Using Dragon Age Mods for Dummies
This document describes how to get modifications (mods) for BioWare's Dragon Age (DA) to work in your game. While they are considered "unofficial", BioWare produced and released the "Dragon Age Toolset" specifically to allow and promote the creation of these mods. This Guide does NOT provide instructions for any particular mod, or contain any discussion of how to use the "Toolset" or the in-game "Command Console". Others may have different tips, but with these you can get enough of the basics to figure out what you're doing. At the end are some links to places for finding, evaluating, rating, and discussing the thousands (yes, thousands!) of DA mods. Happy Modded Gaming!
Why use a mod? To customize your game to be more of what YOU want it to be, and to add hours of exciting new adventures beyond the amazing experience BioWare provided!
While mods for DA are fairly easy to use, one thing that may not be clear to new players is that they come in a variety of forms, each of which requires certain steps to get working in your game. These tips are designed to get you started, but they presume you already understand basic PC file and folder terms and activities (downloading, saving, copying, etc.)
NOTICES AND DISCLAIMERS
Copyrights. Electronic Arts (EA) is the copyright holder for the DA game and the materials it contains. Please respect the intellectual property rights of EA, BioWare, (the game's developer) and the authors of any mods.
Safety. Legitimate mods for DA aren’t executable files and can’t introduce malware or alter your computer system's basic operation. They are quite safe, (subject to the usual precautions regarding files obtained from any internet source.) Mods do not make any changes to the game's basic files. Mods are placed in completely different folders, and can easily be deleted entirely to return your DA game to its original state. Please be sure to make back-ups of your saved games before installing any mod. This Guide does not endorse any specific mod, nor are the authors responsible for a given mod's behavior. Any files mentioned in this Guide are examples for illustrative purposes only.
What Are Mods?
The term "mod", in gaming, can used to mean either "modification" or "module". The more commonly used sense is when referring to a FREELY DISTRIBUTED, player-created, file (or files) modifying something about a game. Very large and complex mods that create whole new sections, adventures, characters, or areas within the game are often called "modules". (And technically, the Developer also creates modules. In fact, BioWare often refers to their official Downloadable Content (DLC) for DA as "expansion modules". So all Community- or Player-Created modules are "mods", but not all mods are "modules"!)
While a mod(ule) can affect anything and everything within the game, most mods only do one, or a very few things. And most of those things fall into a few obvious categories:
- a) Appearances. Changes to the way existing elements of the game look. Within DA, "facemorphs" (called so because they change a character's face) are probably the single most common appearance mod. When used directly in the game, this type of mod usually consists of just a ".mor" file.
- b) Items & Equipment. These mods add one or more items to the game. These may simply be items in the game the author thought needed some "small tweaks", or they may be things that have characteristics, attributes, or abilities ("stats") very different from anything in the original.
- c) Bug Fixes. As the name would imply, these correct things the author believes to have been mistakes or problems with the original game.
- d) Improvements & Enhancements to Play. This kind of mod makes changes in the way the game actually functions. These go beyond "Bug Fixes" to introduce new actions or effects.
- e) Full Modules. As mentioned above, modules can add new sections, adventures, characters, companions, and whole areas. These are some of the largest mods.
How Are Mods "Packaged"?
Most DA mods are distributed in one of the common compressed forms (".zip", ".rar", ".7z", etc.) You'll need the appropriate utility, ("WinZip", "WinRAR", "7-Zip", etc.) to unpack them in order to have the mod itself. Many players download and unpackage their mods in a separate location (to a folder named "My DA Mods", for example) in order to determine what type they are and what to do with them.
- NOTE: See here for a table of various compression formats and their associated utilities; List of file archivers.
Within those compressed files, mods are usually found in one of three formats; ".dazip", ".override", "everything else".
See the next section for a discussion of each of these.
Once you have the mod unpackaged, (if it needed to be) then each type needs to be treated slightly differently.
- a) ".dazip" files. A ".dazip" is a collection of files specially structured to be handled by the built-in program "DAUpdater.exe". DAUpdater is a standalone executable found in the following location: "C:/[program files)]/Dragon Age/bin_ship". Once you have started it, point DAUpdater to the location of the ".dazip" file you want, and chose "Install dazip".
- NOTE 1: The progress bar will reach 100%, but the status message never changes to "Completed". It's OK, the mod is installed.
- NOTE 2: This is the same procedure used to install the "official" BioWare DLC if you download it directly from the EA servers rather than using the in-game process.
- NOTE 3: You can also use either of the two "manager" utilities:
- These two manager utilities help with the housekeeping chores associated with some specific mod file-types.
- b) ".override" files. These are mods specially created to work with DAMM. They are often ones that interact with OTHER mods and are highly configurable. See the DAMM user's guide for information on how to install the program and use these mods. Only a very few mods are ".overrides".
The vast majority of DA mods fall into the next category.
- c) "Everything Else". A mod might be a ".mor" for a new face, or a ".cut" for a new animation scene. It might be a ".dlg" with new dialogue, or a ".ss" with new voices.
- If the mod's instructions say, "Place in your override folder." it does not need to be "installed". As the instruction indicates, simply place it in the folder named "override" located under: "C:/[user's documents]/Bioware/Dragon Age/packages/core".
- NOTE 1: If this folder does not exist, (which may be the case if this is your very first mod) just create it.
- NOTE 2: Players often place each mod in their "/override" folder into its own sub-folder (named whatever they choose) so that it can be easily identified, (since some mod's file names aren’t much help) and so the entire mod can be deleted without hunting through lots (potentially hundreds!) of other files to find all the pieces.
- NOTE 3: Steam and D2D installs use slightly different folder structures than the retail disc version. Adjust accordingly.
Changing a Character's Appearance
Changing the appearance of the Player-Character (the "PC", aka "Your Warden") works differently than changing the appearance of any Non-Player Character (NPC).
- a) Your Warden. When a DA mod is designed to work with the Character Creator (CC) element of the game to add new looks (e.g. hairstyles, eye colours, tattoos) for a new, player-made protagonist, it must interact with the CC using an ".xml" file named the "Character Generator Morph Configuration" ("chargenmorphcfg.xml".) If you want to use more than one of these mods at the same time, you must merge the contents of the multiple "chargenmorphcfg.xml" files into a single one. This can be done manually, and the article "Installing cosmetic mods for Dragon Age" describes the process. Also TerraEx, (a fellow player and modder) has made an excellent utility program, "CharGenMorph Compiler", to do this for you automatically.
- b) Changing your Warden's appearance after you've started a game also requires a new ".mor". One that has the look you want. Several mods make the process of substituting one face for another fairly easy. All of them, (e.g. NewByPower's "DA Face Replacer") work by having you create the "right" face on a new character, then replacing your current PC's face with that one.
- NOTE: More sophisticated "plastic surgery" on an existing face is possible using the Toolset, but that is beyond the scope of this mini-tutorial.
- c) All NPCs. One of the most common types of mod is the "facemorph". (The ones for Morrigan and Leliana seem to be particularly popular… wonder why?) If you want to change an NPC's appearance then you need a ".mor" file with the new face. If you unpack a facemorph mod and get a ".mor", just put it in your "override" folder. Once there it will be used to replace the named character's face in-game (presuming the author gave it the correct filename.)
- NOTE: A new ".mor" will not change the NPC's look in any of the ".bnk" movies (the ones in Denerim with Loghain are this type.) Unlike any cutscenes in which your PC appears, those are static files which a mod doesn't affect.
- a) Any mod installed with the DAUpdater program can be disabled within the game simply by "unticking" the box next to that mod in the "Installed Content" screen found under "Downloadable Content" from the main menu. These mods can’t really be uninstalled except by manually finding all the pieces and deleting them.
- b) Any mod installed with either DAMM or DAM (see above) can be disabled by unticking the box next to the mod's name, (just like for DAUpdater) and removed by right-clicking on the mod within that program's menu and selecting "Uninstall". (DAMM has a further "Delete" step, but use the "Uninstall" first.)
- c) Any mod placed in your "/override" folder is uninstalled simply by removing it from that folder.
- Either delete it, or cut-n-paste it elsewhere. Both ways work.
Compatibility and Conflicts
Not all mods work and play well with others. Be sure to make a "Named Save" before installing a new mod. (And if you’re especially paranoid, make a backup of your saved games and characters folder: "C:/[user's documents]/Bioware/Dragon Age/Saves")
- a) The rule is "Only one mod can change the same part of the game's content at a time." So if you install two mods that both change conversations with Zevran, unless they are made to be compatible with each other you'll only get the new lines of dialogue from one of them (or in extreme cases, if used together they might cause the game to crash.) This is especially important to understand with any "romance" mods. Read the Readme for your mods!
- Fix: Delete one or both of the conflicting mods. Always presume that a new problem is due to the mod you just added, conflicting with the mod you most like!
- b) Missing Items. Ever since game patch 1.03, (which changed the way a brand new game loads for the first time) many (most?) mods that ADD ITEMS to your inventory will fail with a BRAND NEW game until after you've made your first save.
- Fix: Disable/Remove the mod until you’ve played your new game to the point where you can make a save. Save, Exit, Re-Enable the mods, Re-Start the game and Load the Save you had just created. The items will now be added to your inventory as expected.
- c) Some mods don't react well to some of the official BioWare DLC. The best known conflicts are with "Leliana's Song" and "Witch Hunt", (and that one stupid hot spot on the Alienage gate in "The DLC Which Must Not Be Named".)
- Fix: Disable (untick) these on the "Installed Content" menu unless actually playing them. Disable/Remove the mods if you have conflicts when playing any of these DLC.
Links to More Information
Now that you have an idea of how to use mods in Dragon Age, here some links to mods and other resources you might like:
BioWare Continuity Network (BCN). This is listing of, and a repository of some (most?) of, the mods that used to be hosted on the BioWare Social Network (BSN) before that site was shutdown. If you see a reference to a mod as being found on the BSN, it might now be preserved here.
Dragon Age Nexus. Independent site for DA mods and discussions. Requires requires a (FREE) registration to download files. Players new to modding might begin by using the "Categories" search function, as well as the links for "Top 100", and the "Most Endorsed - All Time". This will give a good overview of the kinds of mods available.