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 and she was recently updated in 5th edition. 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 #171
- E1 Death's Reach
- E3 Prince of Undeath
- The Shadowfell boxed set
- Heroes of Shadow
- Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes
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.
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.
E1 Death's Reach
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?
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:
- Shadowthorns: Stand in shrubs for three turns.
- Bathe in a cistern for 3 turns (heal yourself if you like)
- Get the bloodcrystal raven skull from a hole in the ground over there. It's a magic item.
- Get a book from that library over there. Hold it in your hands. OK, you can see The Raven Queen now.
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
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.
The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond
Letherna: 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
- 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, Exarch of Fate|
- 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.
- 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.
The Raven Queen's Whisper: Sometimes, the Raven Queen takes an interest in a particular mortal who could prove useful to her. When a creature under her watch faces mortal peril, she might reach out and offer to delay their death. Accepting this offer means that you are bound to her will, at least for a time.
The Offer: A whisper only the character can hear. Things she might do for the character:
- Teleport the group to safety
- Smite enemies
- Healing the characters
- Answer a riddle
"Once the Raven Queen is satisfied that the task is complete, she loses her power over the character. The Raven Queen is a god, but she is still bound to keep her word. The other gods would move against her if they saw her take too active a hand in the affairs of mortals."
The 5th edition version of the Raven Queen is very different! She is described as:
- A terrible shadow that claws at your innermost thoughts.
- A pale and regal elf who explodes into an untold number of ravens.
- A shambling tangle of slick roots and sticks that overwhelm you with dread.
- An unknown presence that pulls you blindly into the gloom.
Ravens: She sends out her ravens to find interesting souls she can pluck from various planes of existence. She watches these souls try to unravel the mystery of their being - and ultimately go mad in the process.
Origin: She was once a beloved elf queen.
- She tried to use the souls and magic of her people to elevate her to godly status.
- Some elves pledged themselves to her. They became known as the shadar-kai.
- The Raven Queen wanted to use their souls to "...forge a pathway through the Feywild to Arvandor, all while increasing her influence."
- Before she could do this, evil wizards tried to siphon the souls of the shadar-kai for their own purposes.
- This led to a magical catastrophe that sent the Raven Queen and the shadar-kai to the Shadowfell. The wizards became the nagpa.
- The Raven Queen's form was coming apart. "To keep herself from dissipating into nothingness, the queen used the last vestiges of her personal power to pull dead memories from the Shadowfell about her, creating a cloak of identities that sustained her."
Ravens: Flocks of ravens darken the skies around it. The ravens sometimes are used to deliver her cryptic messages all throughout the multiverse.
Trinkets: In the fortress are trinkets and items, memories plucked from people's past. The shadar-kai bring them to her as gifts.
Encountering the Raven Queen:
- She is fascinated with emotions
- She worms into the unconscious minds and memories of her visitors.
- People come here to confront their fears, to discover the secret of someone who is dead, and to seek answers that only she might know.
Audience after Death: When an adventurer dies, the Raven Queen sometimes enlists them on a quest before they are resurrected by their allies. "Some sages posit that she is using people as pawns in an inscrutable game, the rules of which are known to only her and the Lady of Pain."
Servants of the Queen: "Sworn to the Raven Queen's service, the mysterious shadar-kai venture into the Material Plane from the Shadowfell to advance her will."
- They exist in a strange state between life and death.
- "Eladrin and shadar-kai are like reflections of each other: one bursting with emotion, the other nearly devoid of it."
- Their job is to bring the Raven Queen interesting/tragic souls or memories.
There is a DMs Guild adventure about the Raven Queen! I ran it and wrote all about it right here.