Ferelden Politics And Society
All folk belong to a social class, and each class has its own rights and responsibilities. However, in Ferelden, unlike nearly all other countries in Thedas, members of the nobility are not considered to be intrinsically better or afforded more rights than any other class; they just have different ones. It is true that nobles are generally treated with deference, but this is often due more to the (correct) assumption of martial ability than social status. Nobles from other lands frequently find Ferelden commoners to be phenomenally insolent in comparison to the fawning treatment that they are used to.
Ferelden Nobility tend to dress more practically then their foreign counterparts, that does not always mean they have a sense of restraint however. Really guys? Really?
The primary purpose of the nobility of Ferelden is to fight for their people against all threats— human, darkspawn, or otherwise. While nearly all Fereldans boast some level of martial ability, nobles are expected to excel at warfare—it is, literally, their “job.” The nobles of Ferelden do not own the land. They likely have some small holdings, with more powerful or influential lords controlling progressively greater keeps or fortresses, but it is the freeholders that actually own the farms, the crops they produce, and the profits that come from selling their goods. In Ferelden this matters a great deal, because it is the commoners who are actually the patrons of the nobility. Each freehold chooses which bann or arl it gives allegiance to and the decision is renewed each year. A group of freeholders dissatisfied with the protection they are getting from their local bann can remove their patronage and give it to another bann— though likely one within a fairly short riding distance.
Alistair is a possible king of Ferelden. He would look badass here but for the fact that he doesn't use two handed weapons.
At the top of the noble structure sits the King of Ferelden, whose court is in the capital city, Denerim. The King is entrusted with advancing the interests of all the people of Ferelden in both war and trade. While the King can suggest new laws for the land, the “King’s Law” is in fact generally dictated by precedent and voted on by the Landsmeet, a legislative body made up of all the nobles of Ferelden that meets once a season within Denerim to deliberate on issues and bring grievances before the King. Not all of the nobility can regularly make the trip to Denerim, so many send a proxy, either a younger family member or a trusted commoner, to vote in their place.
The Bryce and Eleanor Cousland ruled Highever at the outset of the 5th blight. It would be a shame if anything HAPPENED to them!
Directly beneath the King are the teyrn, warlords of such power and influence that they have multiple banns, and arls, sworn directly to them. There are two Teyrnirs in Ferelden at present, Highever and Gwaren.
A Ferelden Bann.
Beneath the teyrn are the arls, powerful banns who control critical fortifications or regions of land along the borders of Ferelden. Banns make up the bulk of Ferelden’s nobility. There are a great many banns with widely varying levels of power throughout the kingdom. When the banns speak with one voice, they are the greatest power in Ferelden, but this is rare, for they’re a quarrelsome lot. Trivial feuds, which occasionally give rise to petty wars, are far from unknown among the bann.
Ser Cauthrien is/was a Ferelden knight of commoner birth
The least of the nobility is the Fereldan knight, a heavy infantry soldier sworn to serve a greater noble. The prestige of a given knight is greatly influenced by whom he is sworn to serve. They have no particular code of conduct, valuing fighting skills and leadership abilities before all else. While some knights do control land, it is never very significant, as anything more would mean they would be regarded as a bann. In Ferelden, commoner soldiers of exceptional fighting skill have a very real chance of being knighted and joining the ranks of the nobility. Fereldans are proud of this “social mobility,” which is rare in Thedas.
Don’t mess with the Crafters
Because Ferelden’s social system developed directly from the Alamarri tribes, it carries their barbarian values within it. A hunter is certainly a valued member of his tribe, but there are many other hunters. A man who can craft a fine weapon, on the other hand, has a rare skill and is thus more respected. The craftsmen of the Alamarri tribes, the woodworkers, the smiths, the builders, and so forth, organized themselves over the years into semi-formal groups known as “crafthouses” that shared knowledge and trade secrets with one another. They truly became a power unto themselves, though, when they made their members swear to put crafthouse before tribe.
While the crafthouses have no formal political power, only a fool ignores them as they have total power over their particular craft in Ferelden.
Once upon a time the Chantry had pretty robes.
The majority of Fereldans believe in the Maker’s Chantry, following the words of the Prophetess Andraste. Those who do not believe generally hold their tongues. However, while priests of the Chantry are honored in Ferelden, they do not have the political influence that they enjoy in the Empire of Orlais and other nations. Fereldan priests are considered part of the crafting class and are expected to focus their attentions on spiritual matters. The Chantry has been trying to increase its political influence for a long time, but they have not been very successful. That the Revered Mother Bronarch, Grand Cleric of Ferelden, put the Orlesian usurper Meghren on the throne did not help their cause.
Don’t mess with the freemen either… in fact just don’t mess with Ferelden. Are you listening Orlais!?
Beneath the crafters are the freemen, who make up the bulk of the common classes. Scholars split the freemen into “High Freemen”—freeholders, soldiers, innkeepers, and other employed persons; and “Low Freemen”—criminals, prostitutes, elves, and other riffraff.
Freemen are exactly that in Ferelden—they have the right to go where they will, live where they choose, and earn such a living as they may. There are no serfs in Ferelden; all are paid in coin or barter for their work.
Most fereldens are Freeholders and typically live on freeholds, farms that may have been worked for generations by one or more families. Freeholds are highly social and communal with everyone pitching in to help their neighbors. Freehold governance varies wildly, but generally involves a council made up of representatives from each family that decide on what to plant, what to build, which bann to support, and so forth.
A circle mage, apparently they also got a fashion downgrade.
The Fereldans, as a people, tend to be highly superstitious and extremely distrustful of magic. It is no accident that the Circle Tower of Ferelden is/was situated on a remote island far from the more populous cities. Long ago it was in Denerim, but an angry mob burned it down. Magic use outside of a restrictive set of rules is/was forbidden.
Mages are/were required to join the Circle of Magi. Those who do not are/wer called apostates and hunted down by Chantry templars.
An Apostate. Note the sneaking around and friendly “I’m not an insane bloodythirsy villan” look.
Apostates who practice forbidden blood magic are known as maleficar and they are feared above all.
Gee I wonder Why?
To guard against the use of proscribed magic and demonic possession, templars are/were stationed in every Circle tower. The Chantry admits that mages can be useful against foes like darkspawn, but their trust of mages only goes so far.
Dwarfs like beards. Except for hipster dwarves. They wear theirs on their chests.
The Fereldans don’t know a great deal about their dwarven neighbors in Orzammar, other than that they’re a stout folk whose troubles are many and whose craftsmanship is exquisite. Neither, in fact, do the dwarves living in Ferelden. Long estranged from their kin, the bulk of Ferelden’s dwarves belong to a dwarf caste known as the “Surfacers” and they are regarded with barely concealed contempt by their kind, though this apparently doesn’t prevent Orzammar dwarves from doing business with them. Long years ago, Fereldan crafters regarded merchants with distaste, as they profited from goods they had no hand in creating. When dwarves first started selling their wares within Ferelden’s cities, the locals thought they were the crafters of the goods in question, and the dwarves saw no need to educate them otherwise. The dwarves eventually offered to move the merchandise of the various crafthouses for them, which was agreed to, so long as they didn’t undercut human goods with their own. This accord grew over the years into the creation of the Trader’s Crafthouse, which now handles the selling of goods throughout Ferelden and beyond, even as far as Orlais and the Free Marches.
Note the pointed ears.
Old stories relate that there was once an elven empire in the north, but the Tevinter Imperium destroyed it long ago and enslaved its people. The words of the Prophetess were instrumental in convincing the elves to rebel against the Tevinter and after the fall of the Imperium, the elves were granted a country of their own south of Orlais called the Dales, in return for their help. For several centuries, all was well, until the elves were found to have accepted Andraste’s words, but not her faith. The Chantry called for an Exalted March against the people of the Dales for daring to adhere to their old gods. The Dales were sacked and their people scattered, now a nation without a home. The elves that still cling to their old beliefs are known as the Dalish elves, an insular people who travel the wilds in massive wagons drawn by huge white stags and have as little truck with humans as possible.
But they do know how to party.
The rest of the elves now live in human settlements, but inevitably apart in an area sectioned off for their use called an “alienage.” Some alienages are walled off, but this is as much for the safety of the elven families as it is to protect humans from the “thieving knife-ears.”
bad things happen to elves who try to move out of the alienage
Elves are a graceful people with fair features. They are usually servants or laborers in Ferelden. While their lot is not easy, they are paid for their work and have rights, which is seldom the case elsewhere. Many Fereldan elves hold that they have far better lives than their people in other countries, as they would rather be poor freemen than rich slaves.
Since the days of the Alamarri when wolves fought alongside warriors, canines have been highly regarded in Ferelden. In modern times, dogs have taken the place of wolves. Many communities allow dogs to roam freely, and “own” them collectively. Breeding is an ancient tradition and a wide variety of dogs exist. One of the most famous breeds in Ferelden and beyond is the “mabari”—a huge, mastiff-like war hound of incredible intelligence, capable of responding to complex orders.
Extracted, edited, and compiled from the Dragon Age Table Top RPG by bloodypenofferelden (a few of the pictures from the wiki) More to come!