Thursday, January 13, 2011

DA:O - The Dwarf Commoner and Returning to Dust Town

Perra returns to her abandoned home in Dust Town after joining the Grey Wardens.
Dragon Age Origins is a fascinating game. No matter how many times I play it (two complete playthroughs of the core game, one playthough of Awakening, and numerous false starts) something new is uncovered. Even though I've only ever finished it with a female Human Noble, up until recently I had at least played every other origin story - except that of the dwarves (commoner and noble). Here is where I must make a confession. If one were to look at my RP history one would discover that all my successful characters have been human. While elves fascinate me (don't they fascinate everyone?) it is often very difficult to figure out their approach to the world and the extent to which their prejudices and belief should change and transform over time. Yet even though my elven characters are rarely successful, I at least give them a chance. Dwarves and sentient beasts, however, are another story. They never even have a chance. It's not that I have anything against these races per say, but their general mythology is usually so far removed from my frame of reference that I historically have had little confidence in ever understanding their characters. That changed last week with the creation of Perra, a Commoner Dwarf from Dust Town.

*Spoilers Ahead - Read at Your Own Risk*

Perra begins the game between a rock in a hard place. Her sister. Rica, has been schooled by the current Carta leader Beraht to market her body to the social elite. Looking to cash in on his "investment" and elevate his social status he grants Rica a very short time to acquire a patron. Perra, Carta muscle, is given the conversational option of verbally supporting her sister or backing up Beraht. Either way though, the hero's performance and cooperation is guaranteed by threats to Rica's well being. The dwarf commoner origin story is rife with fantasy clichés (the prostitute with a heart of gold, the thief unwillingly trapped in a life they don't want, the destitute character that manages to significantly better their position, the crime organization that has their finger in a piece of everyone's pie) but these characters are original enough that they avoid being trite. In fact one might say that this origin story is my favorite to date.

The Origin Tale- I began to realize just how trapped Perra was in the life she lived. Having chosen to not to let her revel too much in the destruction of others (Rica was too sweet a character to have a bloodthirsty monster for a sister) one could still see that Perra took pride in her fighting skills. She apparently bragged about them enough that Leske, a sometime friend, called her on it in an effort to convince Perra to fight in the Proving disguised. While not blood thirsty, one had to also recognize that Perra was a product of her situation. She fought when she was told to fight, killed when she was told to kill, and intimidated when she was told to intimidate. One Dust Town beggar called it, "cracking skulls." Keeping in mind that my dwarf was a hardened yet compassionate being this current playthrough has forced me to reevaluate the decisions she makes in the main quest and who she helps in the side quests. Given her past one can expect her to value practicality over the more fanciful, and have a heart for the destitute while disliking those who wallow in their problems.

The Circle Tower - Previous games with the human noble always led to defending the Circle. This time around Perra, for whom an affinity to magic is impossible, sided with the Templars. It's not that dwarves hate mages. After all the castes benefit from lyrium trade with the Tower/Chantry, and the Carta employs elven apostates to support their dwarven thugs. What Perra appreciates though is the straightforward nature of the Templars' approach. Having never really been educated, it is unlikely she knows much about mages and the working of magic. Thus, when backed by Sten to hates mages and Morrigan who hates the Circle, it seems logical that Perra would trust the Templars' swords over the Circle's magic. It is better to cleanse the Circle of any possible taint, even if it costs some innocent lives, then it is to let potential bloodmages and possible abominations run free to wreck further havoc. Ferelden is approaching civil war, the Grey Wardens are being hunted, and the archdemon is arriving soon while its followers swarm the cities and countryside. The last thing the region needs is another "outbreak" of abominations. Just clean the place out and start over fresh.

Returning Home - Following the Circle Tower, Sten's personal quest led Perra to the gates of Orzammar. While there she decided to check up on Rica's well being before moving on to Redcliffe. With the Human Noble, Orzammar is usually my last stop before Denerim. This time though it seemed unlikely that Perra would give up a chance to see Rica and pass over the possibility of rubbing her new status into the faces of everyone who had ever called her a Brand. Unsurprisingly her return home is met with derision by most. Her new status as a Grey Warden doesn't ensure instant respect since most are so mired in their distrust and hate for the casteless. Some, like the proprietress of Tapsters, tame their comments with phrasing akin to "forgive me Warden" but most don't even feign respect. In search of the familiar Perra returns to Dust Town where people she used to know (or intimidate) are blinded by her finery. Just one casteless recognizes/remembers her, and that is only after the hero brings it up first. Returning to her old house, Perra opens the door to find it abandoned. Her mother's wine bottles still litter the table and the meager furnishings are right where they were when Perra was wrenched away from this life. No one she asks can tell her where Leske is (didn't he promise to look after Rica?) and there is little doubt that no one would care where her mother is. Remembering that her sister had found an unnamed patron, Perra heads for the Diamond Quarter.

Deciding a King - The minute Perra enters the Diamond Quarter she is met by a bejeweled Rica. Word apparently travels fast. Not only is Rica the favorite concubine of Prince Bhelen , but she has given him the next Aeducan heir. Both she and her mother now reside in the Palace and Rica encourages Perra to support Bhelen in the great king debate. In all my playthroughs with a human noble I have always chosen to support Harramont for King because Bhelen gives me the willies. He just reeks of dishonesty, false sincerity, and coercion tactics. In addition, an overheard conversation during Perra's origin story shows that Bhelen may have ties to the Carta. When Perra mentions her concerns to Rica, however, her sister explodes and claims Bhelen is really a good man. Considering that Rica's and her new nephew's life may be in danger should Bhelen not become king, Perra concedes that Bhelen is now her brother and that she will support him. Meetings with Bhelen's second confirms the creepy feelings that Perra previously felt but she had already given Rica her word, and thus decides to favor the prince over Harramont.

It is interesting to note that at this point Perra is just as trapped as she was during her origin story. Sure she has an elevated status now, as does the rest of her family, but she is still letting fear of her family's safety rule her decision making process. The only difference is that instead of her actions affecting a family or small group of people, her actions in the king selection process affect the whole city of Orzammar and to some extent the rest of Ferelden. Only time will tell the impact that her actions will have on the history of the Dwarves. All other characters enter into the kinging scenario motivated by one thing - the need of support for the Blight. They judge the situation, see who benefits Ferelden the most, do their thing, select a king, get their support, and leave. As a Dwarven commoner, however, Perra is forced to choose between a sleazy, progressive Prince who saved her family from Dust Town and the more genuine Harramont whose rule would reinforce caste boundaries and thus continue oppression of the casteless. Supporting Bhelen benefits her sister and possibly the casteless, but it may also end up upsetting the traditional order of things. Throwing the whole society into an upheaval does not seem beneficial to the city as a whole or ensure solid support against the darkspawn.

Coming Next - Perra is currently heading to Redcliffe since she and her companions are not yet strong enough to brave the Deep Roads. Will she help defend the village because of her relationship with Alistair or will she refuse them assistance? Will her choice to help Bhelen backfire? At this point in time it appears that one must wait and see.

No comments:

Post a Comment