The diseased creatures known as darkspawn mysteriously appeared in the Deep Roads over a thousand years ago, viciously attacking the dwarves and eventually pouring out onto the surface during the first blight. After the Archdemon was slain and the horde defeated, they retreated back into the Deep Roads. There have been 3 subsequent blights since, each of them almost completely annihilating Thedas.
The true origin of the Darkspawn is currently unknown. The only existing explanation comes from the Chantry, who claim that they were created when the magisters of the ancient Tevinter Imperium used blood magic to sunder the veil and physically enter the Fade. These magisters dared to enter the golden city, the holy seat of the Maker, in an attempt to usurp His thrown and seize ultimate power for themselves. They corrupted the city with their presence and were cast down by the Maker, who cursed them and transformed them into the vile and corrupted creatures known as the darkspawn. The Chantry refers to this event as the first sin, the very reason that the maker turned his back on humanity and his creation.
This story is never presented as fact however. Indeed, many characters refer to it as a Chantry lie, an attempt to justify the oppression of all those born with the ability to wield magic.
The various species of darkspawn have no females of their own. Instead, they rely on the other races of Thedas for their survival. Darkspawn kill most males on sight, but try to capture as many females as possible alive. They drag these females underground to their lairs where they force them to eat the corrupted flesh of their fallen brethren. Resulting in great pain and horrific transformations. Few females actually survive this process, but those that do, live to become the gruesome broodmothers.
The Broodmother and her many nipples
Each race produces different types of broodmothers and thus, offspring.
· Human females produce hurlocks.
· Dwarven females produce genlocks.
· Elf females produce shrieks.
· Qunari females produce ogres.
Each individual broodmother can give birth to thousands of darkspawn over her lifetime.
The darkspawn are linked through a hive mind. Intelligent darkspawn such as alphas or emissaries can exert a limited amount of control over small bands, but only the mighty Archdemon has the power to command the entire horde. Normally the darkspawn are very chaotic and disorganized and choose to remain underground. Deadlocked in a constant war with their sworn enemies, the dwarves, they only rarely venture to the surface in small war bands. It is only when they find a slumbering Old God and transform it into an Archdemon with their taint, that they unite as a race and march to the surface in an effort to eradicate all life in Thedas.
Darkspawn appear to have no craftsmen or workers, instead relying on equipment scavenged from fallen enemies or artefacts left behind by the dwarves when they fled the Deep Roads.
The darkspawn carry with them a disease called the taint. The taint is the source of their strength and sustains them, eliminating the need for nutrition. Areas controlled by the darkspawn become corrupted by this taint, which manifests in the form of fleshy growths and tendrils, transforming and eventually killing most life forms it comes into contact with. Creatures that are corrupted by the taint will serve the darkspawn and also inherit some of their traits (like fast regeneration and increased sensitivity to light), although their usefulness is limited. Indeed, the taint will kill most within months.
The taint also allows the darkspawn to hear the song of the Old Gods. A magnificent chorus that claws at their minds and compels them to obey, to seek out the Old Gods and free them from their ancient underground prisons.
As with most sentient races, some darkspawn are born with the ability to wield magic. These individuals are called emissaries and can be either hurlocks or genlocks. Emissaries are more intelligent than their brethren and can even utter words and short phrases during combat. They often act as the leaders of small groups and the taint grants them access to unique forms of dark magic that other races have no knowledge of.
The highly intelligent talking darkspawn known as The Architect has developed a ritual which involves the drinking of Grey Warden blood, which grants the darkspawn immunity against the song of the Old Gods. With their minds freed, these disciples develop free will and gain the ability to think and speak. These darkspawn are highly intelligent and skilled with weaponry, with the ability to use complex war tactics, such as siege warfare. However, due to their underground isolation, they are socially inept and find it hard to anticipate and understand the reactions and behaviour of humans.
The Architect with his eccentric and outlandish fashion sense
Not all disciples remained loyal to The Architect however, with some defecting to serve The Mother instead. These disciples were referred to as “heretics”.