|Dragon Age Primer
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|Author:||JadedDM [ Thu Dec 25, 2014 5:26 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Dragon Age Primer|
Dragon Age is a series of video games that are spiritual successors of Baldur's Gate, another video game based on Forgotten Realms. Consequently, there are numerous similarities between Dragon Age and Dungeons & Dragons in lore and mechanics. Dragon Age is also heavily inspired by A Song of Fire and Ice (or Game of Thrones, for TV watchers).
The mechanics of the tabletop version of Dragon Age are not identical to the video games, likely because video game mechanics don't translate well into tabletop. It should be noted the tabletop game was designed in the wake of Origins (the first game) and so the mechanics are closer to that game than the sequel or Inquisition.
This particular adventure is a little experiment I am running. I don't have access to the full rule sets yet, and depending on how well this game goes will determine if I decide to acquire them and start running a permanent Dragon Age game or not. Thus, this is a short term game designed to help me learn the basic rules and see if I enjoy running the game.
This adventure takes place in the year 9:30 Dragon, the same year as the Fifth Blight (the beginning of the first game, Origins). However, this occurs several months before then, so none of the events of the games have taken place yet.
Unlike my other games, this is not a sandbox. It's a very linear adventure path. The party is hired for a single job. When they complete that job, the game is over. It shouldn't take more than 2-4 months of real time, at best.
However, if the game goes really well and I find I enjoy running it, I might start up a longer term, more sandbox-like game.
|Author:||JadedDM [ Sat Dec 27, 2014 11:07 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Dragon Age Primer|
Dragon Age takes place in the world of Thedas. This adventure happens in the kingdom of Ferelden, which is roughly the size of England.
The Fereldans have only recently become "civilized." Just a few centuries ago they were a loose association of barbaric tribes. While they’ve come a long way in a short period of time, Fereldans still have the heart and stamina of fierce warriors. Ferelden is also a land of gender equity, where women can be found in all professions and ranks. Fereldans value skill and fortitude, no matter its trappings.
The Waking Sea and the Amaranthine Ocean bound Ferelden on the north and east, respectively. Ferelden's capital and largest city, Denerim, sits on the realm's northeastern shore. The heart of Ferelden is the central Bannorn, its breadbasket. Much of east Ferelden is covered by the Brecilian Forest, a dangerous woodland. The Southron Hills set the Brecilian Forest apart from south central Ferelden. Lake Calenhad is a large freshwater lake notable for the fact that one of its islands houses the Circle Tower, where every mage in Ferelden must be educated to avoid being branded an apostate. The Frostback Mountains border Ferelden to the west.
Deep within them live the dwarves of Orzammar, which is one of the last two major dwarven cities on Thedas. Beyond the Frostbacks lies the Empire of Orlais. To the south of Ferelden lie the Hinterlands and the Korcari Wilds. The Hinterlands are a harsh land where the most stoic of the Fereldans live. The Korcari Wilds are dangerous lands shrouded in mists and home to the Chasind, a barbaric people who didn’t join their Fereldan brethren in becoming civilized. It is from the Korcari Wilds that the darkspawn are coming, and in great numbers.
Unlike in most other lands of Thedas, Fereldan nobles aren’t seen as better than commoners. Their purpose is to protect Ferelden from threats. The lands are actually owned by Fereldan freemen, who pledge their lands to particular banns (similar to "baron") in return for protection. Freemen may shift allegiances if and as they wish, so the nobility are responsible to those they protect. Banns commonly recruit and title knights to support them. Knights hold the title of "Ser," whether male or female. Occasionally, the king appoints a noble to oversee one of the strongholds on the outskirts of Ferelden. These nobles are known as arls, and their holdings as arlings.
While the overwhelming majority of Fereldans are human men and women, there are also dwarves and elves in Thedas. Most dwarves encountered above ground are either merchants or outcasts from the great dwarven cities. Even dwarf merchants, who provide a much-needed service to their people, are considered low-class people among their own kind.
The elves of Thedas are a scattered and victimized race. They once lived in a realm called the Dales, west of the Frostbacks, but a religious war waged by the Chantry sacked their homeland and scattered their people. Now, some elves—the Dalish—live off the land as nomads while the remainder huddle as second-class citizens in the ghettoes of human cities.
The Chantry is the dominant religion of most humans in Thedas, and the state religion of Ferelden. Its followers venerate a single deity called the Maker and follow the teachings of His Prophet, Andraste.
The Chantry licenses mages and has a martial order of templars to enforce their obedience. All mages have a special connection to the Fade, an otherworldly realm where both benevolent and malevolent spirits dwell. Elves and humans can see the Fade in their dreams. The Fade’s malevolent spirits—demons—sometimes possess mages' bodies to enter the material world. The Chantry claims that the Fade is the abode of the dead, although many mages dispute that claim. Dwarves do not dream and cannot enter the Fade; accordingly, there are no dwarf mages.
The way money works in Thedas is there are copper coins ('bits'), silver coins and gold coins ('sovereigns' or sometimes 'crowns'). A silver piece is worth 100 copper bits, and a golden sovereign is worth 100 silver pieces.
|Author:||JadedDM [ Sun Dec 28, 2014 12:30 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Dragon Age Primer|
Races of Thedas
This is an overview of the playable races for this game. For this particular adventure, human and surface dwarf are the only playable races among the pregens.
Humans are the most numerous, yet also the most contentious of all the races of Thedas. Only four times have they ever united beneath a single banner, the last being centuries ago. The monotheistic faith of the Chant of Light plays a major role in human society. The majority of humanity in Thedas descended from numerous human tribes.
Some scholars believe that the first humans in Thedas came from the rainforests of Par Vollen many thousands of years ago, migrating south from the archipelago. The pyramids they built still stand to this day and are regarded by travelers to the region as true wonders.
Humans in the lands of Tevinter had times past worshipped a draconic pantheon of Old Gods which it is considered that they now slumber beneath the earth. The magister rulers of the ancient Tevinter Imperium who regularly talked to the Old Gods, engaged a series of invasions in which they defeated the elven kingdom of Elvhenan and enslaved the race. Boosted by the sheer number of slaves, the Imperium conquered almost the entirety of Thedas in the next centuries.
Eventually, the Imperium was challenged from the south by a barbarian uprising, the armies led by Maferath and his wife, the prophet Andraste.
Andraste brought the teachings of a new god, the Maker, and her word spread quickly. The oppressed masses of the Imperium rose up in rebellion to support the invading barbarians and eventually most of the south fell to their might. Andraste was not stopped in her Exalted March until she was betrayed by her husband: jealous of her power, Maferath turned Andraste over to the Tevinter archon and she was burned at the stake. The Chant of Light would say that the Maker turned his back on humanity when she died. He would only return and make the world into a paradise when the Chant of Light was sung from all corners of the world, and so the Chantry began to spread. The clerics of the Chantry were oppressed until the legendary emperor Drakon of Orlais converted and took up their cause, spreading the Chantry throughout all the lands that he conquered in its name. In modern times, the Chantry has spread throughout the known world, its power unquestioned even as it begins to give way to internal strife.
(Fereldans tend to have English accents while Orlesians have French sounding ones.)
A humanoid race, elves are typically shorter than humans and have a slender, lithe build and pointed ears. Long ago, the elves were the dominant race on Thedas, and their advanced civilization was based on nature and magic. After the fall of their great city of Arlathan to the Tevinter Imperium and the subsequent generations of slavery, the elves lost most of their cultural heritage and identity. They attempted to rebuild their society in the Dales, but after four centuries they fell to the Chantry's Exalted Marches. Since then, their few numbers have been scattered all over Thedas in either forests as primitive nomads, the Dalish, or in cities as impoverished outcasts, with little hope of recovery for their culture or their race. They're now a people associated with poverty, crime, barbarism, and are often used as scapegoats for humanity's difficulties. Humans use the terms "knife ears" or, less cruelly, "rabbit" or "halla rider" (this may in fact be meant admiringly by some), as a racial slur. Though most of the elven language has been lost, they once referred to themselves as "elvhen" or "the people."
Elves of Thedas live no longer than humans, but elven legends state that this was not always the case. Once, they say, they were an immortal and magically talented race that lived in harmony with the natural world and followed the elven pantheon. The first shemlen (a term meaning "quick children" that was used by the ancient elves to describe the humans and denote their shorter lives) they encountered were tribals who came south from Par Vollen. The ancient elves grew friendly with humans, but soon discovered that breeding with humans produced only human babies, while exposure to the "quick children" caused the elves to quicken themselves. For the first time, elves began to age and die.
In fear, the elves withdrew from human contact. Unfortunately, the human tribals gave way to the Tevinter Imperium, who viewed the elves' isolation as hostility and declared war in 981 Ancient. Elvhenan, the elven homeland, was besieged for six years, but was invaded when the magisters used blood magic to sink the elves' capital city of Arlathan into the ground, never to be seen again. As a result, elven survivors were enslaved and evidence of their culture was lost. With the enslavement, all elves eventually quickened and their immortality was lost. The elven calendar, established with the formation of Arlathan, was then banned by the Imperium. Although its existence is recognized by modern scholars outside of Tevinter, knowledge of how elves marked the passage of time beyond a few events is now forgotten. The exact details of the war are lost to history, though artifacts found in Imperium ruins within the Brecilian Forest suggest Elvhenan was looted, or that some elves joined the Imperium bringing artifacts with them. The elves, however, believe Arlathan lost to the Imperium because their Gods couldn't interfere as they were sealed away by the treacherous Fen'Harel.
Elven slaves, under Shartan's leadership, were among the most fervent supporters of the prophetess Andraste's uprising against the Tevinter Imperium. The elves joined Andraste in her quest to depose the Tevinter magisters in 1020 TE, and they were rewarded for their loyalty by being granted land in the Dales upon Andraste's victory. They called their journey to their new homeland the Long Walk. Many perished on the way, some even turned back to the Tevinter, but most continued the walk.
In the Dales, the elves created a second elven homeland and began to restore the lost lore and culture of Elvhenan, including the worship of their former gods. They built their first city, Halamshiral ("end of the journey"), and became isolated from other races. The borders were guarded by an order named the Emerald Knights who were watching for trouble from humans. For some years, humans loyal to Andraste's memory respected their elven allies. But over the generations and as the Chant of Light and the religion of the Maker spread throughout human nations, the diplomatic relationships between the Dales and surrounding human nations turned cold, as the elves refused to be converted while historians speculate this hostility began when the Dalish refused to aid the humans in the Second Blight. Humans claim the war with the elves began when a small elven raiding party attacked the nearby human town of Red Crossing in 2:9 Glory, leading to the Chantry eventually calling an Exalted March against the elves when they had captured Montsimmard and besieged Val Royeaux, claiming they had been attacked by the Dales. The Dalish claim templars invaded the Dales after the elves kicked out Chantry missionaries from their sovereign territory.
As the Dales fell, the elves were forced to abandon their second homeland, and their culture was torn even further from them. Many elves accepted the terms of their human aggressors, going to live in alienages inside human cities and worshipping the Maker. Those elves who resisted became the nomadic Dalish, maintaining the worship of the elven gods and continuing their efforts to recover the lost culture of Elvhenan.
In the centuries following the Dales, some elves have been able to rise above their circumstances: most notably the Grey Warden Garahel, who slew the Archdemon Andoral and ended the Fourth Blight.
Progress has not always been forward, however. Even in modern-day Ferelden, for example, city elves are not allowed to bear arms. In Orlais they may only carry blades the length of one's palm. Furthermore, during the Orlesian occupation of Ferelden, elves were considered chattel and bought and sold as property.
Alienages are closed communities of elves living in human cities, often walled off and found in the poorest, more crime-ridden parts of the city, while elves in villages make home in barns or sheds. Their inhabitants are typically impoverished and survive by begging or taking on the most menial and unrewarding of tasks and in most desperate cases, leave the alienage to steal or murder. They can join the Chantry, such as becoming a Templar, but this is rare and racial biases usually preclude it.
Though overall treatment varies kingdom to kingdom, city elves are universally second-class citizens. Elves are, by law or prejudice, unable to join most organizations or hold decent jobs, and the law often turns a blind eye to their abuses. Slavery of elves is still legal in the Tevinter Imperium and there's a lucrative demand for elven slaves along with servants for nobles. They are often seen as beautiful by humans despite their low status. In Ferelden, for example, the social position of elves as "Low Freemen" is comparable to that of prostitutes and criminals, though they may make a living as they can.
Having been heavily discriminated by humans for so long, most city elves try to hold onto their remaining heritage. Artifacts from Arlathan like the vhenadahl (literally, "tree of the People") and an abiding deep pride in their close-knit communities bolster city elves trying to make ends meet in an otherwise hostile world. As such, elves that leave the alienage and try to enter human society are heavily looked down upon much as "flat ears" are derided by Dalish elves.
Marriage is highly important for city elves; it is the rite of adulthood in elven communities and will often be prearranged in order for new blood to join an otherwise diluted gene pool. The absolute worst thing an elf could do is marry or breed outside their race since only humans are born between elven and human unions; which is adverse for such limited communities that depends on each other and tradition for day-to-day survival.
Furthermore, their closer relationship can sometimes result in what are known as Elf-blooded children, of both human and elven parentage. (Note that the term 'half-elf' is considered a racial slur in this setting.)
Dalish elves seek to recover, inherit and preserve the knowledge and sacred treasures of the two fallen kingdoms. They lead nomadic lives, wandering throughout Thedas. Their clans date back to the ruling clans of the Dales and the Dalish themselves are their descendants.
The Dalish elves and city elves in particular have a strange and bitter relationship, dating from the splitting of the People after the fall of the Dales. Some Dalish view their city brethren suspiciously and with pity as "flat-ears," culturally human elves who are no different "than their shemlen masters." To some, they are seen as having given up on and forgotten their culture, and the hope is to teach these elves their past when a new homeland is founded. Not all Dalish share this view of the city elves, however.
On the other hand, some city elves see the Dalish as near-myths: strange and savage "wood elves" living far from humans and preying upon the unwary; and yet somehow noble, as well. To others, the Dalish are seen as "savages", primitive elves who refuse to see the promise of the alienage, and live off the land in ways the average city elf could not. Indeed, city elves who choose to leave or live beyond the Alienage are labeled "flat-ears" as well by their city kin, ironically similar to how some Dalish view the Andrastian elves, and subject to violence or resentment from other city elves.
And yet, for all this uncertainty, city and Dalish elves still interact positively now and then. For Alienage elves who seek to leave their home due to desperation, poverty or abuse, wandering Dalish clans are often seen as a sort of "last resort" haven. They are normally willing to take in a refugee from the cities and to largely refrain from attacking a city elf on the road, despite their uncertainty, and train them in the ways of their Creators and culture. Similarly, Alienages may take in a Dalish elf who has broken with their clan voluntarily or involuntarily.
Elven mages tend to be grouped to the Dalish mindset along with city elves. This is particularly the case as they have turned not only their lives but their magic over to the human Chantry and Maker, and the Circle of Magi, with the Circles being implied to have played a role in the fall of the Dales.
The elven language, or Elvish, was largely lost when Elvhenan fell and its people were enslaved. When the elves settled their second homeland, the Dales, they aimed to restore their lost language and lore, but the Dales fell to an Exalted March. The Elvish of the Dragon Age is thus a fragmented remnant, a few words that are thrown into conversation rather than a working language used to conduct everyday life. The Dalish Elves, self-appointed custodians of the elven language and lore, use more Elvish than their City Elf brethren. Living among humans, the City Elves now retain only a few old Elvish words whose origin is almost forgotten, such as "shem"—derived from "shemlen", or "quickling", the old elven term for humans—and "Hahren"—the leader of an alienage, meaning "elder" in Elvish.
The Dalish have more of the language. They are more capable of forming whole phrases and sentences, but the language is still fragmented and very incomplete, even to them. It includes the word da'len, which means "little child", and andaran atish'an, which is a greeting to friends and fellow Dalish. Serannas is thanks, while ma serannas is "my thanks" or "many thanks". Aneth ara is an informal greeting often used among friends. Dareth shiral is a way of saying good-bye.
(Dalish elves tend to have Welch or Irish accents. City elves will have the accents of whatever nation they live in.)
The dwarves, or dwarva, as the dwarves refer to themselves are one of the major humanoid races of the Dragon Age setting. Strong, stocky, and shorter than any other humanoid race, the dwarves are skilled builders and boast a long tradition of courage and martial skill that has served them well in their millennia-long battle against the darkspawn. They are a race in decline, once developed a huge, great empire which spread across vast underground networks of twelve great thaigs that spanned the breadth of Thedas. However their world was all but destroyed during the First Blight.
In addition to the loss of nearly all thaigs and the majority of the Deep Roads to darkspawn, dwarves are known to be increasingly infertile due to their proximity to the darkspawn taint, a situation which has given rise to anxiety for the future of the race, as well as the invention of noble hunters to bolster the children born to noble houses.
Unlike elves and humans, dwarves do not naturally enter the Fade, as they do not dream and lack magical ability. However, they are not completely barred and may enter it in exceptional circumstances. This is reflected in their resistance to magic, and accounts for their high tolerance to lyrium exposure. Dwarves who live on the surface for a long time (or who were born there) appear to gradually lose this resistance - however, there is still no recorded exception to their inability to learn spellcasting.
A unique dwarven ability is "Stone sense", a talent for subterranean navigation derived from the race's progenitor, the Stone. The stone sense of dwarves as well as their magic resistance is slowly lost the longer they are on the surface.
The Early Years: The first dwarven kingdom was founded in a time beyond even the history kept by the Shaperate. Beneath the Free Marches there are also ancient dwarven ruins which displayed cultural practices that are completely foreign to the dwarves, such as the construction of temples and the veneration of a pantheon of deities. Furthermore, within these ruins there are items which could only have been created by magic, yet there are no records of any dwarf being able to cast spells.
At -4600 Ancient (-3405 TE) the elves of the great elven kingdom of Elvhenan are believed to first make contact with the dwarves, 1,500 years before the arrival of humans in Thedas.
The Golden Years: Before the first Blight, the dwarven empire expanded as much underground as the Tevinter Imperium did above. Dwarves in this time interacted freely with both the Tevinter Imperium and the elves. The dwarven rulers Endrin Stonehammer and Orseck Garal created the foundations of the dwarven empire, working in conjunction with the first Tevinter Archon, Darinius. At -1200 Ancient (-5 TE) an alliance is forged between the dwarves and Tevinter Imperium which still lasts up to the present day.
Eventually at -1170 Ancient (25 TE) Garal moved his kingdom to Orzammar to preside more directly over the commercial aspects of dwarven life, mining and crafting, as Orzammar was the ancestral seat of the Miner and Smith castes and because of the turmoil in the Imperium following the death of the Archon Darinius. Stonehammer took up leadership of Orzammar after Garal's passing, expanding and improving the city, and creating the Hall of Heroes and altering the Provings to allow for massive tournaments. In this period of great flourishing and wealth, thaigs were built under every human kingdom, and the Deep Roads experienced great development as the dwarves' chief method of travel between their cities. Dwarven artisans and engineers pioneered new crafting methods and built many cherished monuments to dwarven history, such as Gundaar's House of Crystalline Waters, a massive underground lake decorated with shining quartz stalactites reflecting colors no dwarf had ever seen.
The empire was encompassed by several kingdoms, the major of them being Kal-Sharok, Orzammar, Gundaar and Hormak. At least since the times of the First Blight, each kingdom had its own Assembly, which however maintained allegiance to the capital of the empire.
First Blight and post years: The First Blight is arguably the single most devastating event in the history of the race. The empire came to its knees as darkspawn flooded the Deep Roads that connected the countless thaigs and cities. Political disunity amongst the warrior and noble castes and the inability to focus on effectively stopping the darkspawn, resulted in the loss of countless thaigs over the next couple of centuries, and pushed them to the brink of extinction. Paragon Aeducan's resourcefulness played a major role as well as the cooperation of the four major kingdoms which allowed them to survive. However, as most of the Deep Roads are sealed, communication lines faltered between the surviving kingdoms. Because of that, at -195 Ancient (1000 TE), each kingdom elected its own king while maintaining allegiance to the High King of Orzammar.
At this time one of the dwarves' greatest engineering feats was developed; the creation of giant golems. These creatures - bipedal warriors of stone or metal were the product of the Paragon Caridin. Caridin was already renowned as the architect of Bownammar in the Deep Roads, but the advent of golems superseded that. The constructs allowed the dwarves to push the darkspawn back and reclaim some of their lost territory. However, this progress ceased all too soon as Caridin disappeared, taking the secret of making golems with him. He is presumed dead and none has been able to replicate his breakthrough; the use of golems on a military scale has become but a memory.
Sealing the Deep Roads: However, the darkspawn continued pushing, and in an effort to save the race from complete annihilation, High King Threestone ordered the sealing of the Deep Roads leading to the remaining three kingdoms in -45 Ancient (1155 TE). Within a decade the kingdoms of Gundaar and Hormak had fallen. The last of the Roads are sealed in -15 Ancient (1180 TE) cutting off Kal-Sharok which is believed lost. The kingdom of Orzammar had become the only bastion of dwarven culture in Thedas, the last outpost of the race.
The last millennium: Even though the sealing of the Deep Roads significantly decreased the pressure on Orzammar, the darkspawn were able to find ways to breach them. For the next centuries, the kingdom was in a steady decline by losing most of its outlying thaigs. Despite that, the strict traditions of Orzammar's culture as well as its alliance with Tevinter Imperium persisted.
The dwarven social hierarchy is ruled by complex, interrelated, and rigid castes. The casteless, commonly known as "dusters" after their ghetto of Dust Town, are the lowest rung of dwarven society: outcasts in their own city, unable to take up work among the higher castes, nor to defend their honor in the Provings or fight the darkspawn to protect the city, dwarves rejected by the Stone itself. Dwarves who are exiled or born on the surface are also officially casteless - but with an increase in the number of higher-caste dwarves choosing to live on the surface, it is becoming difficult for some surface dwarves to be considered permanent exiles. The average dwarf will never see the surface, and often will have superstitious beliefs concerning surface-life (such as falling into the sky, or the sun falling to the ground). Those dwarves who are most commonly seen on the surface tend to be merchants and traders, or on occasion smiths, but amongst the dwarves they might have been thieves, murderers or worse.
Above the casteless (in no particular order) are merchants, miners, smiths, warriors, servants (only one step above casteless), nobles, and deshyrs. Nobles are the nobility of dwarven society, while the deshyrs are a group of dwarves who participate in the Assembly on behalf of their noble houses. While it is possible for some dwarves to better their family's station by performing great deeds and/or siring children with higher-caste dwarves, these remain rare and difficult circumstances. Lower-caste dwarves who rise in caste are generally considered "upjumped" by the highest castes. In dwarven society, children inherit the cast of their same-sex parent; should a son be born, he would inherit his father's caste, or castelessnes, should that be the case.
It should be mentioned that slavery existed in the times of the ancient dwarven empire.
Monarchy is the dwarven standard of government, but heredity tends to be a weak factor in determining who sits on the throne when the time comes for a new ruler. While a king may propose his heir to the throne, the next ruler is ultimately determined in the Assembly by a vote of the deshyrs.
It has been mentioned that most of the wealth of the dwarves comes from selling processed lyrium to the mages of Thedas. The Chantry holds a monopoly on lyrium trade with the dwarves (in order to maintain control over templars and mages), but there remains a flourishing black market of the substance, dominated on the dwarven end by the carta in Dust Town.
Unlike many other cultures in Thedas, dwarves do not worship anthropomorphic gods. Instead, their philosophy promotes personal excellence and an almost intimate tie to the Stone that houses them. Referring reverentially to the Stone, the dwarves speak of it as being alive. They are the Stone's children: they respect her, they fear her, they cherish her, and they give thanks to her for protecting them and providing them with her bounty. According to Shaper Czibor, this religion has been practiced for two thousand years by the dwarves.
Their other cultural beliefs are more akin to ancestor worship. Dwarves who lead a strong and noble life are said to strengthen the Stone when they die, becoming one of the Ancestors. Those who are ignoble or disgraced would weaken the Stone and are therefore rejected by it for all eternity.
Every once in a while, a dwarf is declared by the Assembly to be particularly noble. If the required motion is passed in the Assembly, these dwarves become Paragons and are revered during their lives as living Ancestors. When a non-Noble dwarf achieves Paragon status, a noble house bearing their name is established. The deeds of a Paragon are carefully recorded in the Memories, records of lineage and deeds that help determine what caste a dwarf is born into. The word of a Paragon is held in such esteem that you can surpass even the king's word. Furthermore, a dwarf can be declared as a Paragon even posthumously.
Surface dwarves still preserve their beliefs in the Stone, while some do not follow or care for any religion. Only a small minority of them is part of the Chantry.
Gender and Sexuality
In spite of the fundamental conservativeness of the dwarven culture, sexuality plays an important role, largely due to the low racial birth rate. It has been suggested that the root cause of the low birth rate may be "corruption-caused infertility" contracted from exposure to the Deep Roads. As is common in surfacer society, nobles and other high-caste dwarves are expected to marry only within their caste. Dwarves do not often mate with other races as such contact is limited in the isolated Orzammar. And as they naturally consider themselves superior to other races, and such mingling is looked down upon in any case.
Female dwarves appear to have little control over their sexuality, as their chiefest asset, regardless of caste, is their ability to bear children. Noble females are especially pressured to marry and bear children. Male nobles are expected—even encouraged—to be promiscuous, in order to sire as many children as possible, often with noble hunters. Noble females must guard their virtue (or have it guarded by male relatives, as in the Dwarf Noble origin).
Casteless females understand their value in Orzammar is solely in breeding among the castes, which gives them agency, in a fashion, as noble hunters, who seek the sexual attentions of noble males in order to advance themselves (and/or their families or 'sponsors'). Casteless males have a more difficult situation, as they can only hope to sire children with higher-caste women - most of whom are not in a position to pursue affairs with them, or who are not interested in doing so.
Additionally, in terms of courtship, it is noted that for a dwarven male to wear both vambraces indicates he is unmarried and eligible.
The judicial functions of government are split between the king and the Shaperate. The king and his warriors deal with crime and maintain order, while the Shaperate deals with civil disputes. The Shaperate is also ultimately responsible for the preservation of all records current and historical. As a result, it is the supreme authority over the authenticity and binding nature of contracts, as well as legal precedent. The Shaper of Memories is considered a role of absolute impartiality in dwarven society, and commands enormous respect as a disinterested third-party in legal matters.
In dwarven society the role of the Shaper is one of great honor, privilege, and also hardship. A Shaper must honor the Stone, protect it, and present a new history to the Memories. However, this means that a Shaper must seek out knowledge and history beyond the city and its inhabitants, venturing into the Deep Roads to record the history of lost thaigs and ruins and dwarves whom the Memories might otherwise forget. A Shaper must be prepared to risk all—perhaps even their own life—so that the dwarven race might reclaim its lost knowledge and learn from it.
The Provings are public arena battles fought for the sake of honor and glory and to entertain the masses. They take place in the Orzammar Proving arena. Dwarves believe that a fighter who wins a Proving has the approval of the Paragons and so they use Provings to settle debates and honor challenges that could not be settled otherwise. This usually falls to warrior caste champions. Some Proving matches are fought to the death, but even in a dwindling society such as Orzammar, that one death is thought preferable to the widespread bloodshed of a conflict between noble houses. In recent years, the Provings have also been used for entertainment and events to honor special guests, and each year the best fighters in Orzammar meet for the "Trials of Blood," a great tournament that crowns the kingdom's best and most popular fighter.
The great gladiatorial battles of the ancient Tevinter Imperium are based on this dwarven tradition.
Orzammar—as the ancient empire likely was before the division into city-states—is a constitutional monarchy, consisting of a king and one legislative house entirely of nobles (approximately eighty of them at present). Other castes are not represented in any fashion in the Assembly. The noble houses which are allowed to have a deshyr and represented in the Assembly are those which can trace a general, deshyr or a Paragon among their ancestors. Subsequently, lesser noble houses may not have a vote in the Assembly as well as the number of deshyrs in the Assembly can easily vary. The Assembly holds the power to advise the king, approve or veto acts of the king, propose policy, declare Paragons, and elect new kings. Furthermore, the Steward of the Assembly is a non-voting member.
When the king or queen die, the Assembly goes into deliberation until they choose the next monarch, by majority vote. It is traditional for the king or queen to nominate their successor, usually their eldest child, or less often, a younger child or even someone from another House. This decision carries a significant political weight during the election, however it is not enough to determine the new ruler. Fighting, blackmail, and assassination can be intense as contenders for the throne vie for power, and can last for a very long time before the succession is resolved. Dwarves, as they themselves note, are hardheaded and stubborn in their decision-making.
Typically a male is chosen as king, but on rare occasions a female is chosen as queen.
The other crucial authority of the Assembly is to declare Paragons. Declaring a dwarf a Paragon is essentially declaring a new noble house, since that Paragon and their family will be elevated to noble status. From then on, they will have the right to their own deshyr in the Assembly. All other growth of the Noble caste depends solely on the fertility of its females. Because dwarven society (in particular the nobility) is essentially conservative, nominations for Paragon are extremely rare.
While the king may propose legislation, the Assembly has the authority to block the king's actions through dissent and deadlock, limiting the king's ability to affect domestic law or international relations. The king's primary functions are as an important figure in ceremony, and as the Commander-in-Chief. The king's greatest autonomy is in the deployment of troops in the Deep Roads and the training of warriors. It is unclear whether the king is also the de facto general of the dwarven army, though it is implied that each is a separately-held office and his role as Commander-in-Chief is mainly as a figurehead.
One would be hard pressed to find a people prouder of their history and accomplishments than the dwarves of Orzammar. They have done much of great worth. Their architectural feats alone are staggering. But their greatest triumphs are also all long past, and their pride eclipses them. In fact, the dwarves' pride has contributed substantially, if not definitively, to Orzammar’s current condition. There is little doubt that their embattled kingdom could stand the military aid of any surface kingdom that would be willing to provide it.
The dwarves of Orzammar are not xenophobic, but neither do they believe that there is much of worth to be found beyond their stone halls. They believe dwarves to be the most formidable race of Thedas and condescend to outsiders on the unusual occasions when they interact. To their credit, most dwarves of Orzammar can be readily convinced that some particular human or elf is worthy of respect based on deeds either observed or reported, but at the same time, these dwarves also argue until the end of their breath that these individuals are unusual exceptions to the general rule.
Grey Wardens: Grey Wardens and the dwarven people have always had a kinship through their shared battle against the darkspawn. Dwarves are consequently viewed as excellent recruits to the Order due to their experience against the darkspawn. It is also known that dwarven Grey Wardens lifted the hundred day siege of Orzammar. However, as there are fewer dwarves due to low birth rates, there are also fewer dwarven Wardens. Grey Wardens are also the only surface organization to care about the endless war the dwarves wage against the darkspawn in the Deep Roads.
When the time of a Grey Warden's Calling draws near, a Warden honors a longstanding agreement between the Wardens and the dwarves and serves a year fighting darkspawn in the Deep Roads at the side of the dwarves. When the advance of the taint is unbearable, the Warden is celebrated by the dwarves and then enters the Deep Roads for their Calling. The dwarves respect the Grey Wardens for their sacrifices.
Orlais: The dwarves of Orzammar maintain a good relationship with the Orlesian Empire with which they share borders in the western side of the Frostback Mountains. They provide the empire with lyrium and minerals, as well as smithing. Lyrium is especially important as it is used by Circle mages as a mana replenishment resource of their more complex spells and consumed by the Chantry's templars.
Tevinter Imperium: The dwarven empire has been allied with the Tevinter Imperium for more than 2,000 years. Dwarven influence can still be seen in Imperial Proving Grounds and the use of three massive golems called Juggernauts, to defend the capital of Minrathous. The lyrium trade is the primary reason for their close alliance, and the magic-centric Imperium is mainly dependent on Orzammar to meet its immense demand. Except the trade alliance, it is also known that the dwarves helped Tevinter during the Fourth Blight by lifting the siege of Marnas Pell and they received many accolades of the ruling Archon.
Many surface dwarves live in the Imperium, not considered citizens but rather foreign dignitaries, even if their houses have existed in the Imperium for ages.
Languages and Phrases
The dwarves had multiple languages that are no longer generally spoken, and only a few phrases remain in common usage. Now they speak the "common tongue", once invented in order to trade with each other and later introduced to other races.
(Dwarves are often portrayed as having American accents, not Scottish like in D&D).
The Qunari (literally, "People of the Qun") is the name most commonly known for the white-haired, bronze-skinned, gigantic race and their society that governs the island nations of Par Vollen and Seheron, and the settlements of Kont-Aar and Qundalon in northern Rivain and Anderfels respectively. The Qunari homeland is located beyond the turbulent northern oceans of Thedas. However, contact has been intermittent at best and there is doubt as to whether a ship has made contact in many years.
Members of any other race who adheres to the teachings of the Qun (humans, elves and even dwarves) are called Viddathari. Humans of Rivain and elven slaves of Tevinter are especially susceptible to conversion, although it is not unknown for members of other groups to embrace the Qun.
Those not born of the Qun are not to be described as Qunari. They are Vashoth, "grey ones"; likewise those who abandon the Qun willinglly are known as Tal-Vashoth, "true grey ones". Most Tal-Vashoth are former soldiers and become mercenaries, and are considered by Qunari to be worse than bas ("things").
Qunari, when describing the race, are taller and considered to be more physically robust than humans. They have bronze-hued skin, white hair, slightly pointed ears, and vivid eyes with colors like violet, red, silver, or yellow.
Most Qunari of any gender have horns though some do not. The horn itself has no nerve endings and can be painlessly removed much like human nails or hair. But once a horn is cut off, it will not grow back.
Qunari are rarely seen outside of their lands with the exception of Rivain, and thus most of them are Tal-Vashoth.
Hornlessness is a rare genetic variation in Qunari, akin to red hair in humans. Those born without horns are considered special and are often given prestigious roles in Qunari society such as a Ben-Hassrath or an envoy to the other races. Culturally, Qunari associate not having horns with being imposing or scary, and because of this Tal-Vashoth often decide to remove their own horns. Likewise, Saarebas, the Qunari mages, have their horns removed to warn of their danger.
Unlike other races in Thedas, Qunari do not adorn themselves with tattoos. Instead they make use of war paint called Vitaar. This paint is made from a substance toxic to all races except the Qunari themselves. Some Tal-Vashoth also wear Vitaar despite leaving the Qun. It hardens the skin around the face to give it a metal like quality while retaining flexibility.
Before their arrival in Thedas, the white-haired race was once part of kossith. The earliest known kossith contact with Thedas was when a colony of them had settled in the southern Korcari Wilds during the First Blight. It was overrun by darkspawn, and it is presumably this colony which led to the darkspawn developing ogres. The horned race was not documented to be seen for another 1000 years.
They returned as the Qunari, and arrived in Thedas en masse by warships, called dreadnoughts, three centuries ago, from an unknown eastern land across the Northern Ocean. The contact with it was lost during the Storm Age. They once threatened to conquer all of the known world, but after several Exalted Marches during the Qunari Wars they have lost much of the conquered land. Peace has been made since, but Qunari are still involved in a prolonged war for dominance of the north against the Tevinter Imperium.
The Qun is the religion of the Qunari, though it is closer to a philosophy than a full-fledged religion. It governs every part of Qunari life, even the governing structure is dictated by it, and it gives every Qunari a defined and fixed place in their society, either as a soldier (part of the body), as a craftsman (part of the mind) or as a priest (part of the soul).
Society and Culture
The primary symbol used to represent the Qunari as a people is a triangle, which symbolizes the Qunari triumvirate of body, mind, and soul. The "body" is represented by the Arishok (the military), the "mind" by the Arigena (the craftsmen), and the "soul" by the Ariqun (the priests). It is this triumvirate which governs all of Qunari society by acting as the three pillars or their three primary leaders in all matters—the Arishok (always male) who leads the armies, the Arigena (always female) who leads the craftsmen, and the Ariqun (either male or female) who leads the priesthood. All three are the head of their respective "paths" and work in unison to complete the whole of Qunari society.
Duty is paramount in Qunari culture, and their society is seen as a living entity, whose well-being is the responsibility of all. Each person is like a drop of blood in the veins of the being, and they must not do what is best for them, but what is best for the creature.
The Qunari do not have a concept of personal identity, and use titles rather than names to identify and present themselves. Their "names" are in fact strings of genealogical information used by the Tamassrans for record-keeping.
A Qunari's personal name is not same as what other species would consider a personal name, as it is merely a code for which the Tamassrans use to keep track of breeding, and is thus not something a Qunari uses to refer to one another. Qunari instead uses their job title or rank as an their identity, i.e. sten.
Qunari have no "family units": they do not marry, choose partners, or even know to whom they are related. A father's role ends at conception. A mother's ends at birth. A Qunari's "family" consists of his or her peers, called brothers and sisters.
Qunari usually do not associate mating with love. They do have the capacity to love like all species, even having friends and forming emotional bonds with one another. However, they simply do not have sexual intercoure with each other to express it. If they do, then they are sent to be re-educated by the Ben-Hassrath. If a child is produced, the same thing happens as with all other Qunari children: it is sent to be raised by the Tamassrans, evaluated, and assigned a job. Qunari do not waste resources unnecessarily, people included.
Qunari have been bred for specific roles for a very long time. Parentage is no longer the issue, more like pedigree. However, breeding does not determine a Qunari's assigned task. If a Qunari was bred to be a soldier but turns out to be more intellectual, the Tamassrans may move him into the priesthood, researching weapons technology, or the Ben-Hassrath, policing the populace, depending on what roles need to be filled by someone with their specific traits.
A corpse is considered an insignificant husk that is no longer the individual that it once was and thus is afforded no special treatment, rather disposed of whatever manner is most practical.
Qunari society is based upon learning as well as military might. Few speak the common tongue that is used among Thedosians, and even fewer speak it well. For this reason, Qunari often keep quiet among foreigners, out of shame—in a culture that strives for perfection and mastery, to possess only a passable degree of skill is humiliating, indeed.
The Tamassrans wield a great deal of influence in Qunari society. As it is primarily a female gender role (as all administrative tasks are), this might lead an outsider to believe that their society is female-dominated. Qunari do not, however, look upon government in quite the same way. The brain could be said to rule the body, but so too does the heart, the lungs, the stomach. All are part of the greater whole.
The Tamassrans raise all the children, give them their general education, and evaluate them. Qunari are officially assigned their roles at twelve years of age. The Tamassrans do conduct some tests, but nothing that requires a pencil. They also have something of a head start on the process, as they are the ones who control the Qunari selective breeding program.
Qunari strongly believe that the genders are inherently and intuitively better at certain tasks. No matter how much aptitude and promise a male shows for management, he will never be considered as good at it as a female, therefore it would be considered inefficient and a waste of resources to place him in a role where a woman might serve better. Instead, the Tamassrans find another role that he shows aptitude for and will place him there instead. The same goes for females, most Qunari will find it odd if a female becomes a warrior. The odd, very rare exception is made however. A male Qunari will farm if he must, just as a female will fight, depending on the circumstance.
There are fields like philosophy or sciences that make use of both genders, but even then, there is division by discipline. Men will do one kind of research and women another. The Ben-Hassrath also count both genders among their ranks, but they too are separated by specialization.
The Qunari reject private property. They also don't have currency, nor do they engage in direct bartering: they don't buy and sell things amongst one another. "Merchants" in Qunari cities have the job of making sure goods are distributed appropriately. They will however, trade with the rest of Thedas in a limited matter. To the Qunari, this trade is less a way to obtain goods as an opportunity to learn more about those who do not yet accept the Qun as law.
Efficiency is the primary concern in the economy. The Qunari actively work to improve methods of production via research and borrowing from conquered people and neighboring cultures. On the other hand, demands of the individuals are quite limited, as having "more houses and clothes" would mean more work to maintain them. In the countryside, Qunari houses are identical and arranged along perfectly orthogonal lines.
The Qunari call their own mages "saarebas", which means "a dangerous thing" in Qunlat. As the Qunari believe that mages are ultimately unable to master themselves, each saarebas is entrusted to an "arvaarad" ("one who holds back evil") who bears a control rod. The Qunari do not blame them for their "defective" and dangerous nature, so frequently pity and honor saarebas, for lack of a better word. In practice, they are treated little better than attack dogs: They are leashed and collared, and their mouths are sewn shut. Should they be found practicing forbidden magic, their tongues are cut out to prevent them from corrupting others. The penalty for leaving their karataam is death, as they are assumed to have been corrupted by demons. The Qunari view this sacrifice, this selflessness - however unwilling - as the greatest virtue of the Qun. Lacking proper training, Saarebas are less skilled than Circle mages, which does not preclude the Qunari from usage of saarebas forces in warfare.
Outsiders and converts
The Qunari view other nations as inferiors, kabethari (literally, "those who need to be taught") who are to be conquered and "enlightened", i.e. converted to the Qun. In the newly subdued areas they dismantle families: children are torn away from their parents and raised as Qunari, while adults are sent to "learning" (labor) camps for re-education performed by a branch of priesthood called the Ben-Hassrath. The latter appear to be reasonable if an individual doesn't resist their severe teachings, and a new convert, or viddathari, may take a high position in the Qunari society.
In fact, it is possible for a human, elven or dwarven viddathari to become Ariqun, Arigena or Arishok should they show the merit for the role. However, this is naturally less likely than a qunari taking the role, given their far greater numbers in the Qun.
Refusal to cooperate is seen as illness to be cured, and those who resist are taken to the viddathlok, temples dedicated to healing. What happens later is not quite clear, but it is known that the Qunari use a substance called qamek to turn them into mindless laborers forced into indentured servitude or sent to mines or construction camps. Some would return, changed in profound ways, some would perish of exhaustion or starvation and some would be slain.
When the Qunari were pushed back during the Exalted Marches, the Chantries and nationalist forces tried a purge by the sword, killing Qunari converts and burying them in mass graves, most notably in Rivain and at Nocen Fields and Marnas Pell in Tevinter. These acts have been officially denied ever since.
The Qunari call outsiders bas ("thing") and consider them unfortunate beings who, however, have a potential to grow if the Qun's wisdom is imparted to them. The best an outsider can hope for amongst the Qunari is to be considered a basalit-an, "worthy of respect"; a basalit-an is a worthy foe, and one that can be negotiated with to an extent, but still bas regardless.
Qunlat is the Qunari language. Few among the Qun's people speak the common tongue, and fewer speak it well. In a culture that strives for mastery, to have only a passable degree of skill is perhaps embarrassing, so Qunari often keep quiet among foreigners.
The darkspawn, known as night-gangers among the Avvar, are a race of humanoid tainted creatures that mostly dwell in the underground of Thedas. When the darkspawn uncover one of the Old Gods, they expose it to the taint, changing it into an Archdemon, which then leads them in an attack against the surface world called a Blight. The darkspawn are perhaps the greatest single threat to all of Thedas; they are bloodthirsty, exceptionally numerous and willing to indiscriminately kill or corrupt all in their path.
According to the Chantry, they were created when the magisters of the Tevinter Imperium opened a portal into the Golden City, tainting the realm of the Maker with their corruption and returning as the first darkspawn, their evil transfiguring them into the monsters they became. While underground, they grew in number and dug deeper and deeper into the earth until they found the resting place of the Old God Dumat, where he had been imprisoned. Freed from his prison and warped by the taint the darkspawn bore, Dumat became the first of the archdemons and led the darkspawn to lay waste to the world in what would become known as the First Blight.
With the fall of the Golden City and the beginning of the First Blight in -395 Ancient (800 TE), a dark age descended onto Thedas as the darkspawn rampaged across the continent, destroying everything in their path. The Tevinter Imperium suffered greatly, as it weakened greatly and fracturing under the strain of the invasion, while the subterranean empire of the dwarves was laid waste, with only their four major kingdoms Orzammar, Gundaar, Hormak and Kal-Sharok surviving. After nearly a century of hopeless, unending war, the Order of the Grey Wardens was established at Weisshaupt Fortress in -305 Ancient (890 TE), and proved instrumental in the defeat of the Archdemon Dumat at the Battle of the Silent Plains. The darkspawn invasion had been beaten, but the darkspawn would retreat underground to rebuild and recover.
Over the centuries, four more Blights would occur, the latest occurring in 9:30 Dragon. Each time, the Blight would be stopped with heavy losses, with the darkspawn destroying entire cities or even kingdoms before being beaten back by the nations of Thedas and the Grey Wardens. With the exception of Anderfels, darkspawn appearances on the surface most frequently promote fears of a Blight, however this does not occur until an Archdemon is awakened by the darkspawn. Without the Archdemon leading them, darkspawn hordes are much smaller and less effective in the raids they often launch, but are still dangerous. However that's not the case in the underground, as the dwarves are constantly fighting a losing battle against the darkspawn for more than a millennium. This resulted in the underground of Thedas being entirely controlled by the darkspawn with the exception of what remains of the kingdoms of Orzammar and Kal-Sharok.
Society and Culture
Unlike the other major races of Thedas, the darkspawn have very little resembling a recognizable form of culture or social organization, and in general can barely be considered sapient; rather, they are part of a "hive mind" via the taint. They do not eat or build homes, for example. The only hint at a native culture is their propensity to convert statues into representations of the Old Gods, and a certain limited crafting expertise. The average darkspawn possesses no intelligence beyond a simple animal cunning, and the rank and file do not possess any language beyond roars and grunts (though corrupted Old Gods, or archdemons, are able to communicate). The darkspawn have a very good vision in the darkness, however they generally avoid direct exposure to sunlight. Subsequently, during the Blights, the sun is hidden by ominous clouds probably as a result of magic.
It would be foolish, however, to consider these creatures simpleminded, bestial foes. Darkspawn are as a rule completely hostile to outsiders; anyone caught venturing underground will be attacked, and anything caught in their path during a raid or a Blight will be mercilessly slaughtered. Certain darkspawn, such as shrieks and genlock rogues, excel at ambushing and attacking the unwary, and darkspawn have been known to make use of manmade objects like ballistae to combat outsiders. Surrendering to darkspawn is generally foolish; even if they spare a prisoner's life, they will still drag them back to the Deep Roads, working them endlessly until they cease being useful, in which case they are devoured, tortured for entertainment, or turned into broodmothers if female. Darkspawn themselves seem to show little fear, and though they will retreat if they begin to lose a fight without an archdemon guiding them, they will never surrender to their foes and will continue fighting even if countless numbers of their brethren have been slain.
The toughest and most intelligent among the darkspawn become "alphas"; the commanders and generals of the darkspawn armies. During a Blight they're kept in check by the emissaries, who see to it that they serve the Archdemon's interests and not their own. Alphas are easily spotted among other darkspawn, as they are usually stronger and wear rather boastful armor that stands out among the average group of darkspawn. A much rarer, but much more powerful, rank exists above alpha, the omega rank. The strongest Alphas and Omegas receive direct orders from the archdemon itself, and are the conventional commanders of the horde outside of a Blight.
When a litter of darkspawn are born, the newborn darkspawn will inevitably fight amongst themselves and try to kill each other, possibly by instinct. This serves to thin out the weaker darkspawn. Occasionally one young darkspawn will be so much more powerful than the rest that it kills the entire brood. This darkspawn is called an alpha. They are generally taller, stronger, or much more intelligent than the rest of their kind. Alphas will inevitably take command of weaker darkspawn. Accordingly, an alpha that manages to slay other alphas becomes the extremely rare omega variant, which serves as a "second-in-command" of the darkspawn horde in the presence of an archdemon.
When not already under the thrall of an archdemon, and when not engaged in raids (either on each other or other sentients), the darkspawn relentlessly search for the sleeping Old Gods, drawn by what they hear as the "song" of the dragons. This need seems to override nearly anything else; the darkspawn will search without rest for an Old God for centuries if need be. Darkspawn worship the Old Gods even in their absence, constructing strange and macabre idols, banners, and totems from bone, leather, and even flesh, dedicated to the masters they tirelessly search for.
When there isn't an archdemon to direct the darkspawn, the "chain of command" within the communal mind of the darkspawn seems to breaks down, with individual Alphas and Omegas assuming a sort of leadership position as "tyrants", splitting the horde amongst themselves and fighting for dominance. Without a Blight, the darkspawn remain underground except for small raids, but even then, their culture is built upon war; their forgemasters endlessly churn out weapons whilst broodmothers endlessly churn out darkspawn, whom endlessly march to seek out more Old Gods and go to war against the remaining Dwarven realms.
The darkspawn horde is connected through the taint, functioning as a hive-mind. While high ranking darkspawn like emissaries or alphas have a limited influence upon small groups, only an Archdemon can command the entire horde. The darkspawn do not need to eat as the taint sustains them, however they can eat for reasons other than dietary. Furthermore, the taint provides quick healing from wounds which also explains the absence of healing skills among the darkspawn. This healing even allows the re-creation of lost body parts after some time.
Territory conquered by the darkspawn becomes diseased, a rotting place of twisted creatures infected by the Blight. Those who come in contact with darkspawn blood or their taint often become diseased themselves, becoming ghouls. Once the taint progresses enough, the darkspawn recognize them as their own kind and ghouls can sense darkspawn. Such people show signs of insanity and schizophrenia and usually work for the darkspawn in order to craft their weapons and armor, while females are typically kept alive in order to morph them into broodmothers to expand the horde further. Males are used as food and killed once their effective labor is used up. Animals also turn into ghouls e.g. blight wolves or bereskarns. When the taint comes into contact with the local flora it usually poisons and kills the plants and trees making the area infertile for many years. However deep mushrooms seem to grow near the taint.
It seems that the taint suppresses higher function over time, causing those infected to go mad and potentially cannibalistic. It also allows the tainted to feel the thoughts of the Old Gods.
The darkspawn taint also carries magical power equivalent to lyrium, and allows darkspawn emissaries to cast spells.
As a species, the darkspawn are asexual and unable to reproduce. This task is left to a specific form of ghoul, referred to as broodmothers. The broodmothers are captured female prisoners, and while male prisoners eventually die, females face a fate far worse. Infected by the taint and forced to consume the flesh of their fellows, those that survive this process undergo a horrific transformation and become broodmothers, massively swollen creatures that exist to breed more darkspawn.
A single broodmother is capable of giving birth to thousands of darkspawn during their lives, and each race produces a different type of darkspawn. Humans produce hurlocks, dwarves produce genlocks, elves produce shrieks, and Qunari produce ogres. Darkspawn feature similar traits to the race their broodmother once was, such as genlocks having magical resistance.
|Author:||JadedDM [ Sun Dec 28, 2014 2:26 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Dragon Age Primer|
The Chantry is the dominant religious organization in Thedas. It is based on the Chant of Light, a series of teachings written by Andraste, the prophet of the Maker, and was founded by Kordillus Drakon, the first emperor of Orlais. The Chantry's followers are known as Andrastians. "Chantric" is also an acceptable adjective to refer to something or someone that is of the Chantry religion.
The Chantry's goal is to spread the Chant of Light to all four corners of the world and to all races. The view of the Chantry on non-humans is that they need saving—they have turned even further from the Maker's grace than humanity has. There are no known Andrastian Qunari. The elves worshipped, and in some cases still worship, the Elven pantheon, and dwarves venerate the Stone. Once all peoples have accepted the Chant and practice its teachings, the Maker will return and restore the world to its former glory. As such, Andrastian religion in Thedas can be described as deistic in that the Maker abandoned the world, and he will not heed prayer or perform any other function until his favor is regained.
The Chantry calendar is used everywhere in Thedas, save for the Imperium, and is the source of the names of the Ages.
According to some scholars, Andraste was born at -203 Ancient (992 TE) in Denerim, which was then a fishing village. Her mother was an Alamarri woman named Brona and her father was the chieftain of one of the largest Alamarri tribes in what is now northern Ferelden, Andraste was a woman who rose to greatness first as a slave of the Tevinter Imperium, then as a prophet, war leader, and religious icon.
According to the legend, before the Maker spoke to Andraste, she despaired at the fate of her fellows. At that time, every night, her husband, Maferath would come to console her and each time Andraste would tell him her despair while shedding a single tear which Maferath captured in a vial. In the thirtieth night the vial was full and when dawn came Andraste saw her first vision of the Maker. Even though this legend is popular and has passed on for ages, a part of it isn't in the Chant of Light.
From an early age, Andraste suffered troubling dreams of a god known as the Maker. Over time she began to interpret these dreams as the answer to questions that plagued her, and she came to understand that the Maker was the supreme being who had abandoned the world when his people took up the worship of the Old Gods, those beings worshipped in particular by the Tevinter Imperium. According to Chantry canon, after having fled the Imperium and marrying the warlord Maferath, Andraste appealed to the gods but her prayers went unanswered. She would sing, and one day the Maker, enchanted by her voice, invited her to join Him at His side. She instead encouraged Him to return to humanity and forgive them, compelling her fellow Alamarri and others to accept the one true god of Thedas.
To the world, Andraste was an escaped slave from the Tevinter Imperium who came to power after the First Blight had ended and the archdemon Dumat was slain. She fought against the Imperium, which had been significantly weakened by the First Blight. As part of the Exalted Marches, she conquered most of the south while fighting to destroy the magisters, whom she blamed for the Blight. The people she led in her campaign were the barbarian ancestors of the Fereldans, the Alamarri. She also joined forces with the elven leader and former slave Shartan and his people as they shared a common enemy in the Imperium. To the Imperium, Andraste was an opportunist, a barbarian taking advantage of their weakness. She led her rebellion against the Tevinter Imperium in the first Exalted March under the Maker's sanction. Andraste's March was greatly successful due in part to several unfortunately concurrent natural disasters, including droughts, famines and flooding, which decimated the Imperium's farmland and, consequently, troops—a form of divine punishment, which Disciple Cathaire, one of her war leaders, contends. According to the Chantry teachings, the reason the Imperium did not fall entirely to her army was because of Maferath, Andraste's mortal husband. Feeling that the barbarians had overextended themselves, he made a deal with the magisters to keep the south in exchange for turning Andraste over to them. She was burned at the stake in Minrathous. Her death is known as the second sin, which caused the Maker to turn from humanity once again. Yet, because of her, the Imperium, for all intents and purposes, was greatly weakened, and the Chantry was formed, focused around her teachings.
Archon Hessarian, who ordered Andraste's execution, was the first person converted to following the Chant of Light. According to the Chant, the Archon saw the error of his ways as soon as Andraste was burned. It was he that put the sword through her heart to put her out of her misery, which is why the sword is a symbol of mercy in Andrastian lore, and later repented her execution entirely (though Chantry dissenters claim Hessarian only converted because he could not stem the tide against Andraste's followers, only emboldened by the death of their leader, and repented his actions as a means to stay in power).
He turned on his former ally Maferath and ushered the way for the Tevinter Imperium to eventually become an Andrastian nation, though the Chantry as an organization did not yet exist at this time. As for Maferath, when his betrayal became common knowledge, his people abandoned and eventually murdered him.
A cult known as the Cult of the Maker grew out of the legend of Andraste's martrydom. The cult had no central leadership and its followers were oppressed. The clerics had to hide their lore from Tevinter magisters by way of ciphers and encoded scrolls. In -130 Ancient, cult practitioners organized Andraste's teachings into hymns, creating the Chant of Light and the cult popularity spread.
The cult remained fragmented until it was formalized into the Chantry by Kordillus Drakon, the first Emperor of the newly formed Orlesian Empire, in -3 Ancient. Drakon established Andrastianism as the national religion and was himself a fervent believer in the Maker. Three years later the first Divine, Justinia I, was declared. Drakon's military successes during the Second Blight significantly expanded the borders of Orlais, and soon after, the conquered lands converted to the faith. While these lands would later liberate themselves from Orlesian rule following Drakon's death, the Chantry's practice remained.
The Antivan Crows started as an arm of the Chantry. In the hills north of Treviso, an order of monks used the herbs grown in the gardens of their abbey to oppose the rule of a despotic duke in the only manner the monks could.
During the Towers Age there was debate in the Chantry over whether Andraste was truly divine. It was largely the Imperial Chantry's belief that she was not divine that led to the schism in the Chantry and the eventual founding of the Imperial Chantry as a separate religion in 3:87 Towers.
With so much influence over the people, the Chantry can exert considerable political pressure on the ruling classes in many areas of concern. In extraordinary times, and in deference to Andraste, the Divine may also be moved to declare an Exalted March. These religious crusades have mobilized armies of thousands to destroy the heretical enemies of the Maker. The first March after Andraste's death was against the elves of the Dales. The next four were against Tevinter, and the most recent was against the Qunari. Tevinter also took part in the latest march.
The actual priesthood of the Chantry is made up entirely of women, on the basis that Andraste was a woman. At the head of the Chantry is the Divine, who leads from her seat in the Grand Cathedral of Val Royeaux. Below her are the Grand Clerics who are the Chantry's highest authority in a country or a region. After a Divine dies, Grand Clerics are required to travel to Val Royeaux for the Grand Consensus, a meeting where Chantry leadership unanimously elect the new leader of the Chantry. Beneath the Grand Clerics are the mothers, who are responsible for administering to the spiritual well-being of their flock. If a mother is in charge of a local Chantry, she is called a Revered Mother. Beneath mothers are the brothers and sisters, consisting of three main groups: affirmed, initiates, and clerics. Brother is the only rank that men are allowed to have. The initiates take vows and receive an academic education. Those who seek to become templars receive a martial education in addition. Clerics are the scholars of the Chantry and the most senior of them receive the title of "elder," which is, however, beneath that of mother.
The funeral rites of the Chantry involve cremation. As Andraste's body was burned, and her spirit ascended to stand by the Throne of the Maker, so too will the spirits of her followers. The practice of cremation may also be to ward off the possibility of the corpse becoming the subject of demonic possession.
The pyres of peasants are often small and ringed with stones. Such burnings occur within the settlement, despite the fire risk, rather than at a distance.
The Chantry hosts a Ten Year Gathering, in which pilgrims journey to the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux to pray for peace.
The sun represents the fundamental goal of the Chantry: if all lands under the sun raise their voices in the Chant, then the Maker's eye will turn back to his Children.
|Author:||JadedDM [ Sun Dec 28, 2014 4:46 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Dragon Age Primer|
In Thedas, magic is a natural physical phenomenon such as gravity or magnetism. Some people are born with the ability to interact, control, and shape it. The Tevinter Imperium even had mage genealogies of all families that would produce children with magical talent. Eventually, several social classes of mages were established in Tevinter, from the "Altus" (magisters), mages who had a long lineage of magic in their bloodlines, to the "Laetan" - mages with no family history of magic use.
Magic originates from the Fade, the realm where spirits dwell and humans, qunari, and elves visit when they dream. Mana is a measurement of one's ability to channel energy from the Fade, and this energy is expended in the practice of magic. Just as the Fade can be reshaped by those who have grasped its nature, so can the world of Thedas be manipulated by magic. The ability of a living being to expend mana is what defines a mage.
The act of drawing power from the Fade can draw the attention of the spiritual beings on the other side of the Veil, leading to an increased risk of demonic possession if the mages are not vigilant enough. A possessed mage becomes a distortion of his or her former self, a twisted monster known as an abomination that has enough power to wipe entire villages off the map.
With the proper training however, Mages are capable of manipulating the basic elements, such as conjuring gouts of flame and small, localized ice and electrical storms. There are also spells that allow for the temporary reanimation of corpses and the draining of an opponent's life-force. More altruistic Mages can use their powers to help and heal, or summon benevolent spirits in times of need. Though they are often ostracized to the point of persecution, mages are key for everyday life in Thedas. They serve as its healers, scholars, scientists, and weapons of war.
There are limitations to the application of magic, however. Teleportation, resurrection (under normal circumstances) and physically entering the Fade (in the absence of a great deal of lyrium and potentially the aid of blood magic) are not possible. Magic also cannot prevent a potentially fatal incident such as falling from a building.
Furthermore, the powers of a mage require a direct line of sight to a target, and have a limited range.
No one knows who first discovered magic but it has been a part of the world of Thedas for as long as people can remember. From the elves of Arlathan to the mages of Tevinter, both humans and elves have been known to wield magic. Before it became the Imperium, Tevinter was ruled by a dynasty of kings. And long before the Chantry there was a Circle of Magi: the society of mages in each city. The titles the modern Circles use—enchanter, senior enchanter, first enchanter—all originated here. But above the first enchanter, the Circles of Tevinter had another office: magister.
The magisters formed a council of the most powerful mages in the kingdom. They convened in Minrathous and held dominion over all magic in the land. When Darinius seized the throne in -1195 Ancient, the Court of the Magisters became the royal court, and "magister" was the only title of nobility recognized in Tevinter.
Prior to the Circle’s formation, magic was either practiced by the Magisters of the Tevinter Imperium or in remote areas, knowledge handed down from one generation of practitioners to the next. “Hedge mages,” as Enchanters of the Circle refer to them, or “witches” as legend would name them, do not always employ forbidden magic. Quite often their talents lie in the creation of charms, the use of curses and the ability to change their own forms.
Elves were heavily reliant on magic in the days of Arlathan, and it is possible that it was they who taught blood magic to the Tevinter magisters. Legend, however, holds that the first known blood mage, at least for the humans, was a Tevinter: Archon Thalsian. Thalsian was supposedly taught how to use blood magic by the Old God Dumat. Over the years, some historians have argued that this is merely a myth, and that Thalsian learned about blood magic from the elves. Thalsian taught blood magic to others and soon amassed an army, which he used to conquer Elvhenan, the homeland of the elves. This was the start of the Tevinter Imperium, which grew to include most of Thedas, and which worshipped the Old Gods.
The Imperium was not satisfied with control of Thedas, however, and in an incredible act of hubris, the magister lords attempted to enter the Golden City and supposedly usurp the Maker Himself. Their efforts failed, and to punish them, Chantry historians believe that the Maker transformed them into the first darkspawn. These darkspawn fled underground, and eventually found Dumat and transformed him into the first Archdemon. Thus began the First Blight, which would continue for two centuries and greatly weakened the Tevinter Imperium.
In the wake of the First Blight, the people of the Imperium became disillusioned with the Old Gods, and soon began to follow Andraste, a former slave who united the barbarian tribes and led them to break the Imperium's hold on Thedas. Andraste was ultimately betrayed by her husband, Maferath, and burned at the stake, but her death inspired the creation of the Chantry, an event that would alter the face of magic for centuries afterwards.
In 1:20 Divine, the Chantry and the Inquisition signed the Nevarran Accord, and created the Circle of Magi, the Templar Order and the Seekers of Truth.
As magic had been the source of the Imperium's power, it was all but banned when the Chantry became the new dominant force in Thedas. Blood magic was completely forbidden, and those who practised any kind of magic were confined. At first, the Chantry detained mages and had them continually light the eternal flame in every chantry in Thedas, with all other forms of magic forbidden. For such powerful beings to only use their powers in such mundane ways, it surprised almost no one when the mages of the Grand Cathedral protested. Divine Ambrosia was surprised and almost ordered an Exalted March on her own Cathedral, until her own templars advised her otherwise. The Circle of Magi was established to regulate the use of magic throughout Thedas, and the Templars were created to catch mages who refused to join the Circle.
Andrastian Nations: In the Dragon Age, most mages in Thedas belong to the Circle of Magi. As such, they are taken from their families while still children, and highborn children who are able to use magic will lose all claims to their family's estates and titles when they are taken to the Circle. This helps to create a bond stronger than social class or race, since everybody in the Circle is raised and taught the same way.
Children who are born to mages within the Circle are taken to be raised in a Chantry orphanage, either until they are old enough to make a life on their own (likely within the Chantry itself as a cleric or templar) or their magical abilities have manifested and they are returned to the Circle.
Upon joining a Circle, mages undergo a process as apprentices of having a few drops of their blood taken by the First Enchanter and placed in a phylactery. This ensures the mages' compliance as well as the ability to track down any mage who decides to run away, since a templar can track anyone through their blood. As a further measure, mages who are feared to be incapable of controlling themselves, or who fear their power, are made Tranquil: their connection to the Fade is magically severed.
Though templars insist that the process is painless, the experience appears to be debatable and as unique as the individual who has been rendered Tranquil. The Tranquil are easily identified by their eerie monotone voices and emotional apathy, even during life-threatening circumstances. It is worth noting, however, that under normal circumstances there is a reason a mage either is made Tranquil or requests it. Furthermore, imposing the Rite of Tranquility normally requires the agreement of both the Circle Knight-Commander and First Enchanter.
Some mages manage to escape the notice of the Chantry and the Circle, and grow up without the training that those who are taken from their families will have. Any mage not a part of the Circle is considered to be an apostate, and will be hunted by templars if discovered. Often apostates will wield magic unknown or forbidden to the Circle, and considered threatening by the Chantry. Such mages include the Witches of the Wilds, who are capable of changing their shape and are frequently harassed by templars.
Most humans are taught by the Chantry to fear magic and those who practice it. Mages are looked upon as people to be pitied at best, and hated at worst. The average citizen sincerely believes that the Circle exists only to protect mages and help them learn to control their abilities.
Tevinter: The native culture in the Tevinter Imperium is that magic is considered a mark of honor, especially for those who are powerful enough and adept to use it to their advantage. Tevinter has its own Imperial Chantry and many of its mages are the scions of its ancient noble blood lines, who have long nurtured the magic in their genealogy. Even Tevinter commoners view magic as a gift and a part of their culture, so mages are respected across all social classes more than in other countries. In fact, the hope that their offspring or descendants will be born a mage and thus raise the family's social status keeps the commoners placated.
Due to the Imperium's rooted history with magic, the descendants of Tevinter's elite, even after converting to Andrastian teachings, still retained their power and influence but their appreciation of magic conflicted with the Chantry's fear of magic. This inevitable conflict in beliefs led to a schism in ideology between the Tevinter Chantry and the Orlais Chantry. The Tevinter Chantry argued that the Chant of Light's commandment, "magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him," meant that magic must serve the greater good. They believed that this could be accomplished by freeing Magi to take part in government. After the Imperial Chantry broke away from the Orlesian Chantry's influence, mages were allowed to assume their place as the true rulers of the nation once again.
Though mages rule Tevinter, not all mages are equal. Where one falls in the social hierarchy is dependent on where one falls in Tevinter's caste system. If a mage isn't born in the right family, chances are they don't rule anything. Tevinter Circles of Magi are prestigious academies, not mage prisons. Yet admittance to a Tevinter Circle is a privilege, not a right. The mages in Tevinter aspire to be Magisters: the true rulers of the Imperium. Obtaining status and influence in the Tevinter Imperium is highly competitive however and thus often breeds practices of greed, corruption, and blood magic. Those without magic are trampled underfoot and forced to serve. Behind closed doors, slaves are sometimes sacrificed to fuel a magister's forbidden magic. Even some mages are not spared, for in mages as in all humans, there exists a spectrum—on one end, the very powerful, on the other, those that can barely light a candle. The Empire cares only for the strongest, and those who do not compare favorably are thrown to the wolves.
Slaves and Liberati, particularly elves, who demonstrate magical ability are furthermore able to join the Circle of Magi and the lowest rungs of mage society. This applies as well to the children of elven slaves, and facilitates a dubious sense among them of a "meritocracy" within Tevinter even amongst the lowest classes. However, even for those gifted elven slaves who are able to join the magocracy, there is still an element of racism that creates obstacles beyond being seen as a fellow mage. Furthermore, mundane slaves cannot, of course, take part in this meritocratic system any more than any other non-talented citizen can.
Though magisters claim that blood magic is forbidden, it's no secret that any Tevinter mage of rank secretly practices it or at least are proficient in its use. What is considered blood magic in Tevinter however is different than what other Andrastian nations consider blood magic. Still, even what Tevinter considers forbidden magic is practiced by the upper echelon behind closed doors in order to maintain their edge against their adversaries.
Hedge Mages: Hedge mages are untrained magic-users who wield powers developed outside of conventional teaching of the Circle of Magi and because of this, they are all Apostates. Some of these hedge mages are not even aware of their nature. Undeveloped, their abilities can express themselves in a variety of ways, which the hedge mage might attribute to faith, or will, or to another being entirely (depending on the mage's nature).
Prior to the Circle’s formation, magic was either practiced by the Magisters of the Tevinter Imperium or in remote areas, knowledge handed down from one generation of practitioners to the next. "Hedge mages," as Enchanters of the Circle refer to them, or "witches" as legend would name them, do not always employ forbidden magic. Quite often their talents lie in the creation of charms, the use of curses and the ability to change their own forms. Examples of such Hedge mages and witches include the so-called "witches" of the Chasind wilders or the "shamans" of the Avvar barbarians.
More specifically hedge magic, known by its more technical name "arcanist derangement" among mages and scholars, is a form of magical expression different than that of typical mages. The term was coined by Magister Allineas at the height of the Towers Age. The magister posited that magical talent is like a flowing river. When expressed through a mage, it finds a proper outlet through spellcraft. Left to its own devices it flows unexpectedly, and thus hedge mages are created. Prior to the creation of the Circles, such magical talent expressed itself often through ancient traditions and rituals. Those mages possessed power no Circle spell could replicate and their unpredictable ability was deemed a threat.
Hedge mages live chaotic lives, able to commune with spirits, lured into darkness and temptation and sometimes even insanity. Their lives are often short as a result of this wild talent. The term "arcanist derangement" reflects this propensity toward madness in such mages.
The term "hedge mage" was created as a derogatory term by the Chantry.
Rivain: The Rivaini, unlike the majority of peoples in Thedas, are not Andrastians and don't believe in the Maker. Rather, they are pantheists who believe in the Natural Order. As such, many hold to the belief that their god and the universe are the same. Many, especially in Kont-aar, have also converted to the Qun, as their religion and the Qun are not very contradictory. According to Ferdinand Genitivi, a well-known Chantry scholar, "The Chant of Light never truly reached the ears of these people. Resistance to the Chant goes deeper than the Qunari Wars. The Rivaini refuse to be parted from their seers, wise women who are in fact hedge mages, communicating with spirits and actually allowing themselves to be possessed. The Chantry prohibition against such magical practices violates millennia of local tradition." Though a Circle existed in Rivain, it was merely a means to appease the Chantry. The mages of the Circle were allowed to see their families and the women were specifically trained to be seers, a position in Rivaini society that is revered as a matter of tradition. These local hedge witches converse with spirits and even allow themselves to be possessed, though it is supposedly done so for the benefit of their villages.
Dalish elves: Among non-humans, attitudes towards magic vary. The Dalish elves are, for all intents and purposes, the most accepting of their mages. Dalish believe that study of magic is key to rediscovering their lost history, and thus are far more tolerant of the presence of magic in their lives. They do, however, acknowledge the inherent danger of magic, and take strides to reduce the risk. Typically a clan will try to keep the number of mages in their group to a minimum by exchanging mage children with other Dalish clans. These children will be personally instructed by the new tribe's Keeper, and if they demonstrate sufficient aptitude will be elevated to be the Keeper's First, an apprentice expected to one day become the clan's new Keeper. Every Dalish clan is sworn to protect its Keeper to the death, and should the Keeper fall to demonic possession, the clan is bound to hunt and slay the Keeper. This happens rarely, however, as most Keepers are wise and careful enough to never make deals with demons or use blood magic.
Qunari: On the opposite end of Thedas, the Qunari, bound to order, have virtually no tolerance for mages, which they call saarebas (literally "dangerous thing"). Those among them who are found to possess magical ability are kept on leashes by special soldiers called arvaarad, and fitted with blinders. Their horns are sheared off and in extreme cases their lips may be stitched together. If a saarebas is found practicing forbidden magic, their tongues are cut out to prevent them from corrupting others. Despite these measures, the Qunari pity and honor the saarebas as they believe that their striving while under constant threat from within is truly selfless and that is the highest virtue of the Qun.
Surprisingly, the mages themselves accept their condition without question, as they manage to find some measure of solace within the Qun, since they believe there is a purpose to their existence, even if it means the loss of their freedom. If separated from their arvaarad, they are willing to accept death as they may be corrupted and not even be aware, presenting a danger to themselves and others, as was the case for Ketojan. They pity other mages who are not Qunari, because they will surely doom themselves and everyone who they come in contact with.
|Author:||JadedDM [ Sun Dec 28, 2014 7:59 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Dragon Age Primer|
The Grey Wardens are an order of warriors of exceptional ability dedicated to fighting darkspawn throughout Thedas. They are headquartered in the very place of their founding, the Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, but maintain a presence in most other nations as well.
The Grey Wardens are known for ignoring a recruit's racial, social, national, and even criminal background if they deem the person valuable in terms of character or ability.
Despite their small numbers, the Grey Wardens have been instrumental in defeating each Blight so far, and thus are vital to the survival of the world as a whole.
First Blight and the founding:
The First Blight occurred in -395 Ancient (800 TE), when a plague was unleashed upon the world. The Deep Roads, underground highways built by dwarves, were swarmed with monstrous creatures that became known as the "darkspawn". These creatures seemed limitless in number, and spread a taint that infected other living creatures, mutating them into monsters, and corrupted and poisoned the very environment around them. The cult of the Maker claimed this was the result of Tevinter mages entering the Fade through a ritual and attempting to usurp the Golden City, although dwarves and other non-humans discounted the theory. Nevertheless, this invasion of darkspawn — named the Blight — soon destroyed most of the underground kingdoms of the dwarves and spread to the surface world. Thedas was in chaos and entered a dark age. The darkspawn were found to be led by an immensely powerful dragon tainted with the darkspawn corruption; this creature was named an archdemon and believed to be one of the Old Gods worshipped by Tevinter.
In -305 Ancient (890 TE), after nearly a century of bitter war against the darkspawn hordes, a group of veteran warriors came together in Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, the western part of the Tevinter Imperium. Warden legends sing of their leader Carinus, and the sacrifice the founders made as they tried to save the world while their families perished. It is thought that Nakiri of The Donarks was the one who first suggested imbibing the blood of the darkspawn, as his people were known to consume the blood of their enemies to absorb their power. Tevinter mages in the group added to this knowledge, and it is said that elven slaves also contributed ancient knowledge from Arlathan. This was in return for being treated as equals in the order and with the intention that, after the Blight was ended, they would concentrate on freeing the elves. The Joining symbolically cut their ties to all worldly concerns, in order to dedicate themselves to fighting the darkspawn. They called themselves the Grey Wardens, and would accept anyone, no matter their race or background, without distinction if only deemed suitable to join the order.
The Grey Wardens first appeared on the battlefield during the attack on Nordbotten, arriving mounted on griffons, plunging into the darkspawn with each Warden taking on crowds of ten or twenty darkspawn at once. The commanders of the griffon forces were known as High Constables. Incredibly, they broke the horde and won the battle. They proved to be a desperately needed spark of hope in the darkest of hours, and quickly gained renown since. The Grey Wardens started receiving tithes, supplies, and recruits from all lands; they grew, building fortresses and functioning as elite shock troops making quick and devastating strikes wherever darkspawn appeared, as well as rallying the mundane armies to greater deeds.
During the next 100 years, humanity slowly managed to stand firm and push back the Blight. Finally, in -203 Ancient (992 TE), the Grey Wardens gathered an allied army composed of soldiers from the Tevinter Imperium, the tribes of the Ciraine (the lands that would become Orlais), and Rivain to confront the main darkspawn horde, led by the archdemon now identified as Dumat. The massive battle was waged at the Silent Plains, in what is now southern Tevinter or northern Nevarra: the legion of darkspawn was defeated and Dumat was slain by the Grey Wardens: with the archdemon's death, the horde's will to fight on was broken. It took several years to eradicate the remaining darkspawn from the surface, but the deed was done and the Grey Wardens had carved out their legend. After the Battle of the Silent Plains, they were much celebrated and most nations gave formal promises of support for further darkspawn invasions. Among the tithes that were given to them was also the Right of Conscription to guarantee sufficient recruits.
In 1:5 Divine, approximately 200 years since the slaying of Dumat, the archdemon Zazikel rose to lead the Second Blight. The entire city of Nordbotten — the very place where the Grey Wardens first appeared on the battlefield — was destroyed before a defense could be organized. The Tevinter Imperium withdrew from the Anderfels, abandoning it in an attempt to protect central Tevinter. The Anderfels area was in much trouble, and even the Grey Warden headquarters in Weisshaupt came under siege by the darkspawn.
Fortunately, the armies of the recently founded Orlesian Empire under the command of Emperor Kordillus Drakon I proved both motivated and capable of standing up to the Blight. After several victories against the darkspawn, Drakon's army lifted the siege of Weisshaupt in 1:33 Divine and proceeded to save the rest of the Anderfels together with the Wardens. The Anderfels joined with the Orlesian Empire and the Grey Wardens converted to the Chantry.
In the following decades, the Blight was again slowly pushed back and the Grey Wardens took command of the war. The archdemon Zazikel was finally confronted and slain by the Grey Warden Corin in 1:95 Divine at Starkhaven in the Free Marches.
The Third Blight began with the awakening of Toth in 3:10 Towers, roughly 115 years after the last Blight. The initial darkspawn attacks occurred in central Thedas in Tevinter and Orlais, but even though the hordes were larger than those previously encountered, a rapidly-organized defense led by the Grey Wardens managed to hold them back. The darkspawn attacks started to focus on the more lightly defended Free Marches while Tevinter and Orlais tried to remain neutral, but pressure from the Grey Wardens eventually brought them into the war. The darkspawn horde was crushed at Hunter Fell in the Free Marches in 3:25 Towers, and Toth was slain by the Grey Wardens. The third Blight remained a relatively short event compared to previous Blights.
Not much is told about the Grey Wardens for another 200 years, when Andoral awakened and the Fourth Blight began in 5:12 Exalted. Most of the damage was to the east of traditional Grey Warden territory, in the Free Marches, Antiva, and Rivain, but the Anderfels was also attacked and Hossberg, not far from Weisshaupt, came under siege. This time, both Tevinter and Orlais were lightly attacked and refused to send aid. The hero of the Fourth Blight was an elven Grey Warden named Garahel, who first led the liberation of Hossberg in 5:20 Exalted and then managed to gather an army from the Free Marches to support the Grey Wardens. Garahel's army marched north and faced the main horde in 5:24 Exalted at Ayesleigh, where Garahel perished after personally slaying Andoral.
The Grey Wardens' legendary griffons died out some time after the Fourth Blight.
Exalted Age to Dragon Age:
After the fourth Blight, the influence of the Grey Wardens waned considerably. So many darkspawn were slain during the Fourth Blight that many came to the erroneous conclusion they were defeated permanently. Although remaining an eternal threat to the dwarves, darkspawn were rarely seen by surface people, and the Grey Wardens were slowly dismissed as a relic of a bygone, darker time best left forgotten.
In 7:5 Storm, there was an awkward incident in Ferelden with the local Warden-Commander—Sophia Dryden, previously a rival for the crown of Ferelden—becoming involved in a planned coup d'état. The result was fighting between the Grey Wardens and the royal army, the loss of Commander Sophia and her command at Soldier's Peak, and King Arland banishing the order from Ferelden. The Grey Wardens were allowed back in Ferelden by King Maric in 9:10 Dragon and they were able to begin a slow rebuilding, but by 9:30 Dragon, their presence remained light and the order was neither well known nor held in high regard by Ferelden's people.
Darkspawn are beginning to amass on the surface again, this time in the Kocari Wilds south of Fereldan. Some worry this is a sign of a fifth Blight approaching, but there has yet to be any sign of an archdemon. As there are so few Grey Wardens currently in Fereldan, a possible Blight starting there could be a disaster.
The order of Grey Wardens is commanded by the First Warden in Weisshaupt, and consists of a system of semi-autonomous national branches lead by a local commander. Though there is a hierarchy, in practice this is frequently defined by seniority (decided by time of Joining) in the order.
In 9:30 Dragon, the strength of the Grey Wardens is estimated at over 1,000 in the Anderfels, several hundred in Orlais, and around two dozen in Ferelden. With unknown numbers in other nations and the Free Marches.
The official hierarchy of the Grey Wardens, in descending order, is:
*First Warden: Permanently situated at Weisshaupt fortress. The First Warden is mainly a political figure since the griffon extinction, and most military command falls to the Warden-Commanders.
*High Constable: Second-in-command to the First Warden, and formerly the aerial commander during the Wardens' use of griffons. Recently, the High Constable has become the public face of the order, acting as the ambassador to the High King and leading local recruitment.
*Chamberlain of the Grey: The senior archivist at Weisshaupt, and to whom Warden Commanders send yearly reports. The Chamberlain technically outranks Commanders of the Grey.
*Commander of the Grey: Also known as the Warden-Commander. The leader of the Grey Wardens in a given country, and under normal circumstances under little direction by the order. The dwindling communications between Weisshaupt and the branches leave most Warden-Commanders to run their respective branches as needed. They can be summoned to Weisshaupt by the First Warden at any time.
*Constable of the Grey: A Warden-Commander's second-in-command, the Constable, colloquially called Warden-Constable, acts as the field commander and steps in when the Warden-Commander is away.
*Senior Warden (or Warden-Lieutenant in Orlais): commands a small group of Wardens or undertakes special missions.
*Warden-Ensign: Generally just called Wardens, these are the members of the Order who have survived the Joining ritual.
*Warden-Recruit: an individual selected to join the Wardens but who has not yet undertaken the Joining ritual. They are given a formal rank just for committing themselves to the Wardens, regardless of whether or not they survive the Joining. Failed recruits' names are kept in the archives of Weisshaupt in honour of their sacrifice.
Recruitment and the Right of Conscription
Should they need to, the Grey Wardens possess the Right of Conscription; they may demand that any individual from king to criminal be drafted into their ranks. However — especially in Ferelden — this right is used sparingly for fear of political reprisal. Further complicating matters, the Grey Wardens don't accept just anyone. Only the best and brightest are invited. In addition, the fact that the Joining ritual kills many of its participants means that the draft may turn out to be a death sentence.
Despite the risks, however, some courageous souls do voluntarily seek out the order. Elves in particular tend to be eager to volunteer for the Grey Wardens, as they recruit regardless of race or social standing and serving is considered by many an honor. Mages are traditionally recruited one per Circle of Magi, and the young mage recruit serves as a Warden their entire life from then on. Similar to serving a ruler, yet greatly removed from the degradation they may normally face in society, mage Wardens are given great respect and importance in the Order. Their facilitation of the Joining ritual is essential.
To become part of the Grey Wardens, a recruit must first go through a ritual called the Joining. This involves drinking a concoction that contains, among other things, lyrium, darkspawn blood and a drop of preserved archdemon blood. Those who consume it either die on the spot or, should they survive, gain the power to sense Darkspawn through the taint. The Joining is generally kept a secret from the public, for fear that if initiates knew they might die, nobody would ever agree to go through with it.
Just as they keep many secrets from outsiders, including the Joining, Grey Wardens also keep certain secrets hidden from many of their own members. It is heavily implied that the Calling—also known as the Long Walk—was a ritual created by the first Grey Wardens to prevent future members from watching themselves ultimately succumb to the darkspawn taint. Contrary to belief even among themselves, surviving the Joining does not confer to Grey Wardens a true immunity from "blight sickness", but rather merely delays its onset.
The Calling begins with nightmares or voices from the Old Gods, the same "call" the darkspawn hear to search for the Old Gods. Although some claim it takes a person about thirty years after their joining to hear it, the gap varies depending on their willpower and the level of their interaction with the darkspawn. As such, Grey Wardens during a Blight are likely to have shorter lifespans. Otherwise, it is commonly between ten to thirty years that the Wardens hear the Calling.
According to ritual, the Grey Warden descends underground and celebrates before entering the Deep Roads to slay as many darkspawn as they can before being overwhelmed and slain.
It is implied that even if a Grey Warden would run away, given time all Wardens would find themselves in the Deep Roads, Blight-Lands or pursued by darkspawn, for they all are connected by the taint that draws them to each other. Thus, one can assume that almost every Grey Warden will die at the hands of darkspawn.
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