Friday, April 12, 2013

Design Diary: Unveiling the Handmaidens

Names. If they don’t simply spring into my head, characters can go for weeks, or months before they gain a proper name.
In converting Thorn’s account of the dungeons beneath Mistamere into a proper adventure, I needed names. Lots of names.
Thank goodness for Google, Wikipedia, and a host of “name your baby” sites on the interwebs.
Karameikos being modeled loosely after a mix of Slavic and Roman cultures, those were the types of names I tried to stick to in researching identities for the ten that make up Silva’s Army.
Names are important things, and I didn't take giving them out lightly. I didn't just use them to separate out the faces of Silva's Army, but also to sharpen the focus of each one's voice, and personality. Sometimes, I searched for a specific meaning, and looked for a name to match. Other times, I went the other way: a name crept into my head, and I looked to see just what it meant, whether or not it would "fit" the character. In most cases, the Handmaidens named themselves.
Katarin was the first to get a name, and I’ll admit, she got that one mainly for the sound. Her surname came later, “Pevnoruk” from the meaning “steady-handed.” Fitting, since her mother is the Wisdom of Eltan’s Spring.
Brynne’s name comes from the Slavic for “defender.” It was given to her ironically, but she grew into it, as her backstory as Katarin’s tomboyish playmate came into being.
Jasna came from her characterization in dealing with Bargle, her mind every bit as shrewd as that of the renegade thief and magician. "Jasna" is from the southern Slavic "jasno" meaning "sharp, clear." 
Little Petra’s name comes from her backstory as a foundling, as her adoptive parents called her a gift from Petra (the Immortal).
The cousins Fiala and Anya who work at the Hook and Hatchet got their names from Czech roots for “violet,” with connotations of shyness; “wallflower” and the Russian “grace,” or “gracious.”
Evelina’s name comes from the Gaelic “lively; pleasant.” Before losing her parents in the razing of Luln, she was just that. She has become shy and quiet, but is starting to come back to her old self in the service of the Baron Halaran. The baron is well aware that she is the eyes and ears of the Handmaidens within Tarnskeep, and is careful about what he says when the girl is in earshot.
Irina (Slavic: “peaceful”) is the moderator within Silva’s Army. When Jasna and Brynne butt heads, it is Irina who keeps them from coming to blows.
Magda (Slavic/German “maiden”) is another of the girls named somewhat ironically, as she helps her parents farm, tending sheep and pigs.
Last to be named, Morana didn’t get her name until I’d begun researching the background and history of the Darine, the “lost tribe” of Traldar that fled west in the early days of the Beast Man invasion. 
A general rule for adventure writing is the so-called “rule of three:” every encounter, be it trap, puzzle, or interaction with an NPC or monster should never have “just one” solution. Plan for at least three ways around any obstacle in the dungeon. 
Morana came about as my “third,” and is meant to be something of a mystery — Silva and Aurora aren’t enough. The Known World, indeed, all of Mystara is vast and full of wonder, excitement, danger. While I’ve chosen to focus on the struggle between the Andahar royal family and the demonic scourge, there are as many other stories in the world to tell as there are inhabitants. 
A third mystery, a third story waiting in the wings, Morana became the bearer of the third Eye of Traldar, the Viridian Eye. While the Fire Opal eye can show possible outcomes of future events, the Viridian Eye allows the user to choose which will come to pass, quite possibly overwriting existing history to make it so.
Morana -- named for the Slavic goddess associated with winter, death, and rebirth-- holds countless deaths in her hands, though she does not yet know it. And her story will soon entwine with that of the rest of her sister Handmaidens…..

What goes into the naming of your characters, be they PCs or NPCs, main characters or side characters? What sorts of naming conventions have you used or come up with for the many nations of the Known World?

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