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Comparing and Contrasting the Worlds of Thedas and 21st Century Earth

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“[...] how do you weigh in on body stealing OC’s? You know, the ones who wake up in a Thedosian body? (ie actually fit and more attractive than their original body) Possibly even changing races to something non-human.” - spellweaver

So, as per request, we’re going to do the body-snatcher kids! Ladies and gents, we’re going to have to start in on some of the more esoteric concepts that come into play with this sort of subgenre, and while I am going to do my best to phrase this as delicately as possible… I’m basically a bull in a china shop so. Your mileage may vary. But we’re going to go back a bit for this question, because to understand why the body-snatcher kids are my kind of horror story, you have to look at something a bit basic.


How did they get there?

Now, there are some general things we can all agree on when it comes to the rules of reality and the rules of Thedas.


First, we have no magic. Thedas does (in spades!), but we mere Earthlings have none. We have a copious amount of science. If you remember Arthur C. Clarke’s number one rule of magic, you’ll know we’re on the right track (for those of you going ‘what’, his big deal is that all sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic). So, there could be some scientific reason why you have been stuck in the new life that you have. It could happen.


Second, that there are beings in Thedas who like to do weird things. Such as Mythal (AKA Flemeth), the scores of ridiculous blood mages, mages who like to poke things they have no business poking (here’s to you Dairsmuid for being annulled under the auspicious premise of ‘researching too much’), Tevinter mages who like to poke things they have no business poking (really Dorian? time magic?), and so on. There are even spirits who can do things no one else can. It’s possible one of those beings got bored and your character (or you!) ended up in Thedas as a consequence.


Third, that there are magical artifacts that do some weird things in Thedas. There are even legendary ones here on Earth that are said to do some odd things. Excalibur, as the most known example, is a sword that chooses kings and its scabbard is said to be able to stop its wielder from ever being harmed. There’s an orb that gets stuck in the Inquisitor that can literally open and close holes in the Fade at will. So on, and so forth. It’s entirely possible one of those artifacts ends up doing something weird.


Fourth, that there is some supernatural power left in our world that sometimes likes to behave in weird ways. The legends of the fairy rings of England and Ireland, as well as the concepts of ‘spiriting away’ in Japan are two such examples. Or, in the more popular media sense, a book and television series named Outlander where a lovely woman is whisked away through time and romance ensues. This particular trope is ridiculously common, so your mileage may vary pending on its useage.


Whatever your method of getting to Thedas is, bear in mind that there may be repercussions above and beyond the ones that you expect. Being brought through the Fade by some means is likely to, for instance, leave substantial damage to the Veil in the spots your character or characters are brought through. An artifact may turn to dust, it may sear itself into your very flesh and bones. A spirit or other entity may decide to possess you, or just backseat hitch a ride for the experience. All actions have a consequence.


And now into the fun part.


It’s a very popular thing for a modern character to somehow, via whatever method, end up in a body that is frankly not their own. This method is my not-so-secret-favorite, because the sheer level of fridge horror involved is astronomical. I call characters like this the ‘Body-Snatcher Kids’, because most people who invoke this don’t really understand how terrifying it is until some poor over-researched soul like me sits down and explains it.


The most common method is to magically show up via whatever means into the body of the Inquisitor, Hawke, or the Warden. This is the most terrifying method. In order for one mind to occupy a body, there must thus be room for it to go . Otherwise, what you’re really looking at is a case of possession. You know, that thing that makes Templars cry ‘abomination’ and shank people. In that particular instance, you’re basically the spirit (as this is not your body) and you are thus sharing with the canon character in question. This can be kind of lovely, as it means the body you are in has some useful muscle memory to help you not die in combat and other terrifying situations, and if you keep the mind of the character around you can get useful advice.


Except all good things must come to an end. It’s impossible for a human (or otherwise) body to sustain more than one mind at a time. If you look at Anders and Justice, for instance, the two minds eventually came to such an end that inevitably Justice subsumes Anders and becomes Vengeance. Pleasant stuff that. This method is not copacetic. Great for drama, but not so great for your peace of mind. Or, there is the alternative, you and the character in question sort of merge into one super-personality comprised of all the best and worst bits of both.


The memory of both lives will not be retained, and you most likely won’t want to be called by the name of either character. Otherwise every time someone calls ‘hey ____’, your character will be resigned to an existential crisis.


Now let’s suppose that there is plenty of room for your modern character to fit in the brain of that character you replaced. Great! No existential crisis or battles of the ids! This is awesome! You’re in either the body of a dead person or someone in a coma. (Conversely, where does their mind go once you take over?)


Oh, this trope isn’t fun for you anymore, is it?


So, let’s say that, for the sake of argument, that you are a human mind stuck in the body of an elvhen. This is not your body, but the original occupant was in uthenera and thus, to put it bluntly, the lights are on but nobody was home. Let us then suppose that the method that brought you to Thedas was a blood magic ritual fueled by more lyrium than you can sneeze at and more dead people than you want to admit. That’s quite a large amount of power for mages to call up to pull someone from point A in one reality to point B in another.


Now, fun esoteric science times!


A mind can be moved into a mind, but a body cannot be moved into a body. Physics. Two objects of equal size cannot occupy the same space on this plane of existence. Proven fact. Go ahead and test it. Go get two pens and try and mash them together. It’s not going to happen. Now, if you took the ink from one pen out and put it in the other pen, that would work. You are filling the empty hole in one with the full contents of another. Obviously you’re not going to get all the ink out in one go unless you really work at it.


So we move this mind with this slapdash spell from its original homo sapiens sapiens body to the body of this elvhen. This body still remembers that it is, in fact, a member of the homo sapiens sapiens species. As such, it tries to adapt this new body to suit it. Human nature is that we change our surroundings before we change ourselves. There’s enough free floating power left over that some changes might happen. The real problem is that we don’t know ourselves well enough from the outside looking in to know what we’re supposed to look like.


The only time you see your face is in a reflection. You never actually see your face.


So you try to put your face together the best you can, and you end up having some weird amalgamation of elvhen and homo sapiens sapiens going on. You’re not human, not elvhen, not homo sapiens sapiens. You’re something else.


The big thing to remember with this is that if you go into Thedas in a different body from your own, you will either subconsciously try to mold it to look like what you think you look like, or you will go through some extreme body dysmorphia. If you manage to end up in the body of a mage, you’re going to try to change your body. It may end well, it may not.


Either way you’re going to look like something wrong . There’s no way that you are going to ping, visually, as plain ‘human’ – you’re gonna be weird and people are gonna know straight up that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. So you better be prepared to bullshit your ass off with a good explanation of just why the fuck you look weird.


Now, for those of you who this idea doesn’t sit well with, that is fine. There’s always the option that you don’t change your body for whatever reason. So, let’s say you start with a modern homo sapiens sapiens female, mid to late teens. She gets stuck in the body of, let’s say a male Qunari in his mid to late thirties.


Some of you may now be making a face at your screen of ‘what is she smoking and why doesn’t she share’. The problem with body-snatching is you don’t get to pick your body kiddos.


But, I’m the author, you protest.


Are you writing wish fulfillment or are you trying for realism?


A good story with body-snatching imposes the rules that whatever body you end up in should not be one you would have picked yourselves. Sure, we may think we want to be taller and prettier and leap like gazelles as Dalish scouts. But Dalish have better hearing, they see in the dark, they have better reflexes.


Reflexes don’t mean shit if you can’t even move your body the way you want it to. You’re going to trip down stairs, misjudge distances. Someone is going to think your character is mentally handicapped, because you stole the body of someone way too old to be going through a growth spurt. You are twice as likely to stab yourself in the kidney as you are to pull your belt knife out properly in a body like that.


I want to be prettier, you say.


Sweetheart. Darling. Dear. Do you really think the love interests of Dragon Age care what you look like? They care what you think and how you act (except for Solas, who is a massive racist). I hate to break it to you, but you’re already pretty by their society’s definition.


Have you got all your teeth? Do you have good hygiene? Can you carry on a conversation and not look like a massive twit? Do you support your love interest in a healthy fashion? Do you listen to them and honestly care what they have to say? Yes?


Great. Have some babies. Name one for a bird.


The things the love interests in Dragon Age care about have less to do with your face and more to do with ‘do we have compatible parts’ and ‘do you fight good’. We are all aspiring to date Shang from Mulan. We fight good, eventually . We get things done, eventually. We hold Cullen’s hair while he tosses his cookies. We bring Fenris wine and let him rage about Tevinter injustice. We brought Anders a cat . So on and so forth.


How I know they don’t care what you look like? Oh honey, go load up a game of any Dragon Age. Make your character look like a foot. Put on the most garish makeup known to mankind. Mod your game, become the worst drag-queen known to Christendom. You could look like the ass-end of a donkey, they’d still think that you’re the most beautiful creature to ever grace the face of Thedas.


That being said, the method of how you got there to begin with is still going to come into play. Mythal might brand you with her vallaslin. A spirit might make you permanently glow from the eye sockets. A bad magic ritual might end with runes all over your body. You might have a strange urge to eat sheep bladder. You could wake up with absolutely no idea who the bloody hell you are or how the fuck you got there. Results may vary with the body-snatching, so use this trope very wisely. If all else fails and you don’t know…


Shit I’m game. Bring it. I read Cthulhu for fun. I can find the fridge horror. Don’t want to ask people? Sit down for a long moment. Preferably in a way that you can easily put your head between your knees and breathe if you need it. Now list off all the things you love about yourself.


Take them away. Strip them. Now rebuild yourself with the things you love the most broken to bits. You’re good at talking? You now have a minor neurological issue that keeps you from speaking words as you want to. Congratulations, in the transfer, your new body had a stroke. Your eyes are pretty? Have some cataracts. You’re creative? You now only see and black and white.


For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You got there. Pay the price .