This week we played For the Queen by Alex Roberts in which we form the retinue of a Queen traveling to make peace with our enemies from a distant land. It plays more like a board/card game with a story element than a roleplaying game, but the cards are beautiful and the gameplay straightforward, the game teaching you how to play it as you go. Each of our characters developed from the interaction with the game. Here are those characters and their stories: Queen’s Cook, Queen’s Groundskeeper, Queen’s Ward, Queen’s Knight, and Queen’s Counselor.
The Cook saved the Queen’s live once, clumsily tripping as she came to serve her wine, saving her from the poison that had been secreted within. But the Queen knows the Cook possesses the gift of magic, rare and otherwise unknown, that she uses to protect the Queen by using ancient rituals to surround her with powerful protection wards. It may be these very wards that caused the Cook to trip that night. Others often grow jealous of the Cook because they don’t understand why the two spend so much private time together because the wards remain their secret. Most people think the Cook beautiful, which spurs more jealousy, but the Queen herself often mocks the Cook’s appearance, especially when they try to dress in finery and present themselves well. The Cook knows that serving the Queen can be dangerous because their brother died because of the Queen’s wars, a common soldier sent off on an ill-advised attack mission. And on the trip, the Cook sees the Queen murder an innocent guide who had told them the best route through dangerous enemy territory in order to keep that route secret and herself safe; the Queen diminished in their eyes then. However, the Cook still defended the Queen when she was attacked, using her magic and was prepared to cast the illusion that would disguise the Queen and put themselves in danger.
The Queen’s Groundskeeper fell in love with her the first time he actually saw her. He had served her for a long time, ever since he had come to her land from the neighboring kingdom, but when he first saw her striding through her garden, her midriff bare and her power exuding, she stopped and praised his care of the flowers. He also served her by preparing her livery for the hunt, which was useful in preparing for this journey. At one point, she was so pleased with him that she promised him a place at court. He knows that the court will never accept him because of his accent and foreign origins, but clings to the hope that she will keep this pledge to him if he serves her well. The Queen’s style and verve have inspired him to make jewelry, although he has yet to feel confident enough to share his work with her. Instead, he has given her a flower that she keeps with her, leading him to believe he is her favorite. He gets nervous when she starts asking personal questions and making personal compliments, because he has noticed that unpleasant requests usually follow. On this voyage, we travel through his homeland, and while he would like to stay and see his family, he will not abandon his Queen and his chance to improve his station at court. So, of course, when the Queen was attacked, the Groundskeeper leapt to her defense by releasing her snakes and deploying a dreamcatcher because he knows the power we travel to, our enemies are Dream Eaters and cannot be trusted.
Her family sent her to live with the Queen as her Ward when she was only a child, so her place at court is secure and she has been trusted for years. Although most believe her to be silly child, the Queen has told her that she always makes wise decisions, and has put her in charge of all the children at court, including the Queen’s heirs. There are no children on this trip to the Dream Eaters, so she entertains the Queen by drawing caricatures in charcoal for her. It’s just as well that the children are gone, for the Ward does not want the Queen’s kindness to guide her on this trip. Her family had originally sent her to court to protect her from the Dream Eaters all those years ago, but they also told her that their beautiful Queen would be the great Vanquisher who would one day destroy their ancestral enemies. Will this day be that day? If the the Queen and her snakes show their ferocity, then it may. The Queen’s Ward jumped at the chance to show her mettle when the Queen was attacked.
The Queen’s Knight knew her even before she was Queen. They had adventured together when she was a princess, and she had saved his life more than once. Gossip at court suggests they had a romantic relationship during those years, but when she summoned him to court to serve as her Knight and bodyguard, she treated him with as much regal haughtiness and distance as anyone, even when they were in private. The rumors were renewed when the Queen knocked the Knight from his horse during a hunt and continued to rough house with him in ways more familiar than the courtiers thought proper. On the road, the Knight ruthlessly kills a group of ambushers, to the Queen’s disappointment. She is determined to find a means to peace with the adversary, but she doesn’t know how much this has disappointed her Knight and protector. But, despite this tension, when the Dream Eaters attack, the Queen’s Knight does not hesitate to again draw his sword and defend her.
The Queen’s Counselor is a beauty from a distant land, a foreigner whose exotic looks many in the court find hideous, but the Queen insists that people accept her for her difference is what makes her valuable. She has placed her prominently in the court, announcing her entrances and calling her many names, so all must look up on the Counselor often. Despite this prominence, she knows she is not the Queen’s favorite, suspecting that she dotes upon the Ward most of all. Instead, the Counselor secretly loves another in the court and hides it by treating them with disdain, to protect her feelings from the Queen’s narcissistic jealousy and neediness. She has seen how the enemies spies and assassins bring out the Queen’s cruelty—she has watched as the Queen tortured them in the snake pit—and finds that cruelty ugly and inhumane. The Queen punished the Counselor once by locking her away in a small room and ordered her to translate some ancient scrolls, giving her no sustenance until she completed the difficult task. Perhaps that is why she gave in when strangers threatened her family, her actual family and their home, if she did not aid them in their ambush of the Queen on the road. She thought it the only way to protect her family, but she also knew the retinue would protect the Queen. She brought her own pet panther on a possibly-magical leash on the trip and unleashed it to protect the Queen when she was attacked.