Dragon Age: Origins uses a Tactics system to enable you to automate how your characters behave (mainly in combat). This allows you to setup your party members to work together efficiently without needing constant direction. If the game is too challenging, consider redesigning your tactics.
The Warden, companions (permanent and temporary), summons and pets start with 2 'tactics slots' at level 1, and get an additional slot at levels 3, 6, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30. More slots can be acquired by assigning skill points to Combat Tactics.
- 1 Tactics interface and mechanics
- 2 Tips for designing tactics
- 3 Behaviors
- 4 Conditions
Tactics interface and mechanics
Open the Tactics panel by pressing the target icon in the menu bar or using the shortcut key (by default [\]). At the top of the panel there are two menus:
- The Tactics presets menu is on the left. A tactics preset is a set of tactics focused on a certain playstyle. For example, the Healer preset prioritizes healing over other actions.
- The presets available depend on both the class of the character and his skills. For example, the Healer preset is not available for Warriors. Only actions that the character may take appear in the presets.
- Most presets include at least 10 tactics that cover everything from when to activate Rock Armor to when to heal, however the actual number of tactics displayed may be lower. To increase the number of tactics available, you have to allocate skill points to Combat Tactics.
- You can create create up to three custom tactics presets.
- These instructions will be followed after any customized instructions.
- The Behavior menu is on the right. Behaviors are the way characters behave in combat when the player doesn't give them any commands and none of their tactics apply. For example, the Ranged behavior prevents rogues from switching to melee weapons. The behaviors available to each character depend on their class and abilities.
BUG: If you create and save a custom preset that contains a Use object action the object will be forgotten when you use the preset. To prevent this select a default preset and return to the custom preset. The objects will have been forgotten at that point, so reselect them and resave the custom preset. It should remember the objects now.
Tactics are conditional actions. They are defined by a condition (about the state or location of a foe or friend) and an action to execute if the condition is met (such as casting a spell, attacking, or healing) on a target (self, friend or foe). The character currently selected ignores tactics and only follows the commands of the player.
The game checks continually (both during combat and exploration) the tactics of each character to decide what the character will do next, following this cycle:
- Check the list of tactics from top to bottom.
- If the condition of a tactic is met, attempt the action.
- If the action can be completed, perform it and then go back to step 1.
- If the action cannot be completed check the next tactic in the list.
- If no action is completed after all the tactics have been checked, perform an action based on the behavior of the character.
- Go back to step 1.
Actions that cannot be completed include casting a spell without enough mana, using an ability when it is on cooldown and attacking a foe that cannot be reached.
The actions based on behaviour are:
- Default: Set target to melee attacker, if any, and attack.
- Aggressive: Set target to the nearest visible enemy and attack with a melee weapon else a ranged weapon.
- Ranged: Set target to the nearest visible enemy and attack with a ranged weapon else a melee weapon.
- Passive, Cautious, Defensive: Do nothing.
Sustained skills are not handled consistently: Some sustained buffs, such as Berserk, deactivate immediately upon exiting combat mode. Others, such as Flaming Weapons, deactivate upon death. Consequently, you cannot retrigger Berserk by using the condition, Self:Any, if you die and are revived (although it works fine at the beginning of combat). Either manually invoke the buff or use Self: Game Mode: Combat to reinvoke this subset of sustained skills. (There are game mods that change the default behavior of such skills.)
Offensive actions are performed on an enemy target.
- The enemy target is set using tactics from the Enemy condition group. The following tactic conditions can be used to set a target:
- Enemy:Lowest/Highest Health
- Enemy:Nearest Visible
- Enemy:Nearest Visible Class
- Enemy:Attacking Party Member
- Enemy:Target of Party Member
- The following will not change the enemy target but are used for conditions on the existing target. These conditions will not be met if there is no target for the character.
- Enemy:Has Armour Type
- Enemy:Target At Range
- Enemy:Target Using Attack Type
- If no tactic results in an enemy target being set the behavior setting may autoselect a target.
- Default: Target set to melee attacker if any.
- Passive and Defensive: Target not set at all. (Contrary to the advice listed on the tooltip).
- Aggressive and Ranged: Target set to nearest visible.
- Cautious: Target not set.
- The target of the currently selected character can be distinguished from other enemies because it the red circle underneath it is surrounded by four arrows pointing outwards.
- No auto targetting is done if tactics are set to off.
- The tactic Morrigan:Being attacked by Melee → Taunt fails as the target Morrigan is an ally and taunt can only be used on enemies. However, the tactics system allows you to set this. You should use Enemy:Attacking Party Member Morrigan → Taunt instead.
- Characters start with just a few tactics (only two slots at level 1). This number can be increased through Combat Tactics and leveling.
- Tactics presets are less than optimal, sets of tactics based on the presets are typically more useful.
- Tactics are turned off for the currently selected character, so you must always micro-manage at least one party member. When you deselect a character, the game starts reviewing tactics from the top of the list. When all characters are selected tactics are disabled for the entire party.
- The tactics screen for summoned pets can only be reached just after the pet is summoned.
- The Self:Any condition is only checked once during each combat. Use Self: Game Mode: Combat instead if the player might be revived [This option does not exist on PC??].
- There are mods for the PC version that force tactics to run on all characters (even if selected), e.g., Advanced Tactics.
- Enemy:Target Rank (Or anything Enemy:) Use Item:Acid Coating (or any poison) fails with the character applying the poison but doing nothing else (PC version 1.03).
- Weapons are wielded in combat mode and sheathed in exploration mode.
- You can setup conditions that trigger when a character that has Survival notices the enemy from beyond combat range.
- You can set your game to auto-pause before combat.
- Combat conditions include those based on enemy health or proximity and some sustainable skills.
Jump to tactic
The jump to tactic action is used to skip some tactics.
- Enemy:Nearest Visible → Shield Bash
- Self:Surrounded by No Enemies → Jump to tactic 4
- Self:Stamina or Mana < 10% → Use Item Deep Mushroom
- Enemy:Any → Attack
Maybe you don't want to use abilities on low rank enemies
- Enemy:Target Rank is Critter → Jump to tactic 4
- Enemy:Health > 25% → Shield Bash
- Enemy:Health > 75% → Overpower
- Enemy:Nearest Visible → Attack
Switching from ranged to melee attacks for a Rogue
- Self:Being attacked by melee attack → Dirty Fighting
- Self:Being attacked by melee attack → Switch to melee
- Self:Being attacked by melee attack → Deadly Strike
- Deadly Strike can only be used with a melee attack
- Self:Being attacked by melee attack → Jump To Tactic 6
- Self:Any → Switch to ranged
- Enemy:Nearest Visible → Attack
Tips for designing tactics
- Use the provided tactics presets as a guideline to create your own custom set of tactics. Copy the tactics in those presets that are relevant to your character to your custom set of tactics and modify it as you see fit. The presets do not include tactics that use consumable items (health poultices, lyrium potions, deep mushrooms, bombs, traps and poisons), so you'll have to create those from scratch.
- Be careful about using Self:Any as the condition for using an object since the object will be used again every time the previous use times out.
- Prioritize your tactics. The first tactics should be those you want always triggered, frequently triggered, or triggered before other actions. Give high priority to tactics that restore health, stamina, and mana.
- Avoid selecting the entire party during combat, since these will deactivate tactics for all characters.
- Setup tactics for summoned pets as soon as the pet is summoned.
- Be careful about using sustained skills, spells, and talents in your tactics (see the Mechanics section above). They limit the amount of mana or stamina available, so they can significantly hinder your character if they are not deactivated when no longer needed. Consider managing these skills manually, using a mod (PC Platform only) that can change the default behavior of sustained abilities, or setting up your tactics so that unneeded sustained skills are automatically deactivated when the combat ends, like in the following example:
- Self:Mana/Stamina < 25% → Activate:Song of Valour
- Enemy:Nearest Visible → Attack
- This will always trigger while enemies are around.
- Self:Any → Deactivate:Song of Valour
- You can accidentally prevent tactics from triggering if you aren't careful. For example, if the first tactic is attack if at least one enemy alive, it will always be triggered during combat and the remaining tactics will never be used.
Specific tips, annoyances, and bugs
- Sustained abilities reserve some of the mana or stamina of the character. If the character has full mana or stamina when they are activated, they consume that same amount of mana or stamina. However, if the character has already spent mana or stamina, activating these abilities does not consume any stamina or mana. Therefore, it is very effective to use tactics that trigger these abilities when some mana or stamina has already been consumed. For example, if you want your mage to use three sustained abilities you can trigger the first one when his mana is below 80% (self: mana<80%), the second one when his mana is below 60% (self: mana<60%), and the third one when his mana is below 40% and (self:mana<40%). With this approach your characters can use their sustained abilities for free.
- To force the party to focus on a single target use Enemy: Target of Main Character → Attack and have your main character call the target.
- Alternatively, to let the party Tank select the target, use Enemy: Target of [Tank Character] → Attack.
- Alternatively, use Enemy: Target of controlled character → attack to target with whatever character is selected.
- To keep archers and mages at a distance use the Ranged behavior (right-side of the window), which instructs characters to stay at a distance.
- The default tactics do not include the use of Health Poultices (health), Lyrium Potions (mana), or Deep Mushrooms (stamina); these can only be used in custom tactics.
- You cannot choose a movement as an action, e.g., you cannot use a tactic to make a character flee from Inferno. However, some default behaviors make the character flee from harmful AoE.
- Tactics presets are not visible in the party camp, you must be elsewhere to select them and modify them.
- If the entire party is held in position (default key: [H]), tactics continue to run for non-selected characters. However, many conditions will not trigger for held characters (since they are too far), so they won't be able to complete many of their actions.
- The selected character can attempt to draw aggro from enemies and pull them towards the Held party.
- Tactics that target a single party member can make the character freeze if the target is dead. For example, the tactic if Alistair's health < 90% cast Lifeward, will make Wynne freeze and ignore all tactics if Alistair dies and this tactic is triggered.
- If you create tactics that use health poultices, make your tank use the most powerful ones and other characters use the least powerful ones.
- Bug: If you setup your character to use an item other than a Health Poultice or a Lyrium Potion the game might forget. To work around this follow these steps:
- Save your modifications as a custom set.
- Switch to any preset.
- Switch back to the new custom set.
- Reselect the object.
- Save your custom set a second time.
- Bug: In the downloaded ps3 version there's a glitch where, if you set your characters up to use two different weapon types (ranged and melee), in combat the character will dance as they swap weapons back and forth; even while being attacked. Setting different reasons for changing weapons has no effect on this suicidal behavior. All characters, for "safety reasons" are thus rendered single fighting style.
Organize your tactics as follows:
- Combat triggered buffs like Flaming Weapons and Berserk at the top of the list, so that they are triggered as the party begins combat.
- Self preservation skills, so that your character can kee fighting.
- Reactive tactics like Whirlwind if surrounded or removing conditions.
- Tactics that focus on a target or attack nearest a certain enemy.
- A combat triggered buff or two.
- Self preservation tactics (tactics that use health poultices or healing spells).
- Action to be taken if surrounded, e.g., Shield Bash.
- Enemy: Target of [tank character] → Attack for focused attacks.
Note: Self: Surrounded → Two-Handed Sweep apparently doesn't work because Two-Handed Sweep doesn't accept Self as a target. Instead, you need a workaround such as:
- Self: Surrounded → Jump to 3;
- Enemy: Target of [tank character] → Attack (normally, nothing below this will fire);
- Enemy: Nearest visible → Two-Handed Sweep.
May be applicable to other "splash" attacks like Dual-Weapon Sweep, Whirlwind, etc.
- [Tank]: Any → [tank buff].
- Self-preservation: Self: Health < 25% → Use health poultice: least powerful.
- Ally heal. Detect health or stamina/mana on allies and apply appropriate restorations.
Melee and archer
These don't work with Ranged Behavior.
- Enemy: Target at short range → Switch to melee weapons.
- Melee tactics. Non weapon-specific tactics wont be passed over, making the character move into short range.
- Enemy: Target at short range → Attack.
- Self: Any → Switch to ranged weapons.
- Ranged tactics.
- Enemy: Any → Attack.
The behaviors available are default, passive, aggressive, ranged, cautious, and defensive.
|Behavior||Basic actions||Attacks||Chases enemy||When attacked in melee||Escapes harmful AoE||Switches weapons||Notes|
|Passive||Stays close to warden or at ranged distance.||No.||No.||?||Yes.||To ranged.||Prefers ranged weapons.|
|Aggressive||Yes.||Yes.||Fights back.||No.||To melee.|
|Ranged||Yes.||?||Fights back.||Yes.||To ranged.||Applies to Mages. Avoids nearby enemies.|
|Cautious||Tries to stay close to warden.||No.||No.||Flees.||Yes.||No.||Avoids nearby enemies.|
|Defensive||Tries to stay close to warden.||Yes.||No.||Fights back.||Yes.||No.||Avoids nearby enemies.|
In the downloaded ps3 version, only Aggressive works as described; Default is a workable, as long as behaviors are never touched; 'Ranged' works moderately well as described. Passive, Cautious, and Defensive all work about as well as Levi Dryden in combat; if you like micro-management, these are for you; if the behavior has been changed from default once, default will "default" to passive, rendering said character useless in a fight.
There are 218 Conditions.