homebrew system for Dragon Age

Tossing this out there for the gaming geeks to play with: I think you could run a Dragon Age tabletop using the Pathfinder system.

(I know there’s a DA-specific system out there. I haven’t heard very good things about it, and particularly object to the way each book only covers five levels, requiring you to buy four books to have a “complete” game. True, Scion did something similar — but they also did a remarkably good job of putting other worthwhile content in all of their books. Very few companies pull that off.)

I figure that, at its core, you make warriors into fighters, rogues into . . . uh, rogues, and mages into sorcerers. A spells-per-day system is rather different from the mana-based system of the video game, but on the other hand, the video game is wall-to-wall combat, which a tabletop game wouldn’t be. (And this opens up the potential for mages to have spells useful for any purpose other than nuking people. Seriously, one of the great flaws in DA worldbuilding is that as near as I can tell, mages are only good at killing and destruction — there’s no peacetime use for their magic, with the lone exception of healing, that would allow them to be anything other than a threat to society. And how often do you see them out in public, healing people?)

The nice thing about Pathfinder is its (relative) adaptability: if somebody wants to play a Dalish hunter, say, they could play a skirmisher — a ranger without the spellcasting abilities. You can customize the differences between a Dalish Keeper and a Circle mage by using the sorcerer mechanics, but letting them pick from different spell lists (like druid and cleric), and also by picking different bloodlines. You can toss in some Traits to vary things a bit more, too. And then specializations you model with prestige classes: borrow the barbarian rage mechanic for berserkers, maybe some paladin mechanics for templars, cook up something for blood mages, and so on.

You’d have to tack on a few additional rules, like something to handle demonic possession or action in the Fade. But I think this would strike a decent balance between accuracy and simplicity: it comes vaguely close to the feel of the actual game (with level-based advancement, feats as talent equivalents, etc), while not requiring vast amounts of untested modding to make work. (I originally thought of modding it a lot further — replace Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom with Magic, Cunning, and Willpower; make d20-style mechanics for the talents in the game — but that rapidly became a nightmare of effort.)

I haven’t played Pathfinder very much yet, though, so I don’t know if there are improvements or problems I ought to think about. Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

0 Responses to “homebrew system for Dragon Age”

  1. dorianegray

    Isn’t this what GURPS was invented for?

    • Marie Brennan

      . . . I am really not a fan of GURPS.

      (Possibly this is unfair of me; my dislike is based on a bad experience, of a game that started in a different system and then got converted to GURPS partway through. But still: not a fan.)

      • teleidoplex

        I have to admit, I think GURPS runs into the problem of trying to be everything for everyone, and you end up with too many books, too many rules, and a system that is waaaaay clunkier than it needs to be, because you’re trying to mix in so many disparate elements. What I love about Pathfinder for combat is that it streamlined everything from 3.5 so that combat is pretty clear. Roll one die to hit. Role a second die (or dice) to determine damage. Rinse and repeat. All the complicated stuff happens in the number you’re adding to your roll (which nowadays you can download a spreadsheet to figure out), or the stuff behind the GM screen. Even movement and special attacks are sorted out nicely.

        • Marie Brennan

          Yeah, that’s pretty much always the problem with universal systems. Especially because in fantasy, cosmology is intertwined with mundane things, which makes it hard to treat various components as modular.

      • dorianegray

        I’ve only played it now and then at conventions, so have no particular axe to grind. Just, from what I know of it, this kind of thing is what it was made for.

        If you don’t like it, then of course go find some other way to make the game. I’ve found the Call of Cthulhu system (one I know well) lends itself nicely to adaptation.

        • Marie Brennan

          I think Pathfinder works passably well — it’s more adaptable than most D&D. And Dragon Age is fairly D&D-ish to begin with. Not a perfect match, but then even the officially sanctioned books aren’t either . . . .

        • alecaustin

          GURPS is mostly good for fairly gritty human-scale stuff, and as points out, is usually pretty damn clunky for anything that wants a specific feel from its magic system.

          I imagine Call of Cthulhu would adapt to it fairly well… but then Call of Cthulhu d20 also worked pretty well, IMHO.

          • Marie Brennan

            I’ve never actually worked with the Call of Cthulhu rules. The one game I’ve played in that genre was done with a different system.

          • alecaustin

            Straight Call of Cthulhu is extremely deadly, and I’ve never played it; just read the rules (and many, many reports of investigators being obliterated by eldritch horrors). I played in a Cthulhu LARP once, but it didn’t really feel true to the source material – some of us survived, and even triumphed.

            The d20 version is a bit more forgiving if you use the rules and adventures as written, due to its D&D roots.

          • Marie Brennan

            We used the Buffy system, because it was actually a Buffyverse game — or rather, the Victorian background to a Buffyverse game.

  2. electricpaladin

    I don’t know much about Dragon Age, but wouldn’t it be neat if there were a setting where magic really only was for killing people? How would cultures that lauded – and went to great expense to train – mages during wartime handle these monstrously powerful killing machines once the war was over? How would the mages handle the burden of that terrible power, now a part of them forever?

    /random setting thought.

    • Marie Brennan

      Honestly, the setting is almost like that. It isn’t so much that magic is inherently only for killing people — but because it’s a game, that’s pretty much the only kind you ever see. And then it is inherently true that mages are vulnerable to demonic possession, which, combined with various other setting details, makes them basically a constant source of danger to everybody around them. Most of them live locked up in “Circles,” which you could fairly describe as “nice prisons,” watched over by soldiers whose job is to either kill or lobotomize them if anything goes wrong.

      Not so much with the lauding aspect of your scenario, of course — but it definitely raises some similar questions.

  3. Marie Brennan

    I’m waiting for the reveal that Sandal is actually an Old God or something.

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