The following are the initial impressions from three different people regarding the content of set 3. Lory, Martin and finally my own take on it.
Lory (Lordrin): Dragon Age Set 3, well it’s been a long time coming I must say, but delays aside it’s finally here! Now first glance at ‘The Players Guide’ (seeing as I’m in the middle of a campaign being run by Robert it is all I’m going to look at), this book bears the same level of detail in its imagery that the previous two set books have produced, so no lack of feel for what each page is trying to convey, more history and lore, this time focusing on The Dales, Orlais and The Tevinter Imperium; most of the Backgrounds in this book are based around those last two with several scattered to different parts of the world that have been covered already.
Then we move on to the levels for each class and I must say they have made it so that you can expect your GM to get deadly with you.
While it takes some time to level, and gaining mana and health is harder since gains are soley the Magic/Constitution of the character, no longer that and a D6.
The powers and abilities that each class gets are quite deadly themselves in the hands of veteran player, which I would assume anyone who has made it this far would well be.
Focuses and talents are once again expanded upon, although not in any major way, for all you dwarf players: We have runecrafting. That’s sure to be an expensive undertaking I think.
There is now a mounted combat talent, plus with the lances weapon group and the chevalier specialization this set is likely to make more use of mounted battles. On the subject of specializations, there are two in this book that, in my opinion should be background locked: Chevalier and Keeper, both of these are set to a certain area of Thedas, or in the case of the keeper are only trained to the Dalish mages, so one would have to be an apostate elf mage role-played as a Dalish. The others would require a good talk with your GM to figure out how to apply said choice to your character at level 14.
Weapons! Yes new gear as well, but I’m one to be interested in the sharp, pointy and shiny pieces of “enemy fall overness”, that is a word now and I’m sticking to it. Along with a talent to use these new pieces of gear we have the polearm and lances weapon groups, each with three weapons in their listings.
But let’s forget all that… Time for the part of the book that everyone has been waiting for…
MAGIC! Yes, new spells and even unique spell school stunts to boot, with the sheer power at your Command as a mage, you will want your allies help in keeping from getting picked on by the nasty monsters that will try to eat your face, trust me with the power in these new spells and the stunts to go with them a GM might try to lock you down fast and stop you casting, though it’s also possible that such a thing has already been occurring for you, but this just helps hammer the point home some more.
Martin (Vosoros): As I am oftentimes charged with the creative and hard work of bringing adventures to life for folk, I was intrigued to quickly flick through all of the Set 3 material.
The Player’s Guide finally solidified Morvan the Hunter (from A Hunter’s Tale) as a truly remarkable friend or foe, and has paved the way for a few more intriguing, reoccurring NPC characters you may one day have the pleasure of crossing paths with. Furthermore, The Player’s Guide has provided a wealth of resources to further flesh out and equip your player characters with.
Indeed, The Game Master’s Guide has taken a lot of work off the shoulders of the games master by providing a variety of types of NPCs, such as the brigand archer (p.22) who focuses on his skill with a bow as opposed to the generic brigand thug who is more inclined to rush you and fight you up close and personal. What is more, this guide provides for the likes of a NPC elite, such as the brigand lieutenant.
With further information on a few more nations throughout Thedas, your adventures promise to take you further than you’ve ever been before, and likely lead you into greater dangers than you could possibly imagine…
Robert: Mine will be a critical account of this release. After such a long wait, the print copy will arrive in very limited numbers as Green Ronin will be relying on us buying the collected edition instead. Well I won’t.
I purchased this PDF because trying to obtain the print edition here in England was going to be too much trouble…so already, before I can start looking at the content of the books I’m dealing with problems.
But now let us take a look at the content between the pages and see if it was worth the wait.
Great background, lore, art and new mechanics. Consider this though, if Green Ronin had stuck to their plan of 4 set box releases, we would have had more content by now, and at least one extra module to play…You also would have had set 3 long ago. This especially makes no sense when we consider that the compendium Deep Roads book is still to come out, yet that is suited for set 2 parties…
I can’t help but wonder what content we would have gotten had it been 4 sets released. But background lore and nice art are not really my interest: I’ve bought the World of Thedas hardback for that very purpose already, so I’m going to be looking at the rest of the content.
In ‘The Players Guide’ we finally get to the new things on page 30/96, with new backgrounds of various kinds. Yes they are lovely indeed, well thought out and appropriate, but these don’t impress me either, after all, all backgrounds in Dragon Age RPG are quite dry and similar when it comes down to it. It’s just the “safe zone” way in which these mechanics work. Don’t get me wrong, I love the simplicity of the mechanics, which are a real treat for normally crunch ridden players to deal with, but I’m just calling it what it is, that’s all.
Page 37/96 gives us the new experience amounts up to 20. It’s nice to see that these have been lengthened out since the beta test, with level 20 now requiring 123,500 experience to attain.
From level 11, players get to add 1 stunt point extra to their stunt point spend. This seems to be an elegant and simple solution to improving the players. In fact, this new mechanic speaks volumes of the internal working of the system as a whole.
The classes level in a predictable way. That’s not a criticism either, again, it’s one of the system’s strengths in its way. The improvements to be found follow the trend from the previous levels, adding only a little new thing now and then.
While other posts will no doubt talk much about the new specialisations to choose from (the second set being applicable from level 14), I won’t go into that matter right now. We haven’t tried them so I will hold judgement until we have.
Finally ranged rogues become that bit more viable, with quick shot allowing them a minor action shot, at the expense of a to hit modifier (which at these levels will mean little to the chances of still hitting). Level 15 rogues can make a second backstab on an enemy for 2 stunt points. At last they are getting some more balance against those power hungry warriors, who re-roll their damage with two-hander specialisation talent.
When we consider the new rogue power ‘slippery’, it stops opponents ganging up on you and getting that to hit bonus. At first light this seems like yet another “dry rule”, but it’s safe, as previously mentioned. However, while the abilities seem simplistic, it is up to the player to develop their character to take best advantage of this. So as we’ve mentioned, the chances to hit now for most things are barely worth rolling for any more (not that we wouldn’t, we love those stunts), but if a rogue has designed themselves with a high dexterity, their heightened defence will really play out in more confident battle at the front lines beside the warriors, or even just holding those gaps closed so additional foes can’t rush the mages…Oh and the mages, everyone may certainly wish to hurt them, perhaps even their own party if you’re not careful, but more on that later!
Warriors gain some more stable fixed damage now at level 12, and later on they gain their own version of the rogue’s quick (shot) strike ability. Later still they gain the ability to damage extra targets. Again, all quite bland looking on their own, but combined with a certain spec and the right team backing them, could be thoroughly lethal!
We get 3 new focuses…count them, 3. Again, this is where I feel sets 3 and 4 being merged has hurt the game…
The new talents are a good mix at least, with some much appreciated new non combat ones to boot. Again, for what is effectively 10 levels of character in one hit, there could be some more…
I did say I wouldn’t talk about specialisations, but I must just say this: It’s about time that marksman and ranger were finally available! I hurt to think of those players who have put up with ranged rogues up until now, being only able to look jealously on as their mage companions do their combat job better than them, day in day out. Poor Varric!
There are at last great equipment, clothes trade goods and raw materials shop lists, letting your party get even more involved with the immersion of living in the world, rather than simply fighting in it, a criticism that previous sets suffered from.
Then we’ve got the list for professional gear. I love seeing the blank pages book costing 10 gold. I’m going to demand my mages buy one before being able to memorise any new spells…oh don’t show them pity, they have things really good now.
The addition of the home and hearth shop list was an inspired idea. With the new organisation rules (see previous article) players will be creating their own groups and factions. Player lodgings are a sought after feature in many games, such as MMORPGs, and no wonder, they after all add to the feeling of immersion to the world.
Then just in case you prefer to live out of Inns, they provide a food and lodging list too.
These shop lists are the first thing that feels truly encompassing of 10 levels worth combined into one book…
Now we move on to look at magic. I told you mages had it good! There are so many new spells that I think many players will be overwhelmed initially. You will find all of the spells you were familiar with in the later stages of the Dragon Age computer game.
Then there are the absolute mass of new mage spell stunts. Crikey! These have been noted as optional, and within GM discretion. I will be homebrewing the talent that unlocks all of this, by perhaps making only one or so available at novice, and continuing with more lists unlocked with higher talents…but the stunts themselves I feel should be earned separately. I feel that making them into books to buy from black market shops, and apostate trainers is appropriate, on a stunt by stunt basis.
To make things fairer, I feel I would like to make new stunt lists for rogues and warriors too.
We now move on to mention the fact that this book dispenses superb player and GM advice, like the last two did. This has always been a deeply important element of the series and helps retain its consistency in its final release.
The organisations are truly one of the greatest ideas in this book. It really puts some great tools into the players hands, with all manner of options, charts and whatnots to mess about with between adventures. Need I say any more than these organisations can go up against each other, and in trying to undermine one another with their rolls can achieve stunts, from a vast list to choose from!
Moving quickly onto ‘The Games Masters Guide’, I am again impressed with the support knowledge contained at the start. Just those words of wisdom to prepare you for using the new content. This is followed up by a magnificent guide on using the darkspawn taint in your games (which I will). This expands the danger and causality of the world all the more.
I am however in two minds about it being a stunt to potentially contaminate people. I may be tempted to have the party roll for each close encounter they have with darkspawn, where they gave or received damage that resulted in blood loss and potential blood contact. Bear in mind how Earth organisations now have to handle injured and bloody people while wearing gloves, and that’s just the minor risk of HIV contact.
At last, the information on the Fade gives us something brilliant to work with. Finally, some lore that feels fresh and informative, complete with information about obtaining fade essences to boost your players, the nature of the spirits there and details of common form changes seen by visitors and inhabitants alike.
The new adversary list contains relatively expected listings, including the Archdemon herself!
That said, I really don’t understand what is going on with the listed hp of the rock wraiths…I remember them in the computer game…they were dreadfully dangerous to face against and I plan to homebrew them accordingly.
New titles, NPC helpers, runes, new powerful items armour, weapons and equipment come next, all expanding your group’s play experience further.
We then get to learn about the new mass battles mechanics. They appear quite rudimentary at first glance, but don’t worry, the book goes on to explain the ways you can expand this further with some handy lists and examples. Again, excellent and inspired as an idea, one which I cannot wait to try out at the table. It probably deserves its own article here, like the organisations did.
Finally, the book is finished off with a new module, ‘Battle’s Edge’. Nothing to be sniffed at considering how desperate we have all been for content. This adventure tasks you with recruiting enough sub commanders with their troops to fill out an army big enough to take on the threat facing them, perfectly using and demonstrating the new mass battle mechanics exquisitely. Again, I will hold final judgements on it after playing it with the group, but it certainly looks like something fresh for us to be on with.
That wraps up my initial feelings of set 3. I was pleasantly surprised with various parts, more than exceeding expectations in some areas, and not quite meeting the mark in others, but am I happy? Yes indeed I am. Green Ronin now have a mammoth task upon them to expand the number of modules available to support this, and I have to admit, I have my concerns about whether they have the size and dedication in the line to see it through like they can with some of their other licences. If history has taught us anything, it is that Bioware’s approval process will massively slow down the content. This will be made worse by Inquisition being on their plate, and taking up Bioware’s time as a higher priority…this is a shame though, after all, some of these players find their way to the Dragon Age games from playing the tabletop RPG first. Think of those players who agree to a desperate GM’s plea to play this, they are a mix of anyone. This is something Bioware should take to heart and I would readily encourage Green Ronin to remind them of this…