Dragon Age Wiki
Dragon Age Wiki

Ability mechanics in Dragon Age: Origins comprise the technical details relevant to the use of abilities (spells and talents).


Two abilities activated (PC version)

Ability Type[]

Abilities in the game are categorized into four types: 1. Talent, 2. Spell, 3. Skill and Plot, and 4. Item.

All abilities used by Warrior and Rogue are Talents, while Spells are used by Mage.

Plot abilities are boosts to one specific Attribute, which are automatically acquired by party members when their approval reaches certain check points. Each party member can gain these passives up to four times (Minor, Moderate, Major, Massive). The first two increase the corresponding Attribute by one point each, while the last two increase it by two each. These abilities will be removed if the party member's approval drops below their corresponding check points.

Abilities categorized as Spells are subjected to the dispel magic effect, spell resistance (in most cases), and are (partially) negated by the spell-ward effect (from Glyph of Neutralization and Anti-Magic Ward).

Almost all special abilities used by monsters are Talents. In Origins, the only monster ability that is a Spell is Arcane Horrors' Swarm, and in Awakening, there is only the Architect's Cataclysm.

Use Type[]


An activated ability applies temporary effects upon ability impact, then immediately goes on cooldown. The activation cost of the ability - which can be stamina, mana, or health - is deducted from the character's currently available resource pool.

In the case of stamina and mana, the character's remaining amount must be at least equal to the activation cost for the ability to be cast. For spells, when the activation cost is health, the character can still "cast" a spell even if the health cost is greater than their remaining health. However, this will knock the character unconscious as soon as the spell is released, and the spell will be immediately aborted since its caster has fallen.


Sustained abilities have an upkeep cost - an amount of stamina/mana that is deducted from the character's maximum stamina/mana, rather than the currently available amount. If an ability's upkeep cost is lower than the amount of stamina/mana the character has lost, activating this ability will not affect the character's current stamina/mana.

For as long as a sustained ability is kept active, its upkeep cost is "reserved" in the character's maximum resource pool, effectively lowering the total available resource amount they can use for subsequent abilities. This upkeep cost is "non-refundable" - any stamina/mana loss resulted from activating the ability has to be regenerated normally after the ability is deactivated. Additionally, a cumulative fatigue penalty is gained for as long as the ability is kept active. The total fatigue of the character is the percentage by which the cost of every activated ability is increased.

Effects applied by a sustained ability remain active until the ability is deactivated. The cooldown of the ability is also set when it is deactivated.


There are two types of passives one that apply permanent changes to the character's properties—such as a permanent increase to an attribute. This can be viewed via ABI_base.xml file on the passive_abilities tab.

The other type on passive that can also passively affect combat results in some way—for example, Dual-Weapon Expert passively applies bleeding when the character inflicts damage while dual-wielding, or Destroyer passively applies armor penalty on a critical hit with a two-handed weapon. This is via scripts that can be viewed in the toolset.


Valid values for Range in the ability table abi_.gda are from 0 to 18. Abilities use values 0-4, 17, and 18.

Personal (Range = 0)[]

Abilities with this range can only be cast within melee range. This range is used by single-target offensive melee talents, or self-targeting abilities.

Touch (Range = 1)[]

Abilities with this range can only be cast within melee range. This range seems to only be used by monsters and for only two abilities as Howl and Flame Breath.

Short (Range = 2)[]

Maximum distance to target: 8 meters. Examples: Distraction, Flame Blast, Cone of Cold.

Medium (Range = 3)[]

Maximum distance to target: 25 meters. Examples: Holy Smite, most spells that are not self-targeting.

Long (Range = 4)[]

Maximum distance to target: 35 meters. Only the Broodmother's Spit attack and Arcane Horrors' basic ranged attack use this range.

Very Long (Range = 17)[]

Maximum distance to target: 60 meters. Examples: all Archery offensive talents.

Party-Wide (Range = 18)[]

Abilities with this range apply effects to the entire party, regardless of the distance between a party member and the caster. These abilities are always self-targeting and, in most cases, are sustained (modal).

Cast Time[]

All abilities can have a cast animation and a conjure animation. The cast animation duration is fixed, while the conjure animation duration can be adjusted by a speed parameter in the ability table abi_.gda. A speed greater than 1 means the ability requires a "channeling" duration before it can be released. The maximum valid value for speed is 5, corresponding to a channeling time of 21 seconds.

  • The majority of talents (i.e., not spells) do not have a conjure animation, only cast animation (exceptions: Cleanse Area, Holy Smite, Mark of Death, and Ranger's summoning abilities), and thus are not affected by the speed parameter. This means, for melee talents, "cast time" in most cases is within 1 second, as most cast animations are brief. Archery offensive talents, however, require an aim duration of 1.5 seconds (this is set in the game's codes) in addition to the draw duration (which is determined by the type of chest armor on the character).
  • All spells have a conjure animation (except Dark Sustenance), in addition to a cast animation. In the game, only Dark Sustenance and Bloody Grasp have a cast speed of 0. All other spells have speed of either 1 (instant) or 2 (channeling time: 3.5 seconds). 0 is actually not a "valid" value for speed; a speed of 0 does not make the casting any faster than when it is 1. However, having a speed of 0 means the casting of this spell is not subjected to interruption when the caster takes physical damage.



A one-time stamina/mana/health cost for generating the effects of an ability. This cost is subtracted the moment the casting is started.


An amount of time after an ability is cast in which it cannot be cast again, as given by a duration (in seconds). This cooldown is set when the ability first impacts (not when the casting is started). For offensive Archery talents, the cooldown is set when the projectile is released.

Some abilities impact more than once, e.g., Assault, Quake. If the casting is canceled before the ability's first impact, the activation cost is lost, but the cooldown will not be triggered.


An additional amount of stamina/mana cost imposed on the caster while the ability is active.


A deduction from the caster's maximum stamina/mana, used to keep a sustained ability active. An upkeep effect prevents a character from reaching maximum stamina/mana, as the upkeep cost must be reserved in order to keep the ability active. Some sustained abilities also incur a penalty to stamina/mana regeneration that is high enough to constantly drain the character of stamina/mana.


Area of Effect - Cone[]

A cone shaped area in which an ability applies its effects, specified by a radius (in meters) and an angle (in degrees). The cone extends from the caster up to a distance equal to the radius.

Examples: Cone of Cold, Flame Blast, Shock

Area of Effect - Sphere[]

An effect is applied within a circular region, as given by a radius (in meters). The center of the circle is the impact point.

Examples: Anti-Magic Burst, Earthquake, Glyph of Neutralization, Sleep, Spellbloom

On-Enter Effects[]

These effects are applied on a creature the moment it enters a persistent area of effect, which may be a permanent aura, or a limited-duration area of effect. These effects are removed when the creature exits the area of effect, or when the area of effect no longer exists. For example, a creature entering Blizzard's area of effect will immediately gain fire resistance and defense bonuses.

Heartbeat Effects[]

A persistent area of effect can also recurringly apply a number of effects at specific intervals on creatures inside the area. For example, creatures inside Blizzard's area of effect are subjected to the frozen effect, which lasts 4 seconds, every 2.05 seconds; creatures inside Inferno's area of effect are subjected to fire damage over 4 seconds, every 4.05 seconds.

Damage Colors[]

Damage values are displayed in the game with color coding so you can easily identify the type of damage done.

  • Fire: Orange
  • Cold: Light Blue
  • Electrical: Yellow
  • Nature: Dark Green
  • Spirit: Purple
  • Physical: White
  • Healing: Green

When a player character is damaged, the color is always Red.

Other Details[]

There are some other parameters to the way an ability works, which can be found in the ability table abi_.gda.

  • Ability Conditions: some abilities require that certain conditions are met before they can be used. Weapon talents in each weapon group require their respective wielding type, e.g., Weapon and Shield talents require a shield and a melee weapon (not bare hand). Some abilities require that a specific sustained ability is active, e.g., Final Blow requires Berserk. Some abilities require that the character has a melee weapon equipped, e.g., Berserk, Final Blow, Deadly Strike.
  • Out-of-Stamina/Mana: this is a flag that decides whether or not a sustained ability is deactivated automatically when the character's stamina/mana reaches 0. This is used by sustained abilities that incur a stamina/mana regeneration penalty, such as Momentum, Cleansing Aura.
  • Autodraw: this is a flag that decides whether or not the character has to sheathe/unsheathe their weapon before they can activate the ability. A value of 0 means the character can instantly activate the ability regardless of whether their weapon is sheathed or not, e.g., Indomitable, Rally. A value of 1 (used only by talents) means the character has to unsheathe their weapon and assume combat stance first, e.g., War Cry, Berserk. A number of spells use a value of 2 for this flag, meaning the character has to sheathe their weapon before they can cast these spells, unless the weapon is a staff. A mage (notably, an Arcane Warrior) wielding a non-staff weapon will have to sheathe their weapon before casting these spells.

Additionally, several sustained abilities are deactivated automatically when combat ends, or when an UI menu is opened (Main Menu, Character Record, Map, etc.), or when a cutscene or dialogue is triggered. These are Feign Death, Blood Magic, Captivating Song, Aura of Pain, and Berserk.