Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One Night In Starkhaven

We had a guest in town last night, so rather than run the Cold War game (which had no good insertion point for an NPC and was, more importantly, not necessarily up the guest's alley) I opted to run another game on pretty short notice. Leverage would have been the obvious choice, but I was feeling a little contrary and knowing what the new player liked, I opted for some Dragon Age.

I've written a lot about Dragon Age in the past and in general, my opinion did not change. It is by and large a fantastic, fun, lightweight and speedy engine with a few bugs that annoy me, and in final reckoning, the parts I love FAR outweigh the parts I don't.

That said, MAN I want to hack this game. I keep resisting because I want to give Green Ronin a chance to finish first, because they will clearly do awesome things, but it gets harder every time I dust it off. I'm pretty confident in my faith in GR, reinforced by my use of some of the Beta material for the next set. Of our four characters, two of them used new backgrounds (Duster Dwarf and Orlesian Exile) and having those options really opened things up some. Yest I also had to do little tweaks along the way, like any time someone's background rolls suggested they learn Heraldry, I so very much allowed a reroll. I like some weirdness in random distribution, but "I got +1 Cunning!" "I got Heraldry!" is not a comparison I like imposing on my players.

I also did the "fair" randomization approach for stats. Rather than rolling a bunch of 3d6 stats, I had everyone roll a fistfull of d8s. The # of 1's was your communication, the # of 8's was your willpower and so on. It meant everyone had positive stats, but it also put people on roughly equal footing and while still imposing some randomness. Definitely produced some interesting results (our Orlesian Exile had huge strength and communication, but no Dexterity). However, it reminded me that the stats are a little wonky.

Specifically, Magic (and to a lesser extent, Willpower) are kind of dump stats unless you're a mage. That kind of hurts in a random distribution system, so I'd be tempted to change up the dice next time to either d6 for non-mages, or d8's but make "magic" results into wildcard results, so you can put that point anywhere.

(Alternately, you can allow players to add magic to their spell resistance rolls, which is what I did, or would have done if the one mage they encountered had not gotten chewed to bits before she could do much than summon help).

Anyway, the big success is that mys wife (who played a mage, and upheld my experience that every mage who gets a choice learns Walking Bomb) was ok with the system. Her crunch tolerance is not very high (4e gives her hives) so any system she actually enjoys playing is worth making a note of. I'm looking forward to getting back to the Cold War game, but this was an enjoyable enough distraction that I definitely wan to take it for a spin again.


  1. I'm still left with the impression that the damage allocations, at least at 1st level (I don't know how much they improve) are a little anemic. I wanted skilled use of a light weapon or a flame-throwing spell to feel like it had impact rather than being a tiny plinky thing. My fix (suggested at the time, re-aired here) would simply be to add a d6 to the base damage of *everything*.

  2. Yeah, I need to review the rules a bit to see if I overlooked something. Barring that, I may need to start fiddling with opposition health to create lower-health-though-not-mooks opponents.

  3. Thanks. I like the idea of giving the players a choice to roll d6 or d8 when generating characteristics, depending on whether they are interested in playing mages or not.

    Although the other alternative is to let characters choose their class first and roll d6 for all of them, but have a different look-up table for each class, to add increased definition.

    Must think about this.

  4. "My fix (suggested at the time, re-aired here) would simply be to add a d6 to the base damage of *everything*."

    Would it over-emphasize the dragon die to make that the D6 that gets added? So, roll your "to hit" 3d6, then leave the dragon die on the table when you roll damage.


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