Dragon Age 2: modding the Edge of Night axe into a longsword

Having a bit of fun with Dragon Age 2 in my spare time. The selection of longswords in Dragon Age 2 leaves much to be desired. Call me old-fashioned, but when I play fantasy RPGs, my warriors are always sword-and-shield (munchkin min-maxing be damned), because…that’s how heroic fantasy warriors are supposed to be. As TvTropes succinctly put it, Heroes Prefer Swords. I actually shelled out money for the Warrior Item Pack DLC hoping to find a better longsword. Unfortunately, the only decent one-handed weapon in the pack is an axe. An axe?! What are we, woodcutting barbarians?

So I went about looking for a way to switch this otherwise beautiful weapon, The Edge of Night, into a longsword. The similarly named Edge of Song and Glory is the ideal target for the transformation.

There is not much modding possible for DA2 — the game is very much locked down to drive DLC sales. Nevertheless, the base game itself is at least unencrypted; however, there is no official mod editor support. The DLCs, however, are encrypted — you cannot even view the data contained within these files. The following modding method requires that you decrypt the DLC’s designeritems.erf file first, then extracting the Edge of Night’s item file for editing. This only works for PC versions of DA2.

Note that there is already a mod floating around for this. There is a good thing and a bad thing about this mod. The good thing is that it uses a less questionable method that does not need to decrypt the ERF file. On the other hand, because of the limitations of such a method, that mod doesn’t change the item icon or the item description. It will still look like an axe and call itself an axe in the character’s inventory screen — only the actual gameplay model is changed to a longsword. Some people would be satisfied with that; I wasn’t.

Decrypting designeritems.erf

DLC items are in found in ${DRAGON AGE 2 INSTALLDIR}/addins. In this case, it is the DA2_MTX_WAR addin. The ERF file is
${DRAGON AGE 2 INSTALLDIR}/addins/da2_mtx_war/core/data/designeritems.erf, and the UTI file is [dd9ea6bb335cfa89].uti.

Make a backup copy of the da2_mtx_war directory.

To decrypt the ERF file, you need the decrypt key and a decrypter. There is a tool called “slurpda2.exe”, usually distributed with the deda2drm decrypter package. I will not explain how to obtain this package, but it’s pretty easily found. If you legitimately own this game, slurpda2 will give you a list of all the decrypt keys, one for each DLC package. Use the right key (have to do trial-and-error here, as it doesn’t tell you which key belongs to which package) and deda2drm by cd’ing to the deda2drm directory and executing from the command prompt:

deda2drm.exe DA2_MTX_WAR [key]

The output will tell you whether this succeeded. If so, this will decrypt the ERF.

Extracting the UTI

A tool like PyGFF will open the decrypted ERF file. Look for the dd9ea6bb335cfa89 hash key and extract that UTI. For reference, the UTI should contain an item with the tag war100im_warrior_1h_sword. Save the UTI file as war100im_warrior_1h_sword.uti (though technically you can name the filename anything you want, as long as it ends in uti). As you can see by the name, even the original designers thought it should be a sword and not an axe :p

Editing the UTI

Using a tool like TlkEdit, open the UTI file. Change the ModelVariation field to 123 (which is the Edge of Song and Glory, as listed in 2da.rim’s item_variations.gda file). I believe 132 is Glandivalis / Vigilance, if you prefer that look. Change the Icon field to “ico_1h_sword_5.dds”. Save the UTI file.

Here you can choose to restore the original encrypted copy of da2_mtx_war or not. If so, this reverses the decryption so it doesn’t confuse DA2 when you open it again. Alternatively, you can edit the manifest.xml file in the decrypted copy of da2_mtx_war to tell it to skip the authorization requirement by setting RequiresAuthorization=0. I left mine unencrypted, but I think this gets into legal gray territory, and the UTI mod should work even with the original encrypted version.

Drop the final modded uti file into packages/core/override in either the DA2 install directory or the user directory in Documents/Bioware (create the override directory if needed).


Edge of Night sword The Edge of Night sword in action

Isn’t that pretty? Wielding a sword, as a hero should. One of these days I’ll mod the TLK file to change the occurrences of “axe” to sword in its Codex file, and this change would be perfect.

I have a copy of the modded UTI file, but I think distributing it might violate the EULA. Oh well. If you can’t figure out the instructions, leave a comment here (with your email address) and I’ll try to help.