The Raven Queen
|The Raven Queen|
|A ravens head facing left|
5E: Lawful Neutral
|Portfolio||Death, Fate, Winter, Ravens|
|Domains||4E: Death, Fate, Winter
5E: Life, Death
|Home Plane||Letherna (Shadowfell)|
|Worshippers||Shadar-Kai, Undertakers, Morticians, Gravediggers, Professional Mourners, Oracles, Cryomancers, Slayers-of-Undead|
While some believe that she killed a long standing fixture of D&D just so that the authors of 4e could replace him with their 'Mary Sue', it is quite probable that she was influenced by and/or based off the Celtic goddess of death, battle, strife and sovereignty, the Morrigan, also known by such monikers as "Phantom Queen" and "Raven Queen".
An alternate, non-Mary Sue explanation is that the 4e authors were thinking "We need a non-evil god of Death. How do we do that?", mixed with a desire to imitate Death from Neil Gaiman's Sandman (whether for purely mercantile or legitimately artistic reasons doesn't matter for Mary Sue analysis--the functional definition of a Sue centers around his or her role in the story).
The Raven Queen returns in 5e, but with a completely different backstory.
Rise to Power
A powerful sorcerer-queen in life, the woman who would one day become the Raven Queen was taken as the queen of the then-god of death, Nerull (not to be confused with the Nerull of Greyhawk; they're different gods with the same name). The arch-necromancer, Nerull was an evil and bitter god who was trying to use the power he could obtain from the souls of the dead to rise to the position of the king of gods. He trained his queen, who he named Nera, in the use of the power gained from the souls of the dead. This of course proved to be a tactical mistake, and in an uprising Nera destroyed Nerull. Though her body died as well, due to her power over souls she managed to hold onto existence, and claim the mantle of the slain god of the dead.
The other gods saw this as an opportunity, and presented the new goddess with a choice: either become the goddess of death instead of the dead (ie: be only the wayfarer for the deceased, instead of their ruler) and be accepted as a fully-fledged deity, or be destroyed. She begrudgingly accepted, and took the mantle of the Raven Queen. Abandoning her predecessor's realm of Pluton, she went to the Shadowfell to work on the unlocking of the powers of the soul, undisturbed by the meddling gods.
A variant story claims that some of the other gods, namely Nerull's enemies Corellon, Sehanine, Pelor, and Moradin, actually subtly aided Nera from afar, mostly by adding a divine glamour to her to help Nerull fall in love with her, as part of a gambit to take down Nerull.
The Raven Queen is the goddess of death, fate and winter. Starting with death as her first, she gathered the other two domains in various wars against other deities. She gained the domain of fate by taking Corellon's side in his war against Lolth, which cost the latter her domain. The second she gained in the war against Khala, the then-god of winter, who was cast down and stripped of her power, the Raven Queen there to take her mantle. Were another round of divine strife to begin, it would be certain that the Raven Queen would be there to gather the scraps.
Having forsaken Nerull's former dominion of Pluton, which now floats empty and silent in the Astral Sea, the Raven Queen's citadel lies in the Shadowfell; a massive castle cut from black ice and covered in fresh snow. Here in Letherna the Raven Queen roosts, guiding the souls of the dead to their final resting place. The dominion of the goddess of death is a dangerous one: located in the middle of a frozen forest, combined with the proximity of the Raven Queen's abode and the deadliness of the Shadowfell in general. The city itself is far from safe: its streets are stalked by those souls who were rejected, didn't pass on, or other incorporeal undead who crave the warmth of the living.
Few serve the Raven Queen, but those who do are all the more dangerous for it. Amongst the settlements of the world, the servants of the lady of death take the task upon themselves to take care for the dead. This macabre place in society, combined with their hated mistress, makes these people unloved amongst the humanoid races.
In the Shadowfell, however, there is a humanoid race called the Shadar-Kai, a meritocratic and ruthless people in service to the Raven Queen, who differ from the Drow only in that they use less covert assassination to attain position of prestige, and they are slightly less likely to engage in treachery for its own sake.
While widely disliked (who likes dying?), the Raven Queen's followers are at least tolerated, in part because of their strong opposition to the Undead--if you have an Undead problem, you can usually call on them and expect at least to pay somewhat less than if you went with one of the other Undead Extermination Services.
In 5th edition, she shows up as a possible Warlock Patron in a UA article. Later she returns in the splatbook Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, which heavily revises her backstory. In this new 5e lore, she was a beloved elf wizard-queen who led her own faction of elves who chose to follow neither Lolth or Corellon during the civil war that sundered the elves and the drow. She attempted to ascend to godhood so that she could convince Lolth and Corellon to stop fighting, but the ritual was sabotaged by some asshole wizards seeking to steal her power and she became a dark phantom with a hunger for collecting knowledge and memories to keep herself from unraveling completely. The wizards who fucked things up for her were transformed into monsters called
skeksis nagpas. The Raven Queen now resides in the Fortress of Memories in the Shadowfell with her Shadar-kai servants and her collection of souls and memories, presumably doing everything she can to slow her downward spiral into complete madness.
Forget about all that if your campaign is set in the world of Exandria, though. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount pretty much resets the Raven Queen to her 4E lore.
- Pharasma - Pathfinder's analogue to the Raven Queen
|The deities of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons|
Haramathur - Moradin
|Amoth - Lakal
Nusemnee - Pelor
|Avandra - Corellon |
|Neutral||Erathis - Raven Queen
|Aurom - Io - Ioun
Kord - Laeris
Bane - Tiamat
|Nerull - Torog - Vecna||Gruumsh - Khala - Lolth |
Tharizdun - Zehir
|The Deities of Exandria|
|Good||Bahamut - Moradin
Pelor - Raei
|Avandra - Corellon |
|Ioun - The Luxon
|Ceratos - Kord |
Quajath - The Traveler
|Evil||Asmodeus - Bane
Desirat - Tiamat
|Arms of the Betrayers
The Hag Mother
Torog - Uk'otoa
Vecna - Vesh
|Gruumsh - Lolth |
Tharizdun - Zehir