The Raven Queen in Eberron

The Raven Queen is trapped by her fascination with the past. She sits in her fortress, amidst all the memories of the world, looking at the ones that please her the most as though they were glittering jewels. 

—From Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

The Raven Queen was introduced in 4th edition Dungeons&Dragons. In her original form she’s a mortal who attained godhood after death. She’s the goddess of death, but specifically she’s a psychopomp—her role is to safeguard the soul’s passage to its final destination. She is also presented as a goddess of fate and winter. Her tenets include the idea that death is the natural end of life and that her followers should bring down the proud who cast off the chains of fate. So: She’s a shadowy goddess of death, but presented in a positive light—and specifically being opposed to Orcus and the undead. She’s also presented as being able to spare worthy mortals from death if they will perform services for her.

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes brings her to 5th edition, and in the process changes up her story. In 5th edition, she was originally an elf queen, a contemporary of Lolth and Corellon. She sought to attain godhood and in the process was pulled into the Shadowfell with her followers. She became an “entity composed of symbols, images, and perceptions.” She sustains herself by drawing on mortal memories, and thus created her Fortress of Memories. Those who go to her realm are “transported to a strange fairy tale world pulled from their experiences, filled with metaphors, parables, and allegories.” People might seek her out to free themselves from a dark past; to learn the secrets of the dead; or to find answers that only she possesses.

In both incarnations, she is served by the shadar-kai. In 5th edition, these servants are immortal; if they die, she will cloak them in new bodies to return to her service. She sends them out to uncover secrets or memories the Queen wishes to acquire.

So: we have a goddess of natural death who despises undead and seeks to safeguard soles and the natural course of fate. We have an Elven keeper of secrets who collects tragic memories. Both dwell in the Shadowfell, have shadowy servants, and may deal with mortals. How does this translate to Eberron?

Lest it go without saying, Eberron doesn’t have incarnate gods. So we know one thing she’s NOT, and that’s a god. She is a powerful extraplanar entity who can serve as a patron for warlocks. Perhaps it’s even possible for a cleric or paladin to gain power in her service, but if so, the power isn’t coming from her directly; it’s power gained in service to her ideals.

There’s a lot of different ways you could go with this. Here’s a few quick takes.

THELANIS. The archfey of Thelanis embody epic faerie tales, and that’s explicitly what the 5E version of the Raven Queen is: a fairy tale about a queen who sought power, was consumed by shadows, and now feeds on tragedy. It’s a simple matter to take her exactly as presented in MToF and simply place her Fortress of Memories in a shadowy layer of Thelanis. In this case, the shadar-kai are essentially immortal fey spirits temporarily housed in mortal forms to play their role in her story. She continues to seek memories and tragedy because that’s her story; it’s simply the case that when you deal with her, you want to think of her as a character in a faerie tale, to bear in mind that her goals and the logic driving her actions aren’t the same as those of mortals. If you want to follow this path, I’d check out my post on Thelanis. Note that this doesn’t incorporate any of the “Goddess of Death” aspect.

MABAR. In my article on Mabar I discuss the idea that realms are consumed by the Endless Night. The MToF story of the Raven Queen fits that idea well; it’s a tale of a mighty queen who seeks godhood and is consumed by her hubris, dragging herself and her followers into shadows from where she continues to feed on tragedy. You could certainly make the Raven Queen the ruler of a domain within Mabar. However, if this is the case, it would definitely play to presenting her as a more sinister and dangerous figure as opposed to being a possible ally or patron.

DOLURRH. The basic principle of Dolurrh is that it draws in the spirits of the dead and consumes their memories, leaving behind only forlorn shades. Most of the major religions assert that this is a side effect: that the memories aren’t being LOST, but rather they’re transitioning to a higher form of existence… either bonding with the Silver Flame or reaching the realm of the Sovereigns. Nonetheless, memories are lost. You could combine the two approaches and say that the Raven Queen is a powerful being who dwells in Dolurrh and saves the memories of the dead from being lost. This plays to the idea of people seeking her out to learn long-lost secrets from the memories of the dead. It also fits with the idea that she could restore ancient champions to life—that she preserves their spirits from the dissolution of Dolurrh so they can potentially be restored at a future time. This also fits with the idea that she could offer resurrection to a dead player character in exchange for their services in the mortal world, or that her shadar-kai are spirits restored to mortal bodies. In my mind, this is the best way to combine the two versions of her: she is a powerful entity who works to preserve the natural order of Dolurrh, encourages the natural cycle of death and despises undead, yet who also preserves the memories of the dead and could grant resurrection.

THE CHILDREN OF WINTER. If you work with the idea that “death is the natural end of life,” the Raven Queen could be the patron of the Children of Winter. This likely works best if she’s tied to Dolurrh, but it could work with any option. This would justify mixing a few warlocks among the druids and rangers.

ELVEN ORIGINS. Playing off the idea that she is connected to the history of the elves; that she hates those who defy fate; and that she collects memories, there’s another interesting path you could take: she could oppose the elves of Aerenal and Valenar. The elves seek to preserve their greatest souls from being lost to Dolurrh. The Raven Queen could seek the downfall of Tairnadal champions in order to claim the spirits of the patron ancestors they are sustaining; she could also oppose the Undying Court and its agents.

GUARDIAN OF FATE. In Eberron, fate is determined by the Draconic Prophecy. One option is to say that the Raven Queen knows the path the Prophecy is supposed to follow. When forces on Eberron—the Lords of Dust, the Chamber, the Undying Court—seek to change that path, the Raven Queen seeks to set things right, either using shadar-kai or pushing player characters onto the right path.

All of these are valid options, and you can mix and match them: She rules a layer of Mabar, but she was once an elf queen and seeks to destroy the Undying Court. She’s a power in Dolurrh and served by the Children of Winter. But there’s a final option that’s MY personal favorite, as it brings a number of different ideas together: tragic Elven backstory, mortal who’s become a godlike being, guardian of the natural cycle of death, mysterious motives and ties to fate, specific tie to Eberron. And that’s ERANDIS VOL.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN OF DEATH

Erandis Vol was the product of experiments conducted by dragons and elves, experiments designed to produce a godlike being with power over death. But she was killed before she could unlock the powers of her apex dragonmark. She was brought back as a lich, but as an undead being she can’t access the power of her dragonmark and achieve her destiny. Her phylactery is hidden even from her; she can’t truly die, even if she wants to. For thousands of years she has tried to achieve her destiny. She’s done terrible things in pursuit of this goal. She raised ann army of undead champions and fanatics. Perhaps she’s gone mad. But at the heart, she’s trying to achieve her destiny: to become the Queen of Death.

One option is to say that there IS no Raven Queen… yet. Erandis is trying to BECOME the Raven Queen. But if it was me? I’d push things one level further. I’d use the Dolurrh version of the Raven Queen: the enigmatic spirit who preserves the experiences of the dead in her Fortress of Memories, who has the ability to catch the spirits of the dead and restore them if they serve her. This Raven Queen can be a mysterious ally for the PCs. She despises undead and those who seek to cheat and manipulate fate. She can point the PCs in directions that bring them into conflict with the Emerald Claw. And yet, even if they fight the Emerald Claw, these battles might also push Erandis towards her goals. On the surface, it seems like the Raven Queen and Erandis are the bitterest enemies, opposed in every way. But in fact, Erandis IS the Raven Queen… or will be. The process of ascension isn’t a simply thing; it transcends our normal understanding of time and reality. The Raven Queen has dwelt in her Fortress of Memories for eons: but at the same time, she is Erandis, and she still has to ascend. So the ascended Erandis despised the actions of the lich and helps those who oppose her; and yet, she also has to ensure that the ascension takes place.

Simple, right? And you can easily add the Raven Queen hating the Undying Court into that mix: not only do they defy the natural order of life and death, they also killed her family and HER, back when she was mortal.

So: there’s my thoughts on the Raven Queen in Eberron. Any questions?

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Q&A

How do you see Raven Queen cultists as behaving in Eberron?

Have you met the Children of Winter? Seriously, though: it depends on how you interpret her. If you embrace the 4E direction, she’s about sustaining the natural cycle of life and death and enforcing fate, and as such being strongly opposed to the undead. You could easily play up these aspects of the Children of Winter. Currently they focus on how the tools of civilization interfere with the natural cycle, but they are presented as despising undead and you could choose to play this up. As suggested above, I’d see Raven cultists as being opposed to the Elven faiths and anyone seeking to shift the direction of the Draconic Prophecy. Beyond that—and with whichever version of the Queen that you use—as she is a powerful outsider as opposed to an abstract god, she can give concrete directives to cultist, whether that’s digging up a secret, killing someone who’s escaped their fate, or what have you.

With the Raven Queen’s emphasis on death being the natural and fated end, how might you see her interactions with maruts? Would she pluck them from Daanvi to guard her fortress of memories or deploy them against those who would cheat death?

Per the 3.5 ECS, maruts are normally found in Dolurrh. Personally I see Dolurrh as being very mechanical in nature (philosophically, not necessarily visually). The process of drawing souls in and processing them isn’t done by hand; normally you don’t get some sort of cosmic judge reviewing your actions, it’s just “Souls come in, rinse, repeat.” I see maruts as being part of that machine—in essence, the antibodies of Dolurrh. If you come in and try to drag a soul out, you’ll have to deal with maruts. And as I called out in City of Stormreach, any time you use resurrection to return someone who isn’t fated to return, there’s a chance you’ll draw the attention of a marut; which is why Jorasco will generally perform an augury before they’ll do a resurrection.

With this in mind, I’d personally say that the Raven Queen DOESN’T employ maruts. I prefer to say that she is living IN the machine, grabbing memories before they’re lost forever, but she’s not actually OPERATING the machine. Largely this is because I prefer her to have to work through mortal agents—be they temporarily mortal shadar-kai, Children of Winter, or player characters—than to have an army of maruts at her disposal.

If one were to utilize the Crucible from Phoenix (specifically the Dhakaani Phoenix strike force version) in Eberron as well, how might the Raven Queen tie in to the Crucible?

If you’re adapting Phoenix to Eberron, you could certainly present the Raven Queen as being the force that created the Crucibles — saving spirits from the dissolution of Dolurrh so they can return as champions. In a sense, this mirrors the 5E concept of the shadar-kai, with the added ideas that power grows with each reincarnation and that they only get seven lives. The main question is how the Phoenixes interact with the Raven Queen. Traditionally, the only being a Phoenix interacts with in the Crucible is their mentor, the spirit of a prior Phoenix of their school. If you chose, you could say that ever mentor is in fact an aspect of the Raven Queen herself.

In Phoenix itself, you don’t have elves or gods. Personally, I’d make the Raven Queen one of the Fallen Folk — a Faeda spirit created to preserve the memories of the dead. Over the ages, she’s built her fortress of memories in the Deep Dusk, and could be a source of information or guidance for Phoenixes.

29 thoughts on “The Raven Queen in Eberron

  1. I really like the concept of the Raven Queen being what Erandis becomes.

    If one were to utilize the Crucible from Phoenix (specifically the Dhkaani Phoenix strike force version) in Eberron as well, how might the Raven Queen tie in to the Crucible?

  2. What if the mortal Erandis’ soul was essentially split in two when she died, and the lich Erandis and The Raven Queen are two halves of that split? Very similar to the final option, but perhaps a bit tragic.

    In my own Eberron games, I grabbed RQ, The Red Witch, and the Lady of The White Well, and retooled them into 3 sisters who were once of the same race from which sprang the Shadar-kai and Vryloka, and I basically combine the Thelanis and Dollurh options, then mix in an ancient war (probably Giants, but no one knows for sure) that threatened their home and forced them to try to achieve divinity to save their people. The ritual resulted in immortality, but the loss of their names and the homeland is shrouded in mist, lost to them, perhaps forever.

    Their ancient ancestors may have been elves, maybe something else, no one knows.

  3. With the Raven Queen’s emphasis on death being the natural and fated end, how might you see her interactions with maruts? Would she pluck them from Daanvi to guard her fortress of memories or deploy them against those who would cheat death?

    • Personally, I can see maruts being both in and out of her service; they appear when someone tries to break a universal Law, and Erandis (or someone) trying to raise undead on a massive scale could attract attention from maruts specifically bound to the Raven Queen via the contract in their chests. A different eldritch machine that sought to do something equally heinous could attract maruts that have a different contract bound to them.

  4. I _love_ the idea of linking Erandis to the Raven Queen through timey wimey stuff. That also makes me think that the Shadar-Kai are elves; those spirits of the House of Vol and its servants who were killed in the initial purge, “saved” from ultimate dissolution in Dolurrh by Erandis when she ascends. It’s a happy ending for the abandoned teenage lich girl.

    • That also makes me think that the Shadar-Kai are elves; those spirits of the House of Vol and its servants who were killed in the initial purge, “saved” from ultimate dissolution in Dolurrh by Erandis when she ascends. It’s a happy ending for the abandoned teenage lich girl.

      Exactly! It’s an idea I’ve had on the table from the start in my mind: the idea that while her experiences have driven her down a villainous path, if Erandis did ascend she could actually be a positive force. My original thought was not to have a Raven Queen analogue until she ascended… but having thought about it, the timey-wimey approach lets you have both at once, and I love the idea that even as she is helping the PCs oppose the Emerald Claw, in doing so she’s driving Erandis down the path towards her ascension—that the actions of the players force her to revelations or decisions she wouldn’t come to on her own.

      • Erandis is probably my favourite villain in Eberron, and I’ve always wanted to have her appear in my campaign. I usually picture her as appearing as a young elven woman unless she really has to cut loose with her magic; after all, she was transformed against her will, and teenagers are known for fretting over their appearance. The miniature that got released of her wearing some strange headdress and weird robes was disappointing just because it didn’t match with my mental image of Erandis.

        I also picture her closest undead servants wearing bobble-hats and mittens she’s knitted, but that’s because they’re too loyal/scared of her to say no when she insists. The visual of a death knight or skull lord wearing knitwear never fails to amuse me for some reason.

  5. In my recent campaign, I related the Raven Queen to Eberron like so:

    When Erandis was transformed into a lich, she was a young girl, and she was also unwilling; that combination meant that over the course of time, her body has remained immortal but her mind has become more and more unstable.

    This has manifested largely as multiple personalities. When a personality has taken charge, it goes out into the world, and legends surrounding a powerful lich with a specific personality are born.

    Her greedy, knowledge-obsessed personality? Vecna. Her sadistic, creative personality? Acererak. Her frightened, child-like personality? Erandis. Her dominant, scheming personality? Vol. Her neutral, death-accepting personality? The Raven Queen.

    In my campaign, there aren’t “Liches”. There is only one Lich that has ever been created, and all others are simply Erandis in various states of madness. This happens to fit in nicely with the fact that liches are often silent for centuries then suddenly burst out in activity, e.g. Vecna is reclusive until suddenly his cults spring forth and try to ascend him.

    There was some additional lore in my story that was pretty fun. The Crimson Covenant was not Erandis’ servants, but her keepers (of which Kas was the primary keeper)–they had stolen the Book of Vile Darkness from her Vecna personality and used the knowledge within to effectively have a permanent charm/dominate effect on her. They were the true villains, though depending on Erandis’ mood she could either be cooperating with them (as Vol) or rebelling (as Vecna).

    Vecna’s hand and eye artifacts came from hundreds of years ago… Vecna actually released Bel Shalor to steal his divine aspect of ‘treachery’, which ultimately created the Silver Flame but more importantly started Vecna’s ascent to godhood. He also briefly did the same for Sul Khatesh to steal an aspect of ‘secrets’. However, while the surface world was dealing with the release of Bel Shalor, the demons of Khyber were banding together with the Crimson Covenant’s armies of vampires to craft

    Kas was crafted a demonic blade that could separate Vecna from her divine aspects and disintegrate her body in one blow. The attack failed, but the armies were infinite and Erandis knew it was only time until Kas respawned and the armies overwhelmed her. So, she used the fallen blade to sever her hand and eye, containing those divine aspects, and entreated Acererak to hide them in the Tomb of Horrors and the Tomb of Annihilation.

    The campaign has unfortunately fizzled out recently and the group lost interest. But I was really proud of the woven story I created with the liches of greater D&D lore and Erandis, and the Silver Flame and the Sword of Kas and the Book of Vile Darkness… I’ve just had a need to share my work for a while ever since my players quit, so hopefully you get some appreciation from reading it 😛

  6. This idea rocks. I’m a big fan of godlike beings operating outside our human confines of time. I don’t really have much else to contribute other than that.

    Of all the conflicts in Mordekainen’s, I would be most interested in seeing your adaptation of the gith-illithid relationship. Mind flayers have been established as not entirely loyal servants of the daelkyr, and the Eberron Explorer’s Guide has the gith races as following the same origin and history, albeit adapted to a single planet. I’ve been toying with the idea trying to keep the fallen worlds-spanning empire of the illithid and the multiversal conflict with the gith intact, and would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

    • I personally like the idea that Eberron is cut off from the other worlds of the multiverse, not completely but just in the sense that it’s harder to get in and out of Eberron than FR or Krynn.

      I think it’s reasonable to go with the Illithid multiverse empire as the reason for that. Did the progenitors do it, or did it happen later? if later, when and by whom?

  7. This is exactly what I needed! In one of my games the players are going up against Erandis (they don’t quite know this yet). They only know that “The Queen of Memory” is a player they are supposed to stop.

    I had originally thought that Erandis’ dragonmark would allow her to return memories back to the souls. Pretty useless power until the warforged came to be. Warforged are souls ripped from Dollurh, cleansed of their memories. Aaannnd… that’s all I had. Thanks for the ideas!

  8. I have been thinking a lot of beings from. One moon or dimension ending up on another, which is my current favorite theory about the Dreaming Dark.

    So the idea of an Elven Queen tied to Thelanis but working in Dolurr could be a lot of fun. An outsider that has become a part of the plane and has left an impact.

    That being said once you got to the Errandis section, Raven Queen becoming… It’s just so artistic and amazing. I love it.

    I have a friend who loves the Raven Queen. He will really enjoy this.

    • This is part of my presentation of Mabar in my “Endless Night” article; the idea being that Mabar can consume pieces of other planes and you can have outsiders that are trapped and transformed. So while my Mabar suggestion has her starting as a mortal elf, you could just as easily combine my Mabar and Thelanis suggestions (or do something entirely different, of course!).

  9. Hi Keith and thanks! I play 3.5 so I am not familiar with the raven queen, but it’s always a pleasure to read from you.
    So, as I am not familiar with the raven queen, maybe what I’m saying will be stupid, but… what about Syrania? A place about peace, commerce and knowledge. About pacts. Maybe it’s darkest corner has a place for the raven queen?

  10. Nice approach to a character that otherwise didn’t move me much!

    Do you imagine the Raven Queen’s connection to Erandis might lend demonstrable credence to the idea of the divine spark?

    Or even just the fact of the Raven Queen herself. If she wasn’t around before and now she is, it implies that it is possible to reach a higher state.

    • It’s certainly possible, if you solely embrace the 5E vision. The 4E Raven Queen is explicitly a Goddess of DEATH — tied to 4E’s Shadowfell — which is why I lean towards Mabar or Dolurrh.

    • Do you imagine the Raven Queen’s connection to Erandis might lend demonstrable credence to the idea of the divine spark?

      I think there’s already demonstrable credence to the idea of the divine spark in, say, the Undying Court. Souls have power, which is why some outsiders want them. On the other hand, if I was a skeptic I would point out that Erandis is a half-dragon with an apex dragonmark; the fact that SHE is capable of this form of ascension doesn’t mean it’s possible for others.

      Beyond that, bear in mind that Seekers aren’t the only ones who believe in mortal ascension. It’s a pillar of Thir and was a goal of the founder of the Library of Korranberg. There, the idea is simply that if you ascend to become a being like a Sovereign, you BECOME A BEING LIKE A SOVEREIGN – unbound and omnipresent, as opposed to being confined to a finite form. The dragons believe that such ascensions have occurred many times, and would see this as a flawed ascension – perhaps limited by her elf half.

  11. Hard to see how she wouldn’t have an interest in Dolurrh’s Dawn, either as benefactor or opponent.

    How do you see Raven Queen cultists as behaving in Eberron?

    • Thanks for mentioning “Dolurrh’s Dawn”, Beoric. I had never read that before. The scenario that most intrigues me is what would happen if someone with a direct connection to one of the villagers were to learn of its existence. The extreme cases would be Kaius “III” or Erandis Vol (hey, you could have lich Erandis, Raven Queen Erandis and villager Erandis all at once). Not quite so extremely, what if a PC Paladin of the Silver Flame recognizes villager Tira Miron? Or a PC Tairnadal elf recognizes his spirit ancestor in the flesh? So many plot hooks!

  12. If it’s in d&d there is a place for it in Eberron. But do you think that the raven queen adds something to Eberron? Are dolruuh, vol or children of the winter more interesting with a raven queen, in your opinion?

    • Personally, I tend not to add a lot of outside things to my Eberron. I’m not planning to add the Raven Queen to any of the campaigns I’m currently running. On the other hand, I’m not doing a Vol-focused campaign; if I were to add that aspect I might consider the once and future Raven Queen plot for the timey-wimey fun of it.

      To me, it’s always a question of is it more interesting TO YOU? If so, add it. If not, don’t.

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