"Dragon Age Origins": Why the Dwarven Noble Is My Favorite Warden
I love Dragon Age: Origins a great deal, but I actually didn't play it as soon as it came out. Instead, I watched other people talk about the game while trying to make up my mind about playing it.
I decided to play Mass Effect instead, but because I was being discharged from the service at the time, I found being Shepard a bit depressing. So I slunk back to Dragon Age: Origins, and I was not disappointed.
I'm a huge epic fantasy fan and I love elves, so the first time I played Dragon Age: Origins, I chose a Dalish.
Unfortunately, Origins is famous for having crappy skintones. It seems to be a Bioware thing. And apparently, they haven't improved, because there were some complaints about the skintones for Andromeda as well.
For one thing, the lighting in the character creator is terrible. I made a Dalish elf, and the second her face hit daylight, I realized she was purple.
I decided to keep playing my angry purple elf. She was hilariously racist toward humans, was pragmatic and cruel in Alistair's eyes, and killed whoever, did whatever it took to defeat the Blight. In fact, Alistair hated her in the beginning. They bickered all the time, only to wind up falling in love. It was hilarious. Alistair and my purple elf!
Anyway. Once I got to the part where Alistair dumps your elven warden and becomes king, I rage quit (ha ha ha), went back, and started over as a dwarven princess.
It was honestly the best thing I could have done, as the dwarven noble has one of the most compelling storylines out of all the origins -- and yes, I have played them all.
One great thing about the dwarven noble storyline is probably that it's the longest origin in the game (yes, even longer than the human noble) and it presents the greatest challenge. Your dwarf can enter the proving to fight, enter the deep roads to kill dark spawn, and lose all their equipment in the end, being forced to survive the deep roads on their own.
Other bonuses include a high resistance to magic, not having to bother with crafting poisons or constantly positioning yourself behind enemies (alas, the life of a rogue), getting to wear really cool dwarven armor, and swinging a big-ass maul.
Plus, the dwarves just have really cool lore. Unlike most fans, I love the deep roads, I love exploring them, and I love fighting dark spawn.
I wish Bioware would have given the dwarves more attention. It seems such a waste.
I honestly love being a dwarf more than any other race in Origins -- or, heck, the entire series.
The dwarven noble can be played one of two ways: 1) as an arrogant, spoiled brat who is loved greatly by the people but isn't ready to rule or 2) as a kind and generous, fair and just, noble-hearted warrior who is rightfully loved by her people but also naive enough to fall victim to her brother's schemes.
Both roleplay options are pretty fun and I've done both.
As a male dwarven noble, I played the Warden as a spoiled and immature young man who only cared about getting laid and getting drunk and getting in fights. He was arrogant, rude, and completely full of himself.
Bhelen was right to manipulate my male dwarven prince, as he wasn't ready to be king at all, and yet, the Assembly was ready to crown him.
My male dwarven prince was really bad at politics and fell right into his brother's trap, killing Trian and getting sent to prison for it. Going through the game, it was interesting to roleplay him as a young man who was humbled by his mistakes. He became older, wiser, kinder, and more mature as I went along.
He grew as a person.
Very few video games allow their protagonist this sort of progression. Imagine what Bioware could have done with the Warden had they given this character three games like Shepard?
But what do I know? Shepard had three games and still had a minuscule amount of character growth -- largely due to the fact that her death was treated like a gag in the second game and only taken seriously toward the very end of the third.
As mentioned above, the second way to play the dwarven noble is as naive, kind, generous, and just. This is how I usually play the princess. I have her settle disputes in a fair way, while treating her people with kindness and respect. I also roleplay her as very generous, giving Frandlin Ivo the Proving helm after she wins her own tournament, never dreaming that he would later betray her by giving false testimony.
When my dwarven princess gets to the surface, she is usually very generous with her coin, is polite and kind, and helps everyone she can. At the same time, she's still a hard-ass warrior and will make tough decisions -- like killing Connor instead of risking the entire village for one boy.
When my dwarven noble returns to Orzammar toward the end of the game, they usually help Bhelen become king.
Reason One: It's the Mature Thing To Do
First reason? Because by the end of the game, my dwarven noble has grown up. They are no longer angry or spiteful. They understand fully that politics are the way of things among Orzammar royalty and that Bhelen played the game the way it was supposed to be played. (Even my naive dwarven princesses knew this from the start, though.)
King Endrin, the dwarven noble's father, wasn't exactly innocent either. Backstabbing ones way to the throne is something of an Orzammar tradition. King Endrin killed his own brother to become king and knew his sons were up to the same thing.
Toward the end of the origin, King Endrin has a sad expression after talking to the dwarven noble. It's because he knows his children are about to make a play for the throne, and while he doesn't want to lose any of them, he knows it is the way of things. So he says a sad goodbye to the dwarven noble that they don't even notice.
Reason Two: Bhelen Loves the Warden
Just hear me out.
Aside from the fact that Bhelen was just doing what he was supposed to do in vying for the throne, I think that deep-down, Bhelen also loves the dwarven noble warden.
In spite of himself, as much as he hates his sibling, Bhelen loves them as well. He probably hates himself for that, considering how popular and charming his sibling is to the dwarven people.
When Bhelen tries to convince his sibling to fight Trian, he will get angry at the male dwarven noble for refusing to participate in backstabbing politics. Bhelen tells his brother in frustration that his nobility will be his undoing -- almost as if he wishes the DNW were as politically savvy as him. To me, this always felt as if Bhelen regretted what he did to the DNW or perhaps wished they could have worked together had the DNW been a better politician.
If you are playing the dwarven princess, however, Bhelen calls you his "dearest sister" and says he's just trying to protect you. Even though Bhelen goes on to stab you in the back, I believe there was a ring of truth to this. Bhelen didn't want the DNW to die. He just wanted them out of the way.
It was widely known that the DNW was in line to become ruler over Trian. The Assembly had practically already chosen her, and it was the reason Trian was so pissy.
This means that the DNW was a direct threat to Bhelen's rule. Bhelen could have decided to have the DNW assassinated outright (like he did with Trian, who he actually hated), insuring that the throne was his. Instead, he framed her for murder. And instead of having her executed, he gave her a chance to escape with the wardens by having her exiled to the deep roads.
As I said above, Bhelen did this because he actually liked his sibling but still needed them out of his way. And of course, he made a sour face during the deep roads sequence because he and Trian were both jealous that the DNW was King Endrin's favorite child.
Further evidence: at the end of the game, Bhelen will reinstate the DNW into house Aeducan, make them a paragon, and have a statue built in their honor.
Also, if the Warden dies ending the Fifth Blight, a King Bhelen will request that their body be sent to Orzammar so it can be buried alongside their father, King Endrin.
Why would he do that for a sibling he hates?
I like to think my dwarven princess learned well from her mistakes with Bhelen, and over the course of the game, she became such a politician that she was able to trick Anora into a tower and make Alistair king (or have Anora marry Alistair, whatever I choose to do).
Reason Three: Bhelen is the Better King
Bhelen is about change. He pretends to care about the casteless, but only because he's in love with one. In reality, he sees the casteless as tools he can use. He is very quick to cast aside Jarvia, for instance. But the fact remains that he's willing to elevate the castleless at all.
Harrowmont, meanwhile, is a traditionalist who supports the continuing oppression of the casteless. I also recall him being revealed as a coward in Dragon Age 2.
Basically, the DNW must swallow their pride and -- for the good of the people -- help their brother take the last steps to claim his throne. It's a small consolation that Bhelen must swallow his own pride and accept your help.
It isn't meta-gaming to choose to Bhelen. If you are playing the dwarven noble -- someone who grew up with Bhelen -- then you know that your brother is smart, capable, and advocates change, which is what is best for the people. And if you didn't know it growing up, you learned it during the origin story: the DNW can stumble across Bhelen's castless mistress in his quarters and is shown firsthand what a clever politician Bhelen is when they are betrayed.
Seeking revenge is childish when the needs of the dwarven people come first. This is why I say the DNW has the most compelling origin: they are required to do a lot of maturing and sacrificing to ultimately become the Warden.
Another cool thing about being the dwarven princess: you get to be a Paragon, just like your ancestor, the Aeducan who stopped the first Blight.
So even if you lose the throne and are exiled from your homeland, your people forgive you and honor you as a Paragon, which is way better than being king, in my opinion.
My dwarven princess has it pretty good. She gets to survive the Blight (sorry, Alistair), become a Paragon, marry Leliana, and live happily ever after raising nugs on their nug farm.
Damn, it's good to be a dwarf.
Play this wonderful classic now!
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