World of Thedas – Volume 1: An Erratum

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World of Thedas – Volume 1: An Erratum by Brother Genitivi

I once gave a lecture at the University of Orlais on the conflict between fact and belief.

“Gathering accurate information is challenging in a place as vast and fragmented as Thedas,” I told the students. “Sources may conflict wildly.”

This portion of my lecture was excerpted in a recent encyclopedia entitled The World of Thedas. The author of this text is unnamed, and prefers it that way. But I know him. I have studied with him. And I can speak to his obsession with detail and objectivity, the latter being something with which I sometimes struggle.

You could say that his approach with regards to accuracy is “ruthless.”

But, as I said in Val Royeaux, ours is a large, complicated world. It is perhaps inevitable that a few errors survive numerous readings and are then committed to print.

With this in mind, here are a few points in The World of Thedas that, based on my studies and travels, warrant correction:

Page 12: The main text states that the First Blight lasted one hundred years. Most authorities agree that it was fought for 192 years. The timeline in the tome is correct.

Page 12: The timeline states that the Old Gods whispered to humanity from the Black City in -2800 Ancient. At this time, the legendary city would still be known as “The Golden City,” as it was not yet sullied by the presence of men.

Page 42: The term “ralshokra,” said to be a Qunari military challenge where the higher ranks are fought for and defended to the death, is not a Qunari term at all. Its use can be traced back to the Storm Age, first appearing in a popular Orlesian children’s story meant to demonize the invading race. There’s no evidence that any Qunari actually participate in something so barbaric.

Page 126: The timeline also states that in 8:45 Blessed, the Fereldan nobility continued a “guerrilla war against the occupying Orlesians, led by Brandel’s daughter Moira.” While the Rebel Queen Moira did eventually lead the war, she was born after 8:45 Blessed.

Page 136: The timeline puts Celene’s birth at 9:6 and her ascension at 9:20, making her, according to the timeline, fourteen when she became empress. However, the main text says she was sixteen when she took the throne. By all accounts, the main text is correct. Celene was born in 9:4 Dragon.

Page 141: There are rumors in some circles of an intelligent darkspawn known as the Architect, who attempted to unearth and kill the remaining Old Gods and taint the entire surface world. Though the timeline says 9:14 Dragon, most reliable sources state these events actually occurred in 9:10 Dragon.

Page 146: The timeline states that Bhelen Aeducan was the middle child of King Endrin Aeducan. He was actually King Endrin’s youngest child.

Page 157: The main text says that the darkspawn sacked Minrathous in 1:31 Divine. While it is true that Minrathous nearly fell during the Second Blight, the infamous heart of the Imperium has never actually been taken. This is stated elsewhere in the book.

Page 176: In the glossary, the definition of Archon as Tevinter’s “monarch” is technically incorrect. It would be more accurate to call the Archon a “ruler.”

Page 177: The “First Warden” is the leader of the Grey Wardens at Weisshaupt. The glossary incorrectly states that he is the “Commander of the Grey.” I’m not sure what my peer was drinking when he wrote this one.

With these corrections, perhaps the record has now been set straight. I hope you have found the tome as enlightening as I have.

Yours in scholarly devotion,

Brother Ferdinand Genitivi

BLOG: The Visuals of Thedas

The Visuals of Thedas

By Dragon Age concept artist Nick Thornborrow (@Nthornborrow)

“Let’s have Morrigan bringing the fire.”

That was the direction I got from my art director after he dug up a painting that I’d done years ago. When I’d done it, I wasn’t even on the Dragon Age team and had some downtime between projects to play around a bit with some illustrations. I was inspired by a description of magic in the DA universe being this dangerous and unwieldy thing, and I tried to capture that in a painting of a mage conducting fire with reckless power. Swirls of ash and flame threaten to engulf him even as the hem of his cloak ignites. It turned out pretty cool. But I moved on to a new project, and that painting got tucked away.

That is, tucked away until we started working on the lore book and we were planning cover ideas. When my art director found this old painting, it felt like the right fit for the cover—except that the mage wasn’t anyone in particular. We both knew we wanted Morrigan and Flemeth to be featured on the cover of the book, so that’s how this old painting I’d done just for kicks got recast and reincarnated as the cover illustration for Dragon Age: The World of Thedas – Volume 1.

Concept artists try to bring an entire world to life, expanding beyond the scope of any one game. A lot of the art we do never really sees the light of day. One of the cool things about working on The World of Thedas was getting to sift through the thousands of images that have been produced over the years, and to finally have a reason to showcase some locations that you’ve heard of but never actually seen.

You might recognize some of the frescoes that decorate the start of each chapter from the load screens and exposition sequences in Dragon Age II. The frescoes are cool because they’re an example of in-world artwork that help to make the cultures of Thedas feel vital and alive. They were also something nice to look at while the game loads. This one of Anders never actually showed up in-game, but we used it for the chapter about magic.

This was the final concept for the wyverns that appear in Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin. We strive for accurate anatomical detail in our creatures, consistent cultural flourishes in our costumes, and architecture and specificity of character in our followers and NPCs. In other words, we’re going for believability, even at the concept stage. The bestiary (along with the rest of the book) is illustrated with 2D concept art rather than using 3D screenshots, and this particular concept is a great example of the kind of research that goes into shaping the visuals of Dragon Age.

Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 1 is available on April 17, 2013 from Dark Horse Comics and fine retailers.

BLOG: The World of Thedas

The World of Thedas

By Dragon Age editor Ben Gelinas (@bengelinas)

There’s deep, and there’s Dragon Age lore deep.

When I started work as a dialog and story editor on Dragon Age a couple years ago, one of my first tasks was to take some seven years of evolving lore and build a single point of reference that wasn’t David Gaider’s brain.

The Dragon Age team is building a world in Thedas that’s so rich it’s downright alive. There are hundreds of places, hundreds of characters, and oh so many concepts—all with meat on their bones.

The task to collect it all seemed a far cry from my old job as a newspaper crime reporter. Weirdly, though, I ended up using a lot of the same skills. I treated Thedas like a real world, ever mindful of its rules, limits, and established facts. Where questions appeared, I sought answers from creators like David and the other writers and artists.

With fiction, though, when something’s missing, we gotta make it up.

Combined with background from every game, novel, and external product, I first built an internal lore guide—which currently sits at around 425,000 words and growing.

This guide formed the backbone for the upcoming Dragon Age: The World of Thedas – Volume 1.

Our new lore book offers a detailed look at Dragon Age from an in-world, encyclopedic perspective. We designed it to appeal to Dragon Age vets while still offering a solid introduction to those diving into the world for the first time.

One of the most exciting features is new in-world writing from a small army of Dragon Age writers and editors, including David Gaider, Luke Kristjanson, Mary Kirby, Sheryl Chee, Karin Weekes, Jo Berry, and Sylvia Feketekuty. Together, we’ve penned dozens of brand new codex entries from familiar characters like Varric and the ever-prolific Brother Genitivi, which dig deeper on topics as wide-ranging as griffons and Kal-Sharok to sexuality and sacrifice.

We take readers to every nation, fleshing out what life’s like in such far-flung reaches as Par Vollen and Seheron. A revised map charts these points, and clarifies some things to best reflect the world as it continues to be written. Weisshaupt’s on the right side of the Hunterhorns now, people. And it’s glorious.

Multiple entry points allow readers to browse the book or digest it cover-to-cover. An extended timeline of recorded history spans all chapters, charting hundreds of the most important moments in the tumultuous history of Thedas. Sidebars also pop up to provide peeks into the stranger parts of Thedosian life. (My favorite discusses fashion trends.)

Hundreds of pieces of concept art are provided by our many talented artists, as well as great external partner artists like Green Ronin’s Tyshan Carey. My partner-in-crime, concept artist Nick Thornborrow, will talk more about the pictures in a second blog post.

While I personally fact-checked the hell out of this thing, I also had multiple team members do close reads to make doubly sure we weren’t breaking canon or contradicting anything that’s appeared previously. As thorough as we were, a couple things always slip past with a project of this scope. I just noticed that the Commander of the Grey is cited as the leader of the Warden Order in the glossary, for instance. It’s obviously the First Warden—a fact stated correctly in the main text. These things will keep me up at night for months, I assure you.

Ultimately, Dragon Age: The World of Thedas is the sum of its parts. Creating Thedas is a highly collaborative process and this book could not have been possible without the contributions of countless writers, editors, artists, and other designers. It’s a love letter to fans of the complex, living world the talented Dragon Age team continues to develop. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it.

If you’re in Boston for PAX East this year, drop by the BioWare booth. Ben Gelinas and Nick Thornborrow will be there, answering questions and offering a preview of the book. Feel free to bring your writing or art questions, too; they’re always happy to talk shop.

Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 1 is available on April 17, 2013 from Dark Horse Comics and fine retailers.