AGE Dragon Age Game Design

Hacking AGE – Tiers

weapon_training_300In the Character Advancement section of last week’s post on hacking the Dragon Age RPG, I mentioned the idea of having a second axis of character advancement in addition to using levels. This axis consists of 5 tiers: starting character*, hero, champion, legend, and myth. Advancing from one tier to the next is tied to in-story achievements rather than gaining experience points.

When a character advances to a new tier, she gains a variety of benefits in addition to whatever she has gained from level ups. Each tier will grant additional Health and Mana and allow a character to advance a single talent that had been at its maximum rank for her previous tier by one rank. For the higher tiers (champion – myth), I’m also considering having additional tier benefits that would add to the instant benefits for achieving those tiers.

In addition to the player characters having tiers, I’d plan for NPCs and monsters to have a tier as part of their stats as well. Most ordinary people and animals would fall into the starting character tier but more skilled NPCs and powerful monsters would have higher tiers. For example, a spirit of a forest might be in the champion tier while the great spirit of the sun would be in the myth tier. Having tiers on non-player characters and creatures allows for mechanics to be triggered off tier which I think is a neat way of having characters get cool abilities without necessarily needing bit bonuses to skill rolls. For example, a master swordsman in the legend tier could gain an ability that lets him automatically parry melee attacks from opponents in the hero or starting character tier as long as he has his sword in hand.

Starting Character: A starting character isn’t well-known and doesn’t stand out much from the other residents of the world. Since newly created characters are in the starting character tier, there aren’t any requirements to or benefits for achieving the tier. A character will only be in this tier for his first adventure, but a lot of NPCs and relatively mundane creatures will be in this tier.

Hero: A hero has successfully completed her first adventure. With that accomplishment, heroes move a step above ordinary people becoming more resilient and capable. Heroes are who the people of the world turn to for help, so once the player characters are in this tier they should start to have people coming to them with problems that need their skills. Skilled NPCs and creatures that can threaten most people will tend to be in the hero tier.

Champion: When a hero accomplishes his first quest with regional impact, such as leading a city’s defenders against an attacking army or stopping a rampaging dragon, he becomes a champion. Champions are called upon by queens and kings to take on quests, celebrated by a city as its savior, and raised to the highest ranks of powerful organizations. The hallmark of the champion tier is having abilities and powers that begin to have wider effects. For example, a sorcerer in the hero tier might throw fire bolts that can take out individual enemies while a champion tier sorcerer could create a wave of fire that impacts entire battles. Right now I think it’d be nice to have the champion tier grant some sort of aura ability that automatically extends a character’s impact to those around him. For example, a Champion of Mercy might gain an aura that enhances any magical healing nearby.

Legend: A character in the legend tier amongst the most talented people in the world. Whether she’s the best swordswoman or the most powerful sorceress, stories and rumors about her have begun to spread throughout the world. Becoming a legend requires a big accomplishment that could be unlocking a mystery that’s gone unsolved for generations or slaying a legendary beast, but whatever the actual task it also needs to be something that has a deep impact on the world. A character in the legend tier has abilities that begin to put her out-of-reach from characters in the lowest tiers such as the parrying ability that I mentioned above or an ability to prevent low-tier opponents from casting spells when nearby. At legend tier, I’m thinking about having a character gain a legendary path that grants a few special powers related to being the most talented person in the world with a given set of skills. For example, some path choices could be Archmage, Emperor, Guardian, or Warlord.

Myth: Myths are well beyond the power of normal people, and the stories of their deeds will be told for generations. When a character reaches this tier, he has become as powerful as the great spirits of the world. My plan is to have a character gain a domain of influence when he enters the myth tier that will grant a set of powers that represents their dominion over that aspect of the world. For example, a character with the Domain of Beasts might be able to feel the location of any beast in the world and see through their senses. These powers are meant to extend the influence of the characters to the world as a whole.

“Weapon Training” artwork by Luigi Castellani. This art is from Spears of the Dawn and was made public domain as part of that game’s Kickstarter campaign. All of the artwork for Spears of the Dawn can be downloaded here.

* I really need a better name for the first tier, but so far I haven’t come up with anything I like.

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

2 replies on “Hacking AGE – Tiers”

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