“You deny us our freedom so that you may sleep better at night, but I say it is a restless and undeserved slumber.”
First Enchanter Orsino is an elf from the alienage of Ansburg, in the Free Marches, who was brought to the Gallows when he was very young. In his earlier years in the Gallows, Orsino was neither the most exceptional scholar of magic nor the most incompetent; which suited him just fine as he learned not standing out drew less scrutiny from templars. He passed his Harrowing with little trouble, obeyed the templars every order, and pretended to be content. He befriended a human mage girl named Maud in his youth. Maud was homesick and missed her family and home dearly. Though she received letters, she could not shake off the depression she got from the realization that she would never see her loved ones again as a prisoner of the Circle. As a result, her studies suffered which drew the attention of the templars. Though Orsino tried to urge her to focus on her magic by trying to remind her that she still had her life, Maud no longer cared and responded, "This is no life, Orsino". Maud fell to despair and one day she locked herself in her closet and committed suicide by self-immolation. Orsino noticed that mage suicides became routine in the Gallows and that it would occur more frequently every year, especially with the templars tightening their grip on the Gallows. Every time a mage died by his own hand, Orsino would recall Maud's final words to him. Orsino became incensed that the templars didn't seem to care about the suicides and that some took glee in it. Orsino's anger made him bold and he no longer was obedient but outspoken against the mistreatment of mages.
In 9:28 Dragon, First Enchanter Maceron died without a successor. Knight-Commander Meredith was of the opinion that there was no need for a new First Enchanter as the templars ran the Gallows with little interference from Maceron. Orsino realized that the mages would need someone to advocate on their behalf lest the templars rob what few liberties they had left. Thus Orsino volunteered to be first enchanter, and the other senior enchanters rallied behind him. Some claim he became the youngest first enchanter to hold the position in Kirkwall not by his own merit, but because nobody else wanted it.
Orsino worked tirelessly to improve the lot of the mages, with his motivation to give them hope and something of a life so that death would not be more preferable. Orsino's actions caused the mages to trust him while the templars marked him as a menace. The mages under him grew defiant, pushing the boundaries where they could. Seeing this, the knight-commander tightened her grip and the more she tightened, the more Orsino fought − making use of every advantage and ally he could find. For the past five years, Orsino has had constant—sometimes very public—disputes with Knight-Commander Meredith. The common belief amongst the populace is that he is a troublemaker... possibly a dangerous one.
A vision of Orsino first appears in the quest Night Terrors, where during one of Feynriel's visions Hawke takes on the image of Orsino congratulating Feynriel for being such a powerful mage.
Orsino is first met in person during the Qunari invasion of Kirkwall, having been incapacitated immediately before his magi understudies attempted to defend him, but were killed (except Bethany if she stayed home during the Deep Roads expedition). He then joins forces with Hawke and Meredith to liberate the Viscount's Keep and save the hostages. While Meredith insists on a direct frontal assault, Orsino suggest the more tactical approach of using a distraction to lure the Qunari guarding the front entrance away, giving Hawke's party a chance to infiltrate the Keep.
Three years later, Meredith's increasing paranoia and aggressive policies cause Orsino to openly defy her by staging a rally in front of the Viscount's Keep in Hightown, arguing that the Templar's efforts to block the appointment of a new Viscount are tantamount to a coup d'etat. Orsino also demands more freedom for mages. If Hawke is a mage, Orsino asks Meredith why Hawke as an apostate isn't treated like other apostates, to which she replies that the Champion has proven themselves Kirkwall's defender.
If Hawke sides with Orsino after the rally, he will call on the Champion to investigate a conspiracy among the Mages and Templars, fearing that they are using Blood magic and hoping that Hawke will remove the Maleficar before Meredith discovers them.
In the end, after the Kirkwall Chantry is destroyed and Grand Cleric Elthina is killed, Meredith calls for the Right of Annulment. Orsino attempts to persuade Meredith the Right is unjustified and that the Circle is blameless since Anders alone was responsible. Meredith insists that some form of retribution is needed regardless and Orsino moves to rally the Circle mages to defend themselves.
Meredith and Orsino meet again in the Gallows Courtyard. In a last ditch effort to save the Kirkwall Circle from annihilation, Orsino offers Meredith complete compliance to her wishes if she would only revoke the Right of Annulment. Meredith, however, insists: she is determined to give the people of Kirkwall the retribution they demand.
If Hawke chooses to side with the mages, Orsino and several Circle mages make a last stand with Hawke and their companions in the Gallows Prison courtyard. However after several of his mages are killed by a Templar assault, Orsino reveals that he knew about Quentin, the blood mage responsible for killing Leandra. From this statement, it is surmised that he was the mysterious "O": the person who sent messages to Quentin and supplied him with relevant literature. Though he claims he had previously decried blood magic and put aside Quentin's research because it was too dangerous and evil, Orsino has been driven by frustration and despair to abandon all ethical inhibitions. He resorts to using Quentin's research and combines his body with his comrades' corpses, transforming into a dangerous Harvester which Hawke is forced to kill.
If Hawke chooses to side with the templars, Orsino's role largely remains the same. When Hawke and the templars led by Meredith enter the hall, it appears that the first enchanter has killed the mages himself in order to fuel his blood magic, calling them "willing sacrifices". Orsino will claim that ironically, he has never used blood magic until that very moment; and that the only reason he knew how to do the Harvester ritual was because he was witholding Quentin's research so that it didn't fall into the wrong hands. Nevertheless, Meredith doesn't believe him and believes Orsino has sinister motives.When prompted, Orsino will reveal that he knew about Quentin but kept his existence secret so that he wouldn't be used by Meredith against the Kirkwall Circle. Orsino makes use of Quentin's research to transform into a mindless Harvester, which Hawke slays with the help of Meredith and her templars. Before that if Bethany is alive and is a Circle mage, she will exclaim that Orsino could have stopped Quentin and saved Leandra, to which Orsino will reply that he is sorry but he didn't know the extent of Quentin's derangement until it was too late. Bethany assists her sibling in the fight against the Harvester.
- (To Meredith) "You push us into desperate acts, and then use that as justification to press ever further!"
- (To Meredith) "Blood magic! Where do you not see blood magic? My people cannot sneeze without you accusing them of corruption!"
- "Is that all it's ever going to be? Are we mages to be forever persecuted for being what we are, the mere act of defending ourselves confirmation of our guilt?"
- Codex entry: First Enchanter Orsino
- Codex entry: A Letter from the Circle
- Codex entry: Staff of Violation
- Orsino carries a 3-headed staff called the Staff of Violation, and in Dragon Age: Origins you can find statues of similar design. You can find them in a blood mage hideout in Denerim, and there is one in the Vigil's Keep basement in Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, among other places.
- His robes and the Staff of Violation are available for Xbox Live avatars.
- Meeting Orsino is required for earning the "Friends in High Places" achievement, along with Knight-Commander Meredith, Viscount Marlowe Dumar, and Grand Cleric Elthina.
- Orsino is also one of the two figures on the starting screen of the game along with Knight-Commander Meredith.
- Orsino was never intended as a boss if siding with the mages, but was included as Bioware felt that the game needed another boss.
- Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 2, p. 195
- Codex entry: First Enchanter Orsino
- Codex entry: A Letter from the Circle
- Final conversation with Orsino, templars' side, Bethany is a Circle mage.
- "Addons". BioWare. Retrieved 2011-01-09.