As literally anyone who knows me in any capacity will have heard (ad nauseum) by now, I have spent a lot of time lately playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. Like, a lot of time. Throughout the game and as I devoured peripheral media afterward, I found that the universe in which Dragon Age takes place is delightfully meaty, full of complex themes, metaphors, and social commentary. Particularly interesting and expansive were Bioware’s concepts about magic — how it works, its limitations, and its effects on society. Varied public opinions on magic mean that magic-users are given drastically different treatment in different regions of Thedas. Not only is magic and the control thereof a major source of political tension, the various in-universe religions, especially the Chantry, have strong and vocal opinions on the matter that help to shape public sentiment, leading to constant disputes about mage rights.
Just as interesting as the social consequences of magic is the concept of the Fade: the physical source from which magic flows. Though it is observable, the Fade is very mercurial and very different from the material world, and is fairly poorly understood by the denizens of Thedas. For mages, who are born with innate abilities to channel magic, the Fade is the source of their power, but for everyone else, it is the source of dreams and (according to some) desires and temptations.
I’ve always found magic within the Dragon Age universe to be an interesting topic—perhaps strangely so, because the magic itself isn’t groundbreaking and neither is the treatment of the universe’s mages. In the end it’s another universe where a seasoned mage can influence anything and many non-magical people, in turn, fear these mages. These fears are then exacerbated by the religious institution the Chantry with their twisting of the prophetess Andraste’s words. What I can point out as being particularly interesting, however, are the magical beings that loom ominously beside both mages and non-mages alike, only separated by a thin metaphysical wall called The Veil. In general, these beings are called spirits, but there are two specific types that are spoken about most commonly: spirits that aren’t hostile towards mortals (denoted henceforth as Spirits, with a capital S) and Demons. Though the Chantry places Demons squarely in the “evil” category, can the omission of Spirits be taken as an implication that they’re “good”? It could, but such an assumption would also be incorrect; despite their objective differences, Spirits and Demons don’t fit so squarely in human morality and roughly have the same function as all spirits.