The Men of Thedas, Part 2

April 2016 Prof. Silmarien Szilagyi


In this third installment of the Dragon Age franchise, you play as the Inquisitor, the only person in Thedas who can stop the destruction of the world. But you know what they say about all work and no play...and Dragon Age: Inquisition certainly has an abundance of delectable men (and women) with whom the Inquisitor can play. Two of them in particular hold a special place in my gamergirl heart. (Can you guess which two?)

As an added bonus, Cassandra Lobiesk wrote a section on one of the men--Solas. We sent each other so many memes and screenshots of Solas that I knew she would do him more justice than I could. And, as usual, she positively dominated that section.

Cullen Stanton Rutherford

"We're dying, but we can decide how. Many don't get that choice."

And Cassie, just for you: "I should inspect the condition of the trebuchets. They must be calibrated to reach the proper range."

Cullen is a "strapping, young" ex-Templar from Ferelden, who becomes commander of the Inquisition's forces. Although he makes appearances in both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, he doesn't really come into his own until Dragon Age: Inquisition. He serves as an advisor to the Inquisitor, as well as a potential love interest, if playing as a female elf or human.

As I mentioned, Cullen was a Templar prior to the Inquisition. He joined the Order when he was thirteen and quickly rose through the ranks due to his faith, intelligence, dedication, and desire to learn. He also felt a strong sense of duty to help those in need, but that sentiment became skewed the longer he remained with the Templars. When abominations (demon-possessed mages) seized Ferelden's Circle of Magi, Cullen was one of the few Templars to survive, albeit certainly not unscathed. He came away with deep mental and emotional scars and a dangerous fear of magic. But he still wanted to serve, so he requested a transfer to Kirkwall's Circle of Magi (i.e., the Gallows), where the mages were treated abominably. He was promoted to Knight-Captain under the watchful eye of Knight-Commander Meredith, the leader of Kirkwall's Templars. She nourished his fear of magic into a borderline hatred of it. In the Gallows, Cullen adopted the view that mages are weapons, not people, and must therefore be controlled, if possible, or neutralized. He stayed this course all throughout Dragon Age II, until Meredith's growing insanity finally threatened the non-mage citizens of Kirkwall. His morals forced him to ally against her and to re-evaluate his opinions on mages. Afterwards, he left the Templar Order.

That brings us to Dragon Age: Inquisition, to a much more nuanced Cullen Rutherford. He has experienced his fair share of hardships but has persevered through sheer strength of will. Despite his complicated past, Cullen is a man of simple pleasures; he works hard, enjoys chess, is terrible at card games, and loves his siblings. The naive, boyish goodness that had originally prompted him to join the Templars has been allowed to blossom into a compassion and gentleness which belie the harsher deeds of his youth. Although he remains cautious of magic, he has become more accepting of it. That open-mindedness is critical if your female Inquisitor is a mage, particularly if she wishes to romance him (and she absolutely should). Wooing Cullen as a mage is not difficult, but it does open up some dialogue options that are exclusive to mage Inquisitors. In my opinion, it is also much more rewarding than romancing him as a rogue or warrior. Remember, mages and Templars harbor a mutual distrust of each other, and Cullen has especially had an antagonistic relationship with magic. Watching those prejudices transform into affection and respect was poignant.

No matter which class you romance him as, however, I guarantee you will be reduced to a giggling, swooning mess. Cullen is an irresistible combination of shy and sweet, dominant and suave. Flirting with him often involves copious neck-rubbing and flustered half-sentences, but when that endearing awkwardness falls away, Andraste preserve you, because his smolder could spark a wildfire.

Of all the Dragon Age romances I've played, Cullen's is the healthiest and most mature (Anders, I'm looking at you...). If you were to ask Vespera Trevelyan, my female mage Inquisitor, what a relationship with Cullen is like, she would compare it to a fortress, slowly built but incredibly strong. It's their haven from the burdens of the Inquisition and the balm to soothe their respective wounds.

The Iron Bull

"Whenever you need an ass kicked, The Iron Bull is with you."

With his impressive horns and towering frame, The Iron Bull is not someone you want to see charging at you on a battlefield. Or anywhere, really (except, perhaps, in the bedroom?). He's a qunari warrior, who joined the Inquisition because his superiors ordered him to. The abundance of fights was probably also a draw for this battle-scarred veteran.

Although he follows the Qun (the qunari's philosophy/religion), Bull's years as a spy outside of Qunandar (the qunari homeland) have slowly differentiated him from his kin. For example, he gets along well with the other peoples of Thedas, whereas most other qunari either war with them (Tevinter) or try to convert them (Kirkwall). I doubt his superiors would approve of his sociability, or of his penchant for drinking and lazing.

Bull likes to think of himself as "a mindless weapon", but there's more to him than merely a love of combat. On the contrary, he's actually quite smart and almost scarily observant (that is, after all, how he got his job). He is probably the most open-minded member of the Inquisition; whatever your inclinations--be they philosophical, ideological, or romantic--, chances are, he'll accept them. He's game for just about anything, especially if it involves alcohol, laughter, and good company. And dragons...The Iron Bull loves dragons. He cares deeply for his friends, as well as for the soldiers under his command. He's honorable, deceptively kind, and loyal.

Furthermore, if your (male or female) Inquisitor enters into a relationship with him, he proves to be a surprisingly considerate, albeit unconventional, lover. And it's not just physical with him, either. He's willing to commit, if that's what the Inquisitor wants, and he very tenderly calls the Inquisitor kadan, which means "my heart" in Qunlat (the qunari language). That sweetness alone negates the notion that The Iron Bull is nothing more than "an implement of destruction."


"You have chosen a path whose steps you do not dislike because it leads to a destination you enjoy. As have I."

What can one really say about Solas without going into the super spoilery details?

I suppose there's the starter facts. One, he's an elf. Two, he's an apostate mage--a mage who did not belong in a Circle (which makes him an illegal mage). Three, he's a rare "dreamer," one who often walks the Fade--which, if you're at all familiar with the Dragon Age world, is a very big deal since not many mages are specialized in that sense. To date, there are a total of three or four mages who are known to do this (the Inquisitor possibly being one of them). Solas is often stern, almost never smiles, has a knowledge of elven lore that could fill an entire city of books, and to boot, he seems to have a vested interest in fixing the hole in the sky. I mean, the entire Inquisition and then some has a vested interest in fixing the hole in the sky, but Solas more so because not everyone risks the ire of Seeker Pentaghast by turning himself in just to save the Inquisitor.

And did I mention he's got an absolutely magnificent swagger?

By societal standards, Solas is not the most attractive character available to be romanced. He doesn't have the adorable romanticism found in Dorian Pavus or the impressive stature of The Iron Bull. He certainly doesn't possess Cullen Rutherford's breathtaking smolders and swoony smirks. What Solas does have is the ability to charm. It could be a particular phrase (On the Inquisitor's "indomitable focus": "I have yet to see it dominated. I imagine that the sight would be...fascinating.") or a lingering turn to his gentle side ("It means I have not forgotten the kiss."). It could be the shortest term of endearment ("My heart.") or a declaration of ELVISH ("Ar lath ma, vhenan."). Whatever the case, this apostate is as silk-tongued as they come, and probably quite experienced in the ways of the, erm, world. I do not regret giving my Galadriel Lavellan's heart to him.

Be prepared to be heartbroken, though. His romance route does end in tears and angst.

Gordon Blackwall

"We could make the world better. It's just easier to shut our eyes."

Blackwall is a difficult man to describe without giving away his big secret. Or, if you ask Cassandra Lobiesk, without the use of some rather insulting adjectives and nouns... He's a Grey Warden (hush, Cassie) and a potential companion for the Inquisitor, who encounters him while he's helping a group of young men to defend against bandits. Grey Wardens are disappearing all over Thedas, so Blackwall agrees to join the Inquisition in order to determine why and where to. But, as the Inquisitor eventually learns, Blackwall is not quite who he says he is.

Regardless of that deception, his personality seems genuine. He reveres heroes, such as the Inquisitor and the Grey Wardens. He's passionate about helping and protecting others, especially those who have been victimized. He despises nobles, or at least the self-serving ones who allow the less fortunate to suffer. Yet despite his good qualities, Blackwall is a polarizing character. Some like him, some really don't. I'm ambivalent towards him, though I certainly recognize his less favorable traits. He's judgmental, preachy, and he has a black-and-white view of the world. That rigid closed-mindedness alienates him from the other members of the Inquisition, particularly from Dorian Pavus (who we'll discuss next) and The Iron Bull. His secretive nature doesn't help, either. And while Blackwall's dedication to protecting people is commendable, it sometimes comes across as overzealous or even fanatic. His hero-worship of the Inquisitor is also a tad uncomfortable.

None of my female Inquisitors have romanced Blackwall, but, as far as I can tell, he's as committed to her as he is to the Grey Wardens. I'd imagine it would be very difficult to anger him enough that he would end the relationship, because he approves of just about everything the Inquisitor does. Unless, of course, she becomes a tyrant who murders innocents for fun, but then she likely has greater issues than Blackwall's disapproval...

Dorian Pavus

"You can't call me 'pampered.' Nobody's peeled a grape for me in weeks."

Hailing from the Tevinter Imperium, Dorian is a human mage from a prestigious noble family (i.e., an altus). He is an incredibly gifted mage, yet instead of using his magical talents to attain power, like so many of his peers, Dorian chooses to join the Inquisition, because it's the "right thing to do." He loves Tevinter but realizes it is catastrophically flawed. According to Dorian, the Imperium "should be a cautionary tale, not a source of inspiration," and that is why he rebels against the status quo and is subsequently branded a pariah. But he is not met with acceptance in the Inquisition, either. Several members view him with suspicion, see him as just another arrogant, slave-owning mage from Tevinter. Those opinions soon change, however, in the face of Dorian's kindness and fealty to the Inquisition.

At first glance, Dorian may seem like little more than a pampered, narcissistic mage with a penchant for sarcasm, but there is more to him than meets the eye. He is highly intelligent, sassy, educated, and talented. Despite the suspicion cast upon him due to his nationality, he makes friends easily, partly because he's so damn charming and partly because he's easy-going. He makes bets with Varric (on the Inquisitor's chances of success, no less!), plays chess with Cullen, banters with The Iron Bull, and engages in intellectual debates with Solas. Although he favors wit and humor, Dorian is a staunch ally and a true friend. In fact, he will even call your Inquisitor his "best and only friend". His seemingly unerring self-confidence is often merely a front, though he does relish basking in his own magnificence. Once you delve a little deeper, it becomes apparent that his cocksure attitude conceals a lot of fear and pain.

Dorian is different from the other men of Dragon Age: Inquisition, since he can only be romanced by a male Inquisitor. Female Inquisitors can flirt with him, and are even encouraged to do so by Dorian himself, but somehow that doesn't quite satisfy. So, because Dorian was my favorite male character, I created Ronan Lavellan, a male elf Inquisitor, and set off to win the Tevinter mage's heart. It wasn't particularly difficult, but it was richly rewarding (especially when Dorian called Ronan his amatus--"beloved" in Tevene). You get glimpses of certain qualities, such as kindness and devotion, by merely interacting with Dorian, but those traits really come to the fore when you romance him. He lets his pride fall away, revealing a surprisingly serious and self-conscious man, a man who has been trained to believe that men cannot have romantic relationships with other men. Physical dalliances between two men are tolerated in Tevinter, but the instant that emotions enter the scene, the affair must end. As Dorian says, "you learn not to hope for more. You'd be foolish to." Thus, naturally, he initially balks at the prospect of a legitimate relationship with the Inquisitor. Never fear, however, for it is possible for them to live happily ever after. Dorian and Ronan did, even if they were apart while Dorian tried to fix his homeland...