Dragon Age: The Blades of Andraste
Playing the Game
DISCLAIMER: Before we begin, I want to point out that is guide is probably going to be unnecessarily detailed. I’m going to try to be thorough, but those seeing it’s length shouldn’t be scared off. As this is a beginner game, we’ll be going slow and most of this stuff will be repeated during sessions until everyone gets it. Players aren’t expected to memorize all the information here, though giving it a look-through will most likely be helpful.
If you’ve ever done any sort of acting or role-playing, chances are you know the basics. You create a character, this character interacts with the world and other characters, and through these interactions things happen in our little world of collaborative fiction. All other mechanics, rules, and die-rolling are included to add random chance and excitement into the game. Though, a general philosophy should be taken as ‘role play above roll play’.
Anyway. How we play is by communicating our character’s actions over the internet using a program called Maptools. Things will make a lot more sense if you download Maptools first, in addition to this framework. Without going into too much detail, the framework is a programmed set of rules and tools used to help us play the game. You can open it in maptools by selecting File → Open Campaign and then browsing to where you saved the framework file.
Now, getting into maptools. For our purposes, maptools is divided into three main windows. The first is the map, which, if you loaded up the framework, should appear as a black abyss with a picture of dragon age art and a portrait of Alistair superimposed on it. Next is the chat window, which should look familiar to anyone who’s ever used an IM service or IRC. Finally, there is the character window, which holds information about the character you are playing.
The Chat Window
Chatting by text is our main method of playing the game. It’s how we describe the actions of our characters, exchange IC dialogue, as well as communicate OOC information.
The Map Window
The map window is our window into the game world. On it, you can see where your characters are in relation to each other and the rest of the world. Of course, the map is not exact, and further detail can be requested of the GM, in the manner of “Can my character see any footprints?” or “Does my character know where they are?”
The map window is made up of two essential elements, the map itself and the tokens placed upon it. Tokens are used to represent characters. You should see one in the framework labeled “Sample PC” with a picture of Alistair on it. This is a token.
The Character Window
To bring up the character window, first click Alistair, then go to the ‘campaign’ window and select “Load Character Sheet.” A window off to the side should appear, labeled ’Character Sheet." We use character sheets to keep track of information about our characters. Information like how good they are at performing a particular set of tasks, how healthy they are, and what sort of special abilities they have. Also, from this character sheet, a player can roll dice to see how well their character performs a certain action (or if they are able to perform it at all!)
A Note on Windows
Most windows in maptools can be moved around with the mouse, stacked up into tabs, and generally arranged how a player likes them. It is generally a good idea to arrange them in a way that works best for you personally. If you ‘lose’ a window at any time, simply go to the Window menu at the top of the screen and select the window that disappeared. The arrangement of your windows is saved every time you close maptools.
Putting It Together – Game Conventions
As stated above, players control their characters by moving tokens around the map, chatting in the text box, and rolling using their character sheet. However, there are a few ‘conventions’ of this style of play to keep in mind.
1. No Godmodding – If it’s not obvious already, we’ll make it clear now. A player only controls the actions of the character assigned to them. A player does not control the environment or the other characters in it.
2. Brevity is the soul of wit – Online RPGs are intrinsically different from most RPs in that the action takes place quickly and spontaneously. Multiple characters will usually be talking to each other at once, and multiple conversational threads may be going on at one time. Sometimes, things can get kind of confusing. The important thing to keep in mind is that time does not flow linearly during a scene (characters may move on to a different topic while still discussing another one as well) and to try to be brief. Long descriptions or chatter tend to make it so that you get left behind in the action, and nobody wants that!
3. The ‘Impersonate’ Command – To designate character actions and speech, we use the impersonate command. To use this, select your token and then find the impersonate window. Then, click impersonate selected. Your text box should change so that a picture of your token appears next to any text you type. This marks the actions and dialogue you type as coming from your character, and not you, the player.
To speak Out of Character, type /ooc before the message you want to send. This will enclose your text in brackets that mark it as OOC.
Finally, to whisper privately to a GM, type /togm or /w gm before text. This is useful for discussing confidential player knowledge, but should not be overused. After all, most good RPers know to not use OOC knowledge in game; and sharing what’s going on with your teammates is almost always a good idea.
4. Text Color – Picking a text color can help other players and the gm quickly pick out what your character is saying and doing in a fast-moving scene. You may change the color of your text by clicking the small black box next to the text window. However, be smart about this. Don’t use obnoxious colors, and if a player or GM asks you to switch for the sake of readability, don’t take it personally. Different people have different levels of color readability (ie colorblindness) so really, don’t take it personally.
5. Scenes and Scene Changes – Gameplay is usually divided into discreet units known as ‘Encounters’ or ‘Scenes,’ and can be thought of in much the same way as they are in a movie or play.
Remember, during scenes, action is not strictly linear. However, reversing a character’s previously made actions based on new information is generally not allowed. Usually, as a scene winds down, the GM will check in and make sure everyone is ready to move on. In this circumstance, it is more than acceptable to say you are not ready, and want to do something else in the scene.
Also, when the scene changes, oftentimes the map does as well. When this happens, it is usually a good idea to click on your token again in the new map.
6. Locking Token Movement – Sometimes, the GM will ‘lock’ tokens, preventing them from being moved around the map. This is usually a signal that something important is about to happen, or the characters are about to enter combat. Try not to panic when this happens.
7. Rolls and Performing Actions – Most mundane actions, walking somewhere, picking up a book, talking with someone, don’t necessitate a roll. However, more complicated actions like crossing a rickety bridge, convincing someone to trust you, or deciphering an ancient codex call for an element of random chance, and therefore, we roll dice. Well, sort of.
When it comes to perform one of these interactions, it common practice to ask the GM if you can do it. If the GM believes the action is simple or mundane enough to not require a roll, or simply for the sake of storytelling does not require one, they will usually reply with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘sure.’ Otherwise, they will call for a roll in the syntax of Ability (Specialization). If your character possesses the releveant specialization, click on it to make a roll. It will usually be listed next to the ability’s name on your character sheet. If your character does not have the specialization, simply click the number next to the relevant ability.
The GM will then tell you, based on your roll, wether or not the action was performed successfully and how well it was performed. In general, higher rolls = better results. Keep in mind that more difficult actions tend to require better rolls in order to accomplish.
Sometimes, a GM may call for a roll without any action indicated. These are usually related to characters knowing facts about the game world that a player may not think to ask about. Usually, any player can roll these ‘called rolls.’
8. “Fade to Black” – People get involved in romantic relationships, and so do characters. However, common practice is to keep things PG-13, and ‘fade to black’ whenever things get serious.
By now, you should have a pretty good grasp of how the game is basically played. However, this game is not all polite conversation and storytelling. Sometimes in the world of Thedas, words only go so far, and it’s time to start disemboweling folks. Due to it’s tense and deadly nature, Combat uses a related though different set of rules then normal play, which will now be gone over in detail.
Setting the Stage – Initiative
Initiative can be thought of as how quickly your character reacts to a combat scenario. Basically, it determines the order in which characters act. Combat usually begins with the GM asking players to ‘roll initiative’. This is accomplished by clicking the hourglass icon at the bottom of the character sheet. This adds your character to the initiative order based on a roll. To see the initiative order, open up the “Initiative” maptools window. It will display a green check mark next to the player who’s turn it currently is. It is important to keep track of where you are in the initiative order so you’ll be ready to act quickly and efficiently when your turn comes up.
Talking as a Free Action
It is important to keep in mind that while your character cannot ‘act’ when it is not their turn during combat, they can talk. Oftentimes, communicating in this way with your teammates is vital to success.
Minor and Major Actions
On your turn, the actions you can take are divided into minor and major actions. A list of these actions can be found on this cheat sheet. It’s advisable for players to print it out and keep it with them during play for easy reference. During your turn, you may perform either 2 minor actions or 1 minor and 1 major action. For the most part, performing these actions is simply a matter of saying you are doing them, moving your token, and/or rolling dice.
Attacks are a matter of two separate die rolls. First, announce which enemy you intend to bring the hurt to, and click the name of the weapon you want to use in your attack. This will roll out a score to see if you hit your target. The GM will usually reply either saying Hit! or Miss! based on how high your opponent’s defense score is. (High Defense = Harder to Hit) If an attack is successful, you then roll damage by clicking the die expression (usually 1d6+#) next to the attack you just rolled. This lets the GM know how much damage your character did.
Also, as a side note, characters are in charge of keeping track of any positive modifiers that may relate to their rolls, i.e. conditions on the battlefield, bonuses from circumstances, etc, and should be included when making damage and attack rolls. In general, the GM will keep track of negative modifiers, usually pertaining to issues of attacking at range or other circumstance.
Taking and Healing Damage
Of course, on the enemy’s turn, they’ll try their damnedest to kill you too. They will roll attacks, and if those attacks are successful, roll damage. The GM will usually communicate which type of damage this is. Regular damage is damage minus the Armor rating of the armor you are currently wearing, so 9 regular damage would be reduced to 5 if your armor rating was 4. Piercing damage is damage minus HALF your armor, so in this case 9 – 4/2 = 9 – 2 = 7 damage. Penetrating damage is damage that ignores your armor completely, so in the above example, simply 9 damage.
Players are in charge of tracking and updating their character’s damage. To do this, click “Health” on your character sheet, then the appropriate options. Likewise, when your character is healed, you are in charge of recording these changes as well.
Whacking things until they die gets pretty boring pretty quick, and so, we use Stunts. A stunt occurs when your character’s attack roll has doubles in it, i.e. the same number twice, as well as hits the opponent. When this happens, your character gets to choose which stunts they would like to perform.
To see stunts, click the dragon icon at the bottom of the character sheet labeled stunts. Whenever a stunt is performed, you receive a number of stunt points equal to the value on the dragon die of your attack roll (the red number). To perform a stunt, simply add up the values of which ones you would like to perform, announce them, and then perform the related actions. Remember, a stunt type cannot be used more than once in the same stunt. For instance, a stunt may not have two “Mighty Blow” ’s in it.
Standard Stunts are available to everyone, regardless of class or ability. Spell stunts are available to Mages, and come into play whenever they cast Spells. Rogue Stunts are available to all Rogue characters. All other stunts are available to characters that choose to take the talent related to that stunt. Talents are explained in more detail on the Classes page, and will be gone over during the first session of gameplay.
As mentioned above, tactics and planning are often the keys to victory. Remember to communicate with your team and keep track of the initiative order. Knowing when to do something is often just as important as doing it well. For instance, knocking an enemy prone allows any of your allies to get a +1 bonus to hitting them while they are down. Your enemies will think tactically when they attack you, and you should be ready.
Combat Quickly For Fun and Profit
Combat should move quickly, so there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind.
First, be engaged in the game. Know when your turn is coming up, and have an idea of what your character is going to do. Also, remember that you can communicate with your teammates even when it is not your turn to act. Finally, remember that enemies may be attacking you when it is not your turn, and it is your responsibility to keep track of any damage they do to you.
Second, save descriptions to after your turn is over. Usually, your turn ends either when you perform both a major and a minor action, two minor actions, or when you announce that your turn is over (simply typing ‘done’, ‘over’, or ‘end’ does this succinctly). Then, while the next player is making your rolls, you can describe what your character did on the battlefield. For instance:
Sarah: Okay, Done.
Rachel now has the initiative!
Sarah: Alistair charges up to the fade demon and plunges his longsword into the creature’s black heart, ripping through sickening ichor.
This way, while Sarah is typing out her description of Alistair’s actions, Rachel can be moving her character around the field of battle and making relevant rolls. This helps keep combat flowing smoothly and quickly.
Continue on to Classes