Life in Orzammar

The various strata of the dwarven society.

All dwarves are born into inherited castes that determine what sorts of opportunities they will encounter during their lives and how others will treat them.

Foundation of the caste system Edit

According to legend, seven brothers founded the dwarven empire:[1]

  • Bloadlikk: Youngest and wisest, he was chosen king. Bloadlikk's children formed the Noble Caste.
  • Kiotshett: The eldest, who trained his sons to defend their king. They became the Warrior Caste.
  • Shotkyar: Founded the Artisan Caste.
  • Orzatyar: Forged the first swords and founded the Smith Caste.
  • Orzammar: Dug the mines that became the foundations of Orzammar. From his descendants formed the Mining Caste.
  • Koapar and Knakkt: twin brothers who both founded trading Houses. Knakkt was wounded in battle, and on his recovery, he swore to serve his brother's sons. From Koapar comes the Merchant Caste and from Knakkt the Servant Caste.

Background Edit

The main principle on which the caste system works is that dwarves inherit their caste from their same-sex parent. This means that if a woman is married to a man of a different caste, her son would be the same caste as his father, while her daughter will inherit her mother's caste. In such cases, however, the family would normally live in the house of the parent who belongs to a higher caste.

Due to this system, as well as the dwarven low fertility rate, there are noble hunters. These dwarves are often female and seek to find a partner of a higher caste (usually nobles) in order to improve their lives. Noble hunters are usually looked upon favorably in the dwindling dwarven society.

If an accomplished dwarf joins a house or another organization of a lower caste, it is possible that the house or organization will assume the caste of the dwarf.[2]

The only other way to advance is to become a Paragon, a move that automatically raises a dwarf above the caste system and a noble house is founded on their name as well as the power to induct any family they wish into their new house. Becoming a Paragon is possible for a member of any caste so long as the dwarf has achieved sufficient success and acclaim.

Many of the castes also have a strata within them, and the rank of specific members may be a source of considerable argument. Amongst the castes there is great contention as well; for example, highly placed members of the Smith caste might consider themselves above soldiers of the Warrior caste.

In contrast to Orzammar, modern-day Kal-Sharok places far less importance on the caste system.

Society and hierarchy of the castes Edit

Upper caste Edit

Noble caste Edit

Main article: Noble caste

The King or Queen with their Royal House sit at the top of dwarven social hierarchy and its members are the rulers of Orzammar. However, the leadership of Orzammar is not hereditary[3] and thus the Royal House can be replaced by the Assembly any time a new ruler is chosen. The king or queen with the elected deshyrs from the noble houses form the Orzammar Assembly, a group which at 9:30 Dragon consists of eighty nobles.[4] The King is officially considered first among the deshyrs. Lesser noble houses may not have a vote in the Assembly.

Deshyr is a term meaning "assembly lord". Deshyrs join the dwarven Assembly when a standing member dies or resigns. The prospective deshyr then must be nominated by a standing member and receive a one-third vote from the Assembly to ratify the decision.[5] At 9:30 Dragon the Steward of the Assembly is Bandelor.

Most of the noble houses in Orzammar are founded by Paragons, which give their name to their House. However, not all noble houses are descended from Paragons. Sometimes Warrior caste or Smith caste families become nobility through great deeds or other means.[6] Nobles live in the Diamond Quarter, the wealthiest and most exclusive district of the city, in the uppermost tiers nearest to the surface, as befits their status.

All noble houses act as patrons to promising dwarves of other castes or houses. They sponsor particular artisans, warriors, miners, etc. If a warrior wins honor for himself in battle or in the Provings, it brings honor to the noble. If an artisan becomes sought-after or acclaimed for their work, it elevates the noble sponsor. This becomes part of the political maneuvering in Orzammar, and noble houses will compete for promising warriors or talented craftsmen in order to gain an advantage over their rivals.

Middle castes Edit

Warrior caste Edit

Main article: Warrior caste
Warrior caste

The dwarven military

Warriors are subdivided into smaller castes, with specific houses producing soldiers, bodyguards, officers, etc.[6] Warriors lead lives of drill and practice and marry early, knowing their lives will be short and grim.

The dwarven military is made up of various houses from the Warrior caste. Each warrior house is sworn to a noble patron, which can create unique situations should the fortune of the noble house or the warrior house fail.

As an example, the royal family at 9:30 Dragon is House Aeducan which likely has a dozen or more Warrior caste houses in their employment.[7] The King, as patriarch of House Aeducan, will appoint members of his house to command the warriors who serve him.

Meanwhile, House Saelac is a Warrior caste house sworn to House Aeducan. House Saelac has its own head — an older matriarch or patriarch of the family — who decides which members of House Saelac will march with the newly appointed commander, and whom the officers in charge of those warriors are. Because they serve the royal family, House Saelac is treated as the elite of the dwarven military. They get special consideration from the smiths and artisans. The warriors of lesser houses defer to them.

If something lowers the standing of House Aeducan, such as losing the throne to another house, House Saelac falls with it, and the warrior houses sworn to the succeeding noble house rise in power and prominence among the Warrior caste as a result.

Smith caste Edit

Main article: Smith caste

Smiths are respected, and children born to the Smith Caste are expected to learn the craft as their Ancestors did. Females in this caste may become smiths, though it would also be acceptable for them to marry and produce children for their caste.

Smiths compete for acclaim and patronage and there are often the equivalent of Smith Provings to determine the most skilled smith.[8] Within the caste weaponsmiths, followed by armorsmiths, are most revered. Smiths smelt raw materials to produce finished goods such as tools, weapons and armor. They will sometimes travel with groups of Warriors to repair their equipment.

Artisan caste Edit

Main article: Artisan caste

Artisans work closely with smiths but are not as respected. They ornament the goods crafted by smiths or simply create art for its own sake. They often produce leather and cloth goods.[8]

Mining caste Edit

Main article: Mining caste

Orzammar is the ancestral home of the Smith and Mining Castes due to the rich ore of the Frostback Mountains. Much of Orzammar's wealth comes from its mining.[8] Lyrium mining is one of the most difficult and important facets of this caste's work, requiring finesse and a hearty dwarven constitution to withstand constant lyrium exposure and thus only dwarves can efficiently mine it. The trade of this mineral generates a significant portion of Orzammar's revenues.

Merchant caste Edit

Main article: Merchant caste

The majority of Orzammar's goods pass through the hands of merchants, sold to surface traders or within Orzammar itself. As space in Orzammar is limited, only very respected merchants have permanent shops; others must rent temporary stalls. Once one of the most highly respected castes, their esteem has diminished in recent years as their desire for wealth has sent many merchant caste dwarves to the surface to seek greater riches, dividing them from Orzammar forever.[9]

Lower caste Edit

Servant caste Edit

Main article: Servant caste

This caste makes up the bulk of Orzammar's population.[9] Members consider themselves and their work worthy of the greatest respect and take pride in their service to other castes. They are usually employed as washerwomen, maids, cooks, barkeeps, etc. They look down upon the casteless.

No caste Edit

Casteless Edit

Main article: Casteless

Born with no rights and considered non-people, casteless dwarves make a living often as thugs for the Carta, beggars, street sweepers or noble hunters. They are forbidden to perform any work that a dwarf of recognized caste can perform.[10] Casteless dwarves are branded soon after birth with a tattoo to identify them.[9]

These unfortunates are believed to be descendants of criminals and other undesirables and have therefore been viewed as rejected by the Ancestors since Orzammar's foundation.

Surface dwarves Edit

Main article: Surface dwarves

Those who have left Orzammar to live on the surface are named surface dwarves and are also considered to be part of the casteless, as they have forsaken Orzammar and the Stone.

The only exception is the Grey Wardens, since the Assembly has decreed that fighting darkspawn is a sacred duty, and thus any dwarf who joins the Wardens retains their caste. This tradition was established by Paragon Moroc, one of the founders of the Grey Wardens.[11]

Dwarven caste in the Tevinter Imperium Edit

There is one unique exception to the disenfranchisement of dwarves who travel to the surface. In the Tevinter Imperium dwarves are not considered citizens but rather foreign dignitaries. As such, many serve in the numerous dwarven embassies scattered throughout the Imperium. Dwarven embassies in Minrathous, Neromenian, and Qarinus are entirely underground and are considered by dwarves to reside within the Stone, allowing those in the embassy to retain their caste.[12] Some dwarves serving in Tevinter embassies never leave these underground fastnesses. Similarly the port of Daerwin's Mouth in the Storm Coast which was used to trade with the Imperium was built within the coastal cliffs in order for the dwarves who worked there or visited the port to never lose their connection to the Stone -- and thus their caste too.[13]

Notes Edit

  • Paragon Ortan composed a grand epic of the Seven Brothers.

Gallery Edit

Codex entries Edit

Ico codex entry Codex entry: The Castes

Ico codex entry Codex entry: The Casteless

References Edit

  1. As described by Shaper Czibor in Dragon Age: Origins.
  2. Codex entry: The Dead Caste
  3. As discussed by Lord Pyral Harrowmont in Dragon Age: Origins.
  4. According to Lord Denek Helmi in Dragon Age: Origins.
  5. Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Player's Guide, set 2, p. 17
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Player's Guide, set 2, p. 13
  7. Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Player's Guide, set 2, p. 14
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Player's Guide, set 2, p. 15
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Player's Guide, set 2, p. 16
  10. Mentioned by Kasch in Dwarf Commoner Origin.
  11. Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Player's Guide, set 2, p. 10
  12. Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 1, p. 79
  13. Codex entry: Daerwin's Mouth
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