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  • Relatively new GM

    Hey everyone! This may seem like a somewhat odd thing to post about, but I've been running my first game with the Dragon Age RPG ever. We are having lots of fun so far, and they've just hit level 3 in my campaign. We are using all of the currently published adventures (possibly excluding Duty Unto Death) as a sort of campaign framework that I will be adding my own content to after a Fragile Web concludes. I was looking for some more general advice about the game.

    As a new user of the Dragon Age RPG, but not new to GMing, I was wondering about what kinds of things to watch out for as the game goes on. Are there pitfalls that the game might have that I should watch out for? Are there popular house rules that I should consider? How necessary would the 3rd set of the game be at this point? Should I just not worry so much and run the game and have fun with it?

    Sorry if this is kind of vague, but I'm just not quite sure of what to ask I guess.
    If you like the Dragon Age RPG, please consider listening to my podcast:[URL="https://wondersofthedaspodcast.wordpress.com/"] The Wonders of Thedas[/URL]! We discuss classes, backgrounds, GMing techniques, specializations, play styles, and much more!
    You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or [URL="https://soundcloud.com/wondersofthedas"]Soundlcoud[/URL]!

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  • #2
    Re: Relatively new GM

    Set 3 isn't really necessary since you're obviously past the background-choosing step and have time to think about specializations yet. Still, do try to at least look briefly through the 2nd and 3rd sets if you have access to them - not to use everything, but to have an idea what's inside. If you do that, you'll have easier time taking it and using when you really need it (and/or are ready for extra rules).

    If I were to give a single mechanical advice, it would be - don't let them buy what they want only 'cause they have the money. Superior/masterwork weapon has no price tags, but heavy armor does - and it's much too cheap; making it readily available makes it really hard to balance fights afterwards, since 10 AR changes a lot - low level enemies just can't hurt your warrior PC's anymore. Another thing is - don't give in to temptation of pitting the party against a single big monster. More often than not, they will just slaughter the poor creature. Make it slightly smaller, but give it some help (there are ways to make a single monster challenging, especially important is giving it additional actions - but I wouldn't recommend that until you have stronger grip on what threatens PC and what only slightly annoys them).

    Oh, I would forget - I assume you are using set 2 already, but if you don't - check out the rules concerning advancing stats past 5. I think this should've been included in set 1, really.

    And, one last thing:
    DA is a simple system, and so it has some problems. You definitely need to bring your common sense in at times (and houserule around anything you have problems with). But, as always - "don't worry too much and just have fun" is generally always a good advice

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    • #3
      Re: Relatively new GM

      Originally posted by eliastion View Post
      If I were to give a single mechanical advice, it would be - don't let them buy what they want only 'cause they have the money. Superior/masterwork weapon has no price tags, but heavy armor does - and it's much too cheap; making it readily available makes it really hard to balance fights afterwards, since 10 AR changes a lot - low level enemies just can't hurt your warrior PC's anymore.
      I've been wondering about that. My groups are used to Pathfinder and considering anything on a chart to be readily available for purchase. I'll definitely get on that. I've already been seeing how easy fights can become if high AR is easy to come by.

      Thanks!
      If you like the Dragon Age RPG, please consider listening to my podcast:[URL="https://wondersofthedaspodcast.wordpress.com/"] The Wonders of Thedas[/URL]! We discuss classes, backgrounds, GMing techniques, specializations, play styles, and much more!
      You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or [URL="https://soundcloud.com/wondersofthedas"]Soundlcoud[/URL]!

      If you have a question about the Dragon Age RPG, have custom content you'd like to share with the world, or any other contribution, send a message to [email]wondersofthedaspodcast@gmail.com[/email], or through our [URL="https://www.facebook.com/wondersofthedaspodcast/"]Facebook[/URL], [URL="https://twitter.com/wothedaspodcast"]Twitter[/URL], [URL="https://plus.google.com/u/0/117394385983855213618"]Google+[/URL], or [URL="http://wonderofthedaspodcast.tumblr.com/"]Tumblr [/URL]accounts!

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      • #4
        Re: Relatively new GM

        For my campaigns I've been using a house rule where, at every level where the PCs choose a talent, they also choose a second one from a list of secondary/non-combat talents that I wrote up. (In my game the secondary list contains most things that aren't a combat style or magic school talent, with a few exceptions, but you can obviously make it more restrictive if you'd prefer.) This helps a lot of the talents that otherwise probably wouldn't see the light of day to actually get some use.

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        • #5
          Re: Relatively new GM

          My group noticed a huge balance issue when it came to fightning. Our two warriors was just too good at it (one had 5str at lvl2 with weapon focus) and there were too many hits comming from both sides so defense was frowned upon as every attack was a hit, apart from one rogue that had 15 at lvl2. We just took away all weapon focuses and the game lost the damage spikes through out the fights and got alot more fun. We've kept the magic focus since magic doesn't hit defense, but stats and their focus.

          Be very careful of warriors that go sword and board with full armour traning. They make the other classes kind of horrible when comparing them in fights as they dish out tons of damage and take very little to non in return. I repeat, be very careful with this combo.

          We've also made some changes to the bard as it was way too weak compared to the assassin and the duelist. You start the bard song with a major action and it last Com rounds, then renew it with a minor/major action(more playtesting is needed). There are some talk about adding the performance focus, but more actual testing is needed as we've not seen how "Song of Captivation" plays out. We did this since the bard can then be anything but an archer and a buffbot.

          This works for my little group and I've told them that I prefere is they do not powergame since it helps me build adventures with things besides fightning.

          When it comes to PnP RPG experience, well I'm the one with least experience in my group and I started playing 20 years ago. We might be some old stooges, but we do have fun. That's what it's all about!

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          • #6
            Re: Relatively new GM

            You know, I read your solution and I got to thinking - wouldn't adding +2 to all defenses (making the base 12 instead of 10) or adding some additional defense-enchancing Dexterity focus basically accomplish the same thing removing focuses did, but without... well, removing focuses? Sure, most characters have a focus for their preferred weapon, but it still is a customization element (and it makes non-mages sink a couple mandatory focuses somewhere, to not make mages so sad with their in-fact-required magic focuses )

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            • #7
              Re: Relatively new GM

              Yeah, I would think you would want the focuses for growth.

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              • #8
                Re: Relatively new GM

                Originally posted by eliastion View Post
                You know, I read your solution and I got to thinking - wouldn't adding +2 to all defenses (making the base 12 instead of 10) or adding some additional defense-enchancing Dexterity focus basically accomplish the same thing removing focuses did, but without... well, removing focuses? Sure, most characters have a focus for their preferred weapon, but it still is a customization element (and it makes non-mages sink a couple mandatory focuses somewhere, to not make mages so sad with their in-fact-required magic focuses )
                The problem we have with weapon focus is that it's just too good. It's a must have focus. EVERYONE and their mothertook weaponfocus on lvl2 as it is so much better then anything else. "Must have" talents/skills/focuses water down the choices you can make in a rpg. As it is with "must haves" they can tweaked, or removed from the game for a better balance and we choose to remove them.

                Adding +2 def would cement it even harder as a must have focus. We found it to be more fun to actually have a choice on lvl2 to pick a focus that interests you as a player and would breathe more life into your character.

                The point in not removing magic focus is that the target you cast your spell on might luck out and have that said focus, but for a different reason. Con(stamina) for example tackles more then just spells, while weapon focus (and defense focus for that matter if we houseruled them in) only apply combat.

                And yes, I've removed weapon focus from monsters aswell, it wouldn't be fair otherwise.

                We've tweaked some talents aswell, though I must say that removing weapon focus was an easy solution that really changed the entire game for the better.

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                • #9
                  Re: Relatively new GM

                  Weapon focus is a must-have for your main weapon - true. This, however, means that a warrior who wants more weapon options needs to sacrifice some of his versatility in other fields.
                  Also - whether weapon focus truly is "so much better than everything else" heavily depends on how the adventures look. If they are combat-oriented, true. If they are not - you quickly find out that your combat prowess is less important. In combat, you can swing your weapon again after initial failure. In social interaction one failed test can have lasting consequences you can't easily recover from. And perception tests? You rarely get more than one try.

                  All that said, I do acknowledge your concern - at the beginning (generation of lvl 1 character) the customization options are more than limited. Still, a free non-combat focus of player's choice at character creation seems to me like better idea than removing weapon focuses just to "liberate" the second level focus slot that usually goes to chosen weapon group or magic school (on the side note - giving warriors and rogues the freedom of choice while mages are stuck with the focus they need to actually cast their spells reliably rather than let them blow in their faces is another problem of your solution)

                  Of course, I only state here my general concerns. If this works for you and your group then that's more than enough reason to disregard ramblings of some People From The Internet who believe a slightly different approach would be better

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                  • #10
                    Re: Relatively new GM

                    RAW, you're better off not taking a weapon focus. Superior materials grant them with no stacking. IMO,you're better off nixing the spell focuses, as Spellpower gets stupid high.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Relatively new GM

                      Originally posted by eliastion View Post
                      Weapon focus is a must-have for your main weapon - true. This, however, means that a warrior who wants more weapon options needs to sacrifice some of his versatility in other fields.
                      Also - whether weapon focus truly is "so much better than everything else" heavily depends on how the adventures look. If they are combat-oriented, true. If they are not - you quickly find out that your combat prowess is less important. In combat, you can swing your weapon again after initial failure. In social interaction one failed test can have lasting consequences you can't easily recover from. And perception tests? You rarely get more than one try.

                      All that said, I do acknowledge your concern - at the beginning (generation of lvl 1 character) the customization options are more than limited. Still, a free non-combat focus of player's choice at character creation seems to me like better idea than removing weapon focuses just to "liberate" the second level focus slot that usually goes to chosen weapon group or magic school (on the side note - giving warriors and rogues the freedom of choice while mages are stuck with the focus they need to actually cast their spells reliably rather than let them blow in their faces is another problem of your solution)

                      Of course, I only state here my general concerns. If this works for you and your group then that's more than enough reason to disregard ramblings of some People From The Internet who believe a slightly different approach would be better
                      If you fail the social conversation, then in a worst case the +2 to hit will be awesome in the upcomming fight

                      One of our concerns was the powerspike the (2H)warrior got at lvl2 with +3 to hit, 1 from str and 2 from focus. +7 to hit at lvl2 was just insane. To be honest warriors, in general, aside from DW worried us alot with their insane battle power. Tweaks here and there, thanks to some computer geeks that ran some numbers, has left us with a more streamlined game.

                      We started off with the official adventures where there is plenty of combat, so everyone felt forced to take the weapon focus. Forcing players to do something didn't sit right with us Not to forget that the players was outnumbered in most of the fights. This lead to them getting the short stick of combat stunts (I roll infamously high on combat rolls as GM).

                      All in all, our numbers pointed to that +2 to hit, in a 3D6 system, was so strong that defense only mattered for the rogue with high dex. Warrior and mage would more often then not get hit while the rogue would get hit every other blow. High number of hits -> high number of stunts -> spike in damage during combat. The removal was more for their survival and getting the fun back in the game. They still run a high risk of dying, but it will be over the course of a couple of combat rounds instead of one freak round. The possibility is still there, but it's rare.


                      It's true that some masterful weapons have combat focus as part of them, but gaining +2 to hit at lvl2 was just too good to miss out on, seeing as they've yet to get their hands on such a weapon
                      I'll balance that kind of weapon as we go along. I'm not that worried though since the players scale alot better then the monsters they face.

                      Nicking Spell focus, I dunno. Our group isn't that big on mages and some of the op spells have so low TN that they can't miss with them anywho.

                      Thanks for the comments and feedback and sorry for hi-jacking this thread!

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                      • #12
                        Re: Relatively new GM

                        My fix to the existence of "must-have" focuses was to give the players two free focuses at first level. This way you can get the "effectively required" focuses out of the way at first level, so at second level you're probably customizing instead of just taking the requisite focus. Two focuses, along with any focuses from the background, is enough to make even first level characters look pretty different (and even if they decide to take two weapon focuses, you can't really use them both at the same time so it's not particularly unbalanced).

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                        • #13
                          Re: Relatively new GM

                          I'm not sure that I've had many problems with weapon group focuses. Me and my players are relatively new to the game, but it makes sense to me that someone who's put time into training with using weapons of a certain type is going to be good at using them. And if it does get powerful, it's not very hard to give it to the enemies.
                          If you like the Dragon Age RPG, please consider listening to my podcast:[URL="https://wondersofthedaspodcast.wordpress.com/"] The Wonders of Thedas[/URL]! We discuss classes, backgrounds, GMing techniques, specializations, play styles, and much more!
                          You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or [URL="https://soundcloud.com/wondersofthedas"]Soundlcoud[/URL]!

                          If you have a question about the Dragon Age RPG, have custom content you'd like to share with the world, or any other contribution, send a message to [email]wondersofthedaspodcast@gmail.com[/email], or through our [URL="https://www.facebook.com/wondersofthedaspodcast/"]Facebook[/URL], [URL="https://twitter.com/wothedaspodcast"]Twitter[/URL], [URL="https://plus.google.com/u/0/117394385983855213618"]Google+[/URL], or [URL="http://wonderofthedaspodcast.tumblr.com/"]Tumblr [/URL]accounts!

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                          • #14
                            Re: Relatively new GM

                            Well, the problem, as I see it, is not with this aspect - it's the fact that
                            1. They want their fight to last longer, with less potential for burst damage. If chance to hit an enemy is lower, less damage is deal overall. Then it's less crucial to keep your squishies out of (hopefully slow) enemy's reach, there's also more room for healing and such - as not attacking is less of a trade-off (expected damage is lower if there's bigger chance of inflicting none at all).
                            2. They don't want virtually predetermined level 2 focus choice - warriors and rogues are unlikely to choose anything than Strength/Dexterity(theirfavouriteweapon) unless they have it from background.

                            It's all about shaping the game and encounters so that they have more fun - and that's perfectly ok, even if I myself do prefer a higher-risk, fast-paced battle and tend to mourn the insane amounts of HP the decent-constitution PC tend to have, making healing less crucial, damage (even with stunts) less devastating and combat generally less deadly (the dying rules are there for a reason - there's nothing bad about a PC needing help and Revive being an actually useful spell). But that's me They're different - and the only question is if this could be accomplished without sacrificing some things they did - hence the propositions of increasing basic defense, giving away free focuses and other like that

                            On the side note:
                            It does stand to reason that training would give you an edge. Also, it stands to reason that a miss would be highly unlikely in an average fight of strength-based combatants. Just think about it - each single attack is an equivalent of 15 seconds of swinging your sword or whatever weapon you happen to wield. If you hit a weapon+shield armored enemy and do some damage (but with no stunts), it probably means hitting his shield a couple times, missing or being blocked by his weapon once or twice - but also around one-two clean hits on the body, none of which actually drew blood, though. Still, they landed where they were supposed to and the opponent felt the weight. He's now more tired and his shoulder hurts like hell under this layer of impenetrable steel.
                            Imagine, how unlikely it is to actually evade every single swing in this 15 seconds period, with skilled warrior as an enemy. The rogue managing something like that 50% of time (while still fighting back) is, actually, breathtakingly awesome Still. This is an in-world interpretation and it helps little if the combat gets just too fast and dangerous for your tastes. The most important thing is to have fun here
                            Last edited by eliastion; 09-22-2014, 03:02 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Relatively new GM

                              I see your point, and I totally agree. If they think it's gonna make the game more fun then they should go for it! I'm very happy I got so many opinions.

                              'Course, now that I'm seeing all of these suggestions, I'm considering using a few when we play again soon. I really like the free focus for each character, it really helps them personalize and broaden the character.

                              And I definitely use your interpretation of how an attack roll actually looks over a round of combat. 15 seconds is lots of time, and they're not going to be standing still staring into each other's eyes until one of them rolls an attack roll and swings their weapon once. It's more cinematic than that! Blades are swinging and scraping against enemies and allies, shields and armor are getting banged up and people are rolling, leaping, blocking, coughing, bleeding, shouting, and anything else that comes between blows. And a single damage roll doesn't mean that you only hit once in a 15 second period, it could mean that you got a lot of small hits in, or all those dents in the enemy's armor are starting to lock up his movements, or people are getting the wind knocked out of them, or even didn't get physically injured and are just getting tired and closer to lethal blow.

                              Thanks for the input so far! I'll be putting a lot of it to good use!
                              If you like the Dragon Age RPG, please consider listening to my podcast:[URL="https://wondersofthedaspodcast.wordpress.com/"] The Wonders of Thedas[/URL]! We discuss classes, backgrounds, GMing techniques, specializations, play styles, and much more!
                              You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or [URL="https://soundcloud.com/wondersofthedas"]Soundlcoud[/URL]!

                              If you have a question about the Dragon Age RPG, have custom content you'd like to share with the world, or any other contribution, send a message to [email]wondersofthedaspodcast@gmail.com[/email], or through our [URL="https://www.facebook.com/wondersofthedaspodcast/"]Facebook[/URL], [URL="https://twitter.com/wothedaspodcast"]Twitter[/URL], [URL="https://plus.google.com/u/0/117394385983855213618"]Google+[/URL], or [URL="http://wonderofthedaspodcast.tumblr.com/"]Tumblr [/URL]accounts!

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