All dwarves are born into inherited castes that determine what sorts of opportunities they will encounter during their lives and how others will treat them.
It is possible to change castes through one's children as dwarves inherit their caste from their same-sex parent, so if a lower caste woman has a son by a man of a higher caste, her son would be the same caste as his father. In this case, the woman would then also be raised up to join that higher caste, often as a concubine in the case of Noble hunters. If she bears a daughter, her daughter will take her lower caste and no advancement will have taken place.
Furthermore, if a dwarf joins a house or another organisation of lower caste than the dwarf, it is possible that the house or organisation will assume the caste of the dwarf should the latter have achieved great accomplishments as well as by virtue of honored ancestry.
The only other way to advance is to become a Paragon, a move that automatically raises a dwarf above the caste system (although typically is part of the noble caste) and gives them the power to induct any family they wish into their new noble house. Becoming a Paragon is possible for a member of any caste so long as the dwarf has achieved sufficient success and acclaim.
Many of the castes also have a strata within them, and the rank of specific members may be a source of considerable argument. Amongst the castes there is great contention as well; for example, highly-placed members of the Smith Caste might consider themselves above soldiers of the Warrior Caste.
Foundation of the Caste system Edit
According to legend, seven brothers founded the dwarven Empire:
- Bloadlikk: Youngest and wisest, he was chosen king. Bloadlikk's children formed the Noble Caste.
- Kiotshett: The eldest, who trained his sons to defend the king. From his children descend the Warrior Caste.
- Shotkyar: Founded the Artisan Caste.
- Orzatyar: Forged the first swords and founded the Smith caste.
- Orzammar: Dug the mines that became the foundations of Orzammar. From his descendants formed the Miner Caste.
- Koapar and Knakkt: twin brothers who founded trading houses. Knakkt was wounded in battle and vowed to serve his brother. From Koapar comes the Merchant Caste, and from Knakkt the Servant Caste.
The Castes Edit
Noble Caste: The highest ranking and most esteemed caste in Orzammar, consisting of the most powerful and influential dwarves.
- This caste includes the King and the Royal House, the very pinnacle of dwarven society even amongst the nobles.
- Deshyrs: Members of the Orzammar Assembly. In Dragon Age: Origins, the Steward of the Assembly is Bandelor.
Warrior Caste: The Warrior Caste is subdivided into smaller castes, with specific houses producing soldiers, bodyguards, officers, etc. Warriors lead lives of drill and practice and marry early, knowing their lives will be short and grim.
Smith Caste: Smiths smelt raw materials to produce finished goods for other castes.
Artisan Caste: Artisans ornament the goods produced by smiths or simply create art for its own sake.
Miner Caste: These are the dwarves who mine for ore and Lyrium, a valuable trading commodity for Orzammar.
Merchant Caste: The shopkeeps and traders whose business is the lifeblood of the city of Orzammar.
Servant Caste: The strata of dwarven society born to serve higher caste dwarves in positions such as washerwomen, maids, cooks, barkeeps, etc.
The Casteless: The strata of dwarven society below even Servant Caste, a group of dwarves rejected by Orzammar itself.
Surfacers: Not a caste per se, they are technically regarded as casteless by dwarves within Orzammar, but in practice are treated with some respect because they are the only dwarves who can broker valuable trade opportunities with the surface world.
Society and Hierarchy of the Castes Edit
Upper Caste Edit
Noble Caste Edit
The Royal House sits at the top of dwarven social hierarchy and its members are the rulers of Orzammar. However, the leadership of Orzammar is not hereditary and thus the Royal House can be displaced by the Assembly any time a new ruler is chosen. The king or queen with the elected deshyrs from the noble houses form the Orzammar Assembly, a group which during the time of Dragon Age: Origins consists of eighty nobles. The King is officially considered first among the deshyrs. Lesser noble houses may not have a vote in the Assembly.
Deshyr is a term meaning "assembly lord." Deshyrs join the dwarven Assembly when a standing member dies or resigns. The prospective deshyr then must be nominated by a standing member and receive a one-third vote from the Assembly to ratify the decision.
Most of the noble houses in Orzammar are founded by Paragons, which give their name to their House. However, not all noble houses are descended from Paragons. Sometimes Warrior Caste or Smith Caste families become nobility through great deeds or other means. Nobles live in the Diamond Quarter, the wealthiest and most exclusive district of the city, in the uppermost tiers nearest to the surface, as befits their status.
All noble houses act as patrons to promising dwarves of other castes or houses. They sponsor particular artisans, warriors, miners, etc. If a warrior wins honor for himself in battle or in the Provings, it brings honor to the noble. If an artisan becomes sought-after or acclaimed for their work, it elevates the noble sponsor. This becomes part of the political maneuvering in Orzammar, and noble houses will compete for promising warriors or talented craftsmen in order to gain an advantage over their rivals.
Middle Castes Edit
Warrior Caste Edit
The dwarven military is made up of various houses from the Warrior Caste. Each warrior house is sworn to a noble patron, which can create unique situations should the fortune of the noble house or the warrior house fail.
As an example, the current royal family is House Aeducan, who likely have a dozen or more Warrior Caste houses in their employment. The King, as patriarch of House Aeducan, will appoint members of his house to command the warriors who serve him.
Meanwhile, House Medra is a Warrior Caste house sworn to House Aeducan. House Medra has its own head — an older matriarch or patriarch of the family — who decides which members of House Medra will march with the newly-appointed commander, and whom the officers in charge of those warriors are. Because they serve the royal family, House Medra is treated as the elite of the dwarven military. They get special consideration from the smiths and artisans. The warriors of lesser houses defer to them.
If something lowers the standing of House Aeducan, such as losing the throne to another house, House Medra falls with it, and the warrior houses sworn to the succeeding noble house rise in power and prominence among the Warrior Caste as a result.
Smith Caste Edit
- Main article: Smith caste
Smiths are respected, and children born to the Smith Caste are expected to learn the craft as their Ancestors did. Females in this caste may become smiths, though it would also be acceptable for them to marry and produce children for their caste.
Smiths compete for acclaim and patronage and there are often the equivalent of Smith Provings to determine the most skilled smith. Within the caste weaponsmiths, followed by armorsmiths, are most revered.
Artisan Caste Edit
Artisans work closely with smiths but are not as respected. They often create leather and cloth goods.
Miner Caste Edit
Orzammar is the ancestral home of the Smith and Miner Castes due to the rich ore of the Frostback Mountains. Much of Orzammar's wealth comes from its mining. Lyrium mining is one of the most difficult and important facets of this caste's work, requiring finesse and a hearty dwarven constitution to withstand constant lyrium exposure.
Merchant Caste Edit
The majority of Orzammar's goods pass through the hands of merchants, sold to surface traders or within Orzammar itself. As space in Orzammar is limited, only very respected merchants have permanent shops; others must rent temporary stalls. Once one of the most highly respected castes, their esteem has diminished in recent years as their desire for wealth has sent many Merchant Caste dwarves to the surface to seek greater riches, dividing them from Orzammar forever.
Lowest Caste Edit
Servant Caste Edit
This caste makes up the bulk of Orzammar's population. Members consider themselves and their work worthy of the greatest respect and take pride in their service to other castes. They look down upon the casteless.
No Caste Edit
The casteless dwarves live in the ghetto of Dust Town, a crumbling ruin where the old palace used to be, on the fringe of Orzammar's Commons district and in the shadow of the rich and powerful. Born with no rights and considered non-people, these dwarves make a living often as thugs for the Carta, beggars, street sweepers, and as Noble Hunters, among many other menial tasks, as the Assembly during the reign of King Darbir declared that it insults the Ancestors for casteless dwarves to perform any work that a dwarf of recognized caste can perform. Casteless dwarves are branded soon after birth with a tattoo to identify them.
These unfortunates are believed to be descendants of criminals and other undesirables and have therefore been viewed as rejected by the Ancestors since Orzammar's foundation.
To the rest of Orzammar, the casteless do serve an important social function in that they remind other dwarves that in spite of the ravages of endless war with the darkspawn and other turmoil within the city, their lot could be far worse. Beyond that, Dust Town and its casteless provide the city with a supply of dwarves skilled in subterfuge and other less savory talents, and higher caste dwarves do not hesitate to make use of them for their own ends.
Surface dwarves Edit
Dwarven Caste in the Tevinter Imperium Edit
There is one unique exception to the disenfranchisement of dwarves who travel to the surface. In the Tevinter Imperium dwarves are not considered citizens but rather foreign dignitaries. As such, many serve in the numerous dwarven embassies scattered throughout the Imperium. Dwarven embassies in Minrathous, Neromenian, and Qarinus are entirely underground and are considered by dwarves to reside within the Stone, allowing those in the embassy to retain their caste. Some dwarves serving in Tevinter embassies never leave these underground fastnesses.
See also Edit