Designing the Dragon Age Tabletop RPG

Designing the Dragon Age Tabletop RPG

The Escapist sat down with Chris Pramas, the designer of the upcoming pen-and-paper version of Dragon Age by Green Ronin Publishing, and talked tabletop.

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I found it interesting that BioWare announced a bunch of spin-off products virtually in the same breath as they announced the game. It's like they said "If we're selling, you're buying. Don't even pretend otherwise."

"Set 1 handles levels 1-5, Set 2 levels 6-10, etc. Releasing it in digestible chunks makes it much more approachable and it means you don't have to read a 300 page hardback before you can play the game. It also means we're not asking people to spend $20 or $30 on an intro set so they can later spend $50 or $100 on the "real" game. When you spend your $30 on Set 1, you won't be getting something with designed obsolescence. It's the actual game."

I think this is a great idea, actually, and I also like that he prefers simple, elegant rules rather than many more rules for specific situations and not stupid fixes for a problem.

The game itself sounds pretty cool.

Valiance:

I think this is a great idea, actually, and I also like that he prefers simple, elegant rules rather than many more rules for specific situations and not stupid fixes for a problem.

True, I always felt the rules for Dungeons and Dragons where overly complex, even on PC - in fact, especially on PC, as they where never properly explained. I was pretty happy when they said they'd dumped their rules in favour of video game specific ones.

Very interesting article - I might have to give this a shot. It's nice to know that the tabletop game is one that had some real creative effort behind it. Whenever I see a licensed tabletop set I always wonder if someone just took the art and names and crammed them on top of the d20 system rules for a quick buck.

I normally wouldn't expect something like that from Bioware, but it's exactly the kind of thing I'd be afraid of when dealing with EA. I still haven't quite gotten my feelings straight on that relationship.

Dectilon:
I found it interesting that BioWare announced a bunch of spin-off products virtually in the same breath as they announced the game. It's like they said "If we're selling, you're buying. Don't even pretend otherwise."

Seems to me that just after the game launch is probably the most appropriate time. This is when people are most excited about the game, and most likely to be interested in reading about things that are related to the game.

Great article not just on the Dragon Age tabletop RPG, but tabletop RPGs in general. I'm really happy to see the hobby is alive and well despite so many gamers moving to electronic media.

Virgil:

- snip -

Dectilon:
I found it interesting that BioWare announced a bunch of spin-off products virtually in the same breath as they announced the game. It's like they said "If we're selling, you're buying. Don't even pretend otherwise."

Seems to me that just after the game launch is probably the most appropriate time. This is when people are most excited about the game, and most likely to be interested in reading about things that are related to the game.

This. People reading is always a good thing. Chucking dice around a table with friends is even better.

BlueInkAlchemist:
Great article not just on the Dragon Age tabletop RPG, but tabletop RPGs in general. I'm really happy to see the hobby is alive and well despite so many gamers moving to electronic media.

Virgil:

- snip -

Dectilon:
I found it interesting that BioWare announced a bunch of spin-off products virtually in the same breath as they announced the game. It's like they said "If we're selling, you're buying. Don't even pretend otherwise."

Seems to me that just after the game launch is probably the most appropriate time. This is when people are most excited about the game, and most likely to be interested in reading about things that are related to the game.

This. People reading is always a good thing. Chucking dice around a table with friends is even better.

Sadly, tabletop RPG-ing isn't widespread in the UK, so I'll probably give it a miss - unless of course some sort of forum exists for internet people to play table top rules over the net.

Doug:
Sadly, tabletop RPG-ing isn't widespread in the UK, so I'll probably give it a miss - unless of course some sort of forum exists for internet people to play table top rules over the net.

Google Wave is the newest way people have proposed to run tabletop RPG campaigns for the locationally challenged. There's also IRC chats, using bots for dice-rolling, and a plethora of other methods I've used in the past.

As much as i would love to try this (it sounds freakin awesome, esecially for someone new to tabletop gaming)i dont know a single person i could play it with so i guess i will have to give it a miss.

I hope this will get more people into tabletop gaming, but I fear that the grognards and neckbeards have already taken over.

I've never really played much tabletop RPGs (I watched some pals play Warhammer, but I've never owned actual figurines or played a full game) and I'd love to get into the hobby. I'm glad that they are making it more accesible by dividing the rule books by levels. That's the main problem I've had with these games, the sheer volume of what I need to learn.

BlueInkAlchemist:

Doug:
Sadly, tabletop RPG-ing isn't widespread in the UK, so I'll probably give it a miss - unless of course some sort of forum exists for internet people to play table top rules over the net.

Google Wave is the newest way people have proposed to run tabletop RPG campaigns for the locationally challenged. There's also IRC chats, using bots for dice-rolling, and a plethora of other methods I've used in the past.

Sounds like a plan - I might have to check out a few games of it online if I get the chance - if its fun, a box I shall order.

Valiance:
"Set 1 handles levels 1-5, Set 2 levels 6-10, etc. Releasing it in digestible chunks makes it much more approachable and it means you don't have to read a 300 page hardback before you can play the game. It also means we're not asking people to spend $20 or $30 on an intro set so they can later spend $50 or $100 on the "real" game. When you spend your $30 on Set 1, you won't be getting something with designed obsolescence. It's the actual game."

I think this is a great idea, actually, and I also like that he prefers simple, elegant rules rather than many more rules for specific situations and not stupid fixes for a problem.

The game itself sounds pretty cool.

I'm not sure if that sounds like a good idea. I want all rules in one book, with one purchase. I don't want to wait for boxed set 4 to have my players wield the most advanced magic, nor do I want to spend more money on it. Just like I didn't want to wait for and purchase the Player's Handbook 2 to play a Gnome Druid.

Virgil:
Very interesting article - I might have to give this a shot. It's nice to know that the tabletop game is one that had some real creative effort behind it. Whenever I see a licensed tabletop set I always wonder if someone just took the art and names and crammed them on top of the d20 system rules for a quick buck.

I actually think it would have made more sense to make this a campaign setting for, for instance, Green Ronin's True20, than to create a whole new set of rules spread over 4 boxes. One such example is Shadows of Cthulhu which does an excellent job at creating a couple of new roles (classes) and adapting the True20 rule system to the setting. Having a campaign setting would also mean that you only need one single purchase to get all the content.

LazerLuger:
I hope this will get more people into tabletop gaming, but I fear that the grognards and neckbeards have already taken over.

Most of us "grognards and neckbeards" welcome new players. I've played D&D in one form or another since 1974 and I think the only main barrier to playing has been the complexity of the rules that have developed over the years. I enjoy that, but I have always seen the attraction of simpler rules as well. Green Ronin and Chris Pramas are very good at what they do. I'm looking forward to the game (as well as the CRPG which I'm picking up this weekend).

Continuing on my previous comment, this is exactly what I want to avoid:

Chris Pramas:
The first set covers three classes: mage, rogue, and warrior. [...] We may add a bard class in a later set though.source

It's interesting to hear about Chris Pramas's design philosophy, and I like Green Ronin's products in general (I'm a huge fan of Mutants and Masterminds).

But, like Woem, I'm not sure about the box sets split by level either (and I say this having been an owner of the D&D Red Box myself). I like the general concepts of a box set (I always liked the setting box sets that came out for AD&D), but splitting the rules themselves between multiple books is just not something I want... nor am I willing to pay for. As a GM I want to be able to plan out a long term campaign, which may include than one given "box set" of level groups, and as a player, I want to be able to plan out my character build without having to consult umpteen books to do it. Not that I need to plan out every little detail, but it's nice to see what's ahead with one quick, easy glance.

A happy medium might be putting out a full rulebook, but also putting out a "Starter set" that gets people going with low level characters, dice, and an adventure module and maps, etc. 'Course, I realize this is probably all set in stone in how it's coming out anyway, but just my thoughts on the matter.

I'm not sure how they intend to split the rules, per se. I mean, I expect all of the core resolution mechanics in the core box set, so that only leaves additional rules such as specializations, monsters, and other things.

As for splitting the "rules", I don't know what that entails exactly. I mean, technically D&D 4E has its "rules" split across every book they have, as every new supplement introduces new rules. It can even be argued that the "complete rules" of Magic: the Gathering are split across every card they've ever printed.

Now, I do get the feeling that such a definition is "off the mark" of what people mean - but that brings me to my point, what do people mean? And more importantly, how does it compare to what is in the boxed sets? We really don't know what exactly the boxed set contains, and I really don't see how people can make an informed purchasing decision based on the concept alone.

Myself, I'm intrigued by the idea and may or may not pick up a copy based on the price point (being broke after upgrading my computer and buying the PC version of Dragon Age). But it's definitively on my radar, and worth a look, and I wouldn't even consider it if I had to plop down $40-60 for a "complete" rulebook (although it'd probably be more like $35, given the company's track record).

When I first saw this, I was psyched. After reading what dude has to say, I am disappointed. Box sets? Really? I hated that shit as a kid. He mentions how they all culminated in the Rules Cyclopedia.. freakin' DUH! I got nickel-and-dimed with the first two stupid D&D box sets. When the Cyclopedia came out, huzzah! I didn't have to buy the other two! One book is so much more convenient. Homeboy is just trying to make a buncha money with "retro" posturing. I'll stick to White Wolf, thank you very much. One Book - One Love - One Singular Sensation.

Ok, having played about...60-70% of the way through Dragon Age: Origins on a single origin path, I think I can safely say that there is an ocean of possible adventures to take within the world of Dragon Age, and thats with the single country they explored!

nohorsetown:
[...]I got nickel-and-dimed with the first two stupid D&D box sets. When the Cyclopedia came out, huzzah! I didn't have to buy the other two! One book is so much more convenient. Homeboy is just trying to make a buncha money with "retro" posturing.[...]

"Nickle-and-dimed?" The basic & expert sets sold for $8.99 in 1983. Even when adjusting for inflation, that's less that $20 a piece in today's money. With those two boxes, you had everything you needed to play, unless you wanted to take your campaign to epic levels. $40 for what is now spread across several $35-$40 rulebooks is a great deal. Not to mention that your entry price was $8.99($20) and these days you can't get into D&D for less than $50-100.

I'm totally on board for Pramas's attempt to bring back the magic of 80's tabletop role-playing. The magic of an easy, inexpensive game that anyone can learn to play in an evening. If the game isn't overwhelming, a lot of the stigma goes out the window.

Woem:
Continuing on my previous comment, this is exactly what I want to avoid:

Chris Pramas:
The first set covers three classes: mage, rogue, and warrior. [...] We may add a bard class in a later set though.source

I'm going to take a wild guess that it's structured very similar to the video game, which has 3 basic classes that can pick specialization classes at later levels. Think along the same vein as the prestige class system from 3rd edition. You never started the game as a Elf Arcane Archer, but the option was available later on.

I've always thought that RPGs should have "depth of details levels" - Basic, Advanced and Expert - that refined and expanded as you got more into the game. Each of the BAE categories could have class levels from 1 to 20 or 30 or 40 ... it's just that the class' would refine out to finer specialisations and players would have to keep track of greater details.

I'm really looking forward to this release to help my kids get into role playing. The current D&D structures are just to over the top to introduce to people.

mxt

THINK
think different
Think Open Source

So, Dragon Age is a boxed set with relatively simple rules, based on a licensed property...

That exact combination gets brought up in every single RPGnet thread about restoring the popularity of the hobby. Lots of folks say it's a good idea, if you can work past the relatively high cost of producing a boxed set. Others are much more skeptical -- they point out the difficulty of scheduling regular RPG sessions, the amount of creative effort you have to put into the games to get fun out of them, and stiff modern competition from entertainment media that didn't even exist in the early 80s.

There are other tabletop RPGs taking a similar route, too. The new edition of WFRP is a box with special dice and power cards (it ends up costing quite a bit more than $30, of course).

I don't think any of these games are going to "break out" of the TRPG niche. They're getting a lot of positive attention within the hobby, though, which is probably more than enough to make their publishers happy.

-- Alex

I have to say, one reason I think the Basic/Expert/&c.-style multi-box system can't work today is that attention spans aren't the same as they were in the 1980s -- there's so much more entertainment out there now, both in the TRPG market and other media, that waiting six months for the next set is going to encourage players to look around for other games to play.

Likewise, in the Dragon Age video game, levels 1-5 are basically world introduction (and I've gotten a similar impression from the TRPG -- Grey Wardens are in boxed set #2). However fast or slow the experience track is set up to be, I really don't see most people who want to play a campaign based on the same themes and story elements as Dragon Age being too happy stretching out the introductory bits for months until the next set comes out.

-- Alex

The pdf of the first Box is out and the first reviews are in, and it's not looking too good:

http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=68991

Woem:
The pdf of the first Box is out and the first reviews are in, and it's not looking too good:

http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=68991

I've got a pretty negative opinion of Dragon Age so far, but I think those reviews kinda suck.

-- Alex

Actually all you need for making your own Dragon Age tabletop game is (as in most cases) D&D 3.0/3.5. the biggest problem is really to design the darkspawn rules. and there is a creature/template in one of the monster books from Dragonlance that fits really well. I dont remember the name at the moment, but i works well, you only need to create a general mold for hurlock and genlock (i.e hurlock could be ogres/ bugbears and genlock would be goblins/ orcs |+template)

took me about an hour or two to get the general rules down.

 

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