Beyond Dragon Age is a series exploring using the AGE System for anything other than the Dragon Age RPG, whether it is differing styles of fantasy, or other genres altogether.

Over the holiday break, I watched the anime series The Tower of Druaga, a fantasy action series set in a Babylonian/Sumerian-inspired world where a giant tower has risen from the land and adventurers set out to climb it to gain fame and fortune. Happy as I would’ve been with a popcorn sword & sorcery anime, what I got was a fairly complex dramatic story with a fantasy action backdrop. I liked the anime lots, and I’ve written a blog post about why I liked The Tower of Druaga.

As I keep watching the show, it was immediately evident that this could be an interesting setting for a roleplaying game, not surprising considering the anime is based on a Nintendo videogame from the 80s, so it has the tropes already built-in. Given that I’m lately enamored of Dragon Age and its basic approach, I knew this was the system I would want to use to create a Tower of Druaga game. Given that I have just started the new semester at the university and my time for roleplaying has now dwindled down to zero, I devised that I could still pull it off if I ran the game online via email or forum, which has since become my plan. I even went ahead and created a campaign for it at Obsidian Portal where I can keep all my notes together as I slowly develop it.

While I did talk about why I liked the anime as a series, I’d like to talk about the things that attracted me from it to want to devote time that I barely have to crafting a new world for one single game.

Just because the anime is based on a videogame is not enough reason for me to want to run this as a roleplaying game. Yes, it helps there are some tropes already built-in, but it isn’t the main reason. What tropes, you ask?

The Tower of Druaga is in essence a vertical dungeon full of monsters for the adventurers to go and kill. It is at its core an ascending dungeon delve at its purest. The Tower has opposition for adventurers of all levels, culminating with the demon Druaga, a legendary foe sure to require a few characters pooling their resources to defeat it. It is part of the setting that adventurers, called Climbers, gather in Meskia, a city right inside the Tower, in order to seek out other party members or to use it as a base of operations as they then set out to explore the Tower. In these three elements–the vertical dungeon that is the Tower of Druaga, the Climbers that seek to conquer its challenges for fame and fortune, and the city of adventurers right inside the dungeon–we have the three pillars needed to launch your average fantasy campaign without a problem.

To reiterate what I said in my review of the anime, I’m a sucker for reimagined Earth mythos, and Tower of Druaga grabs bits and pieces of Babylonian and Sumerian legends and uses them to build a new world that feels fairly complete beyond the scope of the show. Uruk, the kingdom ruled by King Gilgamesh and mentioned in the name of the show’s two parts, is the result of the fusing of former nations of Babylin and Sumer, and this comes into play during the story, as factions from the former Sumer want to see their nation reinstated (post-colonialism in an anime!). This gives me built-in conflict in the setting, and that’s always good to have as fuel for interesting stories. It also means I have extraneous material I can use as inspiration should I want to bring in new elements.

The setting is fairly straightforward in its fantasy elements, which means I should be able to recreate it using the basic Dragon Age system presented in Set 1 (and some of the stuff in the Set 2 Playtest), with some new designs of my own. This is actually one of the strengths of Dragon Age which I just love: its approach to fantasy is that of building blocks that I can arrange as needed in order to achieve my desired result. Quick examples? The Mage class can account for both wizards (of which there are a few different kinds in the anime) as well as oracles (clerics) and druids. Also, the Warrior class can cover most of the fighter-types seen in the anime, and a few custom Specializations can even showcase some of those specific to the setting. I just love this malleability of the AGE System.

Ultimately, however, the thing that most convinced me to pursue running a game set in this world is that I realized that, at the core of the anime, all it was about was interpersonal conflicts, not just big swords and flashy magics. The climb through the Tower of Druaga serves as the backdrop for these stories to play out. More to the point, I believe the Tower is truly a catalyst to bring all these conflicts to the forefront to be hashed out as the people involved climb higher and higher on their way to face the allegorical demon Druaga at the top and see what its defeat reveals next. Yeah, that’s roleplaying gold right there, and while Dragon Age doesn’t have a built-in social combat element in its system, it does have the mechanical bit of Goals, which I am planning how to use towards driving this aspect of the game.

Something you might be wondering is why, as my first foray into running a long-term game of Dragon Age, am I choosing to go with a different setting that will need reskinning if not outright new designs instead of using the already made world of Thedas and what’s in the boxed set? There’s two reasons: one, since I am not a Dragon Age videogame player, I am not married to Thedas in any way; to me it is just another setting, and while it is a really interesting one that I want to explore, it doesn’t have any kind of preeminence in my decision-making process. Two, if I had to pick one thing in the Dragon Age RPG that really grabbed me it would have to be the system, not the world, and thus I want to see this system in action by itself; I wanna see those gears turning, see what makes them tick, how they fit together, and how I can build upon that machine in motion. Because of that, going with a new setting that is still fantasy seems like a good idea to me: I get to use a lot of what is already in the game as-is with some cosmetic modifications, but I also have the opportunity to create new elements that will let me see how the sausage is made and perhaps create some interesting meats as a result (sorry for the sudden food metaphor).

I will be sharing my designs as I seek to bring the world of Tower of Druaga to the AGE System, both as I share how I’m adapting what is already in existence in Set 1 and Set 2 Playtest towards my goal, and what I create from scratch in order to portray elements of the anime into my game. In fact, let’s get started right now.

Guardian wielding medium vanguard shield with spike extended.

Vanguard Shield

The warriors of Uruk have developed a type of shield known as a vanguard which incorporates a heavy wooden or metal spike as part of the shield design. The spike is meant to be driven into the ground in order to turn the wielder into a veritable immovable wall capable of meeting a charging enemy without giving an inch. The use of the vanguard shield eventually gave rise to a specialized group of warriors, known as Guardians, who excel at protecting themselves and those around them via their mastery of this type of shield.

Any medium or heavy shield can be made into a vanguard shield by a competent blacksmith. The increased weight of the vanguard shield, however, means that only those of a minimum strength may use it. When the vanguard shield spike is grounded and the wielder does not move for one full round, the Shield Bonus increases by +1 and the wielder may purchase the Defensive Stance stunt for 1 stunt point instead of the usual 2. In addition, when the vanguard spike is grounded, the wielder is immune to the being moved by the Skirmish stunt. These benefits end the moment the shield wielder retracts the spike and moves.

Medium Vanguard Shield
Cost: 60 sp
Minimum Strength: 2
Shield Bonus: +2

Heavy Vanguard Shield
Cost: 120 sp
Minimum Strength: 3
Shield Bonus: +3

I’m very excited about the prospect and hope you’ll enjoy the journey as well.