Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/06/01/tabletop-review-faces-of-thedas-varric-dragon-age/
I’m not really a big fan of licensed RPGs, but there have been three big exceptions in the past: TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes game, Mayfair’s DC Super Heroes game and Leading Edge Games’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is obscure but has a really great system attached to it. That’s not to say I haven’t owned other licensed RPGs, but those are more a curiosity than anything else. I’ve owned Guardian of Order’s Tenchi Muyo and Slayers games, but if you’ve ever played them then you probably understand why they stay on the shelf rather than see any play time. Dragon Age is one of those RPGs. It’s well made, but like many people I show it to, I guess I’d rather play the video games the tabletop system is based on if I’m going to have a Dragon Age craving. Like the old Diablo tabletop RPG, I just can’t fathom a time where someone would really have a strong desire to use this system and setting when you could play the video games or something originally born and bred for pen and paper gaming instead.
Faces of Thedas is a new, PDF only line for the Tabletop game that focuses on the heroes from Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II. The line starts with this ten page document on Varric, the narrating dwarven rogue from Dragon Age II. I was happy to see Varric be the pilot character for this project as he’s my favorite in the series. What you get is about five pages of information on the character that might be of interest to both video game and tabletop fans of the Dragon Age franchise followed by five pages of tabletop stats. For a mere buck and a half, this isn’t too bad of an idea, but there are a few stumbles along the way.
The first page of the document introduces Varric and Mary Kirby, the writer who created him for Bioware. The introduction isn’t really needed because honestly, if you’re playing the Dragon Age tabletop game you’ve almost certainly played the video games. That’s like picking up a licensed super hero game without reading a comic book. It makes no sense. The second page of the document is an interview with Mary Kirby and is definitely the bit that all DA fans will enjoy. It’s a nice look at not only Varric himself, but how he came to be and the creative process that spawned him.
The third page of the document is Varric’s biography up to the start of Dragon Age II. It’s a nice little write-up and it helps to flesh out the character’s back story in case you missed/forgot any of it from your Dragon Age II playthrough. The next two pages are a gobblygook of information ranging from “hints” about what might happen to Varric when he encounters the Champion of Kirkwall, adventure hooks where your party might encounter him, ways to rewrite his story for those that want to use Varric but don’t want to strictly follow DA2′s history, and finally thematic use for Varric. All this is interesting, but not necessarily useful. The “Varric & Champion” section is pretty useless because once again, if you’re picking this pdf up, you already know who Varric is and you’re interested in using him. Why? BECAUSE YOU PLAYED DRAGON AGE II. Oy vey. The books attempt at not giving out “spoilers” is laudible, but unnecessary because the game is over two years old at this point and for the third time, if you’re playing Dragon Age the tabletop RPG, there is a very. VERY small chance that you haven’t played one or both video games.
Pages six through ten are all tabletop gaming stats, although very little of it is actually Varric-centric. For example, the PDF goes on for one and a half pages (spread over three pages) about the Contacts talent. That’s over ten percent of the document. The rest of the info is pretty useful though. They give you stats for both a level 1 and a level five Varric, information on how to creature a signature weapon for players and then finally three short sections on The Hanged Man Tavern, Varric’s leather duster and Bianca, Varric’s crossbow.
So there’s not a lot of in-depth material on Varric, either in general or specifically for the tabletop setting, but with only ten pages Green Ronin decided to do a lot of little topics rather than a lot of substantial information on a few. Either way has its positives and negatives, but I do think there’s a lot of unnecessary content here that could have been cleared out since nearly everyone who picks this up knows who Varric is and his relationship with the Champion of Kirkwall. I think two or three pages could have been cleared out completely for more useful information such as different builds for Varric, a more in-depth look at the character containing info left out from DA2 and more. For only a dollar-fifty, this isn’t too bad if you’re a fan of Varric, but there’s a lot of untapped potential in this PDF and so overall I’m a bit disappointed. At least it’s not going to be too hard on your wallet.