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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.)

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Set 3 Review In Words

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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.

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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.

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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…
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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…

Dragon Age Set 3 Preview

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It is my great pleasure to give you some good news about set 3 (for a change). It is a most momentous event when anything new for Dragon Age RPG becomes available. Now don’t get too excited, this PDF is only 3 pages and just a bit of intro, but it is something! It shows that it will happen. In the meantime, you are in a great place to get unofficial content for your campaigns.

Green Ronin published the following information:

Hello everyone! We’re delighted to bring you a brief preview of the Player’s Guide for our upcoming release, Dragon Age Set 3. This boxed set will round out the core rules for the Dragon Age RPG with new specializations, adversaries, spells, and character options that cover levels 11–20. What’s more, this set includes more information about the world of Thedas and its history. This preview is the Introduction to the Player’s Guide, which should give you a good idea of what’s inside!

http://greenronin.com/2014/07/dragon_age_set_3_preview.php

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