Races 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 are also low in secular society; they're mostly slaves in societies that allow slavery, and impoverished and second-class in societies that don't allow it. Humans also typically throw race riots if elves so much as move into a human neighborhood, never mind gain a title of minor nobility. Their treatment of dwarves and qunari arent much better as they tend to label them as either criminal exiles only useful for their ability to mine lyrium and enchant items or violent heathens who forces you to a role respectively.
- 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 really 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-Drop Rule: Even though children of human and elven parents appear and are fully human, anti-elf racism is so strong in most areas that having elven blood is considered a source of great shame. More than one human noble and chevalier career has ended due to public discovery of their elven blood.
- 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 wasted no time in rounding them up when they first started showing signs of weakness.
- Pass Fail: Averted. Human/Elf children all appear fully human, and human/dwarf children mostly appear as either short humans or tall dwarves, depending on their height. Unless the child is raised by their non-human parent, it's ridiculously easy for mixed humans to pass as fully human. (The only "pass fail" is usually a psychological tell, like being uncomfortable hearing slurs against elves.)
- However, humans are both more bigoted than elves against magic but more lenient than the Qunari, so a lot of human mages struggle to "pass" as muggles.
- Ungrateful Bastard: To the elves. Twice.
- According to ancient history, ancient elves taught the earliest human mages how to use lyrium and wander the Fade. Ancient human mages promptly used the magical techniques the elves taught them to enslave the elves after Fen'Harel formed the Veil, rendering the elves mortal and weakened and form the Tevinter Imperium.
- Centuries later, the elven slaves helped Southern Thedas human slaves (and Andraste, the prophetess of the humans' Maker) overthrow their Tevinter masters in exchange for a new elven homeland. A few centuries after that, descendants of the said human slaves formed their own Imperial expansionist empire, which they used to conquer the new elven homeland and re-subjugate the entire elven race, just like their Tevinter masters before them.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Humans don't commit genocide, they conduct "purges" against elven alienages that get too uppity, and "Annul" mage Circles that become too infested with demons and blood magic. And they have to slaughter every mage during each Annulment, in case any of them might be an abomination or blood mage. Even the children.
Kingdom of Ferelden
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 most of Thedas, besides Rivain. 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 (although this is met with severe race riots from humans that end with the non-Warden Bann being murdered by a human bigot, and the alienage being purged otherwise). A Warden of any race can also become the new Arl of Amaranthine in Awakening, although this is mostly because it was officially given to the Grey Wardens to combat the Blight, and said Warden was the default "Arl" due to being the Warden-Commander of Ferelden by this point. If importing a new character, have the nobility more upset that their new Arl is Orlesian, than their being non-human. They can even be a mage, and comments are kept to a minimum. (Although, in every other case, mages are legally forbidden from holding any title of nobility in Ferelden, which they can gave even in Kirkwall.) Even before the Mage-Templar War and especially after, it was considered more moderate towards mages than much 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.
- The Good 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.
- 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.
- Hypocrite: Like most of Southern Thedas, Ferelden humans resent Orlais for conquering them, but believe the Dalish elves brought Orlesian conquest and subjugation on themselves.
- As the City Elf Origin shows, Ferelden humans don't treat Ferelden elves much better than how Orlesian Chevaliers treated them.
- Informed Attribute: Ferelden supposedly struggles from mass food shortages and mass failing crops and wild lands following the Blight (the Hinterlands were said to be almost completely barren following the darkspawn horde's victory at Ostagar), but it's never mentioned outside of codices, and in Inquisition the Hinterlands and Redcliffe look better than they did at the start of Origins.
- 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.
- Mage Tower: 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.
Eamon: Denerim is the heart and soul of Ferelden. It was the city of King Calenhad, and the birthplace of Andraste. As stubborn as a Mabari, and as good to have at your side. If we defeat Loghain here, the rest of the nation will follow us.
- Although, it's worth noting that outside the Human Noble Origin, most characters don't speak that glowingly of Highever. The City Elf Origin reveals most Highever elves claim the humans there are just as bad as anywhere else (just with fewer elves to get "lost in a crowd" since it's a smaller alienage)note , and Arl Eamon reveals when calling the Landsmeet that Denerim is considered the shining example of Ferelden culture.
- 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".
Alistair: Oh, the usual. Attempted assassinations, uprisings, fancy parties with stinky cheeses...
A very old empire known for its 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.
- 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.
- Agent Peacock: Orlais is this trope on imperial-wide scale. Their nobles are dressed in a very foppish and dandy fashion, and it's reasonable to assume Everyone Is Bi as part of the Great Game. They are also currently the most powerful empire on Thedas.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: Orlesian nobles and politics are more blatantly misogynistic than Ferelden ones, despite Orlesian nobles being more decidedly foppish and fashion-forward than Ferelden.
- 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. Their background mirrors the Carolingean Empire, as an rising superpower responsible for uniting Europe stand-in into a single faith.
- 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.
- Hiding Behind Religion: Emperor Drakon invented The Chantry, which he conveniently filled with expansionist teachings as an excuse to conquer and convert neighboring kingdoms; particularly Nevarra and the Dales. Eventually it became clear to everyone that Orlais was expanding out of greed rather than faith, though most of Southern Thedas are still ardent Chantry worshipers who enthusiastically preach its expansionist ideals. Even people conquered by Orlais fully believe Orlais' borderline propaganda version of the war against the elven Dales.
- Dalish elves in particular view the Exalted March of the Dales as this. From the Dalish perspective, Orlais used Chantry "missionaries" as a front to try to undermine their autonomy, and when the missionaries were kicked out they dropped the act and just sent in Templars. While the Inquisitor can discover in Inquisition that the elven attack on Red Crossing did happen, it was not a heathen attack against the faithful as the Chantry claim, but a tragic case of Poor Communication Kills.
- 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.
- The Masked Empire 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 practice of Chevaliers is to 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.
- Orlais created the Chantry and its Chant of Light ostensibly to praise Andraste and the Maker for freeing them from Tevinter. Said Chant of Light is also filled with expansionist teachings they then used as an excuse to conquer, convert, and forcibly subjugate most of Southern Thedas (particularly the elven kingdom of the Dales) in the name of the Maker and prophetess that freed them.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Deconstucted. Chevaliers are supposed to be the idealized version of this on paper. In practice, 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 squeaky 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" Remark:
- 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.
- Despite being descended from human slaves who fought beside elven slaves to gain freedom from Tevinter, within a few centuries Orlais formed their own Imperial expansionist empire to conquer and subjugate their neighbors, particularly the neighboring elven kingdom.
- Obviously Evil: They're second only to Tevinter in this regard. They're an autocratic empire where the 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 they will be a moron, a bad guy, or both.
- One True Faith: The Chantry as its known today originated in Orlais. It was the brainchild of Emperor Drakon, who used it as an excuse to conquer and subjugate his neighbors (particularly the elven kingdom of the Dales). Since he did such a great job of outlawing all other forms of worship (including other forms of worshiping Andraste and/or The Maker), most of Southern Thedas are now ardent Chantry worshipers, even if they resent Orlais itself for conquering and occupying them.
- Propaganda Machine: The Chantry was so successful at winning over the hearts and minds of the nations it forcibly conquered, that most of Southern Thedas are ardent proponents of Chantry worship and its expansionist teachings, despite the said Chantry being created by Emperor Drakon to justify conquering them in the first place.
- Most of Southern Thedas also completely believe the Orlesian Chantry version of its war against the Dales (a tale of hostile heathens persecuting poor innocent faithful humans, culminating in Red Crossing, which the Inquisitor can discover was not a deliberate attack, but a tragic case of Poor Communication Kills, forcing the Chantry to call an Exalted March to protect all of Andrastian-kind) despite Orlais conquering most of its human neighbors before and after its war against the Dales, and soon moving past its recently conquered elven territory to reach Ferelden.
- 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.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Most Orlesians and Chantry clerics maintain that following the Exalted March against the Dales (where the Orlesian Chantry sacked, conquered, and annexed the Dales), the elves should be grateful that the Chantry gave them the "choice" of either converting to Chantry worship and living as second-class citizens in fantastic slums in human cities... or fleeing into the woods as nomadic wanderers. After all, the Chantry showed "mercy" when they could have just slaughtered them all down to the last man, woman, and child.
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 to 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!
- 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.
- Informed Poverty: Lowtown is surprisingly spacious and clean for a filthy, run-down slum (save the smog). The Kirkwall Alienage is also supposedly even more filthy and impoverished than Lowtown, yet it looks far more pleasant and colorful. The way characters talk, you would think the Alienage was a dreary mud pit infested with crumbling shacks, rats, and drunken louts; yet it's filled with colorful banners, a beautifully decorated vhenadahl, and the elves living there seem pretty upstanding. Only Darktown seems to live up to its name.
- Malevolent Architecture: Lowtown is adorned with rusted metal spike partitions, narrow streets, and 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.
- Missing White Woman Syndrome: Probably more noticeable than other regions due to how claustrophobic the city is. The Qunari were converting Kirkwall elves in large numbers for years, but Kirkwall's officials didn't care until they started converting human nobles (particularly the Viscount's son). Serial kidnappings and murders against elves also tend to be dismissed by guards, but serial kidnapping and murders of Hightown human women (particularly Hawke's mom) are met with swifter action. Accusations of guards raping elven women are also outright ignored, but elven crimes against said human guards are met with the swift hammer of justice.
- 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 its former self, and despite all the "cleansing" and reform, is still corrupt and wretched at its 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
Fenris: Of course. There are slaves. The magisters do not hesitate to collar their own kind.
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.
- 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.
- Based on a Great Big Lie: Tevinter was founded on the notion that they conquered the mighty Elvhen Empire. Solas hints, and Abelas reveals, that this is false. Elvhenan destroyed itself in a civil war, and Tevinter merely swooped in and picked through what remained. Most "Tevinter" magic is actually elvhen magic, and Word Of God is that most of Tevinter is "the Tevinter people arriving, seeing the remains of the Elven empire and basically spraypainting human faces over the Elven faces, and knocking the ears off the statues." After the Temple of Mythal, Dorian can comment that his countrymen would be devastated to learn that everything they thought they knew about themselves and their mighty empire is all a great big lie.
- 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: Barely. 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.
- Enslaved Elves: Most their slave population is this. While the occasional elf can gain power and a number of their slaves are human, the vast majority of their slave population is still elven and vice-versa. (They were the ones who enslaved the entire elven race in the first place, after all.)
- Evil Sorcerer: An entire Empire seemingly built on embracing this trope as fully as possible.
- Expy: A decadent and tyrannical magocracy that's past its prime with a culture steeped in traditions of slavery, blood magic, human sacrifice, and Lost Technology? Does that sound like Melniboné to anyone else?
- Fantastic Racism: The vast majority of Tevinter's elves are slaves and vice-versa (something Dorian admits to Solas). Tevinter also buys and kidnaps far more elven slaves than not.note Word of Gaider is that while a talented elven mage can gain power in Tevinter, it's still not a pure meritocrasy, and being an elf is not something you can "ever truly escape" as you climb the social ladder.
- 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.
- Hitler Ate Sugar: Every anti-mage bigot and their grandmother loves to tout the Imperium as proof that mages should never be free, treated as equals or given positions of power because they'd just abuse it and form a magocracy of their own, which is pretty rich given the Chantry-Mage dynamic outside Tevinter these days is eerily similar to the mages-normal people dynamic inside it, the main difference being that the positions are swapped.
- 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, taking over the remnants of elven empire for themselves, erasing the elves' history, and reducing the entire surviving elven race into Enslaved Elves.
- Not Helping Your Case: More than a few dyed-in-the-wool Tevinter Magisters lament the degradation of their society, decry the often brutal oppression that mages are put through elsewhere in Thedas, and long for the return to the halcyon days of the height of Tevinter
and then proceed to continue using slavery as a matter of course, treat blood magic and demonic possession as just a few more arrows in the arcane quiver, and behave in such a cartoonishly vile way that would make Snidely Whiplash blush that you can't help but wonder why the Chantry hasn't just Exalted March'd the Imperium back to the Stone Age.
- Dorian in Inquisition, thankfully, averts this seeing as he is a morally upstanding man who hates the lows that other Magisters often fall to in pursuit of power and, while he is still proud of certain things his country has accomplished, is not above calling out the Imperium on its more bone-headed and outright evil practices.
- "Not So Different" Remark:
- The rest of Thedas (particularly Orlais) likes to paint the Imperium as evil incarnate, but most of the shady goings-on in Tevinter are barely any different from them — just that they usually have a magical spin on them. For example, while it's true that in Tevinter it's common for magisters to sacrifice their slaves for increased power, in Orlais it was standard practice for chevaliers to "test" their new swords by killing elves, and in Ferelden elves are routinely slaughtered en-masse as collective punishment for some slight. Additionally, while people often say that "mages rule Tevinter," in reality it's the same system as everywhere else — powerful noble families calling the shots. Those families just happen to be mages. The only thing that really sets Tevinter apart as worse than the rest is slavery, and as Dorian points out, the distinction between slavery in Tevinter and abject squalor in the South is often academic.
- As it turns out, ancient Elvhen "gods" were little more than exceptionally powerful mages and tyrants, no better than Tevinter magisters. Ancient Elvhen "gods" also enslaved the same elves that Tevinter magisters poached when the Veil went up.
- 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, and in neither Tevinter or the rest of Thedas is this restricted to women. 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.
- Resurgent Empire: According to Fenris in the second game, they have slowly rebuilt their military strength after the succession of wars over the ages and they are preparing to launch an attack on Southern Thedas. This is questionable since in Inquisition, characters note that the Tevinters in general with the exception of the Venatori (who are renegades in service to the Elder One) don't really have an interest in picking up a fight with their Southern neighbors.
- Selective Obliviousness:
- As Dorian notes, one of the reasons Tevinter has become a Soiled City on a Hill is because most magisters find it easier to pretend everything's great (that they're still better than everyone else, that the glory days will return soon, that they'll win their Forever War against the Qunari any day now, etc) than to actually roll up their sleeves and make it happen.
- Tevinter's current state religion is the Imperial Chantry, a version of the Chant of Light made to be more palatable to mages which downplays if not erases the Magisters' crimes by accusing the Old Gods of having created the darkspawn. Dorian states that nobody back home wants to admit "they shat the bed".
- 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. 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. 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.
- 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.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Averted. Unlike the Chantry and Orlais, Tevinter loves admitting to genocide. They adore boasting that they brought the Mighty Elvhen Empire to its knees and enslaved its entire elven race that they didn't slaughter. Subverted as it turns out Elvhenan was wiped out in a civil war, and the Imperium just picked through what remained.
Principality of Antiva
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.
- Everyone Is Bi: Zevran hints as such in the first game. Enforced by the Antivan Crows, who need their assassins to show a degree of "open-mindedness" so they can seduce potential targets, whatever gender they may be. Every major Antivan character has also been shown to be bi.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Spain and the Renaissance-era Italian city-states, with some Mafia-controlled Sicily thrown in.
- 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.
A mountainous country best known for being where the Grey Wardens were founded.
- 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 Teutonic Knights, 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.
- In fact, they get around this by preemptively possessing corpses — the mortalitasi bind a weak spirit to a corpse, ensuring that it can't become a vessel to a stronger demon. Then the spirit just...stays there. Forever. As Cassandra says, "after a while, the moaning begins to grate on the nerves."
- 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.
- 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 female 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. In fact, the only permanent Dalish settlement in Thedas is in Rivain, it being the only place where Dalish can rest without being attacked by local humans.
- Fantastic Racism: They get worse than they give in this regard, with Rivaini characters being looked down on for their dark skin and their culture's horrid acceptance of mages, spirits, elves, Qunari, and "pagan" beliefs.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Islamic Spain/Sicily, though some of their place names are bewilderingly Scotirish-sounding, like Dairsmuid (the capital) and Ayesleigh. The relatively peaceful co-existence of Andrastian humans, elves, and Qunari also mirrors the Golden Age of Spain when Christians, Jews, and Muslims co-existed relatively peacefully.
- 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.
Groups of small barbarian tribes whose history dates back to ancient times. They were once part of the Alamarri, the earliest tribes of south-eastern Thedas, but after a civil war in 1:50 Divine, they were driven into the Frostback Mountains where they currently reside. Known for their odd customs in regards to magic and spirits, they have strained relationships with Fereldan (whose lands they will occasionally raid) and Orlais, they however have strong ties to Orzammar.
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Avvar can earn a "legend-mark" by accomplishing a great deed. A legend-mark is a cognomen that replaces the surname in honor of the great deed performed by the individual; e.g., Ivatt Jovsen was made Ivatt Stone-Thunder.
- Barbarian Tribe: Avvar is kind of a catch-all term for they tribes in the Frostbacks as they operate independently from each other and only share beliefs and customs.
- Best Her to Bed Her: To avoid inbreeding, Avvar men have to sneak into other tribes and kidnap a bride. This is of course pre-arranged and only serves as a test of the man's commitment to the courtship, and the women has full right to shoot down the whole thing if she so feels.
- Expy: They're pretty much the Wildlings from A Song of Ice and Fire.
- Exceptionally Tolerant: The Avvar are pretty much the best-case scenario for mages in all of Thedas. It helps that their mages serve as intermediaries for the Fade spirits that serve as their gods.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: As of Inquisition, pretty squarely one to Early Middle Ages Scandinavians. Their names are squarely Norse-inspired, their religion is focused around various gods of war, their society being held together mainly by reciprocal oaths which are religiously sacred, and positions within their society like 'Skald' and 'Thane'. And yes, both those titles are exactly what you'd expect. On the other hand, they're named after a nation of people from the Caucasus Mountains and are mountain-dwellers themselves. However, that's the only connection Avvars have with real-world Avar people.
- Horns of Barbarism: The Avvar, a barbarian people native to the Frostback Mountains and fond of raiding and pillaging their neighbors, often wear horned helmets.
- Hot-Blooded: The Avvar are well known for their fiercely competitive nature and relish any opportunity to prove themselves superior.
- The Old Gods: Unlike the Dalish or the Magisters of old Tevinter, the Avvar worship the pantheon of the Alamarri, the chief among them Korth the Mountain-Father, Hakkon Wintersbreath, and The Lady of the Skies. They also believe that the spirits of the Fade are gods themselves and treat them accordingly.
- Willing Channeler: Avvar mages — called Augurs — willingly allow themselves to be possessed by benevolent spirits as part of their training to control their magic. When the teaching is done, the spirit is released through a ritual. As far as we know, there hasn't been any Anders-esque situations from this (though, not living in Kirkwall probably helps).
Dwarves / Dwarva
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.
- 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.
- Culture Chop Suey: The Dwarven Caste system itself has many parallels to Hindu Caste system but their martial society seems to be based around Roman ideals. Meanwhile, the elective monarchy and cutthroat politics seem to draw most of their inspiration from the Holy Roman Empire.
- Decadent Court: While the human empire of Orlais is famous for its "Grand Game," dwarven noble society ain't a very nice place either. Backstabbing, coups, bribery, blackmail, and assassinations are standard operating procedure.
- 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.
- Lost most of their cities and population to the Blights. To the point that when Corypheus, a Tevinter Magister from before The Blights shows up and thinks he's in the Deep Roads, his first reaction is, "Where is everybody?"
- 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.Warden: How does the caste system work, anyway?Lord Helmi: Badly.
- Fantastic Racism: Against casteless or surface dwarves. Certain dialogue options imply they're not too fond of humans, either.
- 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.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Their politicians spend more time arguing and attempting to assassinate each other than actually worrying about the darkspawn constantly threatening to overrun the city. By the time the Warden's party reaches Orzammar in Origins, the Assembly is completely dysfunctional and is blind to all else besides the dispute over the kingship; one of the deshyrs actually threatens to bash another one's face in for daring to suggest that a disputed matter be put to a vote.
- 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 Decadent Court, all the way down to the Casteless squatting in Dust Town.
A 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.
Elves / Elvhen
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: Wolves. Like wolves they're lithe and agile, live in small but close-knit communities (both Dalish and Alienage), and tend to hunt or fight in organized groups to make up for their lack of brute force compared to humans. 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 went 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 no 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 conquer and enslavement by the newly formed Tevinter Imperium. After millennia of slavery under humans, the elves gained a brief Hope Spot in being granted a new homeland... only to have that stripped from them a few centuries later by the very humans they help free, 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.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: As a culture, elves (both city and Dalish) tend to be more community-oriented than the more individualist human cultures (approve actions that benefit the whole elven community, and look down on elves who abandon or hurt the community for personal gain), and elves tend to view their whole community as family (Alienage or Clan), not just immediate blood relatives like humans and dwarves. This causes more individualist elves (like Fenris and Sera) to find elven life too stifling, and humans to view elves as notorious grudge-holders since they take it so personally when humans attack their general elven community (like with Purges or Dalish-hunting), rather than target them or their blood relatives specifically.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in 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. Elves retaliate by calling humans "shems" (city elves) or "shemlen" (Dalish). The Dalish sometimes refer to the city elves as "flat-ears", as do city elves to elves who marry or try to live with humans.
- 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 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 of the Dales was Dales elves being extremely isolationist and turning away trade caravans and Chantry missionaries, which most human nations (especially the Imperial expansionist Orlais) found off-putting, if not threatening.
- Oh My Gods!: The Creators.
- One-Drop Rule: Any child with an elf and non-elf parent will fully resemble the non-elven parent. However, anti-elf racism is so common in most areas (especially among humans), that having elven blood is seen as a source of great shame, and has ruined more than one political career.
- Our Elves Are Different:
- Elves are slightly more gifted at magic and are more likely to produce mages than humans are, but are physically weaker than every other species and more susceptible to disease. It's 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.
- Late in Inquisition, the priest/slave of Mythal Abelas drops this bombshell: "The shemlen did not destroy Arlathan. We elvhen warred upon ourselves."
- Pass Fail: Children of elven and non-elven parents always fully resemble the non-elven parent, so even half-elves who fully embrace their elven heritage, and want to marry and live among the elves (like Slim Couldry in Dragon Age: Origins and Feynriel in Dragon Age II) never fully fit in because their humanity (or dwarfism or vashothism) always gives them away.Merrill: It will be your humanity who marks you among the people, not your magic. But I think they will take you.
- 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.
- Race Traitor: It's unfortunately very common for elves to accuse each other of this. Many Dalish look down on city elves for living under human rule, and many city elves look down on fellow elves who leave the alienage to marry or live with humans. Many city elves even resent high ranking elven servants, as they see them as class traitors for serving the human nobility who oppress them. (Briala in The Masked Empire even comes to realize her efforts to help the elves will never be recognized, since many Dalish dismiss her as a "flat-ear" beyond saving and even her fellow city elves would view her as a class traitor for being the handmaiden and lover of Empress Celene.)
- 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."
- Stupid Neutral: A major factor in the human nations' contempt for the elven kingdom of Halamshiral was their neutrality in the Second Blight, which wrought havoc on Orlais, the Anderfels, and Tevinter. A Blight is generally not a time for neutrality.
- 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.
Warden: I killed an Arl's son for raping my friend.
The elves confined to the slums in human cities.
- 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 elves. 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 save up enough money to have one spouse travel once in order 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 in better condition by Iona.note . 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).
- Lower-Class Lout: How most humans see them, given their poverty and lack of education.
- Marriage Before Romance: Due to the practice of arranged marriages being so common, they tend to take this attitude about love.
- Missing White Woman Syndrome: Most crimes against city elves tend to get ignored by humans.
- "Not So Different" Remark: For all their vitriol against the Dalish, city elves are just as concerned with retaining their ancient elven traditions and heritage (sans the religion), live in small close-knit elven communities (just alienages instead of clans), follow an elected elder based on wisdom (hahrens for city elves, Keepers for Dalish) rather than Might Makes Right Authority Equals Asskicking leaders for humans (magisters in Tevinter, feudal lords everywhere else), and they tend to frown on elves that try to integrate further in human society than themselves, going so far as to call such elves "flat ears" just like the Dalish call them.
- Poverty Food: The City Elf Warden can snark at their cousin Shianni that her famous "rabbits of the city" stew is really just made of rats. Shianni points out that life in the alienage means you take what you can get, and if it doesn't sound delicious, then you've been away for too long. A few characters point out throughout the franchise that alienage food isn't very apetizing.
- The Purge: Very frequently. Whenever a local alienage gets too uppity (usually rioting or protesting starvation, rape, serial murders, or other abusive conditions), the local lord tends to send in soldiers, lock the alienage doors, and massacre every "trouble maker" they find inside till the survivors are sufficiently scared, broken, and docile again. Rendon Howe and Empress Celene have both led excessively bloody purges in Dragon Age: Origins and The Masked Empire, respectively.
- 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.
- The Scapegoat: A favorite tactic among nobles trying to seize power or cause trouble without getting caught is to blame it on local alienage elves and have a purge to save face.
- Dragon Age: Origins: If the Warden is anything but a City Elf, then a late-game quest reveals that Rendon Howe became the new Arl of Denerim by imprisoning the real heir-apparent after his father was killed at Ostagar, but claimed the Denerim Alienage "rioted" and killed him, and purges the alienage to keep up appearances. If the Warden is a City Elf and killed Vaughan themselves, he claims the same thing and still purges the alienage.
- The Masked Empire: A major plot of the book involves Gaspard whipping up discontentment among local city elves to destabilize Celene's power base. Once the plan works, Gaspard abandons the city elves to be purged by Celene and tries to take the throne more directly via Civil War.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition: If the Inquisitor is a Dalish elf and plays the race-specific quest chain far enough, they discover a Venatori plot to poison an entire Free Marches city-kingdom's water supply with Red Lyrium, with the help of local nobles, which they attempt to pin on the local city elves and the Inquisitor's Clan. Unless the exact right steps are followed, the plan eventually works, the alienage is purged, and the Clan is wiped out.
- 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.
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 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.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Since DAII, footwraps that expose the heel and toe have become a pervasive but not all encompassing part of the Dalish. A line from Merrill though inplies that they're not above covering their feet for comfort and that they consider the footwraps shoes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ironically there's even a rumor that Bioware lost the first draft of the 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 forests 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 Dragon Age II 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.
- Informed Attribute: Hoo boy.
- Most characters treat the Dalish as exceptionally intolerant boomerang bigots who view most city elves as "flat ears" beyond saving, despite how nearly every single clan each game having at least one city elf they saved or took in. (Alarith from the City Elf Origin tells of a Dalish who saved him from slave hunters chasing him out of Tevinter. Zathrien's Clan took in Lanaya after killing the human bandits that kept her as a Sex Slave. Clan Sabrae took in Pol the city elf. Clan Lavellan risk certain death in Wycome to protect city elves from being scapegoated and purged by humans.) Every clan encountered each game is also willing to be civil to outsiders, as long as said humans prove they're not going to hurt them.
- Most characters (especially Solas and Sera) accuse the Dalish of considering themselves perfect and having no need to change, despite how the Dalish themselves mention at every turn that they know their culture is patchwork at best. They're Adventure Archaeologists for a reason: they constantly seek to learn more of their lost history, lore, and culture, not to wallow in the knowledge they think they already have.
- Finally, most characters accuse the Dalish of being so inflexible they're unwilling to change with the times and thus are responsible for their own decline. Yet, the fact that they're nomadic hunter-gatherers at all is an attest to their adaptability, since Elvhenan and Dales society were not nomadic, and the Dalish only adopted a nomadic lifestyle to avoid humans after the latter stole their second homeland (again) and forced them to either convert or flee. Solas can also mention that no two clans are alike, as each clan as adapted to their own situations and surroundings. For example, desert clans have adapted to desert life while forest clans have adapted to the forest climate; clans that frequently trade with humans have adopted a bedside manner to match, while those who've shunned all human society have adapted to deep forest survival or banditry.
- Jerkass Has a Point: While they're seen as frightfully haughty by most non-Dalish at best, most of their criticisms against humans and city elves aren't unfounded. Most of their recorded history with humanity is full of instances of humans betraying and subjugating elves, city elves do get a bad deal living in human society (living in slavery or fantastic ghettos), The Chantry is filled with Orwellian editors with a track record of re-writing history to serve their own ends especially in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and most human villages tend to attack or scapegoat the Dalish if they settle too close to human towns whether they act friendly or not. It's hard to blame them for not wanting to settle with humans.
- 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. They have this reputation among humans and some city elves (especially Sera) for denying responsibility in past conflicts with humans, particularly Red Crossing. However, their distrust of the Chantry's version of history proves to be well-founded in the Dragon Age: Inquisition:
- The Inquisitor can discover what really happened at Red Crossing: there was an elven attack, though it was a tragic case of Poor Communication Kills fueled by two Star-Crossed Lovers. When presented the truth, the Dalish immediately accept the validity of the documents, and waste no time sending an apology gift to the descendants of Red Crossing (even though it means publicly losing the moral high ground in that conflict), whereas if the Chantry is given the records instead they immediately use it to fuel more anti-elf propaganda (despite their own culpability in that conflict).
- In the Jaws of Hakkon DLC, the Inquisitor further discovers that the last Inquisitor, Ameridan, a devout and celibate Andrastian human mage-hunter, was an elven mage and dual Creators / Andrastian worshiper who preferred hunting demons, and had a mage elf lover. Maybe the Dalish were onto something about the Chantry re-writing history to suit their own ends after all...
- "Not So Different" Remark: Despite holding themselves up as truer elves, the Dalish have more in common with city elves than they think. They're also a fallen people that live in impoverished but small close-knit elven communities (just Clans instead of Alienages), follow an elected elder based on wisdom (Keepers for Dalish, hahrens for city elves) rather than Might Makes Right Authority Equals Asskicking leaders like humans (magisters in Tevinter, feudal lords everywhere else), and they seem to find that just as many elves move to the city (DA2's Merrill) to marry a city elf (Zevran's mother) or human (Feynriel's mother) as city elves tend to move in with the Dalish, despite the Dalish keeping themselves physically apart from humans.
- 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.
- A downplayed example can be explained in that hunting and gathering in a pre-industrial society probably gives the Dalish a more substantial diet than the common City Elf.
- 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 themselves in the best possible light. The Chantry, on the other hand, cherry-picks details of the same documents to continue painting themselves as wrongfully persecuted victims at the hands of those wicked elves.
- Poverty Food: Downplayed. Most Dalish eat better than most city elves since they can hunt for fresh meat and gather more greens in the wilds, though World of Thedas II reveals that Dalish frequently eat edible flowers and larvae with their salads.
- 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.
- The Scapegoat: Any Dalish who settle too close to a human settlement for too long soon get blamed for local problems. This can be anything, from missing children, to bad crops, to plagues, to poisoned well water.
- If the Inquisitor is a Dalish elf and they follow their race-specific quest chain far enough, they eventually learn of a Venatori plot to poison an entire Free Marches city state's water supply with Red Lyrium, with the help of a number of human nobles, which they try to pin on Inquisitor's Clan. If the exact right steps are not followed to save the Clan, the plan succeeds, the Clan is blamed, and the elves are wiped out.
- Screw You, Elves!: Many Dalish view the city elves as "flat-eared" race traitors who have forgotten their roots. Many city elves, in turn, consider the Dalish either smug and aloof, or little more than wandering bandits. However, there are exceptions on both sides.
- 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 God: Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf. He was the one 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 Dragon Age: Origins. Most Dalish are skeptical of the Chantry's version of the Exalted March of the Dales (kidnapping human children, sacrificing babies to fuel blood magic rituals to their elven gods, massacring the human village of Red Crossing, etc), since humans won that war and destroyed all known elven records leading up to it. This is also why the Dalish immediately believe the lost letters detailing the truth of Red Crossing (written by the elves who committed the massacre in Dragon Age: Inquisition), since it wasn't written by people who have something to gain by demonizing the elves (as the Chantry often uses the supposed massacre of Red Crossing to justify taking back the elven homeland and subjugating the elven people).
Sten: We'll do better next time.
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. Note that it is only the movement itself that makes this distinction; individuals of the race who are not members of the religion still call themselves Qunari, and the rest of Thedas generally does the same.
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.
- Aggressive Categorism: Women cannot be soldiers. Therefore, any female soldiers a Qunari might encounter from time to time must not really be women. They also have a few gender-inclusive roles (assassins, intelligence agents) that regularly fight in combat but it's okay because they aren't technically soldiers, but enforcers.
- Men are also restricted — outside of the military, there are very few leadership roles they are allowed in.
- Animal Motifs: Often compared to oxes or bulls due to their huge builds, horns, and leathery skin.
- 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. note
- Ambiguous Situation: It's not fully clear if the Qunari really are more prone to violence and chaos than any other race (especially if they have Dragon Ancestry) and the Qun provides a much-needed Restraining Bolt, or their extreme Freedom from Choice philosophy leads its members to be so Not Used to Freedom that if they do break away it becomes a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
- 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.
- One example is their concept of gender, which by our standards is simultaneously extremely old fashioned and quite progressive. They believe in extremely strict gender roles, to the point that a woman doing a traditionally male job like soldiering (or a man who's a manager) is so far out of their worldview that they have a hard time wrapping their head around it. As Sten asks, why would a woman try to be a man? However, a trans man soldier is so unremarkable it's barely worthy of comment; a man is being a man and fulfilling a man's role, end of discussion.
- 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.
- Commonality Connection: The Qunari get along surprisingly well with the Rivaini people, given that both are semi-matriarchal (at least in practice), downplay individual wealth, promote community welfare, and Rivaini have a pantheistic religion called the Natural Order that believe their god and the universe are the same.
- 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, buy a ship, or negotiate passage on another ship, for the simple reason that they are soldiers, not ship builders, merchants, or negotiators, and to do anything that is not their original purpose is alien to them. Nor will they attempt to be diplomatic about their plight, since they aren't diplomats, either. 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.David 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 horned giants that make up the general Qunari populace 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 the horned giants remains at the top.
- Downplayed since the Priesthood is open to all races and genders (since, symbolically, the Qun can be embraced and mastered by all), and they frequently allow first generation converts to join the Ben-Hassrath at least (such as Tallis from Dragon Age II and Gatt from Dragon Age: Inquisition), and the Ben-Hassrath are de-facto religious law enforcers while the (all-female) Tamassran are the de-facto leaders. While it's mostly only grey giant men who make up the military, the Arishok/military still largely answers to the Ariqun/Priesthood. It's unclear how much of the Ben-Hassrath is made up of non-horned giants, and whether Tamassran can be non-horned giants, but it does allow other races some degree of authority.
- With that said, the Tamassran assign people roles they are "most suited for," and since a number of converts enter Qunari society with pre-existing skills from their previous lives, they can get stuck with similar roles while horned giants born and bred (literally) for more glamorous roles get to keep theirs. For example, a lot of elves join the Qunari to be free of the Fantastic Racism in human society and the chance to be leaders if they merit it (as demonstrated in party banter between Sten and Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins), but since most elves are small, frail, and don't have much skilled labor, mercantile, or leadership experience since they're second-class citizens in human society, Tamassran can asign most elves to spying or subservient roles because it is what they "merit," and can claim the elves didn't get leadership roles because they "weren't suited for it."
- 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, while their protracted conflict with the Byzantium-esque Tevinter is evocative of the Seljuks and Ottomans. 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
- There's also some pretty good arguments that the Qunari draw much more from the philosophy of Plato (specifically as outlined in The Republic) rather than Confucianism or Taoism. While Confucianism is focused very strongly on the traditional family structure, the Qunari are raised by specialized guardians in creches (as Plato proposed), and while Taoism places a great emphasis on non-action and self-enlightenment, the Qunari believe in establishing an order ruled by the enlightened (again, like Plato's philosopher-kings).
- They also have a lot in common with early Israeli kibbutzim; Jews who felt the Call to Agriculture and embraced the ideals of Communism so thoroughly that they set up secluded industrial and aggriculture communities where everyone worked for the betterment of the whole, things like private property and even privacy were done away with (with communal washrooms and dining halls being mandatory), and, most extremely, children raised communally by a few religious leaders rather than their own parents.note
- 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- Magic Versus Science: Firmly on the scientific side, most notably in their constant war against the Tevinter Empire.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: While they forbid marriage in general, they also disapprove of other species mating with the horned giants that make up the Qunari population. It is unknown if the Qunari can actually produce offspring with other species.
- That said, any mixed race mating is maligned in the Qunari due to their Tamassran Super Breeding Program, which only pairs two of the same species together to produce offspring. Qunari humans, elves, and dwarves who cross race lines together is as frowned upon as getting together with a grey giant, who like to keep bloodlines distinct.
- Matriarchy: Averted, but nations neighboring the Qunari actually believe them to be this since only Qunari women are allowed to have administrative and merchantile roles outside the military. While the all-male Qunari military (led by the Arishok) wields a lot of influence, so do the all-female merchant/craftsmen branch (led by the Arigena), along with the largely female-led Priesthood (led by the Ariqun). Yes, the Priesthood is technically open to all genders, but men can only join the "enforcer" Ben-Hassrath branch while only women can be the de-facto "leader" Tamassran branch. Since only women are allowed to lead and handle money outside the military, and the military still largely answers to the largely female-led Tamassrans, it's an easy mistake.
- 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 formerly 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.
- Not Used to Freedom: The qunari are a culture that puts heavy emphasis on everything in society fulfilling a purpose to its utmost. People born, trained or converted into this philosophy have absolutely no freedom or say in the matter. People who defect from the Qun are called Tal-Vashoth and are considered dangerous animals. This is mostly because their previous lives were so rigid that they never developed skills in any area other than the one they were assigned; an ex-qunari soldier knows how to fight and nothing else.
- Odd Friendship: The Qunari get along surprisingly well with Rivain, a semi-matriarchal society where elder wise women are (or pretend to be) hedge mages who commune with and allow themselves to be possessed by spirits, given how extremely anti-magic and demon-fearing the Qunari are. Yet, the only peaceful Qunari settlement on mainland Thedas is in Rivain, many Qunari tolerate Rivaini who follow the Qun and their own Natural Order, and it was heavy Rivaini civilian casualties that caused the Qunari to halt their Forever War with the rest of Thedas.
- 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.
- Our Orcs Are Different: While it may not be initially apparent, the Qunari fit the Blizzard orc archetype quite well. They get described as a horde at one point and get portrayed with such direness. They also tend to have a lot of Proud Warrior Race traits. They are somewhat of a subversion however, on account of a few things.
- For one thing they have horns instead of tusks.
- Instead of being portrayed as Noble Savage types that are common for the trope, they are portrayed as a highly advanced race, having developed gunpowder.
- Finally, they follow a religion which is more or less like a fantasy version of Taoism or Confucianism, as opposed to the more typical portrayal of orcs practicing shamanistic religions.
- 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. According to Iron Bull, not even the Qunari themselves know much about their origins.Iron Bull: We came south to Thedas because... well, I don't know. We had to leave. The stories aren't clear.
- Pet the Dog:
Ketojan: Basvaarad, you have led well. I thank your intent. Panahedan, as you find the Qun.
- 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, and generally don't treat it as a big deal. Subverted, however, if the person doesn't fit the Qun's idea of what that their gender identity can do: a non-conforming woman or any one the transgender spectrum would be allowed to live as a man if he was a capable warrior (a male role), but not if he wanted to be a farmer (a female role).
- 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.
- Subverted with their mages (saarebas). When their magic awakens, they're put in chains, collared, have part of their horns cut off and have their mouths sewn shut, or, in worse cases, have their tongues cut out. Furthermore, they are placed in a group of other saarebas that are managed by the qunari's version of a templar (arvaarad). Should the saarebas be separated from their group, they are expected to kill themselves, or return to the qunari to be killed as to prevent "being corrupted/not corrupting others". They're also used as attack dogs by the military. The only thing that keeps all of this from being a complete Kick the Dog moment is that the qunari don't really have any ill-will towards them. At worst, they pity saarebas as they know that them being able to wield magic isn't really their fault. At best, they honor them; the mastery of one's self is one of the core teachings of the Qun, and struggling to remain in control while under the constant threat of Demonic Possession is considered not only selfless, but of the highest virtue. Their reasoning for going to these extreme lengths however, is because too many people are afraid of magic and they try protect others from being corrupted by demons. But given from what information we know about demons, it's safe to say that their knowledge on the subject is... not up to date.
- Their respect towards Saarebas is best displayed in the Dragon Age II quest Shepherding Wolves. Should you choose to let the qunari have Ketojan, the Arvaarad speaks more respectfully towards Hawke, despite trying to kill them anyway.
Arvaarad: You should be honored by this action, basra. It is his last.
[Ketojan is killed and a party member protests]
Arvaarad: He lost his lead — the risk of corruption was certain. But he has owned his death by honoring you. He knows the Qun once more. As will you.
Diplomatic Hawke: You got what you wanted. Why try to fight me now?
Arvaarad: An uncollared Saarebas spoke to you. You were already exposed, but there's no way to know what demon may have ridden his words. Killing you is demanded. But the respect of Saarebas has granted honor. Be grateful. Not every neck earns the ceremonial cut.
- Principles Zealot: When following a demand of the Qun;Hawke: I see a man who's willing to start a war on principle!
Arishok: And what would the Qunari be without principles? You, I suspect.
- 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.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Qunari believe in The Evils of Free Will and that all who defect (Tal-Vashoth) are inherently violent savages. However, due to their extreme Freedom from Choice, most who leave are so Not Used to Freedom that they cannot cope and become the very violent and chaotic savages they claim. Not helped by the fact that the Qunari send mostly soldiers to interact with the rest of Thedas (to conquer them), so soldiers who are taught to do nothing but fight are more likely to Go Native and defect in the first place. Added to that their loss of purpose since they no longer fight for the Qun, and their lack of skills beyond fighting, and it's just asking for most Val-Vashoth to become violent mercenaries and bandits... which the Tamassran can then brandish as "proof" that defection inevitably leads to violent mindlessness, so don't do it, kids!
- 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. On the other hand, beyond what job is considered appropriate they seem to consider gender (along with related things like sexual orientation) pretty much irrelevant. They're also unique in that they do not consider any one gender role (or any role, for that matter) to be inherently superior to another: a female artisan or merchant is just as highly valued as a male soldier or laborer, and both can join the priesthood.
- 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. Iron Bull suspects that this gone far enough that the Kossith if they still exist wouldn't be recognizably the same race.
- 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. Their concept of gender seems to consist entirely of gender roles, so it's actually easier for them to accept that a trans man doing a "man's job" is a man than that a woman doing a "man's job" is a woman.
- 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.
- Women Are Wiser: Outside the military (which is all male), women make up the entire mercantile and craftsmen classes (meaning they handle money and specialized/skilled labor), and while men can join the "enforcer" Ben-Hassrath, only women can the de facto leadership of the Qunari: the Tamassran Priesthood, who control the Super Breeding Program, raise and educate all the children, assign all the roles in society, and "re-educate" those who fall out of line. And while the all-male military led by the Arishok wield considerable power, ultimately they answer to the largely female-led Priesthood. Small wonder those who live near by the Qun mistake them for a Matriarchy.
- 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.
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."
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.
- 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, The Descent DLC added the genlocks, shrieks or ogres, with the first two look like Dragon Age II and the latter had an skeletical face.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: 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.
- In addition, sometimes born an Alpha strong enough to be capable to kill others Alphas, called Omega. That type of darkspawn are the most powerful of the entire horde and become the Archdemon's second-in-command during Blights. Only one Omega Emissary appears during the Fifth Blight and was killed by The Warden.
- 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.
- Body Surf: Before the Grey Wardens were formed, even if an Archdemon was killed it would eventually come back, since once it was killed its essence would just go into the nearest tainted creature and transform it into is old body. A Grey Warden killing the Archdemon circumvents this, as the essence flowing into the Warden and the Warden's soul clash, resulting in a Mutual Kill. However, the original magisters who unleashed the Blight can apparently Body Surf into Grey Wardens with no issue, as evidenced by Corypheus.
- Child by Rape: Given the process by which women are turned into Broodmothers (or at least one reasonable interpretation of the creepy poem), all Darkspawn born from the Broodmothers are this.
- Corpse Land: Any place where the darkspawn have been for a significant 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 and somewhat intelligent 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. On rare occasions, even larger, smarter, and stronger specimens than emissaries are born known as Omegas, which serve as the lieutenants of the Archdemon itself. The only one seen in Dragon Age: Origins, nearly killed the entire Warden's party in a cutscene and was only defeated thanks to the aid of Wynne's spirit ally.
- 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 Only Has to Win Once: A Blight is a doomsday level event. If even one were to succeed, all life in Thedas would likely come to an end forever.
- On the upside, the darkspawn only get seven chances to find an Archdemon to lead them, and five of those are now gone. Some scholars and Wardens have rather dark theories as to how the darkspawn may react when the last Archdemon dies, however...
- 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, unnaturally colored wastelands called Blightlands even centuries after they were driven out.
- Fate Worse than Death: The Darkspawn have a variety of these to dish out on anyone they capture alive. The most mild of these is "just" being tortured before death.
- 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.
- It's common in all darkspawn. The taint provides quick healing from wounds which also explains the absence of healing skills among the darkspawn. This healing even allows the recreation of lost body parts after some time, as seen with the Architect having both of his hands again in Dragon Age: Origins Awakening after lost one in The Calling.
- 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.
- Played straigh with the awakened darkspawns that called themselfs the Disciples. The inverse Joining created by The Architect erased the song of the Old Gods of their minds, meaning that the Disciples can think more like a sapient being and less like a cunning animal.
- 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 aren't tougher than hurlocks and genlocks, but hit hard, can use stealth 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 Thedas, 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.
- Outside-Context Problem: All that is definitively known about them is that they appeared in the Deep Roads one day, overran the Dwarven kingdoms, poured out into the surface world, and very nearly brought civilization in Thedas to an end. A thousand years later, even the Grey Wardens have no idea where they hell they came from for sure.
- Reconstruction: Of the idea of Orcs as rampaging, rapacious, hyper-violent monsters that exist only to destroy. As mentioned under Our Orcs Are Different, the darkspawn hew far closer to the original depictions of Orcs in the works of Tolkien, and aside from a few fringe cases such as The Architect and his faction in Awakening and, arguably, Corypheus and the Darkspawn Magisters who have more nuanced motivations, even the intelligent darkspawn that are mentioned in the lore utterly refuse to negotiate or explain themselves or cease their destruction of Thedas and seemingly take utter delight in the horror, pain, misery, and desolation that they leave in their wake. Darkspawn are an existential threat to all of Thedas, and the characters and the story treats them as such with no humanizing or sympathetic factors given to them to cushion their effectiveness as morally and ethically unambiguous things for the heroes to kill.
- 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.
- Sadist: They seem to instinctively enjoy causing pain and misery.
- 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, known as Blightlands, the 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).
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 textual appearance, they demonstrated that, though they carry weapons and wear armor, they can still kill another being with their bare jaws.
Spirits and Demons
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 they sleep 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. Justice also explains that neutral or benevolent spirits also have very little motivation to leave the Fade, while demons long for it and sieze any opportunity.
- Evil Only Has to Win Once:
- Dragon Age II establishes that spirits can be corrupted into demons, 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. From a spirit's perspective, it's impossible for a single creature to fulfill more than one role, as they (like the qunari) must constantly abide by their single nature. To be anything else is a permanent change, and changing back is incredibly difficult. 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 use 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.
- Also the Baroness of Black Marsh seems to have become a Pride Demon after centuries in the Fade.
- 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.
Mabari war hounds are a breed of intelligent dogs magically created by the mages of the Tevinter Imperium. They're praised in Ferelden and considered sacred here.
- Bilingual Dialogue: Mabari are capable to have full conversations, and though not capable of speech, they can clearly respond to speech with growls, whines, barks and several other actions that demonstrate intelligent comprehension.
- Canine Companion: In Ferelden, they're quite popular as companions.
- Defector from Decadence: According to Fenris in Dragon Age II, the Mabari Warhounds were created by Tevinter magisters to help them with their conquest of the lands that would become Ferelden. After seeing the kindness of the native Alamarri (the ancestors of the Fereldan people), the Mabari decided to defect and chose to side with them instead. Since then, a contingent of Mabari has been a staple of their military forces.Fenris: I always found it amusing that [the mabari] found the barbarians more palatable than the magisters.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: While they're reminiscent of many war-dogs throughout human history, their cultural significance greatly resembles that of the Irish Wolfhounds, which were damn-near worshiped by the ancient Irish for their intelligence and strength.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Mabari hounds seems to be capable of detecting hidden demons and abominations. The Warden's mabari show this ability several times.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Ferelden culture is heavily dog-friendly, thanks to their long history with the highly intelligent Mabari war dog breed. You'll see dog motifs all over: their torches, wardrobes, support beams heck, it's even on the royal coat of arms, where instead of Lions Rampant, you have Mabari Hounds Rampant. Some nobles, as exemplified by Bryce Cousland, even call their children "Lad" and "Pup" as terms of endearment.
- Genius Bruiser: Among dogs, Mabari hounds are geniuses, able to understand spoken language and learn complex commands. They are also hulking beasts, being as large as a dwarf and just as strong.
- It Can Think: The mabari were bred by a mage to be smart and understand what they are told, and additionally to remember, understand, and carry out complex orders
- Natural Weapon: Mabari hounds fight with jaws and claws.
- This Is My Human: The mabari chooses who to bond with, not the other way around.
- Undying Loyalty: Each mabari chooses their master for life in a process called imprinting.
Griffons were the flying steeds of the Grey Wardens.
- Hate Plague: Ostensibly the cause of the griffons' extinction. By using blood magic to force the griffons through the Joining, Isseya created a supernatural affliction that caused the griffons to sense the darkspawn corruption in themselves, their fellow griffons and the Wardens, causing them to violently lash out. The griffons who didn't kill each other had to be put down by the Wardens.
- Horse of a Different Color: Beasts with both eagle and lion features. They're also huge animals: an adult griffon could grow to be more than twelve feet from beak to tail, with a wingspan even larger, and weigh more than one thousand pounds.
- It Can Think: Last Flight implies that griffons are sentient.
- Our Gryphons Are Different: Last Flight is the first Dragon Age installment where the griffons are described in detail. Griffons are immensely powerful, ill-tempered, and are implied to be sentient. As of the end the novel, they are also no longer extinct.