Dragon Age uses Tactics to enable you to automate how your characters respond to situations 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.
Tactics Interface & Mechanics
Open the Tactics menu by pressing the Target icon in the menu bar or using the shortcut key (Default: [\]). There are two sections: conditions and actions. Above each section, there are two sets of presets:
- On the left, you can choose a Tactics preset, which offer a detailed set of instructions for a variety of conditions. For example, you can choose the Healer so that your Mage prioritizes healing over other actions.
- These instructions will be followed after any customized instructions.
- The particular choices offered depend on both the characters class and the various available skills. For example, Warriors will not be offered the Healer preset.
- The presets generally include at least 10 condition/action combinations, covering everything from when to activate Rock Armor to when to heal, however you will only see a limited number of the actions that are available to the character. To increase the number of actions available, you have to allocate skill points to Combat Tactics. Only actions that the character may take will appear in the presets.
- On the right, you can choose the character's overall Behavior in combat. For example, you can choose Ranged to keep a Rogue from switching to melee weapons.
- Behaviors take priority over tactics. For example, Passive characters might not finish off a low-health foe that is not attacking them.
- Behavior choices also vary depending on class & abilities.
Once you have chosen a Preset Tactic and Behavior for the character, you can customize their reactions during combat by adding your own modifications. You can save up to 3 custom presets.There is a bug with the Use object action. If you create and save a custom preset containing a Use object action, the object will be forgotten when you use the preset. To avoid this, select some 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.
Each tactic includes a condition (based on the status or proximity 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)
- For each character not under direct control, the game cycles through the list of tactics from top to bottom during both combat and exploration.
- Some conditions only trigger during combat and are skipped when exploring.
- If the condition is true, the game attempts the action.
- If the action can be completed, then the game restarts the tactics cycle from the top.
- If the action cannot be completed, then the game tests the next tactic in the list.
- If no action is completed a default action based on behaviour is used.
- The cycle restarts.
(1) For each character, the game cycles through the list of tactics from top to bottom during both combat and exploration.
- You can use this to setup conditions that trigger upon a character that has Survival noticing the enemy from beyond combat range.
- Characters will also use restoration and condition removal skills outside of combat.
(2) Some conditions only trigger during combat and are skipped when exploring.
- Weapons are wielded in combat mode and sheathed in exploration mode. You can also set your game to auto-pause before combat.
- Combat conditions include those based on enemy health or proximity and some sustainable skills.
(3) If the conditions are true, the game attempts the action. It is completed if possible (and the cycle restarts); if it cannot be completed, the next tactic is attempted.
- You can accidentally prevent subsequent tactics from triggering if you aren't careful. For example, if the first tactic is attack if at least one enemy alive, then it will always trigger successfully during combat and the game will never check the remaining conditions.
- Actions that cannot be completed include casting a spell without enough mana, turning on a sustainable skill when it is still cooling down, or attacking a foe that cannot be reached.
(4) If no action is completed a default action based on behaviour is used.
- Default: Target set to melee attacker, if any and attack.
- Aggressive: Target set to nearest visible and attack, with melee weapon else ranged weapon.
- Ranged: Target set to nearest visible and attack, with ranged weapon else melee weapon.
- Passive, Cautious, Defensive: Does nothing.
Sustainable skills are not handled consistently:
- Some sustained buffs, such as Berserk, always deactivate immediately upon exiting combat mode. Other sustained buffs, such as Flaming Weapons, always 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 also game mods that change the default behavior of such skills.)
All offensive actions require an enemy target to be completed. The enemy target is used for offensive talents, spells and default attacks.
- The enemy target is set using tactics from the Enemy condition tiers that result in an attempted attack. The following tactic conditions should be used to set or change 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 be false if there is no target for the character
- Enemy:Has Armour Type
- Enemy:Target At Range
- Enemy:Target Using Attack Type
- If no tactic specified resulted in the 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 at all.
- The enemy target can be seen as a red circle with four arrows around the denizen when selecting another character.
- No auto targeting is done at all if tactics are set to off.
- Morrigan:Being attacked by Melee → Taunt will fail as the target Morrigan is an ally and taunt can only be used on enemies. The tactics system will allow you to set this however. You should use Enemy:Attacking Party Member Morrigan → Taunt instead.
Jump To Tactic
The jump to tactic is useful in skipping tactics on certain conditions.
- 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
- Characters start out with just a few actions that can programmed in a preset (only two slots at level 1); this number can be increased through Combat Tactics and through leveling.
- Characters get three custom presets. Since the standard presets are less than optimal, they will probably find custom presets based on the standard presets most 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.
- If you select all characters, then tactics are disabled for the entire party.
- The tactics screen for summoned pets can only reached at the time 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.
- There are mods (for the PC version) to 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)
Tips for Designing Tactics
- Choose an appropriate preset before customizing to minimise the probability that you'll miss something you should do. Note that the standard presets do not use health poultices, lyrium potions, deep mushrooms, bombs, traps, or poisons. If you want to use any of these, add them to the actions with appropriate conditions. 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 tactic should be something you want always triggered, frequently triggered, or triggered before other actions.
- Avoid selecting the entire party during combat.
- Trigger health, stamina, and mana restorations sooner rather than later.
- Setup tactics for summoned Pets immediately.
- Use caution including sustained skills, spells, and talents in your tactics (see the Mechanics section above) since they use mana/stamina and may freeze your character if there is no way to deactivate them when the appropriate conditions terminate.
- Consider manually managing sustained abilities or use a Mod (PC Platform only) that can change the default behavior of sustained abilities.
- You can set automatic deactivation of sustains by using the following style.
- 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
Specific Tips, Annoyances, and Bugs
- Upkeep abilities (stances etc) can be very powerful, but will leave you with part of stamina/mana reserved. However, if this mana/stamina is already spent, activating a mode does not use any stamina/mana. It is therefore very effective to have a stance triggered by self: mana<90%, one by self: mana<75%, and self:mana<50 %. That way, your characters use their buffs only when it's free.
- To force the party to focus fire 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. This will allow you to target with whomever you've selected at the moment.
- To keep your Archer/Mages at a distance, use the Ranged behavior (right-side of the window); this instructs characters to stay at a distance.
- As noted above, the defaults do not include the use of Health Poultices (health), Lyrium Potions (mana), or Deep Mushrooms (stamina); these will only be used under custom tactics.
- The defaults do not include concentrating the party's fire on a single target (see below).
- You cannot choose a movement as an action, e.g. you cannot instruct a character to flee from an Inferno. (However, some of the default behaviors encourage characters to remove themselves from harmful AoE.)
- Default tactics are not visible in party camp; you must be in the wilds to modify and select them.
- If the entire party is held in position (default key: [H]), tactics continue to run for non-selected characters. However, the held characters will find that many of their conditions will not trigger (since they are too far) and they won't be able to complete many of their actions (primarily because of distance).
- The selected character can attempt to draw aggro of enemies and pull them towards the Held party.
- Tactics targeting a single party member can cause the character to freeze if the target is dead. (for example: If Alistair's health < 90% cast Lifeward, will cause Wynne to freeze and ignore all tactics if Alistair dies and this tactic "fires")
- Combat-triggered buffs (e.g. Flaming Weapons, Berserk) at the top of the list, so that they are engaged as the party begins combat.
- Self-preservation skills, so that your character can remain in battle.
- Reactive tactics: e.g. Whirlwind if surrounded or removing conditions.
- Default tactics: e.g. focus fire target, nearest enemy, helpless enemy, or magic casting enemy.
This standard build works for support party members:
- A Combat-triggered buff or two.
- Self-preservation, e.g. Self: Health: Health < 25% → Use [health restore]: Least powerful (Tanks should use most powerful.)
- Action if surrounded, e.g. Shield Bash
- Enemy: Target of [Tank Character] → Attack (for focused attack)
Caveat: Self: Surrounded → Two-Handed Sweep apparently doesn't work (Two-Handed Sweep won'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 (Dual-Weapon Sweep, Whirlwind, etc)
A standard healer tactic:
- Ally: [Tank]: Any → [Appropriate tank buff]
- Self-preservation: Self: Health: Health < 25% → Use [health restore]: Least powerful
- Ally heal: detect health or stamina/mana on allies and apply appropriate restorations.
Available behaviors are: Default, Passive, Aggressive, Ranged, Cautious, and Defensive.
|Default||Begins default attack routine if no custom conditions apply.||Basic attack if no custom conditions apply. Chases enemy.||Fights back vs melee attacks; moves away from harmful AoE.||Does not immediately attack visible.|
|Passive||Stay close to player or at ranged distance.||Does not chase enemy.||Fights back vs melee attacks; moves away from harmful AoE.||Does not attack without player direction. Will not chase enemies; prefers ranged weapons. Avoids nearby enemies.|
|Aggressive||Attacks visible enemies.||Chases enemy.||Does not flee harmful AoE without player direction. Fights back when attacked in melee.||Begins default attack routine if no custom conditions apply.|
|Ranged||Prefers ranged distances and weapons.||Automatically attacks visible enemies from range. Chases enemy.||Will respond to melee attacks, but will not chase enemies. Flees harmful AoE.||Begins default attack routine if no custom conditions apply. Applies to Mages. Prefers ranged weapons. Avoids nearby enemies.|
|Cautious||Tries to stay close to player.||Keeps away from enemy. Does not chase enemy.||Flees melee combat and harmful AoE.||Does not attack without player direction. Avoids nearby enemies. Avoids meleeing.|
|Defensive||Tries to stay close to player.||Keeps away from enemy. Does not chase enemy.||Fights back in melee; does not chase enemy. Flees harmful AoE.||Will not attack without player direction or customized tactics.|
- Passive and Ranged prefer ranged weapons and will switch to them if they have a choice. Aggressive will switch to Melee if they have a choice.
- Except for Aggressive, all preset behaviours will cause characters to escape from harmful AoE areas (unless there's a superseding custom instruction).
- There are 218 individual Conditions.