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The purpose of this page is to collect player thoughts and tips learned during play. Depending on how this page evolves, it may be a main page that gets subdivided over time as more thoughts/tips are added and patterns start emerging for making sub-sections. Alternatively, the contents may eventually get pasted to other pages on individual topics. For now though, it could be useful to have a single repository for potentially unrelated, but useful, insights.

Advantages of Mages over Warriors and Rogues

  • Many (if not most) of the fights you'll get into will be against groups that outnumber your party. On Normal difficulty, these groups are capable of overcoming the party of a player new to this series or genre. Thus, players may find Area-of-Effect (AoE) Crowd Control (CC) and Direct Damage (DD) spells/abilities VERY useful.
  • Dragon Age has 3 classes: Warrior, Rogue, and Mage. The Talents of Warriors and Rogues tend to focus almost exclusively on single-target combat. Very few are AoE abilities. Warriors, particularly through the Shield tree, do have several CC stun abilities, but again, they are usually single-target only. Mages, on the other hand, seem to have a great deal of AoE spells, CC spells, and best of all, AOE CC spells. Examples include:
  • Unfortunately, many of the aforementioned Mage spells can do Friendly Fire (FF), which means they can hurt your party members as well as your enemies. Usually, this means that only allies standing pretty close to enemies will be in danger. Guess what kind of ally stands next to enemies...Warriors and Rogues. This point is mooted somewhat by the fact that, of course, without the warriors and rogues, the mages would be 'standing next to enemies' anyway, due to there being nobody else for them to attack.
  • Enemy mages can be a real headache for Warriors or Rogues to deal with on higher difficulties. Spells like Fireball and Crushing Prison can quickly kill Rogues, and Warriors may find it difficult to maintain aggro when subjected to debilitating spells such as Horror, Paralyze, or Misdirection Hex. The Templar specialization can help warriors to deal with enemy spellcasters effectively; however, Mage characters have a far more potent weapon in their arsenal: Mana Clash. This is potentially the most damaging ability in the game, able to utterly annihilate most enemy mages of elite rank or lower in one hit, and taking enormous chunks of health from bosses such as Gaxkang or Caladrius. Mana Clash trivializes mage-on-mage conflict, and can be used to ensure that enemy spellcasters never even get a chance to conjure a single spell.

Conclusion: The player will primarily face groups that can pose a significant threat to the party. The best way to defeat groups is a combination of divide-and-conquer, which means using CC abilities that neutralize parts of the group so that the party only needs to focus on a smaller portion at a time, and focus-fire. Mages have ~85% of the kinds of abilities that are best at dealing with groups (AoE and CC spells). In addition, Mages are usually not in danger of suffering FF from these abilities because they usually aren't physically near the targets. Warriors and Rogues likely excel at taking out bosses, which are tough, single targets. However, since you don't seem to fight those anywhere near as often as you will fight groups of lesser enemies, Mages are often an essential component of combat-focused parties.

Advantages of Warriors over Mages and Rogues

Warriors require the least baby sitting of all characters. Mages have many Friendly Fire spells that require micromanagement in order to keep from hurting your own party. Rogues are most effective when they backstab, but the AI doesn't automatically send the Rogue around the back of targets not hitting them in order to backstab. Warriors can simply be pointed at a target and retain most of their effectiveness without having to pause the combat every other second. You can use tactics to tell them to automatically use health potions if their health gets too low, and you can set up chains for their active talents. They also have the armor, defense, and HP to take more punishment, and thus can be more forgiving to a player who doesn't want to micromanage all their party members. Many parties will find the warrior's Taunt and Threaten abilities critical for keeping monsters away from mages and rogues.

Warriors can also use all weapon skills, allowing them to compliment the party as archers, dual-wielders, two-handed swordsmen, or shield-bearing tanks. And their ability to wear all types of armor, even in the early stages of the game, makes them very hardy.


Bioware wants Rogues to be melee backstabbers

  • The damage potential of bows doesn't appear to compare to dual wielding or two-handed weapons. How much of this discrepancy is due to the Dexterity bug is unknown. If you want an additional ranged unit, another mage is far better.
  • When you look at the Rogue Talents, half of them are primarily or only focused on dual-wielding melee and/or backstabbing (3/4 if you count the Stealth ones, which archers would need less than backstabbers).
  • Half of the Rogue Specialization options focus on melee combat.
  • Special arrows are pretty expensive to buy (~15-40 silver / arrow).

This doesn't mean the player cannot be a ranged-focused Rogue, it just means the vast majority of Talents you have access to won't be of much use to you.

Rogues do make great Player Characters (PCs) though. They get Skill points every 2 levels while Mages and Warriors get them every 3. This is important because only the PC can learn Coercion, which requires up to 4 extra skill points to max out. Additionally, having a Rogue as your starting character means you always have the Lock-Picking Skill, which means the PC will be able to open the early locked chests and such, though ones further on in the game will require higher levels of the skill and Cunning in the upper 20's to 30's. Rogues also start with 1 point in Poison-Making, which is beneficial even if the PC doesn't intend to max that skill, as only 1 point is needed to apply poisons to your (melee) weapons.

Equipment

The stat requirements of weapons and armor goes up with the tier of the item. If Tier 1 (Rough, Iron, or Elm) requires X 'Stat' (Strength, Dexterity, or Magic) to equip, then...

  • Tier 2 (Cured, Grey Iron, or Ash) requires X+2
  • Tier 3 (Leather, Steel, or Yew) requires X+4
  • Tier 4 (Hardened, Veridium, or Whitewood) requires X+8
  • Tier 5 (Reinforced, Redsteel, or Ironbark) requires X+14
  • Tier 6 (Inscribed, Silverite, or Sylvanwood) requires X+16
  • Tier 7 (Drakeskin, Dragonbone, or Dragonthorn) requires X+20

Not all Tier 1 stat requirements are the same.

  • 10 Dexterity = Daggers and Shortbows; Strength = Crossbows, Bucklers, and Light Armor (leather)
  • 11 Strength = 1H Sword and 1H Axes
  • 12 Strength = 1H Maces
  • 14 Dexterity = Longbows; Strength = Targes and Medium Armor (mail)
  • 18 Strength = 2H Swords, 2H Maces, 2H Axes, Kite Shields, and Heavy Armor (half-plate)
  • 20 Strength = Massive Armor (full-plate)

Magic Types

Vulnerable/Resistant

Some enemy types are very vulnerable to certain forms of magic and/or resistant to others. Knowing your enemies' strengths and weaknesses can help you choose which spells to use and which not to.

Type Notes Good vs. Bad vs.
Fire Cancels cold-based effects (usually movement-impairing effects) and applies fire-based DOT Most target types are vulnerable to fire Dragons, Rage Demons
Frost (Cold) Cancels fire-based effects (usually DOT) and applies movement-impairing affect Rage Demons, Ash Wraiths, most target types (even immune enemies can be frozen) Undead, Revenants
Lightning (Electricity) Drains stamina (but not mana) in addition to damage Reavers, bosses
Spirit Very difficult to resist, so very effective vs. all targets Armor, nearly all types Spirits
Nature Many poisons do nature damage Humanoids Golems, Werewolves, Beasts in general, and Undead(Flying Swarm, and Nature Staves most notably)

Combat Tips

Critical Hit vs. Critical Damage

Certain Talents will result in a "critical hit", while others will deal "critical damage". Thus, not all attacks that do critical damage are critical hits. The distinction is important because only critical hits can shatter frozen or petrified targets. For example, in the 2-handed talent group, the talent called Mighty Blow has a chance to do critical damage, but is not necessarily a critical hit. The 2-handed talent called Critical Strike will result in an actual critical hit. Note that, even though Might Blow does not promise a critical hit, it is still possible for the attack to be one (it's just not guaranteed like it is with Critical Strike).

Cover

Dragon Age incorporates a system of cover. In general, if the target's lower half or more is obstructed from view, the PC will be unable to hit it with bows, crossbows, and some magical attacks as well. On magical attacks, the bolt Mages shoot from their staves will be blocked. Some actual spells (such as Winter's Grasp) will still land though.

Cover only affects ranged combat. However, if the PC is facing multiple enemy archers or other ranged attackers, the PC can sometimes use the terrain to his/her advantage. Move the party behind horse carts, or stand to the side of, instead of in front of, an open doorway.

An example of this tactic would be when used against mages, as they can really mess up the party if trying to cross a large distance to attack them. Instead, consider the game from the AI's perspective: it is programmed to seek out the party and engage it in combat. Thus, if it can't "seek them out", it can't engage them. So, use cover to force that annoying mage (or whatever) to walk right up to the party, then use Shield Bash or what not.

Tactics

The current understanding is that the Tactics lines are a series of linked segments in an IF/THEN equation. The AI looks at the list from the top down. So, the AI will see if the condition in the first line is met. If it is, the AI will execute the action associated with the condition in line 1. If the condition in line 1 is not met, then the AI will look at the condition in line 2 and see if it is met.

  • In this way you can set up chains. Simply set the condition to Self-Any and set the action to the first thing you want to happen. In the next line down, set the condition to Self-Any and set the action to the next part of the chain. Repeat.

There is still a question about whether the AI returns to Line 1 each time it takes an action or if the AI simply continues down the list until it checks the last line before returning to the top. The current assumption is that it returns to Line 1 after every action and will only reach the bottom of the list if no earlier conditions were met.

There are many ways to design tactics, and the default lists the game provides are not necessarily the best. Consider having a use healing poultice when down in health (all) and use lyrium potion when down in mana (mages) at the top of the active list so the NPC maintains its health and mana.

Swords/Axes/Maces/Daggers

The following chart ranks each weapon by category. Swords, maces, and axes each come in one or two hand varieties. Daggers are always one hand.

Swords are the best all around weapon offering good stats in every category. Axes scale the best for players of very high strength gaining and additional one point of damage for every 10 points of strength over any other weapon. Maces are a very poorly balanced weapon but can be situationally useful (vs. heavily armored targets). Swords and Axes are likely best against most targets with maces being most effective against high armor targets. However, swapping between a sword/axe and a mace, depending on what is being attacked, is likely most optimal.

Daggers, being the fastest weapons, are most useful in a dual wield setup with static damage bonuses to each attack like runic enchantments, weapon spells, and coatings. They require high dexterity to wield but still partially require strength for damage (dagger damage is 50% strength/50% dexterity) unless Lethality is taken (rogue only) in which case they require high cunning. They can carry large bonuses to critical/backstab damage reinforcing their usefulness as rogue weapons. Because of their low damage they are not as effective as other weapon types when used for active dual-wield talents that deal a fixed number of weapon strikes.

Weapon Sword Dagger Mace Axe
Damage Great Poor Moderate Good
Attribute 100% STR 50%STR, 50%DEX 100% STR 100% STR
Attribute Modifier Good Poor Good Great
Armor Penetration Moderate Great Great Moderate
Speed Modifier Good Great Poor Good
Critical Chance Good Great Poor Moderate
Base PreReq STR 11 DEX 10 STR 12 STR 11

Light/Medium/Heavy/Massive Armor

The heavier the armor, the greater the armor factor but also the fatigue penalty. Armor can be negated/bypassed with armor-penetrating attacks (arrows, bolts, axes, maces, daggers, and spirit-based spells), which means it won't always be of much use. The fatigue penalty can be large, upwards of 20% or more, which limits the use of active and sustained talents.

  • Also beware of lightning-based attacks as they burn stamina in addition to dealing damage, which exacerbates the problem heavy armor wearers have.

Managing Enemy Aggression (Aggro)

  • According to the in-game tips, characters wearing heavier armor draw more threat.
  • Warriors also have 1 active and 1 sustained talent that generate threat.
    • Threaten, the Sustained Talent, only works on the warrior's target
    • Taunt, the Active Talent, is an AoE taunt.
  • Is threat calculated on the absolute value of damage, or is armor penetration considered?
  • Do heavier weapons (and/or shields) contribute to "threat" (similar to the heavy armor note above)?
  • If heavy armor generates threat, is it an absolute value of armor, or is defense considered?
  • Does crowd control contribute threat to only those affected by it, or by the whole enemy group?
  • Does potion "augmentation" (not just health, but balms, poisons, etc.) add threat - more specifically, does using a poison on a tanks weapon help hold aggro?

Certain items can reduce aggro, and are nice to protect a high-damaging mage or archer character:

  • Amulet of Accord, sold in Lothering
  • Magister's Cinch
  • Shadow Belt (Warden's Keep DLC)
  • Bard's Dancing Shoes, sold at Camp

Other items increase hostility

  • Cadash Stompers (Stone Prisoner DLC)
  • Ageless, found in Orzammar's Throne Room
  • Some weapons???
Note: As of patch 1.02, hostility modifying properties (Increases/Reduces hostility) on items are not implemented properly and do not work.

Rogues

Rogues make good PCs (primary character class). Rogues are the only class that benefit in other ways from high Cunning (it benefits all of their rogue specific skills and is necessary for lockpicking, and stealth).

DA:O Rogues were designed to be dual-wielding backstabbers. Archery was meant to be a support, not primary, talent group. You will always deal more damage dual-wielding than with a bow, but the bow offers the advantage of range and distance from AOE (area-of-effect) spells cast by your party that can deal friendly fire. The best strategy is to set up your rogue with a secondary weapon set for ranged attacks and set this in a tactic to spare your rogue who is likely wearing light armour, from being too close to a target more suited to direct attack by a character wearing heavy armour.

Rogues also get Skill points every 2 levels, where as Warriors and Mages get them only every 3 levels. This, combined with the other advantages of high Cunning, means Rogues are most likely to be able to reach the highest levels in any skill. This gives Rogues an advantage in the utility/support role. For example, you can choose for your Rogue to have high Poison Making, Survival, and Trap-Making.

Rogues can do the following, which the other two classes cannot:

  • Pick locks on chests and doors
  • Disarm traps
  • Stealth

It can be a useful tactic, before entering a room, to tell your party to hold position, stealth the Rogue, and have the Rogue open the door and enter the room. It is assumed that Cunning determines whether or not someone will detect traps. Levels 2 and 4 of Trap-Making will allow the Rogue to spot traps from further away, which the Rogue can disarm while remaining stealthed, but remember that high dexterity and/or deft hand skills is required to disarm more complex traps. The Rogue can also use this opportunity to set up traps of its own. Note however that planting a trap will break stealth unless the Rogue has the 2nd level of Stealth.

Some rooms with closed doors are not observable in the top-down camera perspective until the door is open. Some Mage spells (like Blizzard and Inferno) do not require line of sight to use. However, Mages cannot use those spells in blacked-out rooms until the door is opened. In this way, Rogues can act as a sort of forward observer, exposing rooms to powerful Mage spells without endangering the Mage.

Light vs. Medium Armor

Warriors are designed to take a beating whereas Rogues are not. Warriors can absorb damage through their armor or higher Constitution, but Rogues must avoid it either through a high Defense stat, stuns, or killing the target very, very fast.

Bow Rogues are probably fine with light armor. Melee Rogues who have access to a lot of CC are also probably fine with light armor. However, if the PC plans to do a lot of face to face melee, medium armor might make more sense. Having your Rogue with a high dexterity and Combat Movement means that they will be harder to hit and will dodge attacks more than other companions. Note that heavier armor makes the AI target you more often and increases the stamina cost of active and sustained talents. If you prefer to keep your Rogue in light armour and want to be close for melee attacks, just make sure your tank has Taunt activated, this will ensure that AI attack the tank, giving your Rogue an excellent chance to backstab and provide very useful support rather than being pummelled into uselessness.

Warriors

Warriors (like Rogues) are melee-centric, single-target fighters. The one thing that Warriors can do that no other class can is taunt enemies to attack them. This emphasizes Warrior's traditional role of tanking (drawing and absorbing most of the damage directed at a party, thereby protecting other, squishier classes from it). A tanks job is to absorb damage, and not necessarily to dish it out. Tanks may wish to focus on the Shield set of talents, which increase armor, defense, and grant the ability to negate non-magical missile attacks (arrows and crossbow bolts). Constitution is a major stat for tanks, of equal if not greater importance than Strength. Strength grants access to heavier armors though, and also contributes to damage. Dexterity is also of some importance to tanks since certain Shield talents require Dexterity to access instead of Strength.

The more offensive way to play a Warrior could be thought of as a berserker. A tough melee-based character able to wade into groups of enemies, disrupt and debuff several at once, and dispatch a few quickly. Use the two-handed talent set and a greatsword to dish out some serious damage as a warrior.

For ranged attacks, crossbows may work better than bows for Warriors because crossbow requirements are based on Strength instead of Dexterity, damage and attack score still seem to be controlled by dexterity however.

If you want to move faster (e.g. when running from one side of Orzammar to the other) the power of blood from the Warden's Keep DLC is very useful.

Note: I did not write the above and didn't want to delete someone elses work. However, CON is a wasted stat for your tank. You are better off focusing on applying level-up points at a 2:1 ratio of DEX and STR. STR will allow you to wear better armor, while DEX will make you harder to hit. The benefits of a high CON are outweighed by using those points in DEX because your tank will survive longer in battle if they're not hit as frequently than if they have a few extra HP allocated.

Note: It is suggested that if you decide on a high dexterity tank you should compensate against spell damage with spell resisting items such as Knight Commander's Plate and The Spellward.

Mages

Mages excel at affecting multiple enemies through their AOE spells. Many of these can be found in the Primal group of talents, and most of those do friendly fire. One drawback of the Primal group is that it is made up of multiple magic types (fire, frost, lightning, and nature). Thus, Mages may wish to focus on a single line within the Primal group in order to make it easier to pick equipment that grants bonuses to the primary type of magic used.

  • The Entropy group also offers a few AoE spells, and they do not do friendly fire, but they are easier to break.

Clearing out whole rooms can be done quite easily. Put your Party on Hold. Open the door and cast and an AOE Spell (or more) inside the room. Then cast Glyph of Repulsion on the door.

Mages are the only class that can heal party members without using items. They also have multiple buff talents, debuff talents, AOE and direct damage talents.

Mages have relatively few passive talents(not be mistaken for sustained spells), which means Willpower is exceptionally important. This is even more true if the player decides to spread their talent points across multiple talent groups and lines. Many Mage talents are redundant with others, except that they use different magic types. The more Mages are able to focus their talents into the same groups or lines, the less Willpower they may need, which means the more stat points may be available for Magic, which grants access to more powerful spells and increases the power of all spells.

It is highly recommended to keep at least one Mage in your party because Mages have access to the greatest number of AOE talents (particularly AOE CC spells) and the majority of the battles in DA:O are against many normal enemies (as opposed to a few, elite ones).

If your PC is a mage and you're tiring of the minimal damage they are doing with physical attacks, switch them to crossbows.

This could be only possible due to the high strength requirements, but if the mage is an arcane warrior, the requirement changes from strength to magic, so your magic level is used to allow you to equip higher level crossbows, more than tripling the amount of damage you do from physical attacks. Note however that it will take longer to cast a spell as your mage will have to put away the crossbow.

If you want to move faster (e.g. when running from one side of Orzammar to the other) the flying swarm shapeshift allows you to move a lot faster.

Archers

Archers are good at single-target ranged combat and mild CC via scattershot. While initially weaker at the beginning, with patience, an archer can develop into one of the highest damage dealing builds. This is done by reaching a very high critical chance. (to see how go to: http://dragonage.wikia.com/wiki/Archery:_An_Efficient_Approach)

Cunning-based archers have greater growth potential than Dexterity-based due to increased armour-penetration. Any attack rating issues can be fixed with the sustained ability dueling.

Archers are useful for assassinating enemy mages before they can become too annoying. Despite the rather odd bonus multiplication for the arrow-of-slaying, it has the useful ability to deal a lot of damage before the mage can heal itself.

Archers are also very good at shattering frozen enemies. They have guaranteed critical hits (critical shot, arrow of slaying, stealth), don't have to be near to the enemies to attack them, and can have a critical chance close to 100%.

The major downside to archers is the bug ranged weapon aim speed has with haste - basically their attack speed becomes ridiculously slow. This means that the other members of the party can't enjoy the benefits of haste when there are archers around.

Under construction

Synergies

There are many ways where two or more different classes can use talents that complement each other. For example, Mages with frost spells can freeze enemies, which your Warriors and Rogues can then kill in one hit (so long as that hit is a critical hit). Rogues can also attain the passive ability 'Coup de Grace' which grants auto-backstab hits on stunned/frozen/etc. targets. Mages lack talents that grant auto crits, but can make up for that with the Stonefist or Crushing Prison spells which can shatter frozen enemies.

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