This text potentially contains MAJOR SPOILERS for ASoIaF/Game of Thrones. Read at your own risk if you’re not up to date on the books.
This is an alternate take on the history of the books to set up an unpredictable starting point for a player party in the RPG. It assumes a few truths that haven’t been 100% proven in the books yet, but mostly proceeds from revealed canon.
It all starts with Jaime Lannister.
Who knows why he finds his backbone so many months earlier? Maybe Selmy reveals a distaste for what Aerys has become, giving Jaime tacit approval. Maybe Aerys goes on a rant about Tywin, remembers Jaime is his son, and heaps an unusual amount of problems upon him. Maybe Jaime just remembers Brandon from a tourney, kind of liked the guy, and figures that killing him because Rhaegar was in the wrong is beyond the rights of the king. Or maybe he just had a bad day.
Regardless, the night before Brandon and Rickard Stark are to be tried by fire, King Aerys dies to Jaime Lannister’s sword. That, of course, is never conclusively proven, but Jaime is the Kingsguard on duty and flees King’s Landing before the body is found. By the time they begin to track him down, he and his sister have fled across the Narrow Sea.
Rhaegar, let it be said, is a smart and competent guy when he’s not totally wrapped up in his drive to FULFILL THE PROPHECY. He’s called back from the Tower of Joy within days and realizes that his kingdom is on the knife’s edge of rebellion now that his own impulsive actions have upset an already dangerous regime caused by his father. He cannot produce Lyanna, claiming she has sadly caught some sickness during their travels, but that she left willingly. Concessions are made to House Stark, and, as Ned has just arrived with her angry fiancé, Robert, both are allowed to visit her at the Tower of Joy to confirm this fact.
Rickard and Brandon return to Winterfell upon word from Ned that Lyanna is, indeed, ill but a victim of her own impetuousness rather than having been kidnapped against her will. Robert returns to Storm’s End with no clear person to blame, and it is uncertain what Lyanna told him or what he deduced at the Tower of Joy. He has, however, lost his ability to treat Lyanna as the martyred love of his life.
A few months later, the story is that Lyanna died from her illness despite the help of the best maesters. Ned returns to Winterfell and will not speak of it, and none are sure whether he is simply broken by his sister’s death or unwilling to lie for the King.
Meanwhile, Tywin has expended most of his political capital on distancing himself from the actions of his eldest son, and Casterly Rock sits quiet, still rich but largely friendless in the current regime. He plots…
Present Day (Time of Game of Thrones)
King Rhaegar still sits the Iron Throne. His son, Prince Aegon, is soon to become a squire, and his daughter Rhaenys is a beauty grown. It is a running question whether the King plans to wed the two to one another, or split them up to further stabilize his kingdom. The King’s brother and sister, Viserys and Daenerys, and his steward, Sir Willem Darry, hold Dragonstone until the Prince is old enough to hold it himself. As with his own children, it is uncertain what the King plans to do with his siblings, as they are both nearly marriageable age… though rumors suggest that Viserys has something of his father’s madness and may be far less than a prize.
A few years ago, Queen Elia finally succumbed to her lifelong poor health. It is worried that the health of the heirs is similarly fragile. The King has not, as yet, seemed to have any interest in remarrying. Instead, he appears to be quietly planning for something much larger and more important.
The Hand of the King, Jon Connington, is married to Lysa Tully. They have a formal, loveless marriage, and no children.
The rest of the small council consists of:
- Lord Commander Arthur Dayne, who was appointed to the position after Lord Gerold Hightower retired due to age
- Grand Maester Pycelle, who many believe owes more loyalty to the disgraced House Lannister than to his office
- Petyr Baelish, who was given a chance due to the Hand’s wife and has proven to be adept at monetary matters
- Varys, the spider, who continues to weave his webs as he has done since the previous administration
- Stannis Baratheon, who holds his position as Master of Ships as one of the King’s concessions to Storm’s End many years ago
- Eddard Stark, who is much more than the Master of Laws, but unofficially serves as the King’s general in matters of dire import, such as putting down the Greyjoy Rebellion several years ago
Though he is on the small council, Ned is rarely at court. When he is not putting down small rebellions for the king, he spends as much time as possible with his family at Winterfell. He is married to Ashara Dayne, sister of the Lord Commander, but their marriage has been childless. He has a bastard son, Jon Snow, that he acquired prior to his marriage, and seems to treat his ward, Theon Greyjoy, more as a son than a prisoner. For her part, Ashara seems to be tolerant of this behavior, as she genuinely loves Ned and cannot produce sons of her own. Fortunately, Jon Snow clearly takes after Ned, or there might be more rumors about the keen interest the King takes in him when he is at court…
Another frequent guest at court is Tyrion Lannister, the imp. It seems to amuse Tywin to make the mild insult of sending his dwarf son as his representative to the King. And none can gainsay him, for Tyrion technically is the Lannister heir. However, rumors continue to persist of the other Lannister children trying to find allies among the Free Cities and Dothraki, always one step ahead of the assassins sent by the throne.
Brandon Stark and his wife, Catelyn Tully, govern the north. Lord Rickard died a few years ago; he had never truly recovered from his imprisonment in Aerys’ dungeons. Fortunately, counter to Ned’s problems producing heirs for the family, Brandon and Catelyn have produced several: Robb is the eldest, and his young brothers Bran and Rickon follow, as well as two daughters, Sansa and Arya. All of the children but Arya take after their mother’s Tully coloration, and all worship their heroic Uncle Ned. His visits are the high point of their lives.
For his part, Brandon is a decent but unexceptional leader. He retains the loyalty of the North, but is not well loved. There is a running rumor that the Boltons and Karstarks may have gained far more popular support than ever before, and were it not for the wealth of heirs, Winterfell might be in danger of a revolution.
Robert Baratheon remains an amazing fighter in good health, and he has planted many bastards while never taking a wife. He’s never completely given up his anger at the King, but neither has he been openly disloyal. He frequently leaves Storm’s End to his brother, Renly, while traveling across the world to fight in tournaments. When he is at home, he has distinguished himself in many small wars and rebellions, and is frequently called upon for aid by his friend Ned Stark. He has become so popular, in fact, that there is some worry he could be a danger to the throne itself if he should decide to rebel. Some suggest that the King should marry Rhaenys or Daenerys to Robert to ensure this does not happen.
Part of this worry has to do with the Tyrells. Their dashing son Loras is the best friend of Renly Baratheon, and there are rumors that they might further cement the alliance by offering Margaery as wife to either Robert or Renly. The alliance of these two great houses, coupled with their friendship with the Starks and potential alliance with the Lannisters, could prove disastrous for the throne.
Meanwhile, Dorne remains enigmatic. It is believed that the King broke his vows to Elia of Dorne with the daughter of the Starks. Though she was never mistreated, her death has left the Martells with limited power in King’s Landing. There is no telling what they might be planning in the deserts to reclaim some of this power, but it is rumored that Quentyn at the very least desires a seat on the small council.
Winter is Coming
In the North, increasing Wildling raids have made it more and more likely that the King’s general will need to return to help defend his homeland. The crown’s armies would be much more vulnerable to a rebellion without Ned Stark in the lead.
Rumors come from across the Narrow Sea that Jaime Lannister is the first Westerosi to so impress the Dothraki as to be admitted into their ranks, becoming a blood rider for Khal Drogo. Many wonder what this could mean for the Kingslayer and the designs of Casterly Rock.
For his part, the King becomes increasingly distant, cloistering himself and periodically sending out strange orders, escalating years of odd preparations. His recent obsession has sent numerous agents scouring Essos for dragon eggs.
Governance is left to the Hand of the King, but Jon Connington seems to have come down with a wasting malady. Every day, he fades a little more, and none can determine the source, or what will happen to the stability of the realm should he die and the King remain distracted.