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The New Old School

Dragon Age

I've just had a great afternoon at TomCon, Tom Zunder's monthly gaming meet, playing a roleplaying game called 'Dragon Age'. The game has a dark fantasy setting which was taken from Bioware's computer roleplaying game of the same name, which itself was inspired by the grandaddy of all RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).

I first played D&D back around 1983 when I went to secondary school, using the blue book basic set (these details are important to gaming nerds) and spent a fair bit of time exploring settings such as 'The Keep on the Borderlands'. In truth, although I loved fantasy, and played more than my fair share of D&D and later Advanced D&D, as a system it never really inspired me. I soon moved on when I discovered games like the Lovecraftian 'Call of Cthulhu', the science-fiction of 'Traveller' and the dark fantasy of Chaosium's 'Stormbringer' RPG. However, memories of D&D are cherished, and occasionally lead to me having a look at the classic dungeon setting and getting a pining urge.

Dragon Age does a great job of scratching that urge. It has a very simple core mechanic (roll 3 six sided dice, or 3d6 to gamers to hit a target number, rolling doubles gets you benefits called stunts) and a smooth and slickly designed system. It's a world apart from the kludge of the D&D engine, but at the same time it's very much the same world. The system, rules, whatever you may want to call them, is mostly unobtrusive and fades away. You don't need to remember lots of special rules. It's quite elegant.

Anyway, Graham ran an excellent fun game based around an expanded version of the introductory adventure in the book, and we all rolled with the old school vibe. It was like a return to being 12 again. We roleplayed more than we did then, but we also grabbed hold hard of the kick the door down, kill the monster, steal the treasure and rescue the damsel vibe of early D&D.

I played a warrior with a distrust of elves (2 of the group were playing elves and the scenario involves them too) and split my time between stirring up trouble and participating in a Lord of the Rings Movie inspired body count contest with Jag, who had the other warrior, a barbarian fighter. It was great fun, and a wonderful stress release from real life. I think it's the first game I've managed since October 2010, at Furnace. I think the telling thing is that I'd love to do it all again! Dragon Age is certainly worth a look!