A few notes before I begin recapping the insanity I’ve recently been a part of:
First, I’m not super familiar with Dragon Age lore since I’ve only played the first game and I don’t remember many of the details involved. This lead to quite a few moments of spectacular stupidity.
Second, I’m also by no means an RPG veteran. I’ve played a handful of tabletop games in the past, but most of them never really took off. Not to mention the Dragon Age Tabletop RPG is by far the most “normal” set of mechanics I’ve used so far. Most of the ones I’ve played have been percentile systems or weird d100 systems like Anima. (None of them were bad, just really weird and complicated as opposed to this one which is much more straightforward.)
Finally, the character I’m playing is a direct reference to a character that a let’s play series I really like came up with and typically plays as whenever they’re in a Bioware or Obsidian RPG. Said character’s favorite way of killing people is by exploding their pants. He’s a huge kleptomaniac, a drunk, a troll, and can generally be described with the phrase “chaotic stupid”. (Some notable examples include stuffing grenades down a DJ’s pants and nuking some irritating children in Fallout 3.)
When I originally played Dragon Age: Origins, I attempted to play as this character, but couldn’t bring myself to be that big of an asshole.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s see if I can accurately describe how a simple heist lead to unleashing an ancient evil on the world and burning a major city to the ground.
Our story began actually long before I (or my character) arrived, as it turned out I was joining an already active campaign that two people had to drop out of. The summary I got of their past adventures was that they “just did the pre-made campaign”, but ended up making a giant corpse pile, setting it on fire, and leaving a burning village to their fate. Awesome. Already a respectable bunch of people I’m joining.
The two remaining characters were a dwarven warrior named Idrax, and a human apostate mage named Celene.
After fleeing the country and leaving a trail of death and destruction behind them, our two…I guess I can’t really call them “heroes”, so let’s just say “protagonists”…find themselves in Ostwick. Celene is looking for the circle that has her phylactery and has been given some information from a drug addict that it’s here in the Ostwick Circle. So all she and Idrax need to do is break in, destroy it, and leave. Maybe not simple, but at least straightforward.
This is where my character comes in. Reginald Cuftbert (a human rogue) was an Orlesian noble. He was rather disliked by his family since he was such an asshole, so they attempted to have him arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Deciding that if he were going to be arrested it should be for something he actually did, he finds out about this plot, steals everything that wasn’t nailed down, and fled the country. (His family wasn’t wrong – he is an asshole.)
Reginald found himself in a bar in Ostwick, drinking heavily and trying to decide what to do next when Celene and Idrax walk in. He overhears their conversation about breaking into the Circle and decided that it might be good to join in on this since, you know, while they’re busy with whatever they’re doing, he can make some serious bank robbing the place.
Much of the rest of the first session was spent planning our heist, or at least preparing for it to the best of our abilities. I mean, we were pretty badass, but the place is crawling with templars and mages, neither of which we wanted to tussle with. So we each split up and decided to do our own thing – Celene used her contacts to get a map of the place, Reginald sold off some stolen family heirlooms to buy some Fereldan templar armor and Fereldan circle mage robes to use as disguises, and Idrax got a crate of lyrium (only somewhat tainted) from the dwarven mafia, who, in return for their help, we promised to kill someone for them. They asked us to murder the Knight Commander, leaving their own plant, the Knight Captain, in charge.
I also bought a lockpick, thinking it’d come in handy (spoiler: it does).
This latest session of actually infiltrating the place, though…oh man…it started off like an Abbot and Costello sketch and just went downhill from there. Somehow, we were so incompetent, that our incompetence rolled right around to brilliance and ended up getting us out of tough situations.
So we start by recapping what happened, what our goals were, and a rough outline of what we planned to do. We decide to use the back entrance, which is normally reserved for shipments and such, and bring the crate of lyrium with us. Unfortunately, I had the highest communications out of those who were actually allowed to speak, and I had no fucking clue what to do. We had to retcon slightly after I said something so unbelievably stupid that there was no way my character wasn’t at least kind of prepped for this. Our story ended up being that we were transferring a mage from one Circle to this one, and “you should’ve gotten a letter about this several weeks ago.” Ultimately, Fredrick, the nice templar running the loading bay, let us in and directed us towards the first enchanter to drop off the new mage.
It should be noted that Reginald is Orlesian (so they think he’s a pompous fool), Celene is Fereldan (so they think she’s akin to a rabid dog), and Idrax is a dwarf (so him being a templar is incredibly unlikely). So even if they didn’t know we came here to rob them, pretty much nobody would think very highly of us.
This was already as suspicious as things could get, but we managed to make it into the building. From there, we knew our destination was downstairs, but realized pretty quickly that we had no real idea where exactly the vault was. And since we were explicitly told to head upstairs…we just decided to wander downstairs and check the place out. Fortunately, we managed to do this without being seen.
The Circle tower had three basement floors, all connected with a spiral staircase. We make a quick stop on each floor and see three nearly identical layouts – a hallway that circles around the perimeter of the tower and some kind of door near the staircase landing. The differences being:
- The first basement floor had a large, wooden door
- The second basement floor had a very sturdy steel door
- The third basement floor had a pile of rubble
We knew that one of these was the vault, one of these was the dungeon, and one of these was a harrowing chamber. (As it was described to me: a room where demons and dangerous mages were often ‘dealt with’.) Having reached the bottom floor and finding a pile of rubble, we all decided that this must’ve been the harrowing chamber and it just collapsed at some point. Apparently they’re supposed to be designed to do that in case what’s in there is too tough to destroy so it seemed like a reasonable assumption. The second chamber with the sturdy door must be the vault! Going back up, Reginald gleefully picks the lock, pulls open the heavy door, and finds another curving hallway. We hear about four distinct voices from the other side of this hallway and decide to turn back since “we’re not supposed to be here anyway, let’s not get caught”
We finally go back to the first door, the large wooden one. Reginald goes to pick the lock again, rolls incredibly well…
GM: “As you go to pick the lock, you discover that the door is already unlocked.”
We all step inside and see a musty old room that looked like it hadn’t been used in ages. Upon seeing many, many bloodstains everywhere, Celene informs us that, no, THIS is the harrowing room, and we should get the hell out of it now.
So…wait…where was the vault? We then all collectively facepalm as we go back down to the bottom floor and discover that the pile of rubble was just an illusion disguising the door. Our GM makes note of the fact that the security system the templars put in place worked pretty well on us, but to be fair we’re all idiots.
Once the illusion was dispelled, we find another door with no discernable lock, but instead had a cup with a spike in it for a handle. We concluded that we needed lyrium-infused blood to make this door open. So obviously our first choice should be to kill those templars we overheard in that locked room. Sneaking our way back up to the B2 floor, we split up, make a plan of attack…only to discover the voices were just four prisoners and not templars. Fuck. Unfortunately, their blood won’t do the trick so we’re back to square one.
In any case, Celene insists we break them out (Well, three of them. We left one behind, something about him being a ‘malificar’ or something), and one of the prisoners informs us that there’s an escape route through a secret tunnel in the harrowing room above. It was also brought to our attention that the person we were asked to murder is actually a nice woman, and the one we were supposed to leave in charge is a murderous asshole. Great.
This prisoner also could’ve informed us of quite a few other things, but most of the info he had we’d already discovered through trial-and-error. The GM just shook his head sadly as the many pages of exposition he’d written were just gone and wasted now.
At this point, we knew needed templar blood to get into the vault. And we’d been explicitly told to go somewhere by Fredrick to go somewhere about, oh, two hours ago. So thinking we could kill three birds with one stone (alleviating suspicions about our intentions and killing the Knight Commander and getting the blood we needed), we decide…to go back upstairs and actually meet with the first enchanter. (Spoiler alert – this was a really stupid decision)
Said first enchanter, Elenora, was…irritated by our incompetence, but we were gone for so long and the fact that we actually came back pretty much said we were just a trio of idiots and not secretly thieves. However, we now had to become separated as Celene was escorted to the mages’ quarters and Reginald and Idrax were asked to go report to the Captain. Celene has her little adventure and makes it to the mages’ quarters with no trouble, ultimately slipping out when no one is looking.
Idrax and I, though…we decide “well, we don’t really want to stray too far from the healer, and the Captain sounds like an asshole who will murder us for no reason”. So through a very lucky “cunning” roll, we ultimately decide to try and blend in. We wander off not too far from the room we just exited we did the most templar thing we could think of – find a door, stand on either side of it, and look angry. After a while, Fredrick wanders by and informs us that the door we’ve been standing guard on is actually just a broom closet, but thinks that this was some cruel prank the Captain pulled on us so doesn’t tell anyone where we are. Turns out our incompetence saved our asses, since, again, we didn’t look like we were suspicious as much as we were just hopelessly lost and very stupid.
Eventually we all meet back up and, though some hints from the GM, realize that we are the biggest fucking morons. We needed blood that was infused with lyrium (i.e. templar blood). On our way back up the stairs, we literally walked right by a LARGE EMPTY ROOM FILLED WITH TEMPLAR BLOOD – the harrowing room and its blood spattered walls and ceiling. After feeling very stupid, we wander back downstairs, gather some of the dried blood, and drop it with some water into the cup on the vault door. It glows and swings open.
Inside the vault were a few things:
- A large pile of gold
- A stack of steel boxes which have been chained closed and have big, heavy padlocks on them
- LOTS of enchanted weapons
- A pile of skulls with gemstones in the eye sockets
- A door with no handle or keyhole
The door obviously lead to the closet where all the phylacteries are kept and could only be opened with magic, so Celene got to work opening it. Idrax used his military knowledge to look through the weapons and find some good ones for the party that hopefully weren’t cursed. Reginald just started bagging the gold, but since that didn’t take very long, he also went and opened one of the large steel boxes.
Inside was a qunari skull that had intricate symbols carved in it. I had Reginald call over to Celene “Hey, uh…why do these guys have a big skull in a box?” to which came the response of “…what?”
I was also informed that the skull was giving off a faint humming noise, so Reginald NOPED as hard as he could and shut the box. But, it seemed valuable, so I decided I’m taking this box with me. Because shut up, that’s why!
Celene finally opens the door (though fails to notice the silent alarm that we triggered by doing this) and finds her glowing phylactery. She initially just wanted to smash her own, but I convinced her “Why not just smash all of them? I mean, you hate the circle and want the mages to be able to escape, right?” So one quick Mind Blast and the vault was now covered with glass shards and blood.
Awesome! Rob the vault? Check. Smash the phylactery? Check. Now we just needed to kill the Commander. But since the Knight Commander is supposedly really nice and the Knight Captain is an asshole, we figure we can just skip that part and deal with the dwarven mafia later. I mean, at this point, what’s one more organization out to kill us? The mafia can get in line with everyone else.
It is at this point we all hear footsteps coming from upstairs. It sounds like at least a dozen heavily armored templars are heading down to see what’s going on. We initially prepare for combat, equipping all our fancy new gear, but ultimately decide against it and just hide behind the pile of boxes.
The Knight Captain, Dana (or perhaps her double) storms in, sees the open phylactery closet door and all the blood, starts very loudly cursing and ordering people around. Since we released some prisoners earlier, she assumed it was the work of those prisoners. She ordered that all exits be sealed until this gets sorted out, leaving two templars to guard the vault. I mean, nobody would be stupid enough to just stick around in the vault after doing something like this, right?
After a brief combat with the two templar guards, we sneak our way back up to the harrowing room, since we know that there is an escape route that no one really knows about in that room. Reginald, again, has brought the qunari skull box with him, and I’ve now vocalized my intentions of throwing it at anyone who gets in our way.
Thinking we were home free, we approach the open door to the harrowing room only to find it’s now occupied by five templars. Celene literally tries the “They went that way!” approach, but ultimately fails her roll by one point. The templars realize that they didn’t send any mages down here and have decided that we aren’t who we say we are.
After a panicked, out of game discussion while the GM was rolling dice for initiative, I proclaim “I throw the box in the room at the templars!!”
At this point, the GM let out a heavy sigh, and had to make a decision about what the hell he was gonna do with us. You see, the box with the skull was supposed to lead us to a really cool optional boss fight against a qunari ghost abomination thing. Instead, we decided to use the skull as a diversion to escape. So deciding that “dried blood counts, and as soon as it hits the blood on the floor it activates”, the room fills with fire and a large, angry, qunari mage ghost appears and starts wrecking everyone’s shit. We use this opportunity to quietly search the room for a secret passage out, since it’s aggro’d on the templars and largely ignoring us. One of the templars flees the room screaming “Captain! Captain!”, so we know reinforcements are coming soon.
Eventually we find the passage out – it’s under some flagstones in the middle of the room. Unfortunately, the qunari ghost ALSO finds the secret passage, smashes it open, and escapes the tower, leaving us in a room full of confused, angry templar. We also, at this point, hear more footsteps coming from the hall, along with Captain Dana’s angry voice proclaiming “THEY FUCKING DID WHAT??”. Figuring we’d take our chances with the abomination we just unleashed on the world, we all jump down the hole, outrun the templars chasing us.
Reaching the end of the tunnel, with templars in hot pursuit, we examine our surroundings. Down the hill, we see that everything is on fire, the abomination is tearing people apart, and there is so, so much screaming. After the briefest of pauses to consider the morality of our situation, we decide to leave Ostwick to it’s fate.
On our way out, someone does find us, though – a random citizen who thinks we’re here to help since we’re all still dressed as templars and a Circle mage. The GM’s last plea to get us to go back and clean up our mess. He underestimated how awful of people we are, and we ultimately waited for the citizen to run away, decided that we’d just be arrested or killed if we helped and that “The templars probably have this covered. I mean, this is their job, so they’ll take care of this before it gets too bad.” So we continued to bravely run away.
We did make one last stop to finish our deal with the mafia, though. Since we couldn’t say the Commander wasn’t killed in the demon attack we caused, we didn’t not do what they told us. That didn’t exactly fly, though, so we just handed over all the gold we stole (much to Reginald’s dismay) and the mafia contact decided he was way too sober to ask what the hell just happened. Also, they never want to do business with us again.
Fredrick, after hearing the ghost-thing awaken in the room below him and seeing his comrades run off to fight it, decided that he was not getting paid enough for this and left the Circle before seeing what happened.
This part of the adventure was supposed to take three sessions. We bumbled through the entire thing in one sitting.
Our protagonists, wanted in multiple countries now and with a pattern of leaving piles of corpses and razed cities in their wake, are now camped in the woods, deciding where to go next. The GM wants to send us to Kirkwall, but decided against it since “They’ve been through enough, I don’t think they’d survive you.” So instead we’re off to where our talents for destruction might be put to better use. Like a warzone or something.