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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…

Grave

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

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.

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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?

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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…

RJF

Mortality: A Dark and Dangerous World Part 1

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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…

THE NPC CURSE
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?

Dragon Age: Inquisition

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Now with E3 behind us and the print version of Set 3 being released, (PDF available but that’s another topic), we feel it important to mention the soon to be released third instalment of the Dragon Age Computer game, Inquisition is just around the corner and boy do we have some things to cover in this one.

Dragon Age: Origins and it’s DLC/Expansions where Bioware stuck to the old tried and tested methods that made their previous RPGs work (Knights of the Old Republic being their finest hour for many), then we got hit with Dragon Age II… yeah – not got much to say about that, not that I didn’t like playing it, but the story was way too forced and this isn’t a review so I’m going to stop before I get carried away here. (Or before I carry you away in a net – Ed).
Which leads me to what I hope can be the saving grace: Inquisition.

With so many things to cover I’m just going to give you an initial list to pursue at your leisure, so you too can see why this game has me jumping aboard the hype train and throwing my money at the screen.

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/dragonageofficial/videos

 

I will keep you updated with any other information I find regarding the game and Dragon Age Keep when it’s available to test via beta.

Videogame to Tabletop: Campaign Journal 2

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With this series I’m continuing to chronicle my Dragon Age RPG conversion of the Origins storyline.  This is a recap of our second session of that storyline.  Unfortunately, the game was cut short due to a small fire breaking out in my bathroom (everyone is okay).  Here is a link to part 1 of the series.   We pick up our recap in the Korkari Wilds…

Campaign Journal 2

Having defeated the darkspawn and collected their blood, the party next wanted to see if they could find their horses.  Some tracking and searching led them to the corpse of one of the horses, it seemed to have been eaten by blight wolves.  The wounds were fresh enough to  scare party into thinking the pack of wolves may be nearby, so they marched on deep within the Wilds. While searching for the horses, the party’s rogue spotted what looked like a small tower or ruin off in the distance, and they figured that would be as good a place as any to search.

Game bit:  The horses were never meant to be found, they were spooked and for me that was the last of that.  They insisted on finding them, so I indulged them in some rolling for searching. This led to high rolls and the opportunity to have them find the ruins.

They arrived at the ruins, and started searching and looking around.  The Avvarian caught something from the corner of his eye, he said it looked like a pony sized spider that stopped to look at them and quickly went into the trees and out of sight.  The party decided to remain vigilant, but weren’t going to go searching for spiders, as they had a job to do.  They found a trap door and a set of stairs that went down into the ground, so the mage lit a small light in his hand and down they went.

Game bit:  The spider was my way of introducing Morrigan, she knew that they were here and was watching them.

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Videogame to Tabletop: Campaign Journal 1

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So I’ve decided that my Dragon Age campaign will switch to following the story line (albeit a bit altered) of the videogame.  My 5 players are level 5, and we’ve gone through most of the published adventures, which I believe springboard nicely into getting noticed by the Grey Wardens.  I wanted to chronicle my conversion of the video game unto the tabletop, so I’m going to do it here at the Dragon Age Oracle, the web’s best place for Dragon Age content outside of Green Ronin’s site.

I’ll pick up the story after finishing the adventure included in Set 2, “The Autumn Falls”.  There, they caught the attention of the Nevarran Grey Warden Commander, who instructed them to go to Ostagar and meet The Ferelden Commander, Duncan.  Behind the scenes, Duncan already knew about this group of people because they had helped stop a Darkspawn assault on the Avvarian village of Redhold, and had defeated a Desire Demon in Denerim.  Duncan was waiting.  The party’s journey towards their fate would begin in the port city of Amaranthine, where the ship bringing them from Nevarra back to Ferelden docked….

Campaign Journal 1

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Eaten By A Dragon: Lessons From A Playtest

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Late last night I couldn’t sleep so I got on Twitter and checked if my pal, NewbieDM, was around. We had talked about maybe doing some late night Dragon Age gaming but really, I would be happy with just some monster bashing for a bit. Newbie was around, but didn’t have anything planned, so we decided to run a combat encounter against one of the playtest Midgard creatures designed by Josh Jarman, the Young Cave Dragon (also one of the winners of March Monster Madness). Another one of our mutual Tweeps, Edwin (@TheRealEdwin) saw the exchange and wanted in, so off to Skype we went to fight a dragon.

It went exactly as you would think a fight against a dragon would go. And it was glorious. It also revealed a few lessons worth noting down both as playtest feedback but also as general information for other Dragon Age/AGE Game Masters.

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