The Dragon Age Mage: Thoughts on Canon

When Dragon Age Origins first hit the scene back in 2009, it felt sort of like the long-awaited Baldur’s Gate 3 I’d joked about with friends for ten years. Set in a similar atmosphere and made by the same company that’d proven itself as a storyteller, lot of gamers had high expectations.

There are gripe points anyone could bring up about the Dragon Age games, but by and large they’re fantastic additions to the roleplaying genre. And for me, they redefined some core player classes I’d clung to for basically as long as I’d been playing fantasy RPGs. The rogue had long been my favorite class, spanning all the Baldur’s Gates, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dales, KoToR, etc. and many repeat play throughs. I experimented with switching it up and was occasionally pleasantly surprised (Ranger/Cleric), but for the most part playing warriors or mages didn’t do it for me.

It wasn’t until Dragon Age Origins that I saw how awesome playing a mage could be when free of the asinine D&D spells per level crap. To me a mana system is how a mage should be. And this isn’t so simply from the perspective of it feeling smoother and more intuitive to play a mage.

The lore of the Dragon Age world paints mages as rare and mysterious people, viewed with fear or suspicion by most others for their immense powers. In the D&D world, despite how powerful mages were, the way the world would shrug at it made it feel… different. From the protagonist standpoint of an epic adventure, it seems to make a bit more sense to play a mage.

You’re a character that has to be uncharacteristically powerful and cunning to accomplish what the quest demands in each of these games when you consider what your character actually does. If you play as a warrior or a rogue it’s still cool, and I guess you can chalk it up to strong leadership and maybe being a better warrior or rogue than most, but playing as a class that is in itself rare and unusually powerful seems to fit better for such a leader in my opinion.

Imagine hearing stories about some hero doing the impossible and uniting all the unlikely factions practically alone (DA:O). If it was a warrior it’s fitting but feels a bit knight in shining armor-ish. If it was a rogue people must be thinking “Wow that must’ve been one hell of a rogue.” But if it was a mage you’d think people would sort of accept it in a weird way, like “Well I guess if anyone could’ve done all that it was a mage.”

Plus, given many people’s uneasiness of mages in this setting, it seems poetic that a mage is the one that ends the Blight of Fereldan in Origins and reshapes the city of Kirkwall in DA2. And leads the Inquisition to success in the third game. If you have a personal canon of a mage being responsible for all three games as I do, imagining the stories being told of these heroes builds a cool immersion in itself. With all the Blood Mages in DA2, zealots or shackled Circle Mages all, it’s a nice balance to also hear stories of an incredible mage that stopped the Blight etc.

If you play as a ruthless mage obsessed with power, despite being what so many people fear it’s still significant that the player’s quest for those things still resulted in legends. And if you’re a bit more heroic, it’s fun to imagine someone rebutting claims that mages are no good with “Well it was a mage that stopped the Blight, and a mage that saved Kirkwall from Qunari and stood up to the oppressive templars, and a mage that saved Thedas from itself. (Take that, Fenris, who believes all mages are evil magisters in training.)

AN AFTERTHOUGHT — Main Article Over

In most of the RPGs I’ve played, and I’m sure other players will agree with me here, part of picking your own class falls into what teammates you’re planning to use. In the Baldur’s Gate games there seemed to be more rogues than you could shake a stick at, and plenty of powerful warriors. But other than Edwin there weren’t any really powerful mages in the game, so by playing one you’re filling a niche left somewhat open.

Neverwinter Nights 2 stands out in my mind as a great example of this, as it was Act 2 before you got an actual mage in your party, and he was annoying (though less so than Qara). That felt like a long time to be without, and once again by playing a mage you were filling in something your party needed badly. Every other class was adequately covered.

In Dragon Age my favorite party members were warriors (Alistair and Sten) and rogues (Leliana). Morrigan was actually very cool as a mage but I didn’t really care for Wynne. Same for DA2 where I enjoyed both Varric and Isabela, and both Aveline and Fenris. To have played a warrior or rogue would’ve likely meant missing out on those banters and dialogues because you don’t always need 2 warriors and you don’t need 2 rogues. 2 mages works well, so I didn’t feel forced to leave out Merrill or Anders when I wanted them.

What are your thoughts after playing these games as a mage? Did it feel as natural to you or does another class make more sense as the “canon” hero?

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