My Dragon Age review

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

My Dragon Age review

Postby bushido11 » Wed Dec 09, 2009 7:39 pm

This is a capsule review for the Player's Guide for Dragon Age. It's pretty long, just letting you know. It's my first time doing a review and I'd like feedback as to what I can and can't say in reviews, as well as how I can improve.

http://ronwisegamgee.blogspot.com/2009/ ... ayers.html
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Re: My Dragon Age review

Postby joela » Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:45 pm

bushido11 wrote:This is a capsule review for the Player's Guide for Dragon Age.


Exactly what I was lookin' for. Thanks!
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My 5-sentence review

Postby jstark » Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:49 pm

I think this game is good for an intro in RPG in general, but otherwise not that perfect. Considering that most of the information (history, characters, etc) were already ready (i suppose, from Bioware), there is very little that has been added to the game overall. I cannot judge the game system yet, and i don't think it matters to me that much, not at the moment. But i don't think the general information about the DA world, characters, cultures etc, justifies the title 'RPG' for this game. Sorry. It feels like a fast play game, at least to me. I don't like difficult-to-read RPGs like some of WW games. But there is more info in the Computer Game than in the two books. No offence to anyone. Just a personal opinion.
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Re: My 5-sentence review

Postby Batgirl III » Fri Dec 11, 2009 3:43 pm

jstark wrote:I think this game is good for an intro in RPG in general, but otherwise not that perfect. Considering that most of the information (history, characters, etc) were already ready (i suppose, from Bioware), there is very little that has been added to the game overall. I cannot judge the game system yet, and i don't think it matters to me that much, not at the moment. But i don't think the general information about the DA world, characters, cultures etc, justifies the title 'RPG' for this game. Sorry. It feels like a fast play game, at least to me. I don't like difficult-to-read RPGs like some of WW games. But there is more info in the Computer Game than in the two books. No offence to anyone. Just a personal opinion.


No offense taken, but I do want to voice my disagreement here. Most of the role-playing games I've played over the years (and I go back to Chainmail) have been utterly devoid of "information about the ... world, characters, cultures[,] etc[.]"

From moldy oldies like AD&D2e, to slick and modern titles, like Burning Wheel, to perennial favorites like Mutants & Masterminds or Traveller, to ancient artifacts like Chainmail and Basic D&D. Good games do not necessarily have to have worlds within...

On another point, DARPG contains a fair amount of "fluff" for a game of its present page count. That said, the Bioware game, licensed strategy guide, and two(three?) novels published to date do contain quite a bit more. (Believe me, on this, I've retyped the entire Codex from the console game!) But so what?

One of the best selling licensed role-playing games of all time, West End Games' Star Wars contained roughly ten or twelve pages, total, of original setting information in a 200+ page book... and almost nothing about the plot, setting, or world that was shown in the films. People bought Star Wars because they liked, knew, and remembered Star Wars...

I expect much the same for DARPG.
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Postby discuit » Fri Dec 11, 2009 3:52 pm

The 2 novels are awesome, i hope there is a 3rd, i really do. :)

Just saying. ;)
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Postby Zapp » Fri Dec 11, 2009 3:54 pm

I generally like generic world-less rpgs less than rpgs with deep ties to a specific game world.

That Box 1 doesn't replicate the full lore wikia of Dragon Age is only to be expected.

Instead I view the crpg as a (great) boon for Dragon Age the pnp rpg; the computer game is a great resource to draw from.

This is obviously the plan - for the pnprpg and crpg to benefit from each other. Expecting not to feel the slightest temptation to play the crpg after reading the Box 1 stuff is unreasonable, in my opinion. They were designed to draw in customers to each other after all.
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Re: My Dragon Age review

Postby gamedave » Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:29 pm

bushido11 wrote:This is a capsule review for the Player's Guide for Dragon Age. It's pretty long, just letting you know. It's my first time doing a review and I'd like feedback as to what I can and can't say in reviews, as well as how I can improve.


I liked the review. Informative and a professional level of writing.
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Postby gamedave » Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:31 pm

It is, as you note, kind of long though. I think you might want to cut back on the detail a little - you go into a bit more depth than is necessary to make your points. Also, given the length, I don't think it can really be considered a "capsule" review.
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Postby gamedave » Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:33 pm

Edit: don't bother with the link below, which I didn't realize required a log in. I copy and pasted my thoughts a few posts down in this thread.

Below is a link to my (much more informal) review, which I posted to my gaming group's message board (it's the sixth post down in the thread):

http://nerd2nerd.proboards.com/index.cg ... 765&page=1

I obviously had a different reaction to the game than you did.
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Postby Ryngard » Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:10 pm

I'm been playing RPGs for over 20 years now. I LOVE Dragon Age RPG!

It reminds me of the simpler times of old as well as fast paced epic gaming! I'm very pleased with the product.

I think it is the kick in the pants my gaming group needed. I'm tired of the overly complex games (D&D I'm looking at you). I don't need all that stuff. I love Fereldan and this RPG captures the feel of the game, gives us something new (system wise) and for us aging adults, the simplicity is a boon.

Thanks GR!
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Postby bushido11 » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:24 pm

gamedave wrote:It is, as you note, kind of long though. I think you might want to cut back on the detail a little - you go into a bit more depth than is necessary to make your points. Also, given the length, I don't think it can really be considered a "capsule" review.


Good point. I do tend to get carried away and explain myself at length. As for calling it a "capsule" review, I used the term without really knowing what it meant (other than "not a playtest" review). I'm in the middle of typing up the GM guide review (and again working on making it more concise).

For those who found my review informative, I'm glad to have provided such a service.
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Postby Zapp » Sat Dec 12, 2009 1:06 am

gamedave wrote:Below is a link to my (much more informal) review, which I posted to my gaming group's message board (it's the sixth post down in the thread):

http://nerd2nerd.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=765&page=1

I obviously had a different reaction to the game than you did.

Sorry, clicking on the link greets me with a login page.

Please consider not linking to registering-required sites; I'm certainly not going to bother registering just to read your review.

Why not simply copy and paste your review here directly instead? That way, you'll additionally avoid any suspicions you're trying to increase the web traffic to that site.
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Postby gamedave » Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:44 am

Zapp wrote:Sorry, clicking on the link greets me with a login page.

Please consider not linking to registering-required sites; I'm certainly not going to bother registering just to read your review.

Why not simply copy and paste your review here directly instead? That way, you'll additionally avoid any suspicions you're trying to increase the web traffic to that site.


Sorry about that. I thought that part of the message board didn't require registration to access.

Copy & paste below:

The PDF bundle covers the three elements of the boxed set: a Player's Guide, a Game Master's Guide, and a map. I like boxed sets; they've fallen out of favor in the RPG industry, so it was nice to see an old school set (the actual boxed set also includes 3d6). Too bad the contents aren't very good. Well, ok, the map's nice.

The Player's Guide is a 64 page booklet. Chapter One covers the game world, concentrating, as in the video game, on the nation of Ferelden. There's actually more world info on the Dragon Age wiki, but this is a decent, brief introduction and overview for players.

Chapter Two covers character creation, Chapter 3 covers focuses and talents (basically, skills and feats), Chapter 4 covers weapons and gear, Chapter Five covers magic, and Chapter Six covers the game system.

The game system design is...interesting. DA: O the video game (hereafter VG) is, of course, itself an RPG, with its own game system. Now, the game engine of a computer game doesn't necessarily translate to a pen & paper game very well. In particular, a computer game can instantaneously make complicated calculations which would make a pen & paper (hereafter P&P) game a nightmare to play, so some changes from the video game version are only to be expected.

The designer, however, decided to simply go with an altogether different game system, and bolt on some elements of the VG. It's obvious from the designer's notes on the Green Ronin website that the designer had been kicking around ideas for an intro-level fantasy RPG for a while, and saw a chance to use them when Green Ronin obtained the license for DA: O. I understand both motivations. I still think it was a mistake. Gamers coming to P&P RPGs for the first time through DA: O, in particular, are likely to be disappointed, since the P&P game system doesn't really resemble the VG system.

OK, enough with the editorializing, and on to the system. It's pretty basic and straight-forward. Roll 3d6. Add the applicable Ability Score (which range from -2 to +4). If you have an appropriate Ability Focus (skill), add +2. Try to hit the target number. I actually like simple systems like this, although the binary "don't have a skill"/"have a skill system", with no indication of skill level bugs me a bit. Particularly since in the video game, skills do have levels. If this were a stand-alone system, I think I would view it as an interesting pass at a fantasy RPG that might be worth trying out. My only quibble with this part of the game is that it is so different from the system in the VG, which seemed to actually be pretty close to a gameable P&P RPG.

Character creation is where the game really falls down. To begin with, instead of the six origins from the VG (Circle Mage, Dwarf Commoner, Dwarf Noble, Dalish Elf, City Elf, Human Noble), the P&P has Apostate, Avvarri Tribesman, Circle Mage, City Elf, Dalish Elf, Ferelden Freeman, and Surface Dwarf. Adding the Apostate Origin, so you can play a non-Circle mage, ala Morrigan, was a good idea, as was adding the Avvarri Tribesman and Ferelden Freeman, to give humans more options, and adding Surface Dwarf certainly makes a lot of sense, since they seem far more likely to go adventuring on the surface. But getting rid of Dwarf Commoners and Nobles, and Human Nobles, seems like a poor idea. A P&P RPG should be a chance to expand on the options available in a scripted VG, not to restrict them. But I can live with this decision.

A P&P RPG seems like a perfect opportunity to add origins, such as characters from Orlais (Leliana), Antiva (Zevran), or the Tevintyr Imperium, or qunari characters (Sten). Certainly, you should be able to recreate, more or less, the main characters from the VG. But no. Apparently, these options are being reserved for future books. I understand the reasoning, but it's still disappointing.

Just like in the VG, background adds bonuses to the character, in terms of Ability Scores and Focuses (skills), and you also get two randomly determined benefits. Kind of cool.

The P&P has more Ability Scores than the VG, adding Communication and Perception to Dexterity, Strength, Constitution, Cunning, Magic, and Willpower. I'm actually OK with that. In a full-fledged P&P RPG, the VG version of Cunning, which covered perception, social interaction, intelligence, and guile, would be an overpowered stat, so splitting off perception and communication is a good design decision. As previously noted, Ability Scores range from -2 to +4. Again, I don't agree with the idea to go with a completely new game system, but I don't really have any issues with the system itself.

BTW, the game definitely goes old school here, as you actually roll randomly for stats. At least you roll on a weighted chart, so the "average" character is above average. I think random roll systems have both advantages and disadvantages, which I won't go into here, so I won't fault the game here. Too much. It is an odd decision, given that the VG has entirely determined stats with no randomness at all, but that presumably goes back to the designer having had a lot of the system worked out before it was turned into the DA: O licensed game. It would have been nice to have at least had a point-buy option, though.

There are three classes, Mage, Rogue, and Warrior, just like in the VG. So far, so good. Each class gives the character certain powers and abilities, similar to what's in the game. Each level gives the character more hit points, and new abilities and bonuses, which vary from class to class and level to level. That's kind of cool, and somewhat similar to how leveling works in the VG. But only the first five levels are provided! Talk about old school! This is the D&D Basic Set!

The original D&D Basic Set was really designed as an introduction to role-playing, with the expectation that players would "graduate" to AD&D, although its simplified version of the D&D rules proved so popular it was eventually expanded into a full-fledged RPG in its own right.

This boxed set, however, is not billed as an introduction to roleplaying. It is billed as the Dragon Age: Origins pen & paper RPG. Apparently, further sets will include rules for character advancement beyond fifth level. In today's game market, this is frankly inexcusable.

Yeah, D&D requires three hardbacks just for the core rules, but WotC is completely upfront about that, and those three books were available simultaneously, and comprised a complete, if somewhat circumscribed, game. You don't actually need any of the other books or the website to play a full D&D campaign. You will need at least one expansion set, possibly several, to play a full DA: O campaign.

I honestly feel cheated.

So, back to the game.

The P&P system replaces the VG's skills and talents with Ability Focuses and Talents. The Ability Focuses are basically standard P&P RPG stat-linked skills, except that they don't have levels. You either have a Focus (and a +2 bonus) or you don't. As I stated before, I don't really like this approach, but it's not a deal-breaker for me.

The Talents are actually similar to the Talent trees from the VG, and overall I like them. They cover various fighting styles (adding Single Weapon, Thrown Weapon, and Unarmed to the VG's Archery, Dual Weapon, Two-Handed, and Weapon and Shield) and magical styles (using the VG's Creation, Entropy, Primal, and Spirit styles), several skill-like abilities, such as Horsemanship and Lore, as well as abilities other games tend to treat as advantages, such as Contacts.

All of the Talents have two listed levels, Novice and Journeyman, implying the existence of at least one more level, Master, presumably to be revealed in the "advanced" set(s). Again, me no like incomplete game. The Talents do, however, somewhat mollify me as to the "skill/no-skill" dichotomy. Apparently, different Talent levels measure different skill levels, even though Ability Focuses superficially more closely resemble traditional RPG skills. The Talents themselves are similar to D&D-style feats, granting various special abilities and maneuvers at different levels, rather than simple numeric bonuses.

Magic is actually quite similar to the VG, with the character spending mana points to cast spells, and with all of the spells being derived from the VG and working quite similarly. But there are only 18 spells! Raagh! Incomplete game! Presumably, the "advanced set(s)" or the mage splat book will have more magic options.

The weapons & gear chapter is short and simple. It has all of the basic gear you'd expect in a generic fantasy RPG. And if this was still the generic fantasy RPG the designer apparently began with, that'd be fine. But it's not. A major part of the flavor of the VG is the distinctive gear you can acquire, such as the seven tiers of materials for weapons and armor, or the race-specific items. I want sexy two-piece Dalish leather armor for my female characters, dammit! The gear is certainly gameable, but nothing about it says "Dragon Age: Origins." The feel of a game can be just as important as the mechanics - for a licensed product, maybe even more so. And the gear ain't got no feel.

The GM's Guide is unexceptionable. It has basic, and fairly solid, generic GMing advice, as well as advice on running a specifically DA: O campaign. That last is quite brief, but also quite valuable. It does a fairly good job of defining what DA: O is, and how it differs from other fantasy settings. It actually probably should have been placed in the Player's Guide, since it's at least as valuable to players as it is to GMs, and it should have been expanded.

The GMG also has some additional advanced rules options, such as traps, terrain, and hazards, and advice and tips on running the system. As with the generic advice, this part is fairly solid, but not exceptional.

Finally, the GMG includes a short chapter of adversaries. Again, as this is an incomplete game, it only includes a basic smattering of monsters and foes. Actually, not even really basic. The VG, of course, focuses on battling Darkspawn, but only the two most basic types, the stock Genlock and Hurlock, are included. And no, not Genlock as in "Genlock, Genlock Archer, Genlock Emissary, and Genlock Alpha", just Genlock. That's just bad game design. Your first fight with Darklings in the VG you're fighting more than that. Even accepting that this is the "basic" game, if you can't even recreate a basic fight from the VG...ugh. I guess maybe you're just supposed to play through the P&P equivalent of the "origin" segment of the VG, before you run into the Darklings. But really? No ogres? Which feature prominently in the VG, the promotional material for the game, and the artwork of the P&P itself? If you don't even include a write-up in the GMG for the monster featured on the cover of the GMG...ugh.

Oh, yeah, and there's a handful of fairly generic items, which, apart from the lesser healing and lyrium potions, don't match any items I remember from the game.

Finally, there's a twenty-page (out of a total of 64 pages of GMG!) adventure, which I haven't read through yet. In an introductory boxed set, there needs to be an introductory adventure, but it also needs to be in its own booklet, not taking up nearly 1/3 of the Gamemaster's Guide. I guess not putting it in its own booklet saves some production costs, but 1/3 of the GMG devoted to an adventure that you will only use once...ugh.

BTW, you may have noticed I haven't mentioned Gray Wardens, the focus of the VG. That's because you can't play them! At least not with the "basic" set; apparently, rules for them will be included in an upcoming expansion. Ugh.

I can accept using an entirely new game system, instead of adapting the VG's system, even though I think it was a poor decision. I can get around the fact that you can't even recreate the party from the VG...barely. I might even, maybe, be willing to live with the fact that this is only a "basic", introductory set, not a full game. But, taking all of that together, particularly the last two...ugh. Just ugh.
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Postby Fierce » Sat Dec 12, 2009 9:15 am

Great review Bushido! I for one liked all the details. Looking forward to your GM-section review :)
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Postby Radioactive Ape Colin » Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:08 am

Here's my compiled run-through of the set from RPG.net. I'd been watching this with great interest since GR revealed it was intended to be an introductory set in the spirit of BECMI D&D quite some time ago.

Been steadily working my way through the pdf, so I'll start with the Players Guide:

66 pages is a nice size for an introductory Players Guide, especially one aimed at being clear and non-intimidating to newbies.

Introduction: As you'd expect the first few pages are devoted to explaining roleplaying, providing an example of play, and also talks about the group dynamic. This is followed by an explanation of the core system mechanic, dice conventions, and an overview of the chapters in the PG. So, very much what you'd expect of such an rpg, and that's not remotely a bad thing.

Chapter 1: The 9 pages of this chapter includes two half-page full colour maps of Ferelden, and a solid, basic overview of the setting in the remaining eight pages. Broad strokes as you'd expect, with short specific subsections of the Ferelden outlook, nobility, commoners, the chantry, mages and magic, dwarves, elves, dogs, and general life. Enough to inspire some ideas and give a very basic grounding while avoiding swamping a prospective new gamer with detail.

Chapter 2: Talks about concepting and the abilities, then gets on with creation. Ability-gen is 3d6 random, but it's a bellcurve that uses a table to create a limited range of -2 to 4, with 1 being average, the results being deliberately skewed (here are the actual percentage chances of rolling the specific results):
-2: 0.5%
-1: 4.1%
0: 21.3%
1: 36.6%
2: 28.2%
3: 8.8%
4: 0.5%

That's a 25.9% chance of rolling below average, 36.6% chance of rolling average, and 37.5% chance of rolling above average. After rolling the abilities you get to swap two of 'em around if you want.

Chapter 2 continues with Ability Focuses (basically specific areas of specialism as previously revealed, where you gain +2 to an Ability in certain areas. So, if you had the Tracking Ability Focus, your Perception 1 would be Perception 3 when tracking, f'rinstance. Nice and simple and avoids the need for a specific dedicated Skill system.

Next up is Backgrounds. These determine your race and class choices, increase one or more of your Abilities, and include one or more Ability Foci. You also roll 2d6 twice to gain two random benefits from your chosen Background. In some cases this benefit varies according to race. For example, the Apostate (an illegal, law-breaking magi) has different benefit tables depending on whether your character is an elf or human. Again, straightforward, and the random element adds a little spice while reduces repetition in characters a bit.

In terms of Backgrounds there are the following:
Apostate (Elf or Human illegal mage)
Avvarian Hillsman (rugged human hill people)
Circle Mage (elf or human legal mage)
City Elf (downtrodden but cunning urban elf)
Dalish Elf (wild and determined free elf)
Ferelden Freeman (your general human really)
Surface Dwarf (those dwarves most likely to deal with the outside world).

A pretty reasonable selection, imo. Some people might find it odd that the City and Dalish Elf types are separate Backgrounds rather than just races, especially as the Apostate and Circle Mage can be human or elf. The best way to think about this is that being Apostate or Circle Mage in the system dominates who/what you are as much or more than simple race alone. The training, outlook, and experience of a mage seems to remove them from their culture somewhat, so they don't gain the benefits others of various human and elf backgrounds would enjoy due to their full immersion in same. That doesn't mean that a human and elf mage are indistinguishable, however, as the benefits you roll for being an elf or human in either of the mage Backgrounds definitely enforces a certain human or elven type. In short, an Apostate may be an elf, but they are an Apostate first and foremost.

Next up are the Classes. The sections starts by explaining the content of the Class pages in brief, then follows with information of gaining levels and the benefits of doing so. These include increasing Health, an ability increase choice, an ability focus choice, and the class powers of your new level.

Mage, Rogue, and Warrior are the three classes, and as this set is the introductory first box, it covers levels 1-5.

Each class is set out very simply, but rather than describe them to you, it's far more illustrative if you download the Rogue sample HERE. That's the full Rogue class, by the way; each class neatly fits a single page.

The classes are broad, as you might expect.

Equipment for starting characters is determined with a few things everyone has (backpack, clothing, waterskin), appropriate accoutrements depending on class (weapon choices, armour, etc. based on your class and which class abilities you selected), and 50+3d6 silver pieces to buy more for your character.

Defense (how hard your character is to hit) and Speed (how fast your character can leg it) are then outlined and determined.

Character creation continues with sample listings of names for various cultures/races, and notes on giving your character goals and ties. Nothing mechanical, but fodder for adventures and a short way of adding a bit more background and personality to a character without going overboard.

Chapter 3 opens by outlining the various Ability Focuses I noted before. These are all very much what nearly any experienced gamer would expect, but the single sentence description of each is useful for clarity and especially newbies. For example:
Legerdemain: Using sleight of hand to trick others, hide things, and pick pockets.

Talents is up next, areas of natural talent and special training. These are limited by Class (and in some cases have other requirements) and generally gained every odd level of advancement. Each also has two levels of proficiency: Novice and Journeyman, so you can take the same Talent twice for additional benefits rather than choose all new Talents if you desire. There are 24 Talents of which this is an example:
Thievery
Classes:
Rogue
Requirement: You must have Dexterity 3 or higher.
What’s yours is yours and what’s theirs is yours too.
Novice: You don’t let locks stand in your way. If you fail a Dexterity (Lock Picking) test, you can re-roll it, but you must keep the results of the second roll.
Journeyman: You are familiar with many types of traps. If you fail a Dexterity (Traps) test, you can re-roll it, but you must keep the results of the second roll.
Freelancer: AFMBE, A|State, Atlantis, C&C, Faery's Tale Deluxe, Godlike, Hellas, Hollow Earth Exp., Iron Kingdoms d20, No Quarter, Omni, Talislanta, UnMet, Waste World, Wild Talents, etc.
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Postby Radioactive Ape Colin » Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:12 am

cont'd:

Chapter 4 opens with a brief bit on currency and the fact that silver is the standard.
Armor is up next, armor reducing damage, shields making you harder to hit. Your Class and Talents limit what you can use and what penalties you suffer. If you are appropriate trained with X armour type, for example, you only suffer a penalty to Speed when wearing it. If you're not trained, you can wear it but suffer the same penalty to Dexterity as well. Shields, as you'd expect, add to your Defense. Leather, Mail, and Plate armour types are available in Light or Heavy.

Personal note: One thing I'm personally happy to see is that they refer to mail armour, as, well, "mail". It's a little bugbear of mine, but calling mail "chainmail" has often bugged me just a little.

Weapons follows, starting with a note that anyone can wield any weapon really, but if you're not trained in the appropriate group you suffer some stiff penalties for doing so. Weapons have Costs, Damage ratings, and Min. Strength requirements. Weapon Groups are pretty broad, such as Heavy Blades (sword, bastard sword, 2-h sword), Staves (clubs, morningstars, staves), etc.

Errata Note: Weapon Details says "Weight: The weapon’s weight in pounds." but the system (thankfully, imo) has done away with the legacy system of encumbrance, so that's obviously left in from before.

The equipment continues with typical gear, lodgings, and vehicles/mounts, and finishes off with stat blocks for Dogs, Draft Horses, Falcons, Mules, and Riding Horses. Here's an example (lacking the nice concise layout):

Dog
Abilities (Focuses)

–2 Communication
1 Constitution (Running)
–3 Cunning
2 Dexterity (Bite)
–1 Magic
2 Perception (Smelling, Tracking)
1 Strength (Jumping)
0 Willpower
Combat Ratings
Speed 16
Health 15
Defense 12
Armor Rating 0
Attacks
Weapon Bite
Attack Roll +4
Damage 1d6+1
Powers
Favored Stunts: Knock Prone and Skirmish

Magic is the focus of Chapter 5. We get a page on The Fade and the Dangers of Magic, and then we're straight in to Learning Spells, Mana Points, and Spells & Armor (basically, the mana cost for casting spells increases significantly the tougher the armor you wear is), Regaining Mana, Casting Spells, Spell Stunts, and Spell Format. All of this is covered in 3.5 pages.

The basic thrust of spellcasting is you spend the mana cost for the spell you're attempting to cast, then make a roll vs. the target number of the individual spell. Success = your spell works! Failure = your spell fails and you've lost some mana. Targets can attempt to resist some spells.

Spells are up next with 18 spells being covered in 3 pages. Folks will notice that yes, these are pretty much all combat-based. Here's an example:
Shock
Magic School: Primal
Spell Type: Attack
Mana Cost: 4 MP
Casting Time: Major Action
Target Number: 13
Test: Constitution (Stamina) vs. Spellpower
Electricity arcs from your hands or the end of your staff, shocking enemies in a 6-yard by 6-yard area. Anyone in this area takes 1d6 + Magic penetrating damage. Targets that make a successful Constitution (Stamina) test vs. your Spellpower only take 1d6 penetrating damage.

Chapter 6 is Playing the Game. This opens with a basic information on playing, then explains Ability Tests (3d6 + Ability + Focus vs. Target Number). One of the 3d6 should be coloured differently and is the "Dragon Die". The number rolled on this die determines the degree of success if you succeed on the overall roll. The fact that the degree of success is decoupled from the actual success roll will no doubt bother some folks.

Combat is pretty standard in approach with the usual Initiative, acting in order. Characters can only take two actions in their turn: A Major (such as an attack) and a Minor (such as moving or aiming), or two Minors. The target number for attack rolls is, you guessed it, the target's Defense.
Damage is rolled for the weapon with the wielder's Strength ability as a modifier in most cases. Damage reduces Health. At 0 Health you only have a few rounds before you shuffle off the mortal coil.

Stunts are, in my opinion, cool. When you succeed on an attack roll, and roll doubles, the number on your Dragon Die is the number of stunt points you have. You immediately spend these on a variety of possible effects, such as:
2 stunt points - Mighty Blow: You inflict an extra 1d6 damage on your attack.

Mounts and Combat and Health and Healing are also covered, rounding out the chapter.

The book finishes with a one page Glossary of Terms, a one page Index, and the bare bones character sheet.

Overall thoughts from the PG: This looks simple, straightforward, streamlined, and quick playing. Ideal for introducing newbies, as well as folks who prefer lighter systems (such as myself). Folks who want more crunch are going to be disappointed in this book, but they really aren't the audience for this introductory set and they have plenty of other options out there anyway. Is the game revolutionary? No, but it does what it aims to do very well, and looks like a lot of fun. It certainly gets my vote, and I hope this experiment on the part of GR works.
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Postby Radioactive Ape Colin » Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:33 am

cont'd:

We're starting with the GM Guide now, another 66 page volume.

Chapter 1 starts with 6 pages dedicated to general GMing advice (adjudicating the rules, creating and running adventures, etc.); something obviously very useful and necessary for novices and newbies, though experienced gamers will have encountered many such sections before. It's good, solid advice that does what it sets out to do effectively. A good addition to the section is the advice on using combat cards, index cards, and the like to keep track of information; not a big thing, of course, and many existing gamers will have thought of such things already, but it's nice to see it in there.

The next 4 pages discusses GMing approaches, playstyles, and problem player types in an attempt to prepare new GMs for such issues and hopefully reduce them.

A short section of planning a campaign and making it DA:O in style is next followed by 2 pages outlining the actual planning of a campaign from casting the heroes through sketching the ending. A single page of GMing "Dos and Don'ts" rounds out chapter 1.

Chapter 2 is all about Using the Rules. It provides plenty of guidance on mastering Ability Tests, considering time taken, the stakes, and the consequences before going in to Basic Tests (the standard one roll), Opposed Tests, and Advanced Tests where you have to reach a certain total with your Dragon Die following a series of rolls.

Combat considerations come up next, including initiative, attack rolls, morale, flying combatants, and minor and major actions. There's a section then on handling hazards such as environmental factors and traps, including examples of a burning inn, pit trap, and rushing river.

Chapter 3 is the Adversaries section. Quickly applied modifiers are suggested first for making a given foe tougher (elite or heroic), then information on how to present the likes of innkeepers and other NPCs that don't need fully fleshed-out stats. The 11-page bestiary follows providing 19 entries. The entires cover mundane animals like a bear, typical NPCs such as Dalish Raiders, some demon-animated undead like skeletons, a couple Darkspawn (yeah, the Hurlock is there), and a few favourites such as giant rats and giant spiders. These are presented like the dog entry I highlighted earlier.

Chapter 4: Rewards, is all about experience points and level advancement, non-mechanical benefits such as reputation and goal fulfillment, treasure (which is categorized so you can easily roll it), and magic items (temporary and permanent). 15 magical items are offered on a single page, of which this is an example:

Smith’s Targe
Droplets of molten metal that fall from the forges of the dwarven smiths are often collected and worn for good luck. This amulet is in the shape of a small shield, with a chaotic pattern burned into it from the molten drops. Once per day the wearer can re-roll a single ability test. The results of the second test are final.

The Dalish Curse, a 16-page introductory adventure rounds out the rest of the GM Guide, and is accompanied with a 7-page section featuring a mini gazeteer of Vintiver village, details on the important NPCs, and 3 generally useful stat blocks (angry villagers, blood crows, and revengers) that increase the actual numbers of adversaries in the game to 22.

The final 2 pages include a half-page index, single blank combat card, and page of quick references.

And that brings you to the end of both books, with the boxed set due to include both books, 3d6, and a poster map.

Final Thought: This is a great experiment, and ultimately I hope it works. At the end of the day, if it does work, if it does bring new folks into the hobby and provide a great rpg for introducing new gamers it will have been worthwhile even if some existing gamers are disappointed. They're already in the hobby after all, they're the captive market, the ever-shrinking choir that's sung to again and again and already possess plenty of choices anyway. It was well past time another target was aimed at.
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Postby Zapp » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:17 pm

gamedave wrote:There are three classes, Mage, Rogue, and Warrior, just like in the VG. So far, so good. Each class gives the character certain powers and abilities, similar to what's in the game. Each level gives the character more hit points, and new abilities and bonuses, which vary from class to class and level to level. That's kind of cool, and somewhat similar to how leveling works in the VG. But only the first five levels are provided! Talk about old school! This is the D&D Basic Set!

The original D&D Basic Set was really designed as an introduction to role-playing, with the expectation that players would "graduate" to AD&D, although its simplified version of the D&D rules proved so popular it was eventually expanded into a full-fledged RPG in its own right.

This boxed set, however, is not billed as an introduction to roleplaying. It is billed as the Dragon Age: Origins pen & paper RPG. Apparently, further sets will include rules for character advancement beyond fifth level. In today's game market, this is frankly inexcusable.

Yeah, D&D requires three hardbacks just for the core rules, but WotC is completely upfront about that, and those three books were available simultaneously, and comprised a complete, if somewhat circumscribed, game. You don't actually need any of the other books or the website to play a full D&D campaign. You will need at least one expansion set, possibly several, to play a full DA: O campaign.

I honestly feel cheated.

I can't change the way you feel, but I can tell you, FWIW, as soon as I heard the faintest rumor about this game, that rumor included "introductory" and "OD&D like box sets with limited leveling".

You obviously come from a different direction, but to me, GR have been completely upfront and not in any way hidden these two fact - in fact, they have been used as high points to sell the game!
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Postby angel_lord » Sat Dec 12, 2009 2:45 pm

I enjoyed the various reviews presented here even though I already bought the first boxed set and am eagerly awaiting the second plus the interim materials.

I'm coming at this as a primarily hard core Gurps player who also happens to play other systems.

I got my start in the mid 70's playing ODnD with our Neighbor and his older sons in Marine Housing.

Now don't get me wrong, I love playing Gurps, as well as other skill heavy systems - but there is something about this old style setup which I find relaxing, enjoyable, and nostalgic all at once. So far I love it.
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Postby Flurdt07 » Sat Dec 12, 2009 5:06 pm

Great Review!! As fare as the box set goes, being Lv 1-5, I kinda enjoy the concept, like the classic D&D box, it was cool to get an intro and be able to play around and get ready for the next set. Right now Im still on a major DragonAge kick, both Novels RULED and the pen and paper game (to me) is the fresh start my group has been looking for. Nothing against 4th edition D&D, it just wasnt right for me or my group, so we stayed with 3.5. Now, its DA all the way lol. :lol:
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Postby Menchi » Sat Dec 12, 2009 10:27 pm

The system certainly sounds like it could be fun, but I too feel that the levels 1-5 thing is a bit on the nose.

I get why some people have this nostalgic kick, but I was around the first time - it was a poor idea before and it still is. D&D did not benefit from the format, and I doubt DARPG will either.

If the box sets were coming out every 2 months, no problems. Every 6 months? I can see a number of problems - firstly, the sets will not keep up with demand, secondly - it becomes highly possible that the system will end up out of whack by the end of the run.

I also disagree on using Dragon Age as an intro to Tabletop RPGing - it's the wrong licence for such a project because most players of Dragon Age the videogame will already know what an RPG is - and they are the market most likely to want to buy Dragon Age - not fresh new players.

I also think that if I can't, as a GM, start running my own take of the Origins storyline using DARPG - then Green Ronin have failed from the outset. Trying to use the VG to sell their boxed set places, in my view, an expectation that I can recreate my adventures from the VG as well if I so choose. That, for me, is a big central litmus test. If I can't make my PC from the game using DARPG - or any of the characters in my party - then it is failing at being faithful to the licence.

I think the intention was good - but I'm not convinced that Green Ronin made the right design decisions here. I'll reserve final judgement after playing the game - but I do think that there are a number of areas where they have let the licence down based on the information being provided in the reviews - and I think the first and biggest mistake was limiting the backgrounds and levels.

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Postby Radioactive Ape Colin » Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:36 am

Menchi wrote:I get why some people have this nostalgic kick, but I was around the first time - it was a poor idea before and it still is. D&D did not benefit from the format, and I doubt DARPG will either.


I think it's a bit much to simply write it off as nostalgia, mate. Basic D&D (the Holmes, Mentzer and Moldvay versions) sold so well it actually ended up becoming its own popular expanded rpg line and was the means by which an awful lot of folk entered the hobby. In short, it *worked* and whether you think it was a poor idea or not its success as a game line and its success as a gateway is indisputable. D&D really *did* benefit from it, and Basic D&D went through several revisions and fifteen printings, as well as spawning its own series of over 50 adventure modules and its own popular campaign setting (Mystara). It was so popular it enabled the production of over 30 gazeteers and sourcebooks, over 20 miscellaneous publications, about 10 novels, and a couple of computer games as well. Clearly a "poor idea" with "no benefit".

The real question is whether the approach and format can work again (albeit at a likely lesser scale, but one that may be good enough for a smaller company such as GR) in a different market, target audience, and decade. That's something only time will tell.

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Postby gamedave » Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:12 am

Putting aside the multiple boxed approach, I think Menchi makes a vital point regarding character creation, more directly and succinctly than I did:

Menchi wrote:I also think that if I can't, as a GM, start running my own take of the Origins storyline using DARPG - then Green Ronin have failed from the outset. Trying to use the VG to sell their boxed set places, in my view, an expectation that I can recreate my adventures from the VG as well if I so choose. That, for me, is a big central litmus test. If I can't make my PC from the game using DARPG - or any of the characters in my party - then it is failing at being faithful to the licence.


Of course, down the road, with further boxed sets, it may well be possible to recreate the adventures, and adventurers, from the VG. But having to buy multiple boxed sets just to get what seem like they should be the basics of the game is off-putting.

Imagine a Star Wars RPG where you couldn't make a Wookie PC, which had stats for generic starships, but not TIE fighters, X-Wings, and the Corellian YT-1300, which had rules for the Force and Force Sensitive characters, but not Jedi. It just wouldn't seem like the Star Wars RPG.

And imagine you are a fan of the DA: O VG, who's never played a P&P RPG before. Now, maybe you wouldn't be disappointed by the fact that you couldn't play a qunari, for instance, since that's not a playable option in the VG. But I think you might well be disappointed that the qunari don't even appear as NPCs. And that most types of Darkspawn don't appear. And that you can't make your Human Noble from the VG. And that you can't upgrade your weapons and armor to special materials. And so on.

OTOH, I haven't actually tried playing the game yet, and the system does look interesting. It might well be a really fun game, and it might bring a whole new group of gamers into P&P RPGs. I really hope it works out that way. But I have my doubts.
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Postby rabindranath72 » Sun Dec 13, 2009 9:56 am

I suppose it has all to do with play styles, I have played and still play complete campaigns with just the Mentzer Red Box, and they work fine. Also, I think it's the philosophy behind the original red box which is re-created here: that is, an open ended game, which works at all levels, and which is easily expandable.
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Postby Batgirl III » Sun Dec 13, 2009 1:43 pm

Not to mention that it will be almost criminally easy for GM's to whip up homebrew content. I love this game! :lol:
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