So, my playing group hit a slump these days.

One of my players studies a bit far from where we live, so he can only play once per week and not every week; Saturdays are the only days he can play. However, a combination of lack of preparation and a personal situation made us look for an alternative. The player decided to be a DM for once, but he'd use a different system: either GURPS (a superheroes campaign), which would take quite a lot of time (being on the Marvel universe anyways), or the Dragon Age RPG.

We decided to go the latter. We had the first session today, and it was pretty fun. So fun, I decided to share it with you guys.

Session backstory here:
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The story begins five years after the Fifth Blight. The Hero of Ferelden, the Grey Warden, ended the threat of the Archdaemon, and Alistair became the new King of Ferelden. The Hero of Ferelden decided to travel abroad, and Ferelden is slowly recovering from the Blight's fallout.

Some changes have happened during since. For starters, Alistair has given some freedoms to the Mages, making them less dependent on the Circle, though they're still persecuted if outside the Circle (aka, if they're apostates). Lothering, once crushed by the Blight, is slowly recovering and being reconstructed, and thus serves as the start of the setting.


And, of course, the players:
Enansal Arlathan, Dalish/Elf/Rogue & Feralas, Mabari War Hound
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Split from his ancestral elven home by one of his parents, Arlathan ended up learning the skills of a rogue from his mentor: all from wielding a bow properly, to the arts of disarming traps, stealth, amongst others. He ended up becoming a "noble" thief, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Or rather, he stole from the rich humans to give to the poor elves; to put it bluntly, he acted pretty much as a brigand stealing from any human with a house and horse, and spread the wealth to any elf with whom he traveled. Despite being of Dalish origin, Arlathan is quite greedy, but a fearsome combatant.

During his travels, Arlathan rescued from the remains of a caravan struck by bandits a Mabari puppy, healing its wounds. The puppy imprinted with him, becoming a loyal hound at his service. Now a battle-hardened hound, Feralas strikes anyone who dares to face Arlathan head on, as a sort of bodyguard.


Damien, Human/Apostate/Mage (DMPC)
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A mage whose presence has caused some trouble within the region of Ostagar. He's interested in the arts of Blood Magic and uses both Entropy and Spirit Magic. He refuses to follow anyone who might work for the Chantry, as he's unwilling to submit to become a member of the Circle or perish, no matter what.


Jaksten, Human/Ferelden Commoner/Warrior (my character)
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Hailing from Lothering, Jaksten (known usually as "Stein", his mentor's surname) became orphaned during the Fifth Blight when Lothering was razed. Due to the efforts of a Chantry Templar who eventually ran in order to keep his wife and family safe, he managed to survive long enough to end in Denerim, the capital city. By chance, he ended up within the Chantry, choosing to become a Templar as the man who saved his life. The son of a tavernkeeper, he was familiar with ale, but it was during his training as a Templar cadet that he became familiar with the art of brewing, and developed an inclination to master the healing arts. Now a 17 year old young man, he has grown a slight reputation as an enemy of brigands and an unrepentant drunkard, stout enough to withstand ale while remaining clear-minded.


First session
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The session started with Jaksten being sent to deal with the news of a mysterious mage, an apostate whom people claimed was also a maleficarum, roaming the lands surrounding Ostagar. Being already a threat of brigands and the best warrior around (despite his love of drinking), he was sent alone as the only choice on the matter. He was given a waterskin full of ale for the travel, as Jaksten refused to travel without a sufficient amount of ale, and sent almost immediately.

During the travel, Jaksten was accosted by a voice claiming he should turn around and depart from the area. Jakstern, stubborn as a mule, repeatedly asked whether the voice was that of a mage, to which the voice replied that it wasn't, but began to threaten him. Eventually, he was ambushed by a group of bandits wielding bows, with their leader striking with two weapons.

Meanwhile, hiding nearby, Arlathan and Feralas noticed the ambush and decided to even the odds, even if he didn't trust the human either.

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The battle was only 5 brigands against my character and the elf rogue. The rogue was the MVP here by virtue of the stunts and the pretty amazing damage done with a longbow. My character was using throwing knives, so he didn't do much, but managed to pull off a shield bash (basically an improvised weapon attack using Brawling), and finally brandished his Bastard Sword. All in all, the leader and three brigands got slaughtered, with another one escaping...barely.


After the battle, the last escaping brigand recovered, only to explode in bloody bits. The mage that Jaksten sought for finished the last brigand with Walking Bomb, made his presence known, and asked why Jaksten was looking for him. The mage refused to follow Jaksten to Lothering, and after looking for him, the three fell into a trap by the true leader of the brigands, which used a potent sleep bomb on all three.

Waking up after a while, the trio was on a ship on its way to Antivar, to be sold as slaves. All three were shackled, the mage awaken before the others. The mage learned from a fellow prisoner named...Bob (yes, I know)...about their predicament, with the bit that the slave-traders would fetch a great price for them. Attempting to know how they'd escape, Jaksten and Arlethan learned they were asleep for 6 straight days. After some unusual bickering ("We're going to be sold as slaves or die, and you're bickering about who's the bigger fool!?"), Jaksten challenged the mage's power (and his lack of an acid spell), being challenged back into breaking the chains. Hearing that the "beerstein" full of his beloved ale was taken by the soldiers, Jaksten used all of his might to escape (with the chains ending up as improvised weapons and an improvised lockpick). Three guards faced them after the ruckus, but Arlethen freed himself and the mage before attempting to liberate Feralas (whom was caged and muzzled).

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Devoid of armor and weapons, Arlethen was at a disadvantage. My character was at a disadvantage as well, having less Defense than the norm, but his HP soaked most of the damage. After beating the first guy, I took one of the shortswords and delivered a gushing wound that basically beat the other guard in a single blow. The party made short work of the third. The mage this time was the MVP, because between Drain Life and Arcane Bolt, he could strike from a distance pretty well. Feralas couldn't fight with his bite, so his claws were used as improvised weapons, not dealing any noticeable damage; Arlethen without his bow or a decent weapon was likewise having some trouble as well.


Escaping from the room, the party ends up right on the storage room, where they find their equipment and some nice loot. Jaksten found a beautifully crafted Orlesian Silverite heavy shield, Arlethen found a heavily enchanted Avvarian Whitewood longbow, and the mage found a ring.
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The shield grants a +1 to Defense against ranged attacks, but being a heavy shield is more than enough. The bow grants a +2 to attack rolls, making the Rogue hit just for fun. The ring grants the mage a +2 bonus to Spellpower, which makes spells harder to avoid or resist. There were some other potions as well.


Barricading the storage room and finding another door left open, the party shifts its strategy from setting an ambush to distracting the guards and escaping. Reaching a room in the same level as the ship's hold, they bicker (as usual) on how to take the ship and free the prisoners. The brigands' boss, pissed off because of the lack of news regarding that the situation was controlled, decided to deal with the situation himself, intending to kill the party if necessary. Hearing about this, the party chose its course of action...basically having Arlethen hide, Jaksten demanding retribution for the guards having drank his beer, and Damien...just stand there. When the boss, all cocky, threatened them to return to their room or die on the attempt, Jakster refused (and Damien claimed he wasn't with him). Arlethen, having a clear shot against the boss, made a surprise strike from afar, striking true.

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Again, Arlethen made a solid hit, dealing quite a bit of damage to the boss. He wasn't alone, with two Avvarian hunters guarding him.

Again, I was the first to go, and this time, I was the MVP. If anything, it's the ridiculous amount of damage a bastard sword can do, and the judicious use of the right stunts (namely, Lightning Blade for double the attack). Before they could even act, one of the Avvarian hunters was defeated, and both the boss and the hunter couldn't make a dent on my character. The second time my character strikes, Dual Strike made short work of the other hunter (weakened by the combination of an attack from the Rogue and the hound); the third basically combined All Out Attack, Lightning Blade and Defensive Strike, though the latter wasn't needed because it was over after the second strike.


Seeing as their leader was defeated, the other guards' cowardice took the best of them and decided they would return to Ferelden even if they were only yards away from Antivar and decided to become merchants; they effectively "died" that day, in order to remain alive (both from us, and from the Antivar Crows who would slaughter them for their failure). The session ends with us returning to Ferelden, the prisoners freed and treated like proper hosts.


Stuff we've noticed so far, being avid D&D players:
  • We used Set 1 and Set 1, which include all info up to 10th level characters.
  • Battles are just frickin' exciting. The stunts (which can only be done if you roll doubles on a 3d6 roll, using the unequal "Dragon" die to determine stunt points which determine what you can pull) make combat interesting, because no two attacks are the same. They work a bit differently from other games (7th Sea, IIRC, has a similar stunt system)
  • The mechanics still feel incomplete. What happens with a Dual Weapon Style user? The Talent only offers some benefits, but you only seem to attack once.
  • Some of the mechanics hurt a bit. Backstab is one example: it's limited to a melee attack, but Rogues don't have to focus on wielding a melee weapon and Dual Weapon Style.
  • The weapon tables are horribly unbalanced. A Bastard Sword deals 2d6+1 points of damage, with a Longsword only dealing 1 point less (2d6). The Greatsword is the best weapon, bar none (3d6). The damage feels off, and there's little difference between weapons (Bows use Perception for damage, spears deal less damage than heavy blades, weapons have no unique properties aside from Bows). Likewise, some things have to be explained.
  • We cheated a bit with our scores, so it's pretty evident that our characters are a bit stronger. We also used point-buy as detailed in Set 2, allowing us to tool the points as needed.
  • The progression of characters thus far seems a bit excessive at 1st level. Just between bought ability scores and background bonuses (also bought), a Strength of 4 (using either point-buy scores and background buy or rolling for both) is pretty brutal. 2d6+5 points of damage with a Bastard Sword is just brutal at 1st level, and a Greatsword with a similar range of damage (3d6+Str) can be a gamebreaker at 1st level.
  • Did I mention that the game, aside from those mechanics that require some change, are pretty intuitive? Character creation is probably the hardest thing to do, but battles were resolved pretty easily and quickly. We fought against 11 enemies total, and the first battle lasted about 3 rounds and somewhere around 15 minutes.