RPG Evolution: Mary Queen of Scots Campaign

Mary Queen of Scots' tumultuous reign makes for an exciting campaign.

Mary Queen of Scots' tumultuous reign makes for an exciting campaign.


By Alexrk2 - own work, using SRTM Data,File:United Kingdom location map.svg by NordNordWest, CC BY-SA 3.0, File:United Kingdom relief location map.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Meet Mary​

Mary Queen of Scots lived during the 16th century and was a central figure in the complex political and religious struggles of the time. Born in 1542, she became Queen of Scotland as an infant. Her life was marked by royal intrigues, ill-fated marriages, and tragic events that ultimately led to her downfall. As the Queen of Scotland, Mary faced numerous challenges, including political rivals, religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, and external pressures from England and other European powers. Her life was filled with dramatic twists, such as her marriages to the King of France and Lord Darnley, both of which ended in tragedy.

Mary's story is filled with enough drama to make it an excellent basis for a role-playing campaign. Her reign offers a diverse range of settings that can be explored, from the opulent courts of France and Scotland to the treacherous landscapes of political intrigue and betrayal. With a few name changes, her noble life can be easily adapted to a fantasy campaign. The campaign can delve into the intricacies of court politics, diplomatic challenges, and the struggles for power during this turbulent period.

PCs can take on roles as advisors, diplomats, soldiers, or influential nobles, all working to shape Mary's destiny and navigate the perilous path she treads. As the PCs navigate the intricate web of Scottish and English politics, they will play crucial roles in shaping Mary's fate during four pivotal stages of her life: her return to Scotland, her marriage to Lord Darnley, her imprisonment in Scotland, and her escape and subsequent imprisonment in England.

The Return to Scotland​

The campaign begins as the PCs find themselves in the year 1561, with the young and widowed Mary Stuart returning to Scotland after the death of her first husband, the King of France. They might take on the roles of trusted advisors, loyal retainers, or influential nobles in Mary's court. Their objectives could include securing alliances, countering rivals, and defending the legitimacy of Mary's rule against those who question her claim to the throne. Political machinations, court intrigues, and diplomatic challenges will be key components, as the PCs seek to solidify Mary's position as the rightful ruler of Scotland.

Marriage to Lord Darnley​

In the next stage, the PCs are tasked with arranging Mary's marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and a key contender for the English throne. PCs may take on the roles of matchmakers, investigating the suitability of potential suitors, and navigating complex marriage alliances. However, as history reveals, the marriage of Mary and Darnley quickly unravels, leading to political unrest and personal tragedy. Players will face decisions with lasting consequences, as they attempt to manage the fragile balance between Mary's political interests and her tumultuous relationship with Darnley.

Imprisonment in Scotland​

As the campaign progresses, the players will be thrown into the tumultuous events that lead to Mary's imprisonment in Scotland. Intrigues, betrayals, and power struggles plague the Scottish court, and the PCs must protect Mary from her enemies while unearthing plots against her. They may also have to navigate challenges from powerful figures such as James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and deal with the aftermath of Darnley's murder. At this stage, the PCs diplomatic skills, combat prowess, and strategic planning will be put to the test as they strive to safeguard their queen and preserve the fragile peace.

Escape and Imprisonment in England​

In the final stage, the players must devise a daring plan to rescue Mary from her captivity in Scotland and guide her to England, where she seeks refuge with her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. The journey will be fraught with peril as the PCs confront hostile forces and encounter deadly adversaries. Along the way, they might also need to make heart-wrenching choices, as they navigate the complexities of loyalty, betrayal, and their duty to their queen. The campaign culminates in a climactic showdown, where the players must decide the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The complex relationships between the PCs and other key historical figures, such as Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Earl of Bothwell, and religious leaders of the time, provide ample opportunities for an epic campaign. In our history, things don't end well for Mary, but that doesn't mean they have to conclude in the same fashion in your game. As players navigate through the twists and turns of Mary's life, they will be faced with difficult decisions that can shape the course of history, just like the choices made by the historical figures themselves.

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


actually dracula
Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off, by Liz Lochhead is a fantastic read and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to explore this period. Spoiler: Mary Queen of Scots gets her head chopped off. Also, she kinda sorta deserved it.


A suffusion of yellow
Heres what I got from Chat GPT

Title: Reign of Intrigue - A D&D Campaign inspired by the Life of Mary Queen of Scots

Introduction:The campaign is set in a realm of political turmoil, where multiple factions vie for power and influence. Players find themselves entangled in the intrigues and ambitions surrounding Mary Stuart, the young and charismatic Queen of Scots. As Mary's life unfolds, the adventurers will be drawn into a web of treachery, alliances, and betrayals, making difficult choices that will shape the destiny of the kingdom.

Act 1: The Royal Heir
1.1 The Coronation: The players witness or participate in the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots, a young and promising ruler who ascends to the throne amid political tensions.
1.2 The Courtly Circle: The adventurers become entwined with the Scottish court, meeting key figures such as Lord Darnley, Mary's cousin Elizabeth I of England, John Knox, and other influential nobles.

Act 2: The Marriage Alliance
2.1 The Love Affairs: Mary seeks a strategic marriage alliance to solidify her claim to the English throne and stabilize her reign. The party becomes involved in the delicate negotiations and alliances that arise from potential suitors.
2.2 Courtly Rivals: The players encounter factions that oppose Mary's marriage choices, leading to plots and schemes to undermine her authority and assert their own influence.
2.3 Love and Betrayal: The adventurers uncover hidden secrets and betrayals within the court, as well as the complexities of Mary's personal relationships, testing their loyalty to her cause.

Act 3: The Claimant's Conflict
3.1 Political Intrigues: Mary's claim to the English throne poses a significant threat to Elizabeth I's rule. The campaign delves into the political maneuvering between the two queens and their respective allies.
3.2 The Rebellion: A faction within Scotland, led by powerful nobles, rises against Mary's rule, questioning her legitimacy and demanding her abdication. The party must decide whether to support the Queen or side with the rebellious nobles.
3.3 Battles and Alliances: The adventurers are drawn into battles and skirmishes as they navigate shifting loyalties and alliances on both sides of the conflict.

Act 4: The Fall of a Queen
4.1 Imprisonment and Escape: Mary faces imprisonment due to a failed escape and is separated from her supporters. The players must devise a daring plan to rescue her and keep her safe from her enemies.
4.2 A Desperate Bid: As Mary's situation becomes dire, the adventurers must seek out foreign aid to restore her to power, leading them on quests beyond the borders of Scotland.
4.3 The Final Confrontation: The climax sees a decisive showdown between Mary and her adversaries, culminating in a pivotal moment that determines the future of the kingdom.

Act 5: The Queen's Legacy
5.1 Aftermath and Consequences: The resolution of the conflict has far-reaching consequences for the realm, leaving the adventurers to deal with the aftermath of their choices.
5.2 Legacy of Mary: The campaign concludes with an exploration of Mary's lasting impact on history and her enduring legacy in the hearts of the people.

Conclusion:"Reign of Intrigue" is a D&D campaign that immerses players in the tumultuous world of political intrigue, loyalty, and betrayal inspired by the life of Mary Queen of Scots. As the adventurers navigate the complexities of courtly life and make weighty decisions, they experience the highs and lows of power, love, and ambition that shaped the course of history.


A suffusion of yellow
Personally I’ve used the life of catholic saints as inspiration but never thought to directly parallel the life of a royal, it certainly is an area ripe for intrigue and excitement.

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