The AGE system presented in Dragon Age Set 1 provided many ways to define your character.  Background, class, and Talents could be combined to create characters with a lot of diversity.  Set 2 brought us Specializations, which allowed players to go a step further in making their PCs stand out from the rest.  It provided three Specializations for each class, for a total of nine.  These allow for a variety of character types, especially for most small to medium-sized gaming groups. However, there is also plenty of room for additional specializations, whether for specific campaign settings or for more generic fantasy settings.

When I started writing Specializations, I was focused on Stunt Points.  I thought up a number of abilities that allowed characters to use Stunt Points in different ways and created Specializations around them.  But something seemed odd, and I made myself read through the Specializations in Set 2 again.  What I realized is that out of the 27 powers throughout the Specializations, only two of them rely on Stunt Points.  This made me sit back and think a little more about how new Specializations should work.

Stunt Points (or SP) are one of the highlights of the AGE system.  Unfortunately, SPs are gained through random rolls.  Players have no control over when they get them.  This means that a player might never get to use an SP-related power in a session due to bad luck.  Another player might roll well and use their SP-related powers many times.  I experienced this in one session I ran, where I was having great luck and rolled doubles on every other roll, while two of the players’ rolls were average, and the third player couldn’t roll doubles to save his life.

I did some additional reading, going over the classes and the talents again, this time keeping track of how may stunt bonuses there are.  Among the classes, through ten levels the mage has only one power that requires Stunt Points.  The rogue and warrior classes each have two powers that use Stunt Points.  Looking at the talents I found similar results.  Most of the weapon-based talents have at least one ability that uses Stunt Points, but other talents rarely require their use.

Bringing this back to Specializations, I decided it is best to avoid powers that rely on Stunt Points.  Instead, Specialization powers should offer the character unique abilities or significant bonuses to their actions.  At most, only one of the three powers in a Specialization should involve the use of SPs.

The next thing I did was to compare Talents and Specializations.  Both play important roles in the game.  Both use the same format of Novice, Journeyman, and Master abilities.  How do you know when something should be a Talent and when it should be a Specialization?

Talents represent a character’s special skills.  A character might have medical skills (Chirurgy talent) or prefer to fight with two-handed weapons (Two-Hander Style talent).  These are things your character can do and at which they excel.  Specializations, on the other hand, define who or what your character is: Assassin;  Blood Mage;  Templar.  These aren’t just skills and powers.  These are things that affect how characters interact with the world.  They reflect a character’s outlook on the world.  If this were another game, Specializations might be called Prestige Classes or Paragon Paths.  They are implemented the same way as Talents, but don’t let that confuse you.  They say so much more about a character than a mere talent, and should give the character something more.

Let’s compare the Two-Hander Style (THS) talent and Berserker Specialization.  At the novice level, THS lets you move your opponent 2 yards when you strike them.  This is the equivalent of a free Stunt Point every turn, whether or not you roll doubles.  That’s a nice benefit.  Berserker gets you a +2 on two different Willpower tests and +1 to damage, at the cost of a -1 to Defense and Perception.  That’s a pretty good deal as well.  The big difference shows at the Journeyman level, where THS lets you use the Mighty Blow stunt for just 1 Stunt Point.  An extra d6 of damage is nice, but this is one of those powers that requires you to roll doubles.  At Journeyman, Berserker boosts the damage bonus from the Novice ability to +3.  A +3 to damage every time you strike your opponent is much better than +1d6 when you are lucky enough to roll doubles.

If you find yourself with some ideas for Specializations, go ahead and design away!  Just keep these few things in mind.  And if you think of any other tips, please let me know!

Artwork by Storn Cook, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.