Tag Archives: dragon age

Blending Into the Crowd

A 2.10 meter character with horns and wearing a red cloak, how discreet can she be and how plausible is it to stalk a couple of assassins?

Medieval fantasy world, Dragon Age, the Qunari are not especially common in the rest of Thedas…

Pretty sure, “discreet Qunari,” is an oxymoron. Granted, it’s been a minute since I paid close attention to Dragon Age (or, really any Bioware series), but remember, we’re talking about the race that thinks that, “subtly,” involves telling people you’re there to spy on them. This isn’t to say they’re stupid, just that they have an incredibly direct and inflexible approach to the world. (Note: that this is sometimes used by the series writers to compel characters to act in idiotic ways. Generally this is a cliché you’d want to avoid when writing fantasy.)

So, now you have an extra question, “how discreet can a Qunari be?” The answer seems to be, “not very.”

As for how well they can blend into a crowd? They can’t. Seriously, they can’t at all. Dragon Age doesn’t have any other large civilized races, Similarly, as you observed, Qunari are an unusual sight outside of their territory. This is for two reasons: They don’t generally mix with non-Qunari, and renegade Qunari (called Tal-Vashoth) are pretty rare. (Even if DA2 tasks you with carving through literal legions of them. Thanks Varric.)

So, when you’re trying to blend into a crowd, you want as many traits that are shared with members of the crowd as possible. The easy things this can include are details like your clothing, height, and the visibility of any weapons you may be carrying.

So, let’s start with the cloak. Ironically, vibrant red is not, automatically, a deal breaker. If you are somewhere with a lot of vibrant colors in the clothes, having a dull or washed out cloak would, ironically, stand out far more, than a bright red one. Conversely, if we’re talking about someplace like Kirkwall or Denerim, it’s going to stand out quite a bit. Dragon Age, generally, trends into a more muted color palette in general. Now, this is a valid setting choice, but it’s not, “historically authentic.” In actual world history, dyes, and the vibrant clothes that could be produced as a result were a were a major trade good. This is something you’ll sometimes see in fantasy, and alternately you’ll see fantasy settings that bleed the color out. In fact, both could, legitimately, occur in different regions of the same setting (which is supposed to be the case in Dragon Age.)

So, if your clothing is not consistent with the crowd, that’s going to make you stand out more. Bold colors in a city that likes to cosplay as a sand and dirt showcase will be easy to notice.

Worth remembering that this can change depending on district. It’s possible that a city’s port, bazaar, administrative, and noble districts would have a far more diverse array of clothing styles, but moving into laborer and crafter quarters would see the vibrancy quickly disappear. In situations like this, a character seeking to remain anonymous would probably need to ditch their vibrant clothing (if possible.)

So far as it goes (since I mentioned it four paragraphs ago), weapons are a similar situation. If your character is visibly armed, in a city with a lot of armed individuals, it won’t automatically stand out, unless your character’s weapons are conspicuous in some way.

Height is a simpler issue. If you’re taller than the average height of the crowd, you’ll stand out more. Conversely, if you’re shorter than the average height of the crowd, you’ll have a harder time tailing someone.

Other physical characteristics like hair color and skin tone can make you stand out from the crowd, in a non-cosmopolitan setting. Basically, if you don’t look like the locals, you’ll be easier to quickly identify by anyone looking for a tail. Obviously, a hooded cloak can help to conceal this, unless of course people wearing a hood is not the norm, in which case that’s conspicuous.

Somewhat obviously, most of the locals in your case are not going to be 2.1m, grey skinned, or sprouting horns (which will still be visible, even if she’s wearing a hood.)

Another unique problem your character faces to avoiding being noticed isn’t just that she physically stands out, it’s that her race has a very real reputation in the setting. The Qunari, upon arriving on Thedas, immediately launched into an aggressive crusade, conquering fairly significant chunks of territory before grinding into a stalemate in Tevinter. Your character isn’t just physically imposing, she’s immediately recognizable as a member of a race that is trying to conquer and subjugate the continent, a fact that will not be lost on anyone who sees her.

So, to sum it up, you’ve got a character who will stand a head taller than the crowd, has distinctive, upward sweeping horns, is (maybe) trying to hide that under a hood, of a vibrant eye catching color, and is a member of a race that is immediately noteworthy, on sight. So, “blending into the crowd,” is going to be borderline impossible.

-Starke

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Q&A: Lessons from Dragon Age 2

regarding your latest dragon age analysis, you state that dragon age used to be great at one point. while i agree, and origins is still one of my favorite video games of all time story-wise, i would like to know if this is actually your opinion or just what i want to hear? because i personally think that in the latest game they really lost track of what made the past games really good, but I’m not sure if that’s your opinion.

It’s not. I found Origins underwhelming, with both design, writing, and business decisions that I’d call questionable at best. The business decisions fall well outside the scope of this blog, and I covered my issue with the game design last week.

I realize it’s a dark horse in the fandom, but the only Dragon Age game I really like is 2.  The writing does a couple things very well, giving the game a truly unique flavor from the rest of Bioware’s releases. That’s kind of the problem. So, there’s four things discuss, that are worth taking a moment.

Dragon Age 2 does a good job with shades of gray morality. In most Bioware titles, it’s easy to identify the good/evil dynamic. To borrow a phrase, your choices split between being a saint, or eating babies. That’s not true in DA2. The game presents you with a lot of situations where both sides have legitimate positions, and you’re left with some difficult choices. This can easily leave you feeling like, no matter which way you went, you’d made a mistake. There’s a true to life quality to this, and it fits well with the overarching tone the game is following, but if you came here for a conventional power fantasy, the game shanks you at almost every turn. This is something that Origins claimed it would do, but 2 delivered, and the community’s reaction was less than enthusiastic.

It’s story and setting are serious, it’s characters aren’t. Origins and Inquisition both inject their humor into the events around the characters. Sometimes these are the result of character action, but often these jokes are delivered deadpan by the world. This is a familiar beat in tabletop roleplaying games, where the GM chooses to be a smart ass for a second, but it’s incongruous with the setting that the development team was trying to sell.

DA2 doesn’t do this, nearly as much. Most of the humor there comes directly from the characters responding to the horrific events around them. Again, there’s an uncomfortable truth to this kind of behavior; humor is often a defense mechanism. It’s a way to deal with things that are too horrible to deal with. In contrast to a normal heroic story, this is an arc of people falling apart, or struggling against it. There’s a corrosive quality to the events story, where characters simply trying to survive and cope with the things they’ve seen. This can leave you with the impression that these are truly horrible people, and over the course of the story, a few of the recurring characters become far less palatable than they were at the beginning.

It violates audience expectations from the developer. This isn’t automatically a good thing, and the fan reaction can probably serve as a warning against this kind of behavior. DA2 is very critical of the normal Bioware game, to the extent that it’s almost an inversion. Your character starts in a relatively stable city surrounded by loyal friends and family, but as the story progresses, the city falls to ruin, the friends and family start to scatter or die. While Hawke, the protagonist, becomes more politically important, they become more disconnected and isolated. The opening cutscene even tells you, this isn’t the story of how a scrappy hero arrived to save the day, it’s the story about how someone who tried to make things better served as a catalyst for the unspoken chaos that followed. This is more in line with authors like Michael Moorcock than Bioware’s normal stable.

If you picked up 2 after playing Origins,  you’d be greeted by a mostly unfamiliar setting. There are some superficial similarities, the game’s prologue and first chapter play out during the events of Origins, however, almost immediately the tone is unrecognizable, for a number of reasons. First, and foremost, Dragon Age 2 is in a completely different fantasy genre from every other game in the series.

I mentioned Michael Moorcock earlier, and there are some hints of Elric of Melniboné in Dragon Age 2, but the major influence, visible up front, is Lankhmar. From Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, the city of Lankhmar was a fantasy pastiche of contemporary New York City. The strange confounding, almost ungovernable mess should be immediately familiar to any player who spent any time wandering Kirkwall in Dragon Age 2. The similarities aren’t just in the architecture or denizens, but in the borderline feral quality that resists governing. Leiber’s opportunistic rogues are also instantly recognizable as kindred spirits for Hawke and party. Even the narrative structure of the game, as multiple semi-connected vignettes is very reminiscent of the short stories. There’s still a lot of Warhammer here, but it’s marinating with a diverse array of influences, and the result is something completely different.

There are some major flaws. Some critical exposition for understanding what’s going on in the city are buried in an unmarked collectible sidequest, leaving many players with the impression that the events happened for no reason. (This may have been impossible to complete on some platforms due to a bug, making things worse.) The ending is rushed, probably owing to an abbreviated development cycle.

In spite of how the community rejected Dragon Age 2 at the time, I think it’s probably the single best example of writing from Bioware. I can understand the people who didn’t like the gameplay experience. I can understand the people who felt betrayed. They were promised a specific kind of experience, and were delivered something unexpected and, at times downright vicious. Personally, I still prefer something that takes risks, and commits, more than a writer that plays it safe, even when it doesn’t quite work out. Also, the sarcastic personality was shockingly close to my outlook on Dragon Age after playing Origins, so that probably helped a bit.

-Starke

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Can you do an article on 1 vrs group fights. and the techniques people use and how to actually win them. So far all I hear is that I master can with great difficulty fight off a group but nothing on how. I feel this is an area that there is very little info about.

You’re in luck…

Also, no guarantee these are in the correct order. I’ve been using google to hunt them up, so it’s been a little scatter shot, and I might have missed something.

Fight Scene Strategies: The Individual Versus Group

There was also this ask chain… Which resulted in a lot of information over a couple days.

April 5th (Initial Question)

April 5th (Followup – Tactical Mindset)

April 6th (Followup – Excessive Force, Psychological Warfare, and Combat Nietzsche)

I referenced The Only Unfair Fight is the One You Lose articles here, you can follow the tag, or find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Someone in the comments for one of those suggested looking at Skyrim and Dragon Age: Origins for insights into fighting groups, which is actually a terrible suggestion. I love both games in their own way, however they’re anything but realistic.

For Skyrim, it’s important to remember that the player character is explicitly a superhero. You see this most with the shout mechanic, but there are a ton of minor points scattered through the game where someone who’s familiar with the setting will realize magic just doesn’t affect the player character properly. As a fantasy superhero simulator it’s entertaining enough, but, as I said, it’s not a realistic depiction of combat.

As much as Bioware wants it to be an RPG, Dragon Age: Origins is a strategy game. I have a lot of nitpicks on inconsistencies in the setting (without including DA2), but even as much as they tweaked it from Neverwinter Nights, the combat is still a turn based strategy game playing out in real time. Or, in other words, not how combat works.

A little off topic, but there was an unrelated ask about angry mobs from December here.

-Starke