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"Dragon Age" (2009): Oghren, the Companion That Shouldn't Have Been

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Lee has been playing "Dragon Age" since the first game's release. She enjoys exploring and explaining the characters and the lore.

Promotional art of Oghren.

Promotional art of Oghren.

Oghren is the last companion people typically recruit in Dragon Age: Origins given that he only becomes available during Orzammar, the most challenging part of the game. Because the battles there are so hard, players typically leave Orzammar for last, even though the game allows you to visit the area fairly early.

Oghren also happens to be the only follower you have no choice about recruiting and you also can't get rid of him except to kill him. And since he's typically recruited so late in the game, it's actually pretty difficult to make Oghren hate you enough that you would have to kill him. (Here's where Feast Day Gifts would come in handy.)

This was done largely because it's possible for the Warden to either avoid, kill, or dismiss basically every other follower, so that they might end up completely alone by the time the Archdemon arrives in Denerim . . . Alone except for Oghren and possibly Loghain.

Yes, even Morrigan can leave the party permanently.

An image from the Bye Oghren mod.

An image from the Bye Oghren mod.

A lot of fans (myself included) weren't too thrilled about being stuck with the most annoying follower (only to be stuck with him again in the expansion Awakening), so much to the point that a fan created a mod that would allow you to avoid recruiting Oghren altogether if you wanted.

Ironically, because the mod restores cut dialogue, it actually makes Oghren more appealing as a companion (he becomes more polite, more funny, and less of an ass), so you wind up not wanting to dismiss him after all. This was how I felt, anyway, after downloading the Bye Oghren mod and testing it out.

I never really hated Oghren, but he was annoying enough that I wanted a choice about whether or not he was in my game. To be clear, Oghren is sometimes an amusing character. But he's also . . . perverted. (And I say that as a Zevran fan. So you know I'm not easily bothered.)

A lot of his comments toward the female characters leave you wondering if BioWare thinks sexual harassment is funny. What's even more mind boggling? Oghren was written by a woman.

Pretty Oghren fanart.

Pretty Oghren fanart.

Go to any internet forum, and you will see fans complaining about how sexist and disgusting Oghren is. Some of the anti-Oghren fans are males with enough to sense to understand why sexism isn't funny, but a lot of the Oghren haters are also women. Of course, as is typical with gamers, should these women dare to bring up how they don't think Oghren's treatment of women is funny (because the game clearly presents his sexism as something we're supposed to laugh at), they are piled upon by Oghren fanboys.

There's this one Reddit thread where male fans insist that a guy can be sexist and still a good person, then they cite their friends as sexists who treat women like crap, oh, but they're still good guys!

These males fail to realize that their friends are "good guys" to them because they're good to them. I bet if their sleazy friends started sexually harassing them, they would change their opinion on how "good" they are real fast.

And why should women enjoy hanging out with a sexist character? Especially when we have to deal with sexism in real life. Would male gamers enjoy hanging out with a female character who bashed men all day long? Our criticisms aren't invalid because others can't handle hearing said criticism.

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Video games are about escapism and power fantasies (pretend they aren't, but they are). As I mentioned on one of my Mass Effect articles, female gamers don't want to constantly be reminded of the crap we have to deal with in real life.

I bet you if BioWare created a female character who made male gamers uncomfortable, they would stop making arguments about "realism" real fast. The realism argument is always brought up anytime people complain about sexism in a fantasy setting, and it's usually done as a silencing tactic.

Men don't have to deal with sexism (no, men as a group are not being discriminated against on a daily basis based on their sex), so they don't have empathy for the experiences of women who do, and so long as it doesn't effect them, they don't care. We are just supposed to shut up and put up with Oghren in a game that won't allow us to kick him out of our party. (At least we could get rid of him in Awakening, but even then, we're forced to watch him harass Mhairi before we can kick him out.)

Amazing that we can have dragons, and dwarves, and talking trees, but we can't imagine a world where women are treated like people. Even in a fantasy game, where nothing is "realistic" except for the crappy way women are treated.

I guess I should just shrug and laugh at male gamers who rant about "realism" after having spent forty hours playing a mage.

Anders as he appeared in "Dragon Age 2."

Anders as he appeared in "Dragon Age 2."

Also, these male gamers who use the "realism" argument are just huge hypocrites. Because I remember the explosion heard 'round the world when Dragon Age 2 was first released and Anders (gasp!) expressed a romantic interest in male Hawke.

Male gamers took to the forums to complain about how much they hated Anders, even though his flirting with Hawke is pretty damn respectful and not the least bit sexual harassment.

Anders hitting on Hawke was pretty realistic, given that gay and bisexual people are inevitably going to hit on straight people and vice versa. It's not like people are walking around wearing their sexuality on t-shirts.

So when a male character crudely hits on female characters, and female gamers don't enjoy it, we're supposed to shut up, never complain, and just not use the character. Meanwhile, male gamers can be as salty as they please about a bisexual character respectfully showing an interest in them.

Funny how that works.

Drunk Oghren Compilation

Aside from his crude sex jokes, Oghren is also constantly drunk, disrespectful, and deeply depressed. He's basically the epitome of everything the Warden shouldn't want in a follower. And yet, for some bizarre reason, the Warden allows him to follow them around, haphazardly waving a giant axe.

Yes. That's right. Oghren is the follower that shouldn't have been. Narratively, it makes no sense to recruit a great deal of the followers, but at least they weren't half as annoying, at least they weren't sexist, and at least we had a choice about recruiting them. But when it comes to Oghren, we get stuck with burping and farting for the remaining hours of the game.

He was Literally a Murderer

Oghren concept art.

Oghren concept art.

The first time you see Oghren, he's demanding that someone help him find his wife, Branka. He gets yelled at by a guard, and it becomes apparent that not only is he a broken drunk, but also killed a young guy over a petty argument. This actual murder stripped him of his caste as a warrior and he was banned from the Diamond Quarter.

Just as it makes zero sense to trust and recruit Zevran and Sten, it also makes zero sense to trust and recruit Oghren. Like Zevran and Sten, the game's introduction of Oghren doesn't leave you with an excited feeling.

I don't know about you, but I didn't watch Oghren get yelled at for murdering someone and think, "Oh boy! I wonder if we can recruit him!"

I'm not sure why BioWare took this approach with the followers in Origins. Maybe they wanted to subvert our expectations by making us fall in love with characters that we would initially hate?

But for me this had the opposite effect. I haven't grown to love Sten and Oghren over the years. I've grown to tolerate them. If I do a replay of Origins these days, Sten is left to die, and depending on the playthrough, I'll use the Bye Oghren mod to be rid of Oghren.

You're probably wondering what Oghren being a murderer has to do with anything. After all, plenty of your followers have killed innocents in the Dragon Age franchise.

My point is that Oghren has no redeeming qualities. Him being an all around gross person on top of being a murderer just makes it so much harder to like or care about him.

He was Perverted

Oghren hits on Morrigan in fanart.

Oghren hits on Morrigan in fanart.

Another reason I don't care much for Oghren is his aforementioned perverted-ness. To continue my mini rant from above . . .

I mentioned before that I was a Zevran fan, and I know a lot of (male) players hate Zevran because he hits on the Warden and just about every follower in the party. But there's a huge difference between Zevran and Oghren. And I think the difference is respect and disrespect, as well as intention.

Zevran is the exact opposite of Oghren in every conceivable way. I don't want to go off on a tangent, so suffice it to say, Zevran's sexual comments are usually entirely innocent, for his own amusement, or as a weapon to defend himself.

Zevran comes from a culture where talking about sex is casual. So he doesn't see anything wrong with offering Alistair advice about his stamina (ha ha) or asking Leliana how she could possibly go a year in the monastery without sex.

On the other hand, he also uses sexual comments to amuse himself or defend himself. He suavely flirts with Morrigan until she's flattered to silence (to win a bet) and also makes dirty comments at Wynne to shut her down after she has been arrogant and condescending toward him.

When the Warden first meets Zevran, he is quick to flatter her and make her laugh in the hope that she will not kill him. Later, he respectfully flirts with her again, likely hoping she will like it enough to (again) not kill him.

Zevran basically kisses your ass in the beginning so you'll keep him around (so the joke is on him when he falls in love with you and/or you become his best friend). He uses sexual innuendo, flirting, and dirty talk as a survival mechanism. He never does it just to be gross or an asshole.

Meanwhile, Oghren is perverted just to be gross or an asshole.

The Oghren fanart is really great, though.

The Oghren fanart is really great, though.

When Oghren's being gross, it's usually just for the sake of being gross. When Oghren's being an asshole . . . it's usually just because he's an asshole.

I mean, fans love Oghren because he's gross and rude (whatever floats your boat) but seem to overlook what an awful person he is. I honestly don't get what there is to like about him. There's a lot to pity. But actually like? Um . . .

I mean, he's is selfish to the extreme. He wants you to keep the Anvil of the Void and doom a thousand souls to torment with it. Not so you can fight darkspawn or anything silly like that, no. He wants you to keep the Anvil so he can continue following Branka around and begging for her love.

Only Branka is a Crazy Lesbian trope and wants nothing to do with Oghren. As a lesbian myself, I pity him in that regard. But it doesn't make him a likeable person. Just a . . . pathetic one. Why doesn't he let go and move the hell on?

Branka even has a very hilarious line after the battle for the Anvil (if you don't kill her) where she tells Oghren to move on with his life and leave her alone. The fact that she ran off to the Deep Roads with their entire house and left him behind should have made it obvious enough that she had no interest in the existence of a guy she was forced to marry anyway. But Oghren doesn't seem to get it. It's like reality needs to be beaten over his head.

This could have made an interesting arc for him, actually. But as soon as the events at Orzammar are over, Oghren goes back to being a gross drunk who burps and farts and makes jokes about performing or*l on the Warden (Can we say ew?).

Imagine if Oghren had joked about going down on the male Warden. Oh, the rage on the forums. He would have instantly become the most hated follower, period.

And if that wasn't enough to get your skin crawling, Oghren pervs over your romance with Leliana (if your character is female). Then he asks Leliana what her underwear looks like and keeps basically harassing her in party banter. (Could you imagine him doing this to Inquisition Leliana? Would be nothing left for the wind to scatter.)

Imagine standing by and saying nothing while some dude harasses your girlfriend about her underwear! And yet, that's what the Warden is forced to do. It made romancing Leliana as a female character unfortunate, knowing that Oghren was listening outside the tent with heavy breathing.

And hilariously enough, the creator of the Bi Overhaul mod made sure to include dialogue where Oghren pervs over Morrigan and the female Warden being a couple in party banter. I thought it was in-character for him. But it was no less skeevy and it (obviously) didn't endear him to me as a character.

He was a Terrible Father

Oghren and Felsi in the Dragon Keep.

Oghren and Felsi in the Dragon Keep.

I remember on my city elf Warden how I went through so much trouble to get Oghren together with Felsi, only to get to Awakening and learn that Oghren had abandoned his wife and child to run off and become a Grey Warden.

I felt so bad for Felsi, stuck raising a baby alone while her husband was off on the other side of the continent ignoring her. And I mean, it shouldn't be surprising. Everything we learned about Oghren in Origins pointed to him being an irresponsible drunk. But at the end of Origins, I recall him telling my Warden how grateful he was that she helped him get his sh*t together, only for him to turn up at Vigil's Keep all weird and wanting to fight darkspawn again?

Despite all this, I don't hate Oghren. I pity him.

Here's why.

The Warden was Oghren's Only Friend

One of the funniest lines in Awakening, easy.

One of the funniest lines in Awakening, easy.

That's right. Oghren basically has no one else. No family. No friends. His wife wants nothing to do with him. He figures he can fill the void by settling down with Felsi, only to learn that people aren't salves he can use to heal his wounds.

When dwarves leave Orzammar, they give up everything. Except Oghren had nothing to lose. All he ever had was the Warden. So when he needs a friend, needs advice, and has no where to go, who is he going to turn to?

The Warden was the only person who tolerated Oghren, let alone accepted him, in his entire life. So he goes to Vigil's Keep to find his friend (whether they reciprocated or not) thinking they'll accept him as a Grey Warden and he can find purpose again.

At this point, Oghren is a surface dwarf who can't return to Orzammar. And before that, he had already been stripped of his caste. He isn't smart enough to hire himself out as a mercenary. He can't be like Gorim and just become a merchant because, again, he isn't smart. He can't support his family, but all he knows how to do is fight. So he goes to the one person who would hire him.

He goes to the Warden.

I think this is also why Oghren is so sensitive in Awakening when the Warden teases him. He has basically hit rock bottom and has come to the Warden for help, and the Warden, his only friend, is mocking him while he's down.

As annoying as Oghren always has been, I still pitied him as a sort of hopeless person that my Warden somehow got stuck taking care of. So my Kallian (city elf) Warden was nice to Oghren in Awakening and tried to help him get his crap together (again).

He was an Inversion of Gimli

Gimli would win.

Gimli would win.

Of course, Oghren being an awful person and a pervert was done with a specific purpose.

As I've mentioned on other articles, the races of Dragon Age are a deconstruction of Lord of the Rings. So elves are oppressed, orcs (qunari) hate magic and are smart (instead of being dumb and following a wizard), and dwarves, instead of being noble warriors, are backstabbing politicians with zero honor.

So Oghren was basically created to be everything that Gimli wasn't.

Gimli from Lord of the Rings was arrogant and grumpy and full of himself ("It was deliberate! It was deliberate!"), while Oghren was constantly insulting himself (so not arrogant) and was always laughing and snickering to boot. He spends a lot of dialogue insulting himself, and when you take him to the Temple of Sacred Ashes, he completely shuts the spirit down by ranting about what a pathetic loser he is. It's pretty . . . sad.

Gimli was respectful of the women he admired. I could never see him making cracks about performing sexual acts on Galadriel, who he crushed on, even though he hated elves.

Meanwhile, Oghren doesn't hate elves as a people at all (his banters with Zevran make that clear) but if you're playing the Warden as a female elf, he will straight up call her ugly and continuously show only grudging respect for her.

In the end, Oghren is a product of the writers trying desperately to subvert established fantasy tropes. The end result was they created an annoying character who ultimately felt like a burden and a waste of a character slot.

At least that's true for me and other fans who didn't like Oghren much.

Me personally, I always wanted Oghren to be replaced by a lesbian elf follower that my Dalish character could romance. I wanted this for years. Then Inquisition rolled around, and we got Sera.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

I Don't Have to Like Him

Oghren in the Fade.

Oghren in the Fade.

To further drive my point home, Oghren's Fade nightmare is him sitting in a bar with everyone calling him names and ridiculing him. It shows that he's acutely aware of what a failure he is and that he hates himself.

Yes, I understand Oghren very well. That . . . doesn't mean I have to like him.

One thing I can't stand is when you say you don't like a character, and then some nerd writes a twenty page essay about why you should like them. And before I'm accused of cognitive dissonance, none of my articles are an attempt to make people like a character but rather to provide some insight after my many (many) playthroughs of the game. I don't actively try to make people like or hate characters one way or another.

I don't think I'll ever be able to excuse Oghren's behavior based on his tragic past. His life was unfortunate? So what? Lots of followers have tragic pasts in BioWare games. They don't use it as an excuse to be assholes. Hell, Zevran was sex traffi*ked at a young age and was raised in a freaking wh*re house!

So knowing why Oghren is depressed and perverted doesn't change the fact that he's an asshole and that there's no excuse for it. I enjoy the fact that he's a flawed, tragic character and I enjoy the fact that he's so well written. But the most I can feel for him is pity, enough pity that my character is always nice to him (while occasionally teasing him) and cleans up after him like a dumb little brother.

That said, I don't hate Oghren either. I like him as a character, not a person. I pity him as a person. And . . . that's about it.

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