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[Beyond Dragon Age] AGE of Terror: Spell Schools & Sorceress Background

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In my last post, I gave an overview of the changes I was planning to make to Dragon Age’s magic system in order to make it a better fit for Diablo’s setting. This post is meant to give more of the mechanics to support those changes: talents for the new schools of magic and a background for Diablo 2’s Sorceress character.

New Talents

Arcane Magic

Classes: Mage.

Requirement: You must have the Magic (Arcane) focus.

You have mastered the manipulation of raw arcane energy.

Novice: You can sense the presence of magic, such as lingering enchantments and magical items, within 3 yards of you as a minor action. This sense generally does not allow you to know the effects of the magical aura.

Journeyman: When you cast an Arcane spell, its cost in mana points is reduced by 1, to a minimum of 1. You also gain one new Arcane spell.

Master: Your mastery of raw arcane energy allows you to regenerate mana much faster than other mages. When you roll to regain mana points, you can choose to re-roll the dice but must keep the results of the second roll. You also gain one new Arcane spell.

Death Magic

Classes: Mage.

Requirement: You must have the Magic (Death) focus.

You have learned to harness the power of death, decay, and poison.

Novice: You may channel latent necromantic energy into an armor of phantasmal bone without spending mana points. This requires a minor action and gives you an armor rating of 2 until the beginning of your next turn.

Journeyman: When you cast a Death spell, its cost in mana points is reduced by 1, to a minimum of 1. You also gain one new Death spell.

Master: The miasma of death and decay surrounding you weakens those who would attack you. Opponents making a melee attack against you suffer a -1 penalty to Strength. You also gain one new Death spell.

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Magic Via Stunts

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My mind has continued to dwell on the topic of Stunts and this time around it has turned to how magic interacts with this game mechanic. We already have Spell Stunts in the game that allow Mages to enhance their spellcasting as it happens with various effects (d20 players know these as metamagic feats) and those are really good. I mean, I have seen Mages cast Stunts-enhanced spells that have stopped entire combat encounters cold in one action. Given the flexibility of Stunts, however, I have kept wondering how these could further couple with magic to create interesting and neat effects for the game.

I have two people to blame for this post, Mark Miller (@mrkmllr) and contributor Josh Jarman (@joja_rpg). Every so often I see Mark and Josh chatting back and forth on Twitter about Dragon Age and the AGE System as they hash out ideas and mechanics for their games and for Josh’s project, Dragon Hack. One night I saw a tweet fly by that captured my attention, talking about having a kind of Stunt that allowed a character to cast a spell. Hmm… I chimed in, told them I liked that idea, and they went on. It’s a concept that has come up in conversation a couple times now, but none of us has done anything with it yet. I’d like to change that and Brian Molix’s recent update to the Improvised Magic rules for AGE gave me a great idea.

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Specializations in AGE

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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.

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Racial Talents: The Myrwinn and The Viragoi

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Last time we looked at the concept of Racial Talents. Now let’s see them in action with these two new backgrounds from my home campaign, the Myrwinn Woodsrunner and the Viragoi Freebooter.

Myrwinn Woodsrunner

A proud people, the Myrwinn of the Great Uncharted Forest are a transplant from the forests of Tanat far to the south. They have taken a liking to their new home, and the forest seems to have accepted them, allowing the Woodsrunners to find their way home each night from the hunt.

Myrwinn are smaller than the other people of Ryllia, and their light frames are dexterous and capable. They wear little in the way of clothing, simple harnesses which don’t interfere with their gliding flaps being the most common. Even though they look a little like mice, few would doubt the resolve of the Myrwinn in times of trouble.

Playing a Myrwinn Woodsrunner

If you choose to play a Myrwinn Woodsrunner, modify your character as follows:

  • Add 1 to your Dexterity ability.  Myrwinn are coordinated and have great reflexes.
  • Pick one of the following ability focuses: Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Strength (Jumping).
  • You can speak and read the Trade Tongue and Myr.
  • You gain the Gliding (Novice) Talent.
  • Your speed is equal to 8 + Dexterity – Armor Penalty (if applicable).
  • You are slightly more fragile than other races, whenever you are struck by the Mighty Blow or Lethal Blow stunts, take 2 additional damage.
  • Choose a class. You can play either a warrior or a rogue.

Roll twice on the following table for additional benefits.  Roll 2d6 and add the results together.  If you get the same result twice, re-roll until you get something different.

MYRWINN WOODSRUNNER

2d6 ROLL

BENEFIT

2

+1 DEXTERITY

3-4

FOCUS: PERCEPTION (HEARING)

5

FOCUS: CUNNING (NATURAL LORE)

6

FOCUS: WILLPOWER (COURAGE)

7-8

+1 WILLPOWER

9

FOCUS: DEXTERITY (STEALTH)

10-11

FOCUS: STRENGTH (CLIMBING)

12

+1 PERCEPTION

Racial Talent: Gliding

Novice: You have gliding flaps that make you capable of holding yourself aloft and making you a fearless leaper. Gain a +1 to all jumping tests and as long as you are awake and aware you do not take any damage from falling, no matter the distance. At this level, you can’t truly glide and gain no forward motion as part of your gliding down from heights.

Journeyman: Now that you have truly learned to use your flaps, you can glide in a flying-like manner when leaping from a height. You must always descend to use gliding, and you cannot gain altitude but you can move forward at twice your normal speed with a move action when gliding with a single Move Action. You may do this twice in a turn so as to move four times your normal speed in a turn. At the end of this glide though, you must land. The GM may call for Dexterity (Gliding) tests if you wish to make any maneuvers as part of the glide.

Master: You are a very skillful glider and you may not only glide as above, but you gain access to two new options:

  • When gliding, you may make a Dexterity (Gliding) test, TN15, to remain aloft for an additional turn by using air currents to control your “flight.”
  • You may make a Charge attack while gliding and add +2 to your damage for the maneuver.  After the charge you must land next to the target you charged.

Special: When gliding you cannot use your hands very effectively, only being able to hold small items – and certainly not two-handed weapons. If you are carrying enough weight that your GM feels it necessary, the GM can call for a Dexterity (Gliding) test when you wish to use the ability. Also, Gliding is going to be something you need to discuss with your GM, explain the way you see it and listen to your GM discussing how he or she sees it working in play so that everyone’s expectations can be accounted for.

Viragoi Freebooter

Long ago, before the coming of the Shen, before the conquests of Axion, before even the rise of the Phareen, the Viragoi had a proud empire. Spanning the southern continents, the Viragoi ruled the waves, explorers and conquerors. In those days, their empire made war on the Serpent Kings and fought the Ancient Ones wherever their paths crossed.

But time is cruel, and with time all these ancient empires crumbled. Today, the Viragoi have retreated to the last island of their once mighty empire – and from here they engage in piracy and looting, a danger to all ships that might enter their waters.

Playing a Viragoi Freebooter

If you choose to play a Viragoi Freebooter, modify your character as follows:

  • Add 1 to your Dexterity ability.  Viragoi are highly coordinated and graceful.
  • Pick one of the following ability focuses: Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Cunning (Seamanship).
  • You can speak and read the Trade Tongue and either Khem or Greci.
  • You gain the Four Armed (Novice) Talent.
  • Choose a class. You can play either a warrior or a rogue.

Roll twice on the following table for additional benefits.  Roll 2d6 and add the results together.  If you get the same result twice, re-roll until you get something different.

VIRAGOI FREEBOOTER

2d6 ROLL

BENEFIT

2

+1 STRENGTH

3-4

FOCUS: STRENGTH (CLIMBING)

5

FOCUS: CUNNING (NAVIGATION)

6

FOCUS: STRENGTH (MIGHT)

7-8

+1 CUNNING

9

FOCUS: DEXTERITY (BRAWLING)

10-11

FOCUS: CONSTITUTION (SWIMMING)

12

+1 PERCEPTION

Racial Talent: Four Armed

Novice: Because of your four arms, you are a much better climber and a have a very sure grip. You get a +1 to all climbing tests and a +1 to the result of the dragon die for extended climbing tests. You also gain a +1 to all tests to grapple an opponent and to hold a grappled opponent.

Journeyman: You are skilled at using your extra arms in combat. You may use the Lightning Attack stunt for one less SP than normal. If you have multiple talents which reduce this cost they stack. This attack must come from a weapon in your second set of hands.

Master: You have mastered the coordination and skill of your four arms.  Your bonuses from your Novice talent all increase to +2.  In combat, opponents no longer gain any bonus for ganging up on you, and as long as you are armed with weapons in both sets of hands you gain a +1 bonus to Defense.

Special: Even though you have two sets of arms, both sets occupy very close space. You cannot wield weapons in both sets of hands effectively along with a shield. If you use a shield of any sort, you cannot benefit from your second weapon set. This does not include the buckler from the Dueling group. You also may not wield two weapons that require the use of two hands simultaneously. You can however, use a two-handed weapon in one set of hands and one-handed weapons in the other set. You may not use two bows but you could have two crossbows if you want. This would allow you to have one loaded to use with the Lightning Attack stunt without the need to reload (until you’d fired them both).

Racial Talents for AGE

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Recently, Green Ronin published the second boxed set for the Dragon Age RPG.  Since much of this material had been available for use previously in the form of a playtest document, the first thing I did was look through the new set for changes.In the playtest, the new Dwarf backgrounds were given the novice level of a talent called Magic Resistance, with the option to purchase further levels of the talent as they advanced.  This talent was only available to characters who had it from their background – thus giving an example of a talent tied to being a Dwarf – or what I started calling a Racial Talent.  In the final version of the book, Green Ronin eliminated the racial talent, replacing it with a static modifier.  While the final decision may have been a “better” ability, I think the design team overlooked the value of the design space offered by racial talents.

Racial Talents grant a designer a means to offer a small but mechanically interesting ability to a particular background.  So being a Dwarf means that you get a little bit of Magic Resistance, being a Viragoi means that you are born with four arms, or perhaps you are a Myrwinn and you have gliding flaps. (What’s a Viragoi and a Myrwinn? Keep reading)  Each of these examples offers something to that PC just for choosing that background, but at the Novice level, the advantage is not overly powerful.  A PC who wishes to spend their talent choices as they level can gain further levels of their racial talent in lieu of other choices and make themselves more of a paragon of their race.

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