As of April, 2012, this story has surpassed 800,000 words. Since this mark is way beyond anything I expected when I started writing this, I decided it was appropriate to put in a nice preface to tell new readers what they can expect.
Basically, Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns is what happens when you take the plot of Dragon Age: Origins and make sure it has equal measures of epic battles, character development, character interaction, convoluted plotting and what reviewers have confirmed to be sheer badassery, all of it seasoned with some romance and the signature snarky humor that Thedas is known for.
One can also choose to imagine what can happen when you take all six origin stories and have just as many protagonists, with a gambit-using dwarven noble at the helm.
Heads Up: The protagonist may seem a bit too awesome to some, at least during the origin story. This is intentional. I am just working with what Bioware gave me, or said it was giving me but really didn't. The opening of the Dwarf Noble origin blatantly says the DN is supposed to have the highest prestige in his family, which essentially means the whole city too. In other words, he has to be both a good fighter and a very smart man. Alas, the game subsequently feeds the Warden idiot balls one after another while throwing plot holes at him.
What I did here was actually follow through on the idea of an, admittedly highly, competent dwarf prince, one who is kind-hearted and smart enough to find ways to stay that way while actually being useful. In other words, this isn't a story for people who feel that it is impossible to relate to characters who aren't totally ordinary, or at least more flawed than sane/morally viable (You may think I am broadcasting some underhanded insult here. I am not. I've just seen it happen far too often so I figured I may as well say in advance that this isn't that type of writing).
In other words, if you think that a morally upright character who is also competent/successful is a Mary Sue, then this is not your type of reading material. I would even advise against employing the words Mary Sue altogether, since that term has become so misused that everyone now chooses it to name any characters they dislike. I am not trying to be condescending or anything, but I've seen this happen very often so I am just laying out what you can expect so no one has to feel their time was wasted half-way into the plot.
A Mary Sue is a character that somehow warps reality enough (and I mean that literally, or borderline at least) that he or she becomes the center of the universe. This definitely does not happen here. The first few chapters were used to explain just why the opening cinematic of the dwarven noble origin says the DN is so worshipped. That and it brings about the first of major changes to the plotline.
Grey Wardens are supposed to be the elite of the elite in fighting, and there are very few people, even specialized, who don't actually have other talents too. Think the antiquity: Philosophers, yes the wisest people, also won Olympiads on a regular basis. Mind, emotion, the body, all were at their apex.
So know this: it is perfectly possible for people to actually prepare for multiple outcomes, or adapt to shit hitting the fan. Remember that this isn't the XXI century. There are no TVs and computers for people to waste their brains on. There are no video games for the masses to cry foul over. People do two things mainly: live and think, simply because there isn't much else for them to do most of the time, especially during cross-country marching (that lasts for weeks) or while living in a society that kills the weak and foolish just because it can.
In other words, for a protagonist who doesn't need to imagine what his enemies might do -because his people's history already provides him with an example of every possible law violation- it isn't all that hard to prepare. And honestly, If I, some guy, can think up viable courses of action for all the contrived crap in DAO (although the right to disagree on whether or not they are viable is still fully yours), then a political animal that doesn't have anything to do but train his body and mind can definitely do the same, and much, much more.
Of course, they have their issues, they make their share of mistakes, some bigger than others, but, nevertheless, all main characters will be exceptional, in multiple fields. Their favorite skills will exceed those of the protagonist too, from the start or eventually, by a massive margin in some cases. As I said, Grey Wardens are, by definition, elite in at least one area. I may be said to have given the entire setting take a level in badass, so you'll find plenty of smart and/or powerful/skilled characters, with a plot and subplots to match the scope. The point of view will keep changing between all wardens and everyone will get attention. This is, after all, why this story is so long while still being just half-done.
A relevant list of things you should keep in mind before you fall prey to the bias of others:
- "Crown of Thorns" is not a Jesus reference. You can, of course, believe the contrary if you are a supporter of "the death of the author."
- I do not consider Bhelen a complete monster in the game and I do not turn him into one here. I do, however, treat what the game gives me with a gloves-off approach. If you want an elaboration, you'll eventually find it.
- I'd appreciate it if you don't immediately assume i don't "get" that the setting is built to be a dark fantasy (I've seen it said, in those exact words, because, apparently, having one character with morals automatically means this is not the Dragon Age setting. Somehow.). If you did actually read everything and still think so, I'll disagree while being willing to fight to protect the freedom of your point of view.
And a final warning, since some people don't seem to have expected it. Somehow: Politics and subterfuge are a MAJOR part of this fiction. The Orzammar events are going to go very differently, and there is a huge word count invested in them, both at first and later, during the succession mess. So if you dislike the Orzammar/Deep Roads portion of the game, for some reason or other (and even though I enjoyed that portion, I don't blame you, since it kind of drags on in the game and is too railroaded), know from the start that the story spends a lot of time there at the beginning and later on.
You can, of course, skim through those tens of thousands of words, like others have done. Just don't be surprised if you can't empathize with the characters afterwards.
And now, the obligatory disclaimer: Bioware owns all rights to Dragon Age: Origins, not me.
Do try to enjoy yourselves ;)
P.S. Before you actually start, you MIGHT want to read "Premeditated." It's my one and only one-shot and will give you an idea of what to expect. Check it out and see if you can stomach my writing style before engaging in this huge beast. It's part of the back story for this story too, so it will help you understand why some characters do what they do.