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Queen of Fables over a white background

Queen of Fables


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

The Queen of Fables is a fascinating, very powerful DC Comics character. So far she has appeared in but a few stories from 2000 to 2008, which were IIRC all written or co-written by Gail Simone.

She is a sort of living, evil story who draws power from other stories as she pilfers their elements and magically bring them to life as weapons.

Over the centuries she has become “bound” to fairy tales and other traditional stories, but she can reach further and draw from more modern, less established narratives.

The Queen essentially is a crazed Gamemaster. This can be great for RPG sessions if the actual GM is careful and considerate.


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Background

  • Real Name: Queen Tsaritsa.
  • Marital Status: Widowed.
  • Known Relatives: Unrevealed.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: Usually 5’10” Weight: Usually 130 lbs.
  • Eyes: Variable (often blue or green). Hair: Variable usually red-ish.


Powers and Abilities

The Queen of Fables is a Mystical Entity of Great Power. As such, she’s a “can do whatever she wants” sort of character. She can summon the power and content of any story she can touch.

She usually works by absorbing the stories from traditional books, because this is what she is used to. But she has also been seen drawing power from comic books. I would assume that she could draw power from DVDs, the Internet, audiobooks, etc. if she knew those existed.

Her escape from the tax code (see below) implies that she can even tap stories from the reveries of people who are touching books, though that is presumably a very weak power source. As long as she can physically or mystically touch something containing a fable, a legend, a tale, etc. she can absorb power from it.

The Queen of Fables turns a straw pig into a big bad wolf

Summoned tales : Straw Pig, Big Bag Wolf.

The stories physically disappear until the Queen is vanquished, leaving blank pages and the like.

Thus her power level tends to be an all-or-nothing affair. If she can find some story to absorb, it will likely make her powerful enough to find and absorb more stories and so on and so forth. Her power will thus geometrically increase until, within hours, she is at full power again.


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What’s the story

The nature of the Queen of Fables is peculiar. She is permeated with the very nature of fiction, and has ascended to the state of archetype. In a sense she genuinely is every wicked witch, every cruel stepmother, every child-devouring crone, every Cruel Other Woman, etc. in every tale and story. She has lived all those lives. It’s no wonder that she is completely insane.

Being permeated with the power of tales is what allows her to reshape reality. This sword has two edges, though. On one hand, she can freely pilfer all sorts of creatures and places from any story she can touch to power herself. On the other she must follow the rules and logic of the story she is currently using.

Unless one happens to be the fully-powered Spectre or Doctor Fate, the Queen of Fables cannot be defeated directly. The two weapons that can be used against her are :

  1. A knowledge of the fables that she’s drawing from, and thus of the properties of the things, plots and people she is magicking into existence.
  2. Her obedience to the narrative structure of the stories she is using.

The Queen of Fables has a troll catch Jimmy Olsen

Summoned creature : Big tough troll.

If the story is that the little children did this and that and defeated the evil queen, then the Queen of Fables will have to let herself be defeated if the heroes manage the same actions as the children in the fable. Or some variant using the same logic and the same symbolism.

Another weakness is that she is the stories and is unable to step outside them for a critical textual analysis. Read further for concrete examples.

Narrative environment

The cultural milieu of the Queen is European fairy tales (chiefly Southern German ones) in their historical (and rather gory, pre-Disneyfication) version. In other words, her core heritage are the original Brothers Grimm  stories.

She has a total knowledge of them. Yet she will not “cheat” by using obscure and/or nearly lost stories. She strongly prefers to use things, creatures, plots, etc. from stories that are actually known to her victim’s cultures. If a story is completely forgotten and not recorded in any known media, then it is lost to her.

Though her cultural roots are well-defined, it is a very simple matter to her to “travel” and absorb the fairy tales and legends of other cultures, no matter how exotic. During her encounters with the Justice League she gleefully used elements from Atlantean, Martian and Kryptonian bedtime stories to confront Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter and Superman.

She later fluently used nearly-lost Kryptonian fairy tales against “Prince Charming” (Superman), and experimented with the narrative language of C-List bastardised Hollywood movies in a futile attempt to sully “Snow White” (Wonder Woman).

Of course, she will often use a poisoned apple at some point, though its effects can be very variable.

The Queen of Fables might have some sort of ties with the Dreaming and Dream of the Endless, but none have been demonstrated so far.

There’s more to the story

You can also see the game stats section for numerous examples, since most of it is in plain English.


History

The Queen once ruled a vast kingdom, which presumably existed in a magical dimension – perhaps the Dreaming. Corrupt with power, she used her ogres, dragons and spells to menace villagers everywhere until a conclave of sorcerers exiled her.

She ended up on Earth, somewhere in Europe, somewhen during the Middle Ages. The Queen still had magical powers and soon established her new kingdom, summoning monstrous servants and starting anew. Eventually, her greed and vanity did her in – she married a king, got jealous of her stepdaughter Snow White, and had the pretty princess brought into the woods to be killed.

The evil queen later learned that Snow White had not actually been killed, and had married a German prince. This triggered a long and bloody war in Germany between the Queen and the Prince.

The Queen of Fables traps the JLA in her world

Snow White, appalled by the carnage and knowing that the Queen would eventually win, found a way to put an end to it all. She used an enchanted storybook and a magical ritual, and turned all these events from fact to story. The whole reign of the Queen and the business with Snow White and the Prince was retconned  away from Earth’s history, though it lived on as a well-known story.

Though trapped within ye olde storybooke, the Queen was not destroyed. In time, she even conquered her new ’realm‘. Since the Queen was now a famous literary character rather than an historical one, she became a ruler of stories, able to command them and draw power from them.

Eventually, thanks to the nature of the magical book she was trapped in, she became entity of enormous mystical power but strong limitations.

Unhappily ever after

In 2000, the storybook was shipped to the last descendants of the German prince, who lived in the US. Unaware of its nature, a mother starting reading from the book to her child. This freed the Queen of Fables who invaded Manhattan with her ogres, goblins and the like.

Storybooks everywhere gradually disappeared as she drew power from the stories contained therein. New York City was turned into an archetypal cursed forest.

On the side, the Queen manifested some creatures from more modern stories (the Terminator, Freddy Krueger, Darth Vader, etc.) but her core remained around tales such as Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. She also used some American folk tales, which were to her liking – including a Paul Bunyan  appearance.

Using the “mirror on the wall” (actually a flatscreen TV she enchanted) to scry for the fairest of the land, she saw news about the JLA. Thus the Queen soon learned that the fairest in all the land, the new Snow White, was Wonder Woman. She decided to gain her revenge on her and “her knights” of the JLA.

A tale of heroes

The JLA fought against the Queen’s creations, plots and traps. They also mitigated the bloody and chaotic situation in New York City. The Queen made Wonder Woman follow the script of the Sleeping Beauty, but her friends reanimated her.

Knowing that the Queen was obsessed with revenge against “Snow White”, Wonder Woman and the JLA soon determined that she had invaded Themyscira. The Queen was disoriented by the lack of castles, men, serfs, etc. on the island. She decided to take over the Wonder Dome. This is where Diana and the JLA confronted her.

Wonder Woman used the Lasso of Truth on the Queen. Thus, the Amazon relentlessly exposed her to the truths of real life — the dis-enchantment of the world, facts over stories, the necessity of getting old and losing one’s beauty, etc.

The Queen of Fables has Superman face a Kryptonian dragon

Terrified and wounded, the Queen of Fables hurriedly retreated into the storybook. But at the last picosecond the Flash pulled off a clever substitution, trapping the Queen into a copy of the US tax code. Knowing that finding stories, imagination and fantasy within a tax code was next to impossible, the JLA considered that the Queen was effectively banished and powerless.

Since she was now part of the tax code, all the carnage and damage she had inflicted was retconed away (perhaps to become legislation about insurance deductibles ?). But the JLAers, having been in the realm within the enchanted storybook, remembered it all.

Once upon a time in Krypton, part 1

In 2006, the Queen escaped the tax code after realising that, even there, she could find stories. She reached to touch the fantasies of people crushed by a dead-end financial situation and reading the tax code, and was soon free.

This time, she decided that Prince Charming (that is, Superman) would be hers as a revenge against Snow White (that is, Wonder Woman). By her narrative logic the Prince necessarily was married to Snow White.

The Queen of Fables uses Kryptonian and Martian tales

The Queen lived deep under the ocean for a while, sinking vessels in the Atlantic until Superman came to investigate. She then took him into a fantasy version of generic medieval Europe and tried to force him to pledge his love to her by threatening innocents.

The Queen had trouble understanding that Prince Charming was not with Snow White and was married with some sort of pleibeian named Lois. Nevertheless, she had a Daily Planet employee act out the typical stalker/kidnapper scenario against Lois Lane, in a clumsy attempt to force Superman to marry her by threatening his wife.

Once upon a time in Krypton, part 2

However, Superman repulsed her first attempt, and the Queen felt that all the stuff with Superman as a knight, Olsen as his squire, trolls and big bad wolves, etc. was not having that much of an impact on Kal-El. Intrigued, she decided to use Kryptonian fairly tales instead, correspondingly morphing  herself to become a Kryptonian lady of standing.

Though long before its demise, Krypton culture had become cold and sterile. Yet some non-conformists still told the Kryptonian fairy tales (the glass forest, Jax-Em the innocence thief, the Striped River wish, the man made of blood, etc.). A version of those tales had apparently been conserved in the Kryptonian culture databases that educated Superman during infanthood.

The Queen was pleased that a Kryptonian survived, since this meant this rich corpus of fairy tales was not dead and she could make use of it.

Still wielding the threat of having the stalker kill Lois, the Queen forced Superman to bit into a poisoned apple. This took him to a fairy tale version of Krypton to reenact the tale of the child who would either be granted a wish – or find eternal servitude by recovering the shawl of the evil enchantress.

Though his powers were massively diminished, Supes used his knowledge of those fairy tales to prevail. He reused many of the ruses of Arla-La, a Kryptonian fairy tales heroine.

As per the story the Queen had to grant Superman his freedom. Kal-El used his superior power of persuasion to make the Queen understand that he was not a prince, but a man. He came back to Earth in time to find and rescue his wife, who had just run out of means to stall her aggressor.

Wonder Woman : the movie

In 2008, the Queen made another attempt against “Snow White”. She killed and replaced Hollywood producer Laney Kirswel, and launched a Wonder Woman movie project in order to lure Diana to Hollywood. Tsaritsa had assimilated the stories from C-List Hollywood movies. She tried to use dreadful genre conventions about crappy super-hero stories to humiliate “Snow White”.

Those included badly told origin stories, simple-minded misunderstanding of Amazon values, alternate versions of Diana with exploitive costumes and/or “reinvented to better fit the right demos”, corny forced love stories, ham-fisted casting, reused sets, awful dialogue, etc.

However, the Queen is intrinsically unable to analyse stories. Thus, she had missed that such movies cannot really hurt the story they exploit if the original story is popular enough. Furthermore, by making the story about Wonder Woman, she trapped herself.

The Queen of Fables' ice and fire giants

Summoned creatures : Frost giants and fire giants.

A bad super-hero movie is unavoidably an origin story, and the climax of Wonder Woman’s origin story is that she *wins* the contest.

Diana realised that during the arena scene Tsaritsa would simply have to be there and seated in the royal seat, since nothing else would befit her station. The princess thus challenged the queen to drop her mystical disguise and meet her in the arena. Tsaritsa was beaten by Diana, since the story could only go that way.

Though killing the Queen of Fables is impossible, Wonder Woman thrashed her until Tsaritsa had to disperse and retreat.


Description

The Queen’s appearance is mutable, but the illustrations are of her core appearance.


Personality

The Queen of Fables does not understand reality – she lives in stories, and she *is* stories. Since her fare is medieval, she will interpret everything in medieval terms, a context in which she is an evil queen.

She can ape some aspects of modern reality, such as making herself look like a cliché unprincipled businesswoman from a bad soap opera. But in her mind the story is just the same and she’s just amusing herself with the local trappings of its telling.

In her mind, it’s always about princes charming, and great banquets, and oppressing the serfs, and being the fairest in all the land, and all that good stuff. She is unable to think otherwise.

The Queen of Fables catches the JLA in a cursed forest

Summoned environment : Cursed forest.

Howbeit, *if* she were to spend enough time drawing from other stories it is possible she would start being another archetype and thinking like it. Presumably she would stay an evil, jealous, cruel older female ruler of some sort.

For instance, she can easily sense that Superman has great imaginary significance and that there are many many stories about him. But to her he can only be conceived of as a prince, and she has to interact with him as an evil queen.

The basic story must be that the evil queen tries to force the handsome, strong prince to love her. She cannot do anything else, unless she can find another major, seminal tale involving a brave prince and an evil queen. And since the breadth of active roles for female characters in traditional stories is so limited…

Lost in the narration

It’s debatable whether the Queen even has free will. She has to obey genre conventions and storylines. It seems that she even hallucinates and sees Wonder Woman as Snow White (with elaborate white dress, bejewelled royal tiara, golden star-tipped wand, etc.) no matter what Diana is actually wearing.

Her basic plot hook, given the characters she’s made of, is being jealous of another, younger, very beautiful woman – Snow White and her homologs. On the DC Earth, the person ending up being Snow White is of course Wonder Woman, who is a living legend and even matches the description about the awesome beauty, dark hair and red lips (though WW’s skin is not exactly pale).

Most of the evil stepmother’s plots so far have been to gain revenge against Snow White and “her knights”, though Diana has largely learned how to handle the Queen.

The main hope of the Queen of Fables is that one day she will find a major story where it is the evil jealous queen who gets to live happily ever after and ride off with the handsome prince. Which is basically impossible given the endlessly repeated mythological structure of the stories that are at her core.

Furthermore, her mindset is not modern enough to get stories that are too deconstructed. And these may not have the right symbolic charges for her goals anyway. In fact they may be harmful for her since they are a critique.

This exemplifies her insanity, really. She has absolute knowledge of all the fairy tales, but she cannot understand that their very point is that the evil queen never wins in the end.

Expanding the domain of the struggle

During her 2008 appearance, the Queen experimented with the narrative language of bad Hollywood movies. She did a good job at being a sort of cross between Uwe Boll  and Ed Wood , with a dash of the final screenwriting from Catwoman .

The Queen of Fables casts Superman into a Kryptonian glass forest

Summoned environment : Kryptonian glass forest.

Interestingly, she again failed because she couldn’t understand the metafictional context. Since she is the stories and she is the genre, she cannot analyse from the outside.

In her core genre (Brothers Grimm stories), it is important to remember the somewhat obsessive emphasis on over-the-top sadism, gore and casual killing.


Quotes

“Tell me true. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest in the land ?”

“He’s not afraid of me. Why is he not afraid of me ?”

“Do you know, I wonder, what she really did to me so many, many turnings of the seasons ago ? Her guards beat me with clubs, they stripped me of my royal title and raiment. She spat at me as I screamed. They placed iron shoes, red hot from the fire, in front of me. The villagers laughed as I was forced to step into them. I could smell the sizzling fat of my own flesh as they forced me to dance until my physical body died. She took everything from me.”

The Queen of Fables conjures an army of flying imps

Summoned creatures : Immense swarm of imps.

“Do not reject me, Charming. I can make you happy. I can force love and contendedness down your throat like maggots and cakes.”

“Oh, Snow White, you know so little of what makes a good telling. At the beginning of my time, or now, everyone knows… No one cares if the blood of an incidental player is spilt. It merely sweetens the peril’s perfume.”

“I’ll drink your blood yet, fake princess. I’ll see your friends in the oven at the house of sweets.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Tsaritsa

Dex: 05 Str: 04 Bod: 08 Motivation: Psycho
Int: 09 Wil: 09 Min: 15 Occupation: Witch-Queen/Cruel Stepmother
Inf: 14 Aur: 18 Spi: 20 Resources {or Wealth}: N.A.
Init: 040 HP: 085

Powers:
Enhanced Initiative: 14, Invulnerability: 32, Sorcery: 36

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Sorcery is limited to elements from tales (see below).
  • Sorcery does not inflict Mystical Bashing Damage to the Queen as long as she can provide a good justification for it based on the story elements she is leaching from.
  • Invulnerability requires a long amount of time (weeks if not months) for the Queen to make a full recovery.

Skills:
None.

Advantages:
Scholar (Fables and Legends from the entire universe).

Connections:
None.

Drawbacks:
CIA toward obeying the fables’ narrative structure, Power Loss (reduced access, or lack of access, to stories), Serious Psychological Instability (completely insane), CIA toward acting like an evil, jealous, cruel, self-aggrandising medieval queen.


Short tales of the Black Forest

The Queen of Fables can manipulate reality to turn it into dark, sadistic fairy tales. Here are a few recurrent elements:

Depowering…

If she is emulating tales in which the heroes are courageous knights, wise children, cunning peasants, etc. she will use magic to Neutralise the abilities that would ruin the story.

Powers that confer a huge advantage in mobility (such as Flight, Superspeed…) or knowledge (such as Telepathy, Mind Probe…) will be Neutralised outright, or made moot by the environment (for instance an enchanted forest where the canopy is so thick nobody can break through to fly above it, and where moving at great speed is pointless since one always circles back to the starting point).

Generally she tries to make it impossible or very hard for the characters to go outside of their role and the script. Think of a 1980s Dungeon Master not wanting the adventurers to use spells to pass through walls or teleport because that would ruin his dungeon.

… has its limits…

The key powers and abilities that are part of the character’s legend cannot be entirely neutralised, though. The legend of the Flash is that he is the fastest man alive, so the Queen had to use more circuitous means to make his Superspeed less useful since she cannot go against legends. Superman is known by all to be super-strong and shoot lasers from his eyes, etc..

A rule of thumb is that, for legendary characters such as the best-known JLA members, key ability will be reduced to 05 plus (75% of the APs above 5, rounding up). For instance, Superman’s STR of 25 becomes 5+((25-5).¼) = 10 and his Heat Vision is 5+((18-5).¼) = 9.25 rounded up to 10.

Whether the abilities of less legendary characters would be reduced to a greater extent is unknown – the same formula might work since they presumably have lower APs to start with, and the formula tends to constrain scores within a narrow AP range.

… which can be complex…

Which abilities are kept in which way can be a bit intricate. For instance if she casts Superman in a Prince Charming story, he can’t retain blatant super-powers (he’s a prince, not a super-hero !) but the myth of Superman means that eye lasers and being faster than speeding bullet have to be acknowledged to some degree.

In this case she reconciled the issue by giving him a fleet horse named Bullet and a burning sword named Vision. She *had* to do something along those lines because Superman is a legend, even though that helped her foe. When she next cast Superman into a Kryptonian fairy tale, however, it was acceptable for him to shoot beams from his eyes, since he was in the story as a Kryptonian.

She still managed to entirely take out his Flight, however – as noted the Queen is particularly vindictive against mobility-enhancing and information-gathering abilities.

The altered characters may also gain abilities and equipment. If she sees them as knights, they might gain Linked Weaponry (Melee) and Animals Handling (Horses), plus a good quality sword and some plate armour (with the Real Armour Limitation).

… and unpredictable

Aside from GM fiat, negotiation between players and GM based on those rules of thumb above might be a good way to hand the Neutralisation and transmogrification , depending on the group.

Another possibility (which we haven’t tested) is that she can employ her full APs to Neutralise information- and mobility- providing abilities, but is limited to ((Target Power)+ 1CS) of Neutralisation when lowering the key, legendary abilities of the character, and must give something back (horse, armour, sword, squire, whatever, magical bread, whatever) for each two full CSes by which she manages to lower said legendary ability.

The Queen is not very good with technology, and will often neglect to bollix some minor Gadgets (such as tiny radio communicators) since she doesn’t know about this stuff. It is unclear how well she’d fare against technology-based heroes, though she can presumably grok  power armour  as being a sort of knight and manipulate those accordingly.

Empowering

If she operates in a genre where it’s OK for people to have super-powers (such as a super-hero movie, as she did in her 2008 appearance) she will simply Endow her servants so they can challenge the heroine, rather than Neutralize her.

However, in this genre, multiple opponents seldom have the power of the protagonist, limiting their main Attributes to about 75% of the main Attributes of the heroine and making it feasible to battle groups of Endowed opponents.

More servants

The Queen of Fables likes her monstrous servants, that she does. She loves conjuring up any quantity of ogres, goblins, enormous armies of imps, dragons, wicked fairies, witches and evil crones, etc. This ability is practically unlimited. She could conjure such armies of servants as to occupy the whole of New York City (a metropolis of eight millions) or conquer Themyscira within hours.

She could also conjure creatures with up to 36 APs in something. For instance her take on the modern, American version of Paul Bunyan had a STR of 36, given his antecedents of creating the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes and other enormous geographical features. Well, technically he had a STR of about 25 and 11 APs of Growth.

It is rare for the Queen to create anything with a DEX above 07, though – perhaps because monsters and villains are rarely known for their agility and prowess, which are usually heroic traits. There are exceptions (if she were to summon a legendary evil swordsman, for instance — and her Bunyan could catch objects with superhuman alacrity), but those require special effort.

Thus, legendary fighters such as Wonder Woman have an edge against the Queen.

More stats for servants

As an example, the big troll type illustrated in this entry would have about DEX 06 STR 12 BODY 11. Since the protagonist(s) will normally be partially depowered, this a deadly opponent.

The illustrated army of imps is full of guys with DEX 03 STR 02 BODY 03 and an EV 03 melee weapon, plus Flight: 06, but there are tens of thousands of them.

Being primal creatures, giants and dragons can be nigh-invincible – see the considerations above for Paul Bunyan, and consider that the snagriff (Kryptonian dragon) was said to be invincible unless fooled, like in the legends. The JLA disposed of her fire giants and ice giants, but through the time-honoured method of having the frozen ones crash into the burning ones, so they may not have been defeatable through brute force.

If appropriate to the ’story‘, her servants can Team Attack – for instance to drag someone into the oven of the house of sweets of Hansel and Gretel fame.

By Doug Barnes (up to v1.4) and Sébastien Andrivet (v2+).

Helper(s): Colagioia, Sawyer, Lyon, Dixon, Young, Tullberg, Andrivet, Mendus, Disrupter, Darci, Fuqua.

Source of Character: DC Universe.

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