable save vs death (and possibly a Morale check just beforehand)...


While they accept individuals, they typically would have some screening process . I cant realy see the grey wardens accepting someone they think will fail the joining, as thats not particularly efficient. They also cant be certain that someone will pass it, so they do loose recruits they think have a good chance to pass the joining in the process (atleast thats my take in it).

There is the underlying notion that though a PC is inherently 'more' because they are a protagonist (be it a computer game or tabletop one or even a novel/movie). It doesnt always mean they are any better/worse than anyone else in the world. They are just a bit more touched by the hand of fate (the GM/designer/author), so to speak.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby shonuff » Mon May 14, 2012 8:06 pm

Zapp wrote: it seems hard to remain faithful to the source material's depiction of the Joining without having an uncontrollable, unpredictable save vs death (and possibly a Morale check just beforehand)...


IMO, that's going a little too far. Why not have a Morale check whenever PCs go into battle then? Becoming a Grey Warden should typically involve a detailed and lengthy quest series... finding the GWs, attracting their notice, etc. Finishing that with a save-or-die roll is really anti-climactic.

One of the problems with DA is that death is pretty much perma-death. IMO, perma-death without player consent is a good way to lose players and cause problems.

It depends on the group dynamic/goal, though. Some campaigns are more free-form, some are more tactical war game, and some are more narrative-based.

Loswaith wrote: While they accept individuals, they typically would have some screening process . I cant realy see the grey wardens accepting someone they think will fail the joining, as thats not particularly efficient. They also cant be certain that someone will pass it, so they do loose recruits they think have a good chance to pass the joining in the process (atleast thats my take in it).


That, and from what Alistair says in DA:O, the Joining is not that fatal. Granted, 2/3 die in DA:O, but what? 5/6 live in Awakening.

Loswaith wrote:There is the underlying notion that though a PC is inherently 'more' because they are a protagonist (be it a computer game or tabletop one or even a novel/movie). It doesnt always mean they are any better/worse than anyone else in the world. They are just a bit more touched by the hand of fate (the GM/designer/author), so to speak.


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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Zapp » Wed May 16, 2012 5:39 am

shonuff wrote:
Zapp wrote: it seems hard to remain faithful to the source material's depiction of the Joining without having an uncontrollable, unpredictable save vs death (and possibly a Morale check just beforehand)...


IMO, that's going a little too far. Why not have a Morale check whenever PCs go into battle then? Becoming a Grey Warden should typically involve a detailed and lengthy quest series... finding the GWs, attracting their notice, etc. Finishing that with a save-or-die roll is really anti-climactic.

You seem to have misunderstood.

I'm not suggesting anything. I'm commenting on the mechanism as given. Essentially I'm saying "the task is not easy".

And the bit about Morale presupposed its use for NPCs only*. I was thinking about codifying a way to make nervous NPCs run off (and possibly be brutally cut down) like in the CRPG.

I'm certainly saying anything that would oppose the idea that becoming a Grey Warden should involve a detailed and lengthy quest...

*) or, if you will, that player characters also take these Tests, but always auto-succeed.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby shonuff » Wed May 16, 2012 1:39 pm

Zapp wrote: I'm not suggesting anything. I'm commenting on the mechanism as given. Essentially I'm saying "the task is not easy".


Ah, I see. I just think the mechanism as given is really weak sauce. :)

Zapp wrote:And the bit about Morale presupposed its use for NPCs only*. I was thinking about codifying a way to make nervous NPCs run off (and possibly be brutally cut down) like in the CRPG.


Yeah, that totally makes sense. IMO, that's the way the possible lethality of the Joining is shown -- an NPC can fail the test and then further NPCs would make a morale check. It could be especially interesting if the NPC was an attache of the group from close to its inception.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Lynata » Wed May 16, 2012 4:34 pm

shonuff wrote:Ah, I see. I just think the mechanism as given is really weak sauce. :)
Well - by default you're not even supposed to use any mechanism. The optional rules for PCs testing the Joining are already unrealistically tweaked in favour of the players.

I mean, you're already allowed to just say "everyone makes it" if you dislike the idea of PCs dying this way. I think this remains the most elegant solution, for everything else would change the nature of the Joining itself. Personally, I'd argue that this would be detrimental to the setting as a whole.

Matter of preferences, tho. I'm pretty hardcore when it comes to setting consistency. ;)
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby shonuff » Wed May 16, 2012 5:49 pm

The Joining isn't supposed to be that fatal, though. Alistair is surprised, after all that 2 died in the Warden's Joining, and 5 of 6 survive during Awakening.

Lynata wrote:
shonuff wrote:Ah, I see. I just think the mechanism as given is really weak sauce. :)
Well - by default you're not even supposed to use any mechanism. The optional rules for PCs testing the Joining are already unrealistically tweaked in favour of the players.


I thought the RAW was a roll of some sort. Of course, everything can be house-ruled.
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Re: Gray Wardens and Alternate Penalties

Postby Lynata » Wed May 16, 2012 8:51 pm

shonuff wrote:The Joining isn't supposed to be that fatal, though. Alistair is surprised, after all that 2 died in the Warden's Joining, and 5 of 6 survive during Awakening.
Well, going by the infobox in Set 2, the survival rate is only about 25%-33%, meaning that in average two out of three or three out of four prospective Wardens die. That's quite fatal.

This is also how I remember it from the games; I don't recall Duncan giving an "oshit"-face or Alistair believing so many deaths to be uncommon. Of course my memory regarding such details isn't entirely reliable, but Alistair could just as well have been told a pile of shit considering they still wanted him to drink. And I do not mean malicious lies - but everything can be played down when it comes to morale.

shonuff wrote:I thought the RAW was a roll of some sort. Of course, everything can be house-ruled.
You're right on this; I misremembered. :oops:

That said, the RAW is still rather generous - it's a 2.77% chance the player might die.
So it probably boils down to whether you think whether your players should at least be a little afraid of their characters or not. Unlike combat situations, which may have a much higher fatality risk yet, a Joining is decided in but a single roll. In my opinion, this in itself serves to underline the gravity of this decision, though.
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