open/close all foldersRaces from the Dragon Age franchise, as well as nations within each race:
The most prolific race in Thedas, humans have been behind nearly every important historical event in the history of Thedas for a very long time. The elves blame them for the loss of their immortality, Tevinter humans became the first darkspawn when they invaded the Fade, and of course virtually every major country is primarily human.
- And Man Grew Proud: According to the Chantry, it was men trying to conquer the "Golden City" in the heart of The Fade that first drew the darkspawn, and caused The Maker, their creator deity, to shun them. Though the first thing that caused Him to shun them was when they started worshiping dragons instead of Him. Then they did that, and He shunned them harder. Still later, he shunned them again for the death of Andraste. He is a very passive-aggressive deity.
- The Church: The Chantry. Led by the Divine and composed entirely of women. It does its best to be a Saintly Church, but inevitably, its institutional faults often makes it a Corrupt Church.
- Due to the Dead: The Andrastian religion practices cremation, in memory of Andraste being burnt at the stake, although it's been suggested that it may have originally been to prevent Blood Mages raising or demons possessing corpses.
- Fantastic Racism: Even though an elf was one of their Prophetess' greatest generals, the Chantry officially removed all verses about him when it came time to conquer the elven kingdom of the Dales. Now that most of the elves in Thedas have converted to Andrastianism, the Chantry still doesn't let them become priests. Elves themselves remain low on the human societal totem pole; they're mostly slaves in societies that allow slavery, and impoverished and second-class in societies that don't allow it.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Medieval Europe.
- Gender Is No Object: Despite the fact that women were apparently restricted in past, by the time the games take place (the eponymous Dragon Age) most militaries, governments, and other organizations seem to not really care about gender, with the exceptions being the Chantry, where the ordained clergy is exclusively women, and Tevinter, which is patriarchal.
- Humanity Is Infectious: Played both positively and negatively. The Qunari, Dwarves, and even some Elves have stated that living with humans can become addictive if one spends enough time with them. The Ancient Elves, however, discovered to their horror that this came with a price. Due to some unknown reason, contact with humans caused them to "quicken", lose their immortality, and become vulnerable to mortal diseases. When this was discovered, they tried to cut off all contact with humanity, but it was too late, because in the shadow of their ancient cities, the Tevinter Imperium was born. Dragon Age: Inquisition Trespasser reveals this to be incorrect. The elves lost their immortality because Fen'Harel created the Veil that separates the physical world from the spirit world (the source of all magic), and since elves were intrinsically tied to the Fade, being severed from it caused them to weaken, age, and die. They blamed humans because they didn't know what had happened.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Humans don't excel in any area, but are very flexible in all areas. They are sturdier than elves, possess magic unlike dwarves, and have greater control of their emotions unlike Qunari which means they are tactically more flexible. It also helps that they are the most numerous of the four races. When humans mate with elves they have human children. They also have greater fertility rates than dwarves due to the dwarves regularly being exposed to the Taint. In Inquisition, this is reflected by Humans getting an extra talent point at start instead of some manner of innate resistance like the other three races.
- Misblamed: In-Universe, elven history claims that it was the arrival of humanity that cost the elves their immortality. The real reason was because Fen'harel erected the veil. Not knowing what happened, the surviving elves pointed their fingers at the humans, who had coincidentally arrived on the continent of Thedas not long before.
- One True Faith: The Chantry is by far the most widespread religion in the setting, due in part to requiring expansionism in its teaching. There are some exceptions, such as the polytheistic Chasind and Avarrs and the pantheistic Rivaini, but they don't get much screen-time.
- Outside-Context Problem: For the ancient elves of Arlathan, whose lore records the strange, mortal beings calling themselves human, which came across the sea from Par Vollen and caused the elves to lose their immortality. It turns out humans weren't the ones who caused the elves to lose their immortality, although they did waste no time in rounding them up when they first started showing signs of weakness.
"We're not actually dog people, despite whatever rumors you've heard."A country with a reputation as "back-water dog-lovers" due to their strong history of breeding Mabari warhounds, Ferelden is a relatively young nation, that has only recently regained its independence from Orlais after being occupied for 60 years. It was founded by Calenhad Theirin the Silver Knight, who became the nation's first king in 5:42 Exalted and whose descendants still rule Ferelden at the beginning of the game series. Dragon Age: Origins takes place here, as the location where the Fifth Blight began.
- Animal Motifs: Dogs. Especially their own special breed of intelligent war dogs, the Mabari War Hound. Just look at their crest!
- A Lighter Shade Of Gray: Compared to pretty much all of Thedas. It's not a fantastic place to live, but it doesn't have nearly the level of institutionalized prejudice as Orlais, Kirkwall, or Tevinter. An elf (the Warden, Shianni, or Cyrion) can be raised to a Bann in the endgame of Origins. A Warden of any race can also become the new Arl of Amaranthine in Awakening, while importing a new character will have the nobility more upset that their new Arl is Orlesian, than their being non-human. They can even be a mage, and no one will comment on it negatively. Even before the Mage-Templar War and especially after, it was considered much more moderate towards mages than much of the rest of (non-Tevinter) Thedas.
- Archenemy: Ferelden and the Orlesian Empire. Unlike the conflict between Nevarra and Orlais, which is akin to back-and-forth Great Game-esque territorial struggles, Ferelden's war with Orlais was a knife fight with the former's freedom at stake, and because of this, the hatred most Fereldans have for the Empire is firmly rooted and deeply personal. While more reasonable Fereldan rulers like Bryce Cousland and Eamon Guerrin have a pragmatic approach to diplomacy with the Empress, no one there actually likes Orlais. The fundamental cause of this animosity is the differing regards to loyalty: Like their symbolic dogs, Fereldans are big on loyalty to each other. Conversely, Orlais not only practices but celebrates the Great Game as a national pastime.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: This is expected of the nobility.
- Barbarian Tribe: Its borders are constantly threatened by the Avvars and the Chasind, the Racial Remnant of the Alamarri tribes that had inhabited Ferelden prior to the rise of Calenhad. The Ferelden people are descended from the Clayne, a third Alamarri offshoot, who, despite the insistence of Orlesians, are not an example of this trope. By the time Calenhad had united them, the banns, arls, and teyrns had long-established domains and many families have prestigious histories rivaling that of the Theirin family, and dating back much farther. These banns were less like barbarian warlords and more like the Anglo-Saxon petty kings who ruled their own domains in England before being unified by the House of Wessex.
- Boring, but Practical: Has none of the frills or luxuries of Orlais, Antiva, or Tevinter, but also has none of their crippling dysfunctions.
- Elective Monarchy: The Landsmeet, in theory, selects the king. In practice, every king has come from the Theirin bloodline, as that was the line of Calenhad the Great. There are exceptions. The Orlesians never called the Landsmeet, and this is part of why they were so hated. Bryce Cousland was preferred as Maric's successor by the Landsmeet, but he turned them down. And Anora can be selected as Ferelden's monarch, and she comes from a very recently ennobled family. And, naturally, the "practice" can be continued by electing Alistair to the throne.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: England, if the Normans had been driven out. The Saxon influences are there in the names and the political structure. Also, there are nods to pre-Saxon Brythonic kingdoms. King Calenhad is basically an Expy of King Arthur, complete with his own Merlin, a hedge wizard turned Court Mage named Aldenon the Wise. Highever is also a counterpart of the Celtic overkingdom of Dal Riata, which once encompassed Scotland and parts of coastal Ireland. The default human noble male (Aedan) and Fergus Cousland are named after its two greatest kings, and "Cousland" is a place in Scotland. Fereldans speak the Common Tongue (called as such) which is represented as English.
- Feudal Overlord: Despite being the purest feudal monarchy in the setting, Ferelden actually averts this more often than not.
- Foil: To Orlais. Ferelden is an isolationist kingdom, Orlais is an expansionist empire. Fereldans emphasize martial strength, Orlesians emphasize subterfuge. Fereldans dress plainly, even the noblemen. Orlesians dress garishly, and derive status from Conspicuous Consumption. Fereldan kings draw power from a parliament of nobles and magnates, Orlesian emperors enforce their will and maintain that authority through the theory of the divine right of kings. Fereldan iconography emphasizes dogs and wolves, Orlesian iconography emphasizes lions.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Dogs play a large role in Fereldan culture. Exalted above all breeds is the magically-originated Mabari, who adorn the royal coat of arms. Fenris claims that the Mabari Hounds first arrived in Ferelden during an invasion by Tevinter. When the Mabari found the local Alamarri tribes were far friendlier than their masters, they immediately decided to switch sides, joining forces to drive out the Tevinters. Since then, a contingent of Mabari have been a staple of the Ferelden military. The second game reveals that "Dog Lord" is a common slur against Fereldans in foreign countries. A letter from Empress Celene of Orlais to her new ambassador in Ferelden sums up the Ferelden mindset towards their dogs perfectly: "If you insult their dogs, they are likely to declare war."
- Holy City: Denerim, the most commonly-cited birthplace of Andraste, and Amaranthine, where she first sung the Chant.
- Honor Before Reason: From the perspective of the Orlesians, Fereldan loyalty to their fellow countrymen is considered obstinate. In an unflattering missive between Empress Celene and her appointed ambassador to Ferelden that is somehow public, she details as such.
- Informed Flaw: It being a dirty nation of barbarians. On the contrary, the country seems quite civilized, its nobility has a better than even chance of being reasonable, its government doesn't descend into tribalism and barbarity after Ostagar, and they were able to defeat a Blight (with no outside help from other human nations) within a year. The opinion of Fereldans being barbarians seems to be shared only by the most foppish Orlesians.
- Irish Names: A lot of Fereldans have them.
- The Kingdom: The most "traditional" kingdom depicted in Thedas. Interestingly, it is also a truer depiction of how an actual feudal monarchy would be governed and led. The king is first and foremost a peer of the nobility, and therefore while his position demands loyalty and respect, the king is still expected to negotiate and treat with his vassals, and not simply treat them as servants to use and abuse.
- Mage Tower: The Kinloch Hold, more commonly referred to as the Circle Tower. Originally built by the Avvar and dwarves, it was long considered an impregnable fortress until the Tevinter Imperium finally breached its walls after a brutal campaign. After a long period of abandonment, it was claimed by the Circle of Magi in 3:87 Towers and has remained so ever since.
- Meaningful Name: Ferelden means "Fertile Valley" in the Alamarri tongue.
- Noble Wolf/Savage Wolf: The wolf has a sacred reputation in very early Alamarri and Fereldan culture for being a symbol of the great hero and teyrn Dane. It also has a negative reputation due to the werewolf attacks that plagued Ferelden during the Towers Age.
- Oop North: Amaranthine.
- Pet the Dog: Ferelden is the only pro-mage nation in southern Thedas when the Mage-Templar War breaks out, and offers the fleeing rebels shelter. Even after the mess with the Venatori, King Alistair is still sympathetic, and regrets exiling them without at least hearing Fiona out first.
- Pragmatic Hero: Fereldans emphasize practicality, pragmatism, and "get-er-done" thinking. They dislike pomp and ceremony or garishness, which is another reason they hate Orlesians, who are foppish, posturing, and put appearances before actions.
- Principality: Before Calenhad, there were a large number of Teyrnirs, led by Teyrns. By the time of the Dragon Age, only two Teyrnirs remain; Highever and Gwaren, and both are under the Fereldan crown. Denerim is technically a third, but is officially an Arling directly under the Crown since Denerim the city is the national capital. The rest of Ferelden is the Bannorn, a free-for-all of sorts between Banns and the Freeholders they court for power.
- Rated M for Manly: Thanks to their barbarian ancestry, Fereldan culture involves quite a bit of fighting with little effort placed into luxuries. Unlike Orlesians, who favour elaborate silks and Antivans, who enjoy well-tanned leather, Ferelden fashions seems to be based on whatever is the most practical material on hand, lined with fur.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The nobility are expected to ride into battle with their troops, including the King. This is reflected in the proud tradition of the Landsmeet, where the nobles come together to elect the next King, as well as settle various disputes and matters of honour. Taking an active role in the Landsmeet affects one's prestige and status amongst the nobility, and vice versa.
- Scotireland: The Teyrnir of Highever.
- Shining City: Or shining citadel, more like. Highever is the country's Sugar Bowl setting, being ruled by an Always Lawful Good family of reasonable nobility and after Denerim it is the place to be in Ferelden. Many of the most prominent Fereldans have roots there, including King Calenhad himself. Even the resident city elves live uncommonly well. You'd be forgiven for thinking Dairren and the rest of the Landsmeet had a point when they felt Bryce Cousland would have been an excellent king — look how well his own lands are run! Rendon Howe's cowardly, treacherous, and self-serving conquest of the city is part of what makes him a monster.
- The Tower: Fort Drakon, a fortress and prison in the heart of Denerim. It's basically Ferelden's answer to the Tower of London. Unlike the Circle Tower, it was actually built by the Tevinter mages.
- Took a Level in Badass: The nations of Thedas take Ferelden a lot more seriously after the Fifth Blight. It is also one of the only countries in Thedas that has emerged from both games in a better place than it started. They may still be recovering by Inquisition, but they are not beset by political problems, as in Origins, and Denerim is said to barely show signs of the terrible siege that occurred ten years before. They're also able to establish direct diplomatic ties with Orlais, the most powerful nation on Thedas, without needing to be part of a coalition.
- Undying Loyalty: In another allusion to their symbolic canines, Fereldans are big on loyalty. Empress Celene notes as such in a missive to the Orlesian ambassador that is a codex entry. This is yet another cause for the antipathy that Fereldans have for Orlesians: the latter celebrate treachery and betrayal in their "grand game".
Hawke: What's happening in Orlais?A very old empire known for its Deadly Decadent Court, for centuries Orlais has been the center of culture in Thedas. They still treat Ferelden as an uppity colony in many ways, and there is always at least some scheming to recapture it.
Alistair: Oh, the usual. Attempted assassinations, uprisings, fancy parties with stinky cheeses...
Alistair: Oh, the usual. Attempted assassinations, uprisings, fancy parties with stinky cheeses...
- Action Fashionista: It's not enough to lead armies, govern nations or climb mountains - you have to be impeccably dressed while doing so. Vivienne's character kit lays it all out.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: They practically compete with Tevinter for the number one title. The only real aversion we get is the Lady who raised and educated Leliana after her mother passed.
- Badass Army: The Order of the Chevaliers, generally considered one of the finest fighting forces in Thedas.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The Great Game creates a pedigree of corrupt, effete, and conniving noblemen, but they are still the most powerful nation on Thedas.
- Cultural Posturing: To much of the rest of Thedas, and especially towards their eastern neighbor, Ferelden.
- The Dandy: Due to their incredibly foppish demeanour compared to other nations.
- Deadly Decadent Court: Their nobles take pride in "the grand game". The chance of your party entertainment being a spy or hitman is considered a bonus, and a Fantastic Drug brewed from wyvern poison is favored by the Empress herself. This is so endemic to Orlais that in Dragon Age: Inquisition trying to reconcile all three of the major rivals for the throne and make them work together is the worst option. Shortly after the events of the game they will go right back to playing "The Game". Cassandra despises "The Game", seeing it as nothing more than a glorification of rampant murder and corruption.
- Droit du Seigneur: According to Liselle, this practice is very popular amongst the nobility and the Chevaliers.
- Crapsack World: The novel makes it clear Orlais is not a nice place to live for pretty much anyone. If you're a commoner, you're basically an Unperson whose needs are not on anyone's agenda. It's a lot worse if you're an elf. If you're a noble, yeah, you have a lot of money and get to live in luxury, but your every word, emotion, love affair, and decision is a part of the Game, and don't consider the death of yourself or your loved ones beyond the capabilities of your rivals.
- The Empire: As foppish as their nobles come across, Orlais is the richest and most powerful human nation in Thedas. Ferelden threw off their occupation at the start of the Dragon Age, and officially made peace with Empress Celene twenty years later, but it's fresh in people's minds on both sides.
- Everyone Is Bi: A necessary part of the Grand Game is sleeping your way to the top, which for Orlais' nobles means not being picky about their bedmates. This leads to Orlais having the reputation of being sexually looser than other nations, even if being gay isn't usually an issue in Thedas to begin with.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Played straight with Leliana. Averted with everyone else, with Fereldans in particular often taking a moment to mock their accents.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Basically a distillation of everything stereotypically French, good or bad, ancient and modern, packaged into one country and rounded off with a side-dish containing stinky cheeses.
- Foil: To Ferelden. Ferelden is an isolationist kingdom, Orlais is an expansionist empire. Fereldans emphasize martial strength, Orlesians emphasize subterfuge. Fereldans dress plainly, even the noblemen. Orlesians dress garishly, and derive status from Conspicuous Consumption. Fereldan kings draw power from a parliament of nobles and magnates, Orlesian emperors enforce their will and maintain that authority through the theory of the divine right of kings. Fereldan iconography emphasizes dogs and wolves, Orlesian iconography emphasizes lions.
- French Jerk: A worrying number of them.
- Holy City: Val Royeaux. The Grand Cathedral located there is both the residence of the Divine and the headquarters for the entire Andrastian Chantry. The monks located within notably sing the entire Chant of Light from beginning to end, a process that takes over a fortnight.
- Hypocrite: The book does not paint a pretty picture of the Orlesian chevaliers, who are supposed to abide by a rigid code of honor... that only applies to noble humans. Otherwise, when dealing with commoners and elves, they are just as, if not more, ruthless and cruel than their supposedly "lesser" counterparts in the Orlesian military. One particularly disgusting thing chevaliers do is go on raids in elven slums as part of their training, where they kill random, innocent elven civilians for no other reasons than to prove their warped concept of nobility. Definitely brings a new meaning to Champion trainer Lord Chancer de Lion's claims that chevaliers are generally distrusted by the common folk.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Deconstucted. Chevaliers are supposed to be the idealized version of this on paper, in practice however, quite a few of them turn out to be murderers and rapists trained from the ranks of Orlesian nobility. Sers Gaspard and Michel from The Masked Empire do believe in this trope whole-heartedly, "Death Before Dishonor" being their rule to live by, however they can't really be considered squeeky clean. Possibly played straight with Benoit Du Lac, Aveline's father, who was exiled from Orlais for refusing to play The Grand Game and getting screwed over as a result.
- Mage Tower: White Spire.
- Malevolent Masked Men: Masks are often worn by many of the aristocracy as part of the Great Game.
- Monster Clown: The Harlequins are an elite military unit that evoke this trope because... well, because it's Orlais.
- Not So Different:
- For all their foppery, the Orlesians were also descended from a Barbarian Tribe, the Ciriane, led by one of the sons of Maferath and Andraste.
- Bring Dorian to the Winter Palace and he'll find the whole affair disturbingly familiar, comparing it to Tevinter sans blood magic or (official) slavery.
- Obviously Evil: They're second only to Tevinter in this regard. They're an autocratic empire where the Deadly Decadent Court is seen as the highest form of political organization, rather than an aberration due to corruption. Their knights are legally permitted to practice Droit du Seigneur. Their military has a Monster Clown unit of assassins. Their aristocrats are effete morons who abuse their subjects, almost to a man. They're actually getting better, though. Under Celene, they stopped outright practicing slavery, but still, when a dyed-in-the-wool Orlesian shows up, you know he or she will be a moron, a bad guy, or both.
- Screw the War, We're Partying!: Orlesians are known for their "parties" and "balls"; however, like everything in Orlais, it's a front. Parties and balls are little else than political battlefields where different nobles and factions gather in one place to try and walk away with big wins for themselves and big losses (and perhaps death) for their enemies.
- Sissy Villain: Frequently this, overlapping with French Jerk. Because of the Grand Game, Orlesian nobles are always antagonistic, selfish, and passive-aggressive. We hardly see any who are not deceitful, flamboyant, vain, or foppish. Furthermore, Orlesians who identify themselves as Free Marchers (Stroud) or Fereldan (Riordan, who was "born and bred" in Highever), tend to be far more amicable and less effeminate.
- Stupid Evil: Not always. In Ferelden, however, they were unquestionably this, which is why the only native Fereldans who supported them did so out of greed or fear. Once the abuse became too great, even they were willing to fight the Orlesians.
- Vestigial Empire: They used to control the Free Marches, Ferelden, the Anderfels, and Nevarra in addition to their own land. All of these places won their independence. They're still quite powerful, but have lost territory to Nevarra in wars, and as of Asunder, are in the middle of a Civil War.
- Wandering Minstrel: Bards are common in Orlais as minstrels and spies.
"A free city.... but I use the term loosely."A independent city-state located in the Free Marches, known in antiquity as Emerius when it was under the control of the Tevinter Imperium. The setting of Dragon Age II.
- The Alcatraz: The Gallows, home of Kirkwall's Circle, swings between this and a Cardboard Prison.
- Abandoned Mine: The Maharian Quarry, more commonly referred to as the Bone Pit, due to all the deaths of Tevinter slaves there during the Imperium days and rumours that it's haunted. Despite Hubert and Hawke's best efforts to keep their business running, repeated mishaps plague the miners, leading it to be finally abandoned after the entire workforce is wiped out by a nesting High Dragon.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Darktown, which is made up of old mines and the sewer system.
- Almighty Janitor: Hawke serves as the resident one, being one of the few people willing roll up their sleeves and sort out the various problems in the city, despite having no real position of authority. It's heavily implied that part of the reason Meredith refuses to hold elections for the Viscount's successor is to prevent the nobles from electing Hawke to the post.
- Animal Motifs: Kirkwall's architecture, family crests and even surnames often contain bird imagery, often birds-of-prey.
- Authority in Name Only: Viscount Dumar, due to being a Slave to PR. The real power in Kirkwall lies with Knight-Commander Meredith and she knows it. She becomes de facto ruler after the Viscount's murder at the hands of the Arishok, refusing to allow the nobles to elect his successor.
- Bad-Guy Bar: The Hanged Man, situated in Lowtown, although depending on who's in that night it can also be called a Good-Guy Bar.Seneschal Bran: Though where you would find a guardsman so eager to sell his honour and sword is beyond me.
Isabela: Hanged Man.
Fenris: Hanged Man.
Merrill: Hanged Man.
Aveline: Got to be.
Sebastian: Even I know that.
- The Champion: Hawke becomes this for Kirkwall after ending the Qunari invasion of the city.
- City of Adventure: Living there is certainly not dull by any accounts, just incredibly deadly. Most of the ridiculously high death rate in Kirkwall is attributed to Hawke, and they're the local hero!
- Deadly Decadent Court: Somewhat. While other nobles have put out a hit on Lord Harimann for convincing the Viscount to send financial aid to post-Blight Ferelden and the Viscount mentions he fears assassination if he becomes too friendly with the Qunari, for the most part they tend to limit themselves to passive-aggressive complaining. Which, if you've read this far, you should realize qualifies them as downright restrained, on the whole.
- Dishing Out Dirt: It's rumored that the Ancient Tevinter Mages used magic to create the passage into Kirkwall's harbor.
- Eldritch Location: So many slaves died here while it was part of the Imperium that the Veil was permanently damaged, accounting for the sheer number of possessions you see in Dragon Age II. Kirkwall's Circle of Magi has an alarmingly high failure rate for mages undergoing the Harrowing, especially when compared to other circles. A codex entry hints at a darker purpose to the city's very design and implies a huge number of slaves were sacrificed in an effort to deliberately weaken the veil for undetermined reasons. Its close proximity to Corypheus' prison likely didn't help matters either.
- Expy: It and the rest of the Free Marches are this to the Free Cities from A Song of Ice and Fire. More specifically, Kirkwall can be seen as an Expy of Qarth due to the concentration of occult activity and its history as a major slave city.
- Fantastic Ghetto: The Kirkwall Alienage is surprisingly pleasant, rather spacious and located in a small district in Lowtown, rather than a walled off ghetto separate from the rest of the city like many in Ferelden and Orlais.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Played straight under Jeven, but averted under Aveline's leadership, as she roots out the corruption and turns the City Guard into an incredibly efficient fighting unit.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Kirkwall is home to Darktown, the Gallows, Sundermount, the Bone Pit Mine and the Wounded Coast. Hawke frequently lampshades the sheer bleakness invoked by the local place names.
- Malevolent Architecture: Lowtown is adorned with rusted metal spike partitions, narrow streets, abandoned mining equipment, while Darktown adds various hidden traps into the mix. Justified, however, as both are former mines and slave dwellings; they were designed to prevent slave uprisings through intimidation, as well as being easily sealed off to contain trouble makers.
- Red Light District: Located in Hightown and centered around The Blooming Rose.
- In-Series Nickname: "The City of Chains".
- Soiled City on a Hill: Once it was one of the greatest cities of the Imperium, fueled by the lives of thousands of slaves and blood magic. After several rebellions and invasions, what was left was a shadow of it's former self, and despite all the "cleansing" and reform, is still corrupt and wretched at it's core as it ever was.
- Thieves' Guild: The Coterie is the main one, but there are at least a dozen others, all of whom seem to like taking potshots at Hawke's group in between crises. It never ends well for them.
- Wretched Hive: It's one of the most infamous cities in Thedas for a reason.
The Tevinter Imperium
Anders: So, there must be mages in Tevinter who don't use blood magic?Perhaps the oldest human nation in existence, Tevinter is still an extremely violent and dangerous magocracy that uses slavery and blood magic as a matter of course. In order to dodge the Chantry's laws on magic, they created a splinter church of their own, ruled by their own Divine (known as the Black Divine) to reinterpret scripture in their favor.
Fenris: Of course. There are slaves. The magisters do not hesitate to collar their own kind.
Fenris: Of course. There are slaves. The magisters do not hesitate to collar their own kind.
- Animal Motifs: Serpents and Dragons. It permeates every aspect of their fashion (with serpent staves being common), architecture (dragon statues galore), their infamous Smug Snake attitude... even their very gods were said to look like dragons.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Maevaris (comics), Krem, Felix and Dorian are the only decent Tevinter humans we've met. The country itself is a useful boogeyman for anti-mage characters to use as a justification for imprisoning mages specifically because seemingly every Tevinter magister is evil with a capital E.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: A major reason for its toxic system lasting so long; a mage who turns down the advantages of blood magic and living sacrifice usually ends up dead or enslaved.Fenris: The more powerful the mage, the higher he rises in the Senate. He makes the laws, he determines what is acceptable. Everyone who wishes to compete must do the same, or be crushed. Perhaps it wasn't always this way, but it is now.
- Badass Army: It has mages and war elephants, and has managed to stave off conquest by a technologically superior enemy for centuries. Tevinter's armies also managed to conquer all of Thedas, and they're basically the reason the Qunari have no major settlements on the mainland. The capital city, Minrathous, has enough food and supplies to withstand an enemy siege for over a year and has been guarded for nearly a thousand years by the "Juggernauts", gigantic war golems acquired from the dwarves.
- Benevolent Mage Ruler: Some magisters actually are this, such as Maevaris Tilani and members of her faction and also Magister Halward Pavus, who is a well-respected ruler who genuinely wants what's best for his family and people. The founder of House Pavus, Gideon, was also this. In addition, in Magister Livius Erimond's codex entry, framed as a letter to a friend named "Demetrius," Demetrius is mocked as a magister who cares too much about maintaining the Imperium's infrastructure and not enough about helping the Venatori. Finally, the current Archon, Radonis, is said to be a keen administrator and powerful mage; Josephine, for one, considers him a better ally than the King of Nevarra.
- Blood Magic: Technically outlawed. Still practiced widely. According to Dorian, there is a difference between what counts as "blood magic" to Tevinter than in other places of Thedas: Using yourself or a willing participant as a catalyst is treated as no big deal; it's the sacrifices and demon-summoning that is publicly frowned upon but still practiced since that's the most powerful kind of Blood Magic.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: Elven Tevinter Magisters are uncommon, but not unheard of. On the flip side of this, Tevinters don't show favoritism towards those they keep as slaves; being a mage by no means makes you exempt from slavery. If you're a talented mage you might have a better chance of being freed, but that's no guarantee.
- Evil Sorcerer: An entire Empire seemingly built on embracing this trope as fully as possible.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Byzantine Empire, though with a heaping scoop of evil and a much tighter geographic alignment to Rome.
- Fictionary: Tevene is heavily based on Latin. We haven't heard enough of it to know how much it really varies.
- Forever War: They've been trying to drive the Qunari off Seheron for at least eighty years, but have yet to even inspire a serious counterattack. Of course, the Qunari can barely make headway in conquering the mainland since they were first repulsed, so the two are caught in a stalemate. Party members in Dragon Age: Inquisition have pointed out that it's usually more of an "eye-watering slap-fight" than a full-on war, but the resentment behind it is very real.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: During the first four Blights and the Exalted Marches against the Qunari.
- Made a Slave: The Tevinters are heavily involved in the slave trade, particularly when it comes to elves.
- The Magocracy:
- Not initially. The elves (or the Old Gods) taught the Archon Thalsian Blood Magic, and it all went downhill from there. Now mages rule everything, from the government to the Chantry. They even split from the official Andrastian Chantry so they could reinterpret scripture to put mages back on top.
- It's very important to note that while the ruling body and upper class is made up entirely of mages, just because you're a mage, doesn't mean you're part of the upper class. There are lower class mages, and many mages are even kept as slaves. Just like in the other nations, the nobles run everything. The main difference is that they all happen to be mages.
- Misblamed: In-Universe, the Imperium is held to be responsible for the fall of Arlathan and the elven kingdom, something many tevinters take as a point of pride. The truth is that the elves destroyed themselves in a civil war. Tevinter still has plenty of other atrocities to its name, starting with poaching the survivors of Elvhenan's slave caste.
- No Woman's Land: Other countries spread tales of Tevinter being this; specifically, if women from non-Tevinter countries are captured, it's expected that they'll be sold into slavery and possibly used as a Sex Slave. On the one hand, this is true—Tevinter nobles do do this sort of thing. On the other hand, so does everyone else. Ask the alienage elves or some of the mages and Tranquil how much safer they are outside of Tevinter. Conversely, female Altus mages and Magisters can be every bit as depraved as their male counterparts, and the only office truly barred to them is the Imperial Divine.
- Odd Friendship: Well, "friend" might pushing it a bit, but the Imperium has traditionally maintained strong ties with the dwarves, due to their prodigious skill in construction and having the only real access to Lyrium in Thedas. The dwarves created the Juggernaut Golems used to defend Minrathous, while the Tevinters returned the favour by building a palatial embassy underground, so the dwarven dignitaries would not lose their caste by being above surface.
- The Queen's Latin: Though British accents are pretty common in other places in-setting too.
- The Republic: A repressive one, ruled by mages and with legalized slavery, yes, but it is ruled officially by the Senate, of which the Archon is characterized as half-Emperor and half-presiding officer.
- Shining City: Minrathous used to be this. It is a place of culture and history stretching back to time immemorial, and has never been conquered. Unfortunately...
- Soiled City on a Hill: What it is now, owing to centuries of misrule by the magisters and their ilk.
- Super Breeding Program: As magic tends to run in families, Tevinter has been practising the long-term, arranged-marriage version of this for some time. This has led to a bias against same-sex relationships, or at least ones that exclude the possibility of an heir being sired.
- Vestigial Empire: The Imperium once controlled all of Thedas, but is now reduced to its heartland in the north, between the Anderfels and Rivain. According to Fenris, however, the Imperium has slowly but surely recovered from their losses and are now once again a possible threat to the world at large. A good example of this is the word "Thedas" itself, which was originally used to describe any land outside the Imperium's borders, only to eventually come to mean the entire continent, as the empire shrank.
- Why Won't You Die?: Pretty much every other nation in Thedas thinks this of the Imperium. Even the Qunari couldn't take them out.
"Can you smell that [leather]? Like rotting flesh! Just like back in Antiva City. Now if only you could find me a prostitute or two, a bowl of fish chowder and a corrupt politician, I'd really feel like I was home!"A warm nation in the north-east, co-run by plutocrats and a notorious guild of assassins. While Antiva has few native resources besides its vineyards, its coastal location has made it a thriving trading hub.
- Anything That Moves: Many Antivans depicted in the series seem to embrace this philosophy.
- Culture Chop Suey: Medieval Venice populated by Latin Lovers with Spanish accents. A few Antivans lean more on the Italian-accented side. Moreover, it's not a jarring combination. At various points in history, Italian and Spanish families controlled cities in both regions.
- Elective Monarchy: Kings are elected, provided they get through their campaigns without being assassinated. Sometimes no-one feels brave enough to step forward - at which point the Crows go after potential candidates until someone does.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Spain and the Renaissance-era Italian city-states.
- Merchant Prince: While nominally a monarchy, the country is effectively a plutocracy — ruled by a dozen or so merchant princes with personal armies, vast resources, and a heaping helping of the local assassin order, the House of Crows.
- The Syndicate: The Crows wield a lot of political power.
- Weak, but Skilled: Their army is laughably bad. Their assassins are the best in Thedas. No general would attack them for fear of the Crows killing him, theoretically. Of course, countries have still done it, and quite successfully.
- Wretched Hive: Antiva is run in no small part by its criminal / assassin element.
"The most devout priests and the most deadly soldiers, the poorest nation in the world and the most feared."A mountainous country best known for being where the Grey Wardens were founded.
— Brother Genitivi
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Due to several Blights occuring in the Anderfels, the Wardens wield a lot of authority there.
- Butt Monkey: Three of the five Blights began or ended here, and these Blights lasted for decades.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Loosely based on Germany, with many of their city names being rather Teutonic. Specifically, they are similar to the Germany of the Holy Roman Empire, being a deeply religious people constantly geared for war. They also bear heavy resemblance to the northern German regions during the control of the Knights Teuton, a situation very similar to the Grey Wardens' authority in the country.
- Mordor: Some areas have seen so many darkspawn invasions, the Blight has rendered the land completely barren. Corpses don't even decay there, as insects or grubs can't get anywhere near them.
- Puppet King: The Anderfels has a King who is technically in charge, but due to all the Blights and darkspawn raids they've suffered, everyone looks to the Wardens as the real power in the region.
- Real Men Love The Maker: These guys are said to be some of the toughest warriors in Thedas. They are also among the most devout nations under the White Divine.
Generally referred to in the context of "Nevarran dragon slayers," Nevarra has a reputation for powerful mercenaries and odd funeral customs.
- Culture Chop Suey: Its politics, people and place as a mainland Andrastian human nation make it immediately comparable to Prussia in medieval Europe, but there appears to also be a major ancient Egyptian influence◊ in both their funeral customs and their architecture.
- The Dragonslayer: To the point where it's practically their national pastime. The Nevarrans are responsible for (nearly) wiping out the entire species during the Steel Age, while in the case of the distantly related Wyverns, they've taken to organising yearly hunts to keep their population in check.
- Due to the Dead: Unlike the other Andrastian nations, the Nevarrans don't burn their dead, but instead bury them as mummies in elaborate tombs. This has given rise to the "Mortalitasi", an order of mages responsible for preserving the dead. Unfortunately, the preserved corpses make ideal targets for Demonic Possession, resulting in larger numbers of more powerful undead in Nevarra.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Prussia, as both are led by extremely militaristic royal families, and Cassandra seems to be sporting a vaguely German accent. The wars with Orlais are also similar to Germany's repeated conflicts over France for land. The existence of a culturally important and politically active order of mages responsible for administrating funeral rites also gives the country something of an ancient Egyptian flare. Concept art◊ from The World of Thedas reveals that the Egyptian influence may go beyond just their funeral rites as well.
- Necromancer: An order of them known as the Mortalitasi.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Pentaghast Family was known for actively hunting dragons and a fair number of them were even Reavers (though this also eventually drove them mad). According to Cassandra, however, by the time of Inquisition most of the Pentaghasts are simply Upper Class Twits who pay lip-service to the Chantry and their family legacy.
- The Rival: To Orlais.
- Succession Crisis: The World of Thedas states that both the current King of Nevarra and his most likely successor are childless old men, and that both the Pentaghast and Van Markham clans are preparing for a fight over the throne when he goes, making this a likely possibility.
An independent city-state in the north of the Free Marches, recently ruled by the Vael family until their grisly murder in a coup, leaving Prince Sebastian as the sole remaining heir-in-exile.
- The Dandy: According to Varric, Starkhaven is stuffy and pretentious.
- Deadly Decadent Court: Varric and Sebastian bond over how similar it is to the Dwarf Merchants' guild.
- Expy: It and the rest of the Free Marches are this to the Free Cities from A Song of Ice and Fire.
- Mage Tower: The Starkhaven Circle, which was disbanded after it "mysteriously" burnt down in a fire.
- Puppet King: According to Sebastian, after the murder of his family the nobility of Starkhaven installed a distant cousin of his to serve as a "legitimate" heir, who is entirely under their thumb.
- Scotireland: Implied as Sebastian Vael speaks with a Scottish accent, although several other characters said to be from Starkhaven speak with regular English accents.
A distant country with some interesting ways of utilizing magic. Rivain is almost surrounded by water except for a strip of land linking it to Antiva. As a result, it's a teeming sailing hub and the headquarters of (among others) the Felicisima Armada. It also has the last peaceful Qunari holding in mainland Thedas.
- Ambiguously Brown: Dark skin runs heavily in Rivaini blood. Isabela is from Rivain proper and on the lighter shade while Vivienne is a native Marcher and Orlesian citizen with Rivaini heritage and is on the very dark shade. Rivaini skin color is not representative of any ethnic group of Real Life, and is somewhat of a catch-all for any non-white group.
- Exceptionally Tolerant: Compared to the rest of Thedas, Rivaini people have a more open-minded view of mages and spirits, seeing as how they train their females mages to become Seers. They have three religions within their borders: the Natural Order, the Qun, and the Chantry. It has also been stated that they have peaceful relations with the elves and the qunari.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Islamic Spain/Sicily, though some of their place names are bewilderingly Scotirish-sounding, like Dairsmuid (the capital) and Ayesleigh.
- The Magocracy: Downplayed. Rivain is a fractured nation whose people's minds are contested by the Old Ways, Chantry and the Qun. Seers are respected by the more traditional areas, and often become community leaders. The Circle of Dairsmuid was just their way of appeasing the Chantry. Unfortunately, when the Seekers found out they called for the Rite of Annulment.
- Savage Piercings: Rivaini are more tribal than most other large human societies and tend to adorn themselves in piercings.
- Seers: The traditional path of female mages. They only have a Circle at all to keep the Chantry happy, and mages are still allowed more family contact than almost anywhere else. Once the Chantry caught wind of it, however, they called the Right of Annulment on the Circle of Dairsmuid.
- Tattoo as Character Type: Rivaini people typically have tribal markings somewhere on their bodies. The larger and more intricate the markings, the higher the person's rank.
- Willing Channeler: Seers allow themselves to be possessed by Fade spirits.
- Women Are Wiser: Rivain is a traditionally matriarchal and communities are mostly governed by elder women, due to the belief that women are better suited for ruling. Most of these community elders are also Seers.
"Most people on the surface think of dwarves and imagine greedy merchants or dour craftsmen, and certainly those are the faces most often seen by those of us who live under the Maker's eye. But a journey to the thaig reveals a culture of nobility and of poverty, of proud warriors and of necessary brutality."Dwarves in Thedas have been fighting a losing war against the darkspawn for a very, very long time. When the darkspawn first appeared, the capitol of Orzammar closed its gates and abandoned all the other thaigs and cities. When they sent out scouts centuries later, they found that only one other city had survived. Dwarves are mostly known for mining lyrium, the magical ore that powers most magic items, but they have a number of other quirks—most notably, they are not allowed above ground under any circumstances, and are exiled if they do so.
— Brother Genitivi
- Amazon Brigade: The Silent Sisters, who were founded by the first female Paragon of the Warrior Caste.
- Badass Army:
- The dwarven army swings between this. They're some of the most efficient and seasoned warriors against the darkspawn and have successfully held out against them for over a thousand years.
- The Legion of the Dead are a smaller army of dwarves who have agreed to lifelong service in exchange for amnesty for any crimes they've committed. They undergo a funeral before joining and are considered dead afterwards. They tend to go on long and suicidal missions against the darkspawn and manage to prevail against incredible odds.
- Badass Normal: Dwarves are unable to produce mages due to their inability to dream. This doesn't stop them from being able to hold off the Darkspawn for centuries while other races with magic struggle during Blights.
- Cannot Dream: Unlike the other races of Thedas, dwarves cannot dream. This racial quirk means that they are also unable to connect with the Fade and therefore can't use magic.
- Deadly Decadent Court: Dwarven noble society ain't a very nice place. Backstabbing, coups, and assassinations are standard operating procedure.
- Disaster Democracy: Their politicians spend more time arguing and attempting to assassinate each other than actually worrying about the darkspawn constantly threatening to overrun the city.
- Due to the Dead: The dwarven funeral custom is to entomb the body, believing that their spirits goes into and strengthens the Stone.
- Dying Race:
- The endless war with the darkspawn coupled with restrictive social policy and already low birth-rates are slowly but surely bleeding the dwarves out. The dwarves are very aware of this, but are too bound by tradition to really do anything about it.
- As Varric points out in Inquisition while the traditional Orzammar dwarves may be dying out surface dwarves like him are thriving.
- Empowered Badass Normal: Varric hypothesizes that the reason Dwarves are so damn good at making stuff is because they can't cast or use magic in any other way. Who needs to cast a lightning spell when you can make a sword or axe that does it?
- Eternal English: Played with. The dwarves invented the Common Tongue as a trade language, replacing their old languages, but at least one can still can be heard in formal greetings and farewells, important titles and the occasional bit of slang. Interestingly, Caridin appears to use an archaic form of a dwarven farewall, implying that even though the language has mostly fallen out of use, it has changed slightly over the past thousand years.
- Fantastic Caste System: By tradition, each dwarf is born into one of eight castes, depending on the caste of their parent of the same sex. Those without a caste are shunned as untouchable by the majority of dwarves. The only way to change castes is to marry a partner of a different caste, give birth to a child the same sex as that partner, and then petition the Shaperate for a caste change. "Noble hunting" is a very common profession among the lesser casteless.
- Fantastic Racism: Against casteless or surface dwarves.
- Fantastic Slurs: "Brand" and "Duster" are used to describe the casteless, while the surface dwarves are "sun-touched" and "lost to the Stone".
- For Want of a Nail: Rather literally. Kal'Hirol is discovered to have fallen due to an incomplete gear mechanism for one of the massive doors used to seal the Deep Roads. If it had been completed before that section had been overrun by darkspawn, it's possible that Kal'Hirol could have survived much like Orzammar and Kal-Sharok.
- Honour Before Reason: The dwarves of Orzammar believe in this so much that they'd rather let the city fall to the darkspawn than allow a castless to insult the smith and warrior castes by picking up a fine blade and aiding in the defense of their city. Depending on who the Warden puts on the throne, they can get better... or much worse. The Warden is forced to get involved with their Succession Crisis as a result of this, as despite the fact that an apocalypse is currently in progress, their Binding Ancient Treaty requires that only their King can lend aid to the Wardens during the time of a Blight, meaning that their Assembly is legally required to do nothing until one is chosen.
- Hopeless War: They're stuck in one with the darkspawn. The Warden's actions can improve or worsen the situation.
- Justified Criminal: The casteless dwarves of Orzammar. Marked as outcasts and criminals from birth, they are not legally permitted to gain any legitimate work or housing. As such, they're forced into either begging or criminality for survival.
- Lava Adds Awesome: The underground realm of the Deep Roads has a lot of lava, to the point that the dwarves have lava fountains and lava waterfalls as decorations in the same way surfacers might use water. How their city is still habitable is a mystery.
- Medieval Stasis: While dwarven technology, primarily smithing techniques, has advanced, dwarven society has retained the same rules for its entire recorded history. A fact that most dwarves will proudly note. This is somewhat suspect, as the Shaperate is pretty open about altering the histories for political reasons.
- Nay-Theist: The dwarves do not believe in any god or gods, but instead venerate the Stone itself, who they credit with creating their race and believe guides them in their daily lives. In addition, they practice ancestor worship, believing that by interring themselves within the Stone, they strengthen it and allow themselves to continue guiding their descendants. Those decreed Paragons are individuals who have performed such incredible achievements they are considered to have the Stone's favour and are considered "Living Ancestors" themselves.
- Redshirt Army: The dwarfs are very aware that they are losing soldiers faster than they can replace them, as well as losing more and more ground to the horde by the year. The Legion of the Dead actually invoke and embrace this trope, as their members consider themselves already dead, thus eliminating any fear when called to perform a Heroic Sacrifice or run a Suicide Mission against the horde.
- The Remnant: Of the entire Dwarven Empire that once spanned across (and under) Thedas via the Deep Roads, only the furthest outposts of Orzammar and Kal-Sharok are left; their once magnificent Thaigs and grand highways, now in disrepair, collapsed, or swarming with darkspawn.
- Screw You, Elves!:
- Surface dwarves have this view towards the dwarves of Orzammar, wondering how anyone who willingly chooses to remain living in a dank hole in the ground, in constant danger of being overrun by the darkspawn horde, can still act so smug and self-important towards everyone else. The casteless, of whom they are technically a part, tend to agree with this sentiment.
- The dwarves of Kal-Sharok have this attitude towards the dwarves of Orzammar, having not forgiven them for shutting their gates and abandoning them to the darkspawn horde over a thousand years ago.
- Stout Strength: Despite their squat stature, dwarves tend to be slightly stronger and significantly hardier on average than either humans or elves with equivalent training.
- Tattooed Crook: Casteless dwarves are marked with a tattoo so that everyone can recognize them as "thieves and beggars." This, however, results in them becoming crooks, because they can't do anything else legally. Society really is to blame in their case. According to one trader, surface dwarves are legally required to wear one whilst conducting their business in Orzammar, as they are technically considered casteless. Most opt to wear a temporary tattoo that they can wash off upon their return to the surface.
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know:
- The Anvil of the Void and later Amgarrak were built to create (and recreate) golems to fight the darkspawn horde, but the research was ultimately abandoned (with some dissension) for being too abominable or dangerous to continue with.
- Before the Deep Roads Expedition rediscovered the Primeval Thaig in 9:31 Dragon, it was found by Orzammar in 8:48 Blessed, but the location was ordered to be forgotten and all records pertaining to it were sealed shortly afterwards.
- Town with a Dark Secret: Kal-Sharok, the only other major dwarven thaig remaining standing against the darkspawn. While little is known thus far, the World of Thedas hints that the inhabitants are very insular and slow to trust outsiders, particularly those from Orzammar. They are also rumoured to have been altered in some manner, as a result of a thousand years of constant, low-level exposure to the Taint.
- Urban Segregation: From Diamond Quarter (Noble Class) all the way down to Dust Town (casteless).
- Vestigial Empire: The dwarven kingdoms used to span the entirety of Thedas' underground. The First Blight reduced them to only two known cities, one of which hates the other.
- Wretched Hive: Orzammar, from the Nobles in their Deadly Decadent Court, all the way down to the Casteless squatting in Dust Town.
Sha-BrytolA group of mysterious dwarves that live below the Deep Roads and protect the Titans.
- Addiction Powered: They survive and are empowered by consuming lyrium, the blood of the Titans.
- Automatic Crossbow: They carry weapons similar in purpose but different in design from Varric's Bianca.
- Badass Army: Armed with powerful lyrium-infused weapons and capable with traps to fight off invaders of the Titans.
- Body Horror: They wear lyrium-enfused armor that is fused to their skin.
- Dishing Out Dirt: The Sha-Brytol Earthshakers have ill-defined earth-manipulating powers. Or at least, their maces do.
- Elite Mooks: The Earthshakers are both tougher and more powerful than the rest of their brethren.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Their eyes appear as pale blue lights, reflecting the lyrium they drink to survive. As for the 'Of Doom'... well... they certainly don't seem friendly.
- Godzilla Threshold: It's implied that the Sha-Brytol are fanatics who have sacrificed their lives to protect the Titan and the civilization that lives within. Similarities to Orzammar's Legion of the Dead are noted.
- Hidden Elf Village: There were vague rumors about the Titans. No one knew the Sha-Brytol existed until they attacked the Inquisitor's expedition.
- Praetorian Guard: They defend the Titans from intruders.
"To the elves, loss is an old and familiar enemy. Their homeland, their history, their very place in the world..."The once-immortal elves have been declining for centuries, and are now split between the wandering Dalish tribes and the alienage elves in human cities. Even their magic is waning; while once every elf had magic, now it is rare to find more than one in a single clan or settlement.
- Animal Motif: Elves as a race are often thematically compared to wolves. They're lithe, agile, live in small but close-knit communities (both Dalish and Alienage elves), and tend to make up for their lack of brute force by working in organized groups. Two major elven companions fit the bill; Fenris, whose very name means "Little Wolf," and Solas, The Dread Wolf of Elvhen legend.
- Art Evolution: They gained more distinct features than just "short humans with pointy ears" as part of the overall shift towards a distinct art style in II. The devs are apparently going for a middle-ground look in the third game. Amusingly, though the Dalish looked quite alien compared to the design of the elves in Origins, Merrill looks pretty much like a conventionally attractive human woman, just a very thin one.
- Can't Argue with Elves: The Ancient Elves very much held this attitude, justifiably, considering that they were the most powerful civilization to ever exist while at their peak. Even thousands of years later, after the disappearance of their gods, the loss of their immortality, and their conquest at the hands of humans, many Dalish elves still maintain a haughty sense of supremacy, especially when defending their lore and culture against that of humanity. However, many elven scholars, researchers (and occasional surviving first-hand witnesses) explain that elven society, for all its advancement, was no different or better than that of humans today. Things like slavery, poverty and other problems still existed.
- Cosmic Plaything:
- Nothing goes right for the elves. Nothing. Even when things start to look up, they just go From Bad to Worse. Even in ancient Elvhenan they were slaves to tyrannical "false gods" that were Not So Different from Tevinter magisters. Fen'Harel created the Veil to seal the false gods away and free the elven people... with the unintended side effect of stripping them of their immortality, magic, and magic-fueled wonders, which left them vulnerable to being conquered and enslaved by the newly formed Tevinter Imperium. After millennia of slavery under humans, the elves gained a brief Hope Spot in being grated a new homeland in return for helping Andraste fight against the Imperium... only to have that stripped from them a few centuries later, with the elves either forced into fantastic ghettos or homeless wandering.
- Every elven hero in human history (particularly ones who tried to help the elves and/or improve human/elf relations) has had their work undone in the long run, and has either been downplayed or stricken from the history books (Shartan, Garahel, Isseya, Telana...) or received a Race Lift (Ameridan, Telana again), so human society can keep viewing elves as inferior at best, a threat at worst. Even a potential Elven Warden and/or Inquisitor can only improve so much, with a lot of room for backsliding between games.
- Desperately Looking For A Purposein Life: There are a significant number of elves dissatisfied with the positions of both the Dalish and the City Elves, seeing the former as languishing in their own decaying culture and the latter as oppressed by humans. These elves have either joined the Qun, or joined with Fen'Harel's dangerous plan to remove the Veil as they see its the only way of escaping oppression and/or reviving their dying society.
- Elves vs. Dwarves: Averted, elves are most commonly in conflict with humans, who have taken all of their land and reduced them to second class citizens. They have also have unspoken problems with the Qunari, who are slowly leeching away their culture by converting unhappy elves to the Qun. Meanwhile, the dwarves are struggling to preserve their own society from being torn apart by the constant tide of darkspawn. The dwarves and elves barely acknowledge each other's existence.
- Enslaved Elves: As far as anyone knows, they were the first race to inhabit Thedas. Then the humans arrived, the Imperium formed, and things went to hell for them. After Andraste led the rebellion against the Imperium, they were given a homeland and enjoyed a Hope Spot that lasted nearly three centuries before the Chantry declared an Exalted March against them. It's revealed in The Masked Empire that the ancient elves practiced slavery, had a rigid caste system, and kept the lower castes in conditions that were similar to those of the city elves today.
- Fantastic Slurs: Often called "knife-ear" and "rabbit" by humans (because of their ears). Elves retaliate by calling humans "shems" (city elves) or "shemlen" (Dalish). The Dalish sometimes refer to the city elves as "flat-ears".
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The elves are all over the map. In this case, it's like the developers took a bit of every minority ethnicity and culture that Western Europeans ever came into contact with (especially Jews, Romani, Native and African Americans, Medieval Celts to Anglos and Saxons, 17th to early 20th century Irish to Brits and Americans, etc), threw them into a blender, stuck pointed ears on them, and plopped them into Thedas. note Word of Gaider is that the elves were inspired by real Jews (lost homeland, ghettos in medieval cities, etc), but [invoked] admits that their history of oppression and cultural genocide mirrors Native Americans and other historically oppressed minorities.
- From Bad to Worse: Their entire history. It gets even worse when you find out from Abelas that Arlathan wasn't even actually overthrown by Tevinter, but by Civil War.
- Have You Seen My God?: According to their lore, Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf and Trickster God, tricked both the Elven Pantheon and the Forgotten Ones (their gods of evil) into locking themselves into the Fade while he mediated a truce in the Forever War between the two. However, some accounts say that this was made up after-the-fact to explain why the gods didn't save their empire from falling. Inquisition's Trespasser reveals that Fen'Harel did imprison the Elven Pantheon, but it was to free the elves from their tyranny and to punish them for murdering Mythal, the only benevolent one of the bunch. Mythal herself has endured as a wisp that has been possessing the bodies of generations of Flemeth's human "daughters," and Fen'Harel slumbered until a year before DAI. Who or what the Forgotten Ones were and what happened to them is still unknown.
- Loners Are Freaks: One of the contributing factors leading up to the Exalted March against the Dales was Dales elves being extremely isolationist and turning away trade caravans and Chantry missionaries sent into their borders, which most human nations (especially the Imperial expansionist Orlais) found off-putting, if not a threat in the making.
- Oh My Gods!: The Creators.
- Our Elves Are Better:
- Zigzagged, elves are slightly more effective at magic and are more likely to produce mages, but are physically weaker than every other species and more susceptible to disease. Its implied that their weaker bodies are a result of the Veil.
- They once ruled a Tolkien-esque kingdom, with near-ubiquitous magic and (supposedly) the next best thing to immortality. Then the Imperium attacked with everything from mages to dragons. Subverted in The Masked Empire and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It's revealed that their empire was just as tyrannical as Orlais and Tevinter, with many elves enslaving their own kind and keeping the lower social rungs in conditions that were similar to those of the alienages.
- And late in Inquisition, the priest/slave of Mythal Abelas drops this bombshell: "The shemlen did not destroy Arlathan. We elvhen warred upon ourselves."
- Ultimately, the Trespasser DLC reveals that the ancient elves weren't better or worse than anyone else. They were just people, subject to the same follies and tyrannies as people of any other race and society.
- Perma-Shave: According to Fenris, elves aren't capable of growing beards.
- Poirot Speak: Elves, especially the Dalish, typically litter their speech with words and short phrases in their own language, for instance referring to humans as "shemlen" ("Quick Children," and in context a bit of a racial slur), or, more rarely, dwarves as "durgen'len" ("Children of the Stone," not anywhere as negative as "shemlen"). This is because most of the knowledge of their language has been lost over the centuries of disenfranchisement and enslavement; the smattering of it that peppers their dialogue is their best effort at retaining what's left.
- Pointy Ears: As common to most elves in fantasy.
- Screw You, Elves!:
- Inverted. Their hostility towards humans comes from a history of abuse, and most human societies continue to treat them as second-class. Elf Wardens have several options to go "Screw you, human." It's more likely to be seen between different branches of elves: Dalish and City elves don't always get along, but even the city elves are contemptuous of those who try to fully integrate in human society.
- Even more played with when you meet Abelas, a survivor from the days just around the downfall of Arlathan. He shows cold, stoic contempt for the Dalish: "shadows wearing vallaslin. You are not my people."
- Teeny Weenie: A hardened Leliana will mention the rumor.
- Witch Species: Elves claim that every member of their race had the ability to use magic before the fall of Elvhenan. The DAO game mechanics imply that there is some truth to this, since elves get a stat boost in magic and willpower, even if you don't choose the mage class. They are correct about this belief. Unbeknownst to the modern elves, the reason most of them lost this aspect was Fen'harel's creation of the Veil, an unintended side effect that Fen'harel himself compared to Tranquility.
Cailan: Do you come from the Alienage? Tell me, how is it there? My guards all but forbid me from going there.The elves confined to the slums in human cities.
Warden: I killed an Arl's son for raping my friend.
Warden: I killed an Arl's son for raping my friend.
- Animal Motifs: They're often unfavorably compared to rats and rabbits by humans, who often see them as swarms of vermin or weak, frightened, easily-killed prey.
- Arranged Marriage: A common practice among city elves. Justified in that segregation, poverty and Fantastic Racism makes travel very expensive and dangerous for most. Since a small community living and marrying together inevitably leads to everyone becoming related down the line, they have to marry outside the Alienage by necessity to avoid Kissing Cousins with other elves and Interspecies Romance with humans note . Due to the aforementioned difficulties travelling, it's just safer and easier for the elders to arrange matches for young people and have one spouse travel once to get married.
- Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The alienage folk aren't exactly a superpower and have to tolerate a lot of crap in their day-to-day lives. But the moment they stop tolerating it, you would be best advised to get out of their way.Guard Captain: Are you expecting me to believe that one elf did all of that?
Valendrian: We are not all so helpless, Captain.
- Enslaved Elves: They're technically not slaves, but they're so second-class, there's really little difference. Discussed in Origins when an Elf Warden can point out to Leliana that even the most well-payed elven servant is still only treated as a prize-winning animal by their masters, leading her to be horrified that she'd never questioned this commonly-accepted worldview before.
- Fantastic Ghetto: They're kept in slums called "alienages" and any human crimes against them suffer the equivalent of Missing White Woman Syndrome, though it depends on the rulers of the alienage in question. The alienage in Highever, ruled by the Couslands, is noted to be governed well and in better condition by Iona. The Denerim alienage, ruled by the Kendalls and then Rendon Howe, is a complete and utter hellhole. The alienage of Kirkwall, ruled by a well-meaning but ineffectual Viscount Dumar and the casually corrupt Kirkwaller aristocracy, is somewhere in between.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: While elves as a race are all over the map, city elf culture specifically is most often compared to pre-WWII European Jews and pre-Civil Rights Movement African Americans. This is largely due to their history of being displaced from their homeland (Jerusalem for Jews, Africa for African Americans), a history of slavery and/or open second-class citizenry, and their urban segregation into Fantastic Ghettos (mirroring pre-WWII European Jewish ghettos and post-Industrial Revolution American ghettos).
- Race Fetish: Despite being treated like crap by most humans, according to Leliana, Orlesians do find them incredibly beautiful. It is also stated by Zevran that this is one of the reasons the Crows recruit elves. On a more darker side of this trope, people like Vaughan Kendall agree.
- Reduced to Ratburgers: Abject poverty can take a toll on one's diet. The City Elf Warden's cousin Shianni is quite proud of her "rabbits of the city" stew, and the context makes it clear that one accustomed to alienage life wouldn't find rats too objectionable to eat either.
- Rite of Passage/Sex as Rite-of-Passage: A city elf is not considered an adult until s/he gets married.
- Urban Segregation: Elves who try to assimilate with humans are sneered at by both groups. The elves, when questioned about this, admit the real reason for encouraging isolationism is to discourage interracial affairs. Due to a strange quirk in their genetics, elves can only be born from a union of two elven parents. Mating with other races produces members of the non-elf parent. The elves fear being completely absorbed by the other races if this was left unchecked.
- Wretched Hive: Alienages are often seen as this by their human neighbors, due to the high rate of poverty and the inevitable crime, disease, and filth it generates. Depending on the city, sometimes they're right.
"We are the Dalish: Keepers of the lost lore, walkers of the lonely path. We are the last of the Elvhenan, and]] never again shall we submit!"The more traditional elves, who after the loss of their second homeland in the Dales, now wander Thedas in small nomadic tribes.
- Adventure Archaeologist: They're nomadic hunter-scholars who wander the land, fighting off any beasts, monsters, and bigoted humans that attack them. They're also dedicated to recovering their forgotten history and culture, so they tend to explore and study every ancient elven ruin they stumble across. Often they do both at once, fighting off whatever giant spiders, undead, demons, darkspawn, and other beasties infesting the ruins they're trying to catalog.
- Animal Motifs: Dalish hunters are often compared to wolves, given that they live in tight clans in the forest and tend to hunt and fight in organized groups. However, the Dalish as a whole, and Dalish mages especially, are associated with halla; rare, majestic, silvery white deer that will only allow the Dalish to tame them.
- Badass Creed: The Oath of the Dales, as shown above. Dragon Age: Inquisition Trespasser ultimately reveals they were half-right about their legends, but ancient elves still endure, and Fen'Harel (the one who sealed their "gods" and accidentally sundered ancient elvhen society in the process) has awakened, and seeks to restore the ancient elven world at any cost.
- Bare Your Midriff: Their female armor, in Origins. In the sequels, they wear the same armor as men.
- The Fair Folk: According to the Chantry. How straight it's played varies from clan to clan and from Dalish to Dalish. They have a tendency to draw swords against any human who even accidentally wanders into their territory, they are known to dabble in Blood Magic, and the historical record speculates that human sacrifice may have been common when the Dalish still had a homeland, though for obvious reasons, this is suspect.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: The Dalish treat Flemeth with the appropriate level of respect and reverence, knowing far better than to mess with Asha'Bellenar.
- Druid: Their mages preserve traditions and lean towards 'wild' magic (nature spells or shapeshifting).
- Due to the Dead: The Dalish funeral custom is to bury their dead and plant tree saplings over the grave. The idea is that in death, they can bring new life to the forest that serves as their home and refuge.
- Facial Markings:
- Upon coming of age, they adorn themselves with Vallaslin ("Blood Writing"), which consists of intricate tattoos of their chosen patron applied to their face. While it's unclear whether this practice derives from Arlathan or is a more recent development, it nonetheless serves as both a way to keep their culture alive and a subtle way of saying "Screw you, humans!"
- According to Solas the Vallaslin markings are derived from Arlathan customs. These were the markings nobles would put on their slaves to honor the gods. A Dalish Inquisitor can be horrified, or argue that her people have reclaimed them and they now represent something more.
- Fantastic Racism: Towards humans (who they call "shemlen") and city elves, though this varies depending on the individual, even within the same clan.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: While elves as a race are all over the map, the Dalish as a culture are most often compared to Native Americans and Medieval Romani. This is largely due to their diaspora, nomadic lifestyle, preference to keep to rural areas over assimilating into the majority sedentary society, dedication to maintaining and (in the case of many Native Americans) reconstructing their (largely lost) traditions, culture, and lifestyle, being seen as gypsy troublemakers and heathens/savages by this universe's European Christian counterparts, etc.
- Fictionary: Although they've lost most of the old elven language.
- Fighting for a Homeland:
- While city elves will settle on segregation and second-class citizenry in human cities, the Dalish would rather wander through the woods until the elves receive their own sovereign territory. Part of their bitterness towards humanity is that they actually did this once before, having joined Andraste's army to overthrow the Tevinter Imperium and founding their new homeland of Halamshiral in the Dales. However, the elves of Halamshiral embraced isolationism and refused to send aid during the Second Blight, which soured the goodwill that Ameridan earned with Orlais. After a period of hostility between the elves and Orlesians warfare eventually erupted after the elves attacked the town of Red Crossing for unknown reasons, with some believing they were provoked. The truth is a bit sadder, as you can learn in Inquisition.
- The Dalish Warden can be granted the Hinterlands as their royal boon for ending the Fifth Blight. However, this doesn't last. If Alistair is made king and encounters Merrill in his DA 2 cameo (six years after the Blight), he profusely apologizes for what happened, and promises to make it up to the Dalish. In DAI (ten years after the Blight), the Herald can explore every scrap of the Hinterlands, yet they encounter no Dalish nor any mention that the Hinterlands should belong to them.
- As of Trespasser, Solas, revealed to be the Dread Wolf, seeks to tear down the Veil to restore the elves' ancient magic and immortality, likely destroying the world as we know it but restoring the homeland the ancient elves lost. The epilogue reveals that Thedas elves are flocking to him en masse, both city and Dalish.
- Forest Ranger: Territorial rather than custodial, since they move around a lot. Nonetheless, they are fiercely territorial and protective when it comes to the safety of their camps, as shown by the introduction of Tamlen and Mahariel, chasing down three human trespassers with their bows fully trained on them. Tamlen is somewhat amused by their immediate assumption that it's because it's "their" forest, pointing out that the real reason is because they've stumbled too close to the Dalish camp.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: They frequently pepper their speech with random elvish. Justified as they've lost so much of their language and culture, this is how they try to keep it alive.
- Green Thumb: Their mages tend to use nature-based spells, as Velanna and Merrill will be happy to demonstrate.
- Grey and Gray Morality: According to Merrill, the Dalish reject the Chantry's interpretation of Spirits and Demons; believing that neither are necessarily good or evil and that both should be considered incredibly dangerous and treated with caution.
- Have You Seen My God?:
- They believe the Creators weren't around to protect them from the humans because they've been imprisoned by a trickster god.
- They're half-right. Their "Creators" weren't gods so much as immensely powerful mages who slowly came to be worshiped as gods, although they were imprisoned by Fen'Harel (also not a god), which (unintentionally) left the elves weakened and vulnerable to enslavement by humans.
- Illegal Religion: The elvhen religion was declared heretical following the Exalted March against the Dales, with the elves forced to either convert or hide out in the woods. The Dalish chose the latter, and are nomadic mainly to avoid being attacked or forcibly converted for their "heathen ways" by Templars and/or Chevaliers.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Or rather, "fantasy Joan of Arc was way cool". They're obviously not Andrastians, but they admire her actions.
- Mars Needs Women: According to Leliana, a common myth about the Dalish is that they are brutal savages who abduct women. After spending time with a Dalish Warden, however, she's relieved to learn that these stories clearly aren't true.
- Never My Fault: Subverted. While they have this reputation among Andrastian humans and some city elves (especially Sera) for denying personal responsibility in past conflicts with humans, especially regarding Red Crossing, their distrust of Chantry records proves to be well-founded in Dragon Age: Inquisition's Jaws of Hakkon DLC: The last Inquisitor, and buddy of Emperor Drakkon (founder of the Chantry and Orlesian Empire), was an elven mage and dual Creators / Andrastian worshiper. The Dalish also immediately accept the validity of lost letters detailing the truth of Red Crossing even though it doesn't paint the elves in the best possible light, and they waste no time sending an apology gift to the descendants of Red Crossing.
- Older Than They Look: Dalish elves tend to have longer lifespans than their City Elf counterparts, although this varies depending on individual families and clans who have been more isolated from humans. Indeed, while Zathrian's longevity was the result of a curse, Word of God says that it's not actually unheard of for exceptional elves to reach ages that measure in triple digit figures. Master Ilen of the Sabrae clan for instance, mentions that his father fought in battle against the Clayne tribes, which were unified into modern Ferelden over four hundred years prior to the Fifth Blight.
- Politically Correct History: Wringing the truth about the circumstances that created the modern Dalish out of the setting is virtually-impossible, considering that all sources are in-universe and actively working to make themselves look better and the other look worse. Both the Chantry and the Dalish are quite fond of their historical revisionism too, and don't take kindly to having it questioned by know-nothing outsiders.
- Subverted in Dragon Age: Inquisition, where the Inquisitor can discover the truth of Red Crossing written by the elves who committed the massacre, and can give the evidence to either the Dalish or the Chantry. The Dalish accept the truth wholesale and work to make amends to the descendants of Red Crossing, even though it doesn't put them in the best possible light. The Chantry, on the other hand, cherry-picks details of the same documents and uses them to paint themselves as wrongfully persecuted martyrs at the hands of those wicked elves.
- Proud Scholar Race Guy: Due to the Tevinters suppressing and wiping out their knowledge of elven history and culture during their enslavement, causing them to lose most of it, the Dalish actively search for and hoard any knowledge of ancient Arlathan that they can recover.
- Racial Remnant: Of the elves of Arlathan and the Dales.
- Rite of Passage: Receiving one's vallaslin, a ritualized face tattoo with the symbol of one of the gods, is the mark of adulthood for the Dalish. In Inquisition, Solas reveals to a romanced female Inquisitor that vallaslin were originally slave-markings.
- Screw You, Elves!: Many Dalish view the city elves as "flat-eared" race traitors who have forgotten their roots. The city elves, in turn, consider the Dalish either smug and aloof, or little more than wandering bandits.
- Technical Pacifist: The Dalish are nomadic and never stay in one place too long in order to avoid conflict. The Keeper even says that they could destroy a nearby human village who are rallying a mob to drive them out, if they so wished. As that would only cause King Cailan to send soldiers next time, it is wiser to simply move on. That said, they are very possessive of any spot they've chosen to camp, and always have a full contingent of archers hiding in the trees whenever outsiders come near.
- Trickster Archetype: Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf. He was the trickster god who imprisoned both their Creators and the Forgotten Ones.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: A Dalish Warden can tell Morrigan they've heard of Keepers with powers like hers. The closest we can get to this in-game is giving Velanna the specialization.
- Walking the Earth: As a result of the loss of both Arlathan and the Dales, the Dalish are reticent to settle anywhere for too long and elected to scatter to the four winds as wandering nomads, allowing them to preserve their culture and stay out of reach of humanity.
- Written by the Winners: Discussed in DAO. Most Dalish are skeptical of the Chantry's claims of their ancestors' supposed crimes leading up to the Fall of the Dalesnote since humans won that war and destroyed all known elven records leading up to it. This is why they immediately accept the authenticity of the the lost letters detailing the truth of Red Crossing the DAI Inquisitor finds, since it wasn't written by people who have something to gain by retroactively making the Dales elves look bad.
Leliana: I've heard stories about the Qunari, you know. They conquered nearly all of the north. Tevinter, Rivain, Antiva...much of the land was laid waste. In the northern kingdoms, they say the Qunari are implacable. Relentless. More like a landslide than an invasion. It took three Exalted Marches to drive them back to the sea.The Qunari is not the name of a single species, but an intense religious movement, originally founded by members of the (unnamed) horned race of humanoids from another continent, whom were known in antiquity (and Pre-Qun) as belonging to the kossith society.Anyone is free to join the Qun if they wish, and converts are treated with respect regardless of species - unless you're a mage, in which case they're treated even worse than anywhere else, due to the Qunari eschewing magic in favour of technology. As a result of this and having never been devastated by the Blight, the Qunari are significantly more technologically advanced than the rest of Thedas.
Sten: We'll do better next time.
Sten: We'll do better next time.
- Animal Motifs: Often compared to oxes or bulls due to their huge builds, horns, and leathery skin.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: While undeniably a threat to be reckoned with, so far the Qunari have been presented with far more sympathetic traits than the Tevinter Empire.
- Amazonian Beauty: The horned Qunari race are all tall and muscular; even women, when compared to the females of other species. Qunari also often wear very little clothing or don't bother covering themselves up at all. To outside races, these traits often combine to form a very particular fetish, which is only made stronger by the fact that sex for romantic purposes is forbidden under the Qun.
- Anti-Magical Faction: The most hardline anti-magic group in the entire setting, against some tough competition. Saarebas ("dangerous thing") have their horns shorn, are kept collared and supervised at all times and in extreme cases, their tongues are cut out and their mouths are stitched shut. Their only accepted use being "attack dog". Qunari mage-handlers will try to kill a mage who so much as speaks to them for fear of demonic influence.
- Art Evolution: The Qunari species went from tall, dark-skinned humans in DA:O to massive, metal-hued, ram-horned "ox men" in DAII. It wasn't a true retcon, since from the earliest drawings the Qunari were supposed to look like their DAII forms but the design couldn't be implemented in time. Instead the two Qunari seen during DA:O were established to have been born without horns or to have intentionally removed them.
- The Assimilator: Their goal is to spread the Qun to all bas, whether they wish to be converted or not. A blink and you'll miss it line from the Iron Bull hints that their attempts to do this with their own race ended badly.
- Authority Equals Asskicking:
- Promotions in Qunari society are based on skill and suitability for the task — in the case of soldiers, that means fighting. For this reason, the highest-ranking soldiers are very good at being soldiers, meaning that if you encounter an officer, you can bet he's the best fighter in the group.
- The first volume of The World of Thedas claims they hold bloody ritualistic duels for the higher ranks. The second volume erratas this as merely Orlesian propaganda.
- Badass Creed: "Victory is in the Qun".
- Birthmark of Destiny: In one of their few instances of superstition, Qunari (who normally have horns) who are born hornless are believed to be destined for great things.
- Blind Obedience: In Dragon Age II, if Hawke mentions that Saarebas chose to die rather than leave the Qun, the Arishok is affronted by the human notion that such a choice should be exceptional or difficult; he'd expect no less of any Qunari.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Qun's value system is completely alien to anything else found in Thedas. Notably, the Qunari find everyone else's beliefs just as baffling, though the best of them harbor no resentment over it.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good: If a criminal persistently rejects reeducation, the Qunari use a poison called qamek to lobotomize them into a near-mindless creature, fit for hard labor and little else.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Generally frowned upon by Qunari culture. The Qunari take great pains to make sure that every single person chosen for a job are thoroughly optimized and specialized to perform that task, and any suboptimal physical or mental traits are ironed out through re-education. That said, there are a few very, very rare versions of individuals considered so good at what they do that the rest of the Qunari are prepared to either turn a blind eye to their eccentricities or create a new category/occupation just for them. But, even this only goes so far before you're declared full-out Tal-Vashoth.
- Church Police: The Ben-Hassrath.
- The Comically Serious: It's subtle, but certain Qunari have demonstrated a very understated sense of humour.
- Crippling Overspecialization: On an individual level. Each Qunari is given only one specific task, and will not learn anything else in his or her lifetime. Soldiers stranded on an island won't even try to build a ship, for the simple reason that they are soldiers, not ship builders, and to do anything that is not their original purpose is alien to them. This presents problems for those who decide to leave. Defectors who used to be scientists, farmers, or artisans can find work outside the Qun, but soldiers are left with nothing but a sword and their ability to kill. At best, they become mercenaries. At worst, they become Dangerous Deserters, giving cause to the depiction of Tal-Vashoth being violent madmen. One of their greatest enemies is actually of their own making.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Qunari who die during or after performing an exceptional service for their people may be proclaimed Qunoran Vehl (an exemplary cultural hero). No one is ever proclaimed such during life, as it would make them too proud and they'd be insufferable.
- Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life: Many loyal qunari are happy living in accordance to the Qun because they feel it gives them a purpose they otherwise don't have. Iron Bull, for example, describes being selected as a Ben-Hassrath as one of the best things that ever happened to him, and that finally being molded into his "true shape" was the happiest day of his life. Indeed, many converts from other races find themselves interested in the Qun because they're either disenfranchised with, or don't know where they fit into, their original society. Naturally, the rigid caste enforcement also has severe downsides—not everyone is happy with their duties, nor happy with them day-in and day-out forever. Those that split away from the Qun often become violent savages because they are ill-prepared to deal with freedom and the ability to decide their futures for themselves.
- Draconic Humanoid: While drunk or talking to a Reaver Inquisitor the Iron Bull can relate the rumor that dragons or dragon's blood is involved in Qunari lineages somewhere. People who drink dragon's blood have a tendency to grow scales, which don't appear to be a Qunari trait, but Cole once says Qunari horns are dragon horns.
- Dragon Ancestry: The unnamed race of Horned Humanoids commonly called the Qunari (or Vashoth) are stated to have draconic features. Their horns, for example, are dragon horns. One member of the race, Iron Bull, says he has some sort of unidentifiable connection with a dragon he fought. Further, there's a warrior class known as the Reavers who drink dragon blood to gain new abilities but over time develop dragon-like features. Whether there's some sort of connection between the Qunari and Reavers is unknown, but Iron Bull is himself a Reaver, and states that he stumbled upon those abilities without drinking dragon blood..
- Due to the Dead: The Qunari considers corpses to be no longer the individual they once were, thus afford them no special treatment. Hence, they are typically disposed of in whatever manner seems most practical. However, the weapons (or equivalent soul-item) belonging to the dead are treated with a certain respect, it seems, as gathering them is apparently an important enough task to send someone back several years after the Qunari leave Kirkwall.
- Dying as Yourself: Defied by the Ben-Hassrath re-educators. Qunari culture frowns upon wasting resources, including lives. The re-educators first make attempts to "fix" you through means that most people would consider Brainwashing, then just plain lobotomize you if you continue to resist. Qunari party members consider both of these methods an acceptable alternative to simply killing.
- Enforced Cold War: While the rest of Thedas believes that the peace between them is due to the treaty they signed, the reality according to Sten is that their invasion never stopped, the Qunari simply decided to stop fighting for their own reasons.
- Exact Words: The Qunari caste system is both more and less flexible than it seems. On the one hand, a woman cannot, under any circumstances, be a warrior. On the other hand, if someone with female parts becomes a warrior anyway, she's not punished or penalized for it—she's just not seen as a woman. They also have a very specific definition of "warrior"; intelligence agents and assassination specialists don't count, even if they're wearing armor and fighting in heavy combat. On a related note, Qunari see all mages as saarebas, "dangerous things" that need to be leashed like mad dogs. If a mage earns their respect (such as a mage Warden or Hawke), then clearly they're not a mage, they're just a perfectly ordinary person who happens to have innate magical powers.Gaider: It involves a weird sort of willful ignorance thing the Qunari are very good at.
- Fantastic Caste System: The Qunari will never admit this outright, but Qunari society generally puts races into categories that fit general biological advantages. Elves are generally used for spy work , since they are smaller and often given second class roles in human society. Humans are relegated to diplomatic roles as they are most numerous race in Thedas. The Qunari are given the most militantly powerful roles as they have the strongest bodies, with the side benefit of being able to strong arm the other groups thanks to their role in society. The Qunari tout their belief system as being free from prejudice, but their system guarantees that their race remains at the top.
- Fantastic Slurs: Maybe not a "slur" per se, but they are colloquially called "oxmen" by humans due to their horns. Many Qunari (as in "followers of the Qun"), in turn, call most non-Qunari bas, or "thing."
- Fantastic Rank System: Similarly, this dictates their role within their society.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Qunari are all over the map with this. Their status as a religious rival to mainland Thedas makes them very reminiscent of medieval Muslims. Their continued hold on the Spanish-based Rivain and general tolerance for religious freedom therein makes them very similar to the Moors who ruled most of Northern Africa and Spain. Their religion, however, is very Taoist / Confucianist in philosophy, with its belief in the existence of a single universal "path" for all and its emphasis on knowing one's place in society.
- It can also be considered this to Middle Eastern Christians if their growth of their religion spreads both through the gun and through the chant gaining approval among the lower classes of society which were general ignored. In a similar manner to Christian doctrine split in the Middle East
- The Fatalist:
- One of the most important parts of their philosophical system is their belief in fate, order, and their immutability.Struggle is an illusion. The tide rises, the tide falls, but the sea is changeless. There is nothing to struggle against. Victory is in the Qun.
- A conversation between the Iron Bull and Dorian suggests this is also rather a problem for them, as the Qunari leaders are having a hell of time explaining why, given this belief, they actually lost against the rest of Thedas.
- One of the most important parts of their philosophical system is their belief in fate, order, and their immutability.
- Four-Star Badass: Even the officers fight on the front lines. To them, it makes no sense whatsoever to promote someone based on his skills in battle and then expect him to sit around a desk all day; he is a soldier and should be doing what soldiers do. This is reflected by what Iron Bull calls the Queen chess piece (the most versatile piece on the board): "Arishok", the title of the leader of the Antaam.
- Freedom from Choice: One of the central tenets of their philosophy.
- Free-Love Future: Sort of. They view sexual desire as more along the lines of a medical condition than something worth striving for on its own, but at the same time recognize that the best way to treat the itch is to scratch it, rather than something more extreme and repressive.Iron Bull: It's like going to a healer. Sometimes it's this long, involved thing. It takes all day and leaves you walking funny. Sometimes you're in and out in five minutes. [click clack] Thank you, see you next week.
- Fictionary: Qunlat is heavily based on English, with a subject-verb-object word order (though it seems to lack articles like a, an, or the). The pronunciation and vocabulary seem closer to Japanese, in that words are "modular" and can be snapped together to create new words, though the words themselves sound very Arabic.
- His Name Really Is "Barkeep":
- They refer to themselves by their job titles, and the closest thing they have to personal names are more like social security numbers.
- Though according to Iron Bull, they tend to have nicknames for each other within their own social circles, so you won't see a bunch of soldier officers all referring to one another as "Sten".
- Hobbes Was Right: They see the human/elven/dwarven society spread throughout the world as inherently chaotic and corrupt, and in need of correction via imposing the way of The Qun on them. Whether they convert willingly or by force is entirely up to them.
- Horned Humanoid: Most Qunari, but those born without horns are deemed destined for greatness rather than inferior.
- In-Series Nickname:
- The Qunari are derogatorily dubbed "Ox-Men" by some.
- Qunari itself counts as one, as it's frequently used to refer to members of the horned humanoid race, despite actually being the name of their philosophy.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: The Iron Bull suggests there is either dragon in Qunari lineages somewhere, or else it's just that dragons are really badass, but either way, most Qunari have a thing for dragons and find their scent attractive. The greatest show of devotion they make is taking a dragon's tooth and splitting it in two for each person to carry.
- Invading Refugees: According to Iron Bull the Qunari came south to Thedas because they were running from... something. However, the legends are so vague he doesn't know what or why.
- I Reject Your Reality: In situations where the Qun and reality conflict, the Qun usually wins:
- The Qun dictates that only men can be soldiers. Especially capable female warriors who join the army anyway are thus not considered women.
- The Qun also dictates that mages are dangerous things that must be subjugated to preserve order. The very word in Qunlat for mages, "Saarebas", means exactly that: "Dangerous Thing". If the Qunari do end up befriending a mage, they will simply not think of that person as a mage anymore, even if their perfectly normal new friend happens to show their innate magical powers right in front of them.
- It Can Think: Discussed in party banter:Leliana: You're so Qunari! All the stories speak as if you were a hurricane or an earthquake rather than people.
Sten: Qunari are most dangerous because we are thinking men and not unthinking force.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: According to Varric, the Qunari officially denounced the Arishok's actions in Kirkwall due to the fact that they had no desire for an Exalted March. When they came by to recover the boat and remains, they even outright said "We shall never talk of this again".
- Made of Iron: As demonstrated by Sten, it's possible for Qunari to survive for over a month without food or water, with no ill-effect. When the Warden encountered Sten, for instance, he was only just beginning to starve to death and believed he'd probably last another week. The Iron Bull remembers being stabbed so deep by a sword that it hit one of his back ribs and a piece chipped off.
- Medieval Stasis: They are more technologically advanced than the other races, but they had all of their current technology when their ships first came from the original Qunari homeland centuries before the games. Even the Qunari you meet don't know where their true origin is, so there may be a more advanced empire of their race that doesn't follow the Qun somewhere else in the world.It's been theorised that their advanced technological development may be in part due to the Qunari never having to deal with the Blight. Unlike the people of Thedas, they've been spared from their civilisation being routinely ravaged by the darkspawn, forcing them to rebuild from scratch after a decades - if not centuries - long Blight.
- Mind Rape: Captive "bas" who refuse to fall in line with the Qun no matter what aren't killed. That would be wasteful. Instead, the Tamassrans destroy their sanity with "qamek", reducing them to mindless slaves called Viddath-bas.
- The Nameless:
- A species-wide example. The only names that we have for the horned giants (Qunari, kossith) are not actually names of their race, but of beliefs or philosophies that the race has followed. We don't know what their species is called; it's possible that they have no name for themselves, and only identify by their system of belief.
- This is true for the faithful Qunari themselves, but outsiders including non-believers of the same race (like the Qunari Inquisitor) do not make this distinction and use Qunari as if it were as much a race name as human, elf, or dwarf. Mainline Qunari would call these Vashoth (lit. "Grey"), or Tal-Vashoth ("True Grey") if they were formally part of the Qun.
- No Blood Ties: Children are raised by priestesses rather than biological parents; they have no clue who they're actually related to (luckily, said priestesses do, and since they decide on the breeding pairs, they can keep cases of Surprise Incest down). When you explain to Sten that the majority of people are raised by the ones who gave birth to them, he is first surprised, then decides that this explains why you are all so backwards.
- No Name Given: The grey-skinned, horned race that makes up the bulk of the Qunari has no name. As a result Qunari is used instead, which gets confusing for members of the race who aren't part of the religion.
- No True Scotsman: Played more "positively" than usual, as it's used to include outliers rather than exclude them. If you don't fit the rules of one category, you simply aren't that category. They will gladly place you in another, and don't hold it to any higher or lower esteem. You will, however, be expected to fit this new category. Or they'll "fix" you. Qunari are apparently the grand champions of cognitive dissonance.
- One-Gender Race: A few codex entries mention that the Chantry believed they either had this or minimal sexual dimorphism for centuries. When the Qunari briefly allowed an embassy in their own capital, they discovered it was just a misconception caused by the strict caste system, and Qunari females are both common and obvious.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: The Qunari are often called giants by others, with good reason. Most of them are about as much bigger than humans as humans are to dwarfs, but some are much bigger than that. One appears in Trespasser who is so large that normal sized Qunari barely reach his waist. The Darkspawn version, Ogres, are bigger still.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: They tolerate lingering beliefs in gods in recently-conquered peoples, believing they will eventually abandon such things as they reach true enlightenment. They're also the most technologically advanced race, having more powerful warships and an explosive that may be gunpowder, though it's never specified exactly what it is. Despite having abandoned worship in deities and being dismissive of those who do, the Qunari still practice a form of animism, harkening back to their former belief system before the Qun. This is shown when after losing his sword Asala ("soul" in Qunlat) Sten suffered a psychotic break and murdered an entire household, due to his belief that he was "souless" without it. The Qunari were also greatly demoralized during the New Exalted Marches when they lost possession of the Tome of Koslun to Orlesian forces, as it was the handwritten copy of the Qun as set down by Ashkaari Koslun himself.
- Outside-Context Problem: Considered this by most of Thedas. Their true origins are unknown and have yet to be revealed, save that they arrived at Par Vollen, from an unknown continent across the sea.
- Pet the Dog:
- Qunari society is the only society in Thedas that values all races equally without prejudice. If a convert of the Qun is harmed, it doesn't matter what race or rank, the Qunari will get involved and treat the matter seriously. It's also worth pointing out that they were holding their own against the Exalted Marches, and withdrew not because they were losing the war, but because it was taking a high toll on the civilian population of Rivain.
- They are also extremely accepting of transgender people. They don't even treat it as a big deal, it's just "Oh, she's a guy. OK."
- They also have priests who provide assisted living for the physically and/or mentally disabled. This is significant because the few mentions of disabled persons in Andrastian society are all reduced to begging in the streets (like the crippled beggars in the Dwarf Commoner and City Elf Origins, or lyrium-addicted ex-Templars like Samson or the lyrium-addicted Cullen in the Trespasser epilogue), whereas in the Qun they're all guaranteed food, shelter, and round-the-clock care where they need it.
- Principles Zealot: When following a demand of the Qun;
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Their soldiers fit the bill, although Sten is bemused whenever people assume all qunari are like him.
- Rebellious Rebel: Many Tal-Vashoth fall into this.
- Restraining Bolt: The Qun is implied to be one for the Qunari. The Qun provides strict rules and roles that prevent Qunari from losing control of their emotions, something that often has deadly results. The horned giants are so dependent on the Qun that straying from these rules often causes them to descend into madness. Unfortunately, most Tal-Vashoth that leave the Qun, end up in ruthless professions such as mercenary work or banditry, as they can't find internal stability without the Qun's disciplines.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: A rather literal example. They are alien to Thedas in both their origin and their strict philosophy.
- Secret Police: The Ben-Hassrath are responsible for keeping the populace in line, finding and "re-educating" dissidents and discontents, and occasionally engaging in spying and wetwork.
- Serious Business: Losing one's sword, which is considered akin to losing one's soul to the warrior caste. And woe betide anyone who's caught in possession of the stolen Tome of Koslun, their most sacred relic.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: They withdrew from northern Thedas to spare the civilians of the region being slaughtered by the Exalted Marches. After they withdrew, many of these civilians were purged by the sword for refusing to be converted back to the Chant.
- Stay in the Kitchen: The Qunari are unique as pretty much the only civilization left in Thedas to believe in strict gender roles. However, simply saying that women have to do some things (government, farming, mercantilism) and men have to do the other (fighting and laboring) is undercutting the complexity of their take on gender. Roles are seen as either being feminine or masculine, and one's biological gender is inconsequential to what role they take. If a man is especially skilled at being a merchant or farmer, or a woman is especially skilled at being a warrior, they are declared Aqun-Athlok - "born as one gender but living as another" - and are allowed to assume a role opposite of their biological gender. The priesthood however, including the Church Police the Ben-Hassrath, is comprised of both males and females, since the wisdom of the Qun is supposed to speak to everyone, male or female.
- Super Breeding Program: The tamassrans (breeders) control the Qunari breeding program, systematically pairing couples for the purpose of creating individuals who are very suited for specific jobs - those bred to be soldiers are practically born knowing how to march in formation, while fishers are drawn to water like a retriever.
- The Quiet One: Purposefully invoked, in that many Qunari remain silent due to not wishing to admit that they do not understand the common tongue. However, even those who do tend to be creatures of very few words and dislike pointless small talk. Lampshaded by the Warden, after Sten finished an uncharacteristically lengthy sentence.Warden: That's the most words I've ever heard you speak.
Sten: I've been saving them up.
- The Soulless: Tal-Vashoth and warriors who have lost their sword are considered this and will be killed on sight.
- Taking You with Me: Qunari dreadnaughts don't sink, they explode, which will usually take out the ship that destroyed them.
- Transgender: Or in their parlance, Aqun-Athlok, "born as one gender and living as another". Ironically, the acceptance of transgenderism in Qunari culture comes from their Stay in the Kitchen attitude towards both men and women.
- UnPerson: The Arishok implies that Tal-Vashoth, individuals who've abandoned the Qun, are considered this.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Saarebas are untrained since the Qunari have no magical education system, but their destructive power is hard to match.
- Vestigial Empire: Oddly enough, even they have one. Back in their glory days, the Qunari controlled all of Tevinter, except for Minrathous, which has never fallen to anyone, Antiva, Rivain, and parts of the Free Marches. After several wars, the Andrastians reclaimed their lands, the Qunari lost everything except for Par Vollen, Orlais became a Rising Empire, and the Qunari were left fighting with Tevinter over the island of Seheron. The settlement of Kont-Aar in Rivain is their last mainland territory.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: According to Iron Bull, chest armor is generally uncommon amongst the Qunari, or at least the horned ones since their horns make chest plate hard to put on. Shirts are difficult too but more useable. Most of the places where Qunari live are warm enough to go without shirts, but apparently there's a saying about being taken by surprise that translates to "running around with a shirt caught in your horns". They also don't usually wear helmets, instead using Vitaar, a type of warpaint that is toxic to other races but magically toughens Qunari skin.
- Warrior Poet: Even their warriors come across as highly educated and philosophical.Sten: Shok ebasit hissra. Meraad astaarit, meraad itwasit, aban aqun. Maraas shokra. Anaan esaam Qun. Translation .
- We Have Reserves: Averted, despite their drone-like collectivist society. The reason they stopped their invasion force was the concern for the civilian population. The Qunari are pragmatic above all else and do not like to waste resources, such as lives, after all.
- Work Hard, Play Hard: For all their Serious Business attitude, when someone is proclaimed Qunoran Vehl (an exemplary cultural hero), the partying breaks loose to the point where executions can be required to get everyone back in line.
- World of Silence: They believe people should give up personal desires and work together for the betterment of the whole. They also feel honor-bound to impose this on everyone else sooner or later.
- Worthy Opponent:
- Their term for this is "Basalit-an", literally meaning "an outsider worthy of respect". The Warden, Hawke and the Inquisitor all have the chance to become this in their respective games. Alistair is also stated to be this in a tie-in comic.Arishok: [to Hawke] You alone are Basalit-an! [to Kirkwall nobles] This is what respect looks like, Bas! Some of you will never earn it!
- Sten mentions that legends about the Grey Wardens are told even amongst his people, later expressing admiration that they stood their ground at Ostagar and didn't flee, even when it became clear the battle was lost. One could infer that the Qunari find the Grey Wardens' single-mindedness to the goal of fighting darkspawn a refreshingly familiar concept in the otherwise alien Thedas.
- Their term for this is "Basalit-an", literally meaning "an outsider worthy of respect". The Warden, Hawke and the Inquisitor all have the chance to become this in their respective games. Alistair is also stated to be this in a tie-in comic.
"Those who had sought to claim Heaven by violence destroyed it.The standard "monsters in the shadows," darkspawn are the boogeymen of Thedas. Born from the Maker's curse against arrogant humans (if you believe the Chantry, at least), the darkspawn's entire purpose of existence is to repeatedly attempt to wipe out all life in the world, spreading a virulent, ecology-destroying plague called the taint in the process. Normally mindless and disorganized, the darkspawn live in the Deep Roads beneath the earth, unseen and rarely thought of (except for the dwarves, who have to live with them). At least until they find one of the Old Gods. When that happens, they infect it with the taint, making into a Archdemon which organizes the hordes and drives them to the surface, attacking and destroying everything in their path. Such events are known as Blights, and can take decades to defeat, and always with staggering cost. The Grey Wardens were formed specifically to combat and keep an eye on the darkspawn.
What was Golden and pure turned black.
Those who had once been mage-lords,
The brightest of their age,
Were no longer men, but monsters."
What was Golden and pure turned black.
Those who had once been mage-lords,
The brightest of their age,
Were no longer men, but monsters."
— Threnodies 12:1
- Aerith and Bob: The names of the four main types of darkspawn: genlocks, hurlocks, sharlocks, and... ogres. Justified in the codices: genlocks, hurlocks, and sharlocks (labeled in-game by the nickname "shrieks") are the ancient terms for blight-mutated dwarves, humans, and elves respectively. But ogres come from blighted Qunari, who are relative newcomers to Thedas. The World of Thedas later clarifies that the Ogres derive from a group of colonists that settled in the Korcari Wilds in -410 Ancient (back when the Qunari were still known as the kossith), whose settlement was overrun by darkspawn shortly afterwards.
- Always Chaotic Evil: With a few extremely grey exceptions (the Architect and his minions) along with one true subversion (the Messenger). The rest are just fine with murdering, torturing, raping, and looting. Even the worst of Thedas agree that they're the most foul creatures in existence.
- Art Evolution: They've gone through a number of redesigns over the course of three games. In Origins they seemed like a different version of standard fantasy orcs, being muscular, vicious, and mindless, with green skin. The sequel game had them become thinner, with all of them looking more diseased and savage but at the same time more readily identifiable for the most part of coming from surface stock. The Legacy expansion for the latter had the genlocks actually be hulking examples of Shield-Bearing Mook. Inquisition had them looking somewhat more human-like, though we never see any genlocks in it.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Darkspawn are born nearly fully grown, and the first thing a newborn does is fight the rest of its litter, weeding out the weaker ones. Sometimes, though, one will manage to kill all of the other newborns. This one will become an Alpha, stronger, faster, tougher, and smarter than the rest of the darkspawn. These are the ones that lead the rest, and usually kill any darkspawn that refuse to follow.
- Baby Factory: Broodmothers, which birth every single darkspawn (except for the ghouls and the Archdemon).
- Bad Boss: The more intelligent darkspawn leaders think nothing of executing minions who have disappointed them.
- Bee People: Though the position of Queen is split between the Archdemon (commands the Hive Mind) and the broodmothers (baby factories).
- Black Blood: Discussed and subverted; several characters reference the darkspawn having black blood, but all that you see is red. The Warden-Commander can even mention that darkspawn blood looks completely normal; it burns on contact, though. There seems to be a bit of Depending on the Writer going on.
- Black Magic: The Taint that empowers them and kills everything else. Even spirits of the Fade can't understand their dark magic.
- Black Speech:
- While it never shows up outside of cutscenes, the appearance of the darkspawn is frequently heralded by an ominous whispering. Possibly this is meant to indicate that the Warden is sensing them.
- Alistair reveals that some of the senior Grey Wardens are able to understand the Archdemon, allowing them to "listen in" on the horde and try to figure out what the Archdemon is planning.
- Body Horror: They range from looking like horrendously diseased and malformed people to monsters who only bear a vague resemblance to their species of origin. Let's not go into the Children, please. Or worse, the Broodmothers.
- Corpse Land: Any place where the darkspawn have been for any length of time or in great enough numbers. Justified in that the taint is so deadly it kills insects and bacteria which normally break down corpses, so the dead can remain unchanged for decades or even centuries.
- The Corruption: The Taint is a nasty example of this.
- The taint, which they spread either through prolonged contact or through blood. Exposure kills pretty much everything (though victims mutate and go insane first), though if you recover from your first brush with it, you can develop a resistance.
- The dwarven scavenger Ruck demonstrates the mental decay of someone living off of darkspawn flesh, and Oghren offers more details on their health decay. This does give them the ability to detect the taint of the darkspawn, including that of the Wardens. The Warden can reflect on the disturbing implications of Ruck's description of it.
- The Dreaded: Feared throughout Thedas, the very mention of them massing on the surface is enough to give anyone nightmares.
- Elite Mooks: Alphas, the larger, stronger versions of the basic darkspawn that can command their lesser brethren. Emissaries are above even them, with enough intelligence to form basic strategies and even use magic.
- Enemy Civil War: With no Archdemon to lead them, the hordes feel no particular reason not to lay into each other. Once the Architect gave some of them the capacity of thought, however, they started forming sides. Darkspawn are also known to cannibalise ghouls within their ranks, despite not gaining any sustenance from it.
- Evil Laugh: Especially when they land good hits on their enemies.
- Evil Tainted the Place: The dark magic that powers them remains in any area they linger in long enough. Some areas they've ravaged remain lifeless wastelands even centuries after they were driven out.
- Forever War: Are engaged in one with all of Thedas, albeit one with abnormally large lulls in-between active campaigns. The dwarves know this all too well as they constantly battle the hordes that now infest what was once their underground empire. The Grey Wardens try to impress this fact on the rest of Thedas, but have little success due to complacency brought on by the sheer length of the gaps between Blights.
- Godzilla Threshold: When a Blight begins, all nations stop their conflicts and unite against the horde. Or at least, they are expected to.
- Hive Mind: While most individual darkspawn are nearly mindless, the Taint they carry unites them into a primitive version of this trope. Enough to hear the call of the Old Gods and serve the will of an Archdemon.
- Healing Factor: Ogres can apparently heal from grave wounds in a manner of minutes, pretending to be dead or unconscious the whole time. This is the main reason Grey Wardens try to burn any ogres they manage to take down.
- Hollywood Tactics: Justified. The darkspawn rushing at the fortifications at Ostagar is somewhat plausible since they are mostly mindless beasts and have virtually unlimited troops.
- The Horde: They especially like to leave people completely burned, hanging on display, or stuck in the ground with a large object lodged in the body.
- I'm a Humanitarian: They're known to eat the corpses of their victims from time to time. Since they have no real need to eat, the only apparent reason for this appears to be for sadistic pleasure.
- It Can Think: While most darkspawn exhibit little in the way of sentience beyond a basic animal cunning, the Alphas and emissaries (and certainly the Archdemons) are extremely intelligent (the alphas and emissaries are the only darkspawn capable of speech), able to use military tactics and strategies to outmaneuver their foes. The darkspawn are also capable of using psychological warfare (such as displaying mutilated corpses) to demoralise their foes and often deface or modify statues they encounter into crude representations of the Old Gods, as well as being capable of creating functional weapons and armour.
- An example of this can be found in the Inquisition Codex entry for a hurlock alpha. The text describes a Tevinter magister interrogating a captive alpha while trying to research the darkspawn; the captive creature shows no interest in answering any of the magister's questions, instead subjecting its captors to a barrage of taunts and insinuations intended to trick them into lowering their guard long enough to break free, then before killing the magister and four of its captors when it did get loose, told them the darkspawn have no interest in talking or negotiating with the surface realms, only in destroying them.
- Keystone Army: The massive darkspawn invasions known as Blights will end only if the Archdemon (a corrupted god in the shape of a dragon) leading it is killed. Without the guiding influence of an Archdemon, the hordes of darkspawn will immediately collapse into disorganized bands of mindless creatures that can be easily driven back underground or killed by an organized army. This weakness is the only reason Thedas has survived the monsters for so long, which is why the possibility of the horde uniting without an active Archdemon is treated with such fear in Awakening.
- Lightning Bruiser: Shrieks. They're tougher than hurlocks and genlocks, hit hard, and are very, very fast.
- Mars Needs Women: Darkspawn are often mentioned as abducting women survivors from the battlefields for an unknown purpose. Those in the Grey Wardens and the Legion of the Dead are very much aware of what happens to these poor women, having been tainted by the darkspawn, before being twisted and mutated into Broodmothers.
- Meat Moss: The Deep Roads (and any other place with heavy darkspawn presence) are absolutely filled with rotting, pustulent growths. Their similarity to the growths that appear in the demon-infested Circle Tower is food for thought. Morrigan actually comments on the similarity if she is present during the Circle Tower quest.
- Mook Maker: The broodmothers you actually get to fight give birth mid-battle.
- Mystical Plague: The Taint disease spread by the darkspawn is said to be a curse by the Maker upon the Tevinter Magisters, who turned into the first darkspawn themselves under its influence.
- The Needless: Due to the power of the Taint they carry, darkspawn don't actually need food or water, allowing the horde sustain their nearly endless numbers indefinitely despite a lack of resources in the Deep Roads.
- Nightmare Face: They almost always seem to sport ungodly creepy Slasher Smiles on their faces.
- Not Afraid to Die: When led by an Archdemon. Even if you have a reputation as the most dangerous darkspawn hunter in Faerun, they'll still fight you, throwing themselves onto your blades if they have to, presumably on the basis that you can't kill all of them.
- One-Gender Race: All of the 'natural born' Darkspawn are male. The females have to be converted from other races via the Taint.
- Our Ghouls Are Creepier:
- "Ghouls" are people who have been infected with the taint and survived, although even those who survive don't tend to last long. In the meantime, they join the darkspawn Hive Mind and serve the Archdemon, or whichever high-ranking darkspawn happen to be around. They can't talk and possess the standard Zombie Gait, but can still use weapons, as well as being responsible for producing most of the arms and armour the darkspawn use. However, there are cases of people who become heavily infected but still retain (most of) their mental faculties. It's revealed in Awakening and Legacy that Grey Wardens who survive their Calling are more self-aware than most ghouls, while those Awakened by the Architect are all self-aware and independent of the horde.
- Also, ghouls can be any species, including non-sentient ones. These include Bears (Bereskarn), Wolves (Blight Wolves), Spiders (Corrupted Spiders), Werewolves (Blighted Werewolves), and even dragons (Dragon Thralls). Blight rats are mentioned in a codex entry but never seen, and Blight Owls appear in the tabletop game.
- Our Orcs Are Different:
- Darkspawn fit the classic Tolkien orc criteria enough to fit and look enough like orcs as well. Indeed, they're closer to Tolkien orcs than most of the Proud Warrior Race orcs now in fantasy. The Deep Roads is Moria, and the broodmother hints at the idea in The Silmarillion that orcs are corrupted elves. Due to the very real threat they pose to entire nations, they're closer to Tolkien's orcs than most standard fantasy orcs you find these days. They get a whole lot worse when you meet the first broodmother. And it manages to get even worse when you meet the Mother in Awakening, who differs from broodmothers in that she's 1) fully sentient, 2) capable of commanding other darkspawn, including broodmothers, and 3) cacklingly insane.
- Even their Archdemon bosses have strong similarities to Tolkien mythos. The Old Gods tried to usurp Heaven and got cast out by The Maker, corrupted, and then they took leadership of the Darkspawn, their Taint creating them. Melkor, Big Bad of the entire Tolkien universe, tried to usurp Eru, God, and got cast out, after which he created the race of Orcs via corrupting and torturing Elves.
- Rogue Drone: The Architect who was apparently born unable to hear the song of the Old Gods and thus possesses intelligence and free will. He has figured out how to free other darkspawn from the Old Gods using Gray Warden blood thus making them into Rogue Drones as well. Though some of them don't take it well. It's strongly implied that he's either lying about or has forgotten his true origin: one of the mages who became the first Darkspawn.
- Slasher Smile: They almost always appear to be grinning maniacally, an impression that isn't helped by their demonic appearances.
- The Soulless: None of the darkspawn have souls except for the Archdemon, since it was formerly an Old God, and "essence" is apparently synonymous with "soul", since there's no room for both in one body. This becomes a plot point in the first game, since killing the Archdemon merely causes it to automatically transfer its soul to the nearest creature infected with the taint, which it will then grow into to resemble its old body again. Unless the creature still has its soul. In which case, kaboom.
- Spider-Sense: Creatures sufficiently infected with the taint can detect other such infected creatures in the area, be they darkspawn, ghouls, or Grey Wardens.
- Spikes of Doom: All the armor that the darkspawn wear is adorned with lots of these.
- Stronger with Age: The power of the taint grows in an individual with time, and the power of a darkspawn grows with it. The upper limits of a darkspawn's natural lifespan are unknown, but the most powerful ones seen have shown evidence of being centuries old.
- Tainted Veins: One of the first signs that someone is on their way to death by taint or ghoulification.
- The Unintelligible: Most darkspawn can only communicate in guttural growls and roars. The appearance of darkspawn that can talk is treated as incredibly dangerous, and indeed it is: the darkspawn are an exceptionally deadly threat when the Archdemon organizes them into a Blight, but they're generally easy to deal with otherwise. If the darkspawn can suddenly reason enough to lead themselves without an Archdemon, it would mean an unending Blight. Fortunately the Architect doesn't want to start a Blight.
- The Usual Adversaries: Justified, as darkspawn are next to impossible to wipe out.
- The Virus: The taint is a sort of magical disease carried by the darkspawn that poisons the lands they inhabit. People infected by this go crazy and die, or become decaying ghouls in the thrall of the Archdemon — or worse, if they're women, become Broodmothers.
- Token Heroic Orc:
- The Architect and his faction, although they still maintain some Blue and Orange Morality.
- The Grey Wardens could be considered a variation on this, due to their use of the taint to transform themselves into what are essentially high-functioning ghouls, in order to better fight the horde and become the only thing capable of permanently slaying an Archdemon.
- Villain by Default: They're the worst parts of Orcs, Zombies, Bee People, and The Soulless all rolled into one. Amongst mortals, no matter who else is fighting, or what's happening, Darkspawn are considered everyone's enemies.
- Walking Wasteland: Anywhere darkspawn live or die in great enough numbers will be poisoned and incapable of supporting life for ages. In some areas, land has been tainted for centuries, and cannot recover.
- Was Once a Man: The original darkspawn were formerly human Tevinter magisters, corrupted by a mysterious force they found within the Black City. Broodmothers, the bloated beasts that birth the darkspawn, were formerly women of the major races, captured and mutated beyond recognition in a horrific process by the darkspawn to forever produce more of the monsters.
- Weakened by the Light: Darkspawn have an innate aversion to bright lights. While it won't kill them, they can rarely tolerate for extended periods. Only during Blights, when the power of the Archdemon's corruption begins to block out the sunlight, will large numbers venture out of the shadows aboveground.
- We Have Reserves: Darkspawn have no loyalty to each other and will sacrifice any number just to spread more death and destruction.
- You Have Failed Me: The more intelligent darkspawn are perfectly capable and willing to execute minions for inefficiency.
- Zerg Rush: Considering their birth rates, this is a favored tactic of the darkspawn, though they are capable of strategy on the small scale (or if there's an Archdemon leading them).
Drohg had been lighting a torch when one attacked, and we finally caught a glimpse of something other than shadows. In the flame's light, we saw a man's body like those of the Imperium humans, but covered in scales. It wore armor and even had a dagger hanging from its hip. Its jaws wrapped around Drohg's face and twisted. The crunch of his neck breaking seemed to echo down the Deep Roads. The torch fell from his hands, and we lashed out.A mysterious race of reptilian humanoids who fought a limited tunnel war with the Dwarf empire centuries before the first Blight. Almost no sign of their existence has filtered down to the games' present day beyond a fragmented war journal and a sketch on the wall of the elven Lost Temple of Dirthamen. They are described as being equipped similarly to Tevinter soldiers, having perfect night vision, and speaking a language the dwarf witnesses did not recognize.They may or may not be the same race of reptilian beings that can be seen on wall carvings in some elvish ruins, most obviously at the Lost Temple of Dirthamen.
- Breath Weapon: At least some of them could breath fire, although whether this was a natural ability or magic is unknown.
- Dirty Coward: The examples in the story seemed absolutely floored when the dwarves started fighting back effectively, and retreated into the tunnels to escape despite still having a clear advantage. They come off as arrogant bullies who thought they were picking on helpless travelers instead of the military unit they were actually fighting.
- Draconic Humanoid: Scaly, shaped and proportioned like a human, and able to breathe fire. Ticks all the boxes. Although no formal connection to the in-setting dragons has been established, dragons do have the power to slowly make other humanoids like them.
- The Ghost: They haven't been seen in-person yet.
- Natural Weapon: In their one texual appearance, they demonstrated that, though they carry weapons and wear armor, they can still kill another being with their bare jaws.
Spirits and Demons
Spirits and Demons
"In general, spirits are not complex. Or, rather, they are not complex as we understand such things. Each one seizes upon a single facet of human experience: Rage, hunger, compassion, hope, etc. This one idea becomes their identity. We classify as demons those spirits who identify themselves with darker human emotions and ideas."The spectral inhabitants of the magical realm called the Fade that exists alongside the physical world. Referred to as the "Maker's first children", they range from compassionate, helpful beings to twisted, vile monsters to entities whose morality does not make any sense. While spirits couldn't care less about the physical world, demons constantly try to gain access to the mortal plane, usually through possessing a living being.
- Above Good and Evil:
- Fade Spirits are repeatedly mentioned as only being as benevolent and malevolent as the virtue or vice they have chosen to aspire to. Even the "good" ones have no true grasp of the more subtle nuances of morality and are prepared to commit horrific deeds in the pursuit of an abstract goal. The Codex implies that their supposed lack of a soul is the reason behind this.Merrill: Anders... There's no such thing as a good spirit. There never was. All spirits are dangerous. I understood that. I'm sorry that you didn't.
- Inquisition moderates it a little, with Solas in particular arguing that most spirits are best thought of as mirrors of what already exists in human hearts. And part of the problem is that they find the material world just as alien and upsetting as most mortals find the Fade. Apparently many of the demons you fight at the rifts are previously-benign spirits driven mad by being pulled through.
- Fade Spirits are repeatedly mentioned as only being as benevolent and malevolent as the virtue or vice they have chosen to aspire to. Even the "good" ones have no true grasp of the more subtle nuances of morality and are prepared to commit horrific deeds in the pursuit of an abstract goal. The Codex implies that their supposed lack of a soul is the reason behind this.
- The Ageless: Spirits have no known upper limits to their lifespans. Given that time has no real meaning in the Fade, it is difficult to say whether or not the concept of age can be applied them.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: All spirits, demon or otherwise, bind themselves to one ideal or aspect of the psyche and define themselves through it. If the spirit is destroyed, another of their kind may rise in the Fade if the idea was strong enough.
- Always Chaotic Evil:
- While some demons seem to operate on Blue and Orange Morality, others are clearly malicious and spiteful. None of them are in any meaningful way "good" though, and every single demonic outbreak has been a horrifying experience where the demons torture and torment those they don't possess or kill. According to the other Fade spirits, this is because it's these traits that make them demons, and the ones that lack them are just spirits.
- This is expanded on in Inquisition, where Solas describes demons are the wish to understand the mortal world gone wrong. Spirits are mirrors that reflect mortals; if you approach one with hatred and distrust, it will learn such things from you. Since the Chantry teaches its followers to fear and distrust all spirits as demons until proven otherwise (and teaches that spirits and demons are all "fixed" in their current state regardless of your emotional intention), and the Qunari and Dalish treat all spirits as dangerous, this makes mortal fear and distrust of most Fade spirits almost universal. Combine that with the fact that a three-dimensional, morally grey world is bewildering and confusing to them, and it's almost inevitable for most spirits that mortals encounter to already be or about to become a demon.
- Beat Them at Their Own Game: While very difficult, it is possible to use their tendency to make deals against them. In Origins, a Mage Warden with sufficient persuasion can listen to the Desire Demon's terms before returning with a counter-offer of their own, intimidating the demon into releasing Connor's soul and giving up a boon, in exchange for the Warden not destroying them.
- Blood Magic: Frequently how demons are summoned. The story goes that the secrets of blood magic were imparted to mortals by demons, though it's unclear how much truth is in this claim.
- Blue and Orange Morality: While most demons appear as blatantly malevolent entities, spirits as a whole are said to only be able to see and understand the world in the context of the ideal they subscribe to. Due to the Fade lacking time, concepts like patience and restraint are foreign to them. This means that all spirits are driven to express their ideal immediately and without any normal sense of proportion or consideration of consequences. Even "good" spirits can cause catastrophe in this way. Despite their alien morality it is still possible to coexist with spirits, as both the ancient Elves and the Avvar coexist peacefully with spirits and know how to deal with the more dangerous demons.
- Body Horror: For the most part, demons look more... strange than horrifying. But abominations, when not trying to lay low, often resemble horrifically twisted husks with excess flesh growing over their bodies, to the point it's almost impossible to identify the original owner. And then there's the demons introduced in Inquisition, some of whom look like human-mockery things with far too many teeth or mouths.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: See Underestimating Badassery below.
- Catchphrase: "You just need to want to let me in."
- The Corrupter: Demons usually attempt to manipulate a mortal into indulging in their chosen vice to the point of madness even if they aren't trying to possess them.
- The Corruptible: While the manipulative nature of demons is well known, almost all spirits can be seen as this as well. Being essentially ideals given form, their nature is highly malleable: a benevolent spirit can easily be twisted into a perverted version of their emotion by exposure to the issues or even negative perception of a mortal that denies them their purpose. Solas notes that the difference between a demon of pride and a spirit of wisdom can often be only a matter of approach. And once corrupted, it's rather hard to turn them back.
- Constantly Curious: Spirits and demons share one common attribute: they are drawn to things which are not like themselves. According to Cole, demons (and possibly spirits as well) hate water because it's too similar to them. Like water, it seems that spirits will "pool" anywhere that their natures meet resistance. For example, Cole (a spirit of Compassion) is irresistibly drawn by suffering and pain, and a spirit of Command refuses to leave the real world until at least one thing in it respected her authority. Solas describes these as "aggressive" spirits that need to "prove their nature".
- Creative Sterility: Spirits and demons alike reflect ideas they find in the mortal world, and generally present themselves as what visitors expect to find. Solas describes demons as unimaginative fighters - surviving "the first thirty heartbeats" is enough to see the range of their abilities.
- Damaged Soul: An Abomination can be saved from possession by killing the offending spirit in the Fade. Though they can go on to lead ordinary lives and even retain their magic, the victim is said to never be quite the same again.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Spirits can, if they are impressed enough by a person, imitate the person they were so impressed by upon their death. Due to their powers as a Spirit, they're able to assume all their imitation's memories as well. Known examples include Cole, probable examples include "Divine Justinia" in the Fade, Leliana if she was killed in the first game, and the Guardian at the Temple of Sacred Ashes.
- Deal with the Devil: How they get into the world and attain hosts, though several times the victims aren't even aware a deal is going on or the fact that they are bartering with demons in the first place — like children, for instance. Though most of them do seem to honour any bargain they've struck, if often in an Exact Words kind of way.
- Demonic Possession: Called an Abomination, and sometimes though not always followed by horrid physical transformations and mutations, though there are a few exceptions and the transformations seem to be arbitrary, or sometimes induced. An Abomination is more of a combination of the demon and the mortal rather than the demon simply taking over, though the demon's nature is usually dominant.
- Dirty Coward: When hopelessly outmatched, most Demons will attempt to make a deal or bargain for their freedom. And the reason envy demons haven't overrun the world is because they're too cowardly to jump feet-first into any situation that poses a real threat to them.
- Doppelgänger: The rare-but-dangerous Envy demons fill this niche. They are driven by the desire to become mortals, rather than just possess and emulate them, and tend to capture, study, and transform into their victims in a desperate effort to become them. However, they have two major weaknesses: the first is that their imitation is too perfect, and they cannot help but emulate the flaws and neuroses of their victims, and the second is that, as manifestations of envy itself, their craving for more-powerful, more-influential "marks" is uncontrollable, so much so that it even overrides their natural cowardice and sense of self-preservation.
- Dream Weaver: As the Fade is the realm of dreams, all spirits can influence the minds of sleeping mortals. It is said that nightmares are often the result of demons toying with a mortal while he or she sleeps while pleasant dreams stem from benevolent spirits. If the demon is particularly powerful or the Veil especially thin, a demon can trap a mortal in a dream and feed on them until the victim dies.
- Emotion Eater: All spirits draw strength from mortals that feel the spirit's chosen emotion. Benevolent spirits do so more passively and positively while demons are known to do whatever they can, magically or otherwise, to amplify their emotion in a mortal to the point of near-madness and feed until the victim dies.
- Evil Laugh: Pride demons will laugh after knocking down a foe or armoring themselves up.
- Evil Is Easy: The world's cup runneth over with the demons of mortals' worse natures. Spirits are rarer by far. And the reason why is simply that most people are driven primarily by the base feelings of fear, anger, pride, and jealousy, or have their better qualities twisted and jaded by the world. Solas also explains and his spirit friend demonstrates that it's much easier for spirits to be corrupted into demons than it is for demons to turn back into benevolent spirits.
- Evil Only Has to Win Once:
- Dragon Age II establishes that spirits can be corrupted into demons, since Awakening's Spirit of Justice is corrupted into a demon of Vengeance by Anders' negative emotions, and it initially seems permanent. However, in Dragon Age: Inquisition Solas reveals that it is possible for demons to turn back into spirits but this is extremely rare and difficult since there are so many easy ways for spirits to become demons (absorbing mortals' negative emotions, reflecting negative expectations, being traumatized from being pulled into the physical world, having their natures twisted and denied, etc.) whereas finding the source of spirit's corruption and reversing it is very difficult, and sometimes impossible. In conversation with Cole, Solas hints that spirits can be permanently damaged by their transformation, as well.
- Some notable exceptions are the Poet Tree and the Lady of the Forest from the first game, who have been in Thedas long enough that they've acclimated to their alien surroundings and become somewhat-benevolent (the latter's Superpowered Evil Side notwithstanding), and Cole, who was able to reverse his demonic transformation by effectively pretending to be a human so hard that it sort of stuck.
- Faux Affably Evil: Most demons intelligent enough to speak are well mannered and polite, right until the moment they turn on you. Except for Rage demons, because they're always, well, angry.
- Fire/Ice/Lightning: Rage, Despair, and Pride demons respectively as of Inquisition.
- Genius Loci: Hinted at, but nothing concrete is ever stated. It's suggested in Inquisition that The Fade itself gathers the energy of strong concepts and emotions (and raw life energy) and that energy gradually takes shape, form and sentience as spirits. If this is true, spirits and demons aren't "inhabitants" of the Fade with reality-warping powers so much as they're pieces of The Fade with shapeshifting abilities.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Some demons are the result of a spirit descending into madness after entering mortal minds or the physical realm and being unable to reconcile their alien surroundings with their purpose.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: Played with. Spirits are the Anthropomorphic Personification of many abstract concepts and ideas. Supposedly, they can't manifest unless the idea is very strong, or is tied to a number of other concepts. While they need mortal minds and feelings to manifest themselves, and grow stronger, once they exist, they seem to do so independently. For example, the Nightmare demon can control smaller and weaker Fear demons that represent baser fears and phobias. And according to Solas' stories, he's met a spirit he called "The Matchmaker" which helped lovers find good matches without ever being aware of her, as well as another spirit whose concept is completely forgotten by any living mortals, who no longer even have a word for it.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Pride demons take great pleasure in inflicting this on mortals by turning their own best qualities against them. The Codex describes them as possessing a penchant for cruel irony.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: Spirits willing to speak to mortals constantly note that everything in the physical world, especially mortal behavior, seems just as strange to them as the dreamlike world of the Fade is to mortal beings.
- Intrigued by Humanity: The comparative strangeness of a concrete world full of entities with complex ideas and feelings is a cause of great curiosity to some spirits. A desire to understand and participate in such an alien realm is part of the reason so many spirits and demons try to cross into the material realm.
- Manipulative Bastard: Demons are well known for manipulating mortals to their own ends. Especially Pride, Sloth, and Desire demons.
- The Needless: Spirits that physically manifest have no known physical needs no matter what form they take.
- No Biological Sex: Despite voices and appearances, spirits and demons are all genderless entities. A Chantry researcher who interviewed a desire demon in the codex noted that the only reason it appeared female is because it wanted to appeal to the man and lower his guard. Similarly, Dorian, who is a homosexual man, recalls sitting down for tea with a male desire demon.
- Our Angels Are Different: Benign spirits actually do many of the things that angels are credited with doing in real-world religions - they comfort the lost or dying, rescue people who are near death, defend and embody virtues, drive natural processes, reward faith, offer warnings, and protect places or people they deem worthy. The Chant even claims they're the first children of the Maker, but He found they lacked any creative spark and so made living beings next (and gave each a divine soul, a piece of Himself, so they'd create); just as the Judeo-Christian God made angels to serve Him and then humans in His own image. Spirits who become corrupted turn into demons - ala Fallen Angels - and their morality can be very alien to a mortal observer.
- Our Demons Are Different: According to Solas, a mage who understands the nature of spirits, spirits and demons are the same creatures, but demons are perverted by the emotions of the images they reflect when they watch the real world, or how a mage who meets them approaches them. If a mage approaches a spirit in a friendly manner, the spirits learns this and reflects that same friendly demeanor back. But if a mage approaches with hostility, hostility is learned in turn, and the spirit becomes a demon. Likewise, if a spirit is denied its nature, it can pervert its purpose and become a demon. And being pulled across against its will by a summoner, blood magician, or a fade rift is such a painful and traumatic experience that the spirit will almost always go mad and become a demon to try to cope with the horror.
- Possession Burnout: While it is possible for a spirit or demon to possess a non-mage, doing so without help usually results in damaging the host to the point where it becomes near-useless, which is part of the reason why they prefer to hunt for mages.
- Powers via Possession: When possessed by a demon, even a weak body can become a powerful abomination capable of mass destruction. Those possessed by more benevolent spririts are able to draw on their possessor's power more beneficially, but doing so strains the spirit and can prove fatal to it if overused.
- Self-Disposing Villain: Desire Demons can often fall prey to their own desire for a host, which leads to them getting slain for their troubles.
- Seven Deadly Sins:
- Well, five — Rage (Wrath), Hunger (Gluttony), Sloth, Desire (Lust), and Pride demons have all shown up (in order of strength). Envy does not show up until the third game (in which it jumps into the mind of its target, drags out anything that might conceivably be useful, and then projects itself as its target to take their place, typically keeping the original person trapped and helpless), while Greed also falls under the purview of Desire Demons, as they can grant material wealth in addition to sexual pleasure.
- The Codex also notes that the demons are named less for the sins they represent than those they feast and prey upon; a Sloth demon, for instance, may or may not be slothful — what makes them Sloth demons are that they encourage their victims to be. For what it's worth, envy demons are one of the few kinds of demons that don't really take human hosts, and they are driven by envy.
- The second game introduces Vengeance, formerly a spirit of Justice.
- The third game includes more kinds of demons, like Fear and Despair, and in-game lore suggests that the "types" of demons we see are really more of a convenient way to categorize them, rather than a factual list of all the kinds there may be.note
- The Soulless:
- According to the Codex and Chantry lore, their fundamental lack of a soul is why the Maker abandoned them in favour of His new creation of the mortal world. This is one of the reasons Demons are so envious of mortals and seek to cross the Veil.
- According to Cole (himself a unique spirit that manifested himself in the real world without possession), spirits aren't "real". He refers to himself as "not real" several times, and says that this is true of all spirits. Only by gripping onto something from a human mind, and manifesting it, can they become real.
- Took a Level in Kindness: The Grand Sylvan (aka the "Poet Tree"), as well as the Lady of the Forest. Despite the former likely being a Demon and the latter being a Spirit summoned by Blood Magic for revenge, both ended up becoming benevolent after spending several centuries in Thedas.
- Tragic Monster: Most demons are perfectly harmless spirits who are twisted into demons when they cross the Veil and encounter mortals. Solas mentions several times in Inquisition that the demons of the Fade Rifts probably had no desire to cross the Veil in the first place, but were sucked into the mortal world like a vacuum, having no will of their own to form, and thus, could not fulfill their purposes and became demons. Solas' friend is also a powerful, benevolent wisdom spirit that changes into a demon after being forced to fight and kill against its nature by desperate mages.
- Cole also explain that when spirits are summoned and bound to obey the will of their masters, their nature is by default denied and they almost always become demons. Which would explain why "demon-summoning" always goes poorly for mages; they either call demons that wanted to be summoned so they could take advantage of their mortal summoners, or they're innocent spirits summoned against their will and changed by the experience. Solas hints that he's lost many spirit friends to demon-summers much like the friend we see in the game, and hints to Dorian that the many "demon servants" his countrymen summon in Tevinter are corrupted and enslaved against their will as sure as the elves are.
- Transformation of the Possessed: Demons possessing mortals will transform their hosts into twisted, bloated monstrosities. More powerful demons can even transform their hosts into complete replicas of their "natural" forms. These changes will be undone if the demon is properly exorcized.
- The Undead: The result of a spirit possessing a dead body rather than a living one. Ranging from mindless zombies to extremely powerful revenants depending on the strength of the spirit and condition of the body.
- Underestimating Badassery:
- The usual hierarchy of demon power is said to be an arbitrary concept that does not always reflect reality. For example; despite being supposedly weaker, it's been theorised that a Sloth Demon, sufficiently motivated, could potentially prove to be even more powerful and dangerous than even a Pride Demon, due to their intelligence and insidious nature. The Sloth Demon encountered in the Circle Tower, for instance, had many Demons subservient to it and acting as its guardians, including a Pride Demon.
- Similarly, Desire demons who solely focus on sexual lust are among the weakest because of how narrow-minded they are.
- To wit, the ranking system is based upon how dangerous the demons are to Templars as abominations. Rage and Hunger demons are easy to spot and won't hide, while Sloth demons are capable of at least planning, but don't always rouse themselves. Uldred, the only confirmed Pride abomination, looked and acted quite human up until the moment he stopped bothering and successfully infiltrated and caused havoc even among the Templars of his Circle.
- Unperson: Though the term is never truly defined, "real" seems to refer to immutability or permanence. Cole's ability to make people forget him is referred to as their minds (and the world in general) correcting itself back into the form it would have had if they'd never encountered him. Similarly, spirits are completely defined by their environment and lack anything permanent or immutable about themselves. This is the difference between themselves and mortals: spirits are fluid and can be easily changed and twisted into something else entirely. Cole becoming more human, for example, makes him immune to bindings which can make him do things he doesn't want to do. As blood magic and possession prove, though, mortals aren't immune either, but they take work.
- The concept of what's "real" is further explored in dialogue between Solas and Cassandra. Solas is a Rift Mage (archmage mixed with reality warper) and Cassandra is a Templar (the closest thing to a paladin in Dragon Age). In a nutshell, Templars prevent magic from being used (something that spirits uses frequently); Solas explains that Templars "reinforce reality" with their abilities, which is what makes them so effective at countering magic, since magic is all about altering said reality to suit a want or need. It's like trying to run through waist-deep water, except now you have heavy weights on your arms and legs.
- Was Once a Man: Trespasser codex reveals that Xebenkeck is one of the Forgotten Ones that discarded her original form to survive an ancient war. It is suggested that they are also the Forbidden Ones, which include Bonus Bosses Imshael and Gaxkang.
- When Trees Attack: Sylvans, the ultimate result of demons possessing trees. It probably seems like a good idea to the demon at the time; a tree is a durable, living body that lacking a mind, so they don't need to be "let in" to take over. What the demon actually gets for their trouble is stuck in a body that is not set up for basic locomotion. Over time the demon can alter its new form so it can move under its own power, but by then it will have spent years, maybe decades, in what is effectively total paralysis, conscious for every single moment of it. As such the resulting creature is almost invariably violently insane and attacks on sight.
- Whip It Good: Pride demons in Inquisition form whips of lightning as one of their preferred tactics.