The Grey Wardens are an Order of warriors of exceptional ability dedicated to fighting darkspawn throughout Thedas. They are headquartered in the very place of their founding, Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, but maintain a presence in most other nations as well.
The Grey Wardens are known for ignoring a recruit's racial, social, national, and even criminal background if they deem the person valuable in terms of character, ability or skill.
Despite their small numbers, the Grey Wardens have been instrumental in defeating each Blight so far, and thus are vital to the survival of the world as a whole.
“You will guard them and they will hate you for it. Whenever there is not a Blight actively crawling over the surface, humanity will do its best to forget how much they need you. And that's good. We need to stand apart from them, even if they have to push us away to make us do it. That is the only way we can ever make the hard decisions.”―Kristoff, Commander of the Grey of Orlais during the Blessed Age
First Blight and founding
To the wisest I sang, To the wing'd cup-bearers of the tall sky-vaulting...
The First Blight began in -395 Ancient (800 TE) and lasted 192 years. The Deep Roads, underground highways built by dwarves, were swarmed with monstrous creatures that became known as "darkspawn". These creatures seemed limitless in number, and spread a Taint that infected other living creatures, mutating them into monsters, and corrupted and poisoned the very environment around them. The cult of the Maker claimed this was the result of Tevinter magisters entering the Fade through a ritual and attempting to usurp the throne of the Maker in the Golden City, although this theory has been disputed by others, most notably the dwarves. Nevertheless, this invasion of darkspawn — named the Blight — soon destroyed most of the underground kingdoms of the dwarves and spread to the surface world. Thedas was in chaos and entered a dark age. The darkspawn were found to be led by an immensely powerful dragon tainted with the darkspawn corruption; this creature was named an Archdemon and believed to be one of the Old Gods worshiped by Tevinter.
At Weisshaupt fortress in the desolate Anderfels, a meeting transpired. Soldiers of the Imperium, seasoned veterans who had known nothing their entire lifetimes except war, came together. When they left Weisshaupt, they had renounced their oaths to the Imperium. Calling themselves the Grey Wardens, they swore that they would accept anyone, no matter their race or background, without distinction if only deemed suitable to join the Order.
The Wardens began an aggressive campaign against the darkspawn, reclaiming lands that most had given up for lost. They proved to be a desperately needed spark of hope in the darkest of hours, and quickly gained renown. During the next 100 years, humanity slowly managed to stand firm and push back the Blight. Finally, in -203 Ancient (992 TE), the Grey Wardens gathered an allied army composed of soldiers from the Tevinter Imperium, the tribes of the Ciriane (the lands that would become Orlais), and Rivain to confront the main darkspawn horde, led by the Archdemon now identified as Dumat. A massive battle was waged at the Silent Plains, in what is now the border between Tevinter and Nevarra. The legion of darkspawn was defeated and Dumat was slain by the Grey Wardens; with the Archdemon's death, the horde's will to fight on was broken. It took several years to eradicate the remaining darkspawn from the surface, but the Blight was over and the Grey Wardens had carved out their legend. After the Battle of the Silent Plains, they were much celebrated and most nations gave formal promises of support for further darkspawn invasions. They were also given the Right of Conscription, to guarantee sufficient recruits.
In the wake of the First Blight, the Grey Wardens discovered several darkspawn capable of speech and prodigiously powerful magic. They were also able to command large portions of the darkspawn horde, even in the absence of an Archdemon. The Grey Warden Sashamiri, acting on the orders of Warden-Commander Farele, set a trap in the Vimmark Mountains to capture the most powerful of these creatures: Corypheus. In -189 Ancient, Sashamiri imprisoned Corypheus in a tower stemming from the Deep Roads in the middle of the Vimmark Mountains. To capture him, she used the blood of Dumat, whose remains had been preserved in Weisshaupt Fortress. To ensure that no one would know the secret of the spell she'd used to seal Corypheus away, she destroyed Dumat's remains.The Wardens initially hoped they could use Corypheus as a weapon against the darkspawn, but interrogation proved futile, as any Warden in his vicinity became mysteriously drawn to his influence. When removed from the area, they would have forgotten anything prior, and would be left dazed. This appears to be a type of call to anyone bearing the taint, similar to that emitted by the Old Gods, which draws darkspawn and Warden alike to his prison. When it became clear that no Warden could stand in his presence without being influenced by him (rendering controlling or killing him impossible), Warden-Commander Daneken had the prison sealed to bind Corypheus in perpetuity.
Several notable dwarven warriors, led by Moroc the Maul, were also present at the Grey Wardens' founding and are a key reason why there is no loss of caste associated with becoming a Grey Warden. They shared all they had learned about the darkspawn with their Warden allies. A group of the Orth people from the Wandering Hills and the northern reaches of the Hunterhorn Mountains, who knew how to "tame" griffons, also joined the Grey Wardens ranks and teach them how to ride the beasts in battle. Although there are no written records about it, it is widely believed that the Grey Wardens took their name from the griffons' grey coloration.
In 1:5 Divine, approximately 200 years since the slaying of Dumat, the Archdemon Zazikel rose to lead the Second Blight. The entire city of Nordbotten — the very place where the Grey Wardens first appeared on the battlefield — was destroyed before a defense could be organized. The Tevinter Imperium withdrew from the Anderfels, abandoning it in an attempt to protect central Tevinter. The Anderfels region was hard-hit, and even the Grey Warden headquarters in Weisshaupt came under siege by the darkspawn.
Fortunately, the armies of the recently founded Orlesian Empire under the command of Emperor Kordillus Drakon I proved both motivated and capable of standing up to the Blight. After several victories against the darkspawn, Drakon's army lifted the siege of Weisshaupt in 1:33 Divine and proceeded to save the rest of the Anderfels together with the Wardens. The Anderfels joined the Orlesian Empire and the Grey Wardens converted to the Chantry.
In the following decades, the Blight was again slowly pushed back and the Grey Wardens took command of the war. The Archdemon Zazikel was finally confronted and slain by the Grey Warden Corin in 1:95 Divine at Starkhaven in the Free Marches.
Glory Age to Towers Age
After the second Blight, the Grey Wardens actively remained vigilant for another Blight. Although there were no major darkspawn incursions to the surface during this period of time, the Wardens fought many small war bands of darkspawn that periodically appeared in surface lands. They also sent small groups of Wardens to help Orzammar in its fight against the darkspawn in the Deep Roads. When the Chantry declared their Exalted March against the Dales, the Grey Wardens refused to get involved in that conflict.
The Third Blight began with the awakening of Toth in 3:10 Towers, roughly 115 years after the last Blight. The initial darkspawn attacks occurred in central Thedas in Tevinter and Orlais, but even though the hordes were larger than those previously encountered, a rapidly organized defense led by the Grey Wardens managed to hold them back. The darkspawn attacks started to focus on the more lightly defended Free Marches while Tevinter and Orlais tried to remain neutral, but pressure from the Grey Wardens eventually brought them into the war. The darkspawn horde was crushed at Hunter Fell in the Free Marches in 3:25 Towers, and Toth was slain by the Grey Wardens. The Third Blight remained a relatively short event compared to previous Blights.
After the Third Blight, the Grey Wardens became more involved in the politics of the nations of Thedas, although they also remained ever vigilant against the darkspawn menace.
“Garahel always used to say that heroism was just another word for horror, and maybe a worse one. A hero always feels that he has to do what's right. Sometimes that leads to tormenting himself with doubt long after the deed is done. Or herself...”―Amadis Vael, princess-captain of the Ruby Drakes mercenary company, and lover of Garahel
There are few records of Grey Warden activity during the next 200 years, until Andoral awakened and the Fourth Blight began in 5:12 Exalted. Most of the damage was to the east of traditional Grey Warden territory, in the Free Marches, Antiva, and Rivain, but the Anderfels was also attacked and Hossberg, not far from Weisshaupt, came under siege. This time, both Tevinter and Orlais were lightly attacked and refused to send aid. The hero of the Fourth Blight was an elven Grey Warden named Garahel, who first led the liberation of Hossberg in 5:20 Exalted and then managed to gather an army from the Free Marches to support the Grey Wardens. After a long and bloody war, Garahel's army marched north and faced the main horde in 5:24 Exalted at Ayesleigh, where Garahel perished after personally slaying Andoral.
The Grey Wardens' legendary griffons died out some time after the Fourth Blight.
Exalted Age to Dragon Age
After the Fourth Blight, the influence of the Grey Wardens waned considerably. It would be 400 years before the Fifth Blight, and many started to think it would never happen. So many darkspawn were slain during the Fourth Blight that many came to the erroneous conclusion they were defeated permanently. Although remaining an eternal threat to the dwarves, darkspawn were rarely seen by surface people, and the Grey Wardens were slowly dismissed as a relic of a bygone, darker time best left forgotten.
- See also: Battle of Soldier's Peak
In 7:5 Storm, there was an awkward incident in Ferelden with the local Warden-Commander—Sophia Dryden, previously a rival for the crown of Ferelden—becoming involved in a planned coup d'état. The result was fighting between the Grey Wardens and the royal army, the loss of Commander Sophia and her command at Soldier's Peak, and King Arland banishing the Order from Ferelden. The Grey Wardens were allowed back in Ferelden by King Maric in 9:10 Dragon. They were able to begin a slow rebuilding, but by 9:30 Dragon, their presence remained light and the Order was neither well known nor held in high regard by Ferelden's people: there were a bare handful of Wardens in Ferelden at the time, many of whom were non-Fereldans moved there to help rebuild the Fereldan contingent.
Dragon Age: Origins
- Main article: Fifth Blight
The darkspawn swarm the Korcari Wilds in southern Ferelden, where they are met by the Fereldan army under King Cailan and Teyrn Loghain, as well as all of Ferelden's Grey Wardens. After a few minor victories against the darkspawn, the royal army is devastated in a major battle at Ostagar when Loghain unexpectedly withdraws, leaving King Cailan and the Grey Wardens to their deaths. All but two Grey Wardens (Alistair and The Warden) are slain in the ensuing massacre; both survivors were new recruits to the Order.
After Loghain installs himself as regent of Ferelden, he denounces the Fereldan Grey Wardens as traitors and has the Orlesian Grey Wardens that have come to assist Ferelden turned back at the border, believing the Wardens' claims about the Blight a ruse to assist in a new Orlesian conquest of Ferelden. His actions ignite a civil war, as many nobles either disbelieve his explanation regarding Ostagar or are outraged by the brutal measures he has taken to hold a throne he has no claim to. The infighting allows the darkspawn to advance into Ferelden unopposed. When the Grey Wardens of Orlais receive no word of the outcome of the battle at Ostagar, they dispatche a Grey Warden native to Ferelden, Riordan, to gather more information. They are unwilling to send more, as expending themselves against Loghain would then risk the Blight devastating all of Thedas once again. They remain vigilant, should Ferelden fall to the Blight.Despite the odds, the two remaining Fereldan Grey Wardens are able to organize an allied army to oppose the Blight using old treaties, and with the aid of Riordan, slay Urthemiel during the Battle of Denerim. Lasting just over a year, the Fifth Blight is by far the shortest Blight in history. In acknowledgement of their efforts, the Grey Wardens are granted the Arling of Amaranthine to allow them to rebuild. This marks the first time that the Order has been granted a region to govern, a gesture that attracts the interest of the First Warden in Weisshaupt.
Dragon Age: Awakening
- Main article: Amaranthine Conflict (9:31 Dragon)
Dragon Age II
If Avernus survived the Fifth Blight and was allowed to continue his research:
The Warden-Commander of Ferelden worked with Avernus to uncover the true potential of the Joining ritual. This research was allowed by the First Warden, who was also interested in the old mage's research, and reports were sent to Weisshaupt on a regular basis. However, the results of the research hinted at the dangers of unlocking the latent abilities of the Grey Warden's blood.
If Nathaniel survived the events of Awakening:
The Grey Wardens take great interest in the Primeval Thaig. In 9:37 Dragon, the First Warden commissions Nathaniel Howe to lead a special expedition to learn more about it.
During the early years of the Dragon Age, the seals keeping Corypheus locked began to weaken. Since no Warden could safely approach the prison, Warden-Commander Larius approached a Fereldan apostate named Malcolm Hawke and forced him to use blood magic to strengthen the seals inside the prison.
After Warden-Commander Larius of the Free Marches went on his Calling, Senior Warden Janeka was left in command of a prison in the Vimmark Mountains which had been holding the darkspawn Corypheus since the Ancient Age. She eventually became convinced that Corypheus held the key to ending the Blights.Between 9:31 and 9:37 Dragon, Janeka forces members of a Carta cell to drink darkspawn blood and uses them to track down the descendants of Malcolm Hawke, whose blood is the key to Corypheus' prison. When Hawke investigates the prison, they inadvertently release Corypheus, who escapes death by possessing the body of either Janeka or Larius.
Dragon Age: Last Flight
The Wardens at Weisshaupt Fortress begin to search into records and materials from the Fourth Blight for past incidents of Wardens acting strangely. They are also searching for any records of encounters with sapient darkspawn capable of speech. In response to the Mage-Templar War, the Grey Wardens offer amnesty to any mages or Templars wishing to escape the fighting, on the condition of their taking the Joining and entering the Order. The Wardens also invoke the Right of Conscription on such mage recruits to keep them from being harmed by the Templars.
In Orlais, two different groups of Grey Wardens conspicuously abandon their assigned hold, selling off their spare horses and livestock at a fraction of their value. According to locals, these Wardens withdrew in a hurry. No readily apparent explanation was found.In the Anderfels, the Grey Wardens recover a clutch of thirteen live Griffon hatchlings from Red Bride's Grave.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Main article: War against the Elder One
During the Divine Conclave in the Temple of Sacred Ashes, a group of Grey Warden mages —enthralled by Corypheus— aid the magister darkspawn in sacrificing Divine Justinia V to power the Orb of Destruction. The ritual's interruption by the Herald of Andraste led to a cataclysmic explosion that destroyed the temple and caused The Breach. As every Grey Warden in Orlais begins to hear the Calling —a bluff elicited by Corypheus and a massive Fear demon called the Nightmare— they grow desperate and seek allies to help them accomplish their mandate before they perish. All southern Grey Wardens are summoned to Orlais, which is why all Wardens in Ferelden save Blackwall mysteriously vanished. Lord Livius Erimond, a Venatori Magister, convinces Warden-Commander Clarel to use blood magic techniques to raise a demon army, invade the Deep Roads and kill the remaining Old Gods before they wake. Unbeknownst to the Grey Wardens, the demon binding rituals Erimond taught the Grey Warden mages enslaved them to Corypheus, who would use them and the demon army they summoned to conquer Thedas.
A senior Warden (that can be either Stroud, Alistair, or Loghain Mac Tir, based on the player's choices in past games) that was researching Corypheus at the time, is branded a traitor for protesting Warden-Commander Clarel's plan to use Erimond's blood magic rituals and goes into hiding. The fugitive Warden, Hawke, and the Inquisitor scout the ancient Tevinter ritual tower in the Western Approach to investigate a Grey Warden congregation and learns the truth of the Venatori's blood sacrifice rituals.
- See also: Siege of Adamant Fortress
Hawke and the fugitive Warden join the Inquisition as they lay siege to Adamant Fortress. They confront Erimond and Clarel about the truth of the demon binding ritual and attempt to sway the Wardens to their side. When Erimond summons Corypheus' dragon to deal with the Inquisition, Clarel realizes the truth and turns on him. The dragon attacks and a massive battle against the Warden mages enthralled by Corypheus and their bonded demons ensues. Clarel inflicts her wrath on Erimond, but is killed by the dragon he summoned. Her last spell against the dragon causes it to crash, leading the ground beneath them to crumble. As the Inquisitor's party falls off the ramparts, they use their mark to open a rift that transports them to the Fade.
The Inquisitor escapes the Fade and banishes the remaining demons. Their defeat of the Nightmare demon frees the Grey Warden mages of its control. The Inquisitor then decides the fate of the surviving Grey Wardens —either let them aid the Inquisition to atone for their atrocities or banish them from Orlais.
If the Inquisitor banishes the Grey Wardens:
The surviving Grey Wardens of Adamant return to Weisshaupt, and it is believed that a battle for control of the Order erupts soon after. If the Warden ally survived the events of Adamant, it's rumored he is leading a rebellion to change the Order from within. Eventually, even the Grey Wardens from the northern nations begin to retreat to Weisshaupt and rumors that the Order is on the verge of vanishing begin to spread, while all news from Weisshaupt cease.
The southern Grey Wardens begin to slowly rebuild after helping the Inquisition stop a particularly dangerous darkspawn incursion, and declare that the Order must change, becoming more open to the general populace. It's rumored that the southern Grey Wardens sever ties with their leaders at Weisshaupt and that both Warden factions are at war. Eventually, all news from Weisshaupt cease.
Warden Rainier mentions that the Grey Wardens are presently in a state of upheaval and there have been various heated arguments about the future of the Order.
Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights
Investigating the disappearance of Warden Jovis' mining expedition leads Wardens Ramesh and Lesha to discover ancient elven ruins in the Deep Roads, where a massive pool of viscous gray liquid causes darkspawn to mutate in disturbing ways. Jovis himself has turned into a centipede hybrid after drinking the liquid. He retains enough of his consciousness to tell them to destroy the pool, to prevent "her" from having it again. Lesha sacrifices herself to collapse the ruins and give Ramesh the chance to warn the other Wardens, as this place was only one of twelve depicted in the ruins.Hunger While answering Weisshaupt's summons for all available Wardens, Evka Ivo and Antoine help resolve the village of Eichweill's supposed curse.
“We are Wardens! One and all! Fight's for justice, shield's for vengeance! Crush our enemies! One and all!”
- —Grey Warden song
The Order of Grey Wardens is commanded by the First Warden in Weisshaupt, and consists of a system of semi-autonomous national branches lead by a local commander. Though there is a hierarchy, in practice this is frequently defined by seniority (decided by time of Joining) in the Order.
In 9:30 Dragon, the strength of the Grey Wardens is estimated at over 1,000 in the Anderfels, several hundred in Orlais, and around two dozen in Ferelden, with unknown numbers in other nations and the Free Marches.
The official hierarchy of the Grey Wardens, in descending order, is:
- First Warden – permanently situated at Weisshaupt fortress. The First Warden is mainly a political figure since the griffon extinction, and most military command falls to the Warden-Commanders.
- High Constable – Second-in-command to the First Warden, and formerly the aerial commander during the Wardens' use of griffons. Recently, the High Constable has become the public face of the Order, acting as the ambassador to the High King and leading local recruitment.
- Chamberlain of the Grey – the senior archivist at Weisshaupt, and to whom Warden-Commanders send yearly reports. The Chamberlain technically outranks the Warden-Commanders.
- Commander of the Grey – also known as Warden-Commander. The leader of the Grey Wardens in a given country, and under normal circumstances under little direction by the Order. The dwindling communications between Weisshaupt and the branches leave most Warden-Commanders to run their respective branches as they see fit. They can be summoned to Weisshaupt by the First Warden at any time.
- Field-Commander – a temporary rank used only in times of Blight. A Field-Commander has the same rank and responsibilities of a Warden-Commander in a given area.
- Constable of the Grey – a Warden-Commander's second-in-command, the Constable, colloquially called Warden-Constable, acts as the field commander and steps in when the Warden-Commander is away.
- Senior Warden (or Warden-Lieutenant in Orlais) – the formal title given to veteran Wardens who deserve special privilege. When a Constable of the Grey is in command, they usually take a Senior Warden to act as their second-in-command. Senior Wardens may command a small group of Wardens or undertake special missions.
- Archivist – the archivist of a given national Grey Warden branch.
- Warden-Ensign – generally just called a Warden, these are the rank-and-file members of the Order who have survived the Joining ritual.
- Acolyte – the rank given to the rank-and-file Warden mages.
- Warden-Recruit – an individual selected to join the Wardens but who has not yet undertaken the Joining ritual. They are given a formal rank just for committing themselves to the Wardens, regardless of whether or not they survive the Joining. Failed recruits' names are kept in the archives of Weisshaupt in honor of their sacrifice.
Recruitment and the Right of Conscription
"Men and women from every race; warriors and mages, barbarians and kings..."—Duncan, Ferelden's Commander of the Grey
The Grey Wardens are open to men and women from every race, nation and background, even criminals. They also accept volunteers, and elves in particular tend to be eager to submit themselves for the Grey Wardens, as they recruit regardless of social standing and serving is considered by many an honor.
One mage in every Circle of Magi is traditionally recruited, usually joining the Order after their Harrowings. The young mage recruit serves as a Warden their entire life from then on. Similar to serving a ruler, yet greatly removed from the degradation they may normally face in society, mage Wardens are given great respect and importance in the Order. Their facilitation of the Joining ritual is essential.
Should they need to, the Grey Wardens possess the Right of Conscription, an authority that dates back to the end of the First Blight and was given to them to ensure they will always have enough members. By using this Right, a Warden may demand that, instantly and irrevocably, any individual from king to criminal be drafted into their ranks, and the conscript cannot refuse being recruited once the Right is invoked. This is specially true in times of Blight.
However, in contemporary times the Right of Conscription is used sparingly for fear of political reprisal, due to the low standing the Order has in some countries—especially in Ferelden. The Grey Wardens prefer to not invoke the Right unless there is no other option, and usually is invoked only to quell protest from a recruit's lords or commanders.
While most people believe that someone must truly hate darkspawn to join the Grey Wardens, in most cases the potential recruits are just responsible individuals with a strong sense of will. In fact, most Grey Wardens see their first darkspawn only after becoming initiates of the Order. More so, veteran Wardens consider that having a personal hatred of the darkspawn can be detrimental to a Warden if it leads them to make rash and irrational decisions.
The Grey Wardens don't accept just anyone within their ranks, however. Only the best and brightest are allowed. Recruits suffer excruciating tests to determine if they are worthy of being members of the Order. In addition, the fact that the Joining ritual kills many of its participants means that the draft may turn out to be a death sentence. While this is seen as unfortunate, this process elevates their membership to the highest caliber. To face a Grey Warden in combat, is to face an elite and deadly opponent.
- Main article: Joining
To become part of the Grey Wardens, a recruit must first go through a secret ritual called the Joining.
Philosophy and methods
“The Grey Wardens hold a lonely vigil, enduring lives of hardship and sacrifice to protect the world from an evil that can never truly be conquered. Few would volunteer for this: the suffering, isolation, and promise of a violent death. But the path of a Warden is also one of valor, and those who give themselves to the cause are rewarded with the knowledge that they have become something more than they were.”
Being a Grey Warden means abandoning all ties to one's old life and dedicating their lives to destroying the darkspawn. Grey Wardens go where they are needed most, fight darkspawn wherever they appear, and do whatever it takes to stop them. They act as a frontline presence during a Blight and investigate darkspawn activities outside of Blights. Even if a Grey Warden were to abandon their duty, the Grey Wardens will either drag them back or their Calling and connection to the darkspawn will lead the darkspawn to eventually find them.
Due to the Grey Wardens' cause being so crucial to Thedas' survival, various groups and nations signed Ancient Treaties promising to support the Grey Wardens in times of Blight. This support can come in the form of military aid, donations of gold, supplies, lending of armed forces, and equipment. Although those bound to the treaty are obliged to fulfill their promises, Grey Wardens believe in times of Blight, the treaties entitle them to take what is needed, when needed. Outside of the Blight, the treaties are as binding as a clever tongue can make them. Still, if the danger of darkspawn and the image of Grey Wardens as necessary heroes are still fresh in the minds of the people, Grey Wardens may be able to use the treaties in order to leverage the goodwill owed them if it can be justified as the Wardens using their privileges to protect Thedas from calamity.
So far, it is known that the Grey Wardens have treaties with the dwarves of Orzammar, the Dalish, and the Circle of Magi. Although the Grey Wardens may have treaties with other factions that are still undisclosed to the public.
The Grey Wardens are aware that they are fighting a war of attrition against the darkspawn, and that they are in the losing side. Because of that, they know that they will have to use whatever tactic they can devise, no matter how unorthodox, to win in the end. And so, they acquire whatever resources they can regardless of the method, and employ whomever they must, regardless of their defects of morals or character. They often turn a blind eye to blood magic, deal with demons of the Fade, and do whatever else they must so long as those efforts led to the Blight's end.
While it is easy to assume that all Grey Wardens want nothing more than to end all Blights forever, some individual Wardens have such zeal for the fight that they wish only for a lifetime of tests and war. This means that the ranks of the Order are filled with dangerous men and women, some unscrupulous in the extreme, but the Wardens make a point of suspending judgment of any who are effective against the darkspawn.
Even for their willingness to use any tactic, however, a philosophical split—unknown to people not associated with the Order—has long divided the Grey Wardens into two distinct factions: the ones who feel that the eradication of darkspawn is paramount, and the ones who see their protective mission as the greatest purpose of their calling.
For instance, if a village is under attack by a host of darkspawn, the Grey Wardens oriented to protection would chance alerting the darkspawn to their presence by warning the villagers of the danger, helping them to safety as best as they can before facing the monsters; while those oriented to destruction would be more likely to sacrifice the village before springing a more effective ambush on the darkspawn. The dead villagers, in their minds, are an unfortunate but necessary sacrifice.
However, while Grey Wardens are expected to do their duty whatever it takes, they are frequently admonished to avoid offending local authorities where at all possible. Although in times past the authority of the Grey Wardens was unquestioned, after the Fourth Blight things changed, and the Order isn't as powerful as it used to be.
The Grey Wardens' first allegiance is to their duty, and their second to the Order, but Wardens are not expected to abandon the lives they had before their Joinings. Rather, they are encouraged to put their worldly ties to use in furtherance of the Order's aims. Noble titles and merchant wealth can often accomplish what weapons cannot. Grey Wardens are also allowed to marry, have romantic relationships or retain the relationships they had before joining the Order, if they want to.
While some Grey Wardens avoid serious romantic entanglements knowing that their lives are at constant risk, others enjoy love as much as they can, figuring that they should embrace life to the fullest while they can. Some of those Wardens even allow their families to know the risks of being a Grey Warden, knowing that one day they will not see them again.
Likewise, some Grey Wardens make a point to stand apart from the communities they serve, knowing they may be called on to sacrifice, tomorrow, those they protect today. But again, other Wardens take the opposite stance, befriending any and all in the moment and addressing sacrifice when the times require it.
Whatever relationships they maintain or cultivate, however, Wardens are expected to remain neutral, and are discouraged from taking the field in civil or religious conflict against any enemy other than the darkspawn.
There was a stir within his blood
And the dreams lay thick upon him.
A call did beat within his heart.
One road was left before him.
Just as they keep secrets from outsiders, such as the Joining, Grey Wardens also keep secrets from their own members. It is heavily implied that the Calling—also known as the Long Walk—was a ritual created by the first Grey Wardens to prevent future members from watching themselves ultimately succumb to the darkspawn taint.
The Calling begins with nightmares and bad omens. The Warden then begins to hear eerie music and whispers, the same call the darkspawn hear to search for the Old Gods. Although Alistair claims that it takes a person about thirty years after the Joining to hear the Calling, this should be considered the upper limit. The gap varies depending on the willpower of an individual Warden and the level of their interaction with the darkspawn. As such, Grey Wardens during a Blight are likely to have shorter lifespans. Some Wardens go on their Calling after only five to ten years.
According to ritual, a Grey Warden who hears the Calling celebrates as they see fit before descending underground and entering the Deep Roads to slay as many darkspawn as they can before being overwhelmed and killed. Many within the Order believe that this ritual is done for practical reasons, to take down as many enemies as a Grey Warden can before dying.
It is also implied that even if a Grey Warden would run away, given time all Wardens would find themselves in the Deep Roads, Blight-Lands or pursued by darkspawn, for they all are connected by the taint that draws them to each other. "You'd seek them out... or they'd seek you out."
Some corrupted entities such as Corypheus can use Blight magic to imitate the call of an Old God, similar to what Grey Wardens hear during a Blight and their Calling. This can even allow Wardens to be mind-controlled.
Anything bearing the taint is connected and Corypheus has displayed the ability to speak through the corruption and use it to influence other tainted creatures: he used his call to plant thoughts in Janeka's head and make her believe his will was hers. Since Grey Wardens have some resistance to the taint, they had to be tricked into following Corypheus' influence or managed to rebuff it altogether. Corypheus' voice in the Grey Wardens' minds can covertly brainwash them into following his will or compel them not to attack him. Tainted mages appear to be more susceptible to Corypheus' control but even Grey Warden warriors can fall to his influence. Other tainted creatures, such as the Carta dwarves who drank darkspawn blood and became ghouls, were indoctrinated into being utterly devoted to Corypheus.Only when the Grey Wardens are removed to a safe distance is Corypheus' hold over them broken. Those freed remember little and the voice in their minds that controlled their thoughts wanes when they are outside of Corypheus' presence.
It can be revealed in conversation with a romanced Morrigan, Leliana, or a Grey Warden Alistair that the Hero of Ferelden is currently searching for a way to prevent the Calling. The Warden's lover remarks that Fiona was able to remove the taint from herself through means unknown to her, and that Avernus was able to prolong his life to unnatural lengths through experimentation. The Hero of Ferelden is currently following leads that may allow them to prevent the effects of the Calling, and grant them a longer life.
Relations with the dwarves
Grey Wardens and the dwarven people have always had a kinship through their shared battle against the darkspawn.
Dwarves are viewed as excellent recruits to the Order due to their experience against the darkspawn. However, as there are fewer dwarves due to low birth rates, there are also fewer dwarven Wardens. Grey Wardens are also the only surface organization to care about the endless war the dwarves wage against the darkspawn in the Deep Roads.
When the time of a Grey Warden's Calling draws near, a Warden honors a longstanding agreement between the Wardens and the dwarves and serves a year fighting darkspawn in the Deep Roads at the side of the dwarves. When the advance of the taint is unbearable, the Warden is celebrated by the dwarves and then enters the Deep Roads for their Calling. In return the dwarves have signed treaties with the Wardens promising aid in times of a Blight.
Notable Grey Wardens
- Ailsa – detailed in a dairy how the Calling affected her before succumbing to it while in the Darkspawn Warrens section of the Deep Roads
- Blackwall – a Warden-Constable (9:17-9:36)
- Caronel – an elven Warden from Ferelden, and Arcane Warrior
- Carinus – legendary founder of the Grey Warden Order
- Clarel – Warden-Commander of Orlais (9:41 Dragon)
- Corin – Hero of the Second Blight who killed the Archdemon Zazikel
- Duncan – Warden-Commander of Ferelden (c. 9:10[note]-9:30 Dragon)
- Daneken – the Warden-Commander who in -181 Ancient had the Warden's prison sealed to bind Corypheus in perpetuity
- Evka Ivo – formerly of House Ivo from Orzammar
- Fiona – former Grey Warden; elected Grand Enchanter of the Circle of Magi in 9:38 Dragon
- Garahel – Hero of the Fourth Blight who killed the Archdemon Andoral
- Genevieve – Warden-Commander of Orlais (8:99 Blessed-9:10 Dragon)
- Hafter (dog)
- Isseya – sister of Garahel
- Kell ap Morgan
- Kristoff – from Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
- Kristoff – former Commander of the Grey of Orlais (not to be confused with the Kristoff from Awakening)
- Larius – former Warden-Commander of the Free Marches
- Loris – a dwarven Grey Warden hero of the Third Blight
- Neriah – Corin's lover who sacrificed her life to save him
- Pierse – described the effects of the Darkspawn corruption
- Polara – former Warden-Commander of Ferelden, originally from Antiva (9:10); Duncan assumed the mantle after her disappearance
- Reimas – a former Templar who joined the Wardens to avoid participating in the Mage-Templar War
- Ruth – after the tragedy at Adamant Fortress, she surrenders herself to the Inquisition to serve as an example that Wardens are not above reproach (9:41)
- Sashamiri – successfully set a trap to capture and study Corypheus in the Vimmark Mountains
- Sophia Dryden – Warden-Commander of Ferelden (7:5 Storm)
- Valeska – a Senior Warden who recommended the building of a fortress over a Deep Roads entrance in Emprise du Lion after the Third Blight
- Veldin – a Warden of Orlais that was present during the abandonment of Adamant Fortress (8:58 Blessed)
- The Warden / The Warden-Commander – Warden-Commander of Ferelden (9:31 Dragon)
- Bethany Hawke
- Carver Hawke
- Gregory Dedrick
- Justice – technically, through Kristoff's Joined corpse
- Loghain Mac Tir
- Nathaniel Howe
- Thom Rainier – assumed the identity of Warden-Constable Blackwall in 9:41 Dragon
- Daveth – died taking the Joining
- Diguier – died taking the Joining; a former Templar Knight-Lieutenant from Orlais
- Ser Jory
- Ser Mhairi – died taking the Joining
- Soldier's Peak – defunct unless the Warden aids Levi Dryden
- Vigil's Keep – granted to the Wardens following the Fifth Blight; including the surrounding Arling of Amaranthine
- Denerim Compound (potentially closed by Loghain Mac Tir)
- Archive Tower in the Korcari Wilds (abandoned) 
- Adamant Fortress (abandoned)
- Fortress Haine (formerly a Warden garrison)
- Griffon Wing Keep (abandoned)
- Warden Fortress at Montsimmard
- Facility at Jader
- Valeska's Watch (abandoned)
- The heraldry of the Wardens is an argent griffon segreant on azure. The Grey Warden Commanders (at least in the time of Sophia Dryden) seem to have their own heraldry as well. The blazon for that charge might be rendered as "two griffons addorsed, wings elevated, maintaining a branch fesswise". On Sophia Dryden's Warden Commander Armor, the charge appears in or on a field sable. The artistic rendition of the charge on the armor is distinct from that seen on the heavier metal shields.
- Codex entry: Avernus's Notes
- Codex entry: Blackwall
- Codex entry: "Blackwall" and the Last Few Years
- Codex entry: A Celebration Of Wardens
- Codex entry: A Change of Course (about Corypheus)
- Codex entry: Chateau Haine (about a former Warden stronghold)
- Codex entry: Duncan
- Codex entry: A Fine Time to Close a Border (about the Fifth Blight)
- Codex entry: Fiona
- Codex entry: The First Blight: Chapter 4
- Codex entry: The First Warden
- Codex entry: Garahel's Helm (about Andoral)
- Codex entry: The Great One's Key (about Corypheus)
- Codex entry: Grand Enchanter Fiona
- Codex entry: Grey Warden Letters
- Codex entry: A Grey Warden's Journal
- Codex entry: The Grey Wardens
- Codex entry: The Grey Wardens
- Codex entry: Grey Whiskey/Ritewine/Conscription Ale
- Codex entry: Helm of Weisshaupt (about Corypheus's Prison)
- Codex entry: The History of the Drydens
- Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 1
- Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 2
- Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 3
- Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 4
- Codex entry: In Death
- Codex entry: Larius's Final Missive
- Codex entry: A Letter From Bann Mathuin Wulff
- Codex entry: Locks within Locks (about Corypheus)
- Codex entry: Longbow of the Avvars (about Warden Fiona)
- Codex entry: Majestic Bastards (about Griffons)
- Codex entry: "Oh, Grey Warden"
- Codex entry: A Plea from Commander Athlar
- Codex entry: Privileged to the Wardens
- Codex entry: Red Lyrium
- Codex entry: Regalia of Weisshaupt (about Corypheus)
- Codex entry: Regarding the Calling
- Codex entry: Sophia Dryden
- Codex entry: Sophia Dryden's Journal
- Codex entry: Speculations on Kirkwall (about Corypheus)
- Codex entry: Thorn of the Dead Gods (about Toth)
- Codex entry: To Be Corrupted
- Codex entry: An Unusual Discovery (about Corypheus)
- Codex entry: Valeska's Watch (about a Warden stronghold)
- Codex entry: Vestments of Sacrifice (about the Second Blight)
- Codex entry: Warden Ailsa's Diary
- Codex entry: The Wardens' Prison
- Ancient Warden Logbook
- Grey Warden Diaries (battered journal)
- Grey Warden Diaries (Valeska's Watch diary)
- A Letter Found on a Grey Warden Mage
- A Letter Written in A Shaking Hand
- Codex entry: Fiona's statement that Duncan was made Warden-Commander in 9:10 Dragon is inconsistent with the timeline presented in Dragon Age: The Calling.
- Alistair saying that Grey Wardens hear the Calling approximately thirty years after the Joining is something David Gaider regretted adding, since it is "a long time for that time frame." Although it was not really intended when this was written, Gaider clarified that the number varies.
- Although Riordan is a Warden from Jader, he refers to himself as Senior Warden, not Warden-Lieutenant.
- According to Alistair, the Taint in a Grey Warden negatively affects the Grey Warden's fertility. Most Grey Wardens are only able to conceive or father a child before their Joining.
- According to Alistair, there have never been many women in the Grey Wardens.
- For unknown reasons, Aveline Vallen's armor bears the Warden heraldry when she becomes Guard Captain.
- Wardens frequently train with weighted bundles of canes, sparring with one another and with pells to build physical strength.
- Many Wardens keep a list of names of those who were lost in the Joining. Those casualties are regarded as being fellow Wardens despite not having survived the rite, and this list of names is cherished and remembered.
- Orlesian Grey Wardens who carry out great deeds are rewarded with the Silverite Wings of Valor. 
- Training within the Order appears to be somewhat class-blind, with warriors (and likely rogues) training mages, for example, and presumably mages training warriors and rogues in various areas as well. Likely there is something each class can learn from the others, regardless of natural abilities.
- No Qunari has ever joined the Grey Wardens. There are, however, rumors of several Tal-Vashoth taking the Joining in recent decades.