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 Dragon Age - Origins Class Guide

 
   
 
 
Dragon Age - Origins Class Guide

====================

Dragon Age: Origins

Class Guide - v 0.1

by Marc Seguin aka Asmiroth

strongandlong@hotmail.com

Copyright 2009 Marc Seguin

====================


-----------------
TABLE OF CONTENTS
-----------------

Introduction 	(DAO:1)


Class Basics 	(DAO:2)

- Warrior  	(DAO:2.1)
- Rogue    	(DAO:2.2)
- Mage 	    	(DAO:2.3)


Group Makeup 	(DAO:3)

- Typical Group (DAO:3.1)
- Better Group  (DAO:3.2)
- Best Group 	(DAO:3.3)


Characters 	(DAO:4)

- Alistair	(DAO:4.1)
- Dog		(DAO:4.2)
- Leliana	(DAO:4.3)
- Secret	(DAO:4.4)
- Morrigan	(DAO:4.5)
- Oghren	(DAO:4.6)
- Shale		(DAO:4.7)
- Sten		(DAO:4.8)
- Wynne		(DAO:4.9)
- Zevran	(DAO:4.10)


Warrior 	(DAO:5)

- Tank		(DAO:5.1)
-- Attributes	(DAO:5.1.1)
-- Abilities	(DAO:5.1.2)
-- Summary 	(DAO:5.1.3)

- Melee		(DAO:5.2)
-- Attributes	(DAO:5.2.1)
-- Abilities	(DAO:5.2.2)
-- Summary	(DAO:5.2.3)


Rogue	 	(DAO:6)

- Melee		(DAO:6.1)
-- Attributes	(DAO:6.1.1)
-- Abilities	(DAO:6.1.2)
-- Summary 	(DAO:6.1.3)

- Ranged	(DAO:6.2)
-- Attributes	(DAO:6.2.1)
-- Abilities	(DAO:6.2.2)
-- Summary	(DAO:6.2.3)


Mage	 	(DAO:7)

- Tank		(DAO:7.1)
-- Attributes	(DAO:7.1.1)
-- Abilities	(DAO:7.1.2)
-- Summary 	(DAO:7.1.3)

- Caster	(DAO:7.2)
-- Attributes	(DAO:7.2.1)
-- Abilities	(DAO:7.2.2)
-- Summary	(DAO:7.2.3)

-------
VERSION
-------

Nov 20, 2009 - 0.1 - First Version


------------
INTRODUCTION (DAO:1)
------------
Dragon Age:Origins is the sequel in pricinple of the Baldur's Gate, Icewind 
Dale and Neverwinter Nights line of games.  Though DA:O doesn't necessarily
follow the Dungeons & Dragons method of gameplay, many similarities exist.
What we find instead is a mix of D&D with multiplayer online games, such as
World of Warcraft.  All in all, this makes the game much more accessible to a
wider group of people than your standard pen and paper RPG.

And yes, there are spoilers abound.



------------
CLASS BASICS (DAO:2)
------------
If you've ever played any RPG in the past, you're probably familiar with the 
roles required to succeed in the long run.  Where some games require only brute
force and others exceedingly tedious strategy, DA:O tends to favor the latter.
In only a brief amount of situations will sending in your group blindly 
succeed.  You will find yourself pausing the game, issuing commands and 
probably reloading a few times along the way.  Due to this requirement of 
strategy, it's a good idea to understand the basics of class makeup.


Warrior (DAO:2.1)
-------
Warriors are your typical grunt force trauma.  They wade in, take a beating and
dish one out in kind.  These are the characters that get deep and dirty in
combat, so they require a slightly less hands-on approach.  With the right
tactics set-up (the default scrapper is usually good), sending a warrior to 
attack and forgetting about him for a few seconds will not kill you.

One of the key features of a warrior is their heavy armor and weapons.  The
former makes them quite effective at absorbing damage, if they can maintain the
enemies' focus for long enough.  Threaten and Taunt are key abilities for this
type of combatant.  When a character's main role is to absorb damage, they are
referred to as a tank.

Looking at the other side of the warrior coin, damage dealing.  Warriors are
huge brutes swinging massive weapons.  In the later stages of the game, they
can also attack a group of enemies with a single swing, making them quite 
useful for group attacks.  Characters that focus on dealing damage to enemies
at close range are referred to as melee damage-dealers, or melee for short.


Rogue (DAO:2.2)
-----
Rogues are your typical silent stalker.  Residing in the shadows, they are the
masters of ranged physical attacks, backstabs and poisons.  Not to mention the
other utility skills such as picking pockets and locks.  Similar to the
warrior, rogues focus on dealing maximum damage but while taking the least
amount possible.  If they can't kill the enemy quickly, they will use
additional skills to further disable it.  Typically, a rogue does not deal well
with multiple enemies at once but excels at single target combat.

There are really two key areas of focus for rogues in DA:O, damage up close and
damage from range with a bow or crossbow.  This has an impact in attribute
allocation and even more so with abilities.  A fully powered rogue at range is
by far the deadliest character in the game.  Ranged attackers are called ranged
damage-dealers, or ranged for short.


Mage (DAO:2.3)
----
The mystical mage.  There really isn't much that a mage doesn't do, if only
limited by their mana pool and abilities selected.  A mage can fight up close,
they can cast from the back, the can control groups of enemies, they can heal,
they can even transform into other beasts.

At the most basic level, a mage is the type of character the needs the most
finesse.  Just leaving them to cast whatever spell whenever is not the best
way to win a fight and in some cases, will kill you outright.  In part due to
the large amount of spells they can choose from, you have a lot to consider in
every battle you enter.

Though the ability to heal is a very important one, it is never going to be the
primary role of a mage.  They are your ace in pocket, casting a clever spell to
trick or trap the enemy making life easier for every other character.

Of very interesting note is that with the proper specialization, the mage can
fill in perfectly as a tank.  So where you might find your options lacking in
your party members you can also make your own true jack of all trades.



------------
GROUP MAKEUP (DAO:3)
------------
Though you could try to play the game alone if you wanted to, DA:O allows you
and 3 party members to form a group.  By the time you finish Lothorien, you'll
potentially have 6 members to choose from, which is more than enough for the
rest of the game.  Over the course of the entire game, you will encounter 6
warriors, 2 rogues and 2 mages.  Combined with the class you've selected, you
can certainly form any type of team you would like.

On easy and normal, it's very possible to play the entire game without any
mages to cast healing spells.  You could have 4 warriors, use potions and
poisons and get through 99% of the game with relative ease, if you pay
attention. On the hardest level however, you cannot forgo a mage for 2 main
reasons.  The first is their ability to heal members, which is more effective
than potions alone.  The second is their ability to stun/control enemies in
combat.  Many times you will encounter 2-4 ranked enemies who can easily tear
your group apart.  A well-timed Petrify or Crushing Prison is a lifesaver in
those cases.


Typical Group (DAO:3.1)
-------------
Your typical group in combat will contain one tank, one mage and 2 damage
dealers.  In the early stages of the game and on easier difficulties you can 
choose to have all of them in melee range if you wish.  The downside is that
you are grouping up your characters, which can put them all at risk of area
effect spells and abilities.  This also means that your characters need to run
around in order to engage enemies at a distance.  Any time you are not swinging
your weapon at an enemy and they are is time where you are losing.


Better Group (DAO:3.2)
------------
A tank, a mage and 2 ranged attackers are an improvement over the typical
group.  While your tank runs in and engages the enemy, their role is not to 
deal damage but to absorb it, so there is no time lost.  In the meantime, all
your ranged attackers can focus on and eliminate enemy targets with relative
ease.  A possible hiccup here is that enemies will start to run towards your
ranged attackers, meaning the tank will be running around a whole lot and
you'll need to really manage your team.  Still, from a damage dealing 
perspective, this group is a very solid make-up.


Best Group (DAO:3.3)
----------
Obviously using the word best is subjective.  Everyone will have their own
opinion about this but in my experience, this is the easiest way to move 
through the game without continual reloading.  As mentioned in the previous
section, ranged combat is preferable to melee since you're dealing damage the 
entire time rather than running around.  It also ensures that you're using the
most powerful class in the game to their maximum potential.

The best group is made up of a tank and 3 mages.  I'm sure you're thinking, wow
it's hard enough to manage a single mage, how can I handle 3?  That's the 
beauty about it, you only really need to manage a single one.  Put the other 
two on tactics that attack whomever you are targetting and let the computer
cast away. I can guarantee that 3 mages casting Blizzard, Inferno and Tempest
will destroy any group of enemies you encounter.  Even more so if they all have
access to Force Field to protect your tank and each other.

There are many ways to build your group and in the end it's up to you to decide
which formation works best for you.



----------
CHARACTERS (DAO:4)
----------
Throughout the game you'll encounter a wide variety of characters.  I briefly
mentioned the fact that you'll encounter a total of 10 throughout but keeping
them all with you at the same time can be a challenge.

An important note when characters join your group: they will typically join at
your level or +/- 1.  If you find Wynne when your character is level 17, then 
she will be level 17 and already have all her attributes and spells selected.
So if you want to have the ultimate control on your group's characters, find
them early.

All characters are optional, except for perhaps Alistair in a short part of the
game.


Alistair (DAO:4.1)
--------
Location Found: Ostagar

Role: Alistair comes with 2 abilities already in the Shield tree, so it's a 
good idea to keep him there and build him to become a tank.


Dog (DAO:4.2)
---
Location Found: Road between Ostagar and Lothorien (if you did the quest in
Ostagar)

Role: Being a dog, it's role is purely offensive and similar to a melee 
character but without weapons.  You can equip him with a collar and some paint
to enhance him but for the most part, it's a pet that you point to a target and
he'll bite til they die.


Leliana (DAO:4.3)
-------
Location Found: Lothorien

Role: Leliana comes with some archery abilities already selected but being
early in the game, you can move her to another role if you wish.  I prefer 
keeping her at range though and focusing entirely on dexterity.  At the end of
the game, she is the dealiest character on your team.


Loghain (DAO:4.4)
-------
Location Found: Denerim, late in the game

Role: He comes in very late in the game as a warrior.  Odds are you won't level
him more than 1-2 levels and his role is purely that of a 2 handed warrior.


Morrigan (DAO:4.5)
--------
Location Found: Wilds after Ostagar

Role: The "evil" mage in the game, since you collect her early you can focus
her on whatever role you wish.  I personally don't like the Shapeshifter spells
since you lose access to all other mage spells but it's your preference.


Oghren (DAO:4.6)
------
Location Found: Orzammar

Role: He's set up as a beserker and for 2 handed weapon damage.  This is a
great role to keep him in, especially if you catch him early in the game.


Shale (DAO:4.7)
-----
Location Found: Honnleath - DLC

Role: Shale is a golem you can collect through downloadable content.  Being a
golem, you would think he would focus on damage dealing but in fact by the end
of the game, you'll have maxed out every skill of his.  Combined with the gems
he uses to augment his body, it's up to you to decide if you want him to be a
tank or a damage dealer.  Be warned that he does area of effect damage, so if
the rest of the group is near him, they will get damaged as well.


Sten (DAO:4.8)
----
Location Found: Lothorien

Role: You find Sten very early in the game but he still has a couple points
into 2 handed weapons.  Since you already have Alistair in tank-mode, keep Sten
in melee mode.  Statisically, he will be stronger than Ogren because you can 
give him 2 specializations - though odds are one will be beserker anyhow.


Wynne (DAO:4.9)
-----
Location Found: Circle of Mages

Role: Wynne comes in already lined up to be a Sprit Healer, having a group heal
and revival lined up.  Being a mage, these are two good spells and even the
entire tree is good later in the game.  Try to collect her early so that you 
can maximize her attribute distribution and move her either into Arcane Mage or
Blood Mage.


Zevran (DAO:4.10)
------
Location Found: Random event after clearing 1 major quest.

Role: Zevran is a melee rogue but depending on when you collect him, he can be
very weak statistically.  This is a tough call since you will most likely 
finish the first major quest at level 9-10 and really only need 1 rogue in the
group.  Leliana is a better choice so Zevran really takes a backseat in the
game.  Too bad, he's an interesting one at that.



-------
WARRIOR (DAO:5)
-------

Tank (DAO:5.1)
----

The tank's main role is to absorb damage and keep enemy attention.  To that
end, they will be focusing on defensive items and abilities.

Attributes (DAO:5.1.1)
----------

Strength: 	42
Dex: 		MAX
Willpower: 	n/a
Magic: 		n/a
Cunning: 	n/a
Constitution: 	20

Since the best armor in the game requires 42 strength, that's what you're going
to be aiming for.  Past that point, strength's only purpose is to increase
melee damage, which is not a goal for this role.  Constitution at 20 is more
than enough, especially if you pick up the Life Giver ring in Orzammar.
There's nothing wrong with more hitpoints but the difference between 15 and 20
constituion is only 25 hit points.  Dexterity should be maxed as much as
possible for a few reasons.  First, it increases your chance to hit.  Second
it decreases your chance to be hit, which is of great benefit to your healer.


Abilities (DAO:5.1.2)
--------------
Your main focus will be on the Warrior tree, the Shield tree and the
specialization trees.  Dual Wield and Two Hand remove the ability to
use a shield, which is bad so avoid them.  If your main character is
a warrior, you can also acquire 2 new skills in the Warden's Keep quest.


Warrior abilities:
-----------------
Powerful:  	This one is a necessity for any warrior.  Reduced fatigue and
		increased hit points is all good.

Threaten: 	Again, a requirement for a tank.  Every swing you take increases
		enemy hostility towards you.  It should always be active and 
		your tank should be hitting more than one enemy to keep them all
		on him.

Bravery: 	Passive increase to defensive and offensive statistics if you
		have more than 2 enemies attacking the tank.  This happens in 
		90% of all battles, so there's a definite benefit to be had.

Death Blow: 	If your warrior strikes the final blow, he regains some 
		stamina. This will only happen until you reach level 8-9, 
		afterwards your other characters are doing the killing.  Since
		you can only get this at 12, avoid it altogether.

Precise Striking: A sustained ability than increases your chance to hit.
		  Combined with Threaten this ensures you're hitting the enemy 
		  and getting their attention, which is a good thing.  Keep it
		  on.

Taunt: 		Ahh, the meat and potatoes of engagement at the higher end.  
		Send your warrior into the thick of things, cast this skill and
		watch everyone target him.  In combat with 6 or more enemies, 
		this can kill your warrior outright, so your healers need to be
		on their toes.  Combined with Force Field on the tank this 
		allows you to Taunt, Force Field, then cast as many area effect
		skills as you want with no risk to the tank.

Disengage: 	This goes against the idea of a tank so there's no reason to use
		it.

Perfect Striking: Practically ensures every swing is a hit, which sounds good
		  in theory but it's 2 skill points you can put elsewhere for 
		  more benefit.



Warden's Keep abilities:
-----------------------
Blood Thirst: 	More damage output but you take more damage too.  As a sustained
		ability, you should avoid using this as a tank.  Thankfully you
		get it for free.

Blood Fury: 	Another bad tradeoff for a tank.  Losing hitpoints is never a
		good thing and there's no reason to use this ability as a tank.


Shield Tree abilities:
---------------------
Shield Bash: 	Knocking enemies down is good.  On top of that, if every another
		party member gets grasped or jumped on, this attack will break 
		the hold. Great livesaver.

Shield Pummel: 	Stunning attacks are great as they set up the enemy for more
		damage.  Alternating between Bash and Pummel will keep most 
		enemies out of combat until they die or you run out of stamina.

Overpower: 	Another knockdown attack, this time costing a bit more stamina.
		I personally prefer Bash because of the cost.  You're really not
		aiming for damage but in a pinch it can free a party member from
		a grasp/jump.

Assault: 	A shield damage attack.  Again, your goal is to take damage and
		prevent it from hitting other party members, so you really don't
		need this.

Shield Defense: This should be on at all times until you get Shield Wall.
		Increased chance to avoid missles is gold when you're surrounded
		by enemies.

Shield Balance: Improves shield defense, nothing bad here.

Shield Wall: 	You do less damage but take a whole lot less yourself.  This 
		ability should always be active once you have acquired it.
		Always.

Shield Expertise: Being immune to knockdown is a huge benefit and should be
		  the ability to select at level 12. A tank that's standing is
		  a tank that's keeping all the enemies on him.

Shield Block:	Flanking reduces your defense to zero, meaning you can't avoid
		damage and therfore take more.  This passive ability removes
		flanks from the front, which is a good 50% of all attacks.

Shield Cover: 	Great for avoiding missles but Shield Wall is better.

Shield Tactics: Now you're immune from all flanking attacks.  You'll notice
		the change as soon as you acquire it.

Shield Mastery: Improves nearly every shield ability you have, a great
		investment.


Beserker Specialization:
-----------------------
An interesting choice, since the attribute gain does not match up with the
specialization abilities.  A beserker trades stamina for more overall damage.
Again, since the tank's main goal is to avoid taking damage and reduce the
effect on others, there's not a whole lot to gain from taking this path,
other than the 2 strength and 10 hitpoints taken by selecting it on the level
up screen.


Templar Specialization:
----------------------
The focus of a Templar is against mages. In many combat situations, there will
be mages attacking you but your ranged attackers should be focused on them.
The abilities of a templar are all in melee range and really don't affect 
regular enemies and therefore do not have any noticeable benefit to the tank
or the group.

Righteous Strike: Mana drain is good but there are poisons that do this more
		  effectively.

Clease Area: 	I've yet to see a huge benefit here, except for healing group
		members of dealy curses.

Mental Fortress: Significant increase to mental defense, which really only
		 stops Crushing Prison attacks.

Holy Smite: 	Interesting attack that hits your target and others nearby for
		spirit and fire damage.  The real benefit is the group stun and
		knockback attack that accompanies it.


Champion Specialization:
-----------------------
Now this is a tanking specialization.  Increase attributes on your team and 
reduce the enemy's ability to hit you.  Great!

War Cry: 	A cry that reduces the enemy chance to hit is great for a tank.
		If you select Superiority later on, this can also knockdown all
		enemies around you.

Rally: 		Gives your entire group a bonus to attack and defense.  Nothing
		wrong with that at all.

Motivate: 	Increases the bonuses from Rally.  On its own, not that great
		since the upkeep cost is rather high.

Superiority: 	Makes War Cry knock down a group of enemies.  Very worthwhile
		when you have the stamina to spare.


Reaver Specialization:
---------------------
Some good and some bad here.  The ability to heal from corpses and be more 
effective with Taunt and Threaten is good but taking damage to do more damage
is definitely bad.

Devour: 	Essentially a heal based on the amount of corpses around you. I
		had problems getting this to work consistently so it might be 
		buggy.  In theory though, very useful.

Frightening Appearance: Works just like a stun on a single target.  However the
			side benefit is that Threaten and Taunt are much more
			effective, so it's very useful to have.

Aura of Pain: 	Give damage to take damage.  It's sort of like you always being
		inside a Tempest or Inferno.  Sure, everyone takes damage and 
		thereby hits you more often but you also are losing hit points.
		This is a good ability to use if Taunt isn't working out or is
		on cooldown, just don't keep it active too long.

Blood Frenzy: 	You no longer regenerate health and you do more damage 
		proportionately to the amount of health you've lost.  I 
		personally feel the upkeep cost is too high here and your goal
		is not to do more damage.  Not on my list of abilities to use.


Summary (DAO:5.1.3)
-------

The warrior tank is one of the more solid options as a character, if only
because the variations are small.

- Enough strength to equip massive armor (42)
- Enough constituion to take a few hits (20)
- Everything else goes into dexterity to increase defense
- Focus on Weapon and Shield ability tree
- The goal is not to do damage but absorb it
- Invest in Threaten and Taunt early
- Champion is your best bet as a specilization
- Reaver is a decent second specialization if you can


Melee (DAO:5.2)
-----

Your role here is simply to do as much damage as possible, to as many enemies
as possible.  Since you can use heavy armor you can also jump in and take a few
hits if ever required.  Remember, the more armor you have, the less stamina you
can use, so you might end up at the end with light or medium armor instead.

Dual Wielding is an option for a warrior but does less overall damage when
compared to a two handed warrior.  This is due almost entirely over the need for
a significant investment in Dexterity compared to putting all those points into
Strength.  If you want to Dual Wield, a Rogue is a much better option.


Attributes (DAO:5.2.1)
----------
Strength: 	MAX
Dexterity: 	18
Willpower: 	25
Magic: 		n/a
cunning: 	n/a
Constitution: 	n/a

For a warrior in melee the role is rather simple, smash things.  You should
focus primarily on raising strength to do more damage and use better weapons.
Dexterity is at 18 simply to acquire Disengage.  If you don't plan on taking
that ability, you don't need to put a single point here.  Willpower has a
direct effect on stamina and that has an effect on how many abilities you can
use in combat.  I find that 25 is sufficient for the most part but you can put
more if you find the need.  If you reach level 20, you'll have 60 points to 
allocate as you wish between essentially two attributes.


Abilities (DAO:5.2.2)
--------------
As a melee you have two main options, dual weapon and two-handed.  Since you 
require dexterity for many of the dual weapon abilities and only strength for
the two-handed ones, I highly suggest you go the latter route. If your main
character is a warrior, they can acquire 2 skills for free in the Warden's
Keep.


Warrior abilities:
-----------------
Powerful:	This one is a necessity for any warrior.  Reduced fatigue and
		increased hit points is all good.  It allows you to use heavier
		armor with less penalty to ability usage.

Threaten: 	This is a tank ability, so you should not have it active unless
		you want to get hit.

Bravery: 	You shouldn't have any enemies attacking you so this ability does
		not incur any real benefit.

Death Blow: 	If your warrior strikes the final blow, he regains some stamina.
		This will happen frequently as your warrior gets stronger but you
		have to go through 2 useless abilities to get here.  I would 
		avoid it until you've maxed other abilities first.

Precise Striking: A sustained ability than increases your chance to hit. You
		  need this on pretty much constantly at the beginning and much
		  less as your strength hits the 40s.  It does get overshadowed
		  by Indomitable though.

Taunt: 		Never use this unless you want to take a nap.  Because you have
		no defensive attributes or abilities, odds are you will die in
		just a few seconds.

Disengage: 	Great if you find yourself suddenly the target of an enemy.
		With proper planning, this shouldn't happen very much.

Perfect Striking: Practically ensures every swing is a hit, which sounds good
		  in theory but it's 2 skill points you can put elsewhere for
		  more benefit.  The same rule as with Death Blow applies here.


Warden's Keep abilities:
-----------------------
Blood Thirst: 	Since you're not getting hit, this isn't a big problem to have
		active.  Indomitable gives a similar benefit with no risk 
		though.

Blood Fury: 	There are times where you need to knockback an enemy and have 
		the hitpoints to spare.  I would use this in rare cases but 
		since the ability is free, that's not a problem when assigning
		points.


Two-Handed abilities:
--------------------
Pommel Strike: 	A basic knock down attack.  Very useful against tough enemies
		and casters.  Will also break grasp attacks.

Indomitable: 	An increase to damage and attack while being immune to knockdown.
		This is slight improvement over Precise Striking and I would 
		suggest this be active instead.

Stunning Blow: 	A passive chance to stun opponents.  Sure, the number isn't huge
		but a stun at any time is a great thing.  Even more so if you 
		put paralyzing runes into your weapons.

Critical Strike: Almost a guaranteed critical hit and with two handed weapons,
		 we're talking big damage.  Used against ranked enemies (yellow
		 and red) this can have a significant effect on their hit 
		 points.

Sunder Arms: 	Two strikes and reduces the target's chance to attack.  A very 
		powerful ability for such a low cost.

Shattering Blows: More damage against golems and constructs.  I think I fought
		  10 golems total in the entire game, not much here to look at.
		  Maybe in future content.

Sunder Armor: 	Two strikes and reduces the target's armor.  Golden ability 
		against ranked enemies, where you double your damage and make 
		the enemy weaker.

Destroyer: 	I generally love passive abilities and this one is significant.  
		Each attack effectively lowers the enemy's armor but it doesn't
		stack together. Still, combined with Telekenetic Weapons and 
		other skills, this turns a heavy armored foe to paper.  Ogres 
		come quickly to mind.

Mighty Blow:  	Similar to Critical Strike but somehow does less damage.  Still
q		uite useful.

Poweful Swings: More damage in each attack but you lower your attack and
		defense scores.  I personally prefer Indomitable here.

Two-Handed Strength: Improves powerful swings by reducing the penalties.  This
		     is good but since Indomitable never had penalties to start,
		     makes you wonder why it's an option at all.

Two-Handed Sweep: Finally an area attack ability.  I suggest you get this at
		  level 10 since it will make a big difference in your damage 
		  output. It keeps its usefulness all the way until the end of 
		  the game.


Beserker Specialization:
-----------------------
Beserkers focus on dealing damage, straigth in line with what we want to do.
Sure, there is an increased cost in stamina but with a bit more points into
Willpower this isn't a big concern overall.

Beserk: 	You do more damage but have a significant penalty to stamina
		regeneration.  Further abilities along this tree reduce the 
		penalty and that makes this a great ability to have active.

Resilience: 	Nature resistance and smaller stamina penalty for beserk.  
		Great.

Constraint: 	Reduces the stamina penalty to almost nothing, which is nothing
		to sneeze at.

Final Blow: 	Trade all your stamina for a single attack.  Huge risk here 
		since you can miss the attack and end up with no stamina.  You 
		can also start combat with this and deal rediculous damage, 
		probably the easiest way to get the 250 damage in a single 
		attack achievement.  Still, having no stamina 2 seconds into
		combat is not a good thing but with potions can be very useful.


Templar Specialization:
----------------------
The focus here is to kill mages.  You will encounter your fair share along the
trip but never enough to make any abilities here worthwhile.  Poisons give
nearly the same effect overall.  There are no real offensive abilities to speak
of.


Champion Specialization:
-----------------------
These abilities are mostly oriented towards improving your group and disabling
the enemy, which is the role of the tank.  There are better specializations for
you to invest in.


Reaver Specialization:
---------------------
A mixed bag as before.  The focus is more on defensive side of things than 
offense but there are some possibilities to look at.

Devour: 	Essentially a heal based on the amount of corpses around you. I 
		had  problems getting this to work consistently so it might be 
		buggy.  In theory though, very useful.

Frightening Appearance: Single target stun is good.  Benefits to Taunt and
			Threaten are not useful to you since you don't use those 			abilities.

Aura of Pain: 	Area effect damage is bad when you don't want to get hit.  There
		are good odds that you'll incur the hate of many enemies if you 
		use this and the tank is not prepared.

Blood Frenzy: 	More damage as your health decreases.  First off, you 
		shouldn't be getting hit, second you increase your risk of dying
		the longer this is active.  Next please.


Summary (DAO:5.2.3)
-------

The melee warrior gives a lot more freedom of choice when it comes to 
abilities.  You can go dual-wield but it requires more investment in 
dexterity.  You can go archery for even more dexterity.  You can go into two
handed weapons for a strength focus.  You can specialize into almost any tree.
My personal preference for maximum damage is two-handed weapons as you simplify
all these questions down to a single path.

- Enough willpower to use your skills
- Enough dexterity to hit the enemy (20)
- Everything else into strength to maximize the damage
- Make sure Taunt/Threaten are disabled
- Beserker is very powerful if you avoid using Killing Blow all the time
- Reaver is a great second choice as a specialization



-----
ROGUE (DAO:6)
-----

A special note about rogues.  This class has the ability to backstab any
opponent that can be flanked.  Stand in the dark area on the targetting circle
and you will have a new animation when attacking.  This is a backstab that 
deals additional damage to the enemy.  Many abilities further enhance backstabs
and can make a very big difference in your play style.


Melee (DAO:6.1)
-----
A melee's role is to get up close and personal to take out the enemy.  With
this comes increased risk of taking damage but more control on the overall
outcome of the battle.  Always make sure your rogue is on the backs of your
enemies to ensure maximum use of backstabs.


Attributes (DAO:6.1.1)
----------

Strength:	MAX
Dexterity: 	32
Willpower: 	20
Magic: 		n/a
Cunning: 	30
Constitution: 	n/a

Attributes are a very strange thing for rogues.  You need dexterity for many
abilities but daggers are greatly outperformed by swords/axes in the later
game.  To that end, you want to focus on getting the 32 dexterity required
for all your rogue abilities and then focus strongly on strength.  Well, you 
could go to 35 dexterity for Evasion but I don't like that ability.  Having 30 
cunning is solely for being able to pick every lock in the game.  Please note
that there are no doors or chests that you contain miracle items, you just lose
out on extra money.  You need 22 cunning to max out Stealth, which is a very
useful ability to have but is not a deal breaker in the overall scheme of 
things. If both of these points don't bother you, you can leave cunning alone.


Abilities (DAO:6.1.2)
---------

This is a melee rogue, so we're going down the Dual Weapon ability tree.  If
your main character is a Rogue, you can unlock two more abilities in the 
Warden's Keep quest.


Rogue Abilities:
---------------
Dirty Fighting: No damage but the target is stunned.  Typically this gives
		time for the rogue to move into backstab range but combined 
		with another ability, it allows backstabs from the front.  I 
		use this all the time.

Combat Movement: Increases the backstab range by nearly 100%.  Makes 
		 positioning in combat a whole lot easier.

Coup de Grace: 	Stunned and paralyzed targets get backstabbed.  This ability
		makes melee rogues extremely deadly if you know how to manage 
		your stuns. With proper planning a rogue can take out an ogre 
		alone because of this.

Feign Death: 	Drop to your feet and pretend your dead.  Sure, this makes the
		enemy target something else but you have enough abilities to 
		stay alive toe to toe with any enemy to make this something of 
		a point waster.

Below the Belt: Defense penalties are good, meaning everyone has a better
		chance of hitting the target.  Especially good on yellow and 
		red enemies.

Deadly Strike: 	Increased armor penetration is fine but you get a better effect
		from Telekenetic Weapons or even just points in cunning.

Lethality: 	Very odd ability in my mind.  Sure you increase the chance of
		critical hits which is great but the swapping of strength for 
		cunning is odd. No melee rogue should have higher cunning than
		strength, ever.

Evasion: 	One in five chance seems high but when you figure you already 
		have that chance with 32 dexterity, who cares?  Enemies 
		shouldn't be hitting you in the first place.

Deft Hands: 	If you plan on investing in cunning to 30, always select this
		ability when it becomes available.  Otherwise, just leave it 
		alone.  Chests don't contain unique items.

Stealth:  	The first level lets you walk around.  The second lets you 
		disable traps, which is very powerful later on.  The third lets
		you stealth in combat, which oddly enough doesn't work super 
		well until you get the fourth rank. Stealth in combat 
		essentially guarantees a critical hit, which is good but I 
		found myself getting by without it.


Warden's Keep abilities:
-----------------------
Dark Passage: 	Passive ability that increases movement speed and defense while
		in stealth. What's there not to love about this?

The Tainted Blade: You lose health but do more damage.  Honestly, just coat 
		   your weapon with a poison for the same benefit and no 
		   downside.


Dual-Weapon abilities:
---------------------
Dual-Weapon Training: You deal near normal damage with the offhand weapon. 
		      There really isn't a choice here, take this ability.

Dual-Weapon Finesse: A bonus to attack and defense is what makes you a better
		     killer. Again, a required ability.

Dual-Weapon Expert: Increased critical chance and the chance to make the target
		    bleed.  Don't you just love passive abilities?  Take this 
		    one.

Dual-Weapon Mastery: Can use full-sized weapons in both hands. This ability
		     just increased your damage output by 25%.  Until someone
		     finds a dagger with 15 damage and 3 rune slots, nothing 
		     compares to swords and axes.

Dual Striking: 	Use this ability when you can't get into backstab range.  One
		on one fights, mage kills come to mind.  It isn't used often 
		but can make a difference.

Riposte: 	Stun plus critical hit.  Combined with Dirty Fighting, this is
		your mage killing ability.  Very powerful.

Cripple: 	Critical hit plus penalties to defense and attack on the target.
		You should use this ability in every fight and especially 
		against yellow and red enemies.

Punisher: 	Can you say crazy?  Does four hits with the last being both
		weapons at once for two critical hits.  Did I mention it also
		adds penalties to attack and defense with the chance of a 
		knockdown?  Very powerful.

Dual-Weapon Sweep: Interesting area of attack ability that does more than 
		   normal damage.  Great for group attacks but backstab seems
		   to do more damage.

Flurry: 	Three normal damage hits.  Nothing wrong with more damage and
		timed critically can make a big dent in enemy hit points.

Momentum: 	Increased attack speed at the cost of a big drain on stamina.
		You basically turn into a chainsaw, with the same effect as 
		Haste from the mage tree.  It's good but costly.

Whirlwind: 	Hits every nearby enemy with both weapons for normal damage.  I
		rarely find myself surrounded by enemies with a rogue, that's a
		tank's job. You kind of expect something more powerful from a 
		skill with this name.


Assassin specialization:
-----------------------
A focus on killing from this tree.  All about doing more damage, which is fine
by me.

Mark of Death: 	Mark the target for about 15 seconds where they now take more 
		damage than normal.  You need to be in melee range to use this
		skill but it's very powerful, especially on dragons and 
		revenants. 

Exploit Weakness: Backstab does more damage the more cunning you have.  I do
		  believe it's cunning-10, so even if you never put a point 
		  into cunning it's a damage increase.  With 30 cunning, it's
		  20 more damage, very nice.

Lacerate: 	You put a continual damage on the enemy with a successful 
		backstab. I know it says "enough damage" but I've yet to see 
		what the number actually is.

Feast of the Fallen: If you kill someone with a backstab you regain stamina.
		     Given the fact that you should be backstabing 90% of the
		     time and providing killing blows too, this is a worthwhile
			 investment.


Bard specialization:
-------------------
All songs here are affected by cunning scores, so if you don't plan on 
investing down that attribute, avoid this specialization.  Only the last song
requires you to be in melee range.

Song of Valor: 	Increase mana and stamina regeneration, which is beneficial to
		the entire group.  Keep it active.

Distraction: 	Good way to get an enemy off your back but there are better 
		abilities to use for the same effect.

Song of Courage: Grants bonus to attack, defense and critical chance for the
		 group.  This is useful at the start of the game but near the
		 end mana and stamina are a bigger concern.

Captivating Song: Stuns nearby enemies but the bard can't move or attack. This
		  is a niche ability, where its only use is in large group 
		  areas where you need to keep everyone under control.  Sadly,
		  the range is very small.


Ranger specialization:
---------------------
This specialization focuses on summoning pets to help the attacker. As a melee
there are benefits to having more enemies attacking.  Having 3 rangers is 
really impressive from a damage perspective.

Summon Wolf:  	The basic wolf casts howl that reduces enemy defense.  The 
		upgraded wolf can Shred, which is a 100% critical hit.

Summon Bear: 	Basic bear can maul which knocks back the enemy.  The upgraded 
		bear has rage which increases damage output and can Overwhelm.

Summon Spider: 	Basic spider has web which immobilizes an enemy while the 
		upgraded one has a poison spit for continual damage.

Master Ranger: 	Gives you access to the upgraded anmials.


Duelist specialization:
----------------------
Duelists are more of an extension of the Rogue class than a true 
specialization.  The abilities are improvements to existing ones or simply an
overall upgrade to the basic class.

Dueling: 	An sustained ability that increases your attack rating.  Keen
		Defense will also increase defense while this is active.  I 
		personally keep this one on all the time as more hits mean more
		damage.

Upset Balance: 	No damage but decreases enemy defense rating.  The Rogue has
		many other similar skills so this can be used when the others
		are on cooldown.

Keen Defense: 	A passive increase to defense. Since your dexterity is already 
		pretty high, this doesn't make a big difference in the grand
		picture.

Pinpoint Strike: For about 20 seconds, every hit is a critical hit.  Combined
		 with Haste/Flurry, +Attack and -Defense skills, the Rogue is
		 basically a killing machine.  The only downside here is the 
		 cooldown of 3 minutes.


Summary (DAO:6.1.3)
-------

The melee rogue is the do-it-all character.  You have a wide assortment of
tricks up your sleeve, are a great way to make extra money and can kill a 
ranked enemy whenever you want.  Not the best idea to let the rogue play on
their own though, or you'll end up with no stamina left.

- Enough dexterity for the dual-wield abilities (32)
- Cunning if you want to unlock chests and doors (30)
- Everything else into strength for maximum damage
- Assassination is the best specialization since it maximizes backstabs
- Duelist will increase your damage potential
- If you have stealth, use it!


Ranged (DAO:6.2)
------

The beauty of this rogue is that you will rarely get hit by anything and have 
the discretion to kill whatever you want, when you want.  You also have very 
little need for melee range skills, giving you additional freedom in ability
selection.


Attributes (DAO:6.2.1)
----------

Strength:	n/a
Dexterity: 	MAX
Willpower: 	30
Magic: 		n/a
Cunning:	30
Constitution: 	n/a

The only reason you would need strength is to equip better armor but better
armor means more fatigue and you should not be getting hit in the first place.
Willpower will give you the stamina required to use all your abilities but you
may find you need more or less, depending on your style.  Cunning, again, is
required only if you wish to unlock doors and chests or invest in the Bard
tree.  Maximum dexterity means that you will be doing crazy damage with your
bow, critical hits through the roof and near 100% hit rate.  I assure you, a
ranged rogue is the deadliest single character in the game.


Abilities (DAO:6.2.2)
---------

The ranged rogue will evidently be focusing on the Archery ability tree. Dual
Wield options don't present any benefits to this role and even the 
specialization trees offer little in terms of pure benefits.  If your main
character is a rogue, you can acquire 2 free abilities in the Warden's Keep.


Rogue Abilities:
---------------
Dirty Fighting: No damage but the target is stunned.  This is still a great
		ability even if you are attacking from range.  Let's say 
		someone walks up to you, use this and you can get in a few 
		free shots and give time for the tank to pick them up off you.

Combat Movement: Since you won't be backstabbing, not much point here.

Coup de Grace: 	Again, no backstabs, no benefit.

Feign Death: 	Drop to your feet and pretend your dead.  This could be 
		beneficial if you find yourself getting attacked a lot but
		in the larger picture you have much better options elsewhere.

Below the Belt: A melee range attack, which you being ranged won't be using.

Deadly Strike: 	Another melee attack, no use here.

Lethality: 	Odds are your cunning will be higher than your strength and 
		additional damage is always good.  Increased critical chance is
		sugar on top.

Evasion: 	Your dexterity is going to be in the 50s at least, where enemies
		will miss you all the time anyhow.  Not worth the investment.

Deft Hands: 	If you plan on investing in cunning to 30, always select this
		ability when it becomes available.  Otherwise, just leave it 
		alone.

Stealth:  	The first level lets you walk around.  The second lets you 
		disable traps, which is very powerful later on.  The third 
		lets you stealth in combat, which oddly enough doesn't work
		super well until you get the fourth rank. This is a very useful
		ability for a ranged attacker, especially at maximum rank.  Use
		it whenever you can to break enemies chasing you or to increase
		your damage output.


Warden's Keep abilities:

Dark Passage: 	Passive ability that increases movement speed and defense. 
		What's there not to love about this?

The Tainted Blade: You lose health but do more damage.  This only seems to
		   affect melee damage, so no real benefit.


Archery abilities:
-----------------

Melee Archer: 	No longer breaks ranged attacks if you get hit.  Excellent
		ability.

Aim: 		You might shoot a bit slower but the overall damage seems to
		increase if only because of the increase to attack.  At about
		level 10 this loses its luster as you will be hitting almost 
		100% of the time.

Defensive Fire: Increasing defense and slower rate of fire does not mean more
		damage.  I would not use this.

Master Archer:  Increases the function of nearly every other ability and allows
		you to use heavy armor without a speed penalty.  Yes please!

Pinning Shot: 	It either slows them down or disables them for about 10 
		seconds. A great tool to have fighting a group of enemies.

Crippling Shot: Reduces the enemy's attack and defense, which is perfect 
		against red and yellow enemies.  No need to use against regular
		enemies.

Critical Shot: 	Since this also has the benefit or armor penetration, you're 
		going to see a big number here when it hits.  Dragons, 
		revenants and bosses will make you chain cast this ability.

Arrow of Slaying: A single massive damage attack that can potentially kill
		  the enemy in a single blow.  Yes it's powerful but the cost
		  is disproportionate to the damage when you compare it to 
		  Critical Shot.

Rapid Shot: 	You shoot about 10% faster but can't get a critical hit.  The
		only  time this is a problem is when your critical chance with
		a bow is above 15%. Otherwise, keep this active at all times.

Shattering Shot: Normal damage but reduces enemy armor for a time.  Has a huge
		 impact on high armor bosses, especially when combined with 
		 telekenetic weapons (for melee).

Suppressing Fire: Every attack further reduces the enemy's ability to attack.
		  While this is certainly beneficial against some enemies most
		  of the ones where you would think this to be great have other
		  attacks that hit 100% of the time. This only appears to 
		  affect regular attacks to any great amount.

Scattershot: 	Crazy powerful ability here.  You will stun an entire group of 
		enemies about 99% of the time, it is so rarely resisted.  A 
		great way to line up a group in order to send a few area of 
		effect spells their way.


Assassin specialization:
-----------------------

Since this specialization focuses nearly entirely on backstabs and you won't
be using that skill at all, there is really no need to go down this path.


Bard specialization:
-------------------

All songs here are affected by cunning scores, so if you don't plan on 
investing down that attribute, avoid this specialization.  Only the last song
requires you to be in melee range.

Song of Valor: 	Increase mana and stamina regeneration, which is beneficial to
		the entire group.  Keep it active.

Distraction: 	Good way to get an enemy off your back but there are better 
		abilities to use for the same effect.

Song of Courage: Grants bonus to attack, defense and critical chance for the
		 group.  This is useful at the start of the game but near the
		 end mana and stamina are a bigger concern.

Captivating Song: Sure an area effect stun is nice but the range is small and
		  you have to be in melee.  Hard to use as a ranged attacker.


Ranger specialization:
---------------------

As a ranged attacker a ranger works incredbily well.  You keep the pet active
and send them in while you snipe from far away.  It's almost like having a 
fifth party member.

Summon Wolf:  	The basic wolf casts howl that reduces enemy defense.  The 
		upgraded wolf can Shred, which is a 100% critical hit.

Summon Bear: 	Basic bear can maul which knocks back the enemy.  The upgraded 
		bear has rage which increases damage output.

Summon Spider: 	Basic spider has web which immobilizes an enemy while the 
		upgraded one has a poison spit for continual damage.

Master Ranger: 	Gives you access to the upgraded anmials.


Duelist specialization:
----------------------

The duelist focuses on melee attacks for the most part but there are some
potential benefits in the long run.

Dueling: 	A sustained ability that increases your attack rating.  Keen 
		Defense will also increase defense while this is active.  If
		you find yourself missing a lot, then there's a benefit.

Upset Balance:	No damage but decreases enemy defense rating.  This requires
		melee range so you won't be using it.

Keen Defense: 	A passive increase to defense. Since your dexterity is already 
		pretty high, this doesn't make a big difference in the grand
		picture.

Pinpoint Strike: For about 20 seconds, every hit is a critical hit.  Combined
		 with Haste/Flurry, +Attack and -Defense skills, the Rogue is 
		 basically a killing machine.  The only downside here is the 
		 cooldown of 3 minutes.  You can pretty much kill 3 ogres with
		 this ability active.


Summary (DAO:6.2.3)
-------

The ranged rogue is the single deadliest character in the game.  It has one 
job and it does it very well.  Since you only need to focus on a single
attribute, your options are narrower and you therefore become a stronger
killer.

- Enough cunning to open doors/chest, if you want (30)
- Everything else into dexterity for maximum damage with a bow
- Ranger is by far the best option as a specialization
- Bard gives more benefit for less investment than Duelist
- Use stealth if you have it!



----
MAGE (DAO:7)
----

The mage is an interesting class.  You can't really pigeonhole them into a
particular role as they can do pretty much whatever you want.  Need healing?
Need single target damage?  Group damage?  Crowd Control?  Buffs and debuffs?
Heck, mages even make incredibly good tanks.  For these reasons and many more I
won't break down the mage into particular roles just yet, there are simply too
many options to consider.  Instead, I'll break it down into tank and caster, 
the two core concepts behind mages.


Tank (DAO:7.1)
----

The mage tank has specific requirements moving forward.  First off, you must
have access to the Arcane Warrior specialization.  This can be acquired almost
as soon as you leave Ostagar.  With this specialization and its first ability,
you will be able to use your magic attribute in place of strength when it comes
to equiping weapons and armor.  Without massive armor and good melee weapons
you'll be lying on the floor in a pool of your own blood very quickly.

Also worth mentioning that because you are the tank and using sustained 
abilities you won't have the liberty to cast any spell any time.  You will 
require additional party members to pick up the casting slack.  Due to the
sheer number of available spells to the tank I will only discuss the ones I
think the tank should acquire.  I will discuss all the mage spells in the
caster section in 7.3.


Attributes (DAO:7.1.1)
----------

Strength: 	n/a
Dexterity: 	20
Willpower: 	30 or 40
Magic: 		MAX
Cunning: 	n/a
Constitution: 	n/a or 20

With the proper skill allocation you shouldn't need any points into strength.
Cunning is only useful for the Coercion skill on your main character but only
very little.  A run through the Mage's Circle should suffice in regards to stat
boosting.  The distribution of stats depends on it you take a second 
specialization or not and which one that is.  If you go Blood Mage, you'll need
more constitution and less willpower.  Any other form will require a higher
investment in willpower.

Important to remember is that while the warrior and rogue still do tremendous
damage when they are out of stamina a mage can only rely on a staff for what
seems pitiful amounts of damage.  If you find yourself always going out of mana
feel free to put more points into willpower. 


Abilities (DAO:7.1.2)
--------

If your main character is a mage you will have the option of not only selecting
two specializations but also possibly acquire two extra spells through the
Warden's Keep quest.


Mage spells:
-----------

Arcane Bolt: 	Simple spirit damage, nothing complicated though a bow would
		have more overall utility.  This is simply a pre-requisite 
		for the next spell.

Arcane Shield: 	A sustained shield that increases defense, meaning you will 
		avoid incoming damage.  This should always be active.

Rock Armor:	Provides an increase to armor so the hits you do take do less
		damage.

Winter's Grasp: Single target ice spell that has a good chance of freezing the
		opponent.  Great setup for a shatter attack.

Frost Weapons:  Every swing does cold damage.  It's a sustained ability that I
		don't think the tank should be using.

Cone of Cold: 	Very powerful spell that has a great chance of freezing
		whomever it connects with.  This should be used in almost every
		group encounter.

Heal: 		For when you need a quick jolt of hit points.  This spell is
		never wasted.

Mind Blast: 	A wide area stun which is almost as good as taunt in order to
		get enemy attention.

Force Field: 	This will save lives, plain and simple.  Instant cast to either
		remove an enemy from combat or save a group member from death.  
		Great tool for use against dragons.

Telekenetic Weapons: This spell ensures every weapon hit does extra damage 
		     against armored foes.  Think ogres, dragons and revenants.
		     Very powerful.

Crushing Prison: The golden spell of a mage.  Not only does this last as long
		 as Force Field but it also does damage to the enemy.  It gets
		 resisted from time to time but every mage in your party should
		 have this spell.  Imagine three mages with this and Force 
		 Field.  You could keep the entire battle to one on one fights.
		 Insane.

Miasma:		If you have the mana, this is a good spell to keep sustained as
		it decreases enemy attack and defense with a fairly good range.
		

Disorient: 	Single target spell that reduces attack and defense.  More of a 
		pre-requisite for others down this line.

Horror: 	Interesting spell where a single target is immobilized.  If they
		are asleep when this is cast, a bug chunk of life is taken away.

Sleep: 		Area attack that puts all enemies to sleep and they wake if 
		they are hit.  This is a very powerful crowd control spell 
		and combined with Horror can do significant damage to a single
		target with no risk to the caster.

Waking Nightmare: Beauty of a spell in group combat.  Not many enemies have
		  mental resistance, especially the weaker ones.  Expect to 
		  see a bunch of people just randomly moving around, sometimes
		  hitting their own party.  Great way to keep enemies off the 
		  tank while doing group damage to them, especially when 
		  combined with Sleep.

Death Magic: 	Keeping this active is a good way to keep healing your tank
		during combat.


Warden's Keep spells:
--------------------

Dark Sustenance: Lose a bit of health, gain a good portion of mana.  You would
		 think this is a bad tradeoff but you actually gain in the long
		 run, especially if you use an easily acquired healing potion 
		 or heal spell right after.  Blood mages get even more benefit 
		 here.

Bloody Grasp: 	Lose life to do damage.  There is less benefit here since you
		can do damage better with regular spells than this ability.


Shapeshifter specialization:
---------------------------

Basically you turn into an animal and lose access to all your spells while
gaining access to a few abilities.  This is by far the weakest of all the
specializations in the game and should be ignored.


Spirit Healer specialization:
----------------------------

This spell line provides you with many ways to heal your group and your tank.
Very powerful on the more difficult levels and even more so if you don't have
another mage in the group.

Group Heal: 	Heals the entire group for a significant amount.  Combined with
		Heal this is what keeps groups alive when there are no healt 
		potions.

Revival: 	I find if I am using this something has gone drastically wrong 
		in the fight.

Lifeward:	Keep it active on the tank and you save a few heals in the long
		run.

Cleansing Aura:	Beautiful spell if you have other melee in the group as the 
		aura isn't terribly large.  However it is a significant mana 
		drain.


Blood Mage specialization:
-------------------------

A very interesting combination of spells where you trade hit points for mana
or damage.  If you pay attention to combat, this can be a devastating option.

Blood Magic: 	You use hit points to cast spells.  One of the reasons a blood
		mage requires a significant hit point pool instead of mana.  
		Can be powerful if you plan ahead.

Blood Sacrifice: On its own, why would you potentially kill a teammate to heal
		 yourself?  Well, if that someone is a Ranger pet then there's
 		 no real problem at all!

Blood Wound: 	Enemies with blood (everything but a golem pretty much) take 
		big damage throughout the area.  This is a great equivalent to
		Taunt and perfect for a tank.

Blood Control: 	If they have blood they become the mage's pet, else they take
		significant damage.  More damage is great.  Possessing an 
		Emissary is even better.


Arcane Warrior specialization:
-----------------------------

The core specialization behind a mage tank.  With this build you acquire the
abilities to tank, equip what you want and be practically immune to damage.

Combat Magic: 	Just selecting this ability means you can equip any item by
		swapping the strength requirement for magic.  Massive plate 
		here we come. On top of that, with it active you have a higher
		attack stat and use spellpower for damage, which with a high 
		magic stat should be very large indeed.

Aura of Might: 	Improved Combat Magic.  Yes please.

Shimmering Shield: Blocks damage and increases armor and resistance but costs
		   a chunk of mana to keep up.  Combined with crafty mana 
		   management this really isn't a huge problem.  Another 
		   mainstay of your sustained spells.
	
Fade Shroud: 	This really is the icing on the cake.  Better mana regen and
		even a better chance to avoid attacks.  Very powerful and 
		passive!


Summary (DAO:7.1.3)
-------

The beauty of this character is really in it's simplicity.  Keep a few spells
sustained, equip massive armor, a few area effect spells and rarely get hit.
Seems like the perfect combination to me.

- Have enough willpower to keep your sustained abilities active
- Combat Magic and Shimmering Shield should always be on
- Get dexterity to the point where you hit enemies
- More magic means more damage and better armor
- You must be an Arcane Mage
- Blood Mage is a great supplement with Spirit Healer a lesser option


Caster (DAO:7.2)
------

The caster's true strength comes in the insanely wide amount of spells at their
disposal.  You can focus on single target attacks, group attacks, helping the
rest of the group or any combination of the above.  It's really up to you.  
There are only a few "core" spells that every mage should now, after that, it's
up to you.


Attributes (DAO:7.2.1)
----------

Strength: 	n/a
Dexterity: 	n/a
Willpower: 	40
Magic: 		MAX
Cunning: 	n/a
Constitution: 	n/a or 20

With the proper skill allocation you shouldn't need any points into strength.
Cunning is only useful for the Coercion skill on your main character but only
very little.  A run through the Mage's Circle should suffice in regards to stat
boosting.  Depending on the role you wish to play, caster or tank, you'll have
a few more options when considering attributes.  For a caster, 40 willpower and
maximum magic is a great way to move forward.  Plenty of mana and the spells
will be powerful.  

Important to remember is that while the warrior and rogue still do tremendous
damage when they are out of stamina a mage can only rely on a staff for what
seems pitiful amounts of damage.  If you find yourself always going out of mana
feel free to put more points into willpower. 


Abilities (DAO:7.2.2)
---------

As I mentioned, plenty of options available to a caster.  I'll go through
every single spell possible for a mage and mention the few core skills I think
you should take and my thoughts on the rest.

Again, if your main character is a mage you can acquire two free spells through
the Warden's Keep quest.


Mage spells:
-----------

Arcane Bolt: 	A simple spirit based damage attack.  Every mage has it.

Arcane Shield: 	Increases defense while active.  You shouldn't be getting hit 
		so there's not much need for it.

Staff Focus: 	About 10 more damage from a staff attack.  There are benefits
		certainly since it's passive but in the grand scheme of things
		the gain is minimal.

Arcane Mastery: 5 spellpower which is essentially a 5% increase in spell
		effect.  I was hoping for something a bit more powerful to 
		be honest.


Primal Spells:
-------------

Flame Blast: 	A cone of fire damage ahead of the caster.  Does decent damage
		but will ensure enemies will target the mages after casting.

Flaming Weapons: Makes all weapons do an additional 5-10 fire damage per hit.
		 Great with a bunch of melee attackers.

Fireball: 	A lovely spell that not only does instant fire damage it also
		knocks back the enemy and leaves a short term fire spell for 
		more damage.  There's enough time to cast this, then Inferno 
		while the enemy is getting back up for some tremendous damage.

Inferno: 	Lasts about 30 seconds and if an enemy stands within the large
		area of effect, they will most certainly die, even yellow 
		ranked creatures.  Combined with Fireball for some great 
		damage.

Rock Armor: 	Sustained spell that increases your armor rating.  You're not 
		getting hit so no real need here.

Stone Fist: 	Knocks an enemy down and can trigger a Shatter effect on a 
		frozen or petrified enemy.

Earthquake: 	Large area of effect that makes all targets stumble to the 
		ground. Effective to stop a large group from running to you 
		while you pick them off with ranged attacks.

Petrify: 	This single target spell turns the enemy to stone for about 15
		seconds.  This gives your mage enough time to either shatter 
		them or have the group kill them without worry.  Very useful 
		spell, up there with Force Field and Crushing Prison.

Winter's Grasp: Single target spell that does moderate ice damage and has a
		good chance of freezing the enemy.

Frost Weapons: 	Enchants all weapons with frost damage for 5-10 extra damage
		per hit.  Great with an all melee group.

Cone of Cold: 	Cone attack that does some damage but even better, freezes most
		targets in place.  A great way to setup additional damage 
		without the enemy being able to return the attack.

Blizzard: 	Think large area of effect, moderate damage and a very high 
		chance of freezing the enemy.  Quite powerful but high risk to
		use if you have any melee.

Lightning: 	Single target for moderate damage that also drains stamina/mana.

Shock: 		Cone attack that does the same thing as Lightning.  Dangerous
		since it angers a lot of enemies.

Tempest: 	Large area of effect spell that does ok damage but even better,
		drains mana and stamina from the enemy.  This is rarely a 
		concern though since it also drains mana/stamina from your group
		too so I don't use it often.	

Chain Lightning: A lightning attack that jumps multiple times from target to
		 target.  Can do some great damage at a distance but should 
		 never be used up close as it can devastate your group.


Creation spells:
---------------

Heal: 		Every mage should have this, there's no reason not to.

Rejuvenate: 	Increase the stamina/mana regeneration of a single target.  On 
		its own, pretty good but replaced my Mass Rejuvenation.

Regeneration: 	Increase the health regeneration of a single target.  Not that
		useful really as the gain is minimal and won't prevent you from
		healing later.

Mass Rejuvenation: All the group gains stamina/mana for a short while.  The
		   cost of the spell is essentially returned after the spell
		   duration so it's win win.  Too bad you have to take 2 less
		   useful spells to get here.

Heroic Offense: A single target gets increases attack for a short time.  Not
		that good.

Heroic Aura: 	The target is essentially immune from missile attacks.  Your
		tank already has this ability.

Heroic Defense: Increase defense and resistance on a single target.  Not enough
		in my books.

Haste: 		The useful spell in this line.  The entire part attacks faster,
		which is great in a melee group but has no benefit to other
		mages.

Glyph of Paralysis: Chance to paralyze a single target.  Many other and better
		    skills are available.

Glyph of Warding: Boosts the defense and resistance of the group members 
		  around the glyph. Think Heroic Defense but group based.
		  Decent but short range.

Glyph of Repulsion: Knocks back enemies that try to cross the glyph.  Great for
		    a pure range/mage group otherwise not much use.

Glyph of Neutralization: Neutralizes all effects and regeneration.  Considering
			 the amount of movement in this game, you will rarely 
			 if ever find a use for it.

Spell Wisp: 	Grants an extra 10 spellpower but adds fatigue.  Tough call
		here but I find that my mana is better spend elsewhere.

Grease: 	Area that slows down enemies and if you cast a fire spell can
		burn everyone within range.  Use a grease trap instead of this
		spell.

Spellbloom: 	Mana regeneration to friend and foe is not a terribly good idea.

Stinging Swarm: For about 20 seconds a swarm of insects attacks a single
		target for some considerable damage.  This target can still
		attack however and the cost of getting here is much higher when
		you compare to say, Curse of Mortality or Walking Bomb.


Spirit Spells:
-------------

Spell Shield: 	This is essentially a mana shield.  I have two main problems
		with this spell.  First, if you're using it, you're planning
		on getting hit, which is odd.  Second, without mana, even an
		Arcane Warrior is useless.  Lose the hp and take a potion 
		instead.

Dispel Magic: 	About the only use I can think for this spell is Curse of
		Mortality.  Almost every other affect is negligible.

Anti-Magic Ward: Other than the final runs of the game, there are very few
		 instances where casters are a problem.  That being said, three
		 particular encounters are terribly difficult due to Crushing 
		 Prison, Curse of Mortality and Fireballs.

Anti-Magic Burst: This spell typically causes more harm than good since you
		  cannot control who gets affected.

Mana Drain: 	A very useful spell for replenishing mana supplies.  I use it
		frequently.

Mana Cleanse: 	Very nice spell if you can get up close to enemy casters. 
		Completely changes the tide of a fight.

Spell Might: 	Sure spells are more powerful but the trade off is significant.
		You still won't kill someone with a single fireball but the mana
		costs will be nearly double.

Mana Clash: 	Think Mana Cleanse plus great damage.  Powerful but very 
		situational.

Walking Bomb: 	If you have a single tank, this is great.  If everyone is in
		melee range, this can cause issues.

Death Syphon: 	Rarely of any benefit as when there's enough corpses on the 
		ground, the battle is over anyhow.

Virulent Walking Bomb:  Essentially a chain causing Walking Bomb.  Same 
	                restrictions apply to both spells.  Can be deadly when 
			combined with a Fireball or other area effect spell.

Animate Dead: 	The cost is huge for a pet that doesn't tank and does minimal
		damage.  Spend that mana on a different attack for more benefit.

Mind Blast: 	Get it.  It will save your mage's life frequently.

Force Field: 	Use it to either take out an enemy for some time or save your 
		tank from death.  Taunt, Force Field, area effect spells will 
		kill most groups with ease.

Telekenetic Weapons:  Not very useful early on but when you reach a boss or 
		      large enemy (say an Ogre or Revenant) this has a very big
		      impact on the damage you can do.  Use Fire/Cold on regular
		      enemies and this on every ranked enemy.

Crushing Prion: Can you say overpowered?  Every mage should have this spell.
		Not only does it remove the enemy from combat, it takes away 
		about 50% of their health. Did I mention you can still attack 
		these people too?  Two mages in your group with this spell and 
		Force Field will destroy 99% of all groups you encounter.


Entropy Spells:
--------------

Weakness: 	Penalties to defense and attack are good but every character has
		this ability.  I prefer other abilities since they often inflict
		the same effect but do damage as well.

Paralyze: 	Stops an enemy from acting for about 10 seconds.  They can still
		be attacked.  Great for controlling ranked enemies.

Miasma: 	A sustained, area effect version of Weakness.  Has its uses 
		certainly but typically a Force Field is a better approach.  As
		a tank you'll see more benefit but as a ranged casters, you're
		too far out of range for much use.

Mass Paralysis:	Practically the exact same spell as Mind Blast but you can 
		target this one.  Expect to have every enemy run to you if 
		you tank can't get their attention after it wears off.

Vulnerability Hex: Really only affects your mage and then only on high hit 
		   point enemies. I'd rather just throw an extra damage spell.

Affliction Hex: Same as above but on a group.  Even less useful.

Misdirection Hex: Powerful against dragons and revenants.  Keeps your tank
		  alive.

Death Hex: 	If you can get this to stick on an enemy, expect your damage 
		numbers to go through the roof.  Very deadly on any enemy you 
		hit.

Disorient: 	Again, penalty to attack and defense with no damage.  Next.

Horror: 	Same as Paralyze.

Sleep: 		On its own, dangerous because woken enemies run for the caster. 
		Combined with Waking Nightmare, look out for crazy time.

Waking Nightmare: I wouldn't use it without first casting Sleep.  Basically for
		  75 mana you take nearly every enemy out of combat for 15 
		  seconds.  This is almost as powerful as Force Field and 
		  Crushing Prison and will save your life.

Drain Life: 	A better option than casting Heal on the mage but hard to 
		justify spending the ability point on a single use spell.

Death Magic: 	Useful for Arcane Warrior tanks but no real use for other mages.

Curse of Mortality: This is probably the spell that will kill you the most, at
		    least in my experience.  The problem is that it takes a 
		    long time to take effect, so really is only of use on red 
		    ranked enemies of which there are few.

Death Cloud: 	Remember Cloud Kill from Baldur's Gate?  Meet it's powerful 
		cousin.  More damage than Inferno but arguably a more costly 
		investment when compared.


Warden's Keep spells:
--------------------
Dark Sustenance: Lose a bit of health, gain a good portion of mana.  You would
		 think this is a bad tradeoff but you actually gain in the long 
 		 run, especiallyif you use an easily acquired healing potion or
		 heal spell right after.  Blood mages get even more benefit 
		 here.

Bloody Grasp: 	Direct damage spells are much more effective than this ability.


Shapeshifter Specialization:
---------------------------

As I mentioned before, the Shapeshifter is easily the weakest of all 
specializations.  This is solely due to the fact that you lose access to all
your mage spells while transformed and what's a mage without spells?

Spider Shape: 	Bonus to nature resistance and you gain access to Web (Paralyze)
		and Poison Spit (damage over time attack).  With Master 
		Shapeshifter, you can now Overwhelm enemies, tackling them to 
		the ground.

Bear Shape: 	Gains to armor and the ability to Slam (Knockdown) and Rage 
		(increased melee damage).  Master Shapeshifter gives you the 
		Overwhelm ability.

Flying Swarm: 	Odd ability here.  You basically have an aura around you that 
		does continual damage to enemies, moreso the closer you are to 
		them.  You can also directly attack casters, draining mana 
		instead of life.  You can't be hit by missles, are hard to hit 
		with melee and take huge damage from fire.  Master Shapeshifter 
		gives you the ability to drain life when attacking.

Master Shapeshifter: Increases the attributes of all forms and provides new
		     abilities.


Spirit Healer specialization:
----------------------------

This spell line provides you with many ways to heal your entire group. This
should be a core specialization for one of your mages, it's that powerful.

Group Heal: 	Heals the entire group for a significant amount.  Combined with
		Heal this is what keeps groups alive when there are no health 
		potions.

Revival: 	Can be used to revive a tank but more than likely you've lost 
		the fight if you have to cast this spell.

Lifeward: 	Keeps the tank alive when everything else is on cooldown.

Cleansing Aura:	Very large range for what amounts to a half-heal every few 
		seconds.  You won't have it on every fight but when the entire 
		group is taking continual area damage, it will save you.  Plus 
		it frees you from Injury Kits.


Blood Mage specialization:
-------------------------

A very interesting combination of spells where you trade hit points for mana
or damage.  If you pay attention to combat, this can be a devastating option.

Blood Magic: 	You use hit points to cast spells.  One of the reasons a blood
		mage requires a significant hit point pool instead of mana.  
		Can be powerful if you plan ahead.

Blood Sacrifice: On its own, why would you potentially kill a teammate to heal
		 yourself?  Well, if that someone is a Ranger pet then there's
		 no real problem at all!

Blood Wound: 	Enemies with blood (everything but a golem pretty much) take 
		big damage throughout the area.  This is essentially a magic 
		taunt spell.  Use with extreme caution.

Blood Control: 	If they have blood they become the mage's pet, else they take
		significant damage.  More damage is great.  Possessing an 
		Emissary is even better.


Arcane Warrior specialization:
-----------------------------

Great for a tank, very little use for a standard mage, if only for the first
ability to equip heavy armor with your Magic attribute instead of Strength.

Combat Magic: 	Just selecting this ability means you can equip any item by
		swapping the strength requirement for magic.  Massive plate
		here we come. No real benefit to other damage since you'll be
		casting from the back.

Aura of Might: 	Improved Combat Magic. You're not tanking, no need for this.

Shimmering Shield: Makes you harder to hit but this shouldn't be a problem in 
		   the first place.

Fade Shroud: 	Nearly immune to melee hits and mana regen.  Heavy cost to 
		invest if you don't plan on getting hit in the first place.


Summary (DAO: 7.2.3)
-------

As you can see, the traditional caster role has a wide variety of options
available.  You can focus on single target damage, control, healing, disabling
and some neat tricks along the way.  There are three core spells that every
mage should learn: Heal, Force Field and Crushing Prison.  They are simply too
powerful to ignore.

If you have only one mage in the group, I would suggest a Spirit Healer as they
provide a significant boost to survivability.  If you have multiple mages, have
them go down various spell trees to maximize your variety and increase the
chance for spell combinations.

- Increase Magic to get Crushing Prison early, then add to Willpower
- More Magic means spells are harder to resist
- More Willpower gives you more spells to cast, up to 15 mana per level
- Don't buy 2 weak spells to get 1 good one
- Staves hit 100% of this time but never hit for critical damage
- Staves are spirit based so some enemies are immune.  Equip a bow instead.


---------------
SPECIALIZATIONS (DAO:8)
---------------

It goes without saying that there are **SPOILERS** beyond this point.

I'll briefly explain how to unlock each specialization.  Once unlocked, it
stays active on the next playthrough or reload.  This means in many cases you
should save your game, buy a book and then reload the game to get your money
back.


Warrior (DAO:8.1)
-------

Templar: 	Learn from Alistair with high approval.  You can also buy the 
		book from Bodahn at camp.

Champion: 	You need to cure the Arl in Redcliffe with the Ashes. You can 
		decline the specialization if you are not careful.

Reaver: 	Taint the ashes then visit the reavers to collect this 
		specilization.

Beserker: 	Learn from Oghren with high approval or buy the book from Gorim
		in Denerim.


Rogue (DAO:8.2)
-----

Assassin: 	Learn from Zevran with high approval.

Bard: 		Learn from Leliana with high approval.

Ranger: 	Buy the book from Bodahn at camp.

Duelist: 	Learn from Isabella at the Pearl in Denerim.  You must catch 
		her cheating or bring a high dexterity character with you to 
		help out after a few failures.  Persuasion apparently works.


Mage (DAO:8.3)
----

Shapeshifter: 	Learn from Morrigan if your approval is high enough.

Sprit Healer: 	Learn from Wynne if your approval is high enough.  You can 
		also buy the book in the Wonders of Thedas shop in Denerim.

Blood Mage: 	You must be a mage and enter the Fade while helping cure the 
		Arl's child in Redcliffe.  Make a trade with the Desire Demon
		to learn this specialization.

Arcane Warrior: In the Ancient Temple in the Brecilian Forest is a room with
		a phylactery and an altar.  Help the spirit to die and you'll
		gain this specialization.


----
TIPS (DAO:9)
----

Here are a few tips and notes that you should keep in mind when playing
Dragon Age.

- Completing the Circle of Mages tower will reward you with at least 2 points
  per attribute.  If you plan on minimally investing in particular attributes,
  do this quest first to give you a better idea of where to put other points.

- PC bug: When you level up, you can redistribute attribute points.  Let's say
  you are a mage and want to reduce cunning to increase magic.  Put the 3
  points into cunning and then click Reset.  Now, click the left arrow next to
  cunning.  This will remove 3 points giving you a total of 6 to play with. You
  can do this as often as you like but can only redistribute one particular
  attribute per level up.  My Arcange Warrior had 1 strength and 1 cunning with
  this method.

- At merchants, buy backpacks everytime you see them.  They help you acquire
  more items to better equip your entire team.

- At merchants, buy books in this order.  Abilities, Attributes, Skills.

- At merchants, if you see a Specialization book save first, buy the book then
  reload your game with the specialization unlocked.

- Everything you sell to your Camp vendor stays on him forever.  If you find
  you're low on inventory space, sell him some items to lighten your load.
  Alternatively, if you have the Warden's Keep DLC, complete that quest to
  unlock group storage.

- When Enchanting, you don't lose runes put into weapons.  If you want to move
  runes around simply remove them from a weapon and put them into another.

- When Enchanting, Tanks should focus on Physical Resistance (60 max), damage
  dealers should look for Electric/Ice/Fire and Paralyzing runes.

- The earlier you acquire party members, the lower their levels and the more
  you can customize them.  Allistair joins at level 2-3 with only 4 abilities
  already selected.  Oghren can be acquired very late in the game and leave no
  room at all for selecting a path other than melee.

-----------
FINAL NOTES (DAO:10)
-----------

The beauty of Dragon Age is there really isn't a bad way to play the game.  
There are certainly easier ways than others but if you want a challenge all 
the time, that option surely exists.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them my way.
 

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