We’re starting from the ground up, quite literally, in an attempt to make the issues faced by a character out of their world a bit easier to comprehend. Basic things we understand about each planet in question, because sometimes the basics are things we take for granted.
Our friendly home world, this rock in the cosmos is home to approximately 7 billion people as of October 31, 2011 according to the United Nations Population Fund, and on March 12, 2012 according to the United States Census Bureau. It has one natural satellite, called the Moon. We are not good at naming things and we might as well have named our world ‘dirt’. Earth has four seasons, denoted by four separate equinoxes. Our current calendar comprised of three hundred and sixty five days (or six if it’s a Leap Year) divided into twelve months with thirty to thirty one days (February is a weird outlier and betrays our expectations). Each day is twenty four hours, and we will touch on this later.
Earth is big (we’re talking 510,072,000 km squared or 196,940,000 sq mi) . It has seven continents and as a planet is comprised of a ridiculous amount of water. We’re not the Blue Planet for nothing ladies and gents. The oceans cover an area of 3.618×10 8 km 2 with a mean depth of 3682 m, resulting in an estimated volume of 1.332×10 9 km 3 . It’s a lot of water. We’re used to having water everywhere. We have entire weather cycles devoted to the movement of this water through our atmosphere, up to and including things like ‘tsunamis’ and ‘hurricanes’. Natural disasters are things we tend to grin and bear, and patch back up when it’s over.
California, for instance, exists in a hilarious state of near constant drought with enough earthquakes to make the average Californian look at anything less than a 5.0 on the Richter scale as nothing. (Californians writing these sorts of fics may want to remember how very little they care about the world moving under their feet.)
Along with our fabulous collection of seasons we also have varying climates and biomes. We’ve got everything from frozen tundra to deserts that stretch as far as the eye can see. On the whole, most of the population of people who get stuck in Thedas tend to be from temperate climates. The closer to the equator and the Gulf Stream you get, the warmer you’re used to.
The sentient and sapient species that dwell on planet Earth are, to put it bluntly, Homo sapiens sapiens. You know that whole thing where your species was called homo sapiens? That is a lie. You belong to a species that is properly known as the Anatomically Modern Human. Yup. We’ve actually evolved past being homo sapiens. Though, in a pinch, we’re still considered part of that species. Subspecies life is a great life guys. We’ll get into this fun later. (It will be worth it, and you will cry because of possibilities.) This species is the only one. Dolphins and primates, while we love them, are not going about getting stuck in civilization so they are considered outliers and thus shall not be counted.
We have a variety of species on this planet that are not sapient and sentient (that’s really important guys, we call things like that ‘animals’). Generally speaking, our fauna are not really out to kill us. Our flora are not out to kill us (listen Australia, if you just left the death continent and moved out you would have so much less to complain about you outliers). Most animal and plant related deaths come not from animals actively seeking to wreck our days but because homo sapiens have this hysterical inability to know when to stop messing with things. Do. Not. Poke. The. Rattlesnake. With. A. Stick. You know what we have that’s cool though? Fossils. Yup. I went there. We have big ol’ fossils of ridiculously large animals that died out and thank god they did .
Do you wanna fight a T-Rex? Yes? You are an outlier and shall not be counted. All of Earth’s large super predators and their food supplies died out millions of years ago. Why? Because a big rock fell from the sky and burned up a good chunk of the air. (I’m summarizing the event so much, but that’s the basics. Dinos needed ridiculous amounts of oxygen we don’t have anymore. Amen. Good-bye Little Foot.) We’ve since started to whittle down our oxygen supply with wonderful things like pollution and deforestation, but we’ll get back to that.
Point is, Earth is a pretty big and pretty chill place to be. We’re not, for the most part, struggling to survive. We’ve got food, water, places to live. Again, for the most part. We will get into the disparity of first world versus third world countries later. And yup, it’s going to be a bit awful. I will avoid pictures. Google them yourselves.
Oh, now we’re having some fun. See, Thedas is a fictional continent on a fictional world. Note how I did not say it was the world. But, as Thedas is short for The Dragon Age Setting, we’re going to go with ‘Thedas is the continent and Thedas is the world’. I live on Earth. We’re not good at naming things. Here is what we concrete know about Thedas, as collated from the games themselves, the Wikia, the Dragon Age Tabletop Game (I know, I went there), and miscellaneous sources like Patrick’s twitter.
Thedas has two moons. They are called, and swear to god you need to remember this, Satina as the secondary and fuck if we know for the primary. Make it up . There’s a lot we don’t know about Thedas, so you’re going to have to make up quite a bunch. Here’s some fun conjecture we have based on what we know. As you go north on the continent of Thedas, it gets warmer. That means, and say this with me now, Tevinter is closer to the equator than Ferelden. Ferelden is cold as balls. To quote the codex:
“Thedas is bounded to the east by the Amaranthine Ocean, to the west by Tirashan Forest and the Hunterhorn Mountains, to the south by the snowy wastes that lie beyond the Orkney Mountains, and to the north by Donark Forest.
The word "Thedas" is Tevinter in origin, originally used to refer to lands that bordered the Imperium. As the Imperium lost its stranglehold on conquered nations, more and more lands became Thedas, until finally people applied the name to the entire continent.
The northern part of Thedas is divided amongst the Anderfels, the Tevinter Imperium, Antiva, and Rivain, with the islands held by the Qunari just off the coast. Central Thedas consists of the Free Marches, Nevarra, and Orlais, with Ferelden to the south.
What lies beyond the snowy wastes is a mystery. The freezing temperatures and barren land have kept even the most intrepid cartographers at bay. Similarly, the western reaches of the Anderfels have never been fully explored, even by the Anders themselves. We do not know if the dry steppes are shadowed by mountains, or if they extend all the way to a nameless sea.
There must be other lands, continents or islands, perhaps across the Amaranthine or north of Par Vollen, for the Qunari arrived in Thedas from somewhere, but beyond that deduction, we know nothing.
--From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of A Chantry Scholar, by Brother Genitivi.”
Thank you Brother Genitivi. We’re going to have a lot of things from this man. Learn to love Brother Genitivi. He is dry as paint, but he gets the job done.
So what we know is that Thedosians know nothing . Now, we can suppose there is at least one other continent. There’s a creepy organization known as the Executors who are mysterious representatives who speak "on behalf of powers across the sea", presumably entities from beyond the Amaranthine and Boeric Oceans. They are creepy, creep out Leliana, and by all means feel free to be creeped out by them. Literally, the Executors are like terrible ghost stories.
“You will hear no more from us. Our intention was to watch, and we have seen enough. Corypheus threatens us all, and the Inquisition is Thedas's only hope for stopping him. Remember that, for the moment, we are not your enemy. As a gesture of goodwill, we share our knowledge. May it prove valuable in your coming battle.
On behalf of powers across the sea, The Executors”
For things that don’t exist they have awful big opinions.We’ll get back to them later, because I love them so much.
Thedas has… not as much water as Earth. That’s ok. They have much more trees and a lot of disparity in their little section of the world. The sheer amount of disparity in that weather could thus lead to… some more conjecture.
I’m hypothesizing that Thedas as a world is smaller than Earth. Not super small, like Pluto. But small like Mars. Which means that as a mass it doesn’t have nearly as big of a gravitational pull as say, Earth does. If you’ve ever read the Princess of Mars series, you know exactly where you could be going with this. But, it’s conjecture and frankly not a solid fact. The size of Thedas is thus left up to you as the author. At least two continents, and the continent of Thedas itself takes about as much time to travel across as say, Europe used to before we had actual technology.
The sapient and sentient species (as far as we know, because for all I know DA4 could have some weird plant people that look like jellyfish) of Thedas are primarily comprised of humans, dwarves, elves (modern and Elvhen), kossith (also called Qunari, Tal-Vashoth, Vashoth, or giants), high dragons (Old Gods included, the creepy things they are), Darkspawn (oh yes, they count in their creepy Awakened and have actual military structure are you kidding me way), Titans, sylvans, spirits, and demons. Fun times.
At this point I need to say something really obvious. The flora and fauna in Thedas are actually out to kill you. The ground is sentient and it tried to kill you. The only thing in Thedas that has categorically been proven to not be out to kill you at any point in time is the nugs . That’s right, those naked little rabbit things with their creepy yet somehow cute little people hands are the only thing in Thedas that has categorically been proven to be safe. The Battle of the Squealing Plains is absolutely something you should take offense to .
You remember those awesome fossils we have on Earth? Yeah well we don’t have any on Thedas as far as we can tell. We’ve got skeletons of dragons though, right next to the big still alive ones. Fun fact, for an animal that large to exist there needs to be oxygen to support its massive bellows for lungs. Simple deduction says that Thedas has more and purer oxygen than we’ve got on Earth. More on this later.
OK kids. I’m going to need you to put on your science hats for this, because we’re about to get really technical about things that are and are not real, and none of you will like me for this. We’re going to just dive straight into Homo sapiens sapiens, because lord knows this is a comparatively new concept.
Homo sapiens sapiens
So science likes categorizing things. Thus, the species Homo sapiens is an umbrella term for things. Some scientists say that Neanderthals fall under Homo sapiens, some say they don’t, others say Homo rhodesiensis goes under Homo sapiens. For the purposes of the things we know, we are going to go with the majority rules. Thus, Homo sapiens as a species contains Homo sapiens idaltu and the only extant subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens. Yup, we’re the extant. (Basically that just means we’re the surviving species. Go us!)
See, humanity as a whole has this legendary thing about killing off people who are different or who disagree. But we’re not even going to get into that quite yet. Right now we’re going to stick with the concept of Darwinism, otherwise known as natural selection, and the idea that of all these different kinds of Homo-whatever, Homo sapiens sapiens is the only surviving anything. As a species we sprung up about two hundred thousand or so years ago, and we’ve been evolving since.
We’re a species that focuses on being smart and persistent. One of the fastest ways you can tell this is if you take a skull from a neanderthal and compare it to say, your skull right now. Basically, our skulls are optimized for bigger brains and actual facial expressions. Our bodies as a whole are much more slender and less focused on manual labor than our genetic ancestors. (Really if you’re curious, there’s a whole wiki on this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatomically_modern_human )
So Darwinism. Somehow, to survive in our society, we needed smaller teeth and less muscle in our jaws to chew our food. Our faces are smaller, more graceful so to speak. Our foreheads are less pronounced, and our brows are divided. Most of us tend to focus on more literary pursuits, so we’ve got this thing where it looks like our eyes are bigger than they really are. (Look, on a really bad day I can look like a potoo, so this is actually a thing.) We run, as a species, an average of about 5’6” feet tall for gentlemen and about 5’2” for the ladies. Please note that this is an average. We’re small for the most part. Dainty little things with barely any muscle tone and very little in the way of calluses.
Most of us are nerds. Yay! I know we’re nerds because, holy cheese on toast you wouldn’t be reading a giant actual discourse on the differences between Earth and a fictional planet in a video game if you weren’t a nerd. Good for you, indulging my hobby like this. Now, since we’re nerds, there are some things you need to step back and acknowledge about yourself.
We don’t get much sun. We don’t till the fields from sun up to sun down and turn lovely shades of brown as a result. Most of us are pale for our various ethnicities. Our faces, hilariously, are a shade off from our bodies because we spend so much time in front of computer monitors and TVs that we actually kind of bleached our faces. I’m sorry, I’m trying to say this as delicately as I can and there is literally no way.
You’re a nerd. Go find a mirror. Look at yourself. Now look at, I don’t know, Blackwall. Cassandra. Are you confident you get as much sunlight as they do? Yes? Ok. Now look at Fenris. Are you sure you get sunlight? I recognize that he is brown because he is legit brown and only some of it is tan. If you are like me, and an actual brown person, do you get as much sun as Fenris? How about Vivienne? How about Dorian and his glorious mustachioed face? No?
We’re all Cole.The sun is a foreign concept. You know what ethnicity you are. You know what your family look like. Are you pasty compared to them? If yes, guess what . You’re pasty compared to Thedosians. Do you know what kind of people in Thedas get as little sun as we do? Nobles. Circle Mages. If you’re female and in possession of zero magic, no calluses, zero tan, clear skin, good teeth, good hygiene, excellent health (I’m gonna get there I promise), and the level of education we take for granted, you’re either part of the Chantry or you’re a noble. If you open your mouth once to complain about anything, welcome to the life of being mistaken for nobility. If you open your mouth once to inquire how to wipe your bum (yup, we’re going there too), you’re being mistaken for nobility.
We will get more into the cultural thing later. Point is, remember that we’re small and dainty and our average isn’t even pushing six feet tall. We’re, for the most part, possessed of noodle arms and legs. A fair portion of us are out of shape. You’re not going to fall into Thedas and emerge as an unequivocable badass. If you get magic, that’s lovely and we’ll get to you later. We as a species do not engage in martial combat or warfare for anything more than a hobby.
(If you are a member of the SCA and actually participate in tourneys and fairs like the metal armored badass you are, you can kindly keep doing what you do. You know how the sword works. Do the thing. I’ll hold your flower, baby .)
Now, since we’re going here. If you are like me and unironically do martial arts. Good job. I highly suggest you start small. With chickens. The point of Thedas is not to take it down or gain points. The point of Thedas is everything wants you to die, down to and including the ground.
If you want to be the Warden, the Herald, a Companion, or whatever, that is wonderful. You are a member of homo sapiens sapiens, and we do not do this bullshit. There is no way on any god’s whatever colored planet that any elite organization like the Wardens or the Inquisition is going to bring you anywhere. If you are the Herald, my condolences on your arm, there is literally no reason for them to take you anywhere. None of us have even remotely near the survival skills it takes to survive in Thedas. None. Of. Us.
(For those of you going, like smart people, ‘then why the hell are we listening to you Allu if you wouldn’t survive’... You’re right. I would survive because unlike most people, I comprehend on a very intimate level that I am not a badass. I am a goddamn marshmallow who smokes, drinks, and fucks. Guess what wasn’t on that list. Murder. Murder is never going to be on that list and I will get to the horrible part of the actual method of surviving in Thedas later and I do not recommend my method .)
We’re doing this in a lump people, because it keeps me sane-ish.
So many many moons ago in 2010 a lovely user named tmp7704 went on the forums and basically solved the greatest question of life for us. In the actual files for the game is a camera specification that relies on the average height of the characters to determine where the camera goes. This is actually useful, because it gives us one of the few actual cases of concrete heights. So without further ado, some averages.
Dwarves: 1 m 43 cm (4 ft 8.3 in)
Elves: 1 m 60 cm (5 ft 2.99 in)
Humans: 1 m 75 cm (5 ft 8.9 in)
Qunari: 1 m 94 cm (6 ft 4.38 in)
Now, obviously, like with people, there will be outliers who skew the numbers. Like Fenris, an abnormally tall elf, is almost near the human average. Some people will be shorter, some taller. For the most part, the female of the species is generally smaller than the male when it comes to humanoids. Except the Qunari. Don’t say shit about the Qunari. They are called ‘giants’ unironically for a reason . There’s a very low chance your personage is going to find women who tower over you if you’re an average Earthling male unless you go looking for a Qunari.
Gentlemen and ladies about the size of the average male: You will be taller than all dwarves, shorter than all Qunari, run the gamut with humans, and will tend to run more towards the taller side of the scale than the smaller when it comes to elves.
Ladies and gentlemen about the size of the average female: I’m sorry, guys, I tried. We’re short. There may be some dwarves taller than us. Pretty much everyone is going to be taller than us with the exception of children. On the upside, I crunched the numbers as as long as you’re about 5’2” or less and weigh at least 120 pounds or less, you can probably ride a Mabari into battle. If it’s a burly Mabari, you might be able to pull 150. If you get two and strap them to a sled, you are unstoppable.
Ladies and gentlemen who are taller or shorter than the average: Look. You know how tall you are. Despair or laugh accordingly.
Ladies and gents above 5’8” like Phanto: Listen you. Just because you can actually gaze longingly into the eyes of the nice pretty menfolk (and down for some ladyfolk), does not mean I want to gag on your romance.
Most of the other sentient and sapient races don’t have heights. Use your best judgement on those. A dragonling is probably going to be the size of a small pony and the high dragon is probably going to be pants-shittingly big. Actual giants in Thedas might as well be a three story house.