How would you react if you knew for certain that god existed? Or destiny? Let’s say a god that doesn’t care whether you’re moral or immoral, faithful or unfaithful, sing its praises or curse its name, you’ve received its mark regardless and you have a destiny in front of you. Would you piously tell anyone who asked or listened about your knowledge and faith? Would you simply shrug your shoulders and give an inconclusive, agnostic non-answer? Or would you loudly tout your ‘atheism’, laughing behind your eyes at those that agree or disagree alike? It’s a question that comes up often in Role Playing Games (RPGs) like Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s part of the fun though we rarely put it that way, at least partly because over-thinking the philosophical implications of such a decision takes up time that could be better spent slaying cultists, giants and dragons. I do love slaying dragons.
Faith is a key theme running throughout the game, being a major motivating factor for many of the main characters (unsurprising given that the Inquisition of the title is an offshoot of the world’s major religious institution populated primarily by the faithful). Cassandra is a holy warrior whose faith in her god (the Maker) is strong, but her faith in his Chantry is shaken. Leliana struggles to reconcile her belief (so strong in Dragon Age: Origins) in a loving Maker with the fact that he has allowed so much chaos and destruction loose on those loyal to him (including the death of her friend and mentor, the Divine). The Iron Bull’s faith in the Qun is already shaken before he meets the Inquisitor from having lived outside of its teachings for so long, and if certain choices are made he doubts his own ability to keep from becoming a mindless savage without it, losing faith in himself. Sera, Varric and Dorian’s lack of faith in the old institutions of their respective governments, class systems and religions drove them to join and remain with the Inquisition, a catalyst of change, but their views and certainties of the world are rocked by the truths revealed by the identity of the game’s overarching antagonist (effectively a powerful mage who became Satan). The player character him or herself spends what can be defined as the extended prologue with everyone assuming he/she was personally saved from a cataclysmic death by blessed Andraste, god’s missus. Even after we find out that the glowing green mark on our avatar’s hand is due to magic and coincidence rather than overt divine intervention many of our followers make the rather valid point that covert divine intervention is not ruled out, since you just happen to be exactly what is needed when it is needed. Several outright ask the player what they believe is on their hand and what they believe exists in the DA:I equivalent of heaven. How the player responds to this is up to them.
The first thing you do in DA:I is pick your race (elf, human, dwarf, Qunari), your class (warrior, rogue or mage) and your appearance. You are given the barest outline of a personal history to explain how you happen to be at the centre of a magically exploding temple. It is assumed you either know the game world’s law or will be paying close attention to the codex entries you find. After that, it’s up to you to decide the personality of your avatar, your Inquisitor, how they act and react, how they get along with the other characters in the game, and what they believe. The characters are left purposely blank for this exact reason, so that the player can fill in the spaces.
Take my Inquisitor pictured above (badly, I stuffed up the shadowing and drew the eyes too high, but that is why we practice). Lana is a Dalish elf warrior who prefers swords to axes, and axes to hammers or mauls. She has a scar over her left eye from a fight with a Tal-Vashoth bandit in which she almost lost it. She generally tries to get along with people, but her attempts at diplomacy often come off as clumsy or ill-thought, not helped by the fact she has a fierce temper with little mercy for those that cross her. Regardless Lana gets along with her companions well enough. There were a few tensions initially with Dorian, the Tevinter mage, after a few ignorant comments got her Dalish blood boiling. She does her very best to stay on Sera’s good side, seeing the playful city elf as a sort of little sister. She does her very best to try and like Solas with his large head full of dreams, but finds his pseudo-intellectual condescension irritating. She finds some of Cole’s actions worrying, but appreciates good intentions. The two that she understands best however (at least at this point in the game), are Cassandra and Leliana, whose crises of faith perhaps best reflect her own as she struggles to reconcile her proud beliefs in the gods of the Dalish with what she has seen and been told about the circumstances of the mark on her hand (the anchor), which indicates at least some truth to the stories the Chantry tells about the Maker (who is perhaps not so different from the Dalish Creator god).
But that’s me filling in the blanks. Jump onto Tumblr or any other similar website and punch in the right search terms and you’re bound to see stories, comics, other fan-fiction and reviews where people have filled in their own. Some are militantly atheist, some are calmly agnostic, others have declared themselves arbiters of the Maker’s will.
Here’s the thing though: we as players know for a fact that god exists and has a plan for our characters. That god’s name is Bioware.