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Nightmare Fuel / Dragon Age: Origins

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Main Game

  • First off, let's face it. Ferelden - and indeed all of Thedas, if the Codex (and later games) are any indication - sucks if you're not human nobility, and even then it's not that great either. Between the corruption, racism, bandits, greed, infighting and apathy, Ferelden has enough nightmares without the Darkspawn and other such horrors rising to scour the land.
  • The Darkspawn are Nightmare Fuel and Squick already, but one survivor's description of what happened at Ostagar is pure undiluted horror. Darkspawn everywhere, captives being eaten alive, the very ground literally rotting underfoot like fetid meat. It's like Mordor, but even worse. You don't get to see it, but the veteran's account is more than enough to give the player nightmares. The Stone Prisoner DLC, however, gives you a firsthand look at what happens to towns that fall to the darkspawn.
  • Codex entries about Abominations and Revenants. They're mentioned killing the Templars sent to slay them, and the Abominations are barely even human now. They're all mutated and swollen, now merely vessels for the demons that have inhabited the body of a poor, luckless mage. One Templar recalls looking right at an Abomination who was blasting a town apart trying to keep the Templar and his men from getting into sword's reach of said Abomination, and suddenly understanding that the no-longer-human mage wasn't luckless: the Templars had already been hunting him for using forbidden magic, and the mage realized he wasn't powerful enough to win without letting himself turn into an Abomination.
  • The Blood Wound spell, which boils your target's blood from inside their very veins. They just stand there twitching when it works.
  • Similar to the above "Blood Wound" spell, "Walking Bomb" turns your enemies into mobile explosives, and then into fountains of blood. In that order. Worse yet is "Virulent Walking Bomb," which is functionally identical... unless the explosion injures a target, in which case there's a chance the spell's effect will infect the target. And the worst part? Unlike the above "Blood Wound" and below "Blood Control" spells, which (by virtue of being blood magic) are forbidden by both national and church law, the Walking Bomb spells fall under spirit magic, and therefore are LEGAL!
  • There is a Blood Magic spell which can control any living thing with as a marionette by moving its blood. And the victim will suffer horrendous body damage in the case of resistance. Even more terrifying after they've used it on your party once, so you know what's going to happen when combat suddenly stops and everyone around you gets friendly. There's nothing you can do before you and your party are suddenly frozen in place and turned into gushing fountains of blood that all flows toward the enemy blood mage. Anyone who survives to fight will be near death, while the blood mage is replenished.
  • Sten's story about the fiends of Seheron the Tal'Vashoth is disturbing, particularly where he describes a small farming village where he was stationed. He's somewhat vague on the details, but the implication is that a Tal'Vashoth was picking off the inhabitants one by one, leaving only bits and pieces of their bodies in the jungle for the others to find.
  • Giant Spiders are pretty prevalent in the game, creeping in from overhead or behind, which is Paranoia Fuel, however what seals them as this is their overwhelm ability. As stated they overpower your character, pin them to the ground and bite them to pieces. The dark red blood that flows out is off the scale. The way their models move is uncanny as well. They're way too big and have disgusting Jiggle Physics. Is it any wonder there are popular mods to model swap them into things that are less repulsive? And the noise. There's nothing like the distinctive "shhhk-hiss" of a horde of spiders descending from the ceiling of whatever arena you're fighting through to make a player's bones chill.
  • Something about the way that Tamlen vanishes, screaming, in the Dalish Elf origin is more than shiver-worthy. Getting ambushed by what remains of him later in the game is just the icing on the cake. In the moments leading up to this, you can say "Get away from it, Tamlen...." in an attempt to warn him away. Despite the order only appearing in text, the context and the atmosphere of the scene makes the line practically ooze uneasiness despite it being completely un-voiced.
  • The implications of not playing any of the backgrounds is pretty Nightmare Fuelish:
    • The Human Noble is slaughtered at the hands of their family's "oldest friend"
    • The City Elf might be raped if female and even if they still managed to kill Vaughan, prison won't be kind to a knife-ear who killed an arl's son
    • The Dwarf Commoner found their way back into the carta's custody, rather than being executed. They then went on a hunger strike and died.
    • The Dwarf Noble is sent out to die in the Deep Roads.
    • In the Witch Hunt DLC, you find out that the Dalish Elf was found and brought back to camp, but never recovered and ended up just dying, luckily spared the same fate as Tamlen. Dying is probably preferable to finding out they've been suffering in pain for months while you've been making good use of your second chance at life/extended death sentence.
    • And the mage? The mage is probably taken to Aeonar for helping Jowan, a prison run by the Chantry at the site of an old Tevinter facility. Due to experiments the magisters did there, the Fade is so thin most mage inmates get possessed by demons. If the mage turned on Jowan, they were probably killed or possessed and then killed in Uldred's rebellion.

  • The first time you see a Joining, it's pretty creepy. The guy stumbles back moaning in pain, then suddenly his eyes go completely blank (or roll up so that the pupils aren't visible, which is even worse). Then, because he's one of the many unlucky ones who don't survive the Joining, he starts choking to death right before your eyes. No wonder Jory freaked out.
  • Duncan's utter, glacial calm when he executes Ser Jory is this. He doesn't want to do it, he doesn't enjoy doing it, but he still does it. If you had any illusions that the Grey Wardens were a purely noble, honorable, good Order of selfless heroes, they are dashed hard right here.
  • The entire concept of the Right of Conscription, even if it only really exists in the game as a glorified But Thou Must! to keep the story going. So, basically a Warden can just pick you off the streets and force you to become a recruit for any reason they see fit. Result? A) Death from poison, B) death from instant murder if you try and back out upon realizing that you've been shanghaied/misled, or C) the solid gold Kewpie doll: you survive, but are still almost guaranteed a violent and premature death from fighting.
  • The Battle of Ostagar's latter half. You light the signal, and surely the armies led by the renowned war hero Loghain Mac Tir will swoop in to save the day, right? Nope! Loghain turns tail and runs, and what follows next is nothing short of a massacre. King Cailan and Duncan - and indeed, most of their troops on the field of battle - are swiftly overrun and wiped out, with some of the last scenes before the darkspawn attack and overwhelm Alistair and the Warden (who are only saved because of Flemeth) showing a helpless Duncan watching as what little remains of Ferelden's once-mighty army is downright murdered at the hands of the darkspawn.

  • Lothering fits many of the "first town" tropes, complete with helpful people surprisingly quick to join you on your deadly adventure, monsters described as tough but really aren't, and side quests requiring absurdly low-level skills. And then you leave, and the icon turns into a skull and crossbones. The Blight hits Lothering, and literally wipes it off the map. Excepting recruited party members and a father-and-son merchant duo, you never see any of the people there ever again, despite having lengthy conversations with a dozen or so of them. Count the NPCs on your next playthrough, and remember that excepting one family (if you're nice to them) and one child (if you talk with him), you never saw anyone leave. Another exception is made in the second game—the Hawke family lived in Lothering, and most of them escape, but they're full-on hero types. Hawke does get letters from other survivors of Lothering. Some (like Old Barlin) are people the Warden met, while others they didn't. A letter sent to Leandra notes that the survivors are starting to put their lives back together.

  • Redcliffe Village becomes a ghost town if you leave during the quest to prepare it for the impending little Zombie Apocalypse. Nothing Is Scarier indeed. No wait, the really scary part is seeing some of the now undead villagers later in Redcliffe Castle.
    • One militia member's description of what happened to his friend. One of the devouring corpses, a dead body possessed by a demon of hunger, got on him and started eating his face. He screamed and tried to push it off, but couldn't.
    • Kids speaking with regular adult voices are creepy enough. Kids speaking with otherworldly demonic booming voices with a superimposed kid voice on top? That's just mean, Bioware.
    • The fact that Connor is possessed by a Desire Demon creates a bad enough subtext, but facing her in the Fade and hearing just how possessive she is of her host is creepy.
  • Not a very bad one, but it can still give a case of the creeps. If you angle your camera just right at the suits of armor in the Redcliffe Castle, they have visible eyes and faces. They don't move, don't blink, but it makes the little fight with them a tiny bit creepier. The fact that the suits of armor are completely harmless until you walk into the room they're in, at which point they jump off their pedestals and attack you. Admittedly, it's a bit mitigated by the fact that there are only six of them, so they're not that hard to beat; and if they're still around, Ser Perth and his knights will rush to your rescue (not that you'll likely need it). Still, going exploring around a castle you've supposedly reclaimed and being jumped as you wander about the premises would warrant at least a sharp breath or two.
  • The entire sequence that plays out if you decide to kill Connor instead of entering the Fade. It bounces back and forth between Nightmare Fuel and Tear Jerker and doesn't know when to stop.

    Circle of Magi 
  • The Pride demon from the Mage's Harrowing. True, you never face it in-game, or at least, not in the first one, but it gets one HELL of an scene. Mouse drops all pretense of helping you, and begins his transformation. Suddenly, the camera angle changes, and you're looking down at your character over the shoulder of a HUGE demon who's so tall you can't even see most of him from the angle he's shot at, and then he implies that this isn't over.
  • The landscape of the Fade: a twisted, confusing mass of small islands filled with demons and spirits of the dead. And in the center, there's the Black City, always there, always in the center. The city of the Maker, the god who has turned his back on all except those who believe in him.
  • The Tranquil. Despite being benevolent - as benevolent as a soulless walking mannequin can be.
    • Particularly the ones in the "Broken Circle" quest, the ones who barely even have the capacity to be afraid of the demonic abominations rampaging around the tower. This is especially true of the Tranquil who calmly tells you not to go into the tower's stockroom because it's in "no fit state." During the conversation, he says that he attempted to get to safety, but found Wynne's barrier in his way, and, rather than attempt to get the attention of the mage who conjured it, chose to go back into the stockroom. (Wynne, who comes with you to cleanse the place, states that she would have let him through if he'd said something.)
    • During the "Broken Circle" quest, in the room where the last statue for "Watchguard of the Reaching" quest is, you're faced by an abomination, three undead, and possibly three shades. If you pay enough attention during the first few moments of the fight, you can see three or four mages bound in a magical barrier. If you kill the abomination too slowly, they will turn into shades one by one. However, if you get to kill the abomination fast enough to prevent them from being turned, you will notice that they are not mages. They are Tranquil. This indicates that the Tranquil are not immune from demonic possession, even after sacrificing their emotions and their spell casting abilities, which means they are turned into Tranquil for nothing. Add the fact that normally, Tranquil are seen as undesirable by demons, and yet the ones in the Circle decided to possess them. Gives you an idea how bad the situation is. Either that, or the Tranquil are being sacrificed by the abomination to summon the shades. It's disturbing either way.
    • Unfortunately, all of those Oculara scattered in the world were made out of Tranquil skulls by Venatori. The companion reactions to this (it's in a locked house in Redcliffe in Inquisition if you're curious) are sad.
  • The Circle Tower, whenever you go to it, might be this as well. You see the moon behind it, and the tower is completely black. The only light is from a spot near the ground, which you assume is the main door.
  • The whole section where you get trapped in the Fade by a sloth demon is Nightmare Fuel. The music doesn't help, nor does the convoluted, frustrating and claustrophobic nature of the missions in the dreamscape. The sloth demon itself, between its gravelly voice and attacking you in your nightmares, is a reasonably good Expy of Freddy Krueger. Now imagine Freddy Krueger possessing a mage.
  • Abominations are pretty scary, yes, but what really plunges the player into uncontrollable terror is watching a guy get twisted into one. He screams horribly and starts glowing and floating and then he's gone, and in his place there is a deformed, twisted monster who doesn't even remotely look human anymore. The fact that the Abomination models have faces that look melted doesn't help. Even creepier when Uldred offers to turn you into one as well and genuinely thinks he's offering you a great thing. It just goes to show how twisted the man's become.
  • Cullen is found cowering on his knees and. hands on his head, and trapped in a magical prison by himself. He's the Sole Survivor of a group of Templars that were being repeatedly Mind Raped with their darkest thoughts until they died. He himself had his feelings for a female Mage Grey Warden used against him. He anguishes about always seeing illusions of her. Very vivid illusions of her.

  • Just the Deep Roads are freaky enough. Initially, the Deep Roads seem like Bioware's take on the mines of Moria, with Darkspawn standing in for the orcs as you hack your way through Caridin's Cross and the Aeducan Thaig, which come across as your standard ruined underground cities, not unlike say, Fallout. And then you start venturing further into areas like Ortan Thaig and the Dead Trenches, which is where the true nightmare fuel begins. The music shifts from an intrepid, if heroic theme to something out of Resident Evil, with eerie wailing and faint chanting taking over, all the while as you continue traversing locations that are slowly being corrupted, giving you a definitive line of where exactly the Blight truly begins.
  • Deepstalkers. They're not much trouble for the party, even in packs, but anyone who's seen Jurassic Park may have flashbacks to the compys.
  • The Broodmother and the entire explanation given for it. First off, just the appearance is grotesque. Then, the explanation. To elaborate: They take some poor group of people, and make one of the females eat most of the rest and taint her. Those that are left over are some of the other females, because seeing that makes them break more easily when it's their turn. The tainting also involves 'bile and blood' being poured down the subject's throat and, well, violation that turns them into utter Body Horror incarnate, and over the process of a week, they become the Broodmother, who turns out more darkspawn.
    • Also before that fight, Hespith's monotone rhyme, detailing her experience in the Dead Trenches, dogs you as you navigate a claustrophobic labyrinth. It's disturbing. The boss fight almost comes as a relief.
      First day, they come and catch everyone
      Second day, they beat us and eat some for meat
      Third day, the men are all gnawed on again
      Fourth day, we wait and fear for our fate
      Fifth day, they return and it's another girl's turn
      Sixth day, her screams we hear in our dreams
      Seventh day, she grew as in her mouth they spew
      Eighth day, we hated as she is violated
      Ninth day, she grins and devours her kin
      Now she does feast, for she's become the beast.
    • This isn't the worst part. Branka deliberately allowed her female retinue to be infected, so that their darkspawn progeny would provide her with a limitless supply of test subjects.
      • That's not the worst part, either. Hespith, who narrates all of this to you? She was Branka's lover. Branka left her behind anyway, and Hespith's now the last woman alive from the entirety of Branka's noble house. Hespith has seen every last one before her die or corrupted, and she knows what's coming next for her. And she knows that it's happening to her because she fell in love with the wrong person.
      • That's still not the worst part! You remember the Dwarf Noble origin? You're sent to be locked in the deep roads. If you're female, then just imagine what would happen if, say, you didn't get rescued by Duncan? You would have become a Broodmother.
      • It is presumed that the events of all origins took place in a game universe, with the player's choice only defining which one of the potential main characters Duncan will recruit. In the Dwarf Noble origin, luckily, it seems it defaults to a male character, which spares him the grisly fate.
    • To find this you have to walk right into the Dead Trenches. A city that used to be a Necropolis, overrun by thousands of darkspawn and is still haunted by the ghosts of ancient Dwarf warriors, the place itself looks and feels like hell. The Broodmother is just the climax of a slow escalation of creepiness that begins when you first enter the place and see the massive army of darkspawn marching under you, and watch the Archdemon himself fly overhead, shrieking horribly.
  • In the Codex entry in Caridin's journal, he describes the process used to create golems. It is not a nice thing, and that's the understatement of the Age.
    • Golems in Dragon Age are made of equal parts lyrium and Fridge Horror. Sure, Caridin was a genius. He probably exhausted every scheme for golem-making that seemed even remotely feasible, before finally settling on that not-very-nice one. Still, he ultimately decided to stick one of his fellow dwarves in a ten-foot-tall suit of armor and pour liquid lyrium into the joints until the subject stopped screaming. That the dwarves would elevate him to Paragon after he did something like that enough times to create an army pushes them from a Decadent Court into "Good God, what the hell is wrong with you people!?" Caridin himself comes off even worse, if possible: by his own account, he failed to appreciate the full horror of his procedure until he himself became a golem. Leaving aside for the moment the moderate to severe sociopathy that such a failure implies, who made Caridin a golem? And what happened to that person, and their knowledge of golem creation?
    • Caridin never told the court or the general public the true horror of the golem crafting technique, and it is implied by information found on the DLCs that he isn't its original creator. The dwarves were desperate and there was no shortage of volunteers in the face of the encroaching darkspawn. Then the king at the time, Valtor, decided to turn casteless, criminals, and his political enemies into golems. Caridin objected, and that's when he was turned into a golem himself. Also alleviating it some what was the fact that all the original golems, such as Shale, were volunteers as already mentioned. Presumably, they knew the process would be extremely painful, but were willing to undergo it to give their people a fighting chance against the darkspawn. The real horror only came when the King started throwing everyone he didn't like onto the anvil and forced Caridin to create the control rods to rob the golems of their free will. Caridin trying to oppose the King in these decisions is what got him turned into a golem himself. Until that point you could almost view the golems as the Dwarven equivalent of a Super Soldier.
  • A low-key example from Ortan Thaig: You've been harassed by spiders since you entered the place, and now you have to go deeper into the bowels of the earth. Oh look, more spiders in the tunnel. Except, in violation of all video game monster etiquette, they're not attacking you: they're pulling back. Nothing about their behavior suggests fear. It's more like a controlled retreat where they only stick around long enough to make sure you're following them deeper - and of course, the way they're heading is the way you have to go. It's a nice and unexpectedly creepy touch. And in case you're wondering where they're leading you? Right to their queen, a Flunky Boss who cheerfully retreats every quarter of her health you damage, summoning even more spiders to aid her in the fight. And even worse, there are two Darkspawn mages right outside her lair, and if you don't kill them before confronting the queen, they'll run in to aid her and it won't be pretty, not that it ever was. And in some cases, after the Queen is dead and her minions are slain, reading Branka's journal (a mandatory task) may summon more spiders, just when you thought the battle was over. Nothing like thinking you've won the fight, checking off the mandatory plot item - and then getting jumped by a horde of enemies immediately afterwards, like some last ditch attempt to avenge the boss you just slew.

  • Ah, Haven. A friendly little village with peaceful villagers. Especially that one little boy who carries a human finger bone and begins rhyming.
    Child: That's a nice dagger! I wonder if my dad will let me have it later?
  • The altar in one of the houses in Haven: coated with years of dried blood and JUST the right size for an infant or toddler.
  • Haven in general, actually. From the moment you arrive, anyone and everyone in the area wants you to leave, and discovering even the most minor of their secrets leads to the entire town attacking you, with mobs of townspeople and soldiers running at you the moment you step out the door. It's not a problem for you, the Grey Warden, and your team of elite warriors, mages, and rogues backing you up every step of the way; but for Arl Eamon's knights, or anyone else unlucky enough to have shown up unarmed or without backup? Ouch.

  • The orphanage in the Elven Alienage. A bunch of ripped-apart children's corpses, blood splatters, and plenty of mysterious voices spread through the place give an unholy idea of what's been going on there. Hell, going through there makes one feel like Alma is going to come skipping around the corner any second.
    • Take a look at the map. You exit through the back, into the front. Nothing on either map suggests a loop around, and this is AFTER you've "cleansed" the place.
    • And don't forget the fate of poor Ser Otto, the blind Templar who helps you throughout the whole thing.
  • While conducting the "Rescue the Queen" quest, you can hear ambient dialogue between some of Howe's soldiers, who are talking about how much they hated being sent to Castle Cousland in Highever. They describe the corpses littering the hallways, the unsettling quiet of the place and the sense that, given half the chance, the villagers would happily kill them all in a heartbeat for what they did on Howe's orders. That's bad enough if your Warden comes from any of the other five origins; it's not a pretty picture to have in your mind. But if you're playing the Human Noble, remember that your Warden knows all those dead people and is related to a few. Imagine overhearing a conversation like that about your childhood home and the people who lived there with you.
  • Fort Drakon in general is pretty freaky. A prison where the guards seem to have absolute power, and in a land where your rights are largely determinant on if you can fight off whomever comes after you to take them away? Not a good place to be.
    • And if you're in there as a Human Noble, enjoy the opening cinematic panning over the dead bodies on the torture devices. Recognize anybody? Yeah, two of those bloodied corpses belong to Ser Gilmore, your father's man-at-arms, and Mother Mallol, your family's resident Chantry priestess. They weren't killed during the invasion of Castle Cousland; they were dragged to Denerim alive and tortured to death.
  • The final battle. The skies are blood red and choked with black clouds, hordes of darkspawn are running around the city killing everyone in sight, and worst of all, the Archdemon is soaring high above. Thankfully, you have an army of your own at your back, but it's still freaky to be fighting through Ferelden's capital - now burning, overrun with darkspawn and bodies littering the streets - in an all-or-nothing bid to kill the Archdemon.


    Warden's Keep 
  • In this DLC, the Warden is brought to Soldier's Peak, the former Warden HQ, by the great-great-grandson of the former Warden-Commander, Sophia Dryden. Upon entering the gates, the Warden and their companions witness the scene of the final battle at Soldier's Peak. Following the cutscene, the Warden is attacked by the corpses of the former King Arland's men as well as those of former Wardens. But perhaps the greatest shock comes on floor two. When the party enters a certain room, someone calls out to them. It turns out to be the corpse of Sophia Dryden, which is being possessed by an escaped Fade demon. Worse, she is visibly rotting around the eyes and even comes with a very unsettling voice.

    The Darkspawn Chronicles 
  • The DLC examines an alternate timeline where your character died during their Joining and Alistair was The Hero. You play as a Darkspawn Vanguard during the final assault on Denerim. Along the way, you fight and kill members of your party including Sten, Wynne, Oghren, and Zevran. Lastly, you go up to the top of Fort Drakon to defend the Archdemon from Alistair, Leliana, Morrigan, and Dog. The end cinematic has Alistair crawling on the ground looking at the dead bodies of the other three companions. Then Alistair is impaled by the darkspawn you control. If you cared about any of your companions, this scene is both Nightmare Fuel and Tear Jerker.
    • Also the presence of Morrigan in that battle implies that Alistair agreed to Morrigan's Dark Ritual. Things must have been so grim that Alistair, who had to be coaxed into agreeing with the ritual in the main game, did so willingly without the influence of your character. Break the Cutie indeed.
    • And add to the fact that Leliana is rumoured to have been Alistair's lover in this AU. Meaning that Alistair not only probably slept with Morrigan to have a chance at a happy life with her after the Blight against every revulsion he must have had at the thought of doing it, but one of the last things he sees is Leliana's mangled body - giving him enough time to react with horror before getting his head hacked off.

    Golems of Amgarrak 
  • From this DLC comes the Harvester, a flesh golem. Imagine a gigantic mass of corpses crudely sewn together and driven to kill more people to add to it. The process behind making it is so horrible that even Branka was too disgusted to consider using it.
  • Amgarrak itself. Even before you breach the entryway, it's clear something's not right. The undead attack you right outside the entrance, and you see Deepstalkers fleeing in terror from something up ahead. Then you enter the fortress, and things get a whole lot worse. The Harvester scuttles ahead of you at every turn, the grisly research notes from the overseer detail its creation, and the increasingly panicked journal entries from the leader of the recovery party who went in ahead of you, as he realizes that something is in there with them, make it feel like System Shock 2 meets Dragon Age.
  • When you kill the Harvester and leave Amgarrak, the last shot is of dozens of the Harvester brood flooding out behind you.