Blogging A to Z Day 20: Qun

Iron Bull, a Qunari character I have talked about on Comparative Geeks. Picture from the DragonAge Wiki

Iron Bull, a Qunari character I have talked about on Comparative Geeks.
Picture from the Dragon Age Wiki

The Qun is a concept from the Dragon Age games that “defines the role of everyone and everything in the society of the Qunari” (Dragon Age Wiki). The Qunari are not a race, but a group of anyone who follows the Qun. In the Dragon Age games, the Qun is introduced as a foreign concept to most races and often looked down upon due to its strict nature. One of the tenets of the Qun is that everyone has a place and a purpose. Meaning that your nature defines your role in society and you know that this will always be your role; it defines how you are meant to live your life. Other fictional worlds have sort of touched on the concepts presented in the Qun, but the Qun takes it to a whole other level. The Qun is more than just a way of life; it is life, it is every decision, choice, and path that you walk.

This creates some very interesting clash of cultures because most of us – as in the society of Dragon Age – believe in the idea of freedom of choice and random circumstance. In the Qun your path is chosen practically from the beginning and there is not a question of your job, life goals, etc. You follow the Qun and that is all that matters. Where most see chaos and look for hope in things such as the Chantry, the Qun sees the world functioning as a fine machine where everything works together. They find solace in the thought that everything in nature has a place in the world and that that nature determines the path you follow. Now you do have a choice, but to fight against the path that nature has defined for you is to choose suffering.

One of the more interesting ways that this conflict is played out is in Dragon Age 2. A group of Qunari end up stranded in Kirkwall after their ship crashed. The turmoil that builds due to the Qunari’s presence in the city is palpable. Some see the Qun as an affront to the dominant religious order, the Chantry, and the Qunari feel that the city suffers because there are many who do not understand their place in society and the world. Others actually want to join the Qun because they see the peace that can come from knowing one’s place with absolute certainty.

Now where this thought breaks down are with those who are raised in the Qun, but eventually show magical abilities. From a  young age you are raised for a specific purpose, but when magic awakens this interrupts this process and breaks that order. Mages and magic upsets the balance that the Qun ascribes to and therefore any who are discovered to be mages are bound, so that they cannot disrupt this order.

“Struggle is an illusion. The tide rises, the tide falls, but the sea is changeless. There is nothing to struggle against. Victory is in the Qun.”

Extract from the Qun (Dragon Age Wiki)

This post was by @CompGeeksHolly of the Comparative Geeks, where you can find other posts about Dragon Age, like this one. For more A to Z posts, check out Comparative Geeks!

19 thoughts on “Blogging A to Z Day 20: Qun

  1. The binding sounds like an interesting concept and not being familiar with Dragon Age, I’m curious about this aspect of the Qun belief system. I’m curious about it all in truth, and I’m asking myself why I’m not playing this game! Iron Bull looks like a formidable creature – like a demon elf warrior! I need to find your post and take a look at that. Thanks for the interesting introduction.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the comment. The Qun has been one of the more fascinating aspects in the Dragon Age games that has developed between all three games. It is not a big part of all the games (bigger part of the second one than the other two), but at the same time it is something that definitely adds to the culture of the world being presented.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I will add, about the binding: the whole magic situation in Dragon Age is fascinating. All mages can potentially be possessed by demons, so they are locked away in most cultures in different ways. Or else, there’s the empire where the mages rules… generally considered “not a good place.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m interested in the binding because I use it in my new fantasy novel – imps and angels living in the mortal realm can be bound. In a completely different way to this, but I wondered about the process 🙂 Magic is fascinating and Dragon Age sounds cool! I want to play and I blame Holly – she did that to me with Batman!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I will warn that Dragon Age can be a massive time sink… The games are huge. The main writer for the series, David Gaider, has written a number of novels in the world as well… Might be a quicker view of it all!

          And I don’t feel I’m fully explaining the world of magic in the game either… It’s rich and complex. Definitely major plot point stuff as well as gaming mechanic. But you can play the series as someone who hates magic and mages…

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The concept of everyone has a place and a purpose is very similar to the Quechuan (you know them as Incans) society. They did not have concepts of ownership and everyone contributed according their abilities.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I love the Qunari. I was so excited (and sort of disappointed) when I got to play one in Inquisition. Including Sten in DA: O was, I think, one of the best things in the game, because I hate his character. I can’t stand him, and despite his usefulness I don’t use him due to his personality.

    DA: 2 really brought this abstract culture to light. The bound mages – which seems inhuman – makes sense in a world with literal demons and demigods. I’ve wandered since then what the Qunari make of the Blight.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The DLC with Talis (Felicia Day) was pretty excellent in DA: 2 for introducing more about the Qunari. Giving a look into their culture that we weren’t fighting against, unlike the Arishok!


  4. Sadly, I have been out of gaming for years now, so I am unfamiliar, but i’ve kinda-sorta followed the Dragon Age stuff.

    I will say, this is a good use of the determinism .vs free agents controversy. Even though I structure everything possible in my life, and am stoically Lawful Neutral personally, I do not actually believe in a prescribed path.

    At the level of “What actually exisists?” us tiny sentient creatures — whatever world we live in and whatever species we may be — are bundles of sensory organs awash in a sea of more-or-less random phenomena. The order that exists is imposed by observers (and that allows, of course, for a divine observer, or a group of them, which exist outside the universe/mulitiverse, imposing ALL the order on account of having observed everything from the beginning, but I am not wading off any further into that one at 12:30 am on a Tuesday morning).

    I do not believe in natural necessity. It’s contingencies all the way down for me.

    The Qun sounds like an understandable but misguided philosophy. It is certainly an interesting one, and good for some dramatic conflict in video games and other types of stories. I am filing it away to incorporate into my rarely-discussed worldbuilding project, because the religions are still not figured out to my satisfaction, and almost everything else is.

    Tag! @hannahgivens! You’re it! Do you know anything about Dragon Age, or have any thoughts on the determinism/free will divide? I am tagging you because your blogging suggests you might have an interest in this sort of conversation, and also because of that minor in political science and that fiction you are working on. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Point one: I know nothing about Dragon Age. Wish to god I could afford to play videogames. It looks fun.

      Point two: From the post, the Qun looks very interesting. On the one hand, it’s a different breed of religion because it is SO defined. On the other hand — this is the end point of Christianity, in my opinion. Very few Christians would take it that far in practice, but I don’t think you can separate the tradition from an attempt at this kind of order at this point. Maybe before the Middle Ages, but definitely not after. You can have Christianity without it in the present, but you have to break with tradition to do it. You have to say that women don’t “belong” anywhere they don’t want to be. You have to say that animals and humans are actually part of the same evolutionary spectrum, not totally different things with defined roles. Etc. (And I know it’s different in other parts of the world, but in Alabama, if you say those things you do not count as Christian, culturally).

      Point three: It’s an awesome concept for a fantasy story, because you have so many options! Including religion in a fantasy or science fiction world is important because it’s so important to humans in real life, so you can make some general worldbuilding enrichment that way, but you can also explore total systems. There’s a chance to look at the Dragon Age world and ask if the Qun makes sense. If you’re a creator doing worldbuilding and you want religion to be a significant part, I think you have to really look at the implications of the religion. If you as a creator want that to be “true” in your world, you have to think about how that would actually look. It doesn’t look like the Qun philosophy makes sense in a world that is not in fact orderly, especially with the magician thing. But, I imagine if you are a Qunari and you believe your life is orderly, and you’ve removed any need for anxiety in your life that way, the world might look different to you.

      Point four: Regarding free will and determinism. I like your statement about “contingencies all the way down.” I think we have free will, and even if we don’t, we have no choice but to act as if we do. However, as I believe we discussed at Victim to Charm during the big trolling brouhaha, rational choice is not always (maybe even “often”) the best model to use. We make choices based on what we’re given — including our own natures, our perceptions, our cultures, etc. Limited choice does not lead to “a place for everything and everything in its place,” though!

      Personally… I don’t even know. I think if the world were orderly, it would BE ORDERLY, and it is not. If it was “natural” for women to all act a certain way, for instance, no one would need to tell us how to act. We just all WOULD be in the kitchen. I am slightly autistic (btw…) and sometimes I think I’d like the world to make sense, or at least be much more impersonal, but I can vouch for the fact that it is not orderly and I am not orderly, no matter how convenient it might be. Any philosophy I could subscribe to would have to be similarly disordered. As described in point three, it has to match the world in which we live.

      (Do I win the award for longest comment ever? Apparently this is what happens when you tag me in a conversation… 😉 )

      Liked by 2 people

      • OMG. You win the award. Thanks for addressing ALL of it.

        On the worldbuilding: Yes the religion is important, and yes it must be true in the context of your world. One of my big problems with my own world is that my religions, at this point, are expies of Catholicism and Druidism, and that just will not do.

        Free will .vs Determinsim: You hit the nail on the head there. Rational choice is fairly limited and the limits are easy to find, really. Because, IMO, the rational choice thing assumes everyone has the same information. It’s good for predicting markets and for solving the Prisoners’ Dilemma, but it explains nothing. There is no account of intersubjectivity in rational choice, and sorry for busting out with the big crazy wonkish words, but the actual world we live and breathe in is an intersubjective thing.

        Christianity: You are right about that too, at least in the Southern U.S. I am only one state over from you, and my experience is the same. And I think Christianity was not so obsessed with order prior to the Middle Ages.

        Order is imposed. I do not think it is a natural phenomenon in the sense that photosynthesis is a natural phenomenon. Social order is a product of coercion. Cognitive order is a product of rationality, which is not the end-all-be all and can be taken too far, but. Without rationality, there are no patterns to recognize. Only chaos. Which means some animals other than humans must be rational, because they recognize patterns, and we are right back to the problems of traditional Southern Christianity, lol.

        I hope this makes some kind of sense, and thanks for indulging me! I have to go and schedule a Sinestro post now. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yes, you make sense. 🙂 And I have never heard the word “intersubjectivity” before, but I like it.

          Two rabbit trails —

          One: I think Christianity was less obsessed with order pre-Middle Ages, but very interested in differentiating itself. I spent a year studying clobber passages, and one common thread is that things like “don’t eat shellfish” and “don’t have gay sex” were meant as differentiation, not inherently moral commands, for instance. I have since ceased to care on a personal level, but it’s an interesting discussion all around since that’s still a modern Christian concern.

          Two: Interesting statements about order, there. I’m still reading them in circles. I think I’d probably say that patterns derive from the necessaries and expediencies of natural laws, but they don’t actually matter unless rationality observes them and uses them to draw conclusions. (And animals can definitely observe patterns and use the patterns for their own benefit!)

          Liked by 1 person

          • LOL. And now I am reading in circles.

            Intersubjectivity is a Frankfurt School concept, I think. I learned it from Habermas. And I am not dropping names to seem smarter than I am. That’s where you find it if you want more info, is the only point.

            There’s the Objective world — the world of observable phenomena we can all agree on if we don’t be assholes and actually respect empirical evidence. Then there’s the subjective world — the world we define for ourselves and could care less whether anyone agrees, etc. Intersubjective is the the bit in the middle — the negotiated world — where things like feminism and causes of war happen. Has its limits, but it’s a powerful tool for analyzing social interaction.

            Liked by 2 people

            • And then there’s Something-Gate, the point where “feminism” and “causes of war” are the same thing…

              Leaving a (half) joke to show I’ve read this whole exchange, and I approve.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. This is beyond what my small brain can handle. 🙂
    I haven’t played any RPG games in too many years. Sounds interesting though.
    Heather M. Gardner
    Co-host: Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
    Blog: The Waiting is the Hardest Part []


  6. Pingback: A to Z Challenge Reflection 2015 | Comparative Geeks

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