Friday, March 16, 2012

The Age of Dragons

During last year's Free RPG Day I picked up a quickstart guide of the Dragon Age RPG from Green Ronin. It took me a while to get it to the table, but I was able to pull it out this last week with my D&D group.

The rules were pretty easy to pick up. The only dice needed were three basic 6-sided dice, with one being unique to act as the dragon die. For all attacks or skill checks, the player rolls the dice, adds any appropriate modifiers and compares it to the target number, whether it be the armor of a foe or just a number representing the difficulty of the task. The dragon die serves to show how well the task was accomplished (just barely catching on the ledge as your character falls vs doing an awesome ninja flip to land on your feet.)

The other key point is the 'stunt mechanism'. If doubles are rolled, then the character gains a number of stunt points to use to add an extra benefit, such as dealing extra damage or even attacking again. This adds some nice cinematic flairs and can lead to cool moments.

From a GM stand-point, I felt that combat rounds flowed quickly (though entire encounters felt a little laggy). Stat blocks were simple and well laid out so running multiple types of enemies never felt over-whelming. They even include favored stunts to keep the monster focuses and moving.

I asked my players to share their thought with me so I could post them as well. One wrote:
It's a thoughtful system with some clever mechanics.  I like that it only requires D6s, I think the special abilities that result from rolling doubles is interesting though a bit too random for my liking.  The game seems to make good use the Dragon Age setting and background, but the game-play itself feels a little sluggish.  Combat isn't particularly action-packed, and seemingly simple encounters can take longer than they should due to unlucky dice rolling.  I think other games mitigate this effect better by providing more options or more balanced bonuses.  What was particularly missing for me was that cinematic flavor and sense of heroism that the video game provides.  Perhaps at higher levels, in a more involved module, those qualities would shine through.  As it stands, however, I'd rather see Dragon Age as a campaign setting for a richer, more flexible RPG system.
All that being said, I'm not sure if I favor it more than D&D 4e. It definitely has some nice elements, such as the stunts and simplicity of characters, but at the same time I was surprised at how slow combat still felt, although I'm sure that would become less of a problem as the the group got more used to the system. I'd like to try it again one day as a PC, but for now, I'm happy with my d20.

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