- "Let's see. How do I explain this? I'm a bastard. And before you make any smart comments, I mean the fatherless kind. My mother was a serving girl at Redcliffe Castle who died when I was very young. Arl Eamon wasn't my father, but he took me in anyhow and put a roof over my head."
- ―Alistair to Aedan Cousland
The term bastard refers to anyone born out of wedlock. Most religious faiths in Thedas tend to attach a generally negative social stigmas to bastardy.
Lack of inheritance and discriminationBastards are not allowed to inherit their father's lands or titles, and have no claims to the privileges of their father's House. It is up to their father, if he knows they exist, on how to raise or treat them. At worst, they are unacknowledged and ignored by their father and left completely in the hands of their mothers. Some may fare better and be discreetly sent funds to ensure their well-being. At best, a lord will acknowledge his bastard children, but send them away to one of his distant castles to be raised away from his lawful family. For bastard children to be raised by their father in his own castle alongside his trueborn children is considered extremely unusual.
Faced with very low expectations for inheritance, many noble-born bastard sons, even acknowledged ones, may take up the life of knighthood in the hope of being granted a place in a lord's household, or even gaining lands and titles for services to their liege lords. In this way, a bastard may become the founder of a noble house. Bastard children may also be given over to the Andrastian Chantry as priests. Because the Chantry is all-female, bastard sons face limited prospects outside of the clergy or a good marriage. Bastards may also seek to join the Grey Wardens to seek prestige and equality. The Wardens are known for ignoring a recruit's racial, social, national, and even criminal background if they deem the person valuable in terms of character, ability or skill.
There is no outright law punishing noble men or women for having bastard children. Instead it is considered a social and religious disgrace.
In any event, since a highborn bastard carries the blood of a noble house, rival claimants may still consider them a potential threat. For this reason, Queen Anora initially viewed King Maric Theirin's bastard son Alistair as a political rival during the Landsmeet reasoning that since he is Maric's last surviving son and thus had a much stronger claimant to the throne than her as Anora held a claim by marriage not by blood, despite the fact that Alistair was also a Grey Warden.
It is possible for a king to legitimize a lord's bastard children, but this special dispensation is difficult to acquire and does not happen frequently. It will usually be granted only if a lord has no legitimate children (or at least no male children) to carry on the name of his house. However, the social stigma is not automatically removed after the bastard is formally legitimized.