Trope-a-Day: In The Future People Will Be One Race

In The Future Humans People Will Be One Race: Averted.  It is perhaps possible (as the original trope points out) for this to happen naturally over a long enough time scale, but even the possible candidates for sticking around long enough for that timescale have generally taken to inventing about a thousand variations on their basic colors, shapes, and aesthetics long before arriving there.  Essentially, black and white are never going to naturally merge into beige so long as people are out there adding turquoise, ebony, gold-tinted, argent-blue, heliotrope and fur-covered to the gene pool.  And even if they did, someone would undoubtedly resurrect at least the look of the old phenotype for artistic purposes, if nothing else.

(Eldraeic racial divergence, while small to begin with and not manifesting phenotypically in the same ways ours does – due to a very small original gene pool, bioengineering, two bottlenecks, and more bioengineering – increased dramatically once they started inventing new ones all on their own.)

[The comment thread on the original posting of this trope read:

Comment: “Even if you mingled the current world gene pool thoroughly and didn’t tinker with the gene pool, there would STILL be substantial colour variations – there are some great twin photos out there showing what happens when one twin gets all the light genes and the other gets all the dark ones.”

Reply: “That’s true in the short, medium and long term, as the trope page points out – and, indeed, I’ve seen plenty of those Brazilian family pictures – but over the very long term?  One imagines once the alleles get scrambled enough the light/dark extremes are going to be pushed right out to the very ends of the probability curve, even without fixation.”]

Trope-a-Random: Blue Skinned Space Babe

Blue Skinned Space Babe: I wasn’t actually going to bother with this one, but having been reading this:


…recently, and noting the registry of blue people, well.

There are some.

Eldrae blood is blue, a lovely shade of deep indigo, which has a lot to do with the particular transport mechanisms they’re using in place of hemoglobin. That, though, doesn’t actually affect their basic skin color all that much, since ‘twould seem that eldrae skin cells aren’t quite as translucent as human ones, which is why the baseline as seen in the eseldrae race is white. By which I do not mean “kinda pink”, like so-called “white” humans; I mean white, as in new milk, cream, and not-quite-but-almost albino. Darker (natural; not any of the fifty-seven artificial clade skin tones) eldraeic skin tones, on the other hand, are generally on the pink spectrum – varying all the way down to “rosy copper” in the lumeneldrae – but that’s got nothing to do with blood, and everything to do with pheomelanin and various structural variants on same.

The exception to this is the kireldrae, the smallest of the eldraeic races, one of whose racial characteristics is a certain translucency of skin, and who therefore often are a lovely shade of pale blue. Emphasis on pale: go with the syreen or Outsider’s loroi here for your envisioning, rather than the asari or the jotuns.

So, yeah, we have a few. Probably less than 1% of the population.

(As a side note: of course, any eldrae of any of their races who’s currently blushing and/or flushed is rocking the blueness, ’cause that is down to blood coloration.)

Trope-a-Day: Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette

Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: This is the stereotypical – and yes, actually, very common – look for the eseldrae race, with actual close-to-cream-white skin, and usually differing only in hair that may be dark brown, rather than black.  Many of the kireldrae can also carry it off, although their skin is translucent enough to give it a faintly blue tinge rather than pure white, and genetic atavisms sometimes give them very outré hair colors rather than the more common dark brunette.

Trope-a-Day: Dark-Skinned Blond / Dark-Skinned Redhead

Dark-Skinned Blond / Dark-Skinned Redhead: While, for various biological reasons, none of the natural eldrae races can really manage dark dark skin (see But Not Too White; engineered clades are, of course, a different matter), the lumeneldrae do get as dark as “copper”; and their range of hair colors runs approximately from the rare silvery-white blonde (the “sunrise eldrae”) through burnished gold to deep, dark red (the “sunset eldrae”).

See also the relevant Ethnographical Questionnaire.

Ethnographical Questionnaire: III. Questions of Race and Ethnicity

So, I’ve recently been working on answering the “Ethnographical Questionnaire” set of worldbuilding questions for my conculture – not quite this version, but another version by the same person, I think – in the interest of, by so doing, expanding on all sorts of areas and possible unconsidered lacunae in my current imaginings. I thought I’d share each section with y’all as I got it done.

Previously answered:

XII. Questions of Sex

What are the chief races in the region?

Among the eldrae, the original races – for values of original equal to “once the original (limited) population had spread out and settled down enough for these to appear” – were the eseldrae, lumeneldrae, seleneldrae, vereldrae, azikeldrae, and kireldrae, with the alaereldrae and telireldrae appearing later.

Of these, the most common are the first three, the eseldrae, lumeneldrae, and seleneldrae, who together make up about 75% of the population.  The eseldrae [“star people”] are stereotypically eldrae-pale, with nearly-white cream skin tone, dark brown to black hair, and eye colors generally brown, gold, hazel, or amber.  The lumeneldrae [“sun people”], by contrast, are the darkest of any of the eldrae races, being golden, darkening to rosy-copper, with eyes of deep blue and green, and hair colors ranging from a pale silvery-white [“sunrise”] through a deep, burnished gold into shades of deep, dark red [“sunset”], although both extremes are rare.  The seleneldrae occupy the middle ground, being paler than lumeneldrae copper but darker than eseldrae cream, with hair ranging from deep gold to dark bronze and auburn, and eyes of almost any color, merely avoiding the extremes of light and dark.  The seleneldrae are also distinguished by curly hair; while not unknown in other races or found in every seleneldrae, it predominates among them.

Among the less populous races, the first is the vereldrae [“forest people”], a chiefly forest-dwelling offshoot of the seleneldrae, sharing a similar skin tone although somewhat more golden in hue, with hair and eyes both lightened; the former to light gold, brown, and red, and the latter to sea- or sky-blue, or pale green-grey.  Occasional mutations have given some vereldrae hair shot through with green tints, or even plainly dark-of-verdant green.

The second is the azikeldrae [“stone people”], descended from those who moved underground to avoid the Winter of Nightmares and stayed there thereafter.  In hair and skin color, they resemble the eseldrae, but tend to be shorter and more powerfully built (which is to say, by our standards they’re still tall and slender).  Their eyes, however, may be grey-almost-black, dark blue, or even violet.  The azikeldrae also contain a minority subrace who acquired a silverlife infection/symbiosis during their time underground, the “silvertouched”, who are distinguished by metallic “flecks” in their eyes’ irises and sclera (known as “star-flecked”, metallic strands (of actual metal, copper, silver and gold being most common) appearing in their hair, or skin colored gold, copper, gray, or blue from metallic deposition, even sometimes to the extent of acquiring a slightly stony texture or actual freckle-like inclusions of crystal or stone.

The third, and the rarest, are the kireldrae [“first people”], throwbacks to some of the original engineering that made the species in the first place.  Their skin is even paler than that of the eseldrae, to the point of near-translucency that gives it an almost bluish tint from the blood beneath.  They have either very pale or very dark eyes, never in between, often grey, sometimes even silvery, black, or purple.  Their hair is usually dark, although occasional kireldrae of unusually unstable breeding manifest very unusual hair colors – vivid scarlets, dark blues, indigos and purples, even ashen white.

Later, although most unusual offshoots created by genetic engineering either come in all racial varieties (the spacer mods – ignoring, for the moment, the ebony-skinned people who live outside habs, directly in space – for example, look merely like four-armed examples of any of these races) or have morphology determined by other aspects of their clade design, two new races appeared – designated so for numbers, unique appearance, and ability to breed true.

The first of these are the alaereldrae [“ocean people”]; modified to live underwater, with amphibious skin, slightly webbed fingers and toes, and full-body gills, they otherwise have pale skin similar to that of the eseldrae, but marked by a faint turquoise tinge, as is their hair, whether it is dark, blonde, or the mid-blue, ocean-green or jade-green shades also common among the alaereldrae.  (Red hair is unknown among them.)  Their eyes are universally a shade of liquid blue-green.

The second are the telireldrae [“sky people”]; a winged clade designed to fly unassisted on lower-gravity worlds and habitats, they combine seleneldrae skin tone with pale eyes and hair, although not quite as pale as the sunrise hair found among the lumeneldrae; very occasionally dark hair shows up among them, but this is a rare exception.

(By the way, just in case you think it’s kind of racist that no-one here is darker than a Native American, you can find the reason why under “Trope-a-Day: But Not Too White“.  Essentially, the same Precursor genehackery that upgraded their immune systems as part of the whole immortality thing broke the mechanism that releases melanin when cells are damaged by exposure to UV light; they don’t tan, they don’t sunburn, and there’s no evolutionary advantage to spending the energy to make melanin in the first place, which is half the reason that white people evolved *here* in the first place; the skin tones they have are essentially a leftover.

And, also by the way, they did re-invent dark skin later on, per that reference to the ebony-skinned chaps who live in space and can use the radiation protection, and no-one has a problem with that.  So.)

What are the chief ethnic groups of each race in the region? How are they distributed in place?

Well, originally, the chief ethnys around in the Old Empires were the Corones of Upper Cestia and the Alaelaes of Alatia (eseldrae); the Stanné-lin of Selenaria and the Daen-lin of South-East Cestia (lumeneldrae); the Querach-lin of the Crescent, who were also a minority in Selenaria and Cestia (seleneldrae); the Verthraen of Veranthyr and Chielraen of the forests of central Cestia (vereldrae); and the Azikraen of Azikhan (azikeldrae).  The kireldrae were around, but were too rare to form any sort of actual ethny, and neither the alaereldrae nor the telireldrae existed yet.

How do they differ by language, appearance or ancestry?

By appearance, not very, in terms of inborn characteristics, compared to other ethnys of the same race; they didn’t have enough prehistoric time to diversify further in. In habits of dress or culture, it was substantially easier – you could pick out the Querach-lin, for example, by their habit of wearing their armor everywhere but bed or bath, and sometimes even there, and always carrying a damn great axe around; the Daen-lin by not wearing very much at all when they could get away with it; the Verthraen by their movements, shaped by spending much of their life at treetop-height, and dressing to allow them; the Stanné-lin by their elaborate hairstyles and even more elaborately folded clothing; the Alalaes by the seawater in their dress, speech, and movements, and so forth.

In language, things had started to merge by the time of the Old Empires – the Corones, Alalaes, Daen-lin and Chielraen all spoke dialects of Old Cestian, for example, as did the Querach-lin minority there, albeit one flavored with loan-words and formations from the Crescent’s language.  Likewise, the Stanné-lin of Selenaria and their Querach-lin minority also shared a language, one that acquired some flavor from their northern neighbors in Veranthyr, who, along with the Azikraen, kept their own unique ancestral tongue.  Post-Empire, of course, everyone officially spoke Eldraeic, but most of those older languages still exist to one degree or another, if only to add flavor to life.

(There are also, of course, more elsewhere on the world — but I think that’s enough for now.)

What jobs do the chief ethnicities primarily occupy? Are any groups denied work because of racial or ethnic heritage?

Pretty much the same jobs as everyone else, even back in the day, and almost certainly not.

The eldrae are really too innately individualist to really get the hang of racism.  Culturism, that they can manage, and goodness knows more than a few people who were too attached to the bad old days and their coercive ways of doing things found themselves on the wrong end of the swords, rifles, and flame-belching giant mechanical spiders of the Freest of the Free — but if you live and let live and stand by your word, oppressing you or excluding you just ’cause of what you look like or where you came from?  How stupid is that?

What are typical attitudes of the native (or majority) ethnos to immigrants and other ethnicities?

The Empire claims to be generally welcoming to immigrants of essentially any ethny, clade, or species, as the above might suggest, and by and large, it lives up to it – once the immigrants arrive.

That being said, the Empire has always reserved the right to be rather picky about which immigrants it permits to join up.  As an ideological state with an explicit social contract, the Empire is essentially structured as a mutual-benefit corporation of its citizens, and so any prospective future immigrants are expected to show the same sort of deep attachment to the core principles of the Fundamental Contract and Imperial Charter as the original members.  And to put together enough assets to purchase one citizen-share, under most circumstances, by way of demonstrably not being a parasite.  And the Empire also makes no secrets of its broad libertist-technepractic consensus or the Great Imperial Melting Pot, and isn’t exactly interested in recruiting people who aren’t willing to go along with those, in the interests of not setting itself up for ghettoization or future internecine strife.

But, hey, once you get through that gauntlet, you can be a three-eyed nine-armed trilaterally symmetrical soph from a cold-slush planet no-one’s ever heard of, with more cultural quirks than you can perform a situationally appropriate ritual at, and Imperial society will take you to its bosom.  And try and figure out how to make a methane-snow pie to welcome you with.

In short, mind matters; meat doesn’t.  No offense intended to the infomorphs in the audience.

How has any variety of ethnicity in the region changed the society’s culture?

It’s tricky to say in any depth – to cover the listed ones above and the obvious contributions, the Alaelaes brought a nautical tradition and an exploratory urge, the Stanné-lin brought the notion of popular assemblies and sortation, the Querach-lin brought their warrior tradition, the Verthraen brought the best silviculture anywhere, the Daen-lin brought some desperately needed urge to relax occasionally, and so on and so forth.

But it’s safe to say that they all did, and even to the modern day, any new ethny/culture/species turning up in the Empire can expect to be welcomed by lots of enthusiasts wondering “What have you got?  And can we have some?”, culture-wise.

Trope-a-Day: Taxonomic Term Confusion

Taxonomic Term Confusion: Taxonomy is even more of a mess than it used to be, having to deal with life originating separately (it is usually thought; see Panspermia) in a multitude of different ecologies, which then got intermingled by ancient and modern terraforming and accidents of star travel to produce the situation as we know it today.

Imperial taxonomy uses something that resembles our current system, but with an additional parameter right at the top of the tree to indicate the ecology which this particular species originated within (wherever it may be found now); i.e., adding to the classification of humans as kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominidae, tribe Hominini, genus Homo, species H. sapiens an initial level of classification along the lines of “ecology Terragenea“.

(Of course, not that this works perfectly even then: humanity – albeit not quite modern man – by virtue of ancient fossils turning up on Eliera with greenlife similarities, exists in the Imperial taxonomy as Pseudoeldrae archaea, ecology Cálenlethis; and in the event that they should discover us, I suspect we would take about as well to being reclassified as Pseudoeldrae novis about as well as they would take being shoved into genus Homo; which is to say, not at all well.  This is the sort of thing over which wars, or at least vicious academic infighting and people being cut – as in “cut direct”, not as in “I CUT YOU”… well, at least most of the time – at professional conferences, start.

It also doesn’t help that the eldrae, E. alathis, E. anthalis, or E. kirsunar, are already a taxonomic mess by virtue of having at least as much claim to being in ecology Fidúrlethis [bluelife] as ecology Cálenlethis; hybrid engineered lifeforms are like that.  And the continued production of neogens makes this problem worse by the day – while, yes, the Applied Biotics, ICC Bactry Template Organism EC-7 is descended from organisms in kingdom Bacteria, it’s descended from about a dozen of them, taken apart and the best bits kept.  This is hard to classify in anything resembling the normal manner.)

There are also at least two alternative partial taxonomies in use simply because they’re useful: one, a classification of species by their biochemical features, simply because it’s useful for some purposes to have all the methane-breathers or all the silicon-based life, and so forth, classified together regardless of origin; and another more approximate classification by homology alone, because for non-biologists travelling between planets, it’s useful to have relatively simple terms to call all the avioids, the ichthyoids, the arboroids, and so forth even if they’re not related by anything but general similarity.  (Which terms I still, despite this fine feature of the “original language”, I still “translate” as “bird”, “fish”, “tree”, etc. when writing just like the first set, because the clarity in the original language is the bloody-minded wordiness in English.)

On the use of “race” to mean “species” in particular: In formal speech they’re usually good at maintaining the race/species distinction, but then, the whole race concept is also a mess – inasmuch as it used to be that the former was used in much the same loose sense as we use it for natural phenotypic distinctions within a species, and then clade came to be used for artificial ones (as people started producing aquatic people, photosynthetic people, space-adapted people, etc., etc.), which are messy categories, because they overlap quite a lot (one clade can include all races; one race can include all clades), but some clades rewrite for perfectly good reasons the same phenotypic elements that were used to define races (for practical reasons: all naked-to-space-adapted-clades have high-melanin [etc.] skin for radiation protection, but all photosynthetic clades have to have low-melanin skin to avoid conflicting with the chloroplasts [etc.], for example), and some clades exist to be cosmetic phenotypes that are essentially new races in the casual sense, and aaarrrgh.

(It’s clade that’s used for classification, when relevant, because it’s the one that tends to be medically relevant, environmentally important, and so forth, on a regular basis.)

Trope-a-Day: But Not Too White

But Not Too White: Averted, since this meme never even had the preconditions to become established on Eliéra. The eldrae simply don’t tan in response to UV light, no matter how long they spend working, walking, or basking in the sun.  (Essentially, their ancestors – thanks to the superior immune systems and DNA error-correction mechanisms that go along with their Immortality – no longer gained any evolutionary advantage from being able to tan; and either in the course of that or at some later point, the mechanism broke.  For much the same reason, they can’t sunburn, either – although sunstroke may still be an issue.

Note, of course, that they still have eumelanin – eldrae skin tone does vary, from not-quite-but-almost-albino-white in the eseldrae to coppery in the lumeneldrae, lips and other body parts are pheomelanin pink, and so forth – so the breakage appears to be upstream, in the mechanism that causes melanin release from melanocytes and increased melanogenesis in response to UV exposure.)

Trope-a-Day: Least Common Skin Tone

Least Common Skin Tone: Firstly, there are no humans.  Second, if they ever make a live-action version of the Eldraeverse, just to make sure that all the other special-effect characteristics don’t get ignored in pointing out, y’know, only very distantly related to humans as we know them, they’re going to have to cast people who actually are white in the very-rare-skin-tone sense, which is to say, not pink, capisce?  (Well, okay, not chalk-white, but actually, seriously pale, y’know?  My mental casting file for The Big Damn Movie is thus single-digit short, even before little requirements like special effects handling, oh, adding one to two feet in height to everyone, say, never mind ability to carry off the attitude.)

(As well as, y’know, green, blue, gold, bronze, heliotrope, furry, scaled, and MADE OF ROCK, because why, why, why in the name of sanity does every alien planet in TV SF duplicate Earth’s racial demographics exactly.  Yeah, casting, I know.  Arse.)

The Unbearable Lightness of Ferelden

(Strictly, this isn’t about my worldbuilding, but about BioWare’s worldbuilding for their Dragon Age series.  Nonetheless, I think it covers some important territory about worldbuilding in general, and so, it goes in the Relevant category.)

So, having pleased some people with my post on Dragon Age and sexuality [elsewhere], I’m about to displease everyone with a post on Dragon Age and race. So it goes.

Specifically, I’m going to address the issue of the purported lack of “people of color” in the settings of the first two games of the series from a worldbuilding perspective.

Now, this is a map of Thedas:

Map of Thedas

As you can see, it’s big. It’s also in the southern hemisphere of its world, so things are reversed, but that doesn’t change the scale. Ferelden, down at bottom right, is right up at the “top” of the temperate zone. (If you look carefully, you can see that the part of the Amaranthine Ocean next to it is labeled “The Frozen Seas”.) South of it are the Korcari Wilds, which are essentially tundra, and the pole.

Meanwhile, up at the top right is Par Vollen, the Qunari homeland – well, colony. Par Vollen, canonically, is just about on the equator, and has a climate to match. (The patch of green at top left is “The Donarks”, and is an actual jungle.)

Alas, neither this map nor the version in the Dragon Age RPG player’s guide comes with a scale bar, but we are told that Thedas is roughly the size of Europe, which would make sense given the climatic variation we’re told about in the lore. Which would make the distance between, say, Denerim and Qunandar in Par Vollen something similar to the distance between London, England and Casablanca, Morocco.

So, let’s talk phenotypes. It is generally accepted that, before fast transit was as readily available as it is today, you found the pale-skinned people up in the dim, cold latitudes and the dark-skinned people down in the sunny, hot latitudes simply because of the evolutionary advantages of each state to its locale. Pale-skinned people on limited diets Up North don’t suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which their darker-skinned cousins would. Meanwhile, the dark-skinned people in the tropics can work outside all day without being on the fast track to melanoma, something that their paler relatives would have to worry about a lot more.

Does Thedas have fast transit? Well, no. You can walk, you can ride, or you can take ship. And by ship, I mean sailing ship, since not even the relatively technologically advanced Qunari have steamships, and not particularly advanced sailing ships, either – while the Qunari crossed the Amaranthine Ocean to get to Par Vollen, so far as we know, and even then:

For their part, the Qunari treat Par Vollen as their homeland. Contact with their original homeland was intermittent at best across the turbulent Northern Ocean before it finally ceased altogether two centuries ago. Several ships have been sent home to restore contact, but they have not returned. The Qunari are here to remain and have accepted this.

And so far as we know, the Thedosians don’t travel beyond the continent we know, shown on the map. No-one’s yet discovered whatever analog of America they may be.

And magic is not an answer to this. (Probably a good thing, since those fantasy universes which have convenient mass teleporting rarely examine all the implications that it should have.) But in any case, on this point, the lore is clear:

No one, for instance, has found any means of traveling-either over great distances or small ones-beyond putting one foot in front of the other. The immutable nature of the physical world prevents this. So no, you may not simply pop over to Minrathous to borrow a cup of sugar, nor may you magic the essay you “forgot” in the apprentice dormitory to your desk. You will simply have to be prepared.

Now, it’s not like there weren’t some people of non-autochthonous races to be found when actual Europe was at this stage of development. Obvious example: the Varangians, who wereeverywhere in their heyday, but, well, they were Vikings, who were like that. There’s a marvellous book I keep meaning to track down written by a Muslim merchant who travelled the same journey in the other direction, for that matter. And certainly, there have always been a few travellers, for adventure or profit or war, who crossed these large distances.

But what there wasn’t, to any signfificant degree, was anything recognizable as a “mixed” or “diverse” society by what we might consider modern standards, simply because travel was so slow, and so expensive, that it was the exclusive preserve of the vagabond and the wealthy elite, neither of whom made up any large percentage of society. (Evidence for expensive: look at the Fereldan refugees in Kirkwall. Just crossing that relatively minor part of the map, the Waking Sea, with nothing to do with their savings and possessions but spend them on escaping the Blight, are all flat broke. And ten years later, most of them still can’t afford to go back. Travel is anything but affordable for “regular people” at this level of technological and economic development.)

What you would see, wandering around a city at the time, is a crowd made up almost entirely of the predominant race, with maybe – in cosmopolitan cities – a few stand-outs from the crowd.

…which is what you see, both in Denerim, in the original Dragon Age, and in Kirkwall (also far to the south) in Dragon Age II. (In which, it is interesting to note, that the two principal dark-skinned characters I call to mind, Isabela and the merchant Hubert, are both Rivaini. Rivain, you may note from the map, is that peninsula to top-right, right under Par Vollen, and hence pretty equatorial. The Antivans you meet, while not as dark as the Rivaini, are still darker-complexioned than their southern cousins. (A possible exception here would be Zevran, who isn’t particularly dark, but what we don’t know about elvish physiognomy is everything.)

In short, just about everything we see about NPC racial characteristics is in tune with the geography.

Aha, I hear you cry. But just because those are the social arrangements of the real world is no reason to reproduce them in fantasy! They could have written it the other way if they reallywanted to.

Well, no, they couldn’t. Trust me, I’m a worldbuilder. And we are, not to put too fine a point on it, seriously concerned with plausibility. I’m relatively lucky in this perspective – I write in a world of non-human species, which gives you some more – not a lot more, but some – flexibility that the builders of humanocentric species don’t get, because we all know how humans work. Intimately.

What are you going to do? Introduce faster travel (in which case you need to detail what kind, and how, which have consequences), or mass teleporting? That has a million other consequences which would completely change both the feel of the setting, and the facts of the setting. In fact, I very much doubt you could write a setting using these themes and have fast travel.

Extend the length of history so that people had time to mingle (and invent some historical events to drive it, quite possible) on a mass scale even with slow travel? Well, fine, except then you need to come up with a plausible explanation for the Medieval Stasis. And, honestly, this is a trope that is nearly never done well, if anyone bothers to explain it at all.

Or decide that these humans, physiologically, are completely different from the regular kind and that thus phenotypic adaptations to different levels of solar radiation are equally distributed, never mind what the sun’s actually doing? (Even if you flattened the entire planet to even out the solar radiation – with monumental consequences for geography, biomes, weather patterns, etc., etc., you’d just get monochromatism, not a mixed distribution.)

In each case, that loud twanging noise you just heard was the reader’s, player’s, person-paying-attention’s suspension of disbelief just snapping like a twig, because when you do these things,your world does not make sense.

Now, I’m impressed with the worldbuilding that went into Thedas; I think Bioware’s creative team did an excellent job on putting it together and making it fit. But I’m not unsympathetic either to the desire for protagonists “of color”, or indeed, of more NPCs likewise – just, I ask, make this happen in a way that does make sense. Set an episode of the story up in the equatorial north, in Antiva, or Rivain, or the northern part of Tevinter. Revisit the notion in the original Dragon Age of multiple origin stories, and let us create a protagonist of Rivaini descent – and, please, show that by something other than just a skin-color choice – anywhere.

But don’t break the world by sticking people in where they logically wouldn’t be just for the sake of it, or having protagonists whose history and appearance don’t fit together, with or without gratuitous retcons. That’s pandering, and people can tell that it’s pandering, and I – for one – would rather have it done right some of the time, where it fits the world and the story, than done badly all of the time.