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Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Morrigan – Past and Present

by Kimberley Wallace on Aug 12, 2013 at 07:00 AM

Morrigan is one of the most mysterious characters to grace the Dragon Age universe. The seductive mage keeps everyone guessing about her true intentions, and knows more than she lets on. If the cheers following her appearance in Dragon Age: Inquisition’s E3 trailer are any indication, fans are glad to have her back. With so many questions lingering, including Morrigan’s whereabouts since performing the dark ritual to conceive a child, Inquisition is her chance to return to glory. Not only do we catch you on to speed on Morrigan, but we also sat down with BioWare to discuss the creation of one of the most-discussed Dragon Age characters and her role in Dragon Age: Inquisition.

How Morrigan Came To Be

Lead writer David Gaider’s initial vision for Morrigan was vastly different from the defiant and vociferous woman he presented in Dragon Age: Origins. Strangely enough, Gaider first wrote Morrigan much like her nemesis: Flemeth, the woman who raised her. “Remember meeting Flemeth and she’s talking in circles and kind of out there? I had Morrigan kind of the same way,” says lead writer David Gaider. “She would never give you anything straight.” 

Gaider wanted players to wonder what she was talking about every time she opened her mouth, but soon decided with the team that the whimsical Morrigan just wasn’t working. Gaider had to completely rewrite her, and he liked the idea of having a character speak obtusely, so he came up with a compromise. “I decided rather than make her like Flemeth, [I’d] make her a teenage girl who just resents her mother. [She’s] completely blunt because she doesn’t like that her mother talks in circles,” Gaider says.

With one hurdle for Morrigan overcome, the team was on to the next: Finding the perfect voice. BioWare considers this one of the most critical elements to a character. “Morrigan took forever to cast,” Gaider says. At one point BioWare settled on a different voice actress, but like Morrigan’s initial conception, decided she just wasn’t working for what they envisioned. But then Claudia Black (the actress who portrays Aeryn Sun in Farscape) came along in an unexpected way. “She did not actually audition for Morrigan,” Gaider says. Instead, Black sent in a recording she had done to let BioWare know she’d be interested in future projects. “We listened to it and were like, ‘that would be perfect.’ And of course I watched Farscape, so that was just great,” Gaider recalls. 

Even with time away, Black came back for Inquisition’s trailer and delivered exactly what BioWare needed. “She falls right into that space again and she just has that whiskey voice that works so well,” Gaider says. “Every now and then you get a voice actor who just hits it out of the park the first time and makes what you wrote better,” Gaider adds. 

The Morrigan We Know 

Fans quickly became captivated by Morrigan’s mystique and sharp tongue, especially in her banter with fellow party member Alistair. Part of what makes Morrigan tick is her backstory and position within the Dragon Age world. Magic is feared in Thedas, and as a way to have keep their power in check, all mages are required to enroll in the Circle of Magi. Unsurprisingly, Morrigan refuses to comply, making her an apostate – a rogue mage – isolated from civilization. Morrigan’s upbringing is drastically different than most characters you encounter in Dragon Age, and she clearly hasn’t had many interactions or relationships with others because of it. 

Most noticeably, Morrigan has a strained relationship with Flemeth, but Morrigan is unsure if the witch is actually her mother. When your caretaker is a legendary shapeshifting witch who is rumored to kill men through fear alone, it’s hard not to pick up on her tactics and resent her power. Whether Morrigan or Flemeth can be trusted is a lingering question, as they always seem to have ulterior motives. 

Morrigan’s cryptic personality has worked well for the story and something Gaider deliberately wanted. “I had Morrigan talk a lot about herself in Dragon Age: Origins, and considering how [Origins] ended, players walked away thinking, ‘how much of that is true?’” Gaider says. “You’d be foolish to recognize [her enigmatic qualities] and then not have her take advantage of it, right? She knows the power that she has...”

Morrigan presents players with a big choice before the final battle against the Archdemon in Origins. She claims that a certain dark ritual would allow her to conceive a child and save a Grey Warden from having to make a grave sacrifice. She explains that the essence of the Archdemon, once it is slain, will go into the unborn child. Morrigan believes the child will then have the soul of an Old God. Male players are given the option of conceiving a child with Morrigan themselves, but even if they refuse, the other Grey Wardens of the world may not have the same resolve. After the final battle, Morrigan leaves and the child’s fate is unknown. 

Morrigan’s departure to continue her mission was something Gaider felt strongly about. “From my perspective, making a strong female character is about having her have her own agenda,” Gaider says. “The most important thing for me when I wrote [Origins] was that at the end even if Morrigan loved the player, she had this thing that she believed in, that was so important that she would do it regardless of the player. And I think that a lot of players expected that she would bend herself to do whatever they wanted because they’ve done the romance, gotten her approval up, and of course she would just sort of follow their destiny. But Morrigan has her own destiny.” 

Up next: Morrigan's place in Dragon Age: Inquisition....

Role In Dragon Age: Inquisition

Morrigan’s fate is being teased for Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the anticipation of her role is keeping fans on the edge of their seats. One role she won’t have has already been confirmed. “I think it is fair for people to understand that [Morrigan] will not be a party member,” says creative director Mike Laidlaw. “That’s going to disappoint some people, but I think it’s important for us to be upfront about that.” Although, she won’t be cast as one of the followers, her role is important. “It’s not a cameo. She plays a significant role,” Gaider teases. 

Gaider and Laidlaw’s excitement for her return in Inquisition is palpable. They’ve been building up her return for some time now. “The kernel of Inquisition’s story we knew from about midway through Dragon Age: Origins. The story has been in the making for a very long time,” Laidlaw says. “The story of Inquisition is [Morrigan’s] moment, which is a good way to think about it.”  Fans were hoping that she’d make an appearance in Dragon Age II, but only heard her referenced a few times. The wait to see what Morrigan has been up to has been agonizing; fans have been waiting since 2010’s Witch Hunt DLC to be reunited with her. “I think you could say in Dragon Age II, we didn’t go to that story, but it has always been there, waiting for us,” Gaider says. 

When asked if any references would come up from your past interactions with Morrigan, like about your Grey Warden if you romanced her, Gaider says, “Yes. The various states that Morrigan can be in – of which there can be quite a few, because we don’t know when to stop when it comes to making decisions – they’re all recognized. Whether or not they have the ultimate effect like the kind of reactivity someone imagines, that depends on the person. But we do recognize them and it does play a role of varying degrees depending on the surroundings.” 

Does this mean Inquisition will tie up the loose ends in her story? The dark ritual has been in fans’ minds since Origins, but Morrigan has more depth than a single scheme. “[Morrigan] has a human role in this plot, which I think may surprise some people because they might only think of her as a plot device,” Gaider says. “She has this big plot she’s involved in, and while that’s true to an extent, I’m taking her to a human place. That will make sense after the fact.”

Dragon Age: Inquisition continues a story that’s been in the cards since 2009. With a character as brilliant and unpredictable as Morrigan, her role should be anything but ordinary. After all, Morrigan desires change in the world, and this might be her chance to see her wishes become reality.

 Be sure to check out our Dragon Age: Inquisition hub page for continuing coverage of BioWare's RPG.