Today I’ve got another character profile piece as Nerdy D&D Player. This is the second post of this type; the first was a multiclassing paladin I made for a campaign where magic has gone crazy. This next character is for the same campaign. Her recap won’t be nearly that long-winded and serious. Instead, most of the post is dedicated to the real world research behind this character, as per a typical NDM post. Meet Beyoncé.
This is arguably the oddest D&D character I’ve played. Beyoncé is of the Noble class. She’s an eager but naive mother leading her family on a journey to find a safe haven. She is sweet, friendly, and happy to help those she meets on her travels. And–just a minor detail–she’s a giant honeybee.
Princess B, as she prefers to be called, is queen of her hive. But she doesn’t feel she deserves the title of Queen. Not yet. See, she’s only recently grown old enough to make her virgin flight. And only days ago did she leave her hatching hive to found her own. She’s brand new at this, but it doesn’t explain her awareness of the situation.
That’s where magic comes in. Did y’all read or see James and the Giant Peach? Yeah. That happened to the entire hive, and now they have the size and intelligence of humans. With increased intelligence came a need to name the hive. She went with Goldhaven. She also felt a new need to prove her nobility. The surge didn’t erase her apian nature, though. She’s still a bee, and that fact warranted research on my end.
After finishing B’s (thankfully short) origin story and rolling her stats, all that was left to do was to figure out why bees do be bees. Here’s what I learned.
Almost 20,000 species of bees can be found. They live every continent except Antarctica, and they range in size from less than 2 millimeters to an inch and a half in length. They weren’t the first to pollinate flowers, but their long tongues and scopal hairs made them the best. Thanks to coevolution, sugar stingflaps are the primary pollinators for most animal-pollinated flowers today. (source)
Bees have a lot going on. It’s all pretty interesting, but in the interest of reasonable post size, I’ll hone in on the best parts. I found three aspects of bees to latch onto when playing this character: flight, communication, and social structure.
“According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. It’s wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.” The Bee Movie‘s opening lines are some of my favorite, but I wanted to learn how they actually do it. Turns out, bees have really weird flap patterns. They combine many beats-per-second with a rotating motion that basically creates tiny hurricanes. (source) Those pockets supply extra lift and make all the difference. Sorry, Bee Movie, but you’ve been busted.
When a bee finds a good source of nectar, she has an amazing way of communicating it to her fellow workers. The very scientific name of this method is the Waggle Dance. Upon returning to the hive, a bee climbs on nearby sisters’ backs to get their attention. Once a crowd is surrounding her, she walks in a figure eight pattern and vibrates her abdomen on the eight’s intersection. The duration of that vibration tells other workers how far away the source is, and the angle of the dance communicates the flower’s angle relative to the sun. (source) It works remarkably well, and is used by honeybees millions of times every day. And, occasionally, cartoon kids. Phineas and Ferb: Waggle Dance 😉
Bees are eusocial. Some species are solitary, meaning females build their own nests and lay fertilized eggs. Most, however, have an odd family structure. The cycle starts with a young queen, about a week after she emerges from her cell. The virgin queen takes flight to find a Drone Congregation Area, a space up to half a mile in the air where drones from neighboring hives gather in hopes of mating with a queen. 10 to 15 drones will mate with her, impregnating her with 15 million sperm. (source) The queen returns from her mating flight (usually the only one in her life) and spends the rest of her 2 to 5 years laying thousands of eggs each day.
Three days after being laid, these eggs hatch into female worker bees. (source) Worker bees typically take on three roles in their six-week lifespans. A young fully formed bee will emerge from each cell and spend 1 or 2 days cleaning it for the next egg. Days 3 to 11 are spent feeding larvae; the new Nurse Bee feeds older larvae at first, before moving into the Advanced Nurse Bee position. From days 6 to 11, she feeds younger larvae, drones, and queen larvae. Alternatively, she could be chosen as a Queen Attendant. She feeds, grooms, and spreads pheromones of the queen throughout the hive until Day 12.
The next quarter of her life, the worker will do a variety of tasks. Bees between 12 and 22 days old guard and cool the hive, maintain the walls, carry food and water in, and remove dead bees from the hive, among other tasks.
At about 3 weeks, the worker graduates. She spends the rest of her life leaving the hive and foraging for nectar and pollen. Unless the cold months interrupt to keep her in the hive, the bee will do this tirelessly, until she dies from exhaustion at the ripe old age of about six weeks. Ain’t being a worker bee just a peach?
Being a drone isn’t much better. Worker bees can lay unfertilized eggs, which hatch into drones. That means male bees don’t have fathers, but they do have grandfathers. These guys’ singular purpose is to mate with a queen. As is the case for many bugs, the options are stay alive or get laid, because, for those lucky drones who do mate, their penises and associated organs get ripped out as they separate. (source) Good luck surviving that. If a drone doesn’t get that privilege, he flies between hives in the daytime and settles down inside at night. But the dreaded phrase winter is coming spells doom for these guys just as much as in Westeros. In the fall, workers will begin to kill the drones and shovel them out of the hive. Males aren’t needed in the winter. In Game of Drones, you don’t win. You just die.
Some of this had to change for Goldhaven. The workers live longer and feed on the raw magic surrounding them. This means they live longer, so Beyoncé doesn’t have to lay eggs at every waking moment. This is a messed up magical fantasy, after all. Besides that, most everything else is about the same. So there’s what I learned physically about bees. But this research led me to something a little more artsy, which I’ll sum up below.
Bees were a symbol of prophecy in ancient Greece. Apollo had three bee maidens with divination abilities. Oracles such as Delphi were often called bees, as well. My character only lightly touches on this association, occasionally making random future-oriented comments. Her main motive, however, stems from a vision she had only minutes after turning big. In her mind she saw a beautiful white flower moving through a field. The Wandering Daisy was bigger than B at her new size. When she found it, she knew her hive would be home. They are still searching.
Ancient Greece even has a honey how-it-came-to-be story. A nymph named Melissa (meaning “Bee”) was a mythological figure who discovered honey and introduced it to the gods; honey was made as an offering from Mycenean days onward. As a nod to the story, I added to Princess B’s backstory and said she and her family were in a tree when the magic surge hit them. (source)
So that’s Princess B. She’s one of the most fun characters I’ve played, and certainly the least conventional. You wouldn’t beelieve the number of bad jokes you can make when you know this much about bees. Seriously, it feels like I’ve struck honey. Er, gold.
For anyone who hasn’t read Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, here’s a summary.
The Noble class is a homebrew I found on Reddit, and it’s superb. What do you think?
What’s your experience playing unconventional races or classes? Tell me about your unusual characters in the comments.