Shale Rock Mastery and Stone Aura Tree Talents Testing

Let's do something fun!

- Shale's motto

Talent Mechanics

Until now, virtually no firm numerical data concerning Shale's talents could be found. I have conducted some thorough tests to fill this gap. The results are as follows (refer to specific talent pages for more details):

Rock Mastery Tree

With Rock Mastery tree maxed out, the following modifiers are applied to Shale and the party members: Shale: +50 missile deflection, -5 armor, -10 defense, -10 defense, -10% critical chance. Party: +10% ranged critical chance, -2.0s aim speed.

Rock Mastery Rock Mastery
Range: Personal
Upkeep: 0
Fatigue: 0%
Cooldown: 10s
Shale activates a mode that allows range-attack talents, gaining a large bonus against missile attacks but suffering penalties to defense, armor, and melee critical chance. Nearby party members also gain bonuses to range critical chance and range attack speed. With Hurl Rock and Rock Barrage, the bonuses for party members increase. With Earthen Grasp, Shales bonus against missile attacks increases, and enemies become more likely to attack others.
Hurl Rock Hurl Rock
Range: Medium
Activation: 30
Cooldown: 20s
Shale pulls a rock from the ground and hurls it to a target. All creatures near the point of impact take physical damage and are knocked down unless they pass a physical resistance check. Friendly fire possible. After Shale has learned this talent, party members who are nearby whenever Shale has Rock Mastery active receive additional bonuses to ranged critical chance and range attack speed.
Earthen Grasp Earthen Grasp
Range: Short
Activation: 50
Cooldown: 40s
Shale pounds the earth, immobilizing enemies unless they pass a physical resistance check. After learning this talent, Shale received a greater bonus against missile attacks whenever Rock Mastery is active, and enemies will be more likely to seek other targets.
Rock Barrage Rock Barrage
Range: Medium
Activation: 60
Cooldown: 60s
Shale tosses up multiple rocks that crash down in the targeted area. Creatures within the area take damage, suffer penalties to movement speed, and are knocked down unless they pass a physical resistance check. Friendly fire possible. After Shale has learned this talent, party members who are nearby whenever Shale has Rock Mastery active receive greater bonuses to ranged critical chance and ranged attack speed.

Stone Aura Tree

With Stone Aura tree maxed out, the following modifiers are applied to Shale and the party members: Shale: +15 armor, +25% spell resistance, -50 defense, -10 stamina regeneration. Party: +10 attack, +10 defense, +10 spellpower, +5% critical chance (both melee and ranged), +3 armor penetration, +3 damage, +4 stamina/mana regeneration, +6 health regeneration and +4% spell resistance. The aura also debuffs all enemies within its range, imposing -5 attack and -5 defense penalties, as well as reducing their movement speed.

Stone Aura Stone Aura
Range: Personal
Upkeep: 0
Fatigue: 0%
Cooldown: 10s
Shale activates a support mode that imbues nearby party members with bonuses to attack, defense, and health regeneration. With other talents in the chain, Shale gains bonuses to armor and to resist hostile spells and party members gain bonuses to most statistics. However, the aura paralyzes Shale and imposes a personal penalty to defense as well as draining stamina. With Renewed Assault, nearby enemies suffer penalties to attack, defense, and movement speed.

Inner Reserves may refer to:

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Renewed Assault Renewed Assault
Passive Whenever Stone Aura is active, Shale gains additional bonuses to armor and to resist hostile spells. Party members within the aura gain additional bonuses to attack, stamina regeneration, critical chance, and armor penetration. Enemies who enter the aura suffer penalties to movement speed, attack and defense.
Supernatural Resilience Supernatural Resilience
Passive Whenever Stone Aura is active, Shale gains additional bonuses to armor and resist hostile spells. Party members within the aura gain additional bonuses to health regeneration, spellpower, damage, and to resist hostile magic.


Most of the tests were quite test-consuming, but relatively simple in nature: basically, I was adding necessary talents one by one with runscript addtalent console command and writing down the results. That said, three instances deserve closer examination:

  • Hurl Rock and Rock Barrage damage formulae were calculated by using runscript dbg_setattrib 1 X. I've tried to hit the same enemies with Hurl Rock/Rock Barrage using Shale with 0 strength, with 50 strength, and with 100 strength points, respectively. The results were consistent. While I'm aware the actual in-game damage calculation formulae for these talents differ from my approximations, I believe a reasonably reliable approximation is much better than no formula at all.
  • Ranged fire rate was calculated by using a level 16 PC rogue with a plain Tier 6 longbow, Aim sustainable active (to slow down the fire rate intentionally). The fire rate was tested first without Shale's maxed out Rock Mastery aura, then with it. The results were consistent: ~3 seconds vs. ~1.5 seconds per shot.
  • Shale's spell resistance in maxed out Stone Aura mode was tested vs. Genlock Emissary. The Emissary had cast a total of 100 spells (yes, it took half a dozen attempts and some heavy abuse of runscript healplayer to get the job done). Shale made this calculation simple by resisting exactly 25 of them. Not even 24 or 26 :)
  • Party spell resistance under the effects of maxed out Stone Aura was tested with naked Alistair vs. the same Genlock Emissary. Alistair resisted 5 out of 125 spells. Thus, the party spell resistance value seems to be 4%.

Shale's Party Role

A lot of people on BioWare Social Network forums complain about Shale being a poor tank and, at best, a mediocre damage-dealer. While these statements could use some rephrasing ('a poor end-game tank' and 'a mediocre end-game damage-dealer' would be more to the point, I trust), they are essentially true. But why do people stick with those Pulverizing Blows and/or Stoneheart talents, if they see they begin to suck worse than Dracula after a certain point in the game? I believe there are two main factors to it, one of which was, hopefully, addressed to a certain degree by my humble research: (a) the visuals: admittedly, Shale looks incredibly big and tough, so the common sense is telling us: "Wow! This golem probably has a sky-high armor and defense, half a billion hit points and can easily dish out damage equivalent to three adult dragons combined!"; now, granted, the empirical experience totally disagrees, but common sense is such a stubborn guy, you know; (b) a total lack of precise information concerning Shale's more 'sophisticated' talent trees (Rock Mastery and Stone Aura): it is only logical people are reluctant to invest in talents with such vague descriptions; at least, I was not buying these 'greatly increases X' and 'bestows significant bonus to Y' on my first playthrough (which eventually led to dumping Stoneheart-oriented Shale in Oghren's, and later, Loghain's favor): one man's 'significant bonus' may be another man's 'total waste of time'. Now, that factor (b) is partially dealt with, let the numbers speak for themselves.

I'd like to share some thoughts on proper Shale party role on Nightmare. Assuming you are an experienced player, and, as such, go to Honnleath immediately after Lothering to get Helm of Honnleath and Harvest Festival Ring, you can have Shale in your party circa level 8. The game auto-levels Shale putting some heavy emphasis on the Pulverizing Blows tree and investing quite evenly in strength and constitution (relative weightings on auto-level: 1.4:1.9). Actually, these are sound choices. Until level 12 or so, Shale will serve you best as a damage-dealer/secondary tank. Quake is an extremely good mass-damage skill early in the game. Slam has its uses as well. By level 12-13, your primary warrior character begins to outclass Shale both as a tank and as a damage-dealer. By then, hopefully, you will have Rock Mastery tree maxed out, as a major role switch is due. From now on, Shale's primary objectives are: (a) to stay close to the archer(s); (b) to use Rock Barrage in conjunction with Wynne's Earthquake to trivialize a lot of otherwise difficult fights against overwhelming odds; (c) to assist the ranged characters with carefully aimed Hurl Rock; (d) to provide a great control tool by using Earthen Grasp: I prefer to save it for emergencies (e. g. multiple enemies going after your archer and mage), but feel free to experiment; (e) to use Taunt in case the enemies refuse to leave your ranged characters alone (after all, Shale is much more durable than any mage or archer). I prefer to invest in Stone Aura tree only after I maximize the Rock Mastery talents: the bonuses provided by the former are better suited for end-game situations and are more mage-oriented than anything, if you ask me. A typical simplified end-game combat chart flow with a party consisting of tank, archer, mage and Shale should be: Rock Mastery -> Rock Barrage -> Hurl Rock -> Earthen Grasp -> etc. -> out of stamina -> Stone Aura.

Stat distribution and optimal gearing: enough constitution to wear the best Large Fire Crystal (see Large Crystals) available with the constitution bonus provided by the best Small Nature Crystal (see Small Crystals) available, the rest into strength (as it's the only stat affecting Shale's Rock Mastery talents damage; please note: the damage from talents is not converted to elemental damage as dictated by Small Crystal type). I suggest getting a Small Flawless Nature Crystal (+4 constitution) as early as you can by stealing from Piotin Aeducan in Orzammar Proving Grounds or an equivalently ranked target.


During my Shale talents research, I have occasionally stumbled upon several interesting pieces of addenda/corrigenda:

  • Paralysis Explosion (see: Spell Combinations) area of effect is definitely 7.5 m (=Fireball AoE), not 5 m.
  • Aura of Pain has a radius of 5 m, not of 4 ft (?!), as stated in the description. Also, a Reaver with full spell immunity (100% spell resistance) will still take full self-inflicted spirit damage from Aura of Pain.
  • A mage casting Drain Life on a spell immune target will still benefit from 'drained health', though the target takes no damage from the spell.

Shale Pulverizing Blows and Stoneheart Tree Talents Testing

I have decided to complete my little study in Shale talent mechanics. Again, all damage formulae are approximations. They work all right for Shale with strength attribute in 0-100 range, but will get progressively farther off the mark for Shale with strength 100+. Luckily, Shale with strength 100+ is a purely theoretical entity.

Talent Mechanics

Pulverizing Blows Tree

With Pulverizing Blows tree maxed out, the following modifiers are applied to Shale's stats: +11 damage, +3 armor penetration, -10 defense.

Pulverizing Blows Pulverizing Blows
Range: Personal
Upkeep: 0
Fatigue: 0%
Cooldown: 10s
Shale activates a mode that allows for offensive talents, taking a penalty to defense in exchange for a bonus to damage. With Slam, Shale gains and additional bonus to damage. With Quake, Shale gains a bonus to armor penetration. With Killing Blow, Shale gains an even greater bonus to damage.
Slam Slam
Range: Personal
Activation: 20
Cooldown: 20s
Shale slams a stony fist into the enemy target. If the blow connects, it generates an automatic critical hit and knocks the target back. After learning this talent, Shale gains an additional bonus to damage whenever Pulverizing Blows is active.

Quake may refer to:

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If an internal link led you here, you may wish to change the link to point directly to the intended article.
Talent-KillingBlow icon Killing Blow
Range: Personal
Activation: 60
Cooldown: 120s
Shale concentrates all remaining energy into one tremendous blow. If the attack connects, it is an automatic critical hit, but Shale's remaining stamina is drained and added to the attack's damage. After learning this talent, Shale gains a greater bonus to damage whenever Pulverizing Blows is active.

Stoneheart Tree

With Stoneheart tree maxed out, Shale gains the following benefits: +12 armor, +20% elemental resistances, +3 stamina regeneration, +6 health regeneration.

Stoneheart Stoneheart
Range: Personal
Upkeep: 0
Fatigue: 0%
Cooldown: 10s
Shale activates a mode that allows defensive talents and gains bonuses to armor and elemental resistances, while nearby enemies become more likely to target Shale. Bellow, Stone Roar, and Regenerating Burst increase the effects. Stone Roar also gives Shale gains a bonus to health regeneration and Regenerating Burst gives a bonus to health regeneration and stamina regeneration.

Bellow may refer to:

Disambig gray This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title.
If an internal link led you here, you may wish to change the link to point directly to the intended article.
Stone Roar Stone Roar
Range: Short
Activation: 50
Cooldown: 40s
Shale attracts the attention of a single targeted enemy, who now views Shale as the most urgent threat on the battlefield, although the enemy may re-engage other party members if they attack it. After learning this talent, Shale gains a bonus to health regeneration whenever Stoneheart is active, while increasing the existing bonuses of that mode.
Regenerating Burst Regenerating Burst
Range: Personal
Activation: 80
Cooldown: 90s
Shale explodes with energy, damaging all nearby enemies, who are also stunned unless they pass a physical resistance check, in which case they are merely knocked back. After learning this talent, Shale gains a bonus to stamina regeneration whenever Stoneheart is active, the other bonuses of that mode increase and nearby enemies are even more likely to choose Shale as their target.

A Note on Shale's Party Role

As I have already suggested, Shale's real forte is her ability to fit into a quite unique party buffer/ranged support niche. It doesn't mean she cannot fare reasonably well as a main tank or a melee damage-dealer. It's just by later mid-game (circa level 14+, when other characters gain their second specialization and the party is doing either A Paragon of Her Kind or The Urn of Sacred Ashes), any warrior companion outshines her both as a tank and as a melee damage-dealer. She sucks on a comparative, not on an absolute scale, so to say :)

Power of Blood Talents Testing

My undocumented DLC talents testing continued. This time, the designers apparently forgot to mention cooldown times in the descriptions. Otherwise, the tests was not overtly hard to conduct, as most of the Power of Blood abilities are pretty much straightforward. A couple of problems remain unsolved: for instance, the exact value of a passive bonus granted by Dark Passage or an exact amount of mana regenerated by Dark Sustenance. Then again, incomplete data is surely better than no data at all.

Spells - Mage

Spell-DarkSustenance icon Dark Sustenance
Range: Personal
Activation: 0
Cooldown: 60s
A self-inflicted wound lets the mage draw from the power of tainted blood, rapidly regenerating a significant amount of mana but taking a small hit to health.
Spell-BloodyGrasp icon Bloody Grasp
Range: Medium
Activation: 15
Cooldown: 10s
The mage's own tainted blood becomes a weapon, sapping the caster's health slightly but inflicting spirit damage on the target. Darkspawn targets suffer additional damage for a short period.

Talents - Rogue

Dark Passage Dark Passage
Passive Tapping the power of tainted blood makes the rogue more nimble, able to move more quickly while using Stealth and more likely to dodge a physical attack.
The Tainted Blade The Tainted Blade
Upkeep: 40
Fatigue: 5%
Cooldown: 5s
The rogue's blood gushes forth, coating the edges of weapons with a deadly taint. The character gains a bonus to damage determined by the cunning attribute, but suffers continuously depleting health in return.

Talents - Warrior

Bloodthirst Blood Thirst
Sustained The warriors own tainted blood spills in sacrifice, increasing movement speed, attack speed and critical hit-chance. For as long as this mode is active, however, the warrior suffers greater damage and continuously diminishing health.
Bloodfury Blood Fury
Activation: 35
The warrior sprays tainted blood in order to knock back nearby enemies, which they may resist by passing a physical resistance check. The gush of blood, however, results in a loss of personal health.

+X% Healing Received Bug

The +X% to healing effects received modifier is badly bugged as of patch 1.03. It is tempting to say it does nothing. However, that would be untrue. It seems to take into account only one parameter when making percentile adjustments: the spellpower of the party member wearing the +X% to healing effects received gear. Since the party member having the gear with this mod would probably be a warrior, +X% to healing effects received is as close to being absolutely useless as it gets. The proof: some testing was conducted using health poultices, Heal spell (cast by another party member) and Devour talent (self-heal). The methodology was as follows: level 18 Alistair wearing a total of +100% to healing effects received (Effort, Fade Wall, Oathkeeper, Reflection, Lifegiver, Key to the City, Creationist's Cord) was healed using the three methods mentioned above; then the same Alistair, stripped of any gear, was healed again using the same three methods. The results for Heal, cast by level 18 Wynne with 120 spellpower, were exactly the same in both cases. The results for health poultices and Devour varied by a point or two in favor of +100% healing received gear. This raises some questions concerning the true value of some extremely expensive (Lifegiver) or otherwise hard-to-get (Fade Wall) gear.

A list of equipment with +X% to healing effects received in alphabetical order

Ico belt Creationist's Cord
Dalish Promise Ring Dalish Promise Ring
Ico armor massive Effort
Ico shield towermetal Fade Wall
Plt ico key Key to the City
Ico ring Lifegiver
Ico belt Magister's Cinch
Ico shield smallroundwood Mythal's Blessing
Ico longsword Oathkeeper
Ico amulet Reflection
Ico warhammer Thorval's Luck
  • Higher grade Large Ice Crystals also have this property (refer to Large Crystals for details).

Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir: Starting Stats, Talents, Unique Gear and Plot Skills

Cheating bastard!

- Simon Templeman, Return to Ostagar DLC

Loghain's Starting Stats

Relative Attribute Weightings on Auto-Level: Strength 0.95, Dexterity 0.8, Willpower 0.5, Magic 0, Cunning 0.15, Constitution 1.6.

Loghain's Starting Talents

Champion: War Cry, Rally, Motivate, Superiority.

Warrior: Powerful, Threaten, Bravery, Precise Striking, Taunt, Disengage, Perfect Striking.

Weapon and Shield Talents: Shield Bash, Shield Pummel, Overpower, Assault, Shield Block, Shield Cover, Shield Tactics, Shield Mastery.

Note: neither his strength, nor dexterity is high enough to normally learn high-tier Weapon and Shield Talents. It is also noteworthy he will have Superiority even if you trigger Landsmeet before he reaches level 16 (marginally possible, if you postpone all side quests and all DLC content until after Landsmeet).

Loghain's Unique Gear

Ico armor massive Armor of the River Dane
Ico boots massive Armor of the River Dane Boots
Ico gloves massive Armor of the River Dane Gloves
Ico shield kitemetal Loghain's Shield
Ico beltpouch Borders Yet to Be

Loghain's Plot Skills

Skill Name Benefit Requirement
Inspired: Minor Strength +1 to Strength 25% approval
Inspired: Moderate Strength +2 to Strength 50% approval
Inspired: Major Strength +4 to Strength 75% approval
Inspired: Massive Strength +6 to Strength 90% approval

Note: Loghain is the only party member gaining +4 and +6 instead of mere +3 and +4 as his major and massive attribute bonuses, respectively.

Tanking: An Alternative Approach

Existing Strategies

The Tank article currently lists a bunch of strategies, divided into two big categories: constitution-based tanking and dexterity-based tanking. If forced to choose between these two approaches, it is reasonable to go with the less trivial - namely, second one (for a detailed mathematical analysis of Evasion tanking advantages, see also: However, the starting assumptions on which the analytic part of this article is based are radically different from the ones used there, so it was only logical to start a separate article rather than adding a third section to the Tank article.

Key Principles

In DA:O, there are only three essential, and, it might be added, somewhat counter-intuitive, criteria defining whether a character is fit for a tank role. Curiously enough, a lot of superficially attractive parameters, like constitution, armor, defense, physical, mental and elemental resistances, flanking immunity or missile deflection play little to no role in successful tanking. The criteria mentioned above are: (a) threat management; (b) stun/knockdown immunity; (c) spell immunity. Each criterion is covered in more detail in its own separate sub-section below.

Threat Management

First and foremost, if one wants to keep it practical, tanking, especially on Nightmare difficulty, is all about drawing threat. Surprisingly, it seems to be the major pièce de résistance of this article. The information on Evasion tanks in the Tank article is, for all its originality, very off the mark as far as tanking per se is concerned: the builds proposed are no tanks, just certain characters that wouldn't be hit as often (ideally, they wouldn't be hit at all) as other characters. While this surely is a great advantage, one would be hard-pressed to imagine by what means a Rogue, or, to a lesser extent, an Arcane Warrior (the latter has some AoE spells that can do the job) is supposed to draw hostility as easily and effectively as any Warrior. Sky-high defense and evasion won't matter much, if the enemies go straight after your ranged attackers, ignoring the low-threat tank altogether.

A list of effective threat control tools (obvious and not-so-obvious) no tank should forego includes: Taunt, Threaten, Frightening Appearance, Scattershot, Two-Handed Sweep. The inclusion of the first three talents is self-explanatory. Frightening Appearance is worth the investment, granting an effective 33.3% increase to threat generated by Taunt. Additional details on threat mechanics can be found here: Threat. It is noteworthy to point out that threat ranges from -1000 to 1000, so it is not hard to see an immediate +400 threat boost from Frightening Appearance-enhanced Taunt is very significant. Scattershot and Two-Handed Sweep are less self-explanatory, yet these are talents your tank should definitely have. Scattershot has invaluable advantages for the tank: it's a huge range (15 m) AoE auto-hitting talent generating solid threat on every target it hits. Since your tank, if built properly, is bound to have high dexterity and decent strength, the normal hit from Scattershot deals decent damage (~65 with level 18 Alistair). It is advisable to use enchanted arrows with Scattershot to boost the threat a bit more. All in all, it is a great combat opener for the tank: an immediate increase in threat generated by several hundred points. Two-Handed Sweep is, basically, similar to Scattershot: when the enemies approach, switch to your two-handed weapon of choice and use the talent. Since it happens to be one of the only AoE talents available to warrior class characters, generating quite a lot of threat per hit + resulting in possible knockdown, it is easy to see why it is so essential. Holy Smite, in addition to being a great talent overall, can generate some pretty decent AoE threat, but whether it's worth four points investment in a talent tree that is not too practical for a party tank is open to discussion. An additional threat management tool worth mentioning, albeit a negative one, is Feign Death. It is very desirable, since high-damage cunning and dexterity-based rogues (both DW and archery builds) can generate an insane amount of threat with constant strings of critical hits. Technically, Feign Death puts its user in unbreakable Stealth mode, thus saving the rogue and allowing the tank to use one of threat-generating skills to re-build threat. This is especially useful during tough single boss fights (the High Dragon is a good example). Perhaps Mind Blast should also be mentioned in negative threat management department: the spell sets all previously generated threat on targets to 1. While far from being a universally applicable threat management tool, it's still situationally useful. Bard's Distraction can be used much to the same effect.

Stun/Knockdown Immunity

One of the worst things that can happen to your tank on Nightmare is knockdown. AI tends to switch aggro upon successful knockdown, and that's one thing you don't want to see happening. Incapacitation of any kind (first and foremost, stun), admittedly, won't make the AI target other party members, but it will render your threat management talents unusable, and thus, should be avoided at any cost. Now, the most intuitively appealing solution is to stack a bunch of +X physical resistance gear/runes on your Weapon and Shield Talents-oriented warrior having his Shield Wall mode on. Unfortunately, it's impossible without sacrificing a significant part of your tank's spell resistance gear, discussed below. A much better alternative is resorting to Two-Handed Talents, and relying entirely on the best warrior sustainable in the game (well, that's not a huge compliment) - Indomitable. This second tier talent makes you immune to any sort of knockdown or stun, except Overwhelm (Monster) and Grab. Then again, nothing protects against Overwhelm (Monster) and Grab, so learn to live with it. Investing in Two-Handed Talents has several benefits, apart from Indomitable. It's the most early game-friendly tree to go with: the best talents are, in fact, first and second tier. Sunder Arms, Pommel Strike and Indomitable is all you need until late mid-game (throw in Shattering Blows in case you prefer to finish A Paragon of Her Kind prior to other quest lines), so you can devote yourself fully to warrior/archery threat management talents, instead of investing frantically in Two-Handed Talents (that's exactly what you are forced to do if you go with Weapon and Shield Talents).

The question of two-handed weapon choice naturally arises. Your ultimate tanking weapon should be:

Starfang Starfang (greatsword)

It is ridiculously easy to get very early in the game for such a powerful weapon, assuming you have the Warden's Keep DLC installed. Just travel religiously between Honnleath and Flemeth's Hut, and The Crater event will trigger. Complete the Warden's Keep main quest, then bring the Meteor Metal Ore to Mikhael Dryden, and you are set for the rest of the game (Chasind Great Maul is theoretically a better choice, but it is available only after the Landsmeet).

Spell Immunity

Stacking spell resistance gear gives your tank the benefit of being immune to hostile magic, though, admittedly, that will start to be a somewhat theoretical scenario when your party mage gains Mana Clash spell: still, it will be a huge convenience throughout the game. It goes without saying you should aim for 100% spell resistance (no one can guarantee the very first Glyph of Paralysis that is going to be cast on your 96% spell resistant tank will not fall into those remaining 4%). It is attainable for any warrior companion in the game, and even more so, for a PC warrior.

If you plan to achieve spell immunity, two key gear pieces are mandatory:

Ico armor massive Knight Commander's Plate
Ico amulet The Spellward

The good news is these items are available from the very start from Faryn in Frostback Mountain Pass and from Bodahn at the party camp, respectively. The bad news is you will have to pay a whopping total of ~159 DAO goldpiece trans for them.

A Note of Fire Resistance

That's actually a somewhat puzzling concept you can sometimes see mentioned in various strategy guides. The facts are you need fire resistance (=anti-dragon) gear four times in this game (two Dragons: one at Brecilian Ruins, one at Orzammar Royal Palace; two High Dragons: Flemeth and, well, the High Dragon). There are no other combat instances where fire resistance is a must. Therefore, a logical choice would be crafting a Greater Warmth Balm or two before attempting any dragon-slaying, instead of having a whole set of alternate tanking gear specifically designated for dragon encounters. The Balm gives +60% fire resistance for 3 minutes. Your tank's best choice when it comes to compensating for the missing 15% fire resistance is:

Ico greatsword Yusaris

Indomitable, Yusaris enchanted with two Grandmaster Frost or Lightning runes, and Greater Warmth Balm are the only 'anti-dragon equipment' you need.

Ideal Tank Development and Gearing

There is not much choice as far as specializations go: Templar/Reaver is the best combination by far, granting you access to Knight Commander's Plate and Frightening Appearance. Also, if one feels like resorting to low-life tanking (having 20% life will make the AI concentrate on the tank regardless of threat generated by other party memebers 50% of a time, while having 10% life will increase that chance to 90%), using friendly fire-capable spells on the tank, then boosting his armor to the maximum (change gear mid-combat, if needed) and turning Blood Frenzy on will prove a very effective combination.
Key talents no decent tank can do without: Taunt, Threaten, Frightening Appearance, Scattershot, Two-Handed Sweep, Indomitable. Stat distribution: strength in 35-40 range, the rest into dexterity.

The optimal gear for this build is:

Ico longbow Far Song or Ico longbow Falon'Din's Reach with an option of switching to Wolf-Killer in animal/demon-populated areas
Starfang Starfang (greatsword) or Ico warhammer Chasind Great Maul enchanted with one Grandmaster and two Master Dweomer runes
Helm of honnleath Helm of Honnleath or Ico helm heavy Executioner's Helm
Ico armor massive Knight Commander's Plate
Ico gloves heavy Gloves of Diligence
Massive boots red Warden Commander Boots
Ico amulet The Spellward
Ico belt Andruil's Blessing
Plt ico key Key to the City
Ico ring Lifegiver
That accounts for full spell immunity in two-handed mode and a significant stamina boost. A typical simplified combat flow chart for this tank will look like this: Scattershot -> switch to Starfang (Greatsword) -> approach the enemies -> Two-Handed Sweep -> holding aggro -> ranged attackers draw too much threat -> Taunt.

The only warrior companion suitable for this build is Alistair. Since you get him so early in the game, his initial Weapon and Shield Talents orientation should not cause any problems. A PC Dwarf warrior would be an ideal candidate, though, because of 10% inherent spell resistance.

An Alternative Approach to Wynne's Development and Party Role

Simply put, full magic build Wynne is the best DPS-oriented mage character, mage PC included, by a long shot. Full magic build means, first and foremost, investing exclusively into magic attribute, never touching willpower. Wynne's initial willpower, plus plot skill attribute bonus (+6 willpower), should suffice until you gain your specialization point and spend it on Blood Mage, both for the sake of its passive spellpower bonus, and for Blood Magic mode that will solve your potential problems in mana supply department.

Four central pieces of gear you should acquire:

Final Reason Final Reason
Ico armor robe Tevinter Mage Robes
Ico amulet Lifedrinker
Ico belt Destructionist's Belt

It's also highly advisable to have Black Hand Gauntlets and Dreamsever, since the most damaging spells/spell combinations in the game deal spirit damage. If you have Shale in your party, her Stone Aura, when maxed out, will grant an additional +10 spellpower boost.

Overall, an adequately geared level 24 Wynne under the effects of Aneirin's Token-enhanced Vessel of the Spirit buff, Stone Aura, Spell Wisp and Spell Might should have an absolutely unparalleled total of 210-220 spellpower.

Practical implications? Being able to one-shot Gaxkang on Nightmare with Mana Clash is practical enough, I suppose:

Ranged Attack Speed Bugs

  • Haste and Swift Salve slow down aim speed, increasing animation length by +0.8s and +0.9s, respectively. Sadly, this bug is not patched as of v. 1.03. This is a relevant script, to whomever it may concern:
// spell_constants_h
const float HASTE_AIM_SPEED_MODIFIER = 0.8f;
// spell_modal
  • A workaround of sorts exists, effectively allowing your party melee attackers to benefit from Haste without making archers useless. Shale's Rock Mastery aura, especially in a duplicated form, overrides any aim speed penalties (-0.4s aim speed modifier will offset almost any combination of penalties). Some testing was conducted during this scenario:
  • Another viable option is equipping Repeater Gloves that grant -3.0s aim speed as Rapid Aim bonus.

Archery: An Efficient Approach

Archery in DA:O: An Overview

There seems to exist a curious concensus in DA:O gaming community as to archery being underpowered. However, that's true only to a certain extent: archery talents, indeed, are somewhat underpowered. Archery itself is not. Bugged? No doubt. Underpowered? No way.
Actually, there are three key principles to keeping your archers efficient: (a) use talents only when it's absolutely necessary; (b) have Shale in your party: Rock Mastery aura is one of the best buffs in the whole game, and it's archery-oriented, too; (c) don't even think of using Haste or Swift Salve - refer to Ranged Attack Speed Bugs.
One may wonder, why refrain from using talents? As a rule of thumb, archery talents are all built around pretty solid game designer ideas, but suffer from serious meta-balance issues: in other words, their cost:efficiency ratio in comparison to other talents/spells is just very, very bad. Cost, in this case, represents both stamina cost per se and conjuration time. For example, let's take a closer look at Arrow of Slaying: in theory, it looks great. However, 3 seconds conjuration time, plus high stamina cost, plus post-use penalties make it much less appealing: with a proper setup, you could have 2 critical hits scored by the time it takes you to unleash one Arrow of Slaying - at zero stamina cost, without any consecutive penalties. Not to mention that even damage-wise, 2 crits are better than one Arrow of Slaying, unless one is fighting critter/normal-rank enemies, that is -- yet one really doesn't need to resort to Arrow of Slaying to defeat critters).

Arrow of Slaying: Usage Guidelines

Many players like big damage numbers -- herein lies the main appeal of Arrow of Slaying. However, as if 3s conjuration time was not problematic enough on its own, talent mechanics are unusually convoluted and definitely counter-intuitive. Basically, the one and only factor that can guarantee you will deal heavy damage with Arrow of Slaying is a multiplier bonus based on level difference between the attacker and the target. Take a look at this table:
Level Difference BonusMultiplier
0 2
1 3
2 0
3 1
4 6
5 7
6 4
7 5
8 10
As you may notice, bonus multiplier progression is very weird, to say the least (in fact, there is a method to this madness: technically, binary xor just either adds or substracts 2 from the level difference). Essentially, you have to know the exact level of your target to be able to use Arrow of Slaying effectively. In a nutshell: targets one level below the archer are worth it, as are targets 4+ levels below you; targets of the same level, as well as targets 2-3 levels below the archer are not. Please note targets 2 levels below the archer practically nullify the damage bonus, that is getting multiplied by 0. So, if your ambition is to become a great sharpshooter, one skill and one talent are mandatory: Master Survival and Combat Stealth/Master Stealth. The former allows to judge whether the target is worth your Arrow of Slaying. The latter solves, to a certain degree, the 3s conjuration time problem: when you fire from Stealth (be sure to turn The Tainted Blade off), conjuration time obviously does not matter much.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that Arrow of Slaying is only effective vs. Critter and Normal rank enemies. Vs. Lieutenants and above, 2 critical hits you can score as fast as 3.2s are a much better option as far as damage output is considered.

Permanent Auto-Crit Setup

Revenons à nos moutons. The main problem seems to be, indeed, finding that proper setup. First of all, rogue is vastly superior to fighter due to Lethality talent and Bard specialization. Basically, the only mandatory archery talents are Aim and Master Archer. As far as active talents go, Shattering Shot and Scattershot are the best of the bunch, although even that huge -20 armor penalty applied by the former with Master Archer is hardly worth it in non-boss fights, while the latter is more of a threat management talent than anything else (see Tanking: An Alternative Approach for details). Stat distribution: enough dexterity to equip your weapon of choice with Fade, gear and specialization bonuses, the rest into cunning. Dexterity-based archers are easier to start with (no attack rating issues; however, cunning build archer rogues have a decent option of choosing Duelist for a first specialization, thus effectively solving the problem), but overall much worse mid- to late-game due to armor penetration problems. The best specialization by far for your archer is Bard due to Song of Courage. Essentially, Aim + Song of Courage + Rock Mastery combination is what makes your cunning-based archer worth the investment. You should aim for a permanent auto-crit. While Pinpoint Strike buff works nicely with ranged attacks, it lasts only 15 seconds and has a whopping 3 minutes cooldown time. Permanent auto-crit is attainable even for an entire archer party (PC archer, Leliana, Zevran, Shale). Please refer to this video to see some practical implications of this approach:

Some +X% ranged critical chance gear to consider is:

Ico longbow Far Song
Ico longbow Mage's Eye
Ico shortbow Whitewood Bow
Ico helm light The Long Sight
Cadash Stompers Cadash Stompers
Ico belt Longbowman's Belt
It goes without saying, if you have only one archer in your party, Far Song is your best option as far as weapon choice is concerned. Somewhat surprisingly, +X% critical damage gear is nice to have, but ultimately non-essential. It is actually better to have + dexterity, + cunning, or, ideally, + all stats gear piece equipped than +X% critical damage one. Of course, the trade-off should be within common sense limits: it would be extremely unwise to unequip Red Jenny Seekers for the sake of Dalish Gloves, for instance; yet Felon's Coat will boost your archer's damage much better than Warden Commander Armor.

Critical Damage Modifier Calculation

The formula for critical damage modifier calculation is as follows:


Combat Critical Damage Modifier is 1.5. Critical Range may theoretically vary from 0% to 200%, allowing for a 3.5 critical damage multiplier. In practice, the list +X% critical/backstab damage gear suitable for an archer is quite limited:
Ico longbow Far Song
Ico gloves light Angled Strikers
Ico gloves light Backhands
Ico gloves light Red Jenny Seekers
Massive gloves red Cailan's Gauntlets
Warden-armour Warden Commander Armor
Wickedoath module The Wicked Oath

Bregan's Bow may refer to:

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DAA pre-order bonus item
In DA:O, an archer can achieve a grand total of +50% critical/backstab damage (Critical Damage Modifier of 2.0), if one is willing to sacrifice aim speed by equipping Warden Commander Armor, or +35% critical/backstab damage (Critical Damage Modifier of 1.85) otherwise. However, it is advisable to equip only Far Song and Cailan's Gauntlets for a total of +25% critical/backstab damage (Critical Damage Modifier of 1.75), since removing Key to the City or Dusk Ring for The Wicked Oath's sake is counter-productive. After exporting the character to DAA, it will be immediately possible to switch Far Song for Bregan's Bow, if one is so inclined, thus raising the bonus to +30% critical/backstab damage (Critical Damage Modifier of 1.8).
Overall, the +X% critical/backstab damage bonuses are relatively minor: the primary attribute values are just not high enough yet. The situation will gradually change in DAA, though another 30 points invested into the attributes still won't be enough to make +X% critical/backstab damage items preferable to +X attributes ones.
Note: Critical damage is calculated based on weapon damage with attribute bonuses only.

Permanent Auto-Crit Setup: Pt. II

Pre-buffing plays an important role for cunning-based Bard archer rogue. Both Song of Courage and The Tainted Blade bonuses are calculated based on your cunning at the moment they were activated. Equip + cunning gear, buff, unequip. It should be noted The Tainted Blade has a very annoying tendency to turn off during any dialogue/cutscene, so stay alert. Some pre-buff gear to consider is:

Starfang Duncan's Sword
Ico Dead Thaig Shanker Dead Thaig Shanker
Guildmaster's Belt Guildmaster's Belt
Ico ring Dusk Ring
A bonus of +14 cunning is very significant (refer to Song of Courage and The Tainted Blade damage formulae). In fact, you should probably have Guildmaster's Belt (at least, pre-Andruil's Blessing) and Dusk Ring equipped in-combat, too.

Unfortunately, enchanted arrows are as close to being useless in DA:O as it gets: early-game, they are scarce enough, while having a truly epic resistable +3 nature damage bonus from Arrow of Filth mid-game+, when your archer, if properly built, should be dealing consistent 100+ damage per crit, is not too impressive. Andraste's Arrows and Elf-Flight Arrow are the only enchanted arrow types to be taken seriously, but their very limited quantity and situational usefullness do not make them too attractive, either.

Undesirable Gear Properties, Talents and Talent Combinations

  • The Tainted Blade, being a great damage-booster, is incompatible with Stealth and, to a lesser extent, with Dual-Weapon Expert. It will break stealth due to self-inflicted damage per tick (technically, level 25 rogue with Master Stealth will have a 50% chance to pass the stealth-breaking check, but since the checks will occur each tick, it's ultimately unreliable), and bleeding lacerations from Dual Weapon Expert will apply to the rogue due to the bug. Of course, that's not to say you should avoid using The Tainted Blade on a permanent basis in other situations -- no way, the talent is really good.
  • Evasion is a talent to avoid, especially with +X% displacement/dodge modifiers on gear. Why? Because evasion animation: (a) takes some significant time to execute; (b) plays during attack and wait phases, effectively cancelling actions assigned to a character. So, with a high enough displacement value, plus unavoidable +10% from Dark Passage, you can become effectively locked down by any melee opponent. Yes, you won't get hit, but you won't hit, either, and that is much worse -- the lost damage trade-off is very bad.

A Note on Massive Armor Use

Only massive chest armor affects ranged attack speed. An archer can equip massive helmet, boots, and gloves without suffering aiming speed penalty, as long as he meets strength requirements for those gear pieces. Since archers are not about talent-spamming, fatigue factor should not be much of a concern. Overall, there are two massive armor pieces useful for any archer build:

Ico helm massive Corruption
Massive gloves red Cailan's Gauntlets
It's hard to argue with an enormous +5 dexterity bonus from Corruption. This is the best archer helmet in the game, outclassing even Helm of Honnleath: simply put, +5 to damage modifying attribute is better than a total of +4 to damage modifying attributes, not to mention instantly maximized spirit resistance. The problem with Corruption is you obtain it very late into the game. On the other hand, the imported Warden archer will be able to put it to good use in DAA until he finds a worthy alternative. Cailan's Gauntlets are the only improvement on Red Jenny Seekers in DA:O: the same +15% critical damage bonus, more armor. Since it is a Return to Ostagar item, it is also DAA-transferable. For more thoughts on DAA-exportable archer gear, see: Exporting the Warden Archer to DAA: Gear & Party Problems

A reasonable question might arise at this point: while dexterity build can just invest in strength to meet the requirements, how is cunning-based archer supposed to equip those items? In fact, it is possible to equip those armor pieces with minimal investment into strength, if the archer has Dual-Weapon Mastery (he should have enough unspent talent points by end-game). Temporary strength-enhancing gear setup includes:

Helm of honnleath Helm of Honnleath
Ico amulet Heart of Witherfang
Ico belt Andruil's Blessing
Harvest Festival Ring Harvest Festival Ring or any other ring granting +2 to strength
Ico ring Dawn Ring
Ico gloves massive Effort's Gloves
Ico axe The Veshialle
Ico mace Vanguard
Blood Dragon Plate

This setup, plus strength bonus from Fade essences, will net a total of +24 strength. There would be a need to equip some minor strength-enhancing gear, like Barbarian Mace or Shadow of the Empire first in order to equip some of the major strength-enhancing items. Luckily, one will have to go through this tiresome process only once.

Ranged Weapon Aim Speed and Aim Speed Modifiying Factors Reference Sheet

Base weapon aim speed values in DA:O are: 0.2s for shortbows, 0.3s for longbows, 0.8s for crossbows. Aim speed modifiers (in other words, rate of fire bonuses and penalties) have a minimum hard cap of +6.0s and a maximum hard cap of -3.0s. However, aim speed can only be effectively reduced to 0 (apparently, animation length cannot be negative). There are several factors affecting aim speed, some of them, unfortunately, severely bugged -- see Ranged Attack Speed Bugs for details. The following reference sheet covers aim speed modifying abilities, gear, and consumables:
Note: Rapid Aim bonuses from items are stackable.

Massive Chest Armor Penalty and Base Attack Timing

The massive chest armor penalty is applied directly to Base Attack Timing (BaseDuration), in other words, to the default ranged attack animation length with Aim Speed 0. The BAT for massive (heavy/massive without Master Archer) chest armor is 2.0s, for any other chest armor it is 0.8s, after which, the game engine adds a flat +0.8s animation length. Thus, the maximum fire rate attainable with any chest armor but heavy/massive is 1.6s, while the maximum fire rate with heavy/massive chest armor is 2.8s. Please note Aim Speed modifiers do not affect these values -- Aim Speed calculations are applied on top of BAT.

Appendix: Archery in Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening

General Principles

A viable DAA archer is vastly different from a viable DA:O archer. The main contributing factor to this is Accuracy modal ability. In short, DA:O Cun-based archers will have to undergo a respecialization. A classic Str/Dex archery build is much more viable in DAA due to insane benefits from Accuracy. However, it is worthy to remember damage from abilities and gear (DamageBonus attribute) is capped at 100. That said, Dex-based critical chance and critical range (+X% critical/backstab damage) bonuses from Accuracy far outweigh any possible benefits one can gain from investing in Cun or Str.
Best item properties for an archer in DAA are: + damage-affecting attributes, +X% critical/backstab damage, armor penetration. Attribute-based damage is calculated separately from DamageBonus; +X% critical/backstab damage can actually reach its maximum 3.5 factor with Accuracy and new gear; since this is a Dex-based, not Cun-based build, armor penetration bonuses will provide a significant damage boost against heavily-armored enemies (please note, however, that armor penetration rating above 25-30 is ultimately impractical).

Specializations and Talents

Optimal specializations for an archer party are as follows: Bard -- pre-buffed with + Cun Song of Courage x 3 will allow you to reach auto-crit without Aim; Assassin -- specialization passive bonus, unresistable Mark of Death, though no longer stackable as of v. 1.03, provides an effective +20% damage bonus in most cases, since the majority of enemies have DamageScale equal to 1.0; Legionnaire Scout -- specialization passive bonus, Mark of the Legion grants a huge +10 bonus to a damage-affecting attribute, Strength of Stone is the best anti-boss ability in the game.
The new rogue sustainable, Weak Points -- essentially, a minor brother to Mark of Death in terms of effect, is definitely worth picking and keeping active at all times. New archery talents, excluding Accuracy, are somewhat underwhelming. Arrow Time is extremely situational. Burst Shot is friendly fire-capable, cannot boast an excessively impressive range (especially compared to an old war horse like Scattershot) and crits with factor of 3.0 on the main target, then with standard factor of 1.5 on the rest in 3m radius -- in short, better effect is attainable without 2s conjuration time in DAA. Rain of Arrows can be marginally useful again large groups of immobilized enemies (or unusually masochistic ranged attackers), but that is a very unlikely scenario.
Some of the old archery talents become more useful than ever: critical Scattershot with 3.5 factor is a sight to behold, while cumulative Suppressing Fire finally gets to shine in an archer party. However, one of the old staple talents becomes largely obsolete and even counter-productive after a certain point in DAA. Aim could be a very good synergy to Accuracy. However, without Shale's Rock Mastery, the only practical way to deal with the +1.5s aim speed penalty it imposes is to equip Repeater Gloves. This is a viable option early-game, when you cannot reach auto-crit with Accuracy and Song of Courage alone, but definitely sub-optimal mid-game+, as you gradually gain access to some great archery gloves.

DAA Archery Gear

The list is almost complete. The items missing from the list are parts of Nimble and Blackblade sets the author was not able to acquire during his playthrough (in fact, there is a serious controversy as to whether they are lootable in vanilla DAA, without third-party workarounds and fixes, much like Dwarven Defender and several other items were in DA:O). The gear listed below is not specifically archer-oriented, but definitely worth equipping, either as a pre-buff option or as a permanent combat one, if you are into optimizing your archer's performance. Obvious choices, like +X all attributes items, and gear pieces granting minor bonuses by DAA standards (less than +3 attrubute X) are not listed.
Bregans bow Bregan's Bow
Heartwood Bow Heartwood Bow
Tre ico bow 1 Howe Bow
Ico longbow Misery
Ico shield towermetal Partha
Ico helm heavy Helm of Dragon's Peak

Quicksilver may refer to:

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Ico gloves massive Gauntlets of Hirol's Defense
Ico gloves light Fingers of the Nimble
Ico gloves heavy Stormchaser Gauntlets
Ico gloves light The Slippery Ferret's Gloves
Ico gloves light Trickster's Gloves
Ico armor med Legionnaire Scout Armor
Ico armor heavy Sturdy Heavy Chainmail
Ico armor light The Bear's Embrace
Ico belt Deep Roads Girdle
Ico belt Doge's Dodger
Ico belt Panacea
Ico boots massive Boots of the Sentinel
Ico boots heavy Fleet Feet
Ico boots heavy Stormchaser Boots
Ico boots light Wolf Treads
Ico amulet Spirit Cord
Ico ring Ring of Subtlety
Note: While it is true archers do not rely on active talents, having an ability to release Scattershot at will, not to speak of Mark of Death and Strength of Stone during boss battles, is very handy. Reservoir Runes of various tiers, as well as Clarity skill, will assist the archer in offsetting fatigue penalty from wearing heavy and massive armor pieces. Alternatively, Stealth-less soloists might wish to take advantage of pseudo-armor runes bug by inserting Masterpiece or Paragon tier Dweomer runes into armor slots.
Non-Replaceable DA:O Gear
While DAA has a fair share of top-notch amulets, gloves, boots, and belts, it is worthy to note helmets, chest armor and rings of comparable quality are either non-existant or acquirable very late into the game. The following importable items will be non-replaceable for the entire game (or, at least, for the 90% of it):
Ico helm massive Corruption
Helm of honnleath Helm of Honnleath
Ico armor light Shadow of the Empire
Ico armor light The Felon's Coat
Harvest Festival Ring Harvest Festival Ring
Plt ico key Key to the City
Ring of Dawn
Ico ring Ring of the Warrior
Note: Andraste's Arrows can be of some help against final bosses in DAA, so it may prove wise to import them as well, since there are none to be found in the expansion.
Extreme Pre-Buffing: Heraldry: Legion of the Dead

Glassric the Weaponsmith at the City of Amaranthine sells Heraldry: Legion of the Dead for 60DAO silverpiece trans. When applied to any shield, it grants a bonus of +20 all attributes (sometimes, for reasons unknown, this bonus is +17 all attributes). Since it is highly doubtful the uber-blazon is an intended feature, it is really up to the player to decide whether to use this option or not. There is a significant difference between stacking double Rock Mastery aura effect in DA:O to compensate for archery being buggy, and abusing that huge +20 all attributes when pre-buffing an already extremely powerful character. Please note this exploit also effectively eliminates any need to invest attribute points into strength.

Practical Implications: End-Game Archer Party -- Facts, Figures and Demonstration Video

Below are the fully pre-buffed notable combat statistics and gear listing for the archer members of the party. Square brackets denote values that go over the cap. Buffs/sustainables active: Song of Courage x 3, Accuracy, Weak Points, Suppressing Fire.
Attack 382.4
Defense 237.0
Armor 23.9
Ranged_Crit_Modifier 100.0 [127.4]
DamageBonus 100.0 [193.2]
Damage_MainHand 176.3
CriticalRange 200.0 [206.0]
Bregans bow Bregan's Bow
Ico helm heavy Helm of Dragon's Peak
Ico gloves light Fingers of the Nimble
Ico armor light The Felon's Coat
Ico boots massive Boots of the Sentinel
Ico belt Doge's Dodger
Ico amulet Illumination
Ico ring Corin's Proposal
Plt ico key Key to the City
Attack 301.2
Defense 187.0
Armor 24.5
Ranged_Crit_Modifier 100.0 [100.2+3.0]
DamageBonus 100.0 [146.9]
Damage_MainHand 160.7
CriticalRange 150.0
Ico longbow Misery
Ico helm massive Corruption
Ico gloves heavy Stormchaser Gauntlets
Ico armor light Shadow of the Empire
Ico boots heavy Fleet Feet
Ico belt Deep Roads Girdle
Ico amulet Seeker's Chain
Ico ring Dawn Ring
Ico ring Ring of the Warrior
Attack 292.7
Defense 172.0
Armor 23.6
Ranged_Crit_Modifier 100.0 [98.2+3.0]
DamageBonus 100.0 [142.6]
Damage_MainHand 160.7
CriticalRange 136.0
Heartwood Bow Heartwood Bow
Helm of honnleath Helm of Honnleath
Ico gloves light The Slippery Ferret's Gloves
Ico armor med Legionnaire Scout Armor
Cadash Stompers Cadash Stompers
Ico belt Andruil's Blessing

Pearl of the Anointed may refer to:

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Harvest Festival Ring Ring
Ico ring Ring of the Warrior
Cunning Pre-Buff Gear (Song of Courage)

Quicksilver may refer to:

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Ico gloves light The Slippery Ferret's Gloves
Ico Dead Thaig Shanker Dead Thaig Shanker
Ico shield towermetal Partha with Heraldry: Legion of the Dead
Wolf Threads
Ico belt Andruil's Blessing
Ico amulet Illumination
Ico ring Dusk Ring
Ico ring Dusk Ring

Total: +55 cunning

Dexterity Pre-Buff Gear (Accuracy)
Ico helm massive Corruption
Ico gloves light Fingers of the Nimble
Heartwood Bow Heartwood Bow limited to one character
Ico boots heavy Fleet Feet or Ico boots heavy Stormchaser Boots
Ico belt Doge's Dodger
Ico amulet Illumination
Ico ring Ring of Subtlety
Plt ico key Key to the City or any other ring with +2 strength modifier

Total: +27 dexterity (+32 dexterity for the character with Heartwood Bow)

A Note on Armor Penetration

Having a very high AP value may seem superficially beneficient, as AP offers an effective damage increase not affected by DamageBonus cap. However, in practice, the character does not need a very high AP, since the only enemies having high armor value in DAA are, unsurprisingly, Armored Ogres (46.3). Armored Ogres are one big exception to the general rule. Even Elite Boss rank enemies rarely have armor value above 15 (level 32 Mother has 16.3). Moreover, even if your AP rating is low, the armor advantage won't help your enemies much when you score 300-400 damage critical hits consistently. A plain substraction of, say, 10 damage points from such a sum will offer a very minor relief. In other words: it is advised to aim for total AP value of 15-20. Higher value is actually counter-productive, as you will be naturally forced to sacrifice other benefits to achieve it.

Demonstration Video

A word of warning: a potential major spoiler ahead! The final battle with the Mother on Nightmare. The strategy used is a staple anti-boss strategy for this party: ignore the minor threats (tentacles, in this case), Strength of Stone, Mark of Death (triple cast was an overkill -- as of v. 1.03, Mark of Death is no longer stackable), auto-attack ad nauseum (Sereda uses Andraste's Arrows -- just in case the critical hits will not suffice for spellcasting interruption purpose). The Mother is not immune to critical damage, so the approach really pays off, as can be easily seen.

Maximum DPS Approach: Spirit Warrior Archer

A Spirit Warrior archer with a proper setup can outperform a rogue archer damage-wise by as much as 250-300%. However, there are four necessary conditions to it: (1) getting the Spirit_Damage_Bonus property to the maximum (+50%): it's not an easy requirement, since most of the +X% elemental damage items are mage-restricted; (2) getting the CriticalRange property to the maximum possible: the cap will probably be unattainable with a warrior, but it is possible to get it as high as 160-170%; (3) achieving the first two goals without sacrificing much of your + attribute gear -- balance your gear carefully; (4) casting an Affliction Hex or a Vulnerability Hex on a target with high-spellpower mage prior to attacking: though it's not an overtly lengthy preparation phase, by any means.
Achieving goal (1) can be somewhat tricky. However, equipping two Dreamsever rings, inserting three Amplification Runes into armor slots, and maxing out the Spirit Warrior talent tree (each talent after Beyond the Veil grants a hidden +5% spirit damage bonus) will account for a full +50% bonus.

Optimal stat, talent and specialization choices are really simple with this build. Stats: all Dex if you have a party to boost your ranged critical chance (a Bard, for example): otherwise, invest 5 points into strength to get Bravery.

Talents: Accuracy, Master Archer, Scattershot. Arrow of Slaying, if you like huge four-digit damage numbers; Spirit Warrior tree. Specializations: Spirit Warrior, evidently; Berserk, for the spec bonus; any specialization would be equally useless in the third spec slot, but maybe Champion is a bit better than the rest thanks to Superiority-enhanced War Cry and decent spec bonuses.
End-Game Spirit Warrior Archer: Facts and Figures
An example of an end-game Spirit Warrior archer: notable statistics and gear listing. Please note these are essentially solo stats, without Song of Courage bonus. Also note the Warden would have higher attributes, and, consequently, better derived stats.
Attack 310.5
Defense 208.0
Armor 28.3
Ranged_Crit_Modifier 81.0 (without Bravery bonus)
DamageBonus 100.0 [153.0]
Damage_MainHand 206.0
CriticalRange 150.0
Spirit_Damage_Bonus 50.0
Ico longbow Far Song
Ico helm heavy Helm of Dragon's Peak
Ico gloves heavy Stormchaser Gauntlets
Ico armor light The Felon's Coat with 3 Amplification Runes
Ico boots massive Boots of the Sentinel
Ico belt Doge's Dodger
Ico amulet Illumination
Ico ring Dreamsever
Ico ring Dreamsever
Demonstration Video

Fighting some Children and Disciples at Dragonbone Wastes with the setup described above (standard + dexterity pre-buff) in duo with Velanna. Let the damage numbers speak for themselves: 938 on a regular crit; 2586 with an Arrow of Slaying; 657 on a spirit-resistant primary target, then 700+ on the rest with Scattershot.

Notable Monster Resistances/Weaknesses Reference Sheet

General Enemy Types

Demon type: +50% fire resistance, +5% spirit resistance.
Darkspawn type: +25% nature resistance, -15% fire resistance.
High Dragon type (High Dragon and Flemeth): +75% fire resistance.
Undead type: +75% cold resistance, -25% fire resistance.

Specific Boss Monsters & Monster Sub-Types

Abomination: +25% electricity resistance.
Arcane Horror: +20% spell resistance.
Archdemon: +75% cold, electricity and spirit resistance.
Broodmother: +75% nature resistance, +75% mental resistance.
Genlock: +5% spell resistance, +3% mental resistance.
Hurlock: +5% cold resistance, +5% spirit resistance, +1% dodge.
Ogre: +20% cold resistance, +15% spirit resistance, +10% spell resistance.
Revenant: +75% mental resistance.
Steel Golem: +50% physical resistance, +50% electricity and cold resistance.
Stone Golem: +50% physical resistance, +50% fire and cold resistance.
Wild Sylvan: -50% fire resistance.

Shapeshifter Forms

Bear (monster and Shapeshifter form): +50% nature resistance.
Flying Swarm (Shapeshifter form): +40% dodge, +100% missile deflection, -75% fire resistance.
Spider (monster and Shapeshifter form): +75% nature resistance, -10% cold resistance.

Monster Resistances and Immunities Analysis

An obvious conslusion one can draw from this reference sheet and the Immunities list is electricity and spirit are most rarely resisted types of elemental damage, with no emenies immune to them, while nature is (a) most commonly resisted, (b) an unparalleled number of creatures is immune to it, and (c) not a single enemy in the game has a nature damage weakness. Consider also the stamina draining effect from electrical damage and the fact the most damaging spells and spell combinations in the game are spirit-based (Mana Drain, Entropic Death, Virulent Walking Bomb, Blood Control). Fire damage is quite frequently resisted, but this is fully offset by the fact both Darkspawn and Undead type enemies have weakness to fire. Cold damage is also commonly resisted, but since cold-based spells are rarely used for direct damage purposes, this should not present a problem (see Cone of Cold for more information). It is also noteworthy spell resistance is extremely rare, and even when present, its value is quite low, so certain spells/spell combinations (Paralysis Explosion, for example) are almost guaranteed to work under any conditions.

More Archery Experiments: Findings

  • As of version 1.03, crossbows do not gain damage bonuses from either strength or dexterity. Tested with str/dex 50, 80 and 100 Alistair equipped with Antivan Crossbow. The damage was unchanged regardless of str/dex attribute value.
  • As of version 1.03, massive armor penalty to aiming speed is not implemented fully. The wording should be changed to massive chest armor penalty to aiming speed.

Exporting the Warden Archer to DAA: Gear & Party Problems


Since DLC loot (except Return to Ostagar items) is not DAA-exportable, it is high time to think of alternatives. My cunning-based Dwarf Noble rogue archer had dexterity and strength raised above the absolutely necessary minimum, since I find rushing the Circle of Magi for the Fade boni immediately counter-productive for a full archer party, and actually prefer to concentrate on the The Stone Prisoner and Return to Ostagar DLC, as well as Nature of the Beast and Paragon of Her Kind quest lines first. Basically, she was using Helm of Honnleath and Cadash Stompers as regular combat gear for the greater part of the game. Pre-buff (+ cunning) gear was comprised almost exclusively from DLC items: Duncan's Sword, Dead Thaig Shanker, Guildmaster's Belt. Some temporary strength-boosting items were also DLC: most notably, Blood Dragon Plate. So what's left?
Well, the + cunning pre-buff gear suffers the most: no Dead Thaig Shanker (the only exportable alternative is Aeducan Family Shield) and Guildmaster's Belt (exportable alternative: Andruil's Blessing) equals to -5 cunning while pre-buffing. That's significant. The + strength gear fares a bit better: losing Blood Dragon Plate (alternative: Shadow of the Empire) and Helm of Honnleath (no + strength alternative, sadly) will result in -3 strength. Which means I'll probably have to invest all of my lvl 26 attribute points into strength, since I'm not eager to be unable to re-equip Corruption or Cailan's Gauntlets once they get removed. Which brings us to combat gear. In fact, Corruption is better than Helm of Honnleath, so no problems here. Cailan's Gauntlets, luckily, are exportable. The only DLC item to be replaced is Cadash Stompers. A shame, really: that ranged critical chance bonus was extremely handy. Silverhammer's Tackmasters are the only + dexterity alternative. The rest will remain intact: Far Song, Felon's Coat, The Spellward/Heart of Witherfang, Andruil's Blessing, Dusk Ring, Key to the City. By the way, those massive armor pieces make my rogue look more ugly than ever -- well, at least the item properties are worth it:


I'll be lost without Shale. Her Rock Mastery aura was the key element that made full archer party so deadly. Sure enough, Repeater Gloves can compensate for any loss of aim speed, but attaining permanent auto-crit without Shale will be tough. No ideas, except abusing the hell of Pinpoint Strike (saving and reloading whenever possible to reset that insane 180s cooldown timer). As far as archer companions go, we'll have Nathaniel Howe -- apparently DAA's Leliana (archer rogue companion), and Sigrun -- apparently DAA's Zevran (melee rogue companion). If Beyond the Veil works with ranged attacks, respecializing Mhairi or Justice can be a viable option. I also want to believe Velanna will have some crit-enhancing buff or some mass immobilizing spell. Hunter's Blessing, let's say. Or, at least, Mass Root. Preferably both. That would be so elfish and druidic of her, right? Seriously, Shale-less archer party will need a buffer/controller. Desperately. And that Anders guy surely does not look too promising in this department.

Update: Aha! Seems like I was right about Velanna and Mass Root. That's very druidic of her. Very, very druidic, indeed!

DAA pre-order DLC Items

Both Bregan's Bow and Pearl of the Anointed are very useful for this archer build. According to my calculations, Bregan's Bow will marginally outclass Far Song damage-wise due to +6 armor penetration and +15% critical/backstab damage. Its short range and huge armor penetration bonus make it an especially attractive for dexterity-based Assassin/Bard archers (Zevran type), that make use of Mark of Death. And, finally, we get an amulet granting a bonus of + 4 to damage-affecting attributes. Great news, indeed.

Patch 1.03: Testing Bug Fixes

Since our friends at BioWare are not eager to share the exact details on bug fixes introduced in this patch, I'm going to check the following bugs:

  • +% to healing effects received bug
  • Ranged attack speed slowdown by Haste/Swift Salve
  • Shale's Rock Mastery double effect exploit
  • Crossbow damage not affected by attribute values
  • Heavy armor other than chest not affecting ranged attack speed
  • Loading game resets cooldown timer

Great. Nothing was fixed.

Project Duncan (Work Permanently in Progress)

People like giving their projects fancy names. Duncan, DA:O master-at-arms par excellence and a rogue of great renown, will serve in this case. This project's purpose is to compile a mechanics database as detailed and accurate as possible, obtaining relevant information from different sources (including independent research). Yes, that means Georg Zoeller, Lead Technical Designer and all that, got brutally robbed here. 'Stealing success!', to quote the UI message.

Bibdy's Detailed Tooltips 1.6 (

Core mechanics data:

  • Dog Talents
  • Poisons
  • Potions
  • Spell Combinations
  • Traps
  • Archery Talents
  • Rogue Talents
  • Dual-Wielding Talents
  • Two-Handed Talents
  • Weapon and Shield Talents
  • Warrior Talents
  • Earthquake, Revival, Cleansing Aura, Glyph of Paralysis, Animate Dead
  • Assorted Minor Spell Mechanics Addenda & Corrigenda
  • Assassin
  • Bard
  • Duelist
  • Berserker
  • Templar
  • Champion

Georg Zoeller's DA:O - The Missing Manual (

Range, conjuration time and additional threat generated sub-sections:

  • Archery
  • Dual-Wielding
  • Weapon and Shield
  • Two-Handed
  • Warrior
  • Rogue
  • Assassin
  • Bard
  • Duelist
  • Ranger
  • Berserker
  • Templar
  • Champion
  • Reaver
  • Shale
  • Dog
  • Arcane
  • Blood Mage
  • Arcane Warrior
  • Spirit Healer
  • Shapeshifter
  • Primal
  • Spirit
  • Creation
  • Entropy
  • Power of Blood

DA Builder Wiki (, ABI_base.xls, AOE.xls

Assorted addenda and corrigenda.

DAA Impressions, Pt. I

  • Nightmare is really easy now. The devs obviously tried to make combat more challenging, but Manual of Focus, essentially, gives you ideal maximization options: were we forced to stay with the companions as is, being able to respecialize only the Warden, and only once -- DAA combat would present a much greater challenge.
  • It is evident some enhancements were done to the AI: the enemies are generally smarter and use a wider array of abilities. The encounters also include some interesting enemy type combinations, like melee+ranged+big monsters+spellcasters (somewhat à la Fort Drakon exterior during The Final Battle). A pity it doesn't help the overall challenge level much.
  • For integrity's sake: currently, I have a very limited experience playing DAA. Basically, most combat sequences were done with a respecialized archer duo of my Warden and Nathaniel Howe. Both are Duelist/Bard/Assassin. New rogue specializations are not that hot for an archer, though Legionnaire Scout passive bonus and Mark of the Legion are attractive and can be a viable option: it's just that elementary math clearly shows triple Song of Courage, even with low Cunning values, gives a much greater boost.
  • Cunning-based archers are now greatly inferior to their Str/Dex counterparts. Respecialization guidelines (an example of lvl 26 Nathaniel Howe): Str 29 (to be able to equip Corruption and Stormchaser Gauntlets with +Str gear: since Accuracy is Dexterity-based, it is highly advisable to pre-buff with as much +Dex gear as possible), Cun 22 (to learn Master Stealth and have a decent Song of Courage bonus with pre-buff +Cun gear -- a total while pre-buffing should be 40+), the rest into Dexterity (Nathaniel had a natural Dex score of 70 after respec). Key talents: Accuracy, Master Stealth, Mark of Death, Pinpoint Strike, Weak Spots, Dual-Weapon Mastery (for +Cun and +Str temporary setups), Scattershot, Burst Shot.
  • In practice, I don't find myself using Pinpoint Strike at all (though I'm assured I will resort to it during tougher boss battles later on). I'm just auto-attacking in most cases, using Burst Shot and Scattershot against hordes of weaker enemies. Modal abilities/buffs active: Song of Courage x2, Accuracy, Weak Points (new rogue damage-booster), Dueling, Suppressing Fire. Yes, I use Suppressing Fire and I don't use Aim: there is no real way to reduce aim speed with Aim to the 1.6s minimum without Repeater Gloves, and those are greatly inferior to DAA gauntlets, while cumulative Suppressing Fire debuff with archer party is really effective -- not to mention it's the only DA:O modal archery ability that does not affect fire rate in any way. Active talents I find myself using most frequently are Master Stealth (great threat management/re-positioning tool) and, unsurprisingly, Mark of Death x2 on Elite Bosses. Both archers are currently dealing 300+ damage per crit. With double Mark of Death and double Weak Spots, it's 400+ against tougher targets with tons of health. Quickbar illustration:


  • Just got Velanna to join, so no impressions yet; currently looking for Sigrun.
  • Ultimately, I feel like I'm cheating. I had the same feeling while playing a PC Arcane Warrior+Morrigan+Wynne+Stone Aura Shale party on my first playthrough in DA:O. Well, that's how our friends at BioWare understand restoring game balance, obviously. Not much can be done about that.

DAA Impressions, Pt. II

  • Finally, a major change in mechanics. +% elemental damage is no longer capped at 1.3. More testing will be needed to establish what the new cap is. I'll experiment some more in DAA with +% healing received, crossbow damage, etc.: perhaps it's different somehow from DA:O 1.03 (technically, they are the same game version, but you never know with BioWare).
  • Velanna respecialization guideline #1: pretty simple -- pure Mag build. Do not invest a single point in Wil: with new skill chain increasing mana reserve and Blood Mage specialization, it is a total waste.
  • Keeper is the mage specialization I like the most in both DA:O and DAA. Finally, DA design team realized a viable and enjoyable mage sub-class concept (though Blood Mage came slose): powerful, but not obnoxiously overpowered (hint: Arcane Warrior/Battlemage combination), with some extremely strong sides carefully offset by reasonable weaknesses. Synergizes really well with Blood Mage/Spirit Healer, too. With all her shields on and some major +Con gear, Velanna successfully acts as a party pseudo-tank (yes, she leads the party, archers stay behind her: it's convenient, since it guarantees the archers do not scatter and stay strictly within One With Nature's field limits at the start of combat sequences). Side note: Thornblades is one of the best additions any ranged party can dream of. A fantastic spell. Not fantastic AW-style, mind you (i. e., not cheesy as hell) - it certainly has its limitations. But very useful for an archer party, indeed. I'm looking forward to see Nature's Vengeance effects.
  • DAA DLC items note: Pearl of the Anointed and Bulwark of the True King install smoothly and cause no problems. The former is a very nice amulet (pragmatically speaking: +4 to damage-affecting attributes). No Bregan's Bow yet, and that's a shame, given the scarcity of good bows (as opposed to crossbows, which we do have in abundance - and quite early, too).

DAA Impressions, Pt. III

Some assorted findings (relevant articles updated):

  • DAA +X% elemental damage cap is 1.5 (+50%).
  • DAA elemental resistance cap is 85%.
  • The Queen of the Blackmarsh is immune to critical damage. Otherwise, she was very easy to defeat with an archer party + Velanna.
  • The only instant-death scenario I have found in DAA are Lieutenant-rank Blight Werewolves of various types (Blackmarsh inhabitants) on Nightmare: Overwhelm (Monster) will kill an archer or a mage in less than 2s, even with Vitality IV and healing spells from Velanna with Spellpower 230. I suspect Overwhelm is buggy in this particular case: there is no way these guys could possibly deal that much damage over such a short duration. I was forced to go in with Strength of Stone.
  • Elite Boss Dragon Thralls AI at Silverite Mine is behaving very, very strangely. They never attacked the party that was staying at its initial position after the cutscene. Of course, they ended up dead and looking like porcupines very soon, but that's not the point. The AI seems to be unable to reach the initial party position for some reason. They just fly around and use... Blood Magic (I have no idea, to what end: are those dragon thralls mages?). Nightmare difficulty, vanilla DAA, no mods. Any ideas/observations to the contrary?
  • I never used a single health poultice during the entire playthrough on Nightmare (granted, I have Knotwood Hills and a ton of side quests before me, not to mention final phase). Not once. Velanna used her healing spells during several tougher fights, though. That's not to say: "Wow, I'm a great tactics master!", don't get me wrong. That's more to the effect of: "Wow, this game is waaaaay too easy!".

Pseudo-Armor Runes Bug

Vs. creature type (Cold Iron, Silverite) and passive resistance (Dweomer, Hale) Masterpiece and Paragon tier weapon runes are erroneously flagged as armor runes in Dragon Age: Awakening. Cold Iron and Silverite do not trigger either with melee or ranged weapons when inserted into armor slots. However, both Dweomer and Hale grant the resistance bonuses normally.

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