It's been a while (it's been a whiiile ♫ ♪) since I last posted something here... So let's talk about the Raven Queen.
This is not exactly related to Critical Role, but it is somewhat Exandria-adjacent. As we all know, the Raven Queen is a quite interesting Dungeons and Dragons deity, and thanks to Critical Role she has gained popularity among the new fans (the fact that she's neutral and not evil just because she's related to death is something to behold, if you ask me). The thing is, the Matron of Death has lore that moves in slightly different directions depending on where you ask. If you look at the Dawn War Pantheon, she's a full-fledged goddess; if you ask in the Forgotten Realms, she's a kinda mad divine entity that collects memories like a raven collects shiny things (see what I did there? Raven? Ok, I'll stop); Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes told us about her mortal origins that brought her to the Shadowfell; and in the lore of Exandria, now canonized thanks to Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, its divine condition and its conflict with a previous god of death are reaffirmed. I personally find a lot of interesting elements in different lore sources, and as a DM who has the Raven Queen in the pantheon of his campaign, I had to decide which version to use... So I tried to get creative with what was available, and create a unified version of its history. I share it partly because I'm satisfied with it, but also because I want to know how people deal with the different versions of this goddess lore on their tables.
In any case, here it is:
Little is known about the Raven Queen in her time as a mortal; her name has been forgotten, and she makes sure it stays that way, because names have power. However, the stories are elusive and difficult to contain, and although fragmented and chaotic, the tale of the origin of this goddess has come down to us. She was at the dawn of time an elven woman, a wise monarch with arcane knowledge. She was loved by her subjects, and performed her duties with benevolence and prudence... But when Lolth and Corellon, two of her people's deities, began their conflict, this queen did not just watch. In the Feywild, she performed a ritual to achieve godhood, so she could address Lolth and Corellon as their equal and help resolve the conflict, but ambitious wizards corrupted the ritual, and though the elven monarch prevented them from becoming empowered at the cost of hers, the damage was done: the failed ritual sent the queen and many of her followers (who would be the shadar-kai) to the Shadowfell, where she lost her form and, very narrowly, her mind, turned into an entity as powerful as scattered.
At that time the queen was lonely, angry and frustrated, and had only her shadar-kai to serve her. She missed the world of the living, and soon discovered that, by interacting with the souls of the deceased, she could catch glimpses of the Material Plane and the experiences lived there. This process was strange to her, but it gave her a purpose, and in a way it made her stronger. It was at this time that, testing her powers, she created the weapon known as the Blackrazor, which for a long time remained in the Shadowfell in the hands of the shadar-kai. It was also in this period that the monarch, wishing to form a new identity, began calling herself the Raven Queen. However, after a while a god of death sensed the activity of this new entity in the Plane of Shadow, and visited her. The god (whose name is also not remembered, although for a different reason) saw the Raven Queen's newfound ability as a way of becoming stronger, but certainly attacking an entity he knew so little about was dangerous, so he decided to use a more subtle strategy: the god presented himself as a friend, someone willing to help the Raven Queen regain some of her lost identity. With the help of the deity, she was able to reunite parts of herself and take on a physical form after a long time, regaining a glimpse of her former life, and being able to travel out of her bleak new home to her whim. Blissful, she kept the god by her side as her ally, or according to another version of the story, as her lover, and it is from that time that testimonies of the Raven Queen are preserved, appearing in different worlds of the Material Plane as a priestess who enacted the wishes of the god of death. He was satisfied, everything was going according to plan, and now that his target had a specific form, it was easier to monitor and attack. However, he underestimated his prey: the Raven Queen had been a monarch before she came to the Shadowfell, and she knew ambition and treachery well; when she discovered that the god intended to steal her power, she took the initiative, and during one of their journeys, she destroyed the deity. Killing a god is a very serious thing, but it is also an act of power, for the right entities: the Raven Queen absorbed the divinity of who had tried to kill her and became a complete goddess, establishing her center of power in Letherna , and taking over the responsibilities of her victim. It is said that once established as the goddess of death, the Raven Queen realized that a spark of power still remained from her predecessor, the same spark he had used to restore her to physical form. Being able to stand on her own, the deity separated that spark from herself, and out of a strange sense of justice and longing, combined that spark with her own essence to create the closest thing she would have to a daughter: Ezra. This entity, over time, would become a goddess in her own right, influencing the Mists of the Shadowfell that trap vile mortals in Domains of Dread. Although the Raven Queen does not disclose her relationship with Ezra, or vice versa, there are those who sense a connection between the two, and avoid offending one in the other's sacred environments.
The Raven Queen fully established herself as a goddess of death, neutral and impartial, and a defender of the dictates of fate, which is why she soon stated an open disdain for entities related to necromancy and those who cheat death. She was gaining mortal followers, taking over those of her predecessor, and increasing her divine contacts with angels and other deities. While other gods and goddesses accepted the Raven Queen, they viewed her rise to godhood with concern, and though she was the best keeper of her own secrets, it was only a matter of time before others investigated and repeated the process. That is why various deities of knowledge unraveled each step of the elven monarch's ascension, from the failed ritual in the Feywild to her time in the Shadowfell and the deicide; then they made sure to hide that knowledge so that no one would ever attempt such a thing again. The Raven Queen did not object, even joining forces with a pantheon of deities in the event known in Exandria as The Calamity: a divine war in which the goddess of death unleashed her full divine potential for the first time, and in which she also suffered loss, for many of her followers died, and her first generation of angels sacrificed themselves to save her from Tharizdun, who transformed such valiant celestial warriors into kenku, in mockery of the goddess they had served. For the rest of the conflict, the Raven Queen relied only on her shadar-kai and the few angels of her predecessor who had joined her cause, but despite everything, the goddess survived the Calamity, and in time, her divine court regained its dark splendor.
Since then the Matron of Death has acted as a full-fledged deity, with clerics channeling her power, paladins defending her tenets and warlocks rewarded with magical gifts; she has even allowed Blackrazor and other similar weapons to be used in causes she deems relevant. She still retains the custom of inspecting the memories of the living, and her mortal and immortal servants bring to Letherna items they think may be to her liking; however, the Raven Queen is much more respectful and solemn towards souls and the transition from life to death. The last great event in which she has been involved has been the ascension of the lich Vecna to godhood, in which the goddess and her forces have contributed to banish such a dangerous adversary from the Material Plane. We certainly have the Raven Queen to thank for her efforts, and also that of the champions who serve her...
And that is the story. I didn't get too complicated, but I wanted to give each version a bit of prominence to create a complete story that makes sense in my campaign!