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Dragon Age Origins – Horrorstories

railroad

I, DM Patrick, have gone through and redacted or changed a few of the adult terms because I want this site to always be family-friendly. If ever you find anything that I post here to be something that you wouldn’t want your child to read, please let me know and I’ll mark it as such or outright remove it. These horror stories are otherwise unedited and I take no credit for them.

Got a two-parter here, provided form an anonymous source. The second part is down below… so no hunting.

All Aboard The Dragon Age Railroad

from user: anonymous

I’ve been sitting on this story for a while, as it is quite long.

This took place over a 6 month period where our group would meet every Sunday for around 4-5 hours at a FLGS.

First, some background.

We were a regular gaming group that had been playing together for about a year before this story. All of us had taken a break from gaming together due to some past drama (a whole post unto itself). It had been a few months since our last game together.

Our previous DM had just finished up a Harry Potter-based campaign using the FAE system and was burnt out. Apparently the last campaign had ended badly, mostly because the DM hadn’t read the books and based all the canon off the movies which seemed to piss off the group. It was a full TPK at the end and a “tragic ending”. Most players left their group afterwards, soured on their DMing style.

The previous DM’s best friend (and former player) then offered to run a new campaign for our group. They were a first time DM and very nervous, but FAE is a pretty easy system and they had been playing it for months, so they decided to take the leap.

The new DM had decided on a campaign based on Dragon Age. They even put a lot of effort into making custom class books for us to use for leveling up, containing different Stunts we could earn. The new DM and former DM worked together to homebrew FAE with various extra rules. I can’t remember all of them, but they completely rewrote the already simplistic stats to resemble D&D stats, added AC, resistances, etc. It ended up looking like a weird, broken homebrew version of D&D. The system from that point on became difficult to understand, as it was not playtested, and rules would change with the new DM’s whims.

We make our characters.

My GF plays a Qunari Fighter who was born to two Qunari deserters, and thus was raised Vashoth (Outside of Qunari society).

The former DM plays a Dalish Elf Mage, a Seeker for their tribe. Since they were an old woman (think hermit hedge witch type), we called them Grandma for the rest of the campaign.

Then I make my character; a City Elf Mage that was a former slave of Tevinter, and a Dreamer.

Dreamers in Dragon Age are mages with the special ability to enter a realm called The Fade in their sleep. The Fade is an extremely dangerous place for most, where the weak-willed can be tempted by demons into possession or dark deals. It also gives the Dreamer the ability to shape reality outside of their “dream”, usually done accidentally as they sleep. My character was one such “Unaware Dreamer” who I planned to accidentally create portals, monsters, or other strange phenomena in their sleep as the DM saw fit. They would be unaware of their powers or unable to control them.

The new DM agreed to this all too willingly, saying they had “great plans” for a character like that, so I was excited.

We begin the campaign being sort of railroaded together into a party due to a “Magic Transmission” that went out saying we had to save the world. It took an hour longer than it needed to because the DM didn’t prep beyond how they wanted their DMPC’s to enter. This included a segment of railroading that forced Grandma to leave her beloved tribe for Unforgivable Elf Crimes or something made up on the spot.

Our party meets and although we have no reason to work together or like each-other, out of character all of us simply agree to be good sports and go along with things.

Suddenly Flemeth (A shapeshifting dragon witch and a major NPC from Dragon Age) appears and tells us its our job to save the world for her. Even though she is perfectly capable being that she’s arguably a deity. She tells us no, WE have to save the world and we have to do it with the DMPC Nephew character and his loyal dog. DMPC was very clearly just their player character from their Origins save, including all of their OP gear. This guy was 5-6 levels above us despite us starting at level 1.

The DM then insists on roleplaying the dog as often as possible, despite it being annoying as hell. It was basically the DM’s comic relief… except nothing it did was funny. The DM would also get extremely offended if anyone expressed distaste for the dog and would have it steal our things or pee on party members it didn’t like as they were sleeping.

Our grand quest was then revealed; to save the world was to gather the previous Chosen One’s (aka all of the DM and former DM’s player characters from their Dragon Age saves) together so they could do a Care Bear Stare.

This was our divine quest. A very long fetch quest where we get the honor and privilege of talking to DMPCs who were better than us at everything and to hear their long, angsty backstories (retellings of their saves from the game), all while trying to convince them to come out of retirement and save the world.

I don’t have to tell you this was boring and awful.

Every few sessions we would be railroaded to a notable Dragon Age: Origins location to… stare at it. Usually in a ruined state. This was supposed to make us feel very sad, but the only one who had any reaction was Grandma’s player, who was being catered to specifically. Since Grandma’s player helped with the game, the new DM made references to her Dragon Age save games as per her request. So it was really just a Show-and-Tell.

Once or twice per session, there would be combat. Oh would there be combat.

The DM did not understand how FAE combat worked (aka basic addition and subtraction) so they decided combat was a pass/fail system. If your roll was mostly positive; you hit. If it was mostly negative; you did not. If your roll was neutral…. uhhhhh DM’s choice! We did use the modifiers on our character sheets for this, but unsurprisingly even if we “technically” hit, the DM could rule that we “did no damage” because of the enemies “shield/armor reduction”.

The DM was insistent on the illusion that the PC’s had any control over combat, so would allow us to blindly swing our weapons or sling our spells until they had decided it seemed like long enough, then would have the DMPC wipe the floor with the combatants in a spectacular way as a deus ex machina. Every fight.

Fights also usually lasted irl around 40 minutes to 2 hours because they insisted on fudging rolls for every single enemy we were facing, even if it was a horde of 10+.

Eventually one of us confronted them about visibly not tracking damage since combat was dragging out our sessions for no reason, and we all knew they were just making things up regardless of dice rolls, and they agreed to have my GF track HP from now on.

Over the course of the campaign, the DM started becoming more and more combative. Our characters were not “Invested” enough in the plot. We were not roleplaying enough with the DMPC and their dog. We were not showing enough interest in the locations we were being shopped around to. Lots of passive aggressive complaints like this were constantly spewing from the DM’s mouth at any available opportunity.

Very early on, my elf mage was possessed by a demon and mind controlled to betray their party members. I had no say in this at all, was only allowed to roleplay how “Sassy” the demon was. I was asked to make constant Will Checks to see if I could resist the possession, but the DC was so absurdly high that I would have had to fully crit to escape the hold and even then, it was only for moments at a time.

Eventually I said “fuck it” and played my character to be as evil and conniving as possible, which at first pleased the DM, but did not please them when I started having my character stop resisting the demon all together and make a powerful blood pact with it. The DM expected my “good guy” PC to continue fruitlessly resisting temptation and not agree to a deal which would make my character extremely broken and OP by allowing them to use Blood Magic (essentially mind control).

They begrudgingly had to agree that canonically they had been offering blood magic as an option, I was allowed to take it. No rules had been written on it, so I simply had to succeed a Will check against an enemy to puppet them. This became my main method of combat, as it would remove enemies from the field and not require me to come out of hiding. This severely pissed off the DM, who didn’t have the experience to know what to do with the boon they’d given me.

Infuriatingly enough, my character also remained loyal and true to the party despite being an evil person to others from that point forward, so they couldn’t even rally the other players to their side about how much they hated me. In-fact, the other players thought my character was awesome and useful, did not want to lose them, and they banded together in a makeshift family.

Things started to come to a head when I offhandedly mentioned that since my character was now aware of the Fade, they could enter it willingly in their dreams. I didn’t abuse this. Instead, I simply would pull my party in their sleep into the Fade for tea and biscuits. The DM outright refused to allow that to be canon, even though the players loved it and thought it was hilarious. Everytime I suggested it, their face would grow bright red and they’d say “No, that doesn’t happen” and snap at anyone who giggled at the concept of it. There was no explanation offered as to why we couldn’t do it except “I think it’s stupid, you can’t do it”.

It became very obvious the DM openly despised us having fun or whimsy if they didn’t create it. They felt it was “undermining” of the campaign for us to crack a joke or not take things in their grimdark world entirely seriously. They DM was allowed to “make jokes”, especially the DMPC’s, all of which constantly spouted stupid one-liners during combat that were stolen from Deadpool.

The world they made was also entirely hostile to us for no reason. It wasn’t simply grimdark; every single NPC was an a-hole. Every shopkeep refused to sell to us or buy our items. Every random on the street we tried to ask for plot information snubbed us and told us to figure it out ourselves. Not a one of them was likable, and so over the months our party grew quite bitter towards our quest of “saving” such a world and came to rely only on each-other…

Well, this has been long enough. Continued in Part 2, if anyone is interested.

 

Dragon Age Railroad Part 2

So at this point in our story, a pattern began to emerge in the campaign.

Go to Dragon Age: Origins Location -> All the NPCs hate us -> Befriend 1-2 DMPCs -> Get betrayed by our hosts -> Have to flee -> Fight wolves or bandits in the wilderness -> Repeat

The DMPC’s would come with us, usually by heroically uncovering the assassination plot against our characters and then ushering us out to safety. After repeating this a few times, half of our party make-up was DMPCs who all took turns in combat.

That being said, we could not for the life of us find any of the “Chosen Ones” we were supposed to be looking for. The DM would say we were simply not “looking hard enough” or going to the right places. The campaign was structured not unlike Dragon Age 2 where you have a map of locations with “quests icons” on them. You can choose which order to complete them. That’s what we had, except not a single one of those places had anything plot relevant… unless you count the formerly benign NPC’s plotting to murder us every time we visited a new place. It was always “Nope, DMPC #3892 hasn’t been here in years!” ad nauseam.

On top of this, there was some sort of plot about the Qunari invasion, so eventually we had to also fight them. This was meant to be a “consequence” because we were “taking too long” to finish the campaign.

So with no direction and only each-other to trust, our small 3 person party began to care less and less about the people we were meant to be saving. We had to rely on each-other for self-preservation, as anyone could be an enemy and there was no true hospitality to be found.

That is when my character had the brilliant idea of becoming a bandit gang.

You see, it was much easier for us to steal supplies from our enemies after looting them than it was to negotiate with a completely unhelpful shopkeep. I imagine the DM thought it was “funny” to watch us be poor and starving, but because they thought the loot we gained from fallen enemies was too meager and worthless to do anything important with that we wouldn’t be motivated to collect it.

Except that at that point, it was the only food, gear or weapons we could acquire. At all.

Our first act of banditry was robbing a caravan we found rather suspicious. It appeared to have a “broken wheel”, but we knew better. We had been betrayed so many times by NPCs, it was obvious this was a trap set for an ambush. We were not wrong. But then instead of letting the DMPC’s defend us in another pointless, dragged out fight… I used Blood Magic to slowly pick off each and every one of them.

The DM hated every moment of this and then began to puff that we “couldn’t have known” it was a trap, and that it was “actually just a merchant family”. This was one of many instances where they changed the scenario halfway through to seem like we were being unreasonable, and that we had merely “misunderstood the encounter” (This happened earlier, having had Circle members try to magically lobotomize all the mages in the party when we were staying with them, then claimed the Circle members ‘were only trying to cleanse the demon possessed one’, despite obvious evidence to the contrary).

If this was in-character, I would accept it, but it was always out of character that we, as players, had “misinterpreted” their intentions and were acting too paranoid. Fool me once, DM.

After robbing the caravan, we found an entire crate of weapons and armor that was being transported to conveniently, the next quest location. Now we had a wagon to get there so we didn’t have to freeze in the mountains AND a crate full of valuable cargo. We intended to sell it off once we arrived at the Dwarven stronghold to fund our quest. On the way, we were attacked by a huge pack of blighted wolves that attempted to disable the wagon and make it impossible to transport the crate. Simple solution: Blood magic.

Then we skinned them for warmth, as we were being made to make constant “Cold” checks to see if we were being affected by the cold/hunger. The DM was not happy that we did this and had one wolf be randomly non-blighted, and pregnant so that we felt very bad about “killing their pack” (again, changing the details of the scenario to suit their mood).

After that, we started wearing their skins and calling ourselves the Grim Tooth**.**

The pregnant she-wolf began to travel with us as the “girlfriend” of the DMPC’s dog. I don’t know either.

It’s worth mentioning at this point we had “Camp” segments. In Dragon Age: Origins, there would be downtime between quests that was sort of a hub. The companion NPCs would have meaningful dialogue with the player and relationship build. We had this too, except the Camp portions went as follows:

DM: Ok, you’ve made camp. Now roleplay.

Player: Uh… roleplay what?

DM: I don’t know. Just roleplay. Talk to each-other.

Player: But we have been talking in character this whole time, there is really no reason to-

DM: Just roleplay.

We learned later what they meant by this is that we were supposed to be “romancing” one another, especially their DMPC’s. Their DMPC’s would not go out of their way to speak to us, mind you, but we were supposed to apparently be ‘building relationships’ with them.

We found this out because they began complaining there was “no romance” in this campaign and that they felt unfulfilled as a DM because there wasn’t enough “sexual tension”… in a party that had an old woman in it.

People in part 1 asked me if there was any weird sex stuff that happened. The answer is yes but it was so childishly executed it was just sigh worthy. The DM thought they were being quite ‘kinky’, but really it was just the occasional NPC randomly wearing full latex fetish gear and making sex jokes. This was supposed to be quite alluring and desirable for us. A temptation! To be fair, this worked on Grandma, who also had the same 13 year old sensibilities and would flirt with them, egging them on.

My girlfriend and I just hardcore ignored it and tried to zone out whenever it happened so that is why I don’t have that many specific recollections; other than there was a Dwarf lady who offered her dominatrix services to us but again ended up being (you guessed it) an assassin sent by the powers that be.

At this point in the campaign, we were running out of Dragon Age: Origins places to stare at and the DM was getting frustrated. Apparently we were not doing enough to try and save the world and were just “messing around”. Other than map locations, we had no directions and no leads, so I guess I cannot argue with them.

Eventually they had the Qunari presence suddenly become very important and urgent. Our party’s Qunari, Vashoth, devised a plan to deal with them. See, our DM thought because Vashoth was a fighter that they were nothing more than a stupid meathead. This was despite Vashoth being quite capable intellectually in-game several times. But nope, they’re a dumb fighter to the DM.

Vashoth comes up with a plan to join up with the Qunari, and present my Elf mage as a prisoner. Then, from the inside, we would dismantle their giant war ship (yes, they conveniently only brought The One) and neutralize the threat. Grandma would join up with us once we had infiltrated and help us pick them off with stealth.

The DM took this very, very personally**.** From my understanding, they took it as Vashoth trying to take the game off the rails and was being a “traitor” to both his party and his people. Even though we had explained, out of character, that Vashoth was only going to pretend to join so we could defeat them. This was not sufficient enough fo the DM’s tastes, and that is when they began planning The End Game.

The DM decided at this point the Qunari were all bloodthirsty monsters who loved to torture for funsies. They also had access to Mind Control Magic too (not blood magic, but their own brand) and could read our PC’s minds. The DM gave up any decorum of not metagaming; since they knew our plan, the Qunari knew every step of our plan and thwarted it with the laziest DM fiat possible.

Despite having nearly no reason not to trust Vashoth, the Qunari decided to keep him under constant Mind Control. This meant every character action he made had to be “approved” by the DM, who swiftly used their newfound power to veto every action with “Actually, you do this”. This was right down to the emotions they were allowed to feel. The character effectively had become an NPC.

My character was placed in a holding cell and set to be publicly executed come daybreak. Any attempt to thwart this was denied, as all PC’s attempting to rescue me had their minds read, taken prisoner and then mind controlled as well. They even decided to cut the tongue out of Grandma who had done nothing in character or out of character to provoke it, including having made successful deception checks to hide their magic.

They railroaded us into a cage match, Vashoth against my Elf mage. Both of them intended to only fake a fight, but yknow, Mind control. So that wasn’t an option.

It was at this point that I handed my character sheet to the DM and told them “Since you’ll be playing my character, you’ll probably need this”.

The table went silent, the DM’s face went bright red and they began to silently cry.

I want to be clear, I did not intend to be rude with what I did, I literally thought the DM would need my character sheet since I wasn’t in control of him anymore and it had all my stats on it. But I was informed by the table this came off as a huge “F***k you”.

I cannot lie and say I wasn’t frustrated in the moment as well, so my delivery had come off curt.

We were in public, so the table tried to console them. I apologized at once, but to no avail. They quickly said “It’s fine, It’s fine” and went onto narrating the rest of the game’s end.

They described the carnage of each and every one of our characters being brutally murdered by the Qunari. Little did they know, a rescue ship led by Isabella (Dragon Age NPC) and all the Chosen Ones had been on their way! The Chosen One Ship took down the Qunari fleet and then went on to save the world… but it was too late, we had taken too long! So everyone died to the magic apocalypse, and it was all our fault, THE END.

After finishing up their narration, they took off to the bathroom to cry for a good 30 minutes, all of us sitting awkwardly.

We disbanded after that. My GF (Vashoth’s player) tried to reach out to them afterwards to work things out, but they had no interest in speaking, and told them “Everything is fine”. Because they wouldn’t speak with us beyond that and would ignore our texts and calls, we talked to their bff Grandma’s player. We came to a mutual agreement we needed to take another break.

A few months later, we tried to reconnect with them to hang out in a non-gaming setting and were promptly informed by Grandma’s player on behalf of both of them that we were bad people, bad influences and they simply couldn’t stand our company. They did this the same day my GF found out her father had cancer.

That’s the end of my tale. I hope it was entertaining. It certainly was not fun to experience, but If I can get a few laughs out of it, then that’s not so bad.

Draw Your Own Conclusions

I think more than the DM is at fault here, and I’d like to hear their side of things… but because this came from “anonymous,” it’s hard to do so. There are a couple of sentences and phrases here that definitely make me want to learn more about what happened. I think we can all agree, though, that the DM had a less-than-stellar approach to things and needed to improve their style.

Spread the word!

DM Patrick

DM Patrick is a 20-year-hardened veteran of the awesome world and hobby that is table-top gaming. His primary passions include DMing for new players and bringing people into the hobby. He considers himself a "RPG Game connoisseur" and a master of none due to the fact that he's tried so many (both table-top and video games). He's been a full-time DM now for nearly 5 years and intends to remain the "Forever DM" for as long as he can survive because he's so passionate about what he does. By day, DM Patrick removes his DM screen and is known to the world as Patrick Flynn. He's a 35-year-old former Navy Submarine veteran from Ocala, Florida. If you want to know more about Patrick, roll investigation.

6 Comments

  1. this sounds to me like an inexperienced dm who had a totally different idea of what they were getting into than what the players expected. could’ve been avoided with better communication beforehand. and of course we’re only seeing one side of this story.

    but still, from the way it’s told it sounds awful.

  2. Now I see why you put in so much effort not to let your games become “players vs the DM”.

    I dont know much about dragon age but this was a great read, thanks for sharing !

    • Adversarial DMs take a lot of fun out of the game, and it also creates an unhealthy dynamic. I challenge my players, I let the dice fall where they may, and I put them in impossible situations, but I also root for them.
      Players need to be able to trust the DM, and vice versa, to foster truly memorable games.

  3. I dont get how they were supposed to accomplish the end goal they didnt finish. They were trying to find these people, but it seems like the DM only had one path in mind and wasn’t letting them know (in or out of the game). Granted I would rather have more agency in it than that, but if they had found one of “The Chosen Ones” it still would have felt like they accomplished something.

    • That sounded like a very frustrating situation to be in. No help from the DM as well as being berated by them for not doing things well.

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