Orlais is a massive empire, being the strongest human nation on the continent. It is ruled by the Empress Celen I, who dreams of expanding the borders just as the Empire's founder, Kordillius Drakon -- founder of the Andrastian Chantry and Empire of Orlais -- did prior to his death. Orlais is the centre of the Chantry, and the right to rule is said to extend directly from the Maker. It borders the Frostback Mountains, and is in an alliance with the dwarves of Orzammar as their main trading partner.
The noble class in Orlais is massive and known for its culture and extravagance. If you are not a noble in Orlais, you are either aspiring to be, or at least to get into the good graces of one. All nobles play the Grand Game: a game of reputation and patronage, where moves are made with rumours and scandal is the chief weapon. In a desire to stop the Grand Game, Drakon abolished all titles except his own, lord, and lady. Instead of this ending the Game, Lords and Ladies now collect unofficial names, these getting lengthy. Many Orlesian nobles belong the Chevaliers. These knights go through legendarily harsh, rigorous training, and their loyalty is absolute. The penalty for dishonour is death, something that a Chevalier welcomes if he or she has failed their lord.
Nobles have a penchant for high fashion. Though this is copied in places such as Nevarra and the Free Marches, in Orlais it is at its most extreme. Both men and women wear cosmetics. Subtle differences indicate social standing. In public, they sometimes wear elaborate masks. These are hereditary, identifying one's family as the heraldry on a crest would.
Montsimmard is the location of the Circle of Magi in Orlais.
This is the capital of Orlais. It is home to the Chantry of Andraste, and the seat of the Divine is situated at the Grand Cathedral, where the entire Chant of Light is sung, taking a fortnight to complete. From the White Spire, the Knight-Vigilant directs the Templar Order. The alienage here is the most populated and dilapidated in Thedas, with over 10,000 elves living in an area roughly equivalent in size to the Denerim Market District. Val Royeaux is home to the University of Orlais, a relatively modern institution that attracts young nobles from all over Thedas. Its liberal-minded professors have clashed with religious conservatives over the content of their classes.