A collaborative fanwork set in the canon timeline of Dragon Age II, City of Chains features a cast of Original Characters, with some roles being filled by canon characters from the series. As with the source material, the story revolves around a small group of characters in Kirkwall, over a period of roughly ten years, following three broad, interconnected plot arcs in the form of acts.
Act One covers character establishment and a gamut of initial quests, mirroring the canon characters' introduction to Kirkwall and the recruitment of Hawke's companions.
Act Two primarily covers the events leading up to and including the Qunari invasion of Kirkwall, including the battle with the Arishok.
Act Three deals with the escalating mage-Templar conflict within Kirkwall.
City of Chains was written mostly by a total of five people, though there were originally six authors. The Heroes of the story number nine in total, with significant NPC presence and the occasional Guest-Star Party Member. It was in progress continuously from 25 July 2012-24 December 2015, and spans over 1.1 million words.
City of Chains contains examples of:
- After-Action Healing Drama: Happens after Sophia's fight with the Arishok. She's out of commission for more than a week, and Nostariel nearly kills herself trying to do all the healing she requires.
- Ambiguous Gender: Sparrow. Initially thought to be a smooth-talking man (and sometimes a swarthy woman), she chose not to divulge any information until she drunkenly told Nostariel.
- Armor Is Useless: Subverted. There's actually a fair amount of detail that goes into explaining how armor helps certain characters resist injuryand how others with less protection are more vulnerable. There's a reason Lucien and Sophia stand in the front.
- Ballroom Blitz: Unsurprisingly, Sophia's birthday party turns into one of these when someone tries to assassinate her father, the Viscount.
- Beat the Curse Out of Him: Subverted. When Sparrow gets possessed by a demon, this isn't even an option on the table, because everyone knows it won't work. Rilien has to actually invent a method of exorcism by alchemy to get the damn thing out of there so they can kill it.
- Birds of a Feather: Sophia and Lucien. The former is the daughter of nobility with a rather pointed dislike of politics and ambitions to better the lot of her city. Lucien's the nephew of the Empress of another country, exiled from his homeland because of fallout from those exact tendencies.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Sparrow. She seems oblivious to how things like social status work in the real world, and often acts according to her own (very strange) whimsy. Things usually work out all right, but there was that one time she was possessed by a demon.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Rilien is this to Sparrow, who often seems to have a complete lack of understanding about the consequences of her antics. He's paid off gambling debts, bailed her out of prison, and even gone so far as to steal the official proof of her drunken marriage to Ashton, all so she wouldn't have to deal with the unwelcome repercussions of the trouble she'd gotten herself into.
- Combat Medic: Nostariel fits this trope pretty well, being the designated healer, but also quite capable of adding offense to the roster as well.
- The Comically Serious: Rilien. He can't be lighthearted in the way that many of his friends are, and does basically everything with the same placid solemnity, something that is often at odds with the situations those friends put him in.
- Consummate Liar: Rilien, being Tranquil (but also not quite), is a mix of both common subtypes. He's an excellent liar, at least in part because no one seems to be sure if Tranquil can lie.
- Consummate Professional: Rilien again. Given that he was once an assassin, it's perhaps understandable that he takes a very businesslike approach to violence, without any of the moral deliberation or fanfare that sometimes gets involved for other people.
- Cool Sword:
- Lucien's family sword, Everburn. So called because of the enchantment that heats it up to make cutting things easier.
- Not technically a sword, but Parshaara, Ithilian's dragonbone dagger, can set things on fire, and so qualifies in every other sense.
- Covered with Scars: Amalia, to the extent that she is usually covered from neck to feet to conceal the worst of them, though they have started to bother her less.
- Crapsack World: Kirkwall is not a nice place to live. While Thedas in general is on the brink of serious political upheaval and several major wars, both civil and international, Kirkwall itself is through the course of the story torn apart by two major conflicts between powerplayers, the systemic oppression of elves, rampant criminal organizations, corruption in the ranks of nobility and the city guard, and fanatic church elements, just to ensure more crap from every corner. The main characters generally have rather cynical outlooks because of this.
- Cycle of Revenge: Subverted. This initially looks like the track Ithilian is doomed to follow, but then friendship and character development happen, and the lesson is learned without the need to perpetuate the cycle further.
- Dysfunction Junction: You've got the angry guy with a dead wife and child, the foreign prince with absurd levels of self-deprecation and trust issues, the Tranquil former assassin who cannot feel emotion, the shopkeep with a regrettable criminal history, the runaway mage, the torture victim fish-out-of-water Qunari, the highly androgynous half-elf kidnap victim who gets possessed by a demon, the Grey Warden with the dead fiancé and squad, and more.
- Empty Shell: Initially appears to be played straight with Rilien, a Tranquil, but actually subverted, as further story details and character development reveal that he can feel things, if less so than anyone else can.
- Fantastic Slurs: The requisite "knife ears" and "shemlen" appear, as do a few Qunari slurs, employed by either the Arishok or, occasionally, Amalia.
- The Fettered: Amalia she is initially bound to the Qun, but has to make a choice between remaining faithful to its spirit or staying with her friends.
- Fluffy the Terrible: A minor example. Serah Princess von Snufflynose, or "Snuffy," is a Mabari warhounda species renowned for their intelligence, loyalty, and use as warhounds to fight Darkspawn. Despite her cutesey name, she could probably tear someones arm off without too much difficulty.
- Functional Addict: Nostariel begins the story as an alcoholicwho can still find the time and wherewithal to be a Grey Warden and help the occasional merchant out of a bandit problem.
- Hidden Depths: Everyone, to some extent. An easy example is Lucien, the large warrior guy with a BFS who is surprisingly talented at painting.
- Inept Mage:
- Sparrow is known for relying much more thoroughly on her mace than her magic, to the point where some characters took a very long time to figure out that she was a mage at all.
- Estella is also an example; she actively seeks to learn how to defend herself without needing to rely on her magic, which she sees as second-rate at best. It doesn't help that she's not terribly good at anything else, either.
- Lady Looks Like a Dude: Not necessarily in an unattractive way, but Sparrow is awfully androgynoushalf of the other characters spend a good chunk of the first Act convinced that she's a he.
- Lady of War: Sophia is the most obvious example, being both noble and a talented combatant, as well as possessing the reserve and poise necessary to be this trope rather than a different one.
- Lightning Bruiser: Amalia and Rilien are examples of this. Both are exceptionally quick on their feet even among their peers, and can dishand takehefty amounts of damage before being slowed down. Both also suffer from a lack of much in the way of a ranged option, and neither can use magic.
- Loony Friends Improve Your Personality: This happens, to some extent, to Rilien. As a Tranquil, albeit not quite a "normal" one, he is usually a very solemn, serious individual and can't feel much by way of emotion. Forming relationships with the likes of Sparrow and Ashton causes even him to loosen up a little.
- Missing Mom:
- Sophia, whose mother died in her younger brother's childbirth, leaving both children to be raised by their father.
- Lucien, though his mother died when he was old enough to remember her afterwards, the victim of an assassination intended for him.
- Morality Kitchen Sink: In keeping with the source material, it's difficult to call any of the various groups in the story "good" or "evil," as the major points of conflict (the Qunari invasion, the mage-Templar issues) are very complicated, and good and not-so-good people are represented on either side of each conflict.
- My Greatest Failure: Ashton has major hang-ups due to the fact that he left a young elven woman to be sold into slavery because he was afraid of the consequences from the other smugglers. It's the reason he left his former life behind and opened a shop instead.
- Non-Idle Rich: Sophia, who despite being the Viscount's daughter, straps on a sword and some armor and regularly slums it with Kirkwall's poor, in the name of making it a better city.
- Odd Friendship: There are several examples to choose from.
- Amalia and Ithilian are perhaps the most prominent example. He begins the story as a revenge-driven racist Blood Knight. She's a Qunari agent who doesn't feel the need to make nice with anyone. They get along about as well as you would expect at first, but slowly grow close over the course of events.
- Ashton and Rilien are another pretty good example. Rilien is a Tranquil, which means it's odd for him to have friends to begin with, but perhaps especially to be friends with Ashton, the cast's requisite snarky archer.
- Of Corset Hurts: Nostariel ends up wearing a corset to Sophia's birthday party, and is not especially comfortable in it, to say the least.
- Parttime Hero: Given the emphasis the story puts on the daily lives of its characters in addition to their exploits as defenders of Kirkwall, pretty much everyone has shades of this. It's most pronounced in Sophia, who has to balance her heroism with the duties of being the Viscount's daughter, and whatever social life she wants to have otherwise.
- Party of Representatives: There's three elves, a half-elf, a Qunari, a Grey Warden, a Dalish, two mages, a devout Andrastian, a couple Fereldans, an Antivan, two Orlesians, people from a few different Free Marches and only nine total characters.
- Pragmatic Hero: Ashton is a pretty good example, as a guy who generally does the right thing, but has a criminal background and doesn't always care that much whether he's operating within the law or not.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Sophia gets one of these at the end of Act 2, wherein she challenges the Arishok to a duel to avenge her dead father. Her victory nearly kills her, makes nothing better, and also puts her burgeoning relationship with Lucien at risk. The emotional fallout is understandably very heavy.
- Reformed Criminal: Ashton went from a smuggler to a shopkeep before finally rising through the ranks of Kirkwall's Guard.
- Reluctant Warrior: Lucien offers every enemy he encounters the opportunity to surrender instead of fighting him. It almost never works. This is subverted in one incident, against a dragon:Ashton: Noticed you didn't ask it to yield this time.
Lucien: Personally, I think she should have given me the opportunity to surrender.
- Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: Amalia is a Qunari Ben-Hassrath, a kind of infiltrator/spy with combat talent. She's very good at it. Being Qunari, however, and raised in the Qun, has left her bereft some very basic social skills, as well as an understanding of conventional "human" customs.