[Beyond Dragon Age] Age of Terror: Into the Cathedral

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It seems that the Archbishop Lazarus goaded many of the townsmen into venturing into the Labyrinth to find the King’s missing son. He played upon their fears and whipped them into a frenzied mob. None of them were prepared for what lay beneath the Cold Earth… Lazarus abandoned them down there – left in the clutches of unspeakable horrors – to die. - Deckard Cain

Upon arriving in the town of Tristram, the heroes find that all but the most stalwart townsfolk have either fled the horrors emerging from the depths below the cathedral or died at their hands. Most recently, a group of townsfolk were led into the cathedral by the Archbishop Lazarus and then abandoned to die. Only a few of the men and women who followed the Archbishop returned to the surface and most of those have since died of their wounds or been driven to madness. To make matters worse, the water in the town’s well has been corrupted by the hellspawn below, so the few remaining townsfolk are in desperate need for aid.

While the aftermath of the mob’s expedition into the dungeons and the poisoned well are the most urgent quests for adventurers, the cathedral’s vast basements house countless threats and opportunities for adventure.

Denizens of the Cathedral

In addition to the small demons known as Fallen, the most common threats in the cathedral are skeletons and zombies. These weak undead have risen from their graves in service to the cursed King Leoric. There are skeletons and zombies presented in Dragon Age RPG Set 1, but here are alternate statistics for use in an Age of Terror campaign.

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[Beyond Dragon Age] Age of Terror: Heroes of the North

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As Diablo’s influence spread from beneath Tristram, heroes from throughout the world of Sanctuary traveled to confront the prime evil. Amongst those heroes were members of the northern cultures: druids and barbarians. Both of those character classes were introduced in Diablo 2 and its expansion, and the barbarian has made a return in Diablo 3.

The barbarian in Diablo is a master of melee combat with the ability to leap attack, spin in a whirlwind of sharpened steel, and unleash powerful war cries to alter the course of battle. For the AGE system, it seems to be a good match for a strength-focused warrior that eventually takes either the berserker or champion specialization. Those who take the berserker specialization focus more on personal might while the champion’s abilities could easily be described as a barbarian’s war cries.

Diablo’s druid is a class capable of casting elemental spells, summoning animal and plant allies, and changing form into either a werewolf or bear. The spellcasting ability means that a druid should be a mage, but there isn’t really support for summoning or shapeshifting in set 1 or set 2 for Dragon Age. Luckily, it looks like both of those will be covered to some degree in the upcoming set 3 based on the playtest.

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[Beyond Dragon Age] AGE of Terror: Fallen Ones

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In the Diablo games, the player’s character is often faced with large hordes of enemies that they need to quickly defeat before being overwhelmed. In order to help support that in the AGE system, I’ve been tinkering with monsters with low health that heroes should be able to easily defeat in 1 or 2 hits. The first set of monsters I’ve worked on using these ideas are the fallen ones which often appear in large groups early in both Diablo and Diablo II. The basic fallen one is a minion-type monster that is likely to fall to a single blow, but it can be paired with more powerful champions and shamans.

I’m interested to hear what other people think about this approach, so please leave comments with your opinion on the concept.

Fallen Ones

The fallen, impish terrors created by Baal, have emerged from beneath the monastery in Tristram and spread throughout the Western Kingdoms. The small demons, sometimes referred to as carvers or devilkin, are often encountered in large packs that roam the countryside seeking to murder and ransack. These packs are often led by shamans who have mastered several basic spells that allow them to hold sway over their less intelligent kin.

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[Beyond Dragon Age] AGE of Terror: Spell Schools & Sorceress Background

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In my last post, I gave an overview of the changes I was planning to make to Dragon Age’s magic system in order to make it a better fit for Diablo’s setting. This post is meant to give more of the mechanics to support those changes: talents for the new schools of magic and a background for Diablo 2′s Sorceress character.

New Talents

Arcane Magic

Classes: Mage.

Requirement: You must have the Magic (Arcane) focus.

You have mastered the manipulation of raw arcane energy.

Novice: You can sense the presence of magic, such as lingering enchantments and magical items, within 3 yards of you as a minor action. This sense generally does not allow you to know the effects of the magical aura.

Journeyman: When you cast an Arcane spell, its cost in mana points is reduced by 1, to a minimum of 1. You also gain one new Arcane spell.

Master: Your mastery of raw arcane energy allows you to regenerate mana much faster than other mages. When you roll to regain mana points, you can choose to re-roll the dice but must keep the results of the second roll. You also gain one new Arcane spell.

Death Magic

Classes: Mage.

Requirement: You must have the Magic (Death) focus.

You have learned to harness the power of death, decay, and poison.

Novice: You may channel latent necromantic energy into an armor of phantasmal bone without spending mana points. This requires a minor action and gives you an armor rating of 2 until the beginning of your next turn.

Journeyman: When you cast a Death spell, its cost in mana points is reduced by 1, to a minimum of 1. You also gain one new Death spell.

Master: The miasma of death and decay surrounding you weakens those who would attack you. Opponents making a melee attack against you suffer a -1 penalty to Strength. You also gain one new Death spell.

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[Beyond Dragon Age] AGE of Terror: Magic

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The way that magic works in the world of Sanctuary has changed between the various Diablo games. In the original game, characters of any class could learn and cast the same spells. In Diablo II and Diablo III, that system is replaced by giving each class a progression of spells (or skills that cost mana) that are unique to the class. Because the computer games have freely altered the spellcasting systems, there really isn’t a canonical mechanic to spellcasting in the setting other than that it should consume a rechargeable resource such as mana.

For AGE of Terror, I plan to leave the Dragon Age RPG magic system largely intact in order to minimize the amount of work needed for the conversion. The existing system is already a mana-based spellcasting system that even includes mana potions (well, lyrium potions).

The one major change that I will be making is a re-working of the schools of magic. The Dragon Age RPG divides spells into several schools: creation, entropy, primal, and spirit. While those may work well for a game set in Thedas, that division of magic doesn’t have any resonance with the lore of Diablo. Based on the spellcasting classes in the computer games, an alternate division of magic spells seems necessary. Towards that end, I’ve created a new set of schools that can be used for AGE of Terror: arcane, death, elemental, hex, holy, and nature. A given mage will only have access to spells from a few of the schools based on their background, and any spells from other schools cannot be learned or cast by that mage.

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[Beyond Dragon Age] AGE of Terror: Diablo with the AGE System

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As much as I enjoy the Dragon Age RPG and the AGE system, I’ve actually never played the video games and don’t have any particular interest in the Dragon Age setting. There is a computer game with a dark theme, though, that I’d love to use as inspiration for an AGE system campaign: Diablo.

Like Dragon Age, Diablo is set in a dark and dangerous world. The influence of the three Prime Evils is spreading throughout the world, with both civilization and nature being corrupted by their presence. Demons, undead, and foul beasts prowl in the wilderness and ancient ruins while corrupted priests and zealots roam city streets. Heroes must rise from throughout the world to confront the growing evil or all will be lost.

Because I feel that the Diablo setting is such a great fit for the AGE system, I’ve started writing conversions of material from the video games. I’m planning to translate each of the character classes from the computer games into a background option, as well as converting spells and monsters for use with the AGE system. I’m planning to share my progress here by posting new conversions at least once a month.

First up, backgrounds for two of the character classes from Diablo I – the Warrior and the Rogue.

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[March Monster Madness] Monster Design in Dragon Age and the AGE System

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To go along with March Monster Madness, I recently took a close look at the existing monsters in Dragon Age with the goal of better understanding what tools are available for monster design.

The Basics

Abilities and Focuses

All monsters have the standard 8 abilities which represent it in very generic terms. Is the monster strong? Fast? Tough? Persuasive? All of those questions should be answered by a quick glance at the monster’s ability ratings. Here are some sample ability ratings taken from the monsters included in Set 1:

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