You have to bear witness and understand why it is so important to stop them. The Joining, the's all worthwhile if it holds back the darkspawn. Once you understand what they are.[1] ―Sekah, Warden-Recruit from the Hossberg Circle of Magi
Creature-Darkspawn Group

Hurlocks, genlocks and an ogre

The darkspawn, known as night-gangers among the Avvar[2], are a race of humanoid tainted creatures that mostly dwell in the underground of Thedas. When the darkspawn uncover one of the Old Gods, they expose it to the taint, changing it into an Archdemon, which then leads them in an attack against the surface world called a Blight. The darkspawn are perhaps the greatest single threat to all of Thedas; they are bloodthirsty, exceptionally numerous and willing to indiscriminately kill or corrupt all in their path.


Chantry version


Chantry's depiction of the hubris of magisters

According to the Chantry, they were created when the magisters of the Tevinter Imperium opened a portal into the Golden City, tainting the realm of the Maker with their corruption and returning as the first darkspawn, their evil transfiguring them into the monsters they became. While underground, they grew in number and dug deeper and deeper into the earth until they found the resting place of the Old God Dumat, where he had been imprisoned. Freed from his prison and warped by the taint the darkspawn bore, Dumat became the first of the archdemons and led the darkspawn to lay waste to the world in what would become known as the First Blight.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age II.

The Legacy DLC implies the Chantry's beliefs are true, as Hawke encounters an ancient, sapient darkspawn emissary named Corypheus who declares himself as a magister of the ancient Tevinter Imperium who, with an unspecified number of other magisters entered the mythical Golden City.

Dwarven version

The dwarves give little credit to Chantry beliefs, but they themselves have no known origin story for the darkspawn. As far as the dwarves are concerned, the darkspawn simply appeared underground. The darkspawn hordes that invaded the Deep Roads ended up crippling the dwarven empire, leaving only Orzammar and Kal-Sharok, the latter of which was completely isolated from the outside world until recently.


For a history of the specific Blights, see Blight.

With the fall of the Golden City and the beginning of the First Blight in -395 Ancient (800 TE), a dark age descended onto Thedas as the darkspawn rampaged across the continent, destroying everything in their path. The Tevinter Imperium suffered greatly, as it weakened greatly and fracturing under the strain of the invasion, while the subterranean empire of the dwarves was laid waste, with only their four major kingdoms Orzammar, Gundaar, Hormak and Kal-Sharok surviving. After nearly a century of hopeless, unending war, the Order of the Grey Wardens was established at Weisshaupt Fortress in -305 Ancient (890 TE), and proved instrumental in the defeat of the Archdemon Dumat at the Battle of the Silent Plains. The darkspawn invasion had been beaten, but the darkspawn would retreat underground to rebuild and recover.

Over the centuries, four more Blights would occur, the latest occurring in 9:30 Dragon. Each time, the Blight would be stopped with heavy losses, with the darkspawn destroying entire cities or even kingdoms before being beaten back by the nations of Thedas and the Grey Wardens. With the exception of Anderfels, darkspawn appearances on the surface most frequently promote fears of a Blight, however this does not occur until an Archdemon is awakened by the darkspawn. Without the Archdemon leading them, darkspawn hordes are much smaller and less effective in the raids they often launch, but are still dangerous. However that's not the case in the underground, as the dwarves are constantly fighting a losing battle against the darkspawn for more than a millennium. This resulted in the underground of Thedas being entirely controlled by the darkspawn with the exception of what remains of the kingdoms of Orzammar and Kal-Sharok, but some thaigs have been recently reclaimed.

Society and culture

Genlock script

Script found in the Wonders of Thedas which provides an analysis on genlocks

Unlike the other major races of Thedas, the darkspawn have very little resembling a recognizable form of culture or social organization, and in general can barely be considered sapient; rather, they are part of a "hive mind" via the taint. They do not eat or build homes, for example. The only hint at a native culture is their propensity to convert statues into representations of the Old Gods, and a certain limited crafting expertise. The average darkspawn possesses no intelligence beyond a simple animal cunning, and the rank and file do not possess any language beyond roars and grunts (though corrupted Old Gods, or archdemons, are able to communicate). The darkspawn have a very good vision in the darkness,[3] however they generally avoid direct exposure to sunlight. Subsequently, during the Blights, the sun is hidden by ominous clouds probably as a result of magic.

It would be foolish, however, to consider these creatures simpleminded, bestial foes. Darkspawn are as a rule completely hostile to outsiders; anyone caught venturing underground will be attacked, and anything caught in their path during a raid or a Blight will be mercilessly slaughtered. Certain darkspawn, such as shrieks and genlock rogues, excel at ambushing and attacking the unwary, and darkspawn have been known to make use of manmade objects like ballistae to combat outsiders. Surrendering to darkspawn is generally foolish; even if they spare a prisoner's life, they will still drag them back to the Deep Roads, working them endlessly until they cease being useful, in which case they are devoured, tortured for entertainment, or turned into broodmothers if female. Darkspawn themselves seem to show little fear, and though they will retreat if they begin to lose a fight without an archdemon guiding them, they will never surrender to their foes and will continue fighting even if countless numbers of their brethren have been slain.

RTO Darkspawn Forge

A darkspawn forge, fitted with the skull of a corrupted halla.

The toughest and most intelligent among the darkspawn become "alphas"; the commanders and generals of the darkspawn armies. During a Blight they're kept in check by the emissaries, who see to it that they serve the Archdemon's interests and not their own. Alphas are easily spotted among other darkspawn, as they are usually stronger and wear rather boastful armor that stands out among the average group of darkspawn. Emissaries are the only known darkspawn that are able to communicate with other sentient races. A much rarer, but much more powerful, rank exists above alpha, the omega rank. Only one omega-ranked darkspawn is ever fought directly, during a random encounter. The strongest Alphas and Omegas receive direct orders from the archdemon itself, and are the conventional commanders of the horde outside of a Blight.

When a litter of darkspawn are born, the newborn darkspawn will inevitably fight amongst themselves and try to kill each other, possibly by instinct. This serves to thin out the weaker darkspawn. Occasionally one young darkspawn will be so much more powerful than the rest that it kills the entire brood. This darkspawn is called an alpha. They are generally taller, stronger, or much more intelligent than the rest of their kind. Alphas will inevitably take command of weaker darkspawn. Accordingly, an alpha that manages to slay other alphas becomes the extremely rare omega variant, which serves as a "second-in-command" of the darkspawn horde in the presence of an archdemon.

When not already under the thrall of an archdemon, and when not engaged in raids (either on each other or other sentients), the darkspawn relentlessly search for the sleeping Old Gods, drawn by what they hear as the "song" of the dragons. This need seems to override nearly anything else; the darkspawn will search without rest for an Old God for centuries if need be. Darkspawn worship the Old Gods even in their absence, constructing strange and macabre idols, banners, and totems from bone, leather, and even flesh, dedicated to the masters they tirelessly search for.

When there isn't an archdemon to direct the darkspawn, the "chain of command" within the communal mind of the darkspawn seems to breaks down, with individual Alphas and Omegas assuming a sort of leadership position as "tyrants", splitting the horde amongst themselves and fighting for dominance. Without a Blight, the darkspawn remain underground except for small raids, but even then, their culture is built upon war; their forgemasters endlessly churn out weapons whilst broodmothers endlessly churn out darkspawn, whom endlessly march to seek out more Old Gods and go to war against the remaining Dwarven realms.

The Taint

The darkspawn horde is connected through the taint, functioning as a hive-mind. While high ranking darkspawn like emissaries or alphas have a limited influence upon small groups, and the Architect and the Mother also command larger groups yet, only an Archdemon can command the entire horde. The darkspawn do not need to eat as the taint sustains them, however they can eat for reasons other than dietary.[4][5] Furthermore, the taint provides quick healing from wounds which also explains the absence of healing skills among the darkspawn.[6] This healing even allows the re-creation of lost body parts after some time.[7]

Territory conquered by the darkspawn becomes diseased, a rotting place of twisted creatures infected by the Blight. Those who come in contact with darkspawn blood or their taint often become diseased themselves, becoming ghouls. Once the taint progresses enough, the darkspawn recognize them as their own kind and ghouls can sense darkspawn. Such people show signs of insanity and schizophrenia and usually work for the darkspawn in order to craft their weapons and armor,[8] while females are typically kept alive in order to morph them into broodmothers to expand the horde further. Males are used as food and killed once their effective labor is used up. Animals also turn into ghouls e.g. blight wolves or bereskarns. When the taint comes into contact with the local flora it usually poisons and kills the plants and trees making the area infertile for many years. However deep mushrooms seem to grow near the taint.[9]

It seems that the taint suppresses higher function over time, causing those infected to go mad and potentially cannibalistic. It also allows the tainted to feel the thoughts of the Old Gods. The Joining ritual dramatically slows the corruption of the taint in Grey Wardens, but after about thirty years the major effects of corruption set in. When a Grey Warden begins to hear the call of the Old Gods, they set off into the Deep Roads to fight to the death before their mind is overtaken, and eventually becoming ghouls themselves.

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening.

By giving darkspawn the Grey Wardens' resistance to the taint, the Architect is able to grant them sapience.

Genlock Necromancer Magic Use

A genlock using darkspawn magic

The darkspawn taint also carries magical power equivalent to lyrium, and allows darkspawn emissaries to cast spells. In the Warden's Keep DLC, Avernus reveals that through his research, he has discovered a way to use the taint in Grey Warden blood to cast powerful magic without the use of lyrium or spirits. He tells that the taint holds greater power than known. Even non-mage Wardens can access this power, since all Wardens carry the darkspawn taint.


This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Origins.

As a species, the darkspawn are asexual and unable to reproduce. This task is left to a specific form of ghoul, referred to as broodmothers. The broodmothers are captured female prisoners, and while male prisoners eventually die, females face a fate far worse. Infected by the taint and forced to consume the flesh of their fellows, those that survive this process undergo a horrific transformation and become broodmothers, massively swollen creatures that exist to breed more darkspawn.

A single broodmother is capable of giving birth to thousands of darkspawn during their lives, and each race produces a different type of darkspawn. Humans produce hurlocks, dwarves produce genlocks, elves produce shrieks, and Qunari produce ogres. Darkspawn feature similar traits to the race their broodmother once was, such as genlocks having magical resistance. Newborn darkspawn look more or less like the Children.[5]

Notable darkspawn

For a complete list, see Category:Darkspawn.

The Disciples

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening.

Main article: The Disciples
The research of the Architect created a new kind of darkspawn, who are capable of tactical warfare and free thinking. The Disciples are unable to hear the call of the Old Gods, and retain their own sapience. They serve the Architect or the Mother.


  • In The Darkspawn Chronicles DLC, the player assumes the role of a Hurlock vanguard in an alternate storyline in which the Warden died during their Joining.
  • While little is known about darkspawn physiology, if Isabela is in Hawke's party during the quest Fool's Gold in Dragon Age II she will say, "The darkspawn smashed the chest. Fine! But did they have to piss on it too?," implying that darkspawn apparently still retain some normal biological processes. Additionally Anders will say "Bloody darkspawn shit on everything they touch," but he may be speaking metaphorically given his angry tone. He also claims that darkspawn don't eat, the taints sustains them living.
  • The Darkspawn race and origins bear similarities to the origin of Orcs in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. As the Old Gods tried to usurp Heaven, the Ainur Morgoth and his followers tried to usurp Valinor; they were cast out to Arda, where they corrupted many living things to serve them; the Old Gods were cast down to Thedas, and the Taint they brought corrupted many. Without Morgoth or his servants leading them, Orcs tend to remain underground, and often war with Dwarves, as do the Darkspawn without Archdemons.


See also

Ico codex entry Codex entry: Darkspawn
Ico codex entry Codex entry: Broodmother
Ico codex entry Codex entry: Hurlock

Codex entry: Genlock may refer to:

Disambig gray This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title.
If an internal link led you here, you may wish to change the link to point directly to the intended article.
Ico codex entry Codex entry: Ogre
Ico codex entry Codex entry: Shriek
Codex icon DA2 Codex entry: The First Darkspawn


  1. Dragon Age: Last Flight, p. 19
  2. Dragon Age RPG, Blood in Ferelden p.67
  3. As seen with the transformation of Bregan in Dragon Age: The Calling.
  4. Dragon Age: The Calling, p. 218
  5. 5.0 5.1 BSN David Gaider (2011). "What do darkspawn eat?" . BioWare Social Network. Retrieved on January 19, 2011.
  6. Mentioned by the Architect in Dragon Age: The Calling.
  7. As seen with the Architect having both of his hands again in Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening.
  8. Codex entry: Armored Ogre
  9. Codex entry: In Praise of the Humble Nug
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