I know this is pretty much old news, but I worked pretty hard on this post back in 2010 on an old blog and wanted to re-post it since I started playing DAO all over again recently thanks to all of the talk of Dragon Age 3. Each class has 4 subclasses that can be unlocked throughout the game but some of them require specific scenarios to occur or require certain character approval ratings, so this will clean all of that up for you.
If you’re looking to unlock the sub-classes from the expansion, Awakening, check out my post here instead.
Shapeshifter – Morrigan will teach you if your approval rating is below 30, but not above. Otherwise, you can purchase the manual for 12g at the Dalish Camp in the Brecilian Outskirts from Varathorn.
Shapeshifter allows you to learn the following:
- Spider Shape – The caster transforms in to a Giant Spider, gaining a large increase to nature resistance and the use of Web and Poison Spit abilities. With Master Shapeshifter, the caster becomes a Corrupted Spider which is stronger and gains the Overwhelm ability. The caster’s spellpower determines how strong the form is.
- Bear Shape – The caster transforms in to a Bear, gaining a large bonus to nature resistance and armor as well as the use of the Slam and Rage abilities. With Master Shapeshifter, the caster becomes a Bereskarn and gains the Overwhelm ability. The caster’s spellpower will increase the forms statistics and the effectiveness of it’s abilities.
- Flying Swarm – The caster’s body explodes in a swarm of stinging insects, inflicting nature damage to nearby foes that is increased by the caster’s spellpower and proximity. While in this form, the caster gains Divide the Swarm causing all damage taken to remove mana rather than health at the cost of no longer being able to generate mana. While in this form, the caster is immune to missile attacks and will evade most physical attacks but is extremely vulnerable to fire attacks. With Master Shapeshifter, the caster will regenerate health as they deal damage in this form.
- Master Shapeshifter – The caster gains enhanced abilities that are listed above.
Spirit Healer – The manual for Spirit Healer is sold in 2 places for around 15g. The first is in Denerim from the Wonders of Thedas shop while the second is from the vendor in Warden’s Keep from the DLC.
Spirit Healer allows you to learn the following:
- Group Heal – The caster bathes allies in benevolent energy, instantly healing them by a moderate amount.
- Revival – The caster revives a fallen party member from unconsciousness and restoring a small amount of health.
- Lifeward – The caster places a protective ward on a party member that lasts for 60 seconds. The ward will automatically heal the target once their health falls below 33%.
- Cleansing Aura – While this mode is active, waves of healing and cleansing energy emanate from the caster, healing nearby allies every 5 seconds and curing any of their injuries. (The range for cleansing aura isn’t very large at 5m. Any party member further than 5m will not have injuries cured and will receive reduced healing.)
Blood Mage – *MINI PLOT SPOILER* This sub-class can only be unlocked if your warden is a Mage. During the Arl of Redcliffe questline (where Connor is possessed), free Jowan in the hallway and allow him to help you enter the Fade to free Connor. You must be the Mage to enter the Fade, not Morrigan. When you meet up with the Desire Demon, you’ll be given a choice to fight or talk to them – choose the talk option and “strike a deal” with it and choose the “blood magic” reward. According to the DAO wiki, this will not change the story in any way and will still have the same outcome in-game as it would if you decided to fight and kill the demon instead.
Blood Mage gives you access to the following:
- Blood Magic – While this form is active, the caster expends health to power spells instead of mana and all healing effects are reduced to 10%.
- Blood Sacrifice – The Blood Mage sucks the life from an ally, damaging and potentially killing them in the process, but healing the caster in return. Health gained from Blood Sacrifice is not penalized by Blood Magic, but the aura is required to cast the spell.
- Blood Wound – An AoE spell that causes the blood of all hostile targets in the area to boil, inflicting severe damage and paralyzing them unless they pass a physical resistance check. Targets without blood are immune. Blood Magic’s aura is required to cast the spell.
- Blood Control – The Blood Mage takes control of the targets blood, making them an ally of the caster unless it passes a mental resistance check. If the target resists the control, they will instead take a large amount of damage due to the manipulation of their blood. Targets without blood are immune.
Arcane Warrior – This is unlocked during the Nature of the Beast questline in the lower ruins of the Brecilian Ruins. Destroy the phylactery in this area to unlock the Arcane Warrior sub-class.
Arcane Warrior grants the caster access to:
- Combat Magic – While this aura is active, the caster trades increased fatigue for an attack bonus and the ability to use the magic stat to determine combat damage. Aura of Might and Fade Shroud increase the effectiveness. In addition, regardless of the aura is active, a mage who has learned Combat Magic can still use their magic stat instead of strength to equip high level weapons and armor.
- Aura of Might – This passive ability grants the Arcane Warrior a bonus to attack, defense and damage delt while Combat Magic is active.
- Shimmering Shield – The Arcane Warrior is surrounded in a shield that blocks most damage and grants large bonuses to armor and all resistances. While this aura is active, the Arcane Warrior loses mana rapidly.
- Fade Shroud – This passive ability gives an increase in mana regeneration and an increased chance to avoid attacks while Combat Magic is active.
Berserker – Oghren will teach you Berserker if his approval rating is high enough but you can also purchase a manual from Gorim in the Denerim Market District.
Berserker gives access to the following:
- Berserk – The stench of blood and death drives the Berserker in to a willing fury, granting a bonus to damage. Rages incur a penalty to stamina regeneration which is reduced with Constraint. Resilience adds a bonus to health regeneration while this mode is active.
- Resilience – Rages no longer wear so heavily on the Berserker’s body, reducing the stamina regen penalty from Berserk and increasing their nature resistance.
- Constraint – The Berserker has learned to retain control during rages, reducing the penalty to stamina regen from Berserk.
- Final Blow – All of the Berserkers stamina goes in to a single swing, dealing damage based on the amount of stamina lost.
Champion – *PLOT SPOILER* Champion can be unlocked by completing the Urn of Sacred Ashes questline and accepting Arl Eamon’s award (you have the option to refuse it, just don’t). Loghain will also teach you the specialization if his approval rating is high enough.
Champion gives you access to:
- War Cry – The Champion lets out a fearsome cry, giving nearby enemies a penalty to attack. With Superiority, effected enemies are also knocked down unless they pass a physical resistance check.
- Rally – The Champion’s presence inspires nearby allies, granting them a bonus to attack and defense while this aura is active. When coupled with motivate, the attack bonus is increased.
- Motivate – This passive talent increases the attack bonus granted by Rally.
- Superiority – This passive talent gives War Cry the ability to knock down enemies unless they pass a physical resistance check.
Reaver – *PLOT SPOILER* During the Urn of Andraste quest chain, pour the blood in to the Urn and speak to Kolgrim to learn the specialization. Do not have Wynne or Leliana in your party or they will attack you at this point. Even if Wynne is not in your party, she will leave permanantly due to your actions, but you can lie to Leliana and she’ll stay. You can avoid this altogether by saving before making the choice, unlocking the specialization and then loading your save. For some reason it will save Reaver as unlocked for your profile.
Reaver gives access to the following:
- Devour – The reaver revels in death, sucking life energy from nearby corpses to replenish their own health.
- Frightning Appearance – Causes a target to cower in fear unless they pass a mental resistance check. Also increases the effectiveness of Threaten and Taunt.
- Aura of Pain – This aura deals spirit damage to all nearby hostile targets as well as the Reaver themselves.
- Blood Frenzy – The Reaver gains a bonus to damage output whenever they lose health but also gain a penalty to health regeneration.
Templar – This specialization can be taught by Alistair if his approval rating is high enough, otherwise the manual can be purchased from Bodahn Feddic from your Party Camp.
Templar gives access to the following:
- Righteous Strike – This passive ability allows each of the Templar’s melee attacks to drain the mana of the target.
- Cleanse Aura – The Templar purges the area of magic, removing all dispellable effects from the targets. Friendly fire is possible unless your difficulty setting prevents it.
- Mental Fortress – This passive ability grants the Templar a large bonus to mental resistance.
- Holy Smite – The Templar inflicts spirit damage on the target and all nearby hostile targets. If the initial target is a spellcaster, they will lose mana and take additional spirit damage unless they pass a mental resistance check. All effected targets will be knocked down or stunned unless they pass a physical resistance check.
Assassin – Zevran will teach you this specialization if his approval rating is high enough. You can also purchase the manual after the Landsmeet in the Elven Alienage in Denerim from Alarith.
Assassin gives access to the following:
- Mark of Death – The Assassin marks a target, revealing a weakness to your party. All damage done against the target deals increased damage.
- Exploit Weakness – A keen eye and killer instinct help the Assassin exploit a targets weak points. During a successful Backstab attack, the Assassin gains additional damage based on their Cunning.
- Lacerate – Whenever a Backstab deals damage, the for is riddled with bleeding wounds that inflict additional damage over time.
- Feast of the Fallen – This passive ability restores some stamina when the Assassin kills a foe with a Backstab.
Bard – Leliana will teach you the Bard specialization if her approval rating is above 32. Otherwise, you can purchase the manual from Alimar in Dust Town below Orzammar.
Outside of having a sexy voice, the Bard class gives access to the following:
- Song of Valor – The Bard hits the high notes, increasing mana and stamina regeneration. Only one song can be sung at a time.
- Distraction – Causes the target to forget who they were fighting and become disoriented unless they pass a mental resistance check.
- Song of Courage – The Bard launches in to an epic song, increasing your party members attack, damage and critical strike chance. The amount of the bonus is determined by the Bard’s Cunning. Only one song can be sung at a time.
- Captivating Song – This song stuns nearby hostile targets every few seconds unless they pass a mental resistance check, but the Bard cannot move while singing.
Duelist – Unlocked by talking to Isabela at The Pearl in Denerim. She must be persuaded, seduced or beaten at a card game for her to teach you.
Duelist gives access to the following:
- Dueling – The Duelist focuses on proper form, gaining a bonus to attack while this mode is active. Keen Defense adds a bonus to defense while in this mode.
- Upset Balance – The Duelist executes a quick move, throwing the target off balance and granting a penalty to defence and movement speed unless they pass a physical resistance check.
- Keen Defense – This passive ability grants a bonus to defense which is increased while Dueling is active.
- Pinpoint Strike – The Duelist has learned to attack targets with pinpoint accuracy and from any angle. For the duration of the ability, each attack will be a critical strike.
Ranger – The manual can be purchased at your Party Camp for 15g. According to the DAO wiki, you can save your game, purchase the manual, learn the specialization and then load your save, basically learning it for free.
Ranger gives access to the following:
- Summon Wolf – The Ranger summons a Forest Wolf to fight beside the party.
- Summon Bear – The Ranger summons a powerful Bear to fight beside the party.
- Summon Spider – The Ranger summons a Large Spider to fight beside the party.
- Master Ranger – The Ranger has learned to summon stronger companion animals. The wolf becomes a Blight Wolf, the Bear a Great Bear and the Large Spider becomes a Poisonous Spider.
A huge thanks goes out to the Dragon Age: Origins wiki which is where I fine tuned most of this information (specific names and descriptions). I’d definitely recommend checking the wiki out if you have questions on how to play a certain specialization, especially if you’re interested in playing a Blood Mage since I had a hell of a time with that going through my original play through.