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Note: minor plot spoiler for Dragon Age: Origins at the end, if you’re worried about that history


So yesterday, I went around Skyhold. Figured I’d upgrade some stuff, made myself and Dorian some nice armor because I kept dying, was going to get ready to really romance Sera (when you ask Vivienne what you should get Sera, she disapproves and says “Maybe you should just shave something rude into your privates. I don’t think she’d get anything less subtle.” And you have a dialog choice. I picked “I think I can do that….”) and then I was going to Orlais. Really. I was. Really I was.

But then I found the three potential specialist trainers. They’ve been there a while. And I got the Knight Enchanter (sounds cool, but what a bitch) the blind dude who can bring dudes back to life (creepy) and “Your Trainer” who is so brain addled that’s all she can remember “I am your trainer.” But she can do “rift magic!” Which sounds so cool! And I want to do it! And I need three tome things……

That are in the exalted plains.

So I…..uh…..went to the exalted plains instead. Where I’ve never been. I also haven’t been to the ventinori in the west, or the hissing wastes, or the emprise de lion.

Do I still have tons left? Cuz your “I’m almost done” note made me look a the difference between now and May and panic.


That happens! That always happens! I mean to do one thing, and then three hours later find that I’ve done parts of several other things, but not the thing I set out to do.

I finally picked one of the trainers, but it didn’t really make any difference that I can see so far. I thought there would be quests or something, and/or some additional options on my Inquisitor skill tree, but no. Still a tiny stumpy line. I must be missing something here.

Knight Enchanter is pretty cool. That’s Vivienne’s thing, and she’s…also not everyone’s cup of tea personality-wise, although I think she’s kind of fun. (Hey…maybe I’m behaving more like her than I think, and that’s why no one will flirt with me!)

Do you still have tons left? Well…yes. There’s a lot of STUFF to do. There’s not necessarily a lot of main PLOT stuff to do, though. I think you’re two glowy-green-plot-quests behind me (if you’re still on the Orlais bit and ‘Here Lies the Abyss’), and you’re already in a relationship and you’re already pursuing your specialized training (which might take more time to get anything out of than I really have left at this point, but we’ll see), so you’re in good shape in terms of doing the main non-plot things you probably want to be doing.

A lot of the STUFF that I’ve spent 106 hours doing has been the shard-collecting, landmark-claiming, requisitions-filling stuff that is really not critical to the story, so if you don’t get to that, whatever. I think I must be only a couple of major steps from the end at this point, and based on that supposition, I think you’ll be able to easily finish the story before May, and probably do a lot of other random stuff as well.

I mean, say 2-3 hours each for the two glowing green things you have open now, maybe a bit more than that for whatever it is I haven’t done yet (though since I haven’t done it, I could be vastly underestimating this), and there’s plenty of time left over for companion stories, relationships, shard-collecting, and whatever else you want to do.

I wouldn’t worry about it. Not yet, anyway.


That and I want a nice uninterrupted amount of time to spend with Morrigan….I mean….to digest the themes of the next mission, so I have to plan well.

Really no specialty tree? Hmm. These things sound pretty badassed.

No one likes Vivienne.

106? 1 oh fucking 6? For real? I’m at 46. You’re three TLOUes ahead of me. Three.

Maybe you’ll end up playing The Order after all.

But don’t worry about it. Ok. I’ll still keep my eye on the Order.

Eyes. On. The Order.



I like Vivienne! And no one likes me. There may be something here.

Actually, that’s not true. People like me fine (Sera’s actually quite fond of me), they just don’t want to get romantically involved with me. I probably AM too intimidating. A 23rd-level dragon-slaying horned giant with yellow eyes? I scare myself. Only Leliana is more terrifying.

Yeah, 106. And seriously, I’m not even THAT far ahead of you in actual plot–it’s just all the side stuff. If push comes to shove, ignore a lot of side stuff and you can finish the main game in way less time than that. You’ll want to gain some levels, so you need to do SOME side stuff, but there’s still way more there than is really required.

I’m seriously tempted to wiki the inquisitor specialization thing, because there’s got to be something I’m not getting here. I did the trainer quests, picked the trainer, did the one thing that trainer said that turned up on the war table, and…nothing. Even my trainer doesn’t like me!

“I am not teaching someone who smells so much like Deepstalker perfume.”


Vivienne SO wants to be me. Can’t. I’m me.

And Sera would TOTALLY go for you. She loves Qunari.

Again, but DAMN 106? that’s a LOT of hours!

You are remembering to feed your child, right?

See, even if you get every landmark, you lose, cuz bioware is all about being liked.


Sera’s very into me. I could have had a relationship with her like THAT. [snaps fingers]

And I like her, too, she’s a lot of fun and I like the fact that she brings a different perspective to things with her focus on “little people” (she makes some very telling comments about how in some respects people in power are people in power and it can be hard for people definitely not in power to see much difference), but romance isn’t about FUN, is it?

It’s about brooding. Deep, dark, moody brooding. And Blackwall has had that sewn right up from the moment we laid eyes on him.

Actually, I mostly went with Blackwall instead of Sera because we’ve got to make an OCCASIONAL different decision in this game. For our fans, if nothing else. Just to give us some room for compare and contrast commentary.

I think Mr. O’ mostly feeds our child? Or they give him a snack at daycare or something?

Actually I only play at night after he’s in bed, or occasionally on the weekends while he naps. The game does not detract from any time I would otherwise be spending with my child! It just detracts from any time I would otherwise be spending doing absolutely anything else, like watching TV or reading or tidying the apartment or conversing with my spouse.

Hey, we can converse while the kid’s awake. And during load screens, since we already know I’m not reading the text.


Sera wishes I was qunari, really. Everyone in your game wishes you were me, and my girlfriend wishes I was you. Irony.

Compare and contrast…See, that’s why I had to get dibs on the good romance option first. I wasn’t going to make that sacrifice.

Meh. You’ve spend 12 years with your spouse and only 106 hours with DAI. I say things are still pretty well weighted in his favor. You’re fine.


So much irony!

Closer to 19 years, actually.

Man, we’re old. 106 hours of videogame is nothing.

And at this point, we don’t NEED to converse. We communicate via subtle hand gestures and the placement of dishes in the drying rack.

I hope DAI has a “what happened next” codex like DAO did, and that we find out what everyone is doing 19 years later, and that a couple we wouldn’t suspect has been married for 15 years and somebody else is teaching and somebody else is quartermaster for the Ferelden army or something.

And that Blackwall’s and my half-qunari children are doing just great.

Actually, they don’t really cross races in Thedas, do they? We’ve never seen half-elves, even, which is the most common D&D mix and the one you’d think they’d go with, if any. But no…meaning qunari and humans probably can’t interbreed. Oh well. We can adopt some tragic orphans with dark secrets in their pasts.


Cole, you know Cole’s going to do something fun. He’s getting to be best friends with Varric.

Your children will have half a beard and one horn. Ha. Try to get laid with THAT in DA4.

Hey…good point about mixing races. In fact, I can’t remember seeing anything half in modern fantasy, save for Baldur’s gate that cribbed everything from D&D, halflings and all. I miss halflings. TW has no half elves, Skyrim didn’t, best as I recall. Weird. Bring back half elves! And Halflings! And Hobbits! (Though those probably have some copyright shit).

Wither, the halfling? Seen as offensive? Dwarves made it.


Funny you should say that about Cole and Varric…but I’ll say no more. Go talk to him. Eventually he’ll reveal what troubles him. Or…I guess one of the things that troubles him. He seems in many ways to be a pretty troubled being.

Maybe our children have one horn in the middle of their foreheads, and little wispy beards only underneath their chins, and are unicorns. People like unicorns! Don’t mock: I have to have a dream for my kids.

True, true–it’s not just DA-verse, nobody’s crossing anything lately in video games. Never saw half-anything in Oblivion or Skyrim. Hmm…the internet mentions half-elves in World of Warcraft, Everquest, and the series beginning with Tales of Phantasia. These all seem like older titles. I guess they would also exist in the world in Shadow of Mordor, since they existed in Tolkien (though rarely), but I don’t know if any ever actually showed up there. I never saw any looking over Mr. O’s shoulder, although that doesn’t say much.

There’s a think piece here! Why aren’t fantasy races mixing anymore?

I mean, in some cases, like the lizardy-folk or the catlike people in Skyrim, it makes sense that they just wouldn’t be able to breed with more humanlike people. We can call that a species thing.

And I guess we could also just assume that elves, dwarves and qunari are also meant to be different species from humans, rather than “races” (as they’re so often termed). A “race” suggests an intra-species distinction, with populations that may appear quite different, yet still be capable of interbreeding. However, if we assume that they’re actually completely different species, then obviously we can’t expect any interbreeding, even if the populations are outwardly similar enough to make romance possible. Cats and small, flat-faced dogs look superficially similar, and if they were game characters they could theoretically become romantically involved, but we wouldn’t expect them to produce offspring.

More research must be done! Hm…there’s actually an entire academic journal called Games and Culture that presumably publishes work on these questions. We can get a subscription to it! Read it and see if anyone’s covered our various important topics. Scholarly publishing, here we come!


Hey, I’ve seen what happens to unicorns. Do you want your kids to grow up to be a preorder bonus? Thought not.

Tales of Phantasia? Da fuck is that? Every now and then I get a reminder there are people far geekier than us. There’s one.

But c’mon, Bioware. Baldur’s gate even boasted drow, for crissakes. The mysterious Viconia, the template for the haughty mage you really think ought to be romanceable but isn’t. Actually, how come they were both black? Cuz drow, you know. Hmm.

Orcs can cross in D&D land. Orcs.

It is always “race.” I think the only one I buy as being totally incapable of reproduction was Garrus. I’m still not entirely certain how that happened with Garrus. And if that can’t happen….well…..

How are we not writing for this journal????


I was thinking about the orc thing too. Because really even in D&D, the only things you see as crosses are half-elves and half-orcs. No half-dwarves or half-halflings or half-sylphs or whatever.

Well, OK, you might get them sometimes in flavor text (like people who are rumored to be half dragon), but you can’t PLAY them, right? So it’s as if in the original conception of the basic D&D character ‘races’ you had elves/humans/orcs on a continuum in one species (elves and orcs did not interbreed with each other that we know of, but this happens sometimes at ‘opposite ends’ of a species with a large geographical range), and then dwarves and halflings were different species entirely. (“The short species.”) Who one might think could have interbred, but who never did that I saw mentioned.

Maybe the reason games have backed off on interbreeding is that this underlying assumption of elves/humans/orcs as a continuum is kind of really terribly incredibly problematic if you look at actual real-world humans with that lens in mind. Because, um…classic elves are graceful idealized pale people, and classic orcs are brutish savage dark people, and that’s…yeah…pretty awful. Let’s just go ahead and distance ourselves from this concept, shall we?

So DA turns orcs into ‘darkspawn’ who aren’t human and can’t really interbreed with humans (although as we saw with the Dark Womb in DAO, they sort of feed off other species in order to reproduce…so they’re kind of like Asari in that they incorporate some genetic material from a host, but the offspring are always darkspawn/Asari?), and makes elves and humans into different species who can’t interbreed.

Meanwhile, Skyrim keeps both orcs and elves close to the classic conception, but eases up a bit on the pale civilized elf/dark savage orc thing and also makes everyone into entirely different species (except, presumably, the various human races).

So…trying to be less horribly racist in the real world results in stronger species distinctions in the game world(s)?


Is a half halfling a quarterling? Or a three quarters ling? Guess it depends. If a halfling and a dwarf mate does it break even and it’s still a halfling?

Can elves and orcs breed? Never seen it. But yes, it had…..elements that can misinterpreted.

Darkspawn…Guess so. They even turn into different darkspawn, really.

I still think the whole “dark elf” thing was the most questionable. Black skin! Ergo evil.

Hey, it was the 80s.


Yes, dark elves were always highly questionable. Look, it’s all the elegance and sophistication of an elf…but evil! Pure evil! Because black! Right? And scary, because just imagine all the grace and intelligence and civilization we associate with lovely pale elves, only hideously corrupted by being made…black. Shudder.

But it’s not related in any way to black PEOPLE, no no no, because their hair is white! Long and flowing and white! So it’s totally OK, they’re just, you know, dark and evil. Plus, there was that ONE drow that time who wasn’t evil, so it’s fine.

Um. I’ll be…over there somewhere.

I mean, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with making some elves dark skinned, and there’s nothing wrong with making some elves evil (both those things are great! twist the paradigm!), and there’s nothing inherently wrong with making a particular elf be both dark-skinned and evil if this elf is not the only example ever of these qualities, but you’re going to make an entire society of elves that is both dark-skinned and irredeemably pure evil? Really?

OK. It was the ’80s. We apologize for the ’80s.


Viconia, the hot drow in Baldur’s gate, who was pretty evil, was, very intentionally, not “black.” Indeed:
She was, in some ways, the progenitor of the BHBEBB. Except for the hair. Squint and you can see a lot of other bioware babes in there.
Indeed, the “regular” elf was far more tribal:

They wanted to avoid controversy, methinks. They’re more blue.

Yeah, the whole society thing.

But even in modern Bioware games they never establish why there are black humans but no black elves or dwarves. ‘Splain that.

But hey, I was a kid when the 80s ended. I take no responsibility. By the time I was all up in games, drow had blue eyes.

We’ll just…um…. neglect the whole idea that the only black people in FO 1 and 2 were drug dealers and…um….mutants.



And let’s not forget that the drow are matriarchal! Because nothing says “absolute, unfathomable evil” like dark-skinned women in charge of things. Makes the blood run cold, it does.

They made a good call trending toward blue instead. Blue reminds us more of aliens than of human races.

Note: On reflection, it occurs that there is one known potential race/species cross in Thedas, if the player’s male Gray Warden is a dwarf or elf and completes the ritual with Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins, thus becoming the father of Morrigan’s child. However, given that the child also incorporates the soul of an Old God, we can assume that humans crossing with elves/dwarves is not usual, and perhaps can only be accomplished with powerful magic. We await further clarification on this important matter.