June 26, 2013 by brennon
As you could probably tell from my previous adventure into the world of Thedas with the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin I have become rather fond of it. The system is easy to pick up and play, has plenty of cinematic content, and is insanely easy to Games Master for.
Last time I looked at Set I and the role-play as a whole, exploring its mechanics and what I enjoyed most about the game. Now I’m going to take a closer look at Set II for the game and give you my thoughts on the expanded content that takes your heroes from level six up to the lofty heights of level ten.
Backgrounds, Classes & Character Creation
The first big addition comes in the form of a massively expanded set of Backgrounds alongside the updated classes. Notably with the release of Dragon Age II a few years ago now the story was opened up adding more races, creeds and creatures to the already expansive world. This is reflected in the Backgrounds that are now open to you.
For those of you who were seeking more from the Dwarven way of life then they have certainly helped in that regard. You can now be Low-Born, Duster and of course Noble and take a caste alongside it from miner all the way to warrior. Every spectrum of underground life has been catered too. For a more exotic background you could cross the waters from Ferelden and become an Antivan Wayfarer, a deadly cutthroat. Maybe you’d like to take on the mantle of one of the Nevarran, dragon hunters and free spirited folk.
You can even become one of the Qunari. These huge hulking grey giants with curled horns and a bad attitude are grim faced warriors who stick to a rigid system of laws and codes. On the other hand you could always be one of the disgraced Qunari who had left their land and laws behind to forge their own path. It’ll come as no surprise that they are all mighty warriors.
On the mention of warriors Set II also brings with it additional content for the Classes in Dragon Age. While those at low level might not benefit from the added content just yet, those who have reached Level 6 gain access to more powers, talents, focuses and upgrades that help you face what Ferelden has to offer.
Mages understandably get more spells, adding to their expansive collection but may have to temper their casting. We’ll explore that a little later! Warriors become more brutal in combat, unlocking more weapon options and mastering stunts to allow for even more impressive feats of strength. Rogues become sly and the epitome of the subtle knife, getting to add more to their damage output on unaware foes. They can even start fighting dirty!
To help with this advancement, especially if you’re a new player making a character at higher levels, they have also introduced a points buy system for your Abilities. Where before you had to roll for each one in turn now you can tailor your statistics to fit exactly what you want to be. This is handy for getting new players off the ground quickly but more experienced players might still like the randomness of rolling. I certainly do.
Overall the expansion in backgrounds and the additions to classes has become vital. With there only being three classes in the game there was always a danger that they could become too samey. Thankfully with new backgrounds, an expansion to the way classes work and the chance to points buy you can make the kind of hero that appeals to you.
There are still a few problems that will become evident to many who play. Rogues can at times feel like they are getting a raw deal, most of all in combat. The damage output of Warriors is impressive and requires less rolling to make it happen. However, if you consider it from an overall role-play point of view there are many things a Rogue can do that a Warrior cannot, especially when it comes to the accessing of Talents.
While it’s not a massive problem those who play Rogues should be aware that it doesn’t get much easier for them. Hopefully your Games Master will have plenty in there that’s catered to you though!
Specialisations, Talents & Focuses
To customise your class even more Dragon Age Set II adds in the ability to take Specialisations and individualise your hero. Mages can dabble in the corrupting art of Blood Magic, become armour wearing Arcane Warriors, or become one with Spirit Magic and embrace the knowledge of healers.
Warriors can go utterly berserk as, well, Berserkers or temper themselves into shining beacons of hope on the battlefield as Champions. If you detest magic in all its forms then you could also become a Chantry Templar who are holy paladins of the Gods crushing unlawful use of magic wherever they see it.
Last but certainly not least are the Rogues who can become daggers in the night as Assassins, sing tales of glory as Bards or take on the life of the rakish fop by becoming Duelists. Each of these different specialisations adds to your characters background and marks you as different from the normal folk. The major thing, for me as a Games Master at least, is that it encourages your players to role-play a lot more and it also means you can send them off on more quests!
Someone wants to become a Blood Mage? Simple. Tell them that an ancient Blood Magic tome lies deep within a crypt in a forgotten corner of Ferelden. The lure of power can always be used to great advantage!
On top of the specialisations for each class there is also a range of new Talents and expanded versions of the old ones. Whereas before you could only make it to Journeyman level you can now Master your craft in Bows, Axes, Reading, History, Scouting and any number of different areas of interest. The progressive aspect helps flesh our characters and it’s fun to hear a player say “I’m going to take this Talent because when I was helping that town I think my character learned this etc, etc”.
Focuses have also been expanded to take into account the extras on offer. A big one for the Rogue in our group is the ability to make and use poisons and grenades! Yes there are magical grenades in Dragon Age!
Much like with the Classes and Backgrounds the new additions serve to customise and develop existing characters or make new ones unique from those who have gone before. A criticism that was levelled at the original set was that it just wasn’t deep enough and I think Set II goes a long way to remedying that.
Magic, Poisons & Grenades
As I said above Magic and many other areas have been expanded in Set II. Mages have now got a much larger catalogue of spells to draw from with some that are tied to specialisations and others that are open to all spellcasters.
The biggest addition, apart from the raft of horribly devastating spells, is that Mages attempting to cast some of these more powerful spells have a chance of miscasting! Never before as “with great power comes great responsibility” been more apt. Magic by its very nature in the world of Thedas is temperamental and hard to control meaning that as a Mage grows in power he or she can occasionally get things wrong.
Miscasting is admittedly quite hard to do, but if it does go wrong then you can have all sorts of unpleasant things happen to you from losing a bit of health to being lost in the ether while a demon tries to inhabit your body!
Hopefully that won’t happen to any of your characters but if it does it would make one hell of a story! In terms of the spells on offer they are all more devastating and deadly with the likes of the Death Syphon drawing on the very life force of a dying foe. It’s not pleasant but nothing is in the world of Dragon Age.
Other heroes aren’t missing out on the powerful concoction front either as anyone can learn to handle poisons and grenades on the battlefield. The preparation of such devices is almost more hazardous than casting magic, with one of the mishap tables saying you accidentally ingest some of the poison yourself. Pretty horrible if that’s the master level ‘death’ poison!
Grenades are nice area of effect devices and are just as deadly as poisons, if not more so on occasion. The one thing I do like is that if a character holding grenades is hit they might just go off while attached to him! A risky business carrying all those flasks around with you!
Weapons & Crafting
Weapons and such stay the same as their Set I counterparts although Duelists can get access to more appropriate weapons like gauches, rapiers and bucklers. Very Three Musketeers. They have been trying to keep things simple when it comes to weapons and while that does mean that some weapons seem astronomically better than others it all seems to work out in the end.
One of the biggest changes to weapons comes in the form of crafting. With the help of a master smith, or indeed by specialising into it yourself, you can craft better weapons that can give pluses to both attack and damage. Each weapon comes with a number of different materials you can make it from but they must be scavenged in the down time between adventures!
This does also bring up another point that can be a little daunting for someone coming into role-playing for the first time. There are no real guidelines for both the costs and time it takes to make these weapons so for someone with no experience at coming up with prices and making it fit the world, you could end up getting in a world of confusion.
Adventures & Monsters
At the later end of Set I you’ll find heroes are carving through your monsters, even the ones you’ve upgraded, with ease so it was always going to be fun seeing what Set II had to offer. First off you get an entirely new adventure, The Autumns Fall. This sends you delving deeper into the world of Thedas with a new adventure, new challenges and everything set up for you. I don’t want to spoil anything for you but it’s pretty darn fun!
On top of the new adventure you have the mass of new monsters to contend with. A new gaggle of interesting creatures have been unleashed on players including some that aren’t just dealt with by martial might. It is particularly fun seeing what heroes do when faced by a Glowing Slime and I won’t give away the solution here in case any eagle eyed heroes are looking!
Many of the enemies have nasty tricks up their sleeve and plenty of interesting stunt mechanics that allow them to do powerful attacks. However, since these are tied into you stunting it doesn’t feel like you’re totally robbing the player of his life, as tempting as that is for some games masters.
Some more favourites for me would have to be the addition of proper Dragons, or Drakes, in the game world. These huge hulking brutes are no push over and with a range of additional attacks that are tied off it’s stunts you wont tire of adding these in as bosses.
The Darkspawn have also had an upgrade with Alphas and Caster types joining their ranks. These are tough beggars who can hit almost as hard as your heroes and if you use them correctly they should be in for a world of pain. I find that it’s been helpful in enforcing that feeling of mortality on a group, especially at that key moment when they think they are untouchable.
Overall the balance is good within Set II. The expansion is just that, an expansion on existing content essentially making it a go-to tome for players and game masters. Set Two expands on the existing rules for stunts adding more options for combat, exploration and social matters, and with an increased range of focuses there is no reason why you can’t open these sections up to lower level players.
Other aspects of the Set including poisons, weapon crafting, grenades and spells from the higher end of the spectrum should be kept out of their reach until around level five. In my mind this seems a fair trade off and allows them to have something to aim and indeed build for as they create their character.
The biggest addition for me comes in the form of the Specialisations. This really allows your character to develop outside the confines of their class and you can then have two very distinct warriors, rogues, or mages standing next to each other on the battlefield.
If you loved the first Dragon Age RPG set and want more this is a must-buy. If you can’t get it physically you can always download an electronic copy from the Green Ronin website. This is a key bit of kit!