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Dragon Age Origins - Alamen Tabris

Alamen Tabris, the Hero of Ferelden

(Dragon Age: Origins) (Profile #1 - Thug life)


Maybe in another life
I could find you there.
Pulled away before your time
I can’t deal it’s
So unfair.


Context

Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) is a 2009 role-playing video game, set in a low-fantasy milieu. It is one of the two big Bioware RPG settings of the late 2000s and early 2010s, along with Mass Effect. There’s a lot of material about it – video games, RPG, novels, comics, webseries, etc.

If you’re not familiar with it, you should first read our primer to Thedas (the Dragon Age setting). This profile assumes vague familiarity with Thedas.

The Warden

As often, the Player Character  in DA:O — called “the Warden” — isn’t predefined. The player can extensively customise their character.

Furthermore, the species and background picked for the character determine the initial events in the game. Then come choices, some with major impacts.

We’ll thus adopt our usual approach. That is, make up a fully fleshed-out Player Character for DA:O (a City Elf Rogue lass) – Alamen Tabris. Then, in our Dragon Age articles, we assume that the Warden was Alamen Tabris, and that events happened in a certain way. See our video games FAQ for more about this “locally canonical” Player Character approach.

This also means original material about her mother Adaia.


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E(l)ven more context

  • This series of profiles has S P O I L E R S aplenty.
  • This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features non-canon hypotheses about in-game events and mechanics. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.

Sequencing

This profile is part of a chronological series, to be read in order :

  1. Alamen Tabris (DA:O) #1 – Thug Life.
  2. .
  3. Alamen Tabris (DA:O) #3 – Ostagar’s Aftermath.
  4. Alamen Tabris (DA:O) #4 – Landsmeet.
  5. Adaia Tabris (DA:OA) #1 – From Ashes.

Background

  • Real Name: Alamen Tabris.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Adaia (mother, believed deceased), Cyrion (father), Shianni (cousin), Soris (cousin), Nelaros (betrothed), unnamed aunt (deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base of Operations: Alienage of Denerim.
  • Height: 5’3″ Weight: 95 lbs. Age: 18
  • Eyes: Icelike Hair: White


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Elves of Thedas

The ancient Elves seem to have been immortals, living in harmony with the land. But after the Tevinter Imperium invaded the Elves were enslaved, their cultures forbidden, their languages forgotten, their histories erased.

Contact with Humans also ruined their lifespan, making them as short-lived as their conquerors. This — perhaps a contagious disease ? — greatly facilitated the Human expansion across Elven lands.

For centuries now, most Elves have lived in ghettos in large Human cities, called alienages. What remains of the Elven population generally lives in abject poverty and under Humans’ thumbs.

The alienages exist in part for their own protection. Race riots would destroy some Elven neighbourhoods otherwise.

Some Elves exist as free, nomadic people. But alienage Elves such as Alamen know little about these “Dalish Elves”.

(Originally, concepts for ghetto Elves drew from Jewish populations in medieval Europe. As they become more of their own thing, they came to be more evocative of the First Nations, forcibly sedentarized nomad cultures, and to a lesser extent 1970s race ghettos in the US).

Reviled

City Elves usually follow the Chant of Light. It was Andraste who freed the Elves from slavery, after they rose up en masse to support her. Alienage Elves may live terrible lives, but it was even worse before Andraste’s song.

Elves retain smudged shreds of their culture, including words from their ancestral language. However, the latter has degenerated into simple slang. Few ghetto Elves can construct a proper sentence in Elvish.

Alamen Tabris in the Denerim alienage

Dalish Elves know more, such as the name, appearance and roles of the gods of the Elves of old. But it’s still limited.

Elves are a few inches smaller than Humans, with pointed ears and slightly different phenotypes – the details varying from game to game. They have a wider range of hair and eye colours than Humans do, and more symmetric features. Elves can look homely or average, but if they’re beautiful such features can only enhance the effect.

“Knife ears” is a common racist insult, since this is the most visible and consistent difference with Humans. Since it can easily draw violent responses, the term presumably has its roots in the slavery era.

Elves have a regime of arranged marriages between Elves of different alienages who have never met. The likely goal is to prevent the pockets of Elven population from getting inbred due to isolation.

(There’s no mention of same-gender Elven marriages. Secondary sources  mention that, while Fereldans don’t object to such relationships, there’s conservative pressure to keep them less visible than F/M ones. It seems likely that, in this context, most Revered Mothers would only allow M/F marriages, especially during festivals and among minorities.)

Vhenadahl

Having a large, old tree within the alienage — the vhenadahl — is the most visible tradition of the City Elves. A vhenadahl represents the heart of the alienage’s people, and is a symbol of the fallen Elven realm.

In many alienages, the tradition has eroded to almost nothing. The vhenadahl may well have been cut to get much-needed firewood, or to punish rebellious Elves.

Traditions around the vhenadahl are variable. They mostly seem to be garbled recollections of possibly unrelated rites. And in some cases it’s something that was made up a few generations ago in that specific alienage, such as ways to decorate the tree.


Video

From Ashes was a cinematic trailer for the game. It was done early on, and thus does not completely match what’s in game. But it’s nice.

Here it is in 1080p.


Powers & Abilities

Alamen doesn’t look like much. She’s underweight, none too tall, often drunk, and in so-so health. And like most Elves, she is diminished by poverty, lack of education, violent surroundings, mediocre food and poor infrastructure.

However :

  • She needs little sleep and heals well and quickly.
  • Thanks to her father, she’s semi-literate. This is notable by Fereldan underclass standards.
  • She has solid brawling experience, plus formal hand-to-hand combat training. The latter concentrates on surviving attacks by armed persons.
  • She knows the basics of archery.
  • As an Elf, she has superior night vision. This asset is mentioned in the novels, but wasn’t implemented in-games. Her sense of hearing is also superb.

(The sense of hearing is a rationale for, on Nightmare difficulty, beginning a fight, then reloading once a good opening move has been inferred. In-universe, that would correspond to Alamen reconnoitering by listening to enemies ahead.)

Gotta be handy with the steel…

Furthermore, Alamen was trained as a killer ever since she was a wee sprog. At this point, her most developed skill is knife-fighting. For liberal definitions of “knives” – these blades are closer to short swords.

Alamen Tabris drawing her swords

This is a robust, no-frills, extremely aggressive martial art. Alamen usually fights with paired blades and from a low stance. Her baseline tactic is the all-out, relentless assault to get her opponent particularly dead – by any means necessary.

Typical techniques include :

  • Surprise attacks.
  • Backstabs.
  • Striking at weak chinks.
  • Slashing arteries open.
  • Stabbing or kicking joints.
  • Sudden reversals between the offensive and the defensive blade.
  • Feints.
  • Arm locks.
  • Spitting in the eyes.
  • Thrown blades or alchemical grenades.
  • Etc..

… if you know what I mean

This form requires a rare level of aggression and physical coordination, plus a surgical eye. Alamen seems to have inherited these from her mother. An expert would recognise many of her moves as Ativan Crows  techniques, modified for a shorter fighter.

Alamen carries two or three shivs on her person at almost all times. This is on top of the pair of knives/swords she’ll carry if expecting a fight.

An important part of this style is the application of poisons. Alamen knows some basics of it. But this only goes so far, it’s not something you want to randomly dabble in, and she can’t afford poison-making equipment.

Trespasser

Alamen also received some intrusion training. She knows the basics of stealth, B&E, surveillance, etc..

It’s not advanced stuff, but it is a sound and well-practiced base. That’s clearly better training than most thugs on the street.

She’s also naturally agile and athletic, and received some training in urban acrobatics.


Soundtrack

I hesitated since 1990s punk-rock isn’t exactly low fantasy music, but heh… It’s one of the main inspirations for our Tabris story arc (all of it !), so it’s exactly the right emotional themes.

And the video has oddly Fade-like motifs with the glowing spirits of the dead, visual quotes from still life paintings and blurry dreamlike visuals. And it kicks arse. So.

 

Available for download on Amazon .


History

Alamen Tabris was born in the alienage of Denerim, in 9:12. Her dad Cyrion works as a servant for a Human noble. With his years of steady work, the Tabris weren’t as poor as most Elves. Her mum Adaia was a wild-tempered criminal, and a woman of mystery.

Alamen was a pleasant, bright, sociable child. She adored her mother, and took enthusiastically to her training. As the years passed, games of “the floor is lava”  morphed  into parkour-like practice. Dexterity exercises started involving blades. Pub-style darts became throwing knives.

When Alamen was five, Cyrion briefly left the alienage. His niece Shianni had lost her parents, leaving him her sole relative. Alamen gave her father her one toy — a small cloth mabari, stuffed with hay — to comfort her traumatised cousin. She then helped Shianni adapt to city life.

Threats

The child nearly died twice (dysentery, then pneumonia). Both times, Adaia left for a day and returned with the cash for doctors and medicine.

Alamen Tabris frowning

There were also big fights between Cyrion and Adaia about the latter’s alcoholism. Adaia made a half-dozen attempts at going dry for her daughter’s sake. But that never held long enough.

Cyrion lived in fear that the temperamental, oft-drunk Adaia would one day kill an important Human. This would likely destroy her family, or perhaps trigger a race riot.

Wholesale

Since Cyrion could feed her, Alamen started working late by alienage standards – at 13. Her father got her a position in a company owned by his employer. It was a wholesale market for agricultural goods, at the junction of the Eastern seas and the Drakon River.

The job started at 6 o’clock and ended at 17, without a break, 7/7. Rich buyers and sellers would come in and order the rabble around. The work involved a lot of handling heavy loads. Since Alamen was too small for the big ones, she was also taught basic butchery, as prep work before real butchers took over. She killed hundreds of animals, and carried tonnes of produce and beverages.

By Elven standards, that was a good job. For starters, there were no random beatings. And the Elven workers protected each other from Human workers, to prevent sexual assaults and payday muggings. Still, the exploitation and work conditions were soul-abrading. And standing the abattoir smells and sounds required strong alcohol.

After work Alamen would walk all the way back to the alienage, snack, have a nap, and train with her mother. Sometimes, Adaia instead had her daughter do simple jobs (such as lookout) for a small but vicious  Ferelden mob, the Friends of Red Jenny . Cyrion virulently opposed that, but the Friends paid far better than the market ever would.

Motherless

When Alamen was 15½, her mother vanished. From Friends of Red Jenny contacts, Alamen learned that she had been slain by members of the Hard Line . These were Human mercenaries infamous for their ferocity and brutality.

Alamen Tabris' spooky gaze

Cyrion was shocked by the loss of his wife, and Alamen was shattered. After several days of missing work at the market or showing up smashed, she was fired. The Friends of Red Jenny avoided her. They said that if they employed Adaia Tabris’ daughter, “the guys up North” would kill them.

Within two weeks of her mother’s disappearance, Alamen was almost permanently sloshed. The talented, enthusiastic, pleasant kid she used to be was gone. She worked as a solo thief and mugger to pay for her booze. She was especially interested in harming Human men like those of the Hard Line.

When she got into a turf argument with two Human thugs, she gleefully killed them. This forced the alienage’s underworld into a defensive posture, for fear of triggering a war with Human gangs. When a drunk Elven thief took exception to this, an even drunker Alamen thrashed her, got sick, passed out in her own puke and had to be carried home by her cousin Shianni.

What’s a father to do ?

Cyrion started saving every bit for Alamen’s dowry. As he saw it, the only sustainable way out was to have his daughter marry a young Elf with marketable skills. Alamen would thus be able to reinvent her life in another alienage. Being clueless in such matters, he never realised that his daughter never had any interest in boys.

Meanwhile Shianni kept dragging Alamen out of self-inflicted messes. That was in part to spare Cyrion from realising just how badly his daughter was doing.

Another cousin, Soris , came in. As a boy he had been close to Alamen and Shianni, and he now worked as junior muscle for the Friends of Red Jenny. When his small cadre was a given dangerous job, they’d take a percentage out of their pay to subcontract Alamen as reinforcement.

The other youths were skeptical about hiring an underfed, crazy alcoholic girl as muscle. But when city guards unleashed a large mabari hound against the young toughs, everybody ran… but Alamen. She gorily blinded and bled out the beast. Soris then dragged her away before she’d also attack the guards.

(Soris being a junior Friend of Red Jenny is an embellishment for this playthrough. Also, remember that the Friends were different before the Fifth Blight compared to DA:I.)

Then comes marriage

By the time Alamen was 18, Cyrion had saved enough money. He bartered with the parents of one Nelaros , of the Highever  alienage. All permits were obtained. Nelaros would thus come to the Denerim alienage for the Summerday marriages ceremony, then take his bride to Highever.

Alamen was trapped. She did not want to marry, but if she stayed single she’d forever be a minor. The heat about her criminal activities was rising on both sides of the law. She couldn’t legally leave Denerim. She was about to be forced into a sexuality she probably didn’t want, and to leave her home. The local mobs wouldn’t have her, and she had wasted her one shot at a less-horrible legit job. Running away to join the free Elves was a pipe dream.

So she got drunk.

On the eve of the Big Day™, Shianni prevented Alamen from getting so smashed that she wouldn’t show up. Soris helped. His was the other marriage that would be celebrated on Summerday.

Hey little sister what have you done ?

On Summerday a dazed Alamen wandered in one of the threadbare, hand-me-down wedding dresses of the alienage. Friends of Adaia gave her money for her trousseau. As she planned to commit suicide soon, Alamen just gave the money to a recently-evicted alienage family so they could rent a new house.

Alamen Tabris with sheathed swords

Drunken young Human nobles then strolled in, harassing Elven lasses. Incensed, Shianni smashed a bottle on their leader’s skull. His companions carried the unconscious pig out, threatening reprisals since the man was the son of the city lord.

As the ceremonies began, Alamen noticed that *another* Human was in the alienage. He had a thick black beard and dark skin. His posture and hardware left little doubt that he was a hardened warrior. Alamen, Soris and other street toughs angrily confronted him.

However, the Elder of the alienage  came running. He assured them that *this* man was okay, and his personal guest to the Summerday celebrations. Alamen reluctantly backed down from attacking a fully armed warrior while equipped with but a wedding dress and a pair of shivs. For some reason, the Human seemed satisfied.

There is nothin’ fair in this world, there is nothin’ safe in this world

The marriages ceremony then started. Alamen was introduced to Nelaros, a strong and handsome young blacksmith.

Nelaros was perplexed by Alamen’s zombie-like state. Soris bullshitted about a big pre-Summerday celebration and adulterated alcohol. Nelaros kindly helped Alamen stay up and breathe.

At this point the noble sons came back, armed and angry. Since attacking the city lord’s son would have terrible consequences, the Elves couldn’t react. The men ploughed through the celebrants, grabbing a selection of pretty girls. Alamen reflexively took a pommel blow intended for Shianni, and was taken down.

Brandishing their weapons, the nobles then retreated with the abducted lasses. Among those they took to rape and murder were Shianni and Alamen.


Description

Whereas Adaia had very dark skin, Alamen’s is unusually pale. Beige, essentially. She also has silver hair and inhuman icey eyes. Her cheeks are hollow and her features sharp.

She uses lots of cheap teal makeup  so her peepers look even spookier. As with all Elves her eyes are slightly reflective in the dark.

She sports a curious, asymmetrical haircut. On the right is a sort of sideshave, but this is done by tressing. This hairdo was an accidental invention due to being late for work. It has a punk quality – one side hides her Elven ear, but on the other it is defiantly exposed.

If a pretty young woman is present Alamen will become self-conscious about her underfed physique, ratty and dirty clothing, tangled and none-too-clean hair, visible scars, calloused hands, alienage accent, Elven ears, small skin defects, the smell of alcohol… Everything, really.


Personality

Alamen is drowning in drunken, self-destructive rage. Poverty and unskilled work had started grinding her down, but she fell apart upon losing her beloved mother. Whoever she was before is gone, leaving little but rancour. As far as she can tell, she has no way out and wants to die.

Morrigan, Alamen and Alistair

She’s destroying herself through alcohol, and would likely have gone through suicide-by-cop  without her cousins. Most of the time she’s smashed on bad booze, sleeping it off, or nursing a hangover.

Alamen is badly depressed, with increasingly suicidal ideation  and a worsening sense of having no place in the world. Her ability to handle her emotions has regressed from when she was 15 and lost her mum. And she’s too far gone to fit in the normal Elven solidarity and social life that allows them to endure their lives.

Other traits

Her speech is usually slurred, not entirely coherent and laced with an extraordinary amount of repetitive profanity. About a fourth of what she says is the word “fuck”. The word “shem” (short for “shem’len”, an Elven insult for Humans) is also a recurrent feature.

She dislikes Humans, and can be outright hostile toward Human men. Alamen has abominable, recurrent nightmares about Human soldiers raping and torturing her mother or herself. The Hard Line troops are infamous for that. These nightmares are behind a lot of her drinking.

Shartan stood up on the hilltop and spoke

Alamen isn’t genuinely religious, but she loves going to church. It’s one of the few clean, welcoming, well-funded spaces accessible to Elves. The Chantry is also less threatening as a women’s institution, and Alamen likes the hymns and the main Chant.

Like many Elves, she knows the Chant of Light’s psalms about Andraste freeing the slaves, from repetition. However, the Canticle of Shartan  is usually sung in alienages – not in church. It has been struck from the official Chant of Light, and the complete text has been lost.


Quotes

“Do I ***ing look like I give a ****ing **** about what a ****** lop-ears think about this **** ? ****.”

(Reeking of beer and alone on Human turf) “This *** is *my* ***ing alley now. You shem ****s want it, I ****ing kill you like ****ing dogs **** an’ you bleed the **** out of your ****ing slit ****. Who’s ****ing first ?”

Alamen (drunk, vomiting): “… ****… don’t wan’ no ****in’ husban’… ****in’ guys…” (pukes, coughs) “****in’ bleed ‘m like a ****in’ pig ‘f he ****in’ touch me…”
Shianni (holding Alamen’s hair up): “At least it looks like you don’t have much left to barf… Mind, it’s not like you’re eating anything…”
Alamen: “Ain’t gon’ ****in’ marry… kill ‘m firs’… got my ****in’ knives…” (painful spasm, dry-heaves) “Aah, ****. ****in’ ****.” (resumes crying)
Shianni (firmly holds Alamen’s left arm over her own shoulders, then plants her feet to lift her cousin upright.)


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Alamen Tabris (Earliest)

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Drunk
Int: 03 Wil: 03 Min: 03 Occupation: Drunk
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 03 Wealth: 002
Init: 013 HP: 020

Powers:
Extended hearing: 01, Regeneration: 01, Ultra-vision: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Form Function.
  • Ultra-vision only to compensate for low light.

Skills:
Accuracy (Assess personality): 04, Acrobatics: 02, Gadgetry: 02, Martial artist: 03, Thief (Stealth): 03, Weaponry (Melee, Thrown): 04, Weaponry (Bows & crossbows): 02

Bonuses and Limitations:
Gadgetry is limited to grenades and poisons.

Advantages:
Familiarity (Chant of Light, Butchery), Schtick (Blindside Adept, Paired blades).

Connections:
Her cousins Shianni and Soris (High).

Drawbacks:
SIA toward Alcohol, MID of men she doesn’t know, Misc.: Social Stigma (Elf).

Equipment:

  • Combat knife (x2) [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 01 (Cap is 06), Descriptor: Piercing, Slashing].
  • Hidden shiv (x3) [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 04), Miniaturisation: 01, Descriptor: Piercing].
  • LIGHT QUILTED VEST [BODY 02, Blunting: 01, Damage capacity: 02, Enhance (Piercing, Slashing RV): 01 (cap is 05), Partial Coverage (Vest), Bonuses & Limitations: Damage Capacity only vs. Piercing, Slashing ; Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery Bonus.]


Notes about the DA:O build

On Nightmare difficulty, a dual-wield Rogue might follow a precise path to :

  1. Unlock key fighting talents (such as Momentum or DW expert) ASAP.
  2. Be able to lockpick as many precious, early resources as possible.
  3. Be able to Coerce as many early, precious dialogue options as possible.
  4. Have stats that are good enough to equip gear (particularly the battledress of the provocateur from the Leliana’s Song DLC, which requires STR 20). So you’ll also want STR-enhancing gear to equip it ASAP – there isn’t enough points to raise both DEX and STR fast enough. There’s little need to get a STR higher than 20 with items on, until Awakening.).

I cunningly didn’t take charop  notes during my previous playthrough. But I can jot down notes from my save files. Will revisit this when I do the final playthrough.

Lvl 2: Str 11 Dex 21 Wil 14 Mag 12 Cun 14 Con 10, Dirty Fight, DW train, DW sweep, Flurry (req 18 Dex). Coercion, Poison making, Improved combat. Grabbed the Heirloom Necklace and the Fencer’s cinch in the Arl’s castle.
Lvl 4: Str 13 Dex 24 Cun 15. Deft hands, Momentum (req 24 Dex). Expert combat training.
Lvl 6: Str 17 Dex 26 Cun 16. Below the belt, Improved tools, DW finesse. Improved Coercion for dialogue options..
Lvl 7: Assassin spec. Str 18 Cun 17. Coercion 2, poison making, expert combat. Take deadly strike. I assume that Str 18 is to still reach 20 with only one Str-boosting item.
Lvl 8: From now on all attribute points go into Cunning. Combat mvmt, Coup de grâce, Lethality.
Lvl 9: Improved poison-making. DW expert.
Lvl 10: Expert poison making, Mark of death.
Lvl 11: Stealth, Stealthy item use.
Lvl 12: Master poison making, exploit weakness.
Lvl 14: Ranger.

Other notes

IIRC, the general approach was based on this advice . I’m not sure why I did assassin -> ranger rather than ranger -> assassin.

The money was kept to get all possible inventory size upgrades and training tomes, unless it was needed to get xp. Grabbed every last shred of xp and gear. After Lothering I breached Orzammar to get the key to the city (+2 to all attributes).

Then it’s Honnleath to grab the Harvest Festival Ring (another +2 to STR to wear the battledress) and Olaf’s prized cheese knife. And Shale, who is the best defensive tank until Alistair gets serious gear.

IIRC a key point is when Leliana and Alamen are both 14, putting two summoned wolves into play.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Dragon Age: Origins and general DA material.

Helper(s): Adam Fuqua, Ethan Roe, Darci, Peter Piispanen, Triad4ever, Civanfan.

Writeup revised on the 27th of January, 2018.

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