Lyrium is a valuable but dangerous mineral-like substance. Bianca Davri claims the mineral is extremely volatile and sometimes explodes for no reason. Physical contact with raw lyrium ore will cause serious injury and psychological damage for humans, elves, and Qunari, and will kill mages outright.
The Mining caste of the dwarves is the only group capable of safely mining and processing lyrium into a less dangerous and more useful form. How they achieve this is a tightly guarded secret. Generations of proximity to lyrium ore veins have made dwarves naturally resistant, though not completely immune, to its effects. Even their resistance is only skin deep, as open cuts and direct exposure to the eyes leaves them vulnerable. Surface dwarves lose this resistance over time.
Lyrium exists both in the waking world and in the Fade and somehow bridges the gap between them. It grows even in the raw Fade unclaimed by spirits where it is always night. Lyrium consumption strengthens a mage's relation to the Fade, thereby boosting mana. The Chantry believes lyrium to be the emerald waters of the Fade, the very substance of creation itself, from whence the Maker fashioned the world. Dagna's research indicates that lyrium and the Fade "are linked".
Some scholars believe that lyrium is alive.
Cole tells that the song of red lyrium is different from the song of regular lyrium. Whether it is also different from the call of the Old Gods is unclear. In his party banters Cole remarks that once "everything sang the same" and then "the song was sundered", even though "the old song still echoes" inside dwarves, almost like templars.Paragon Garal proves that dwarves once knew the song for what it is - "Titan's hymn". The titan communicates with Valta through its lonely song, revealing to her the forgotten dwarven history.
Dwarves from the mining caste traditionally mine raw lyrium and process it. Females are considered better suited for the delicate task.
In the time of Elvhenan Mythal has struck down the titans and ancient elves mined their bodies for lyrium. The Inquisitor visits one such mining location in 9:44 Dragon. Another ancient mining site features a broken statue of Mythal, but the reasons behind it are yet to be discovered.Qunari have learned to mine lyrium without touching it on Viddasala's orders. The process involves the use of gaatlock. Devising it has cost them numerous lives.
Even though dwarves have a natural resistance, raw lyrium is dangerous for all but the most experienced of the mining caste to handle. Even for dwarves, exposure to the unprocessed mineral can cause deafness or memory loss. For humans and elves, direct contact with lyrium ore produces nausea, blistering of the skin, and dementia. Mages are the most affected by exposure to lyrium, as even close proximity to the substance is invariably fatal to them.
In its processed form, lyrium may be handled by anyone, but long term exposure or a single mistake while working with it can lead to serious side effects. Prolonged use by Templars becomes addictive, the cravings unbearable. The effects of lyrium addiction for templars include paranoia, obsession, and dementia. Symptoms of lyrium hunger pangs include weakness, headaches, forgetfulness, an unquenchable thirst, and cold hands. Over time, templars grow disoriented, incapable of distinguishing memory from present, or dream from waking. They frequently become paranoid as their worst memories and nightmares haunt their waking hours. Cullen Rutherford states that templars also lose their memories due to prolonged imbibing of lyrium. It starts small at first- a misplaced item or words to a song- but more fades away over time. Mages have additionally been known to suffer physical mutation. According to Vivienne, anything that increases the capacity of a mage's magic (such as lyrium) creates a damaging effect on the body. For mages, this is known as mana imbalance. Some adverse effects of mana imbalance may include conscious dreaming in the Fade (such as those experienced during the Harrowing), periods of dizziness, and hearing voices. Unlike templars, mages are able to recuperate from the adverse effects.
Processed lyrium is used by dwarves and the Tranquil to enchant items. When mixed into liquid and ingested, lyrium allows mages to enter the Fade when fully aware, unlike all others who reach it only when dreaming. This unique property is essential for the Circle of Magi's Harrowing rituals. Such potions can also be used to aid in the casting of especially taxing spells, for a short time granting a mage far greater power than the mage normally wields. Mages can also be branded with lyrium to become Tranquils, forever severing their connection to the Fade. While mages use lyrium in their arcane spells and rituals, templars ingest the primordial mineral to enhance their abilities to resist and dispel magic. It also puts templars in a state of boldness and empowerment.
Lyrium is used by the Chantry to control the templars. Templars are given lyrium to "develop their talents" which also leaves them addicted and thus within the control of the Chantry, which controls the lyrium trade (Alistair seems to doubt whether it actually has any real effect and Cassandra is apparently capable of using talents similar to the Templar though the Seekers powers apparently require a different training regimen).
Lyrium Sand is used to create Dworkin Glavonak's explosives: grenades that are said to match those used by the Qunari. Lyrium blast charges are also used by the Legion of the Dead to collapse a tunnel during the Descent.
The Anvil of the Void allowed Caridin to turn living dwarves into golems of steel and stone with the use of lyrium. The process involved dressing the volunteer in armor the size of the golem, then pouring molten lyrium through the eye holes, mouth hole, and joints of the armor. A magical, not mechanical, process animated the golems.
The smiths of Amgarrak, under the jurisdiction of a Tevinter mage, created strange contraptions known as lyrium wells, capable of shifting objects and people through different levels of the Fade and creating runic golems. However, this was used against them when one of their experiments created a monstrosity capable of manipulating the Wells. After realizing what their creation was capable of, the smiths were forced to seal the thaig to make sure that it wouldn't be able to escape.
In the Fade, the Warden encounters a resource called "raw lyrium" that can replenish all health, stamina, and mana. This also is present at Anvil of the Void, though the effect is lesser, and has no effect on dwarf characters. In both instances, this raw lyrium is confirmed (on PC) to have the same effect on the (non-Dwarven) Warden regardless of whether they are a mage or not, which seems to contradict the statement that simply touching raw lyrium is fatal to a mage.
Some Tevinter magisters infuse lyrium into their slaves' skin, making them formidable warriors. The agonizing process also makes the victims more biddable, with the potential side effect of lost memories. Touching the markings may be physically painful. Thus, lyrium tattoos greatly enhance Fenris's warrior talents, making him hard to track, giving him magic resistance, and generating bursts of damaging spirit energy. They even grant him the ability to phase through solid objects, an act that taps into the Fade.
- Main article: Red lyrium
Red lyrium is a rare, more potent and more addictive form of raw lyrium created when normal lyrium is corrupted by the taint.
- Deep mushrooms often grow near lyrium veins.
- The glowing slime is an animal living underground which leeches lyrium from the walls allowing it to develop a substance which disorients its prey as well as giving this animal a distinctive blue-green color.
- Beneath the Frostback Mountains there are rich deposits of lyrium veins which have been mined by the dwarves of Orzammar for many millennia.
- Effects of lyrium addiction were intended to be implemented in Dragon Age: Origins for mage and templar companions and the use of lyrium potions would have diminishing returns. However, this was ultimately dropped because most characters would need to drink lyrium potions to remain effective, guaranteeing addiction, and the developers couldn't find a way to implement addictions in a way that was neither meaningless nor excessively punishing.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Cullen goes through lyrium withdrawal.
- Healing magics known to the Dalish can be used to alleviate the effects of lyrium withdrawal.
- The ashes of the prophet Andraste have the miraculous powers of healing, but Oghren believes the lyrium veins in the temple's wall are richer and purer than anything he has sensed in a while, and that it is changing the building and everything in it. However, according to Chantry legends, Havard experienced the healing effects of the ashes before they were taken to the temple.
- Red lyrium is described as being an anti-magic substance, an opposite force to regular lyrium.