Facial tattoos serve an important function in several cultures in Thedas.
Facial tattoos are uncommon among most humans. However in Rivain tattoos are almost as popular as piercings. According to Isabela in Dragon Age II Rivaini sailors often have tattoos. Chasind use tattoos as well to reflect descent from a prominent tribe.
- Main article: Blood Writing
I asked him about the intricate tattoos on his face; he told me they were called vallaslin--"blood writing." His were symbols of Andruil the Huntress, one of the most highly revered elven goddesses.
When a Dalish Elf comes of age, they are marked with intricate tattoos representing one of the elven gods. The tattooing is preceded by meditation on the gods and the ways of the Dalish, and by purifying the body and the skin. It is not known whether this practice was part of the worship of elven gods in ancient Elvhenan or is a more recent development. As Ilen says to Hawke, Dalish ink is very valuable to them, Merrill said to Fenris that blood is used to make their tattoos.
Among dwarves, the casteless are "branded" to set them apart from regular dwarven citizens. This also applies to surface dwarves who return to Orzammar in order to conduct business. Other dwarves may have a different pattern of facial tattoos, though this is not common. Grim tattoos are also applied at the "funerals" of the dwarves who join the Legion of the Dead.
According to Zevran Arainai, there are some tattoos sacred to the Crows of Antiva, and Antivans may also have tattoos for aesthetic purposes. Zevran claims to have tattoos on his back and other places, as he intimates in banter with Leliana, but it is unknown if he really does considering that Dragon Age: Origins was not developed to allow body tattoos on characters.
Dragon Age: Origins
The Warden may choose to have facial tattoos, with sliders for color and intensity. The selection is limited by origin story: specifically, the Dalish, Dwarf Commoner, and Dwarf Noble have unique tattoos; the remaining three origins use the regular set. Also note that by default Dalish Elves and Dwarf Commoners will have a tattoo for story reasons (though this can be removed during character creation). Note that even if the Dwarven Commoner removes his or her face brand during character creation, other characters will still make reference to it as if it were still there, and still refer derisively to the Warden as "brand".
Dragon Age II
Hawke has the ability to chose from several tattoos and iconic smear on the nose.