Brace yourself, and venture forth to a horrifying alternate reality. Imagine a world so like our own, less observant visitors might never know the difference at all. Here, in this awful den of deception lurks an unimaginable truth--Dragon Age DLC is, at best, mediocre! Ah, you're starting to catch on. This isn't an alternate reality at all. We never left our world, silly. Mwahahaha! Hush now, don't cry. We'll suffer not this treacherous DLC. We'll protest, we'll riot, we'll download mods! Butterfly sword be damned!
1 Essential Tool for 18 Essential Mods
The DAModder is essential for anyone dealing with more than a few mods. The easy to use interface makes installs/uninstalls hassle-free. Just download a mod, unpack it, and drop the file into the DAModder window. Simply click install and away you go. Remember, you should still consult the readme for specific install instructions. You could be sparing yourself a huge headache. Link.
Let's face it, DA is not a pretty game. That's why the first mod you should install is JBtextures--mostly because the install process overwrites your overwrite folder, thereby potentially messing up any other mods you have installed. Done right, there's no risk, and the addition of HD textures makes the game much easier on the eyes. Link.
2. Improved Atmosphere
A top-to-bottom reinvigoration of Ferelden life (and death), Improved Atmoshpere touches just about every aspect of the game in some subtle way. The mod not only squashes a few bugs and alters starting loot for various companions, but also tweaks the origin stories, adds new weapons to the fray, modifies certain boss encounters, and prevents dead bodies from fading into the, well, Fade. Did I mention it adds squirrels? Link.
3. Dragon Age Redesigned
Lore masters rejoice! This sweeping mod redesigns the appearance of almost five-hundred NPCs as well as all of your party members in an effort to more accurately convey various character types. It doesn't make the game play any differently, and environments still look the same, but the hundreds of subtle changes yield an overall, more enjoyable experience. You know that Alienage beggar who seems pleased as punch to be an alienage beggar? This mod takes those wide, hopeful eyes, and plunges them into a bucket of abysmal world weariness--it's lovely. Link.
4. Forced Deathblows
As you slay, scorch, annihilate, and chit-chat your way through DA, you may find yourself hankering for an even more obnoxious amount of blood than is already in the game. If this is the case with you, look no further than Forced Deathblows. The package includes four files (one at a time please) that let you dictate how often you get to see those wicked pummel-ponce-knife-to-face animations that come only rarely in the vanilla game. Merry stabbing! Link.
5. Skip the Fade
Every game has its flaws, not every game has a fix. While Skip the Fade may be a bit cynical, you can't deny the convenience. I can't count the number of times I've wanted to start a new campaign and stopped when I remembered that awful slog through the ether after Jowan goes ballistic. Not only does this mod allow you to circumvent the games most annoying sequence, you still reap the same attribute points, codex entries, and XP as if you had completed it. Link.
6. Alley of Murders
This quest is one of the best fan-made adventures out there. You can access the alley murder-mystery in the Denerim market district at a new signpost right in front of the Chantry. The fully voiced, sixty minute quest sends you down a seedy Denerim alley with the task of cracking a series of murders thought to be linked with what's going on in the Alienage. Link.
7. Castle Cousland
If you're familiar with the human noble origin story, this quest will be near and dear to your heart. Found at a new location in the north, Cousland Wilds, the castle is still occupied by Howe's treacherous men. An escaped servant outside the castle will task you with taking it back. The quest is electronically voiced, so everyone sounds like a female Speak & Spell, which is hilarious when you encounter Howe's butt-face son. Once you've rescued the castle, you'll gain access to the entire facility including guards, storage, and a merchant that sells every item in the game. Link.
Found in "Other Campaigns" in the main menu, this mod puts you in the boots of a darkspawn emissary, leading a small squad near the border of the Tevinter Imperium. Complete with cutscenes, challenging combat, and a trippy camera filter, this is a DA experience you can't get anywhere else. Link.
9. Classic Week
Hands down, the only thing more hilarious than Classic Week is the infamous darkspawn boob monster of Dragon Age proper. Within the mod's fiction, the real-world year is 2020, and you're one of the few loyal players of Dragon Age: Online, for whom BioWare keeps one last server running. You and three friends (AI companions) have logged-in during classic week to meet one of your online friends, Shiva. What follows is a six hour meta-MMO commentary full of witty quips and huge skeleton armies. Here's a conversation I had with my buddies after speaking with a quest giver:
Guanyin: Did he seriously just call you "adventurer"?
Poopface (Me): What else was he going to say?
Invictus: BioWare didn't want to make every PC a Grey Warden for the MMO. I suppose that entailed a few compromises.
Medea: I expect the comprimise was having the interns write breadcrumb quest text while the veteran writers pushed Mass Effect Online out the door.
Poopface: This is just a breadcrumb then?
You'll find the mod listed in "Other Campaigns". Link.
10. Temple of Vulak
This combat heavy temple sits in the waters southeast of Denerim, which can be accessed from Flemeth's Hut. What the area lacks in narrative, it makes up for in high level loot and a big challenge for end-game characters. If you're discounting the challenge, keep in mind that the dragon below is the first enemy you encounter. Link.
11. Camp Storage Chest
Previously you could only access storage chests through DLC. These enormously useful chests give you a place to keep all of your party's spare loot. This simple mod plonks a storage chest right in your party's camp, so you never have to worry about running out of storage space again. Link.
12. Metagame Items
This mod adds a series of potions to the game that allow you to customise the characters in your party. You'll be able to reattribute all of their skill points by simply feeding these potions to your followers. Want to roll with a party of mages? Use the Typecaster potion and reset their class. Want to give Morrigan more strength? Give her the Ring of Rebirth and reshuffle her stats There are also an array of potions that will let you control the romances in the game without having to go to all the effort of wooing a partner. Link.
13. Advanced Tactics
Advanced Tactics tidies up the tactics system, fixing bugs and adding a number of new parameters to allow you to better modify the behaviour of your companions in battle. Useful new commands let your party recognise when a member is dead, so you can enter a command into the tactics system that will have your healer revive fallen part members automatically. On top of this the mod makes a few changes to the behaviour of different classes, so characters equipped with ranged weapons will do more to avoid a close quarters scrap. Link.
14. Combat Tweaks
This comprehensive balancing mod seeks to fine tune the Dragon Age combat system without straying too far from Bioware's original vision for the game. Almost every ability has had their damage and cooldown values evaluated and tweaked to ensure that every skill is useful, and that nothing is overpowered. Link.
15. Lock Bash
Ever come across a locked chest deep in a dungeon somewhere, only to realise that you didn't bring a rogue to pick the lock? Ever felt the frustration of walking away from a chest knowing that you'll never find out what treasures lie within? Never fear, the lock bash mod is here. This mod lets you solve the tricky lock problem with brute force, giving warriors the option to punch locks to death, and mages the option to vapourise them. It's not a risk free ability, though, there's always a chance you'll damage some of the precious loot you find within. Link.
16. FtG UI mod
This is a great mod if you're sick of squinting at Dragon Age's tiny text. The UI in conversations in particular can take some effort to quickly read. This mod updates the UI throughout the game, altering text size and colour to make everything clearer. The mod even comes with a utility that will let you change the text in the game to your own tastes. Link.
17. Spell School Divine
This mod adds a whole new class of learnable magic spells. Named the Divine class, these abilities will add extra healing and protection spells, but also has a line of offensive abilities specifically designed to do extra damage to Darkspawn enemies. Link.
18. Auto Loot
If you're on the middle of a dungeon and you're on a roll, constantly having to loot everything can be a frustrating momentum killer. Auto loot makes stealing from the bodies of your enemies that much faster by removing the annoying inventory pop up box you get when you loot something. Now, when you loot a body or a chest, you'll automatically take all the items, and a list of your gains will appear on screen. The mod also lets you order your followers to go around automatically looting everything for you, further reducing the downtime spent going through dead mens' pockets. Link.