Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #14: Fantasy Holiday Destinations, Part Two

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: fantasy holiday destinations.

This is a subject I have covered in the past, but it’s also one I can expand upon – there is an endless number of fantasy worlds out there to visit, after all! Last time we visited Middle-earth, Hogsmeade and Westeros.

Thedas, from the Dragon Age series

Thedas

  • Climate: Variable. Temperate in places like Kirkwall and Denerim, arid desert in the Anderfels, a warm climate in Antiva which contributes to the wine trade, whereas the climate in Orlais is very mixed.
  • People: Humans, descended from several different tribes; elves, who are often treated as second-class citizens and sometimes slaves, those that break free from human civilisation and live a nomadic lifestyle are known as the Dalish; dwarves, who are normally only found underground, those who venture above are known as ‘surface dwarves’ and are often disowned by their family for this; the Qunari, a terrifying horned humanoid race who religious teachings mean more to them than anything. And beware the darkspawn – humanoid creatures who have been a major threat to the people of Thedas for thousands of years.
  • Language: Ander (Anderfels), Antivan (Antiva), the ‘Common Tongue’ (Ferelden), dwarven dialects, Elvish language (much is lost but they still use some words and phrases), Qunlat (Qunari), Orlesian (Orlais), Tevene (Tevinter Imperium)
  • Notable landmarks/places to visit: Well first of all, feel free to visit my castle in Ferelden. Denerim, the capital city of Ferelden, is a busy place with a lot of trade. Val Royeaux, in Orlais, is renowned for its beauty, and it is also home to the Andrastian Chantry. Within the Free Marches, you’ll find Kirkwall, home to the legendary champion Hawke. The Korcari Wilds to the south of Thedas provide a challenge for any intrepid adventurer – watch out for that sneaky Witch of the Wilds! Or for those who like a bit of history, the Tevinter Imperium is one of the oldest countries in Thedas – but I wouldn’t advise going there if you are in any way magically inclined. Bad idea.

Ankh-Morpork, from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Ankh Morpork

  • Climate: A temperate zone, but next to the most polluted river in the Discworld. It is equidistant from both the tropics and frozen wastelands.
  • People: A large population of roughly one million people, including fifty thousand dwarves. The people of Ankh-Morpork are rather… eccentric. There is also a large number of witches and wizards residing in the city, thanks to the Unseen University.
  • Language: There appears to be a common tongue in Ankh-Morpork, but there are a few other languages, mostly demonstrated by Rincewind: Trob, Sumtri, Black Oroogu, Chimerian and Vanglemesht.
  • Notable landmarks/places to visit: The Unseen University, with its eight hundred foot tower, is certainly a sight to see. And why not take a tour of the library, given by the university’s very own Librarian? It’s only five bananas each! Be careful when venturing around The Shades, the slum of Ankh-Morpork… lots of shifty characters around there. And if you like history, why not visit the Dwarf Bread Museum?

Which of these two would you rather visit? Is there a particular fantasy world you’d like to visit?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #9: Rinn & Paola Discuss Dragon Age!

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: the Dragon Age series of video games, and I’m joined by the lovely Paola!

Yes! For this fortnight’s Fantasy Friday, I’m joined by my lovely friend Paola from A Novel Idea. This also marks the first time I’ve co-written a post with another blogger on my own blog. You may have seen the two of us flailing together on Twitter about Dragon Age. I bought the game when it first came out, but it sat unplayed on my PC for years. Then I finally decided I needed to play some of the games that were just sitting around (my ‘to play’ list is much like my ‘to read’ list…) – and Dragon Age was first on that list. I tweeted about it, Paola spotted the tweet and well… the fangirling began. Today we want to talk about why we love the series, and also why you should play it (COS IT’S AMAZING OKAY).

Rinn: Helloooooo Paola! I’m so glad you could join me for this post, it’s actually the first time I’ve hosted another blogger too! And we get to fangirl and flail about one of our favourite things. So… tell me – why do you like Dragon Age?

Paola: Hi Rinn!! I’m so thrilled to be chatting about DA with you! (Now is when I pretend like I haven’t played both games about 7,000 times each. Errrr.) Let the fangirling and flailing begin!

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Wait, what were we doing again? Oh, right. Leading this army to probable slaughter in the jaws of the Archdemon. Okay, carry on then!

And as for why I love the series so much… BECAUSE ALISTAIR. I mean! Because of the immersive world and the ability to change it with the decisions I make! Definitely! That was my more sophisticated answer. Additional reasons:

  • Grey Wardens. Because they’re this crazy mix of tragedy and badassery and they get to say awesome things like, “JOIN US AS WE CARRY THE DUTY THAT CANNOT BE FORSWORN,” et al etc. But also because the lore behind their history and purpose in the world of Dragon Age is really fascinating. And did I mention the part where they used to ride griffons into battle?? SIGN ME UP PLEASE. I TOO WISH TO DO THESE THINGS.
  • Magic as controversy. I’m always really intrigued by the question of whether magic is a blessing or a bane. This is true of books I read, but also of games that I play — I love when magic itself is a source of conflict. In Dragon Age, magic is powerful, dangerous, and volatile. Those who are able to use it are considered all of these things, and more. Depending on where you are in the wide world of Thedas, they might be crowned as kings or kept captive in towers. I think it makes for such an interesting plot element.
  • The humor. I laugh a lot while playing Dragon Age. I especially love the banter between characters traveling with me. The games are written with sarcasm and wit, which helps to add a bit of levity to the darker themes of the series.
  • ALISTAIR. Wait, did I already mention him? Oh. Sorry, can’t help it. This man is adorable. (And awkward. But so adorable. *squishes him to death*)


“Oh, I wish. Don’t even tempt me like that, you minx. Eamon will have a heart attack.” You’re right Alistair. I am kind of a minx. Sry not sry~

Paola: What about you? Tell us what you love about Dragon Age! (Because everyone probs wants me to shut up now. Um.)

Rinn: Excellent answers! There’s something pretty damn cool about elite groups in video games, like the Grey Wardens – but only if you get to join them, of course. A mysterious force, sworn to protect – who are completely non-judgemental when it comes to picking recruits. PLUS GRIFFONS. And like you I really love certain things about the game that completely drew me into the immersive fantasy world of Thedas, like ALISTAIR AND ANDERS AND SER POUNCE-A-LOT- wait, what? I mean… the story is really good. Yeah.


It’s behiiiiiind you…

But in all seriousness, I absolutely love video games where the player makes all the big decisions – where your every action has some sort of consequence, where you can get to know these characters because their personalities and back stories are so well-built, and you actually get pretty emotional when something happens to them. Many times have I screamed at my computer whilst playing, because some enemy has gone after my beloved Alistair. Even though he was always the tank and supposed to take the hits – HOW DARE THEY TOUCH HIM??! There are not many games that make me gasp, or cry, or really laugh out loud (okay Saints Row: the Third might actually beat Dragon Age on the laughter front), but Dragon Age is definitely one of them.

As well as feeling completely in control and very invested in the story and fate of the characters, the actual plot and world built up around the player is just absolutely brilliant. So much detail and history, so many little facts that the developers have added in – and half the players probably don’t even read – that contribute towards this massive world. Plus, you know, it doesn’t help that some of the characters are pretty hot. [P: Pfffttt are they ever!]

Rinn: But, uhh… anyway… let’s talk about those characters. Who is in your dream team (or teams, rather), and why? Feel free to illustrate your answer with fanart or screenshots! ;D (you will be awarded bonus points!)

Paola: Okay, so I have a dream team for Origins and one for Dragon Age II.


Just (slow-motion) stabbing this ogre in the face. Don’t mind me.

For Origins, it’s me, Alistair (obviously [R: duh.]), Morrigan, and… THE DOG. Ahahaha. I have a pretty in depth set of commands used to control this particular setup. Basically, Alistair is programmed to shield bash the crap out of anyone who is even thinking about targeting me. If I’m surrounded by more than 2 enemies, the dog comes over with an AOE knockdown. As for Morrigan, her job is to inflict the enemy with the lowest HP with Virulent Walking Bomb (hands down one of my favorite spells ever. I can’t resist utility. And maybe also I am slightly bloodthirsty, who knows. Errrr) before subsequently killing it and thereby infecting all its friends. There are more commands, but these are the main ones for my favorite team, and it works whether I play rogue or mage.

Oh, also it’s important that I get all the cool slow-mo kills. I will do ANYTHING to get the killing blow for this exact reason. #Priorities [R: SUCH A SENSE OF SATISFACTION WHEN THAT HAPPENS!]


Okay, so maybe I only bothered to craft this potion because it makes your eyes glow. Don’t judge.

In DAII, my favorite group to play with is Hawke, Anders, Fenris, and Varric. This may be motivated in no small part by how funny the banter gets between the three guys. Last time I played DAII, I tried out Force Mage with Hawke and had way too much fun destroying people with gravity. Anders mostly does lots of healing and annoying debuffs. Fenris is for tanking and Varric is there just to be witty. LOL.


Carver doesn’t think very highly of Anders and his pro-mage propaganda.

There IS an exception to this team — if Carver is around, Fenris gets kicked out. Hahahaha. Because I LOVE CARVER FOREVER. HE IS THE BEST. I have an entire collection of Carver one-liners. Because lame. (Me, not Carver. Never Carver. The man has a secret tattoo of a mabari, for crying out loud.)

…Hahaha here is where Rinn popped into the Google doc randomly and saw that I was here:

R: HIIIIIIIII
R: THIS IS WEIRD
P: LOL
P: YES IT IS

Just so you can see how awesome we are. Ahahaha.

Paola: Your turn! Who’s on your dream team? And which character in the series so far do you think has been the most intriguing, polarizing, or misunderstood? (Or all of the above??)

Rinn: Okay, first of all can I just say your plan is incredibly tactical, which is basically the total opposite of mine. I probably don’t make quite enough use of being able to control my other party members – the only thing I make sure to always have set is that Morrigan and Anders (in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II) automatically heal anyone with less than 25% health. I’m sure that I’ve commanded Alistair to do a few things (harharhar ;D) – time to open up my game and see what I have! Oh, and here’s my dream team from Dragon Age: Origins:

Sten, Morrigan and Alistair! My babies. Yes, even grumpy Sten.
Warning: many nerdy gaming terms ahead. Apparently I had Alistair frequently using Shield Wall and Taunt, to keep the enemies away from everyone else. Sten basically went all out crazy, using AOEs whenever he was surrounded by more than two enemies, keeping himself buffed up with Berserk, and also targeting heavily armoured enemies with Sunder Armour. Morrigan is basically a pure healer – Heal or Group Heal anyone under 25% (because of the cooldowns and also quite handy to keep rotating them), Drain Life for her own health, and keep Cleansing Aura up for regeneration.

As for my Dragon Age II dream team, well let me share with you this boyband-esque shot… [P: THIS SHOT IS INCREDIBLE HAHAHA]


The usual combination of Rinn & the Babes: Anders, Varric and either Merrill or Aveline.
I actually used Merrill more than Aveline, but the two were interchangeable depending on whether I needed more magic or brute power. It actually worked quite well without a tank most of the time. And yeah, I basically didn’t command ANY of them except Anders who had to heal heal heal! I went down the sneaky Assassin/Duelist route, Anders was Vengeance/Elemental, Merrill Primal/Dalish Pariah and Varric a Specialist/Marksman. I have also used Fenris a few times but… sorry Fenris. I prefer these guys.

And as my Hawke was a Rogue, I got stuck with Bethany – booooo, Bethany! I don’t like her. Next playthrough I’ll have to go Mage for Carver. I need to see that tattoo…

I think Sten is one of the most misunderstood. He seems really hard and cold, but he locked himself in that cage as punishment for his crimes. He was going to let himself die for his previous acts so he obviously has a sense of guilt, even if it doesn’t seem that way. As my Warden got to know him, he opened up a lot more and revealed more of his past. He also started showing great respect towards her, and even started making jokes! I think that, despite appearances, he is actually very thoughtful and loyal. I mean, look at his interactions with the War Dog! His early game insults turn to playful jokes and remarks as the game progresses, not just with the Warden but other characters too (like his dialogue with Morrigan about the two of them sleeping together AHHHH).

[P: AND ALSO HE LOVES COOKIES.]

Rinn: As you already mentioned the playful chat between the party members, let’s talk about the humour in the game. What are some of your favourite funny moments?


Guys. I am Hawke and Hawke is me.

Oh geez, this is difficult because there are SO MANY funny moments in the game… here are some off the top of my head!

Wynne lecturing Alistair on the birds and the bees. SO MUCH AWKS. I think all of their interactions are hysterical, though. Alistair is about 10 trillion times more awkward than usual. And that is really saying something… hahaha.

Meeting Anders in DA2. The fact that Ser Pounce-A-Lot gets mentioned almost immediately is just… perfect. His rage at having his cat taken away from him never fails to crack me up.

ALL of the trash loot. ALL OF IT. (Why is there so much???) I actually made a list once of the most ridiculous things I’ve looted from mobs in the game. Here are some of those things, for your edification:

  • Black Bile/Clear Bile/Any Kind of Bile – Um, what? Why would I want to have bile in my backpack? For what possible reason would I want this AT ALL? And why would you be able to sell bile to a vendor for any amount, low or high??
  • Fancy Poison Ring – As opposed to a plain poison ring? I mean, seriously, I want to know if it’s possible to acquire a plainer version. While playing Sebastian’s Act 2 personal quest at the Harimann mansion, I found no less than SIX of these Fancy Poison Rings secreted in abandoned bedrooms and cellars. Just how many poison rings does one family need?? [R: Sounds perfect for the Borgia family ;D]
  • Chant of Light – Now this is just funny. Lulz.
  • Empty Stained Bottle – Another repeat offender. I find these EVERYWHERE. What are they stained with? What could I possibly use them for? I’m beginning to think Hawke participates in some sort of Kirkwall recycling program. [R: Why can I imagine Alistair instituting some sort of recycling program as one of his first decrees as king??]
  • Lucky Rabbit’s Foot – I’m noting this one not because it’s an odd piece of loot per se, but because I found it on the body of a hurlock in the Deep Roads. It amused me to no end that darkspawn would be in possession of lucky charms, although it wouldn’t be surprising for darkspawn to requisition a rabbit’s foot by force for such purposes… (poor rabbit…) But I like to think that this charm was found on some unfortunate adventurer that the hurlock killed. Maybe he never had a trinket of his own before. Maybe it was his treasure~ (There’s a story in this somewhere, guys.) [R: His precious…]
  • Tainted Dwarven Jewelry – The perfect anniversary gift: jewelry made by dwarves and slobbered on by darkspawn! Corruption 100% Guaranteed! On second thought, this might be more effective than the Fancy Poison Ring for dealing with people you don’t like…
  • Rotted Wooden Peg Leg – It would be far more entertaining if you could actually equip this. Otherwise, finding these in such high volume just makes you question life. Why have all these crude prosthetic limbs been abandoned in Kirkwall’s back alleys? How many one-legged pirates are being forced to hop from place to place because their peg legs are missing?????
  • Small Wet Pouch of Incense – One question: why is it wet???
  • Tattered Pantaloons – I just like that they’re called ‘pantaloons’.

[R: PAHAHAH I LOVE THIS. SO MUCH WONDERFUL TRASH! And I love your little stories behind them ;D]

Paola: We’ve discussed how awesome it is that your decisions have such an impact on the story in both Dragon Age games. Were there any decisions that proved to be especially difficult for you to make? Are there any choices you’ve never wavered from? (i.e. “WELL OF COURSE I AM MARRYING ALISTAIR”)

Rinn: Good question! Obviously the matrimonial decision was a very difficult one. Marry the (virtual) man of my dreams and become Queen (okay, Princess-Consort), or don’t marry him and watch him get hitched to some skank and then live out the rest of my days as a doomed Grey Warden, never able to love again *plays sad music* So yes, choosing to marry Alistair was sehr, sehr difficult. NOT. [P: LOLOLOLOLOL THIS WAS MY THOUGHT PROCESS EXACTLY OKAY]

As for the ACTUAL difficult decisions… hmm. Sometimes there were some choices I had to make that I faltered over because I sort of guessed how the party would react, and I didn’t want to lose their favour. But you never can please them all… There was one where you had to either try and save a possessed child (Connor, son of the Arl of Redcliffe), or kill him – and I chose to kill him because… er, well I don’t really know. I don’t think all of the possibilities were open to me at the time (I just took a look at all possible outcomes). It’s not a decision I wanted to make, of course. And naturally the whole party got pretty angry at it… apart from Morrigan, I think. Oh, Morrigan.

I spared the mages in the Circle of course, and sided with the elves in the forest, although I convinced them to free the werewolves – those weren’t exactly difficult decisions. Choosing which dwarf to support for the throne was quite tricky, as one seemed like a ruthless but capable ruler, and the other fairer but a bit hopeless. I went for Harrowmount in the end, who was the fair but hopeless one – and I’m still not sure if that was the right decision.

And as for the big, BIG end game decisions (there be spoilers ahead) – OFF WITH LOGHAIN’S HEAD! And Anora imprisoned, whilst I sit on my new throne, mwhahaha!

Rinn: For fear of making this post super long, and also because we’ve been writing it for about three months now (yup, seriously), I think it’s time to wrap up! Do you have any last words about the super amazing series that is Dragon Age?

Paola: Yes: PLAY IT!!!! But Alistair belongs to us. Paws off.

Rinn: If you haven’t played the series yet, then take Paola’s wise advice. You won’t regret it. And now, my dear readers, I shall leave you with this beautiful image.


There is a quest where all your stuff gets stolen and your party has to run around like this. If this doesn’t encourage you to play Dragon Age, then I don’t know what will.

Are you a fan of Dragon Age? Do you understand our fangirlish ramblings? Do you too want to get into Alistair’s pantaloons? Or are you completely and utterly mystified? Share your thoughts on the series (or our thoughts…) in the comments!