Monster Queers of Castle Gayskull
Pitch: A generation ago, a powerful villain known as Vanguard arrived on your world and began a campaign of conquest. Things were far from perfect before she landed, though. The ruling Princesses had divided the rich, fertile Sparklands among themselves, and condemned anyone who didn’t meet their rigorous standards to the harsh and perilous Badlands.
When Vanguard arrived, she found many willing to join her. Her technology can provide power and comfort unheard of outside the Princesses’ castles, and some joined her simply in opposition to the Princesses. She holds no bias against the “monstrous” people who are cast out of the Sparklands, and she eagerly gives them a place to belong—in exchange for their service.
As powerful as Vanguard is, though, the Princesses wield mighty magic of their own. The two sides have reached a stalemate, each growing more and more desperate to find an advantage that will tip the balance in their favor.
Hook: Amidst this turmoil, a handful of heroes uncover a mystery that leads them to the truth about Vanguard, the Princesses, and their very world: the mystery of Castle Gayskull. This scenario lends itself to a longer campaign of multiple adventures.
As a group, answer the following questions to develop your shared world:
The Princesses recognize the personhood of all real-world variations of humans, but consider other people “monstrous.” Is there any variation that they do tolerate?
“Cute” animal features, variations that fit a Princess’s aesthetic, extra arms, wings
Why does Vanguard say her conquest is justified?
To free the world from the Princesses, to protect the world from an outside threat, to share the Princesses’ magic with everyone, because the strong should rule the weak, religious reasons
Which Princess is most dangerous, and why? Which is the most sympathetic?
Tempestria the volatile Storm Princess, Sharkopella the music-loving Teeth Princess, Clandestina the mysterious Spy Princess, Twilight the nerdy Goth Glitter Princess
Questions for the Players
Choose playbooks as normal. Ask each player the question matching their playbook, to consider as they create characters.
Choose names that are descriptive of the character’s attributes, like the Princesses’ names.
Wait to do the Relationships step of character creation until instructed, after the questions about how the group became a team during their visit to Castle Gayskull.
- Beast: As an outcast from Princess society, why are you especially objectionable, or not accepted even when your comrades (and fellow outcasts) are?
- Chosen: Are you betrothed to a Princess? To Vanguard? Will you discover etchings in Castle Gayskull that seem to dictate your Destiny? Or is your Destiny something else?
- Devoted: Are you a true believer in the cause of Vanguard or a Princess? Or the Chosen, perhaps? Perhaps more loyal to the stated cause than any of the leaders truly are?
- Infamous: You have cast off either Vanguard or a Princess—what do you think of the other side?
- Nature Witch: Something has badly disrupted the natural world. What were the first signs you noticed, and how much worse has it gotten?
- Scoundrel: One of the Princesses is your ex, and you didn’t leave on great terms, which one?
- Seeker: What compelled you to question the ways you’ve been taught? What tempts you about the teachings of Vanguard or the Princesses?
- Spooky Witch: Has this conflict been good for the Unseen, or harmful to them?
- Trickster: Is there any side in this war you haven’t double-crossed or played for fools?
How the PCs Became a Team
The Message of Castle Gayskull
The PCs all arrived at Castle Gayskull at the same time, but the castle brought them together. Decide as a group:
- When the PCs arrive at Castle Gayskull, are they operatives of the Princesses, Vanguard, neither, or a mix of allegiances?
- Why have the PCs come to this ancient, abandoned castle in wild and uncontrolled territory?
GM: Ask these questions of the named playbooks. If the listed playbooks aren’t in play, ask the question of someone else. Everyone should answer at least one question. If more than one named playbook is in play, they can each answer from their point of view or agree on an answer. Whenever answering a question, add a sensory detail about the castle or its perils that ties thematically to your answer.
- Chosen, Seeker, or Spooky Witch: What ominous legend have you heard about Castle Gayskull, and how does the arrival of Vanguard fit into it?
- Scoundrel, Spooky Witch, or Trickster: How did the castle show you that it knew your heart, and why did this bring you closer to the other PCs?
- Beast, Devoted, or Infamous: The castle hints at a source of great power somewhere in the region. What do you most fear that Vanguard or the Princesses would do with that power?
- Chosen, Devoted, or Nature Witch: What do you learn from the castle that gives you hope that you and your friends can use the mysterious power for good, or keep it out of the wrong hands?
- Scoundrel, Seeker, or Trickster: What part of the castle did you mess with, or what did you take, that caused its defenses to chase you all out?
- Everyone: What about this experience brought you closer to the other characters?
GM Section: Contains Spoilers
In a one-shot, you can focus the story on the race for the mysterious power, but the complexity of the relationships in this scenario means that it benefits from being spread over multiple sessions.
Highlight what’s toxic and what’s appealing about Vanguard and the Princesses. Show NPCs who don’t know how to proceed when both sides in this war want to exploit them. Show NPCs making bad choices for understandable reasons, and let the PCs show them alternatives or relieve the pressures they face.
This scenario provides ample opportunities for former friends and old flames to show up as adversaries. If the group includes PCs from the Vanguard or Princess forces, they might even go back to headquarters after leaving Castle Gayskull to gather information, which is a great opportunity to seed a complicated relationship with the leaders and henchpeople on both sides.
Decide with your group how realistic you want to be in your approach to problem-solving. You can try to organize people to stand against both Toxic Powers, or you can go for hidden magic artifacts and seduction. Both ways of playing are valid, just get on the same page about whether one of those options or something in-between is what excites your group!
Bow Down if You Want to Live: An independent village—perhaps the PCs’ village—faces some crisis, and one side or the other has offered to solve it in exchange for a steep price. Someone in the village asks the PCs to help before they have to bow before one of the Toxic Powers. The Toxic Power could even be creating the problem, not just exploiting it. Introduce a recurring adversary early on to act as the face of each Toxic Power—perhaps even a Princess herself.
A Spark to Ignite the End: The PCs learn that the mysterious hidden power near Castle Gayskull must be the legendary Spark, a power that can restore the idyllic utopia of the ancient world. Obtaining the power of the Spark for herself is Vanguard’s true motive for her conquest, while the Princesses believe they can use its power to defeat Vanguard and anyone who would oppose them. If activated, though, the Spark works by resetting the world to an ancient state, threatening to unmake everything the PCs hold dear.
Vanguard: The mysterious central figure throwing the old order of the world into chaos. Flesh her out only after you know what the PCs care about so that you can make her both appealing and villainous in ways that will speak to them. In broad strokes, she comes with great promises and gifts of fantastic technology to prove her good intentions. Her acceptance is given without regard to the Princesses’ rules; her only demand is obedience. And her orders seldom interfere with daily life, except when she wants to dig up an ancient temple or house a military force in town.
- Petrafyre, Salamander General: Clad in armor of jagged obsidian and wreathed in flame, Petrafyre sees herself as Vanguard’s champion. She came with Vanguard from the stars, and knows more of her secrets than anyone else. Petra refuses to accept that anyone from this backwards world could be worthy of a place of honor by Vanguard’s side.
- Spindrift, Lesbispider Operative/Surfer: Spindrift used to sneak into Princess Tempestria’s domain to catch sick waves, and the Storm Knights could never catch zir. The Princess herself blasted Spindrift with lightning and left zir for dead, and Vanguard found zir and nursed zir back to health. Ze’s now one of Vanguard’s most loyal and canny agents, a specialist in abduction and ambush. “Hang eight, dudettes!”
- Clandestina the Spy Princess: Rules a secret domain and works to root out dissent and difference within the Sparklands. Skilled at disguise and stealth, one can never know when she might be watching.
- Sharkopella the Teeth Princess: Can transform into a fearsome sharkbeast to terrorize her foes and belt out her favorite songs. Anyone seeking to interrupt her transformation sequence would have to Defy Disaster on account of the sparkly ribbons of shark teeth that surround her during the change. The other Princesses really should object to her bestial form, but see no reason to be consistent with their prejudice. It’s alright when she does it; she’s aPrincess.
- Tempestria the Storm Princess: Flies on wings of lightning and favors quick, decisive action. Unless you have an invitation, you almost always need to Defy Disaster to even speak with her.
- Twilight the Goth Glitter Princess: Shrouded in an aura of sparkling darkness. When not writing gloomy poetry, she can be found in her laboratory, inventing new, darker colors and making magical glitter with a variety of effects.
- Nana Batmaam: A wise old bat, literally. The wrinkled bat-woman is a dependable source of exposition and plot hooks, asking only for fresh fruit and good company in return.
- Castle Gayskull: The Castle itself sometimes behaves as if it has personality and intent. Corridors and traps shift from place to place, uncovering secrets long-buried. It might be random, but Castle Gayskull is a place where seemingly impossible coincidences become commonplace.