Dragon Age, set 2, First Thoughts

So,

The girlfriend and I picked up the second Dragon Age set today and I gotta say, I really like this game. But I suppose a good subtitle for this post would be, “Don’t Complain if you Didn’t Vote.” We’ve been playing for a while — and we’ve been using material from the Set Two playtest, though we didn’t do any “active” playtesting… that is to say, we didn’t report anything to Green Ronin.

We didn’t do this (mostly) for two reasons — the first, we’re pretty happy with the parts of the game we felt were being asked to be “tested” and what we wanted to see happen was beyond the scope of the playtest (that is, separating the tabletop content further away from the video game — including offering specializations that are not related to the video game)… but hey, that’s what homebrew is for.

Obviously, we’ve only just started examining the new books, and for the most part I really do like them, but I saw two things that bothered me right off the top.

1. I really don’t like the new system of “half-advancements” for abilities. It’s… annoying? Talking about it with the girlfriend — who is also the GM of our Dragon Age campaign — she figures it was done to try and mitigate min-maxing and encourage players to spread their ability advancements out, but it’s kinda a clunkier system than I’d like to have seen and implemented and it creates “dead spots” in advancement. That is, you have a level where you get to raise your ability… but, hey, don’t worry, in two more levels you’ll get to see the payoff! That’s anticlimactic at best.

It’s also a little awkward to introduce that idea in Set 2, considering that it’s fairly easy for a character to have an ability above 5 by level 4. Starting with a base of 3, getting a +1 from your background, you have a 4 — at level 2 that becomes a 5 and at level 4 that becomes a 6 — so by level 6 you could be working up to a 7. And since you may not have seen Set 2 when you started playing, well, that becomes a little more awkward for everyone involved. If this were a game released with all the rules up-front and players were introduced to the concept from the beginning, that would help, but I still find this a worse way to do it.

I won’t complain about the book keeping aspect though — because my solution would have involved book-keeping as well… and this is the house-rule I was going to propose for our home game — why not simply set it up so that you can’t raise the same attribute two times in a row (past ability level 5)? So, you raise Strength at level 2, you have to raise either Dex or Con at level 4, and then you can go back to strength at level 6? This doesn’t create dead levels of advancement, enforces spreading your ability points out, and would still keep your maximums lowered… with, honestly, less book-keeping than the currently implemented system. But, hey, I didn’t vote.

2. And this is less a complaint than a sad observation. I’m really sad that they gave up on Magic Resistance as a talent. I mean, Dwarves still get a bonus to resist spells that allow a resistance, and it may have been more balanced than letting them roll to avoid any spell, so that’s nice — but I think they really missed out on using the design space of talents for racial abilities. When I saw the Magic Resistance talent for Dwarves in the playtest set, I was immediately inspired to create my own racial talent for the four-armed race (see Viragoi) in my home-brew world. This is a design space they need to take advantage of — and I’m sad they moved away.

In discussing the racial talents before, Jenny (it gets awkward to keep saying “my girlfriend” so, meet Jenny everyone!) expressed concern that it would be a downside to use them because then you had to choose between racial talents and, say, “class” talents. I don’t really see this as an issue though, because a race would likely (should) only have one talent for that race — you’d get the novice level just for choosing an appropriate background, and you’d then have the choice, “Do I want to concentrate on being more of a dwarf?” I see this filling the same design space as, say, racial paragon paths in D&D or racial feats. You are making a choice to focus on a racial talent instead of a training talent — and that appeals to me as a player. I see it as a “meaningful” choice that both mechanically and in terms of characterization, shapes you and makes your character more unique. My current dwarf PC was actually planning on developing her racial talent, but now that’s off the table. And I’m sad. I feel like GR missed an opportunity here and I hope they’ll choose to revisit racial talents if they do more with the AGE system. I certainly intend to keep inventing them.

Anyway — don’t let me fool you — I love this game. It has a few foibles, all games do, but it’s a fine system that is loads of fun to play. But, first reaction, I’m a little disappointed with some of the decisions in the second set.

So, what do you think?

… and thanks for reading!

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2 responses

  1. Hmm, Racial Talents sound interesting. Wanna try putting something together for the Dragon Age Oracle on the subject? Let me know.

    1. Sent you an email. Thank you for the offer.

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