Review of “The Queen of Light’s Last Stand”

Game Type: Fantasy Group; GM-Less
Players: 4
Rules: Light
Mechanics: 1d20+1d10 Roll Under Stat; Ablative Stats
Themes: Journey into the Gloom, Zepplin, Tolkien
Author: Baker Parker Haas
Find it Here: https://bakerhaas.itch.io/the-queen-of-lights-last-stand

What I liked:

  • Led Zepplin, Zelda, and Tolkien Influences
  • Using poems, songs, and quotes for certain powers
  • Ablative stats

What I didn’t like:

  • $10 is too much for this imo
  • No clear pacing or path for the Gloom or getting to the “Last Stand”

In The Queen of Light’s Last Stand (QoLLS), four players take on the roles of The Queen, Bard, Knight, and Gloom respectively to tell a story of the Queen before she takes her final bow and turns to go; before the prince of peace begins to walk the night alone and darkness fills the land.

If anyone picked up a few lines from Zepplin there, that was intentional. This game uses Zepplin – specifically the Battle of Evermore imo – as one of its chief influences, since it is so closely tied to Tolkien and explicitly mentions the Queen, who perhaps represents Galadriel, a Queen of the woodland elves at the end of their time as a primary player in Middle Earth. Knowing this, it’s not unreasonable to swap the game’s player roles from Queen, Bard, Knight, and Gloom to something like Galadriel, Frodo, Aragorn, Sauron, but I digress.

Each of these roles are archetypal of what you would expect in any fantasy game; the Queen is perhaps the most unique one here as a leader-type. Their skills are things like Heart, Shields, Swords, etc. and have a set maximum value. Using a skill involves rolling 1d20+1d10 and trying to get lower than or equal to the skill’s current value.

The skills will degrade over time in an “ablative” way, meaning that when something deals damage to you or you use a skill in a certain way, the skill’s value is reduced.

Normally, I might dislike ablative stats, but recall this is the Queen’s “Last Stand”, not her “infinite years upon the throne.” The game’s intent is not to persist, but for players to depart the world in some bittersweet last farewell. The ablative stats force that to happen, because there’s only one way to recover them, and even that is based on a stat. Eventually, your Heart will be exhausted, and whether by death or choice, you will leave this world.

QoLLS is an evocative rpg not because of its prompts or its pictures but its mechanics in usage of poems, songs, and quotes to fuel power like giving commands and healing damage. This is really what makes it stand out, and I love the idea of coming to the table with quotes from leaders of Ancient Rome or elsewhere to drive the courage of allies or using lines from Robert Frost to heal them.

I only wish there was a greater focus on mechanics presented this way, because it’s what makes the game special, and I feel for whoever plays the “The Knight” character, since they don’t get any such ability. Couldn’t we have given the Knight an ability involving scenes from fantasy books that tell us how he is defending another using Shields?

That aside, there is one problem I have with the game, and it revolves around guiding the players toward a story intent on forcing the Queen into her Last Stand against the Gloom. It’s left up to the player taking on the Gloom role to decide how hard and fast to bring about the end of this story, and I imagine it will take a few tries to get the pacing right.

It would have been nice to see an outline of a typical adventure in the system to help the Gloom understand story beats appropriate to the rising and falling action expected of fantasy stories, intent on stopping the Gloom. Then again, the game encourages you to build the fantasy – including the danger – with the group, so pacing is a feel based off what you all want.

Besides, the game never says you “have to” stop the Gloom; only that it is there.

It’s entirely possible your group just wants to go through the world, exploring it in an open-ended, children’s storybook sort of way, where the Gloom is in the hearts and minds of people. There are monsters, but they are cast as dark trees in the still of a forgotten woods, poisoned streams, and the madness of nations yielding to their own fear.

Maybe the Queen’s Last Stand is not made against any gloom found outside in the world, but that which has crept into her own heart. After which, she cannot suffer another moment in the doomed world of men and fades into memory.

Loved it! I’d give some money for this game, but not $10. Around $3 sounds about right to me, especially if there’s ever pacing guidelines put in for the Gloom player. If you find it in a bundle, pick it up!

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