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Friday, May 9, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Raven Queen

In this guide, I am going to attempt to collect all of the relevant information about the Raven Queen and put it here as a resource. It should be a nice outline and launching pad for dungeon masters who want to use her in their campaigns.

Players Love the Raven Queen: Over and over again in my games, people choose her as their patron deity. She is the goddess of death, fate and winter. The lore is spread out in a number of 4e books. I decided to grab it all and put it in one concise blog post both for my own edification and for your convenience should you ever use her.

I'll list the source and the information gleaned from it. There will be some overlapping and combining, as multiple sources tackle the same subjects. These are the publications I drew from for this article:
  • Dungeon Magazine issue 171
  • E1 Death's Reach
  • E3 Prince of Undeath
  • The Shadowfell boxed set
  • Heroes of Shadow
The Origin of The Raven Queen (Dungeon 171):

The Raven Queen was at one time a mortal sorcerer who died from the plague. Nerull, god of the dead was attracted to her spirit and ended up marrying her. He called her Nera. After a length of time, Nera gained power and actually overthrew Nerull. Here's a quote: "Other than Vecna, she is the only known deity who attained divinity after her mortal death".

Other things we learn:
  • Her Role: The rest of the gods changed her job as god of death so that her duty was to safeguard a soul's passage from the natural world to whatever lay beyond.
  • She is also goddess of Fate and Winter
  • Grim Censer-Bearers: The article also cooks up different types of priests of the Raven Queen. My favorite are the grim censer-bearers. They are hulking priests who swing iron censers from which intoxicating blue smoke issues. 
  • We get this delightful quote: "Death’s malodorous emanations are noxious to the Raven Queen’s servants.." 
  • Sorrowsworn: Shadar kai who want to become her devoted servants must undergo grueling quests. If they succeed, she transforms them into one of her winged, scythe-wielding sorrowsworn. 
We lHeroes of Shadow page 11)

She Favors Certain Followers: She watches mortals of interest. She can delay death if a PC agrees to be bound to her. From that day forth, once per encounter when an enemy hits the PC, The Raven Queen makes it a critical hit (!). This continues until the PC completes a task for her, such as taking down a cult of Nerull or dealing with a scheme that involves Orcus.

Story Developments (E1 Death's Reach)

The overarching plot in the 4e HPE"adventure path" is that Orcus, demon lord of undeath, wants to kill the Raven Queen to take her place.

Summoning the Raven Queen: The PCs are given a ritual scroll: Summon Raven Aspect. This actually summons an avatar of the raven queen. How's that for a cool magic item?

Fighting Orcus: At one point the PCs are attacked by the aspect of Orcus. He must have great epic tier powers, right? Let's look at one:

"Lesser Aura of Death (Necrotic) aura 10; enemies that enter or start their turns in the aura take 5 necrotic damage (10 necrotic damage while the aspect of Orcus is bloodied)."

Five damage at epic tier. FIVE. This was the big problem in the original 4e published modules. The monster stats were way too weak. This fight with the aspect of Orcus was a major let-down for my group.

(E3 Prince of Undeath)

This adventure is the culmination of the entire HPE adventure path. In it, Orcus raises an undead primordial and sends it to the bottom of the Abyss to get a shard of chaos. This shard can be used to kill gods.

Teleporting to the Raven Queen: The PCs find a sigil sequence in the abyssal nadir that takes them right to the Raven Queen's palace.

The Finale: Our heroes travel to The Raven Queen's throne room and see that a red crystal pierces The Raven Queen's chest. A line of silvery radiance connects from the shard to Orcus, who stands over her prone body. The line is transferring divine power from The Raven Queen to Orcus! It's a pretty awesome scenario.

Letherna - The Raven Queen's Domain (The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought page 86)

The Raven Queen lives in a cold mountainous area of the Shadowfell called Letherna. Her citadel is a maze of towers and has bridges of stone and ice. Above Letherna, there is a maelstrom of swirling souls that shine like stars.

Some of the places and people in Letherna include:

The Bleak Fallow: A great valley where lost souls dwell.
  • The are badlands where devils harvest unclaimed souls
  • Lost souls wander here and are snatched up by extra planar beings. Raven Queen's sorrowsworn try to stop them
Farad Exitis: A canyon where Vorkhesis, ally of the Raven Queen, presides over pilgrims.
  • Vorkhesis has a stronghold of black ice that is carved into a canyonside.
  • If Vorkhesis meets characters exploring this area, he might give them 3 tests to prove their devotion to The Raven Queen. These are actual encounters in the book! Pretty awesome.
Vorkhesis, Master of Fate
Vorkhesis: He may or may not be the son of Nerull and the Raven Queen.Here's what we learn:
  • He can let PCs talk to the spirit of a dead relative.
  • He knows the ultimate fate of every creature.
  • He has no eyes and is missing a hand.
Zvomarana, Fate's Palace: Fate's Palace is located on Zvoma mountain right on the edge of Letherna. The paths that wind up the mountain to the palace are shrouded in cold mist.
  • The palace is guarded by sorrowsworn and a female "deathlord" named Delatoth.
  • Souls pass through here and automatically move on. The Raven Queen is mostly indifferent to their final fate.
  • Felidha: In E1, the Raven Queen has a high priest named Felidha. She is killed by the forces of Orcus, but remains as a ghost to aid the PCs in a big poster map fight.
To Meet the Raven Queen: In order to gain an audience with the Raven Queen, pilgrims have to complete a challenge at each of the four Fate Pillars outside her palace. These challenges are kind of odd:
  1. Shadowthorns: Stand in shrubs for three turns.
  2. Bathe in a cistern for 3 turns (heal yourself if you like)
  3. Get the bloodcrystal raven skull from a hole in the ground over there. It's a magic item.
  4. Get a book from that library over there. Hold it in your hands. OK, you can see The Raven Queen now.
Once the travelers are allowed inside, her sorrowsworn may attack them.

That's the most essential info on the Raven Queen. If I find anything more, I'll add it to this guide.


Callin said...

Nice write-up.

I know most of my players preferred her for a deity. I noticed they did it for two reasons. She has all the trappings of evil (death, etc) without being evil. Players like to play the dark character but still want to be the hero. The Raven Queen allows for that.

And she is neutral which in D&D-speak means the characters are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Players tend not to like the constraints of alignment/deity worship that dictates what actions they can take.

The Raven Queen allows freedom of action with a dark side.

Steven Maloney said...

For my pantheon i loved the raven queen's portfolio (i mean it makes sense) but i disliked how she killed the god of death, so what i did when i took a bowling ball to the 4e pantheon i took the raven queen, stipped her of the obvious domain of death and gave it to the reamins of zehir (darkness and death) but i kept the raven queen's control over fate and winter. thus she still has some control over death as she sorts out the fate of the souls, and the husband is the guy who took over death and darkness

So far one of my players have taken the bait and still took the raven queen's new persona and boy will i have fun with that