streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

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streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby zanwot » Sat Mar 26, 2011 4:11 am

ONLY FOR GAME MASTERS, DON'T READ IF YOU ARE A PLAYER.

I am running the dalish curse with a group of new players, and want to limit it to a fast introductory adventure, the real fun stuff being for later with a Bann to Many as far as I am concerned.

The thing is for the amount of plot there is (which is fairly light appart from the moral questions about the transformed elves), I consider there to be way to many combat encounters, so that is where I am streamlining. Also some players are not that geeky and I want to keep the fantasy elements limited, no point in introducing 50 different types of monsters right now I think.

For now my players are at Vintiver about to leave (with a draft horse which is going to create more troubles than anything else...), so we have not advanced much. I was initially hoping to do the whole adventure in one sitting, lol... In any case the players enjoyed the first adventure, even though it only contained exploring the farm and roleplaying with the villagers basically, so doing it right for now.

* blight wolves: Already (un)done and scraped, replaced by normal wolves who run away, no regrets there seen the comments I read.

* villagers fight: will stay and serve as first introduction to combat, next encounter for the players.

* revengers: will stay of course. I need it to be tough, are the numbers advised (1 revenger per PC) good?

* chasm crossing: Keep the chasm (for later), but get rid of the birds that serve no purpose AFAIK.

* skeletons: no combat, replace them by inanimate skeletons, and try to get the players scared (for nothing) as they will expect a tough fight just about then. The subsequent trap stays though.

* giant spider: Only serves the purpose of activating the silver link, unnecessary otherwise. Replace it (and the previous scrapped chasm fight) with an encounter at the chasm on the way back. Was thinking of maybe placing webs and the giant spider on the other side, and having the bloodcrows attack while crossing. i.e. a nasty trap, but that the players should be expecting. Or should I make the silver link activated by the Revengers in the earlier encounter and scrap the chasm alltogether?

So what is your take on this, especially for those who have already run the adventure?
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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby Elfie » Sat Mar 26, 2011 8:41 am

I think the Dalish Curse plays very well as-is as a first adventure for both GMs and for players. Most of the encounters in the Dalish Curse serve to introduce one aspect of the game or another or to expand upon what you've already learned in a previous encounter of the same kind. For example, the initial argument with the townspeople is an introduction to Advanced Tests. Then the blood crows while crossing the bridge serve as a way to combine Advanced Tests with combat and to show that not every combat encounter can be won by brute force. The blood crows themselves pose very little threat but they are there to make the players have to choose between staying and fighting or getting across the bridge. When I ran it, I actually had additional waves of blood crows arrive every time the players killed some off until they got the point that the crows were just going to keep coming until they got across.

I've heard a lot of people having trouble with the initial blight wolves, and my party had a little bit of difficulty, but that was just because our mage was drunk and was trying really hard not to let anyone know he was a mage (yet). I won't dwell on this since you already skipped it.

Be careful when using the villagers fight as an intro to combat. This is supposed to be where you introduce the concept of non-lethal combat and your players might be so excited to kill something that they end up slaughtering the villagers. But hey, if that happens so be it :)

I would agree that there is a lot of combat encounters in the Dalish Curse, but I used those as a way to introduce combat both with and without battle maps. We used a map for the villagers, the bloodcrows, and the final battle, but not for anything else. This gave both myself and the players a good feel for both styles. I don't think the map was really needed for the villagers though because as soon as their leader was knocked out, everyone else ran away.

If you've been using battle maps for other combat, I would definitely keep either the skeletons or the spider as a non-mapped combat. I'd probably lean more toward skipping the spider since the skeletons serve to express some peril within the keep itself.

I'll tell you the two pitfalls I ran into when running the Dalish Curse. First, in the heat of battle I failed miserably at making sure I told the player holding the link that it was sparking when she first got stunt points against a Rage Abomination (the spider, Elgar'nanlen, other stuff in future encounters). I actually changed the link so that it started sparking as soon as the character was within proximity of a rage abomination (aka at the start of the fight). This was much easier for me to keep track of. I would recommend against making the link get triggered by revengers, because that means it'd be useful against all the enemies in the final fight whereas the point is for it to be useful just against Elgar'nanlen (incorrectly Mythallen in the book).

Second, I pretty much skipped the entire hazards section on the way back from the keep to Vintiver and I regret it. I just couldn't come up with anything on the fly. I'd recommend deciding on some hazards they're going to run into in advance so you're not on the spot (unless you're really good at on-the-spot hazards).

Oh and I'll throw in a third. Combat with sentient beings shouldn't be all swinging swords and casting spells. Throw in some bad-guy banter. Elgar'nanlen was completely silent in our final battle and it would have been much more dramatic if he were spouting about slaughter and revenge the whole time.

I think that's all the advice I've got! Good luck! Though if you "want to keep the fantasy elements limited," maybe Dragon Age isn't the right game. "Fantasy" is kind of half of the "Dark Fantasy" concept :)
Last edited by Elfie on Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby zanwot » Sat Mar 26, 2011 9:12 am

Thanks for the extensive reply! Food for thought.Immediate reactions:

The fight against the villagers should go ok I think seen my group. I have identified one player as potentially trigger happy, but it is all the better to see how the other players react, more drama = better, so long as I make sure they are aware of the situation.

Concerning introducing the players to combined combat and advanced tasks with the crossing of the chasm, I now get the point better of that encounter. Ultimately, as I am not very concerned by rules myself, I don't care as much about teaching them the rule aspect as presenting a combat challenge with a twist. I'll see how to exploit that, I can always keep those kind of mechanics for later.

I don't think the link should work against the revengers either, but it deserved to be mentionned.

Elfie wrote:Though if you "want to keep the fantasy elements limited," maybe Dragon Age isn't the right game. "Fantasy" is kind of half of the "Dark Fantasy" concept :)

No worries about that, I just say that because some of the players a new to all this and I don't want to overload them too fast. It has little chances of happening, but the skeletons stand out a bit I find.
In both the short and the medium run I feel DA is exactly the game I needed for this group. If it is not right in the long run that is ok, it will have served it's purpose, my prefered settings are 7th Sea and Sci fi games...
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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby ElJefe » Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:49 pm

I'm in the midst of running the Dalish Curse, and we've seen some of the same things. I can certainly agree with most of the stuff Elfie said, and I can also say that the main issue with 'too many combats' stems from the traditional issue that combats sort of devolve into a race to 0 hit points. DA has some good ways around this, though.

First, make enemies flee. I'll never forget the raging argument a player had with me that Stormtroopers do not flee. Mine sure did. At least, to regroup and wait for reinforcement. In the Curse, I had the last wolf flee.

I'd strongly recommend using the morale rules whenever possible. I think we are all a little too entrenched in classic DnD style XP that makes us want to smite all the monsters, etc. I know that in DnD I was always leery of players using the intimidate rules to cow opponents. But, given the DA XP rules, if the players can scare off the foes, it just results in less xp, potentially, so the GM doesn't have to worry about players getting xp for something they didn't really achieve.

On a side note, I'm running the Curse and Blood in Ferelden as a big ol' campaign, as suggested in the text, and the presence of Sister Stone has already made for some more interesting situations. It's causing my players to think entirely differently about where that position, etc.

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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby Elfie » Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:06 pm

ElJefe wrote:In the Curse, I had the last wolf flee.


This is actually something I've wondered about everyone who has had so much trouble with this encounter in the Dalish Curse. It says right in the book on page 45 "Once the PCs manage to kill more than half of them, the remaining wolves attempt to flee and look for easier prey." Are people forgetting to do that?
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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby zanwot » Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:07 pm

ElJefe wrote:I can also say that the main issue with 'too many combats' stems from the traditional issue that combats sort of devolve into a race to 0 hit points. DA has some good ways around this, though.

Actually I was already taking account of the morale rules when I said too many fights. The thing is I am not interested in a series of fights without a plot, and as the plot of the Dalish curse is pretty limited... Of course that is why it is interesting, and why I started with it before a Bann to Many which I find much better.

Ultimately I think the thing is I prefer to have less but more intense fights. Which is not necessarily perfectly adapted to a HP game like DA, so I will have to find the middle ground.

On a side note, I'm running the Curse and Blood in Ferelden as a big ol' campaign, as suggested in the text

Lucky you, that was tempting, but I needed to get the players into the action quickly in an easy & simple environment, like Vintiver. I need to keep Denerim for later with this group of players.
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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby ElJefe » Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:00 am

Sorry if my earlier post came of condescending, not intentional at all.

I've been trying to work out a way to work around hit points, with some sort of status system, but despite using them in other RPG's, I'm just not quite happy with anything so far.

I'm in total agreement with less fights, more depth. That's actually why I chose to run the campaign versus a more narrow approach to Curse. Still, it could all end up in a horrific fireball of death, we'll see.

About the only things I've had any luck with to turn up the depth of my fights is to use environments and to make the challenge focus on something besides the fight. Almost make the fight an incidental. That doesn't mean it can't be difficult, just not so much a focus of the plot, like it is in Curse. I'm a fan of 'always' having more than one way to overcome an obstacle; you can fight it, or you can bribe it, so to speak. I consciously try to make every encounter work mechanically like a fight, since everyone is familiar with the rules of conflict that apply there, but it isn't always smooth. Making the fight a three way is good, too, as is creating a good guy vs good guy setup, where the players are less than motivated to fight the opposition. Ramble, ramble, ramble...


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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby zanwot » Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:27 am

ElJefe wrote:Sorry if my earlier post came of condescending, not intentional at all.

:o Not at all. Don't know where you got that from, sorry if I gave the impression of being defensive.
I've been trying to work out a way to work around hit points, with some sort of status system, but despite using them in other RPG's, I'm just not quite happy with anything so far.

A status system seems too dramatic a change to me, goes against the simplicity of the rules. I have been considering reducing overall hit points, but need more experience to judge that well. I am concerned about the higher level length of combats, but that is hardly my immediate problem.
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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby ElJefe » Sun Mar 27, 2011 3:05 am

Well, let me clarify a little bit on the status thing...

I'm fooling around in my head with 'building' victory conditions as you fight the opponent(s). Again, this is all very lightly baked, so forgive me, but I can see the vague outlines of having to fatigue an opponent, wound them, and also demoralize them. I don't think that should be a linear tree necessarily, just that you must somehow achieve the triple combo of those items to 'win'.



:D Glad to hear I wasn't being a tool. It's late and I'm tired, so I might just be lost.
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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby zanwot » Sat May 14, 2011 7:53 am

Finished the Dalish Curse with my players, here is a quick feedback on how it went:

Of course I kept the villagers ambush and the revenger attack (which occured before they arrived at the carravan as they rested after the villagers). (as a reminder I had scrapped the blight wolves)

I finally kept the chasm crossing with the blood crows, as the different style of the encounter provided a nice change, don't regret it.

I did not keep the skeletons even though I felt a fight would have been appropriate at that point: I needed to not lose time. I also scrapped the giant spider, all the more easily that the players left the silver link with Eshara in the village, so no regrets there.

On the whole quite satisfactory, there still was plenty enough of action. Took us one short session and one long second session to finish it.

The combat were more lethal than I expected, but in a good dynamic way (but maybe also because I was quite lucky in my rolls). Got overall 2 knocked out player characters (1 against revengers and one against blood crows as they massed in numbers), both saved by the others just in time.
The final fight in the village went easyer than expected, in practise the 3 PCs + 2 dalish hunters were fighting against mythallen, 1 revenger and 10 blood crows, I should have added one revenger against the group, but I imagine quite quickly it could have turned out very differently.
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Re: Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby rschweik » Wed May 16, 2012 8:03 pm

Been looking for any Dragon Age actual plays on the web forever, and recently found Robert J Freemantle's "Dragon Age Live" on youtube. When the players are told that the "Warden" of Vintiver, Tarl Dale, the players ask if he is a retired Grey Warden. Now, this always bothered me when I read the Dalish Curse aventure, knowing that Grey Wardens go into the Deep Roads to die.
So I ask, what the frell does the title of "Warden" mean within Ferelden?

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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby Bardwulf » Thu May 17, 2012 12:05 am

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The head official in charge of a prison.

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Re: streamlining the Dalish Curse [SPOILER]

Postby Audioepics » Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:26 am

This is a great thread! Our party is halfway through the Dalish Curse and I'm a bit worried that the next session might be all combat and little roleplay if we play it out "as is". The party's just crossed the chasm now so what's left is Mythallen's "dungeon", the trek back and the fight in Vintiver. I was thinking I might change the second half of the scenario and start mixing in the beginning of Amber Rage already, while postponing the final confrontation with Mythallen until a later time. The Ragers might be tied to Mythallen and the Rager attack and resulting moral dilemma would then take place in Vintiver. It's just an idea I'm toying with at the moment.
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