Inquisition Co-operative Play

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With the table top RPG being a team game I feel like the latest game play trailer from BioWare speaks to me on a much more personal level.
I like working together – I wouldn’t be a fan of RPGs if I didn’t enjoy teaming up with people to complete a mission/campaign, and co-op in a computer game always make the experience more enjoyable.

Let us note that when BioWare attempted co-op in Mass Effect 3 (Obi Wan would say: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly pandered to. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Editor Rob) it was bearable at best and with areas that were rather small and a cycle of in area missions that got repetitive too fast. However in Inquisition they’ve taken the base idea of the multiplayer they implemented and expanded upon it with areas that seem to be larger and possess traps, monsters and environmental hazards that would pose a threat to the agents of the Inquisition.

With 12 customisable classes, which seem to be Inquisition’s specialisations for the 3 base classes, and the ability to improve and customise each character’s weapons, armour and skills, you can get a completely different team line up every time you run through a mission.

-Lory Cozens


Mortality: A Dark and Dangerous World Part 3

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Ashaad – Qunari Warrior Spy

Chris joined the guys mid way through the campaign, having had no previous experience with the dragon age computer games. I suggested he play a Qunari, who would be a foreigner and stranger in Ferelden. Therefore, all the learning he would do about the world, would be done along with his character. Being a Qunari of course almost meant that he would be serving the goals of his people, but those of you who follow the tales of my group will know that the rest of them are screwed up and sold their souls away, one way or another a long time ago.
Ashaad’s day of reckoning came while I was converting Fighting Fantasy’s ‘Blacksand’ for AGE. ‘The Thieves Den’ was a deadly encounter that the group didn’t take seriously enough. They get a lot of successes and rely on them. Here were a horde of enemies bearing down on them. Ashaad had been trying to work his way into the party as their “tank”, i.e. the one who uses ‘threaten’ to draw attacks onto them while wielding a shield.
The party usually have spot on ideas for positional play, as we use miniatures on drawn up rooms upon a whiteboard, but this time Ashaad decided to rush into the room only a little ahead of the others. The problem was, the rest of the team were trying to be clever by holding the doorway in a pinched close position with Tanadil and Amelia barring the exit. The ranged more killable PCs were positioned just behind these two blocking warriors.
The problem was, the doorway area became blocked up with enemy combatants making charges against the two warriors holding it. Eventually, they had so many thieves on them that no more could possibly fit into frontal base to base contact. This meant that the already overburden Ashaad took the rest of the chargers into melee range with him, as his back was also open for them to move round and engage.
There were simply too many for him. A mass of damage took him down, and even Carac’s phenomenal spirit healing couldn’t put enough vitality back into him.
The final straw came when Ashaad had gone down once again and this time the rest of the thieves had to either decide to coup de grace him or leave him alive. Ashaad was the only target they could choose, thanks to the group’s defensive positioning, and so he was finished off.
What makes this even worse is that some thieves did eventually break through the two warrior wall, using skirmish stunts, so they could step people in robes for a change. Unfortunately though that is not the end of the bloodshed even for this same encounter. Read on and you shall see…

Draoi – Elf Shapeshifter

This one is Pete again…Here’s how it happened.
He had died so many times that I spoke with him about having an unstable element in place to make the party not want him to die. Pete is also quite obsessed with all things lupine, so I suggested he have an alt stat sheet with an epic were wolf-form on. I created it, a terrible monster, like a boss in its own right. The idea was that his mage, a Dalish Keeper apprentice was bitten by Fen’Harel the trickster dread wolf and given the seed of lycanthropy in a particularly potent way. This would be a creature that Draoi has to work every day to contain, trying to keep his cool and not wanting the beast to get out.
He had done well, but the trigger point finally came recently, when he was late to a fight. He came into the building and then we realised that there were a number of corpses around…He was of course wearing the maneater greaves. These give him +1 def but also leave him with an insatiable urge to eat dead people. Of course he chose to wear the things, even knowing of their curse…
The next thing the party knew, Draoi had entered the building, rushed over to the bodies and started munching on them.
The party were horrified by this, and immediately set upon him as if he were an abomination. With everyone attacking him, he quickly dropped to 0 health and at that point Pete and I looked at one another and nodded in agreement that this would trigger it.
The were wolf monster erupted from the mage and attacked the group. The party had only just been in a fight and had lost Ashaad just coming through the door previously, so this could have been terrible for them. However, this party are very smart. Too smart for their own goods sometimes. They backed out through the door, leaving Pete’s overgrown were-wolf form back in the building. He got some good shots in on Carac, but even he escape thanks to the rest of the party combining knocked prone and skirmish stunts to keep him back. Within a few turns the whole party were outside and had the wolf trapped. It was too big to get out of the door! The group then simply had to keep him in place with spells and knock downs, along with a magical force crit stone prison casing and they took him down safely from a distance.
It was a shame to see the monster that had been so hard worked upon go down so easy – but on the other hands, forcing it would mean leaving the other players ingenuity of thinking being punished, with them feeling cheated. So it has to play out between the players.
Of course just on the cusp of dying the wolf turned back into the party’s elf mage. Avvar barbarian Tanadil did not wish to spare him, and walk right over and cut his head clean off with a coup-de-grace. He commented, “I didn’t want that hanging over us if I spared him.”
Cold steel indeed…


So that’s ours, and if you haven’t already why not share yours in a comment below?

May they rest in piece, and in some cases, pieces…

This only leaves me with one last question to my party: I wonder who will be next? Death is always waiting…

Death Still Comes

Set 3 Specialisations

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One thing I like about Dragon Age is the specialisations. Set 2 produced three for each class and Set 3 does the same thing. After taking the time to study the 9 new specializations from Set 3, I’ve come to several conclusions about each one. You will also see minor comments from the Editor who GMs our campaign.

Chevalier: By title and description this one is technically out of the question for any one not from Orlais. A master of mounted combat you’ll find that this skill set at Journeymen and Master will be mostly useless in a good majority of situations as mounted combat seems to have taken a back seat for a good majority of the modules, though your GM could easily modify them. (Editor – I feel it to be an oversight, after all, are you putting your party on horses all the time to make it fair? Even if you are, one of you will constantly have the spotlight “edge” so to speak. This would of course be perfect if the entire party were the same class…)

Force Mage: The force mage has a lot of power for only two spells, and while they may both work as extensions of the mind blast spell, when used in confined areas these spells can deal up to 2D6 points of damage. while in open areas this particular specialisation is not extremely damaging but it does grant the user some more breathing room when surrounded by foes. (Editor – The crux is their ability to pull foes towards a central point together, then follow that with area of effect spells. Control of swarms could buy a team some breathing room to stop them getting surrounded and picked apart by multiple small attacks.)

Guardian: As the name suggests, this specialisation is all about protecting your allies, however it has a very limited range which is to be expected as you are literally throwing yourself in the way of attacks.
The other powers give you immunity to stunts that would make you lose ground and allow you to get a single counter-attack once per turn. All these powers make the guardian a viable choice for any that wish to play as the defender.
(Editor – Seems like a good “meta” companion to the templar.)

Keeper: Again this is another one that I believe is out of the question for you unless you’re a Dalish elf mage.
The powers and spells for this specialisation are not overly powerful, but when used in conjunction they can cause continuous damage to any foe nearby. In a drawn out battle, these spells can make a difference so long as you’re willing (and able) to spend the mana to keep them going, plus as an extra bonus: if your journeyman spell kills anyone, you gain a D6 of  health back.
(Editor – Often you will find that developers will favour the less powerful or subtle in this system, just because of the disparity of balances between different types of groups. The smallest things can send this game’s mechanics into a breakage. I think what we also have to remember is DA as a world theme isn’t as highly powered as say D&D. Characters are on a more balanced and equal footing, closer to realism in fact. One example of this is the minor gains to be found from becoming a grey warden. It’s nothing flashy after all is it? But it is a certain something extra, which implies a minor edge to make the difference.)

Marksman: One sentence: ABOUT BLOODY TIME!
Rogues had to deal with a lot of messing around with back stabs, pierce armour etc, and all of this had to be done in melee due to the previous set’s specialisations favouring the assassin and duellist.
Now the marksman makes the ranged option viable, adding some extra punch and versatility to the powers the rogue has at their fingertips, as well as keeping them out of the action and more able to exploit the foes’ position and to be honest, I always preferred my party’s rogues in the computer games to be ranged, so seeing this as a choice pleases me greatly. (Editor – At least in ‘Dragon Age Origins’ it was always more viable to play ranged rogues, due to their annoying habit of running through laid traps if they were a melee spec. You also have the issue of template AOE spells causing friendly fire, which in the tabletop would of course be deadly.)

Ranger: This one I’m unsure of what to say, as its main power is calling upon local wildlife for a short duration or a single combat. Outside of combat this isn’t really a problem, but trying to use the power in combat will knock you out of usefulness to the party for a number of rounds, if not the entire combat. This achieves a small pay off comparatively.
The only benefit in my opinion is the journeyman power, but even then that is situational as you won’t always have initiated a surprise round on the first turn of combat.
(Editor – Yes, they put an extra bit of power in there to make the character a bit less passive. I must say though, this specialisation really needs some strong consideration to homebrew elements. For example, the animal summoning. Of course it should take a while and it’s a no brainer that anything they meet should be fair game to attempt control, but I also think that it lasting only 30 minutes would be a total pain. After all, consider the elements of travel and how time is burnt. I think it would be fairer to rule that the ranger can either release the beast, or control it for a day, with perhaps increasingly difficult tests to extend this per further day.)

Shadow: Compared to the ranger, the shadow feels like a more appropriate step forward and one I would definitely consider running with. Focusing on stealth and guile, this specialisation makes it hard for your foes to land blows and even generating decoys to force an automatic fail on the attack roll – plus for all you melee rogues, there is the benefit of the Shadow master power gaining a bonus to backstab damage equal to their cunning. So stack up on your sneaking abilities my stealthy cohorts, this one promises much, but can it deliver?
(Editor – Depends on whose hands it’s in. A player that can utilise this well will prosper. It also sounds like a proper rogue type behaviour – relying on smarts to survive.)

Shapeshifter: The animals in DA can be deadly and giving a player the ability to transform into a select set of these creatures can cause some interesting and complex situations.
Each level of this specialisation grants a spell that allows you to use the forms of animals and more monstrous creatures, though certain ones might need your GM’s approval. Whilst in these forms, the mage can’t perform any of their normal abilities, but they do have access to the powers the creature has. This grants some new tactical choices but can could generate a whole new bunch of problems as our own group found out when Pete transformed into a wolf, walked around a town and used his new bite attack… yeah that ended well.
(Editor – It’s a dog’s life for Pete isn’t it? But aside from our tragically comical player Pete, I’ve never really seen the point in having this specialisation. After you’ve spent the time changing into the thing, you may as well have stayed as a mage and performed all of those damaging and (most importantly as a distinction) situation changing spells. Yes you can become a bear, but who cares? The party aren’t scared of bears, so why should the NPCs? This system encourages player characters to be strong, (especially at higher levels) than most wild animals. Once your party are that strong you would need to throw multiples of a creature at them to make a difference, and of course the shapeshifter brings only one…)

Spirit Warrior: This specialisation is again situational as its powers work best against demons, denizens of the Fade and incorporeal creatures, and while you may think templars would jump at the chance to fight back against these creatures with power like this, you’ll find that the Chantry would more likely treat you like a possessed mage. This could be an interesting roleplay point of course, as the warrior would have to obtain a spirit that would be willing to cross over from the Fade, yet also sharing a motivation that is in line with the spirit’s own alignment, such as a warrior who wishes to see wrongs put right, and being vengeful in his undertakings being a good fit for a spirit of justice.
(Editor – This is absolute roleplay gold for a character. It helps define the crux of your PC, which is a handy thing to do sometimes, as you can get away too far from the concepts that you set out for. With that said of course, you also don’t want to feel stifled by the limited choices of spirits available, feeling pressured into fitting the bill and getting shoe-horned just for the sake of taking the specialisation. I think it’s better to let your character’s specialisations come about organically, based on revelations they have, people they meet and so on.)

Mortality: A Dark and Dangerous World Part 2

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See part 1 of this article here – https://dragonageoracle.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/mortality-a-dark-and-dangerous-world-part-1/

Let me regale you with the continuation of this article, this grim reminder that the world your PCs inhabit should ideally come with the thrill of danger, made possible by the potential for death.


Agnus – Avvarian Warrior
You may remember from part 1 of this article, me mentioning a player in our group called Pete. Agnus is another one of his…sort of.
The character idea came from Tanadil, our Avvar warrior, who mentioned in his backstory how he has a distinct fear of badgers…(bear with me), and he also goes on to explain that in his home village he was to be betrothed to a woman who he found…less than pleasing on the eye let’s just say. This was gold for a GM to work with! She kept turning up, stalking him, wanting to convince him to get married. It also turned out that this woman had jet black hair accompanied by a distinct white stripe down the middle, much like a badger in fact now I think of it…
She was big, brawny and tough. So I suggested Pete play her and she join the party!
She managed to die, during set 2’s introductory mission in Cumberland: — (SPOILER ALERT) — During the arena section when the PCs are trying to stop explosives from detonating. Agnus (also nicknamed “Aberdeen” after the similar sounding “angus” burgers) died in the arena trying to stop it. She then went on to have the misfortune of having her body taken over by a paranormal assassin who used her form to get close to the group…she managed to die a second time, technically, that same day. Pete does not do things by halves.

Gabriel – Orlesian Rogue
This is a strange one. I had a moment of doubt as to whether I should include this character, but he did in all actuality of the mechanics, die.
This one was played by Lory. Gabriel is a cocky, laid back, thieving, womanising loveable rogue. The party met him when on route to Orlais, they encountered a man who was under attack from low ranking wannabe Antivan crows.
Gabe fulfilled a vital role within the group: That of the expert in underhand matters. The other party rogues haven’t been as particularly inclined towards kleptomania and sneaking around.
The group were tackling one of the Freeport adventures that I had converted to AGE. The party had made their way through the sunken temple of Yig, but one of the fights proved too much for the Orlesian scoudrel, and he fell. For whatever reason (the memory is sketchy now) the party spirit healer didn’t get to him in time and that was that…or was it?
The spirit healer player Craig had mentioned liking Gabe best from all of Lory’s characters, because to him it felt like Lory was playing something outside of the usual RP style. He desperately stated that he wanted to try and save Gabe anyway, seeing as he had only just passed. As a GM I can tell you this certainly made me perk up, especially when I heard what he suggested.
He combined a rite of spirit healing, combined with cutting his own body to bleed energy (though he is not a blood mage) and even feeding Gabe some of his own blood. I then made him roll some very difficult targets that tested both his body and soul. What you know it, he passed those stringently designed tests and Gabe awoke once more…However, what GM can resist some good drama and pathos? Therefore, Gabriel awoke totally blind! Furthermore, Carac had damned himself by performing blood magic rites into a spirit healer spell and lastly, Carac’s Grey Warden blood was inside Gabe! It turns out that he had somehow conscripted Gabe into the wardens against his will, with the tainted blood (albeit in a smaller dose) now inside him too. It helps that it entered him while not alive. After all, you can’t have a joining kill you if you’re already dead.
Duncan was most displeased with Carac over that! He has been banned from allowing any more conscriptions for now. Gabe was taken away to Weisshaupt Fortress for immediate training in warden skills and blind fighting. This was also a way to deeply access him for any signs of darkness from his rising. If they see one piece of evil or the slightest hint of something unnatural they will likely slay him.
As it stands now though, Gabe is still in training and may one day return to the party.

Delilah – Dwarf Rogue Monk

Hi Pete! Great to see you again…not for you of course, but for the rest of the audience it was too funny to put down in words.
This time Pete was given something very different to play: A combat based monk, from Josh Jarman’s excellent alternative classes article. It’s basically a fist fighting rogue, with converted tropes such as “diamond body”. What could go wrong?
Delilah had trouble fitting in for a start. Pete had come in with so many new characters that he really needed to get a feel for this girl as fast as he could. He played her in a semi good, yet semi mysterious way – that began to make doubts grow as to the degree of ill intent Delilah secretly acted with. She was also very aloof and stand offish at times, as well as choosing to remain separate from the other party members at social and exploration encounters.
There was another terrible incident when the group were rushing against time to gather enough medicinal flowers to heal their pets.
A sick bear appeared before the group, attracted by the flowers it instinctively knew were medicine to its condition.
The group could easily defeat it in combat but Delilah made herself stand out by throwing the flowers to the bear. The party become furious with her! They recovered the medicine before the bear could guzzle it by picking up Delilah and throwing her to the now crazed bear.
The final act of her life comes down (as if often appears to be with Pete) to an interaction with Carac the mage.
The group were entering a dangerous building, through a door that was suspected to be trapped. Delilah decided to do a flying kick at it to knock it through. Carac decided to “help” her by casting a mind blast over her foot upon contact with the wood…
Suffice to say, Delilah ended up sprawled through the door with trapped blades springing and tearing through her flesh at the sides. Very shortly after this she died, mostly from her injuries there.
Can Pete ever find a character that can fit in?


So that wraps it for part 2. Again you are invited to share your stories below in the comments. In the meantime, I will begin looking at compiling Part 3…oh dear…


Mortality: A Dark and Dangerous World Part 1


angel death
This age, this Dragon Age, much like similarly “medieval” times on Earth is a dangerous place to exist.
We had to endure terrible conditions of course, but the people of Thedas have to endure the problems we suffered along with a number of their own unique ones: Mages anyone? Darkspawn?
That said, BioWare’s vision for a fantasy setting that more logically plays out like our own Earth history worked out quite successfully.

I seem to recall another statement in Dragon Age text saying that people freely marry one another, as the possibility of death is always just around the hypothetical corner for the people of Thedas.

The official modules are always warning you that certain encounters are highly likely to kill some one in the party, stating that should this happen, it needn’t matter as this reflects the dark nature of the world. So I will start this article off by asking a question:

How many of your characters have died so far?

I will now tell you about my party.

We have suffered a fair few deaths. I want to look at those with a view to examining the nature of play in this RPG. Of course, some of them have even pre-rolled other characters, just in case…

Firstly, lots of NPCs have of course perished. No I don’t mean the people the party are fighting…I mean the NPCs accompanying the group. This happens even when monsters and foes are given randomised targets from dice rolls. I must say, this has saved the party a few times, especially in those important early levels where health pools are not very good. One example that comes to mind (though there are many others) is when the group took on ‘Amber Rage’ from the’Blood In Ferelden’ adventure compendium. I knew that end boss serpent would be dreadfully dangerous to them, it putting out so much damage as it does. But of course, the party had the NPC woman with them too, the one from the town that you can take with you, as she is desperate to escape her father. Yes, the serpent killed her.
Of course, this worked to create great drama too, with guilt over bringing her along.

Eventually the group would begin to call this “the npc curse”.

Paedar – Dalish Ranger
Let me introduce you to Pete, the second accursed one in this game…yes I am now talking about a player, not a character…oh dear.
Pete’s first was Paedar, a grim elf who had taken a glimpse into the pain of his ancestors during the Exalted March upon the Dales.
During the siege of Redhold when darkspawn assaulted the defenders 4 to 1, the group held well enough against the Genlocks in the first charge.
The second charge however was completely composed of Hurlocks. The way they were pouring in, over the walls, surrounding the party (as per the module spawning rules) cut certain members off from physical support to others. We use white board drawn up landscape (which you can find of this encounter in a previous Oracle post) and miniatures, so this is represented very seriously.
Poor Paedar took so many hits that he went into the usual “dying mode”, usual for the system I mean, yet also usual for Pete…
The support characters had their own problems to deal with, with the plate wearing templar (tank) falling too, and having to pull her back onto her feet, lest all be lost for the party as a whole!
Paedar bled out atop that wall and that was the start of things.

As GM I had a fairly satisfied feeling at this (sounds terrible I know), with a feeling of surprise that it had happened, but also a relief that the world has proven it is dangerous enough to kill player characters off. I suppose you could say I knew this would bump up group tension for future adventures. After all, it is more fun if the threat of getting killed is serious. Heck, the party also lost their NPC attack dog Oof here as well (NPC curse *cough*).

Falen – Dwarf Crossbow Spy
Pete rolled a new character, well sort of…in fact he had a lot of trouble choosing one, so I helped him out this time and gave him one to take forward, but under GM advice at key situations…oh yes I’m naughty like that.
The idea was that he would openly be an employee of Lady Baranti, who the group also worked for, but as one of her own found spies, the group could never truly trust him. Yes, that one was my fault really, but it really matched the uncertain tone of the modules, a feeling of are they with us or against us?
I always knew that some sort of showdown would be possible, but assured the player that any experience he gains will automatically transfer to his next character. His main goal from the GM was: You serve Bann Nicola’s interests in all things, even above the party. A simple instruction with powerful connotations.
A showdown came up…and went down (lots of ups and downs) at a ballroom type party. Carac (apostate) and Tanadil (avvar barbarian) tried to stop Bann Nicola going ahead with a killing in the place, but Amelia (templar) and of course Pete’s Falen stood against them. Amelia by this point was very much ingratiated with House Baranti, even though I had never asked her player to be…
Here was saw pure player versus player action. 2 versus 2. Tanadil and Amelia traded blows (basically sparring for those two jar heads) while Carac and Falen went at it in a range war. That was never going to end well. Set 2 mages totally trump set 2 ranged rogues, any day of the week. So that was the end of Falen.

When your group has the potential for PVP, you really have to make sure that all parties know it is in best spirits, and intended as a storytelling device, not to be taken personally. This simply calls for maturity. Players either have it or don’t. If yours don’t, it’s probably not wise to push in that direction. Luckily for me, my group contains various ages, but all are quite mature enough.

Bullheim – Qunari Warrior
This one has to have set a record for most short lived Dragon Age character. Of course it just had to be Pete again didn’t it? Poor poor Pete. But you know, I do hate fudging dice rolls, and dice, well they do hate Pete, even his own.
The group were meant to meet Bullheim within the adventure they were on. I had them going up against a reconstructed version of World of Warcraft’s Scarlet Monastery Graveyard set on the Eastern borders of Orlais. Bullheim was the poor qunari being tortured on the interrogator’s rack. Once freed he explained that he wanted to pay back those who held him here. It turned out that after this all they met were undead, and I mean hordes by the bucket load!
This encounter threw vast numbers of low hp zombies at the group. As combat pushed on, the party raged ahead of others holding back and lost all formation. Bullheim was one of those in the thick of the fighting, totally surrounded and being hit on all sides. At this point, the team’s spirit healer was being pushed back and forced to retreat from large numbers heading his way, thus cutting some of the melee fighters off from magical support range.
Bullheim fell, with no help in sight. The undead then finished him…
Eventually the group managed to rally together and fight back with co-ordinated team work, but it was too late for poor Pete…by this point the player was sighing almost comically, and the other players were laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it. Pete replied in his usual deadpan way, “I’m glad my death helped you realise how to win”.

Dead End

That wraps it for the first part. Part 2 is coming soon where I tell you about further deaths…and oh, just guess how many of them are played by Pete?

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