The Deep Roads once linked the thaigs with one another and to the surface. These subterranean highways were works of unparalleled artisan achievement, with centuries of planning and engineering demonstrated in the geometry of their walls. Statues of the Paragons watched over passing travelers, and channels carried a flow of magma that kept the Deep Roads lit and warm.
During the First Blight, the dwarves were forced to close the entrances to the Deep Roads, abandoning them to the darkspawn. The entrances still exist, but all are sealed by octagonal steel doors decorated with geometric patterns that may form words or patterns. These subterranean highways were works of unparalleled artisan achievement, with centuries of planning and engineering demonstrated in the geometry of their walls. At the height of the dwarven empire, the Deep Roads were busy with constant travelers and merchants, not only from the thaigs, but from the surface. If a citizen of the Tevinter Imperium at its height were to see the Deep Roads today, they would be shocked at the silence and decay that now reigns within.
This once-proud creation is now the source of much lament for what the dwarves have lost. Today, only three thaigs remain inhabited: Kal-Sharok deep beneath the Hunterhorn Mountains, Orzammar beneath the Frostback Mountains and the recently recovered Kal'Hirol beneath the Arling of Amaranthine.
How much of the network is still open is unknown, as is how much of the Deep Roads the darkspawn have corrupted. It has been centuries since the darkspawn invaded the surface, but the fact that it takes the darkspawn some time to break through to the surface (and the fact that they have to break through instead of just emerging) suggests that most of the official entrances are well-sealed. Entering the Deep Roads is very risky and there are many legends of travelers going missing in the hills near these entrances.
The entrance at the dwarven city of Orzammar is also sealed and no one is allowed to pass, though the gate is opened on occasion for one of the following reasons:
- People who have been granted access or authorized expeditions.
- Regular operations conducted by Orzammar's army.
- Grey Wardens who head to their Calling.
- New members of the Legion of the Dead who venture into the Deep Roads, where they spend their last days fighting the darkspawn in hopes of redemption.
- Criminals punished with exile to the Deep Roads, which is considered to be certain death and one of the most severe punishments.
Travel within the Deep Roads is difficult. Many of the caverns leading down have been partially filled in with rock and earth, either on purpose to keep what is down there from getting to the surface, or through neglect and the passage of time. Many smaller tunnels intersect with the Roads themselves, making navigation even more difficult, but sometimes allowing blockages or other obstacles to be avoided. There is air available even in the deepest portions, as the dwarven craftsmen that built the roads created an intricate duct system to supply it. Natural light however does not reach the Roads so molten rock, channels of magma, slow-burning torches that have been burning for centuries, and other forms of technological illumination are used to provide light. The intersections have dwarven runes carved into walls, which may indicate directions.
Along the network of passages are abandoned way-stations and forts, as well as the empty ruins of thaigs lost to the darkspawn.
In the more ancient parts of the Deep Roads, the walls and floor are covered with a substance of oil and filth - a visible indication of the taint, spread even to the rock itself, by the darkspawn that now inhabit the Roads.
After the dwarves lost control of the Deep Roads, some of the wildlife from the underground caverns and tunnels now lives into the Deep Roads and lost thaigs. However it is not numerous due to the presence of darkspawn and because of the darkspawn taint which affects their fertility as well as turning some of them into ghouls. These are the known animal species:
- Beirus' Retreat
- Caridin's Cross
- Daerwin's Mouth
- Darkspawn Warrens
- Deep Roads (a section leading to the Primeval Thaig)
- Deep Roads (an abandoned section ventured during Trespasser)
- Deep Roads Grotto
- Deep Roads Outskirts
- Deep Roads (Vigil's Keep)
- Flooded Caves
- Heidrun Turning
- Storm Coast Fissure
- Varen's Notch
- Spider - a warning sign is the distinct chittering sound and numerous webs.
- Deepstalker - they are found throughout the Deep Roads and feed on anything they can get their fangs on. They also have a tendency to ambush the party by having one Deep Stalker lead them into a trap - this can be avoided by killing the Deep Stalker before it can reach the ambush point.
- Genlock - a short and numerous type of darkspawn.
- Hurlock - taller than the genlocks, they act as the heavy infantry of the darkspawn.
- Shriek - the only known warning sign for an encounter with the deadly shriek is a strange deep humming or moaning sound performed in an almost chanting fashion.
- Ogre - giant and powerful darkspawn as well as very rare.
- Emissary - magic wielding darkspawn who serve as leaders for the spawn.
- Corpse - the bodies of the dead animated by confused demons from the Fade.
- Despite the fact that the Deep Roads are constantly teeming with darkspawn (especially when compared to the surface), they are safer during a Blight.
- There is an entrance to the Deep Roads in Valeska's Watch, beneath Emprise du Lion.
- Another entrance is situated in Valammar, beneath the Hinterlands.
- Beneath the Heidrun Turning and near Varen's Notch there is a cavern which used to be an Archdemon Prison, according to a report written by Kardol for the Shaperate.
- The party never experiences random encounters whilst traveling from an underground location to another.
- On the map of the Deep Roads, there are paths that lead to four symbols (e.g. the dual axes toward the bottom left, and the golem at the middle top). There are no quests that let you explore these areas.
- The map only shows a tiny portion of the Deep Roads. As mentioned in the epilogue of Origins and during Awakening, the network extends under most of Thedas. It is confirmed they go at least as far as the Free Marches and the Hunterhorn Mountains.
- Varric Tethras seems to know a good bit about the Deep Roads, as he will say he doesn't like them, and claims Red Lyrium is likely to have been stored inside after the Kirkwall incident that drove his brother insane.
- Dragon Age II: The Complete Official Guide, p. 248
- Mentioned by Bianca Davri in Skyhold during Well, Shit.
- Codex entry: Privileged to the Wardens
- The Dwarf Noble receives such punishment for the murder of Crown Prince Trian Aeducan during The Exile quest. It is also suggested that it will likely happen to the Dwarf Commoner by Leske during Captured quest.
- According to Dorian Pavus in Trespasser (quest).
- Dragon Age (tabletop RPG), Game Master's Guide, set 1, p. 34
- Encountered in Dragon Age Journeys; for the encounter with Paragon Beirus in the retreat see here.
- Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 2, p. 106