Dragon Age: Origins – Rogue Love

A few quick things – Polish the Console moved to new hosting over the weekend!  You may see some new ads along the sidebar here at PtC.  And secondly, we have a guest blogger today!  After reading her comment in response to the Anders the A**hole post, I decided to take her up on her offer of writing a thesis on why she loved Zevran.  And now, Calamitybird’s post!


“Allow me to say this:  What we are doing here, stopping the Blight…I cannot think of anything I have ever done which is so worthy.  I intend to see this through to the end with you.” – Zevran Arainai


While Kat & Wadoobie retch, Calamitybird swoons.

Not a quote you’d attribute to Zevran? Unsurprising.  Little has brought girl gamers together quite so much in recent history as the shared love for Dragon Age and its dashing, British, wise-cracking hero Alistair.  Zevran arrives under deplorable circumstances, and easily makes a bad first impression.  The hate I see for Zevran in gaming forums is positively vitriolic.  I almost like it – I have a thing for underdogs, and admit I secretly enjoy feeling like I appreciate something others don’t ‘get’.  But when Kat offered me a chance to defend the honor of my sweet, pragmatic, oft-maligned Antivan hottie, I couldn’t resist the opportunity.

(Note:  Utterly spoilerrific in regards to Zevran’s history/dialogues.  If you still plan to give Zevran a chance on your own, set this aside for now.)

Sense of Humor: Yes, he has one.  Alistair tends to get the credit for this, and I understand why.  But the longer I played, the more I felt that Alistair’s humor was an old familiar I like to call the ‘Chandler’ variety (for those who remember “Friends”; otherwise think Xander from “Buffy”.  If you haven’t seen that either, what kind of geek ARE you?).  I began to see Alistair’s self-deprecating jokes as passive-aggressive and attempting to cover for a genuine lack of confidence and self-esteem.  Alistair gave me a ‘fishing’ feeling – he always needed me to validate him, to tell him what he thought and who he was and what to do.  And it got wearisome.  Man up, Alistair – I got over your type by the time I was 22.  Zevran admittedly doesn’t make with the charming zingers nearly as often, but jokes around often enough to show he does have a sense of humor, even about himself.  Given his cocky affect, the unflattering stories he chooses to tell about himself and his past adventures are unexpected, yet there is no awkwardness or fishing in the telling – he is simply comfortable pointing out his own mistakes and lucky escapes.

Zevran the Archer

Aren't elves always archers?

Hey, I Had A Hard Childhood Too:  With apologies to his fans, I got tired of Alistair’s daddy issues, which he seems to alternately attach to Eamon, Duncan, and Maric. He weaves tales of childhood abandonment and stepmom issues with a forced nonchalance that fails to hide his resentment.  And frankly?  He trailed off into near-tears over Duncan so many times that I was shocked when I discovered he’d only known Duncan for six months prior to Ostagar.  Even perhaps a little insulted, given that near as I could extrapolate from events, I’d been on the road with him playing therapist for at least twice as long by then and yet I doubted my demise would elicit the same epic moping.  Sure, Alistair had it tough.  But Zevran wins the Hard Childhood Contest hands down without a trace of the same bitterness.  Grudgingly raised by whores until he was barely old enough to be sold to murderers, then subjected to brutal and potentially fatal training (including, as the Warden witnesses in Zevran’s memories if he is brought into the Fade puzzle section, withstanding rack torture without crying out.  That’s fairly hardcore, I think.)   All of this he discusses unabashedly if asked, with a matter-of-fact perspective that acknowledges most of his peers had it worse, and that he appreciates life for the pleasures it does offer.

Easy Lover: I think this is where a lot of people get the impression of Zevran as being sleazy.  Folks, maybe I read too much Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson, but I just don’t get this.  Zevran is actually quite respectful when it comes to sex (hey, stop laughing!),  which to him is simply this:  a Maker-given, enjoyable act between consenting people, compatible with but not bound to love and monogamy.  He says what he means, plays no games and oversteps no bounds.  Early on he caught me off guard by calling me beautiful, and then asked if he shouldn’t.  I told him not to …and I never heard another word about it, though I retained the conversation option to flirt first if I wanted that track back.  That pattern is consistent:  Tell him to back off – no matter how far things have gone already – and he graciously does, though you may really hurt his feelings as evidenced by the approval ratings.  Give him a clear signal that you are receptive, and prepare to be frequently reminded that you are incredibly sexy, dangerous and desirable.  When I experimented with romancing him and Leliana at the same time, however, he put his foot down – which greatly surprised me until I heard his reasons.  Though he would never lay a claim upon the Warden, he explains, he realizes Leliana (or Alistair as the case may be) is a traditional romantic…and that if you are seeing both of them, it is definitely not with the other’s informed consent.  “I am many things…but I am no cheat,” he says.  “If whatever is between us cannot be honest, let it not be at all.”  My inner Heinlein applauded.

License to Kill: This is where arguments with my BFF got particularly heated: as far as she’s concerned, this is the Insta-Win button.  Zevran kills for a living = Zevran is Eeevyil = The End.  But he’s always been completely forthcoming about his background:  Purchased at the age of seven, trained to know only murder, and threatened with death should he ever consider leaving.  To him, this is How The World Is.  Dig at his motivations, and there are great conversations to be had – about the definition of an ‘innocent’, about whether a mark would have been killed with or without his personal involvement, about whether he would ever choose to live his life another way if he had a choice. Take an accusatory tone with him, and he will ask the Warden to examine her own soldier past and the merit of the lives she has taken.  It’s clear that he has considered the question, and has done his best to fashion a philosophy he can live with.

Further, gain his trust more fully and Zevran will finally tell the Warden of his last assignment before this:  Mistakenly believing a woman he loved had betrayed them, he allowed his partner to kill her, turning a deaf ear to her cries for mercy.  He brokenly acknowledges his behavior was “utterly cruel” and makes no attempt to justify himself.  He then tells you he no longer wanted to live after that, and in fact had grossly underbid the other Crows on this assignment precisely in order to “throw (him)self at the one of the fabled Grey Wardens”.  Okay, that bears repeating:  Fully capable of both love and self-examination, he essentially admits to remorse so deep that he tried to kill himself in “suicide by cop” style.  Whatever his past, the Zevran now traveling with the Warden could no longer live as the person he had been, found compassion where he expected none…and is open to the possibility of another way.   Does he still want to die?  “No,” he answers.  “What I want is to begin again.  Whatever it is I sought by leaving Antiva, I think I have found it.”

Zevran Sex Scene

Easy to bed for sure. For any gender.

Mind you, all of this requires a compassionate Warden to bring out; treat him badly and he’ll quickly revert to old ways. I’ve heard Zevran called “easiest to bed and hardest to love”, and indeed it was only over a few playthroughs that I drew out his entire story and even an eventual declaration of love and a proposal of sorts.  But in a game filled with moral ambiguity, shady pasts and opportunities for redemption, he’s definitely one of the more fascinating and rewarding characters to get to know.


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