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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Cross

Archives in RPGs: Dungeons and Drag Queens

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Hello Questing Queens! In honor of the final episode of Dimension 20's latest side quest Dungeons and Drag Queens, I thought I'd do a very quick article about the appearance of an archives in episode two, "Welcome to the Underworld".

While Dimension 20 has created multiple campaigns of highly entertaining characters and settings, Dungeons and Drag Queens is the first campaign to feature an archives as a proper location. I was genuinely surprised when it came up because I usually end up hunting for instances of archives or doing the mental gymnastics in my head of how I could maybe justify calling the Gramercy Occult Society in The Unsleeping City an archives even though it operates out of the New York Public Library.

My life is full of hardships.

Anyway, Dungeons and Drag Queens follows the journey of four would-be heroes Troyánn (Monét X Change) the merfolk assassin, Gertrude (Bob the Drag Queen) the tiefling sorcerer, Princess (Alaska Thunderfuck) the orc barbarian, and Twyla (Jujubee) the fairy ranger as they descend into the Underworld for reasons related to life, death, and a lot of family drama! One of those reasons is Troyánn, as part of her family's ancient pact with the goddess of death, needs to deliver seven souls but she's short one and there's a deadline a'comin'. To rectify the situation, the group is directed to the town of Hollow Grave and a jackal-headed demon merchant operating outside the Archive of Forgotten Things - a squat tower made of black volcanic rock full of arcane knowledge.

The archives is situated around the Long Shadow Bazaar where merchants deal in magical wares and the trading of souls - like ya do. The group never enters the archives proper, but the surrounding marketplace has traders selling memories, long lost loves, dreams and hopes and suffering, etc. The stuff of fairy tales and legend when one travels to the realms of Faerie or the Underworld and your currency is more conceptual than it is physical. It's not a particularly long scene, we don't linger on the archives because that's not the point. It's part of the background, acting as a piece of worldbuilding that let's the audience and the players know a couple things:

  1. You can barter/trade more than just money in this realm. Actually it's preferred if you have something of a precious nature to give up.

  2. The archives is part and parcel of that trade. Presumably, whatever is given away at the bazaar ends up in the archives. Or, like the market, one can trade their precious items for the forgotten knowledge.

Again, fairy tale logic, trading something priceless for power, wealth, love, knowledge, you get the idea. The Underworld is one big Faustian deal waiting to occur.

The archives as imagined in this campaign are also rooted in the idea of death and the morbid language used to describe archival settings. I mean, this archives is literally in land of the dead, but even the name of the archives - that of forgotten things - implies loss, which is another way of describing death. One could also extrapolate that collective memory is involved as well, which is standard for an institution of knowledge. So then one has to question the extent to which things are forgotten and how they end up in this particular archives.

What I'm really asking is for Brennan Lee Mulligan to give me a detailed description of how the Archive of Forgotten Things works - collecting policy, staff, donor relationships, finding aids, the whole kit 'n' kaboodle.

And while I'm waiting for that miracle to occur, please enjoy the finale of Dungeons and Drag Queens!


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