Saturday, May 30, 2020

TEVINTER NIGHTS Analysis: Callback

"Callback" takes us back to Skyhold, our castle and stronghold... and then shows us that you really can't go home again
without significant wear and tear on the heart...
"Know that Skyhold remains, its fires bright. Forevermore it is where you are from, not where you are bound. Attempt no travel there. Let the past guide you to a new direction. And be well."

WARNING: SPOILERS on TEVINTER NIGHTS! Please read at your peril!

So hello once again, you lovely Wardens, Hawkes and Inkies!

As always, I hope this finds you safe and well, despite our increasingly crazy world. So let's escape awhile to Thedas, shall we?

As you probably know, I've been doing a series of analyses on Tevinter Nights, concentrating on the stories that I feel add substantially to the lore, and which may give us potential clues to Dragon Age 4. Today, I wanted to share my notes and thoughts on Lukas Kristjanson's bittersweet adventure, "Callback." And of course, please do check out my past analyses of "Three Trees to Midnight," and "The Horror of Hormak."

As I search for new clues from TEVINTER NIGHTS,
we learn some key secrets and plot progressions
from Lukas Kristjanson's story "Callback."
And here we go!

The Story at a Glance

We dive right into the story, with our old friend, the young knight Sutherland, taking in the vista we all know and love so well: beautiful Skyhold, poised high in its hidden valley between the towering snowy mountain peaks of the Frostbacks. It's implied that, as with most of the stories in this collection, it's been about a year since the events of "Trespasser."

"Every day was the best day," says Sutherland, surveying that view with love and sadness in his heart. And right there, already, I knew this story was going to make me a mess. An absolute mess.

Because I love Skyhold. I love it like a real place. Or, you know, even better than that—like all those incredible imaginary places that are more real than real. I love Skyhold like I love Bag-End. Rivendell. Cair Paravel. Brakebills. The Normandy. Or Jordan College. You get the idea. Those places are sacred to me, and Skyhold stands among them. A little part of my soul feels like it lived at Skyhold, after all—walking its Great Halls, peeking shyly into the Rotunda to see if my Inky was brave enough to interrupt Solas, running past the drafty hallway to the War Room, playing chess in the gardens, listening to songs in the warm and flickering light of The Herald's Rest. 

A little part of my soul lives at Skyhold and always will.

There's a demon living in our favorite castle. "Callback" sends it
away. But at a steep price.
Anyway. Wow, this is gonna be a tough one. 

But okay, onward—back to our merry band. 

Our Boy Grows Up

We're at Skyhold with Sutherland (and how genius was it when we discovered that his name is Donal?!), as well as companions in his adventures that we may have known already in DAI—Shayd, a human bard archer, and Voth, an elven mage. If you're a reader of the graphic novels, we did get to reconnect with the gang back in Magekiller—if not, this is our first glimpse since our Skyhold days in DAI.

As they assess the situation, Skyhold seems sad, empty and dark. Too empty, as it turns out, since even though the Inquisition had left it, it had not been left unguarded, and there had been caretakers to oversee it who were now unresponsive. Skyhold was basically force-abandoned, but not razed or destroyed, kept empty but watched as "a distant beacon." The party chats a little, and we learn that they are under orders to investigate, and that under their plans they are due to meet up with others at Skyhold, including Rat, the brash dwarven squire.

The last communication anyone got about Skyhold, the caretaker mentioned attempting to restore the fresco in the Rotunda for some reason (which was odd because it wasn't one of his duties). The caretaker ended his last message with "I have made mistakes." I know who this sounds like, to me, so this is really interesting stuff.

The band is pretty sure a demon is involved even as they make the long climb to the castle, and as they climb, Sutherland thinks back to his arrival at Skyhold, back to when he walked through the doors of the Herald's Rest and the Inquisitor took a chance on him (as well as on Shayd, Voth, and Rat, who would become his found family, his little "Chargers"). From a writing standpoint, I want to note that Lukas does a great job here, by the way, of balancing the Inquisitor as someone of any gender we choose, so that we are still imagining our Inquisitors, whoever they might be. 

Coming Home to Loss

The adventurers arrive at a courtyard full of memories, and realize the first desecration—that the old caretaker's body is nailed to the door of the empty stable—and that he did the job himself.

Sutherland and crew return to a Skyhold with no warm, sweet torches or
welcoming fires. The Skyhold of the future is sad, dark, and virtually empty.
They investigate further, and everything is clean and empty and sad, yet full of memories. The courtyard, the buildings, the stalls, the tavern. There were seven permanent staff left behind but at first there's no sign of anyone but the dead caretaker, but Voth can sense the demon nearby. 

When Sutherland and friends investigate further, they discover that our once-beautiful Rotunda, the jewel of Skyhold—from Solas's frescoes to the second-floor library to the top-floor rookery—is now a tower of horrors, of body parts and old blood. And the frescoes themselves now seem to be somehow alive... in peculiar depth and motion, surrounded by a blackness that seems to be draining them of life and color. The demon then attacks them, inhabiting the wolflike/draconic creature from the final panel, and both Voth and Shayd are instantly defenseless. When Sutherland confronts it, the demon confirms that it is Regret, "an echo that has breached the Fade."

Bees, Friends, and Kisses Galore

Sutherland battles Regret while his friends are caught and trapped by their own internal regrets and memories. He manages to stab the demon, but the demon is able to regenerate almost instantly. Still, Sutherland—the only one present with zero regrets—is strong and unafraid throughout the fight. Skyhold made him who he is, and he will regret nothing that happened there, so he's able to hold off the demon until Rat shows up with another of our old friends from Skyhold—Dagna! They attack the creature with amphora of bees (BEES! Of course! And a lovely little shoutout to Sera, the character Lukas wrote for DAI, as well as to her romance with Dagna), and as the demon goes nuts, Sutherland is able to rescue Shayd and Voth from their immobility, and he and Shayd take a moment to celebrate (remember, they flirted then got involved way back in DAI!) with a passionate kiss despite the mayhem. No time like the present!

"Callback" gives us some really fun, tantalizing glimpses of Skyhold
as a working (and highly defensible) castle.
Then the gang lures the demon outside, with Rat running nimbly to distract it from the others, and our old blacksmith Harritt joins the fray, then our old quartermaster Ser Morris, who rush with Sutherland and the others to pursue the demon into the Herald's Rest. Once inside the tavern, my darling sweet grouchy Cabot appears, noting that, "as a bartender, I drown regret." Cabot attacks the demon, and is joined in the attack by Elan, our former elven apothecary. The two banter adorably enough to let us know that they're a couple (yay!), and man, the nostalgia is absolutely lethal here, people. Especially since it appears the tavern is now on fire. (NO! Not the Herald's Rest!)

The Heart of Skyhold

The entire gang helps Sutherland converge on the demon to take it down, and his memory of the Inquisitor gives him enough courage to stand for his friends. He's able to stab the demon, then everyone else (touchingly "the little people, who supposedly didn't matter" yet who were in the end, "the heart of Skyhold") helps him to take it down. The death of Regret is bittersweet, and it dies chuckling, but with an aura of sadness, and bringing a fresh and cleansing breeze through the garden. Sutherland's merry band, together with their friends, have triumphed.

The story ends with a proclamation from Divine Victoria, praising the Inquisition and the Herald, while also saluting the acceptance of change, and the knowledge that Skyhold is no longer a destination, but their past. "Attempt no travel there," she warns, "Let the past guide you to a new direction. And be well."

"Callback" implies that Solas's regrets were so powerful they became
a literal being. That's hardcore.
And then I cry like a baby, because Skyhold is empty again. And Solas's Rotunda is a wreck of bodies and bloodshed, and his gift of the ancient and beautiful murals are lost forever (although Dagna will eagerly study the demon-touched remnants), and the Herald's Rest was burning when last we saw it.

I love the story, but Skyhold's fate fricking breaks my heart.

What it Adds to the Lore
A view of Skyhold. Back when it was a working fortress. (cries)
We learn quite a lot here in "Callback," of course, along with some nice lore confirmations, so here's my rundown:

  • First, Sutherland tells us that the Inquisition attracted roughly 10,000 soldiers, assassins, diplomats, and freeblades from across Thedas, transforming them into "a massive, destabilizing militia with an allegiance to an ideal, not borders."

    This is also a direct offshoot of Sutherland's series of quests for us under Ser Morris in DAI, and of how we see him and his friends contribute to the influence of the Inquisition itself.

  • We get some lovely specific details on Skyhold's mechanics here, that further solidify it as a working fortress, a real place, and I love that! Let me count the ways...

    Like, for instance, that a cable lift was used to bring up people, animals, and supplies from the valley floor to the fortress. There's also access via a steep, very high climb via a watchtower with an internal staircase.

    We also learn that Skyhold was equipped with formidable ballistae, and that several were trained on the bridge to the main gate—a terrific defense with zero places to flee for the opponent on the bridge.

    We also learn that there were fires that could be lit beneath the gatehouse that could sear intruders caught between the portcullises and past the drawbridge if needed. Basically, Skyhold did not mess around.

    And remember... this is all a place that was once conceived and created by Solas himself. It's a fascinating thought.

  • We also get confirmation that the Veil is unusually thin at Skyhold, causing it "to react to events like water reacted to stones." Since we know that Skyhold is where Solas literally created the Veil, this is extremely interesting information.

  • We're given further lore on spirits and demons, and that both are driven by the singular emotions that define them, so much so that they actually embody those emotions (Compassion, Wisdom, Faith, Pride, Despair, etc.), as we know. This isn't a surprise, per se, and yet here it's presented with a dash of sadness, of predestination (and as if the spirits/demons could have been more complex depending on their choices). It's implied that these spirits/demons do have a choice in who or what they become, in other words, at least to me. They are aware of what drives them.

    We also learn that in comparison to spirits, that demons are both similar (as we already knew from Solas's banters with Cole) and yet also "inward" and "craving," that they are "jealous, starved, and dangerous."

  • The demon emerged in the Rotunda and from the very plaster of its walls, inhabiting, animating, and obliterating Solas's eight beautiful frescoes, which we are told here were nearly twenty feet tall, and which are confirmed to have been Solas's gift to the Inquisitor (something that still touches me, especially since he created these masterworks regardless of whether he liked or loved the Inquisitor).

    Also, twenty feet tall! Sheesh, no wonder our favorite Fade Walker never seemed to sleep. He didn't have time. Good grief.

  • We get some tantalizing new descriptions of the frescoes that offer a little more insider insight into that tantalizing unfinished eighth panel Solas left behind.

    Among other things, "Callback" gives us confirmation that the wolflike creature standing over the dead dragon is itself rather reptilian and draconic (something I've definitely been a proponent for, so I'm pretty tickled at the revelation), and that the emerging creature (not the fresco animal) "has too many eyes" (a subtle reference again, to Pride Demons, not to mention to Solas's many Tarots in DAI): 
For those of you who felt that this "wolf" figure was also
pretty dragony? DING DING DING, you got it right!
", unfinished, was the outline of a beast that stood over both dragon and sword. This was not the battle, or the victory. This was after. And the beast was not a dragon. The outline alone might have allowed that assumption, but now, filling with black and red, it was something other. The creature was reptilian, but also canine. The snout was blunted and toothy, but edges came to a point in houndlike ears. As the mass of plaster filled the shape, it began to rise, revealing scales and tail, and paws with talons. It looked like two figures painted on either side of a pane of glass, then viewed together, their forms confused. A wolf that had absorbed a dragon, and now stood crooked over all."
This is almost a literal recap of the final confrontation of Solas and Mythal at the end of DAI. And it also quite beautifully expresses the regret and self-loathing that almost surely followed that confrontation for Solas. We saw the clear love and affection between the two—which we now know encompassed thousands of years. And now it appears Solas 'absorbed' that draconic essence of Mythal quite literally. Or so this implies. And it also feels like, well, it's just one more monument to his own self-loathing on this journey on the din'anshiral.
As I've blogged here before, I already believe Solas can wear many faces, from man, to ancient elven god, to Dread Wolf (a wolf walking both Fade and in the real world), to Pride Demon. And now here we get the implication that he has, perhaps, also finally achieved that 'level-up'—to the divine draconic form. It's a revelation to shake all of Thedas. If they only knew. 
Sorry, I know I'm supposed to caption this with something touching
about Solas's murals, but as always, I'm just staring at his booty here.
  • I am the heart of what was here,” roars the demon to Sutherland, pointing at the frescoes. "I am Regret!" It goes on to reveal, "There is so much of me that's here. So much regret behind these deeds. I wonder if you know the dread that's coming?"

  • What is fascinating here is that this demon is very obviously embodying at least the shadow and memory of Solas. It is Solas's grief and regret brought to actual life across the Veil, and as such it seems to speak both in his voice and even with his penchant for riddles and secrets in plain sight (the "dread" that's coming). The creature even openly says, "I am the regret of a god," which once again confirms that at some point, there appears to be a slight truth to the power of those ancient evanuri (including Solas) and that it was, well, pretty darned godlike.

  • Sutherland realizes during the fight with the demon that his mission was a setup -- a mission that was supposed to fail, and which would therefore allow the evil nobles to obliterate the castle and erase the Inquisition's proudest legacy.

  • As Regret begins to die, we get a tantalizing glimpse of illumination as Sutherland sees "a sliver of the spirit that might have been." Not the opposite of regret. A different flavor, or shade. Contemplation. Introspection. It felt the actions that had summoned it. There might have been a better choice," said a thought it had not been allowed."

  • Regret dies chuckling, and again, we get some really fascinating lore here: "It glimpsed the spirit realm beyond the Veil, and a faraway glimmer. Familiar, and somehow far brighter than what had drawn it here. It knew where it would go."

    To Solas, perhaps?

    To be reunited, no longer a sliver of spirit, but whole with the spirit that spawned it?

    Or is it simply seeing a place within the Fade where it can be reborn? What an odd child of Solas's life and deeds.

But what did you take from "Callback?"

Final Observations

For me, this story was as delightful as it was painful... it took me back to Skyhold. A place I love. 

The sacrilege of "Callback" runs deep for me, since I always thought
Solas's little home in the Rotunda to be one of Skyhold's loveliest
locations, with its frescoes, jewel tones, and soft furnishings.
And then it took Skyhold away from me. And reminded me that Skyhold is now empty, alone, and damaged beyond repair.

The beautiful frescoes that Solas so carefully painted for the Inquisitor, each one a gift priceless beyond measure and created as treasures and recreations of art that belonged to thousands of years past (even if the Inky didn't realize this then) are gone, crumbled into a demonic cauldron of self-loathing, loss and regret.

All that remains is an empty castle, dried blood, and a few flakes of plaster. And the bitter tang of loss and regret.

The Din'anshiral

For me, this story, more than any other in Tevinter Nights, reveals the bitterness of Solas's secret heart. For those who see him simply as an arrogant know-it-all, a villain with no heart, I would point them to this story, in which his regret, self-loathing, loss, and sadness have literally been so painful, so vast, that they spawned a demon in his absence.

For me, "Callback" does a brave and beautiful thing: It reminds us of something beloved and beautiful (Solas's frescoes), something we may have treasured in DAI—and it brutally destroys them. It's awful and sad. It's painful. But it's necessary. The Solas who painted those frescoes is gone. The world that held them is gone. Everyone has moved on. Except, perhaps, the Inquisitor who loved him.

Skyhold survived the creation of the Veil. And then the departure of
the Inquisition. Will we get to return in Dragon Age 4? Time will tell.
All that remains is an empty castle, a dying Veil, and the memories of people who still believed in goodness. Who really hoped they could fix the world. And who even when they left, kept hoping in all their stubborn, stupid, glorious belief.

I don't look to videogames to inspire me in daily life, but this? In the craziness of our terrible current world, man, I'll take it. 

Skyhold is empty. Will it stay that way? Or will Dragon Age 4 allow us to return? Only time will tell... 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

TEVINTER NIGHTS Analysis: The Horror of Hormak

Ghilan'nain? Girl, you've got some
explaining to do!
"The expressions on the faces of those elven rulers betrayed a contempt that was almost palpable, the beatific smiles edged with disgust and disdain for the creatures at their feet. And the subjects, far from kneeling in reverence as Ramesh had first thought, seemed more to be cowering in terror."
—From "The Horror of Hormak," DRAGON AGE: TEVINTER NIGHTS

WARNING: SPOILERS on TEVINTER NIGHTS! Please read at your peril!

So hello again, you beautiful Wardens, Hawkes and Inkies!

I hope you're well and safe out there—hopefully, wearing masks while pretending to be Orlesian, because why not? This is our time, people, let's be Orlesian!

As I noted in my previous post here, I wanted to offer some analyses on stories in TEVINTER NIGHTS that I felt specifically really advance the lore, which teach us valuable facts about the year (to year and a half or so) since the end of the events in "Trespasser." I loved the entire compilation, but my focus here is on stories that give us hints for plot points, characters, or directions we might find ourselves facing, also, in our long-awaited Dragon Age 4.

Which is why I'm back today with my notes and thoughts on John Epler's wonderful horror tale "The Horror of Hormak."

Please Note: I follow several amazing analysts, artists, and critics in the Dragon Age community, led by, first and foremost, Ghil'Dirthalen, who's brilliant, not to mention kind, funny and insightful. But to keep my ideas my own, I have not listened to anyone about TEVINTER NIGHTS. I do plan to do so after I've blogged about all of the stories that contribute to lore (and can't wait). 

As I search for new clues from TEVINTER NIGHTS,
we get a ton of lore in John Epler's story "The
 Horror of Hormak"
So—in a nutshell, insights are my own, and mistakes are also my own here. If I'm excited about a revelation you've already been yawning over, hey, I'm late to the party. But ultimately, I'm just very careful about appropriation and want to present ideas (however goofy some of them are) that are really my own. And honestly it's just so much more fun for me that way, so thanks for bearing with me.

So here we go!

The Story at a Glance

The story begins deep in the Nevarran Forest—that's all we get on location, but my guess is that it is specifically in or near the Northern part of the Planasene Forest, which is just north of the Waking Sea, and slightly West of Kirkwall.

Grey Wardens Ramesh and Lesha are investigating the whereabouts of a lost Grey Warden mining expedition led by Senior Warden Jovis, now lost for eight days and counting—and the clock is ticking on whether they can possibly still be alive. To complicate things, Jovis was a man Ramesh had once deeply loved and turned away from, losing a chance of real happiness, despite the hardships of Grey Warden life. He is now nearly desperate to save Jovis, and to undo his past decisions. Ramesh and Lesha seem to be heading East, which will bring them out of the forest eventually, and into the northwestern arc of the Vimmark Mountains. 

Lesha is a young Tevinter mage—cocky and fearless, an Acolyte who has only been a Warden for a few years, while Ramesh, the commander, is a Senior Warden who is older and more careworn. He's been a Warden for 23 years and counting, and can almost taste that the Calling is upon him. But it's Lesha who is uneasy right away, who notes that "Something's wrong about these woods. Feels like the air hates me. Wants me to die." She's not wrong.

The story follows the two into the darkness of forest and nightmare, as they find a surviving Warden from Jovis's party, Warden-Recruit Friedl, a young woman, but she's been badly wounded and whatever she experienced has driven her mad enough to mutilate and blind herself. Ramesh and Lesha attempt to calm and save Friedl, even as they continue to pursue the mystery deeper into the forest, but eventually, Friedl kills herself. When Ramesh checks her dead body, it vomits gallons and gallons of a terrible, briny seawater-like substance. 

Again with that "seawater" theme. Also, ew, ew, ew, ew, ew! (I HAVE VOMIT ISSUES, PEOPLE!)
PARAPHRASED SEGUE: (to the TV show "Monk") 
DOCTOR: So, Mr. Monk, you have been poisoned and I'm sorry to say are going to vomit copiously and then die in agony. 
MONK: (weeps quietly) 
MONK'S ASSISTANT NATALIE: He's upset about the vomiting. 
That's... basically me. I have rarely so identified with a fictional character.

ANYWAY. In the aftermath, Ramesh is kind and supportive of the younger mage when she has difficulty processing the horror of the moment, but also adept at keeping her focused on their ultimate goals and loyalties. It's moving and believable.

On a side note, can I just say that I love stories like these, in which two adults are in close prolonged circumstances and that there is no stereotypical sexual tension? Yes, I love UST. But there's so much more to friendship, work, and other relationships, and it's lovely that Ramesh (who is, at this point, revealed as either gay, bi or pan) and Lesha have nothing but a warm, kind, mutually respectful, and entirely professional relationship from beginning to end. It's a signature of BioWare's inclusivity and general respect for individuals and relationships, and I love that. And let's hear it for yet another LGBTQ protagonist in the compilation!

The Deep Roads are always scary places for me. (I would have made a
terrible Warden. I would have just run around screaming.)
Onward! The two exit the forest into rocky terrain marked by three distinctive peaks (I'm again assuming these peaks are most likely in the Vimmarks BUT what makes them distinctive? Have we seen them before? It's killing me...) as they discover the entrance to the Deep Roads beneath them, littered with twisted Darkspawn bodies and blood (no Warden bodies), giving them hope of finding their companions alive. They bravely enter a finely carved doorway in the ancient dwarven style, runes above the entrance naming it as "Hormok" (So is this deliberate or is the title a typo? No judgment if so...). They descend, the passages glowing with lyrium, and discover great and beautiful chambers like the most ancient dwarven thaigs, and then, descending further, fight a fierce, brief battle with more twisted darkspawn before discovering a new descent into areas that are first dwarven, then obviously ancient and elven.

When the duo reaches the final chamber, it's revealed to be a massive, ancient chamber of horrors, a kind of "creation tank" of viscous, briny fluid powered by a huge lyrium crystal hanging above. They confront the biggest creature, a terrifying giant centipede merged with the torso of Warden Jovis, who, faced with his love, manages to retain his sanity for a few moments to relate what happened to his doomed company, and what "she" (Ghilan'nain, I believe) plans for this chamber. 

Jovis asks Ramesh to destroy the chamber, then loses control permanently and the creature attacks. Lesha manages to save Ramesh, then gives him enough time to escape, sacrificing herself by destroying the lyrium crystal and exploding the chamber. Ramesh finishes the job by escaping far enough to use the lyrium charges (poignantly using the love note from Jovis as a fuse), and the entire mountain seems to come down behind him, burying the horrors of Hormok forever.

"The Horror of Hormak" adds to the implications we got in DAI that
beneath the Deep Roads, are even deeper ones—and the elves were there first.
Ramesh resolves to carry his story—and warning—to the rest of the Wardens, even as he realizes with horror that the carvings below had depicted twelve different locations for aravels and prey (eleven plus the one just destroyed at Hormok). Meaning, the battle has just begun...

What It Adds to the Lore (and Implies for Dragon Age 4)

  • One of the things I really liked about this story was the atmosphere, the way it bridged the classic fantasy-horror of Dragon Age Origins with the lore and character progression (and larger world) of Dragon Age Inquisition. I also liked that all along, we're expecting war-tired, near-his-Calling Ramesh to die, but it's fresh-faced Lesha who doesn't survive. (Darn it.)
  • We're told outright that the Wardens' numbers are dwindling ever since Ostagar, and then Adamant. To an alarming degree—that they don't even have the numbers to mount an actual rescue mission for situations like this (and which used to be routine). After this reference, and the rumblings of disquiet from Weisshaupt in "Trespasser," I definitely feel a "crisis of the Grey Wardens" is looming for us in Dragon Age 4.
  • The presence of another prominent Tevinter character, Lesha (and that she's a Vint Warden!) tells me that yet again, Tevinter settings and characters are going to be really important in Dragon Age 4. John Epler also noted on Twitter that Ramesh is a person of color who in our world would be of Indian descent, so again, this suggests to me that he may be of Tevinter origin also.
  • Lesha's intuition about the forest reminds me strongly of Myrion's reactions when they entered Arlathan Forest, but here it's less about a sense of hidden power and is more openly toxic and antagonistic. This, too, is the work of ancient elves. Just... angrier, more arrogant elves. (It's interesting to note that Nevarra's biggest forest, the Planasene Forest, carries the ancient name for Nevarrans. Once upon a time, if we go back far enough, this wasn't Nevarra—but was evidently a key location for the ancient elves themselves.)
  • As soon as the two Wardens encounter hidden violence in the forest, there is a scent of "the sea on a stagnant day." As they are far from the sea and evidently nowhere near the coast (so are evidently pretty far north in the forest, if it is the Planasene), Ramesh is understandably freaked out.
  • Ramesh notes that the Deep Roads are closer to the surface here than they are in most of the rest of Thedas. This is a fascinating detail for me. Did we know this before about Nevarra?
  • Friedl, the rescued Warden, just says, over and over again: "We didn't know. And now we do. Oh, yes—we know better. They taught us, gave us a lesson." Hellooooo, Evanuris.
  • After revealing that she has clawed out her own eyes (!), Friedl turns to Ramesh and says that they need to leave this place "to her, to them!" Oh, man. This is good stuff. To her: And of course, it seems obvious in retrospect that the "she, or her," is ancient elven Evanuris and semi-goddess Ghilan'nain.
Why It's Ghilan'nain (It's SO TOTALLY Ghilan'nain)
Evidently not even the halla were safe from Ghilan'nain's experimentation...
 it's really upsetting! (Hush, little halla, you didn't hear this...)

So let me count the ways:

  • As we know, according to a Codex entry from the Temple of Mythal, Ghilan'nain was always a monster-maker, and she did actually make monsters, giants, and twisted creatures of air, earth and sea in the ancient days, that she later destroyed at Andruil's urging.
  • However she did not obliterate all of the monsters, most notably, those of the deepest parts of the sea, and—wait for it—you guys, it's too perfect—"Pride stayed her hand." Pride!

    I'm not sure this actually means SOLAS literally stopped Ghilan'nain from killing her sea monsters, but it's a fun idea -- maybe he just has a soft spot for giant squid? 

    MASKED WAITER: Table for Pride?
    SOLAS: Oh, yeah, sure. Pride. That's me.
    WAITER: Right this way!
    SOLAS: Thank you.
    WAITER: Would you like tea to start your meal?
    SOLAS: NO. I despise tea.
    WAITER: Dude, I make minimum wage and there's a pandemic on.
    SOLAS: Please forgive my rudeness. Water would be fine. Also, I will be ordering the calamari appetizer.
    WAITER: Very good, sir.
  • In some Dalish stories, Ghilan'nain is wounded and blinded by a hunter she cursed, and turned by Andruil into the first halla. Interestingly enough, only then is she raised from mortal to 'immortal' or godlike status. As always with the Dalish, we need to view this story as a twist or warped reflection of what actually happened.
  • Further, Ramesh dreams of Jovis, and in the dream, Jovis is blinded just as Friedl had been.
  • Don't forget that Ghilan'nain is also directly implicated (if we drank from the Well of Sorrows) in spurring a sacrilegious attempt by a 'sinner' who followed Dirthamen to take on the "forbidden" (draconic?) form of the gods. The act prompted swift anger and judgment from Mythal at levels unusual to her, so I always see this as one of the earliest attempts at active rebellion against Mythal, in which Ghilan'nain perhaps was testing the waters.
  • Ghil was the beloved of Andruil, whom Mythal pretty famously punished in a post-abyssal beatdown and then mindwiped. For that and other reasons, I could totally see Ghil being one of the first Evanuri to join Andruil as a major antagonist to Mythal after that (given Andruil's legendary hatred of Fen'Harel, I think she has to be his primary antagonist).
  • There is a symbol—the horns of a halla—repeating everywhere on the columns in the ancient elven chamber discovered by Lesha and Ramesh. The symbol seems to shift in a creepy and magical way out of the corner of the eye.
So yep. It's Ghil. Onward!

Just a reminder that the Qunari aren't the only ones
capable of creating explosives...
More Revelations
  • Ramesh's emotions are so bittersweet and sad, and his regrets are palpable. Over and over again, he revisits his chances with Jovis, even still carrying around the last note of love and hope Jovis had once sent him. I find the emphasis on regret interesting, as it carries us forward nicely (and thematically) into the next story, Lukas Kristjanson's "Callback" (but more on that in a future entry).
  • Lesha and Ramesh use ancient dwarven lyrium charges (like lyrium grenades) to access the deeper parts of Hormok's secrets. I completely forgot that we learned about these in Inquisition.
  • As they begin the descent from dwarven ruins to ancient elven ones, Lesha notices ancient carvings of three figures—"a supplicant, a priestess, and a monster." Ramesh notes that the beings are elven, but Lesha notes that the carvings themselves are dwarven. The series of carvings changes subtly as they go along, so that the priestess looks more and more cruel in each one, and the monster more and more changed.
  • For me, this story doubles down on the shared history of elves and dwarves that we glimpsed in DAI, as it notes casually that Wardens have always found a mixture of elven architecture way down in the Deep Roads, and further ties together and further bolsters my own theory that the dwarves were created as sort of mindless slave-worker bees for the elves themselves, meant to live lifetimes of toil underground, and perhaps only later freed by the death of a titan (my theory—the one that Mythal killed, which I posit was a self-sacrifice and mercy-killing). I further think this is what broke their 'hive mind' while also breaking their link to the Fade (alternative option: Mythal did it for them). But I haven't really organized those theories yet, so just ignore me.
  • In the next-to-last chamber, a gigantic and beautiful, awe-inspiring place, Ramesh notes the exquisite wall carvings, bas-reliefs in three parallel bands around the entire chamber. As in the Temple of Mythal, these are actually mosaics of tiny gemstones.

Let's look at the carvings with Ramesh, shall we?

  1. The topmost band depicts noble ancient elven royalty and respectful supplicants.
  2. The middle band depicts elven mages apparently healing and comforting the sick and dying.
  3. The bottom-most band shows incredibly elaborate ancient aravels being pulled by armies toward the mountains (including the very mountains above them now).
  4. Upon closer examination, the bands begin to appear vaguely wrong and corrupt, even frightening. The halla have "too many horns" and look "insectile." The aravels are not grand landships after all, but are revealed to be prison vessels with barred windows. And the mages aren't healing people, but corrupting them. And the elven rulers are increasingly shown to be contemptuous, arrogant, and disgusted with their cowering and terrified subjects.

    Is the yellow-greenish lyrium an important clue here?
    So let's look at these revelations: The Evanuris were imprisoning their own people and apparently dragging them to these different locations in order to corrupt and mutate them, building some kind of secret army. We already know from Inquisition that several of the 'gods' (Falon'Din, cough) also loved sacrificing large numbers of their subjects just for the fun of it. And of course, here, we also see that the Evanuris were also actively corrupting (not healing) their own people in further experimentation, leading massive armies to bring their prison ships to their doomed final destinations.

    Nah, that's not disturbing at all. (Seriously, Evanuris people, what was WRONG with you?)

    Wait, Where Have We Heard This Before...?

    Last but not least on this thoughtline is that it offers perhaps the subtlest of hints on another race in Thedas: The Kossith/Qunari. Who also can have varying numbers of horns, and whose origins Bull mused about in Dragon Age: Inquisition, wondering if the Qunari shared some dragon blood somehow:

    BULL: "Well, you know how we have horns? We kind of look more... dragony than most people. Maybe it's that.....But a few of the Ben-Hassrath have this crazy old theory. See, the tamassrans control who we mate with. They breed us for jobs like you'd breed dogs or horses. What if they mixed in some dragon a long time ago? Maybe drinking the blood, maybe magic. I don't know. But something in that dragon we killed... spoke to me."

    To me, this is a pretty big potential additional hint that the Qunari may in fact be the descendants of one of Ghilan'nain's first experimentations at combining or corrupting races or species.
More Lore Notes:
  • The corrupted, insectile halla are disturbing to consider. If there is any animal supposedly sacred to Ghilan'nain, and to the elves past and present, it is the halla, and yet here we see that she even warped the halla into monstrosities. This hit me as a truly profane and grotesque act. Just imagine how the Dalish would react!
  • The final chamber's lyrium glows with a "sickly" light that is, interestingly enough, not blue (or red), but yellow and green.
  • There's a lot of body horror in the final chamber—monsters warped and assembled grotesquely out of 'parts' to create a corrupted and terrifying army. But we do learn that the Darkspawn monsters are changed/warped simply by contact with the viscous pool, whereas Jovis tells Ramesh that the Wardens (and presumably all thinking or higher beings) had to actually drink from it to be transformed.
  • Jovis seems to imply that Ghilan'nain is doing all this with a purpose, but that she must be fought, and her chamber of horrors buried and destroyed: "She cannot have it. Not again. Locked for a reason."

    Locked—by a certain Dread Wolf, one assumes.
  • It's interesting to note that if you examine a map of Thedas (here's one of my favorites, a fantastically detailed, zoomable version thanks to The Wyrd Sisters of Thedas), there is a Grey Warden Prison located in the central Vimmarks, just Northeast of the Planasene Forest. Which further makes me think that's the general area of this story's setting, as it involves multiple Grey Warden parties scouting the area. This also gives Ramesh a believable and easily accessible place to which he can return with his sad (and scary) news.
  • Ramesh's horrified realization that this was just one of twelve different chambers of ancient horrors, and that there are eleven remaining under eleven other distinct mountain peaks, definitely gives me further food for thought.

Which mountains? My totally wild guesses, just using proximity of peaks/mountains to ancient elves, dwarves, or general Thin Veil Spots, might include: 
Time to take a closer look at the mountains of Thedas...

  1. A peak in the Hunterhorn Mountains in far Western Thedas (perhaps near Kal-Sharok and the Blasted Hills)
  2. The White Spire peak, North of Brynnlaw, and East of Arlathan Forest. (For me this one's almost a certainty. It's a lonely mountain near the most ancient elven location in all Thedas!)
  3. A mountain in the Gamordan Peaks in far Southwestern Orlais—perhaps even near Mont de Glace ("Ice Mountain"), another solo peak?
  4. In the Southern Frostback Mountains, perhaps farther East, towards Valammar? (I don't think there's one near Skyhold, because Solas would not have chosen an 'unclean' area for his castle.)
  5. Near Bownammar (Dead Trenches), Southeast of Lothering, Northwest corner of the Southron Hills. There are Elven ruins not far away to the Northeast, as well.
  6. A peak in The Hundred Pillars between Tevinter and Antiva. There's access to a ton of ancient elven locations to the West, and it's perfectly situated to cause trouble.
  7. Soldier's Peak (The Coastlands, Southeast of Highever, and directly West of Amaranthine)
  8. Talo's Eye, a lone peak in the Northeastern Anderfels
  9. Arl Dumat, a lone peak below the Urthemiel Plateau (Northwest of the Forbidden Oasis)
  10. Perhaps another near The Colossus and Kal Repartha in the Northwest Hissing Wastes
  11. With so many ancient ruins, there's got to be something near the Arbor Wilds, perhaps in the Uncharted Territories.

Final Musings

This last revelation of eleven more locations is quite the bombshell. If these things are scattered across Thedas in eleven other places, it's pretty freaking terrifying! It's basically eleven massive, ancient Elvhen bombs waiting to detonate. It would make the "Dragon's Breath" plot by the Qunari look like child's play in comparison. (NEW: The very smart and helpful Q. McLamore on Twitter also reminded me of the crucial lore that since Origins, we have heard rumor of "Twelve great Thaigs" in history past. Which is so exciting and maddening!)

All of this brings up further questions for me, as well. First and foremost, why were the Evanuris seeding terror, corruption and death across all of Thedas thousands of years ago, creating monstrous armies-in-waiting?

Was this in reaction to Mythal and Solas's division from their ranks? Or a reaction to something bigger, or something they simply anticipated? Remember, at this point, elves ruled everything. So why do this? What were they so afraid of? And why would beings that valued power, beauty, life and learning (according to the Shattered Library) so allow themselves to be twisted by arrogance that they would become creators of monstrous death? Or were they so bored with immortality at this point that it was just one more way to create drama and kick an anthill on the most massive scale? 

All of this is possible. Especially since I've always believed that Andruil created (or sparked the awakening of) the Blight and Darkspawn after becoming blighted and insane in the Abyss. So it certainly sounds like she and monster-making Ghilan'nain were a match made in heaven, if so.

If nothing else, "Horror of Hormak" pretty definitively backs up Solas's
account that the Evanuris were evil and needed to be stopped.
These revelations about the corruption and cruelty of the Evanuris also serve another purpose—they independently confirm Solas's revelations in "Trespasser" that he was fighting against beings who had become evil and corrupt with power. Which I already believed, based on what we were presented, and based on the revelations of the Codices, the Well of Sorrows, Solas's ancient tower mosaics, and the dialogues with Flemeth. However, whether or not Solas was telling the truth has still been a topic for frequent debate since "Trespasser"—understandably so—and yet here we have the Evanuris seemingly confirming those facts with their own hands, deeds, and mosaics.

This is especially important, to me, because it's continuing to keep Solas balanced between hero and villain, emphasizing Solas's complexity as a character (and confirming that his origins were pretty undeniably heroic). The people who created this chamber, who carved those carvings, who murdered Mythal, who enslaved their own people, who treated the dwarves like mindless things, who siphoned off the blood of Titans—these people deserved to be stopped.

The 'horror' of Hormok is that the ancient evanuris appear to be even worse than Solas described them. They were not gods, but monsters.

But what do you think?

Thanks as always for checking this out. I'll be taking a look at "Callback" next in the series (get out your handkerchiefs, people!). Meanwhile, stay safe out there.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Castles, Fennecs, and Player Engagement (Talking with the Weekses, Part 4)

Karin and Patrick Weekes sat down to talk to me for three glorious hours just before Dragon Age Day 2019,
and this is the fourth and final transcription segment! (Image courtesy of Patrick and Karin Weekes)

Hello, you beautiful Thedosians!

I hope you're all well and safe and happy out there, despite pandemics and social isolation and our weird, scary world.

In hopes that it will provide a little fun and sunshine, here's—AT LAST!—that fourth and final transcribed part of my interview with Karin Weekes (Lead Editor at BioWare) and Patrick Weekes (Lead Writer on the Dragon Age franchise), from way back for Dragon Age Day this past December 4! (Seriously, I'm so sorry again that this took me so long.)

For the other previous interview segments, please check out Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here

Here in this last interview segment, we get into some really fun final questions, as well as a lightning round that I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed discussing it with Patrick and Karin. It was ridiculously fun, and you'll learn some of their own personal favorite game choices, who they'd romance (and, fabulously, whether or not they would say katoh), and much more.

So here goes! (And please do be prepared for MASSIVE spoilers, as always, on game plots, choices, and outcomes!)

ME: So I've prepared a silly little lightning round for you guys if you want to play—and answer some really stupid questions...


Yay! Okay, here we go... Mages or Templars?

KARIN: Wait! Wait, okay, before we do that—so can we extend this even further? 

Because there was one question that you sent us that we talked about that Patrick and I were really excited about...

Oh, good! And of course!

PATRICK: Also, you should probably check your mail...

I click over and sure enough, Patrick has e-mailed me the picture of Smokey the cat climbing on Karin's shoulder. Best day ever!

Aw, kitty and Karin alert! Thank you for sending that.

PATRICK: Our other interview participant.

Smokey meows again, and Karin laughs.

That's a good one. My Batty has run for the wilds of the living room, meanwhile, because I'm laughing too much.

Meanwhile, which was the question that I skipped that you wanted to answer?

KARIN: The one about tabletop gaming?

Oh, good! I loved that one, I was just afraid of monopolizing your time... 

KARIN: We were excited about that one!

So was I! Okay, so you're both vocal tabletop gamers on social media, and other BioWare folks have talked about its advantages for those looking to go into game development. How do you feel tabletop gaming can hone valuable skills there?

KARIN: So I came to tabletop gaming a bit later in life than a lot of people. The first time I played was Vampire: The Gathering when I was in university, and it was with a bunch of theatre friends. And so I was just, "Yay! I'm gonna dress up like a vampire and drink wine and pretend it's blood, and hit people and wear leather and it's gonna be awesome!" 

I love this. I had a really big Anne Rice phase for 3 or 4 years after college, so you're painting a picture I know very well...

KARIN: It was great. And so my boyfriend, who was DMing for us, did my whole character sheet and tried to explain all the stuff to me, but I was, just, "Oh, numbers, numbers, numbers!" 

Patrick chuckles.

KARIN: So I came into it just, from a purely theatrical, "all about the character" point of view at first.

But as I gradually learned the whole "numbers, numbers, numbers" thing, I started appreciating that element as well. And I eventually realized that what's unique about character development in games is that they are gameplay pieces as well. So getting into tabletop gaming—in addition to the fabulous characters that, obviously, I had fun making up—it also got my brain to really realize how mechanics played into what was happening in the story as well.

I came into it from a more theatre perspective too, and only just this past few years.

KARIN: Really? 

Yeah. I was always too shy to play. But it's been amazing. First D&D (5e), then the Dragon Age RPG.

KARIN: I really loved the mechanics. Not just creating a cool character, but creating a cool character who would be a decent rogue, or a great mage. And then sort of fleshing out who they are as a character-slash-person, and how that also plays into the mechanics of the game. I found that kind of fun, and I just kept playing from there.


PATRICK: So my perspective... I've been gaming... I was a tabletop gamer for a long time, including Vampire: The Masquerade, D&D, and other stuff. But for me, I think that one skill that's really useful is, for me, recognizing that difference between when you are the DM, the GM, or the storyteller in a tabletop game, and when you are a narrative designer or a level designer in a video game.

In a video game, it's really easy to know where the rails are. To tell the player, "You can't go here." Because, in a video game, the character literally cannot go there. That door does not open. And if they try to keep running in that direction, they will just keep running against the shin-high wall that for some reason their character can't get over.


PATRICK: And so it's really easy to establish boundaries, and to let the player know, "Look, the only thing you for you to do right now, is to go attack the undead in that haunted castle."

But as a tabletop player, um, what I would encounter a lot as a DM, GM or storyteller, is that I'd go in and say, "Okay, people in the town are really worried, and in fact, some of them have fallen ill, and they say it's a curse placed by the undead in the castle..."

And what I'm expecting is that everyone then goes, "Great, then we go and attack the castle!" because that's what I have planned for. And instead, because it's a tabletop game with a much more inherently open-ended narrative, I have people saying, "You said people are sick? Can we go heal some of those people?"

And I'd be going, "Oof, uh... I guess?"

Everyone laughs.

PATRICK: Or they would say, "Hmmm, do we think the undead are doing it on purpose? Maybe we can go talk to them!" And I'd be, again, going, "Um, well, historically, undead don't really talk that much..." 

And they'd go, "Well, okay, do we maybe think that this is a curse caused by the undead? Or are the undead affected by the same curse? Maybe there's someone else doing this!" 

And it causes all of these things where, you know, I had to account for a lot of different player choices. And as a DM, what I've learned is, if I want the players to assault the castle full of undead, then what I have to do is make assaulting that castle of undead the most intuitive—and coolest!—thing that they can possibly do. 


PATRICK: But, as a video game designer, I don't necessarily—I don't have to do that—but if you don't do it, you run into players going, "Well, I guess I'm going to go assault the castle full of undead, since I guess that's the only direction I can run in..." But in doing that, they're not necessarily as emotionally engaged, because they just spent thirty seconds trying to go see if they could heal the sick people, or if they could investigate the origins of the curse, and instead they found out they couldn't do that. So they've realized they're in a game, and their suspension of disbelief is broken...

Which you don't want.

PATRICK: Yeah. And they're kind of going forward because that's the only thing they can do...? And they're not as "in the moment."

So if you want players to be more emotionally engaged in a video game, the two things you can do are, first, explain the situation well enough. And don't explain it like I explained it ("go here and do that"), but say something like, "Undead are attacking every night. They hurt and kill people. And there are people who have been hurt badly by the illness, too, and every night has been worse. Now people are afraid that tonight, the undead are going to wipe them all out."

At which point, a lot of people—and hopefully, most people—will go, "Well, I think I'm gonna go and fight those undead, since it seems like the most heroic and cool thing to do."

But also, as a video game designer, understand that some people are gonna want to do more, to go see the sick people. And so, if you can do so without breaking the bank, add a room that says, "Yep, this is where the healer is dealing with the sick people." And where the sick people are saying, "I fought the undead to protect my family, but they injured me badly—I hope someone goes and kills them!"

So I'm still pointing players at the thing I want them to do, but now... if all they had before was a tactical reason to take action, now they have a personal reason... 

Right. So it's that much more powerful.

PATRICK: Exactly. So give them things like... "Those undead killed my husband!" or, "I think my daughter might be one of those undead, and I need to give her peace."

This way, now I've got more hooks. So it's a question of work I have to do, to engage the players—and also work I can do, that's going to get them more excited about playing the game.

So just as tabletop gaming actually opens you up to maximize choice within the game universe, you can bring some of that into video games and open things up for players, both literally and figuratively.


By the way, I was totally picturing the classic situation with the DM where, you know, you've come up with this great dungeon for that castle with the undead, you've got everything mapped, and all the minis prepped, and then the players go, "Well, I dunno, maybe we just shouldn't go there."

PATRICK (faux-casually): First? That sounds bad...

And then you as the DM, you pick your dungeon map and quietly scoot it aside... weeping internally... 

KARIN: And meanwhile have a couple of rounds of going, "No, but it's a really cool dungeon!"

PATRICK: Yeah, I've found if you actually take the minis out, that usually signals to the players that "Hey, you should really go there..." 

KARIN: It's not subtle, but it's effective.


And then I would imagine that also, this kind of approach where you provide players with multiple hooks to take action, that it conditions playersespecially people who may also be working to become developersthat it conditions them to examine choices, and then to maximize choices, maybe, even with limitations?

KARIN: And you're teaching them the limitations that are built into the process too. It's kind of like figuring out where to put your choice money, because it's a game, and we have so much stuff to build, but only so many resources. So it really helps you learn to work within what we're talking about here, to work within constraints. 

And it helps you learn how to make cool things within those constraints. Or, hopefully cool things. Or, um, at least somewhat cool things.

Everyone laughs.

And it alsoI would imaginewould signal to you guys that, "Yes, this person is a serious gamer at heart." It's all about gaming. It's all about emotion. So I love those concepts and have been fascinated by the idea and by the growing realization that one form of gaming can make you better at another, completely different, form of gaming.

PATRICK: It definitely does.

KARIN: Definitely does.

There is a funny rumbling sound on the audio, just as Patrick says...

PATRICK: So is the purring loud enough that you can actually hear it in your audio?

Yes! I was just wondering what that was. Is that the furry person from the e-mail you sent? And which of your cats is that? 

KARIN: This is Smokey. 

PATRICK: Yeah, that's Smokey.

Oh, wait, that's right! You shared pictures ofI think it was, Smokey, and... Inky? On Twitter!


PATRICK: Smokey and Inky are the two younger ones. 

Aw... I'm a sucker for cats.

PATRICK: He's the doofus who...

KARIN: He basically exists on this planet for people to be super-excited about seeing him. 

PATRICK: He's NOT shy...

KARIN: And he's got the loudest purr in existence...

I love cats. I lost one of mine very suddenly about a month or so agoFrodoand I'm still not over it. 

KARIN: Oh, no!

PATRICK: That's so difficult.

Yeah, I know it's part of life as a pet owner, but it's such a gut punch. I still have Batty, his sweet tiny littermate. But yeah, if Frodo was still with me, let's just say he would have challenged Smokey's purr on whose was loudest. 

Meanwhile, as I look back, I want to make sure I didn't skip anymore fun questionswas there anything else that you were looking forward to talking about that I skipped over?

KARIN: Thank you for letting us talk about tabletop.

I'm so glad that you did! Because I didn't want to, you know, be repetitive or boring, so I just went, "You know, I've talked to them an awful lot today at this point, so they'd probably like for me to skip a few here..." 

KARIN: No, don't skip them!

In that case, I do have one other surprise question. Who came up with Corypants's striped Wicked Witch of the West stockings? Because that is so amazing and fabulous. I mean, come on... it was genius.

KARIN: Let's see, that was an artist... I don't remember who came up with it, but it was gorgeous.

It's the best thing ever. Those screen shots when he's flying through the air and we can really see not just the stockings, but the heels too! Cory's a diva at heart. He's got a sense of style, darn it.

KARIN: Yeah.

PATRICK: It's great.

KARIN: I hate that I don't remember. They definitely deserve credit. 

Can I ask one more lore question, y'all? OKAY... So. About dying in the Fade...


It's very funny.

Historically, death in the Fade seems to cause Tranquility, not death. But yet... Felassan died in the Fade... and some of us are, let's just say, hoping against hope that we might, er, see him again. Are we... stupid? (Wait, you don't have to answer that one!)

But, seriously, was that something by the way that was mysteriously more expanded on or more defined in Inquisition? It seemed clear to me that Felassan died in the Fade and that Cole even confirmed it. You know what I'm talking about...

PATRICK: (happily) Mmm-hmm?

Karin laughs (and pretty much just giggles through the next 5 minutes, which just makes it funnier).

I mean, yeah, at the end of, like, a certain, book, maybe... I don't know why I'm keeping it vague, this entire conversation is full of spoilers!

PATRICK: Wait, what? A character died in the FADE? What??

I know! So, fine, go ahead and laugh... 

PATRICK: The hilarious part is that this question did take me a second, because we've never said his name out loud, in the game, and...

Oh no! Did I say it wrong? (I cringe inwardly, because, honestly, I have been saying "Fel-ASS-an" this entire time...)

PATRICK (trying to be kind): Um, well, yes, I do say "Fel-ass-AHN," but my way is NO BETTER than your way! 

Oh my God.

PATRICK: No, really, there is no canonical way to say it.

No, not at all, I've just been saying the name of an ancient elf like he's some guy from Georgia who used to fix my Mom's truck... not that there's anything wrong with that.

KARIN (even more kindly than Patrick): I think your way is easier to say.

No, it's much prettier y'all's way. (I realize with dawning horror that the accent has kicked in and now it will not leave.)

KARIN: I mean, Fel-ASS-an? I'd totally tell the actress or actor to say it that way.

PATRICK (finally sounding a little pained): Noooo...


PATRICK: Okay. So—yes. The canonical answer is that there IS no canonical answer, at least in the case of one particular Slow Arrow. If we—hmm. Okay, I would say—because we can give a glimpse behind the scenes... hmm... let me think of how much to say here.

They think for a second, then speak slowly and carefully.

PATRICK: All right. By the rules, as written, of the world as we understand it, yes, Felassan, would have been rendered Tranquil, and not killed... 


PATRICK: However... if there is one person currently operating in Thedas today who would be able to break that rule and flat-out kill him, rather than just rendering him Tranquil (from the Fade), it would be, of course, Solas.

Which totally makes logical sense to me, as well.


And yet, behind the curtain... If we decide, "Hey, very few people really remember Felassan, we're probably not gonna bring him up again," then he would probably have just died. 

But—we could also go, "You know, he would be the perfect person to reveal this mole or to serve as an important character for this or that," and then in that case, well, we do have the way out of, "Yep! So maybe he's just Tranquil, and we've now got a potential way to reverse Tranquility, so we can actually undo that, anytime we need..."

KARIN: It may be one of those hooks that we were talking about where we try to leave ourselves a little bit of leeway...


PATRICK: So what it really can come down to is, like, "If enough people care about this, then this is a hook. If not, then the problem takes care of itself."

I mentally launch a massive worldwide #SAVEFELASSAN campaign (in which I also help people pronounce it right)... 

Thank you for thatand it's great to get that peek behind the curtain, seeing some of those discussions and possibilities. 

PATRICK: It's always fun to do that.

And so now I thought I'd go to my incredibly silly lightning round of questions, if that's okay? 

PATRICK: Lightning round!

Are you guys ready?

KARIN: Go for it.

Yay! Okay... SO... What's your current mood?

TOTAL, total silence. 

Like, 5 seconds of silence.

Then we all crack up.

Wow! You know, I admit it, I didn't anticipate that that question would be the tough one!

PATRICK: All hail the slowest lightning round in world history.

KARIN: It's so true! But... In our defense, it's really cold up here. 

(This conversation took place in late November in Edmonton, to remind readers...)

And you're probably tired, too. It's the weekend!

KARIN: Honestly, my current mood is enjoyment. I'm having a great time, and enjoying doing this. This is so fun. 

Aw, man. Thank you!

KARIN: And grateful—for the chance to talk about this stuff.

PATRICK: I just... that was mine. That was my mood.

KARIN: I just stole Patrick's mood!


They laugh.


Next! What's the word out there?

KARIN: What's the word?

(Sheepishly) Like, how the Inky always asks Cabot "What's the word?" and then he gives them an actual word.

PATRICK: Lugubrious.

Good one.

KARIN: I'm going to say the same word.

Yeah, that was a really good one. Okay, moving on: Mages or Templars?

PATRICK and KARIN (in unison): Mages.

Oh, thank you. (No judgment to those who choose Templars...)

I am not biased in any way.

Okay. Dark ritual or Ultimate Sacrifice?

PATRICK (almost instantly): Ultimate sacrifice. For me.

KARIN (more slowly): Yeah... 

(I'm shocked, and also possibly reveal that I am a secret Slytherin...) Really??

KARIN: Yeah, no, I do have to really pause and think about it, and go, "You know, but... yes. Ultimate sacrifice.

PATRICK: Okay. So. 

KARIN: Because, yeah.

PATRICK: But, for me, Origins... See, there's this thing, of "Here's what I was supposed to do as a Grey Warden," but there's a cheat, a way around it... 

Which was why I did it so fast! I didn't want to die!

PATRICK: And, let's be honest, the kind-of-untrustworthy witch tells me to do it? It just seemed really suspicious.

It did. It totally did.

PATRICK: It just seemed really, really shady. 

And, well, and you guys know better than anybodywe still don't know the outcome of that, and that everything's okay. I mean, hey, BAD THINGS COULD STILL HAPPEN...

PATRICK: Er, yeah.


PATRICK: Ultimately, I am just a sucker for the Noble Sacrifice.

KARIN (chuckling): Just a little bit!

PATRICK: So that's not... it's not a difficult question for me.

KARIN: I always have to contemplate if it's the right decision, even though it's always the noble sacrifice, though...

I did do it once. I did the noble sacrifice after Alistair dumped my Warden, and I was, like, "Really? I am gonna make you suffer, bro," and so...

I do love Alistair, and I also played outcomes where he married my Warden and became King or stayed a Grey Warden. Yet still, it was very satisfying. He looked so sad. One of my favorite gaming moments. Just imagining his guilt forever and ever after that.

Although, looking back... I think now that I must have been preparing myself for the future and a certain elf...

They both snicker as unsympathetically as ever.

Moving on: So... Live Zevran or Dead Zevran?


KARIN (very unhappy): How can you even ASK that?!

I know! But... it's a choice, it's out there... And yeah. I know it's evil.

KARIN: Just for interim talks, if nothing else, because...

Yeah, and Jon Curry is amazing in that part, too.

Image courtesy of Jon Curry
KARIN: Yeah, he's so good!

Jon participated with us in Dragon Age Day last year, and for 2019 took part once again by donating some signed photos and greetings—he's really funny and personable. And when I reached out last year for our first Dragon Age Day, I'd e-mailed asking him to take part in any way he'd want, and congratulating him on his work as the Inquisitor. Just... the Inquisitor.

KARIN: Oops.

Yeah. It was embarrassing. Because of course, he then sent me back a two-line e-mail, which said, one, "Hey, what about Zevran!?" and two, "Of course I'll help." I was mortified, but he was a really good sport. And of course, all the people who won his signed photo charity auctions, they all wanted Zevran quotes on them, because come on... it's Zevran.

ONWARD! Okay. Favorite animal in Thedas?

PATRICK: Fennec!

KARIN: Yeah! Because fennecs are... just the cutest.

They are. But it's also horrible. Because I love playing mages, so I'm always firing off fireballs right left and center, accidentally exterminating poor innocent fennecs, rams, and nugs... sigh.

KARIN: We've all been there. Yeah.

Next. What color is your Hawke?

PATRICK: Purple.

KARIN: I think—we were talking about this earlier, and I think that ALL of the writers picked purple.

PATRICK: Every single one.

All hail Purple Hawke! Meanwhile, sorogues, mages, or warriors?

PATRICK: I really love the idea of rogue. And then I die constantly as a rogue. 

I'm okay if I'm ranged, like an archer. But I can't do daggers or dual wielding.

PATRICK: I am much better as a mage. I actually have a really good ability to be a support character in games—

KARIN: Which is good, because I'm a WARRIOR!

Patrick chuckles.

Right! Because you're out there with an ax!


PATRICK: Okay, so I'm super not good at some stuff...

KARIN: He needs to be rescued all the time!

PATRICK: Yep. I do.

I do sympathize. I mean, I can't do melee at all.

KARIN: I do try to play rogue but then, I'm just—I'm just terrified.

I'm the worst in the world. I actually wince for my character's companions if I have to play warrior or tank. Because they are not surviving.

Next! Qun or Tal-Vashoth?

PATRICK and KARIN (in unison): Tal-Vashoth...

I admit it, that was a bad question. But I had to do it. Even if it probably wasn't a mystery. Let's redeem this: Favorite mount!

KARIN: I'm just going to go with the halla just for the noises alone. Just imagining riding along on the halla and listening to it go (she imitates the squeaky whinnying noise)... 

PATRICK: For me it would be a griffon.

Oh, that would be...

KARIN: Well, obviously if there were griffons... 

PATRICK (teasing her): Well, she didn't specify within the GAME, so...

KARIN: Well, fuck, then—(she pauses) Oh, God, oops, I'm sorry!

Karin, hey, we've all said it!

KARIN: Let me just say, that IF GRIFFONS WERE AN OPTION, I would have picked a griffon!

Patrick is laughing at her through all of this.

KARIN: I was attempting to work within a narrow set of ...

PATRICK: Working within Inquisition's set of options...

You were staying lore-appropriate!

KARIN: Although... Luke [Kristjanson] was telling me the other day that there were six different nuggalope mounts... SIX.


KARIN: I just didn't realize there were six different nuggalopes!

PATRICK: Wow. And yeah, we did do that... See, when I'm talking about non-VO text and stuff? See, that is where Luke was just like, going, "Oh, yeah, see, I CARE about this!"

They both laugh.

PATRICK: And then, if I'm remembering right... the reason we have the nuggalope mount [in Inquisition] is that he made a deal with Matt Goldman, who was the art director at the time, and who is now our creative director on the franchise going forward—he made a deal with Matt, who wanted the "Quizquisition..."

Oh, that's perfect.

PATRICK: So the deal was...

KARIN: I did not know that. I did not know that!

PATRICK: The deal was, that Luke made Trifles Minutiae... 

Yeah, we've met, Trifles and me... 

PATRICK: And Luke was like, "Sure! I'll make that!" and then... in return... we got the nuggalope...

KARIN: That is amazing. That is amazing. And it was a pretty good deal.

That's an amazing detail. I love that. 

Meanwhile, for me, as far as mounts go, I'd like a dragon if we're going off-lore, but otherwise, the war nug. Meanwhile... what do you name your Mabari?

PATRICK: I prefer ridiculous names, so...I always go with something like, "Grimfang...?"

That's a good one. It's a very Farmer Maggot name.

KARIN: Mine are ridiculous too, but... 

PATRICK: Yours are more... fluffy?

KARIN: Yeah. I want to say that mine was Ser Schmooples or something? Something along those lines. 

Mine's always Barkwise. 


KARIN: I remember when we were testing them, that we were all making as many terrible puns as we could...

As you do...

KARIN: And pretty soon the consensus was Barkspawn.

Barkspawn! Everybody loves the Barkspawn moniker. That's definitely canon.


Moving on, who's your favorite Dragon Age NPC?

KARIN: Oh, that's an incredibly hard question to answer. I mean, I'm personally... I'm partial to Flemeth, because... 

Oh, I love Flemeth...  

KARIN: ... I am starting to identify with old ladies who get angry enough to turn into dragons... and that is also honestly life goals for me...

Patrick is audibly chuckling through all of this, which is really fun.

As it should be for all of us.

KARIN: Yeah. And... also Varric. Wait, is that okay?


PATRICK: Well, then if we can include followers [game companions], can we...?

Yeah, go for it.

KARIN (teasing): No! We're not including followers!

PATRICK: Okay, first off, Minaeve. I was blanking on her name for a second.

Minaeve (my pronunciation: Min-AVE)! I love her. She has the most beautiful voice and accent.

PATRICK: No, MIN-aeve. This time the accent's on the first syllable.

Oh, no, I did it again! I'm not a very good elf so far, dammit. 

Okay. MIN-aeve. Anyway, I love her. I'm always sorry to lose her as a daily contact after Skyhold.

PATRICK: Mostly because she led to the quests beyond. 

Because, I was working on Minaeve. And I came home, and Karin asked how my day was, and I said, "Oh, it was really great! You know, I've been working with David, and doing all these kind of, flavor, smaller, characters, and I got a chance to write a character that just really worked for me!"

And then Karin says, without missing a beat, "What, let me guess, she's a lore-slash-tech expert with a cute accent?"

And I went, "You suck."

Karin laughs gleefully.

PATRICK: And I went, "No, she doesn't have an accent!" Then, "Uh, no wait, she's Dalish, she does have an accent..."

The best burn I've ever received. It was amazing.

KARIN: Well... I thought you did it really well, but it needed pointing out...

Laughter from all.

PATRICK: See, that part of home, it can be an extension of the writer's pit, in the best way... I mean, when someone delivers a burn that good, you just have to go, "Yep, okay, point carried..."

All right, then moving on, let's talk about it: Cheese. I mean, what's the deal? Just... so many cheese wheels... what's up with that? I mean, yes, there can never be too much cheese, but... 

KARIN: We don't even know how that got started.

PATRICK: Right. I'm not sure either! And now that the cheese is indelibly attached to the core underpinnings of our IP...

KARIN: Yep...

PATRICK: There would be a loss... a total collapse... if you took that cheese out.

There would. I agree.

KARIN: We were at an expo a few years ago, and... a woman showed up dressed up in character, a perfect cosplay, and with a giant cheese wheel that she had lovingly crafted. And it was BEAUTIFUL...

Aw... did it have a wedge taken out of it and everything?

KARIN: Oh, yeah.


Oh, man. That's the best.

KARIN: Amazing.

That's awesome.

Onward... do you kill nugs or not kill nugs? Some people do farm them...

KARIN: No! No! Not on purpose!

PATRICK: Who would kill NUGS?

Look, I mean... I had to ask!

KARIN: Okay, so you know when they added the Golden Nug for Inquisition? Because of my love for nugs, I want you to know that I was not okay with that...

See, I just thought it was an appropriate tribute to a superior life form... 

PATRICK: The saddest part of Inquisition is... is when you cast Chain Lightning or something... and... you know... 

Yeah. And I still feel guilt about it, every time.

PATRICK: But I'm not done. That's not the saddest part... The saddest part is where it doesn't kill the nug, it just hits them for a tiny amount, and then you have sweet, gentle Cole, who would never, ever, actually do this...

I know where this is going...

PATRICK: ...but who is triggered by party AI to attack whoever the Inquisitor attacks... and then...

Karin is giggling out loud through this entire thing...

PATRICK: And who then... well, let's just say that sweet, gentle Cole launches a full Ninja Death on the wounded nug, and... then you're left going, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?"

And, yeah, I always feel bad when it happens.

PATRICK: You? What about ME? I turned my little baby into a murderer!

And then he gives the death blow to the poor hapless nug or fennec or ram and goes, "You cahn't hurt meee!" And I'm like, "Oh, Cole. We need to talk."

Then Dorian just triumphantly screams at a crispy defenseless nug-shaped piece of charcoal: "DIE!"

KARIN: It's not right. But... can I just confess? When it comes to the multiplayer characters, meanwhile? Zither is the absolute best.

Oh, I love Zither. Zither is honestly the whole reason to multiplayer, for me.

KARIN: Yeah. And Zither really gets me. I love Zither.

Next question: Wine, ale, or maraas-lok?

KARIN: Wine.

PATRICK: I mean...

KARIN: Patrick doesn't drink alcohol, so... but look, I'm old enough that in my twenties, right, I might've... given maraas-lok a try...?


KARIN: But... like, I don't think that would be a good idea in my current place in life.

Um, I'm with you. And I play the Dragon Age RPG tabletopand, um, because of my blog and stuff, all of my friends in the group keep thinking that my character is just going to be this badass when it comes to marass-lok, and I'm like, dudes, she's an elf. She has little itty bitty stick arms. She's never gonna imbibe like a Qunari.

So every once in awhile, I'm always like, "Can she just have some WATER?"

KARIN: Talk about living through your fictional destiny...

Yeah, but I'm okay with that, and hey, she's funny... and building up a tolerance...

Onward! Now here's a fun one: So, Katoh? Yes or No?

PATRICK (very formally, and it's very funny): So... WE think it's vitally important that safe words exist. And that they're an essential part of safe and consensual relationships.

I agree.

PATRICK: But also...

They pause dramatically.

PATRICK: "Katoh" is for wussies.

KARIN: What Patrick said. Also... we should probably ask, "in-game or out of game...?"

Everyone snickers.

You know what I wonder? Is, how many people out there have now made "katoh" their actual safe word? That's what I wonder. 

Because you know it's a thing. It's a thing I'm sure has already happened.

KARIN: You know, it would be a really good safe word!

I know, right? Because it's so specific! It's not like you're gonna just blurt that out. You're more likely to blurt out "amaretto" than "katoh."

KARIN: It depends on your feelings about liqueurs...

I still crack up meanwhile over the idea that Varric's was "Bianca," or Solas's was "Fade." Like Bull says in that scene, nobody would ever get anywhere...

KARIN: But you know what? I'm with you. I would like to hope that that has been a weirdly inspiring thing... 

Oh, I'm totally convinced of it. 

So... moving on... 'Human' or 'Spirit'?

PATRICK: For Cole?

Um (cough) possibly?

PATRICK and KARIN (in unison): Spirit.

That's me too.

KARIN: See, that's what, for me, makes Cole... inherently Cole...

So much.


KARIN: I mean, well, the combination.

PATRICK: Yeah. So he gets... it's definitely... yeah, that the... bad news... is that, well, definitely him being a 'spirit' makes him relate to YOU a little bit less...? 

Yes. Yeah, that's noticeable.

PATRICK: And his last conversation with you is a little bit... 

It's slightly remote.

PATRICK: It is. And that's sad, but even so, it works... in the same way that—well, for example, here's a situation. Something I did in my at-home playthrough... See, accidentally, like a dumbass, I did this thing...

They laugh.

PATRICK: I romanced Cassandra—and I LOVE Cassandra... 

Because she's amazing.

PATRICK: But I guess the choices that I made accidentally started putting Cassandra into the running for Divine... 


PATRICK: And then the worst thing in the world happened. Cassandra asked me my opinion, on whether I thought she should try for it, and whether I thought she would make a good Divine. 

And I knew that, logically, from outside the game, the correct thing for me to say for long-term happiness was "No, babe, you'd be a terrible Divine, let's you and me just go off and be happy!" 

But Cassandra was real enough to me as a person that I couldn't...

You couldn't do it!

PATRICK: I couldn't do it. I couldn't not support her in something that was important to her. So I swallowed my heart and—while still romancing her—said, "You'd be a really good Divine, and I support you in the things that are important to you."

And goddamn it, even though I did the War Table operation to make it NOT happen, she still freaking became Divine anyway. And somehow it still felt right for that to happen.

And so, to me, in the same way... yes, Cole becoming Spirit does make him relate to you a little bit less...

KARIN: But it's the best thing for him.

PATRICK: Yeah. To me, it's the best thing for him. 

Or, at least—just to be clear, that is—we are clearly in opinion territory here...

Right, absolutely.

KARIN: We're assuming all this is just our personal opinion territory here. 

We're totally just discussing your personal playthroughs and choices now.

PATRICK: Unlike, for instance, where I have certain opinions relating to the Chargers, where it's not opinion, it's just, "Someone is just objectively wrong if they pick this..."

Yep. Also this.

PATRICK: That's just important for me to say.

For me, I thought that 'Spirit' Cole was sadderpalpably sadderin that you feel a sense of loss at the end of "Trespasser," of actual loss.

KARIN: Yeah.

But to me it still felt more complicated and right. And I didn't like that he suffers, and how he suffersif he goes 'Human.' I feel like he's suffering pain that isn't his, for something that he didn't deserve to suffer for. 

And also, on the lighter side, I really love Krem with Maryden, because they're so cute together.

PATRICK: That is also true. Maryden, who has the most complex quantum romance state in the entire game! 

Because of all the different choices you have to make?

PATRICK: Because depending on your choices, she could be dating—okay, she could technically be dating no one, she could be dating Krem, she could be dating Cole, or she could be dating Zither.

Oh, that's right! I feel bad for forgetting about her dating Zither. I hadn't remembered that.

PATRICK: So with four different potential outcomes, Maryden has the most complex dating life in the entire Dragon Age IP.

I think she's actually an interesting character in her own right. I love that she's not quite the little sweetheart that she appears to be. She's got a little edge to her. 

PATRICK: Hey, she is an Orlesian bard...


PATRICK: You don't get to be an Orlesian bard just by collecting stamps.

Karin laughs.

And... segue to our next question! Kill? Or... Redeem?


KARIN: I mean, there's so many people you could kill!

Karin, see, you've already got the ax out. You're all ready!

KARIN: Well, it depends! Do they deserve it or not?

PATRICK: I mean, are we talking...?

Specifically, Solas. And also, anybody else.


KARIN: Um...

PATRICK: Well, Solas, I would redeem. Anybody else?

I mean, what do you think my answer is? Nobody's gonna be shocked at my answer. I mean, I wrote a whole blog about it, so...

PATRICK: You... did write a whole blog about it.

I think I'm at about 200,000 words at this point... my point of view is basically, the more words I write, the better our chances of saving Solas! Um. Yeah.

KARIN: Well, if we're talking about Solas, then, you need to have a third option, which is "Punch?"

Patrick laughs out loud.

Wait, Karin, do you punch Solas? Every time?

KARIN (happily): I do!

PATRICK: Wait. What? I didn't think you got low enough approval in your test to punch Solas...?

KARIN: Oh, I played MANY tests...

I can't do it! I can't punch Solas.

KARIN: I... enjoy punching Solas. When he's smarmy and condescending, I want very much to punch him.

PATRICK (grumbling): Oh, all right. Fine.

That is awesome. Oh, and what about Blackwall, you guys? What do you usually decide with him?

PATRICK: So, for Blackwall... when I said that Sheryl [Chee] was asking philosophical questions each time? The philosophical question for Blackwall is, "How big a mistake can someone make—how far into the darkness can someone go—and still come back and be redeemed?"

And for me, the answer was, "Less far than Blackwall goes." 


PATRICK: So... I still pick "Redeem" in most playthroughs because I'm a softie, but he would be—let's just say that in the playthroughs where I have done the "Kill" option with Blackwall, I don't feel bad about it.

I find this one the toughest in the game to some degree because there is no obvious right answer.

KARIN: I think I am on the legit "Redeem" side on this one. 

PATRICK: But SOLAS you want to punch? Okay.

KARIN: This is MY lightning round.

PATRICK: That's fair. This is your lightning round.

You know what sent me over the edge on Blackwall? I'd done a few playthroughs, and I had always given him the chance for atonement. Then I heard his banter with Cole, and realized that Blackwall was actually there on-site, he knew what was happening, he heard the children's voices... and he did nothing to stop it. That's when I just said, "Nope." I couldn't forgive him after that.

KARIN: That's fair.


Next! So is the cake truly a lie?

PATRICK: I don't think cake can ever be a lie.

KARIN: I like cake too much for it to ever be a lie. So even if it is, I don't want to believe it is.

PATRICK: Yeah. That.

By the way, I always love that Sten has that hidden little decadent side, or sweet side. I always think it's so moving in a way, that he loves cookies, and kittens, and flowers. He really is a softie.

KARIN: Speaking of cookies, Mary makes the BEST cookies. It's just, like, "Oh my God." 

PATRICK: Mary makes amazing cookies.

KARIN: She's a baker extraordinaire. 

PATRICK: Like, she'll just come in and be like, "Hey, I made fudge!" But it's not just fudge, it's mint fudge, and I'm going, "There's such a thing as mint fudge? Really?" 

KARIN: And it's so good. Always.

So she basically makes things that you didn't even know could exist, and they're even more delicious.


KARIN: Yes. She does.

And here's the last one... here goes... Enchantment?

KARIN and PATRICK (yelling in unison): ENCHANTMENT!

Everyone laughs.

And that is the end of my incredibly long list of questions! 

KARIN: And that was a good one to end on!

I just want to thank both of you so much, not just for taking part in Dragon Age Day this year, but also for all of the hard work that you and your team have put in. I hope you guys are starting to be aware of how much it means to so many people—including myself. 

We've been so delighted to celebrate you this year—to celebrate your work, your team, and to celebrate this great beautiful thing that you have all created, and that gives us so much joy. We love it so much that, er, some of us practically live there... And we wouldn't have it any other way.

KARIN: Well, again, it is our honor. 

PATRICK: We're a part of a very large team...


PATRICK: And getting the chance to represent them has been our privilege.

KARIN: Absolutely.

Well, you are all loved by many, many people across our world (as well as Thedas). And thank you both so much, this has been one of my favorite conversations of my life. I'm so grateful.

KARIN: Well, this has been really fun. I just hope the 15 hours of interview weren't too much...

Actually, it's two hours and forty-nine minutes and fifty one seconds of pure awesomeness.

And it could've been worse! I just want to remind you that I did actually have other Bull and Solas questions on the list, and no, I did not ask all of them.

KARIN (laughing): Well, it was funny, because when we got your questions, we were talking about, like, "Who would you romance?" and I actually had to note that I wouldn't romance Dorian or Bull anyway, because the two of them are so cute together, right?

They're adorable! (cough) Adoribull.

KARIN: I can't take them away from each other!

You know, though, I'm an optimist, and I still think my Bullmancer Inky, that she can make him happy. Or he can make him happyI've played them all. But I do love Dorian and Bull together, too. 

Speaking of which, I would love more of that in the futurelike, I also love that little Blackwall flirtation with Josie as well. I love all the little side stories that aren't always just about my character.

KARIN: Yeah.

Any hint that we have that these characters are living other lives...

KARIN: Lives outside of the main hero's! Yeah. That's been something that we're conscious of and that we would like to try to do a little bit better. 

It makes it more immersive. Meanwhile, Patrick, who would you romance?

PATRICK: Leliana.

KARIN: It's always Leliana.

PATRICK: Yeah. Leliana. And I really, really like Cassandra too.

I was really bummed, by the way, that my female Inky could not romance Cass.

PATRICK: Fair. And also maybe not the first time that we have heard this expressed.

I thought it might've come up once or twice for you guys.

KARIN: Really?

PATRICK: Not at all.

I mean, even in the prologue, she's leading us through the prologue, and I was just gazing at her. She's a gorgeous character and also a gorgeously designed character too.

KARIN: Yeah.

PATRICK: Yeah. I was like, "I know I'm your prisoner, but do you like tapas?"

Everyone chuckles.

PATRICK: Or, "Hey, I know a really good tapas place, it's not far from here!"

Now, see, that's me in the big Arishok fight. I'm running figure eights around pillars shrieking, "We could still have dinner! How do you feel about Chianti?"

PATRICK: Or, like, "Hey, how do you feel about a hugging contest?"

Right! "Surely we can resolve this in another, more positive, way?!"

KARIN: I have one more thing to tell you—an Arishok story. So—in the old building, at some point, they got these really cool, big vinyls, that they put up in all the different conference rooms. And there's a conference room called "Dreadnought," and it's a smaller conference room. And the vinyl they put up was the picture of the Arishok, and he's kind of sitting there, and his legs are akimbo, and he's got his big sword. 

Yeah. I've got the mental picture. It's a good mental picture... (sigh)

KARIN: And this was also a videoconference room. 

Oh, dear...

KARIN: Yeah. And I was working on SWOTOR, and I was having to do a vidcon with people in Austin, and I walked in, and they had set the camera up... And the camera is sitting... smack in the middle of the Arishok's crotch.

And me... I'm trying to have a coherent meeting with this producer, but I keep looking up, and I end up blushing, because of what I'm focusing on

So then I took a picture of it and shared it, and from then on, informally, we called that conference room "Arishok's Junk," for the rest of the time we were in that building. 

And the best part is, it was one of those big, um, Cannon cameras? With the big... lenses?

Oh, no!

KARIN: Oh, yes! 

Anyway, I know you like the Arishok, so I thought you might like that.

That's a great story. Let's just say that I would have not been at my best in that particular meeting! But I would have LOVED it! Thanks for that. (NOTE: I searched endlessly trying to find this tweeted image from Karin because it would have been amazing, but unfortunately I think the Internet ate it.)

And yeah, I don't know what it is about the Qunari, because while I'm not such a fan of the actual culture, I would date basically any of them at any time, so... 



Right? Throughout the entire trilogy, I'm basically just gazing helplessly at every Qunari onscreen. And of course the hilarious part is that, I would just be a nug to them. They'd just be like, "Go away, strange bas..."

KARIN: Well, it doesn't mean you can't keep looking at them.


Okay, so I swear I'm actually done now. Thank you both!

PATRICK: Thank you so much!

KARIN: Thanks so much to you and Dragon Age Day for making this happen, and for the money you're raising for people at Able Gamers? It is incredible.


KARIN: We know the kinds of logistics this thing takes, and the fact that you're all doing it on your own time is just astounding, so just know that your team is remarkable and amazing, and we are so grateful to be even a teensy little part of it. 

Thank you very much for that—I will pass it along to the wonderful Dragon Age Day team and I know how much it will mean to them. And I have to call out T, who is our official founder. This was her idea, and she assembled us. I am a happy and proud co-founder, but she made it happen, so I really want to give credit where it's due. 

Last year, we raised over $7,000 for Child's Play, but we're really gonna try this year to exceed that for Able Gamers (NOTE: WE DID! Almost $8500!). And having you guys on board, and BioWare's support this year, is a huge help. 

KARIN: It's such a privilege.


KARIN: We hope we can help you get there.

That's a great note to end on. Ma serannas to both of you again!

Then we all hung up, and I was delighted for 24 hours straight, and Dragon Age Day was amazing thanks to their further support (and that of so many across the BioWare team, past and present, as well as from BioWare itself), and it was wonderful in every way. 

Until, of course, I then took 6 months to transcribe it all. But in a good way... but now, at last, you were there too!

And truly, readers, thanks for bearing with me on the transcription delays. But this conversation was so much fun, and so meaningful to me, as it gave me the chance to talk to two of the people in the Dragon Age community I have respected for so long (and I wasn't disappointed, they're a fantastic duo, and are also visibly kind, smart, and generous people).

Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed the conversation as well!

Next up... I'll be taking a look at the lore we get from John Epler's contribution to Tevinter Nights, in my next analysis installment on "The Horror of Hormak." 

See you then! And take care out there.

"Dragon Age: Dreadwolf" Predictions & Ponderings (and "What's in a Name?" Redux)

He doesn't call, he doesn't write, but finally, it looks like we might be hearing from Solas at last (2023?), as BioWare announces t...