Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Monster Names in Frayed Knights

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 17, 2010

Edward Maurina asked me about how I come up with monster names in Frayed Knights.  He is on a tight schedule naming monsters, too, so I figured I’d answer sooner rather than later. Though his question did make me think: “How DO I name monsters in Frayed Knights?” While I’m done with all the monsters for the first act, the other two don’t have a full rogue’s gallery of bad guys yet.  I’ll need some more.

I don’t any one process, but there are a few places I go for inspiration. But, Ed, I should warn you that monsters in Frayed Knights don’t stay on the serious side.

The conceit of Frayed Knights is that the world should feel like it was designed by a juvenile-minded, over-zealous and under-talented old-school dungeon master for his weekly pen-and-paper RPG. That’s not a big stretch – I’m writing what I know. :)  So the humor is not always overt, but I hope that it’s more in how earnestly over-the-top it seems. And that comes through in the monsters, too.

#1 – Traditional monsters

I do have some plain ol’ boring monsters in the game.  Like ogres and trolls.  Hmmm…. come to think of it, I’m probably gonna have to give them the ol’ descriptor treatment from #2 below, because they are too boring. Okay. Yet another change, coming up.

#2 – Traditional monsters, adjectivized.

I really don’t think “adjectivized” is a word. But then, neither are some of the descriptors I may be using.

When I was in sixth grade, a friend of mine started talking about the “Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.” He’d heard the name of the bird. While the rest us normal humans would call it, “Some kind of woodpecker,” the more specific taxonomy struck us as hilarious. This was also a common trick to pad out names in games like D&D (particularly later in an edition’s run, when they are struggling for monster ideas themselves).

So the idea of all these zillions of variants running around the world with some kind of spotter’s guide classifying them all, written by adventurers who might be short on creativity or a sense of wonder, sounded like a good idea at the time.

So we have weed goblins. One NPC refers to “diamondback nagas” (referring to snake-women creatures). Juvenile Ceiling Lurkers (as opposed to Adult Ceiling Lurkers, or Floor Lurkers, or whatever…).  Brittlebone Skeletons. Etc.

Sometimes the most straightforward descriptors work best. I have some mages that are “Whitelisted.” A local tyrant has outlawed all magic in his domain, except for those who serve him. Theoretically they are only using approved spells under the direct direction of the tyrant.  The name isn’t particularly amusing, but it does help tell the story, and simply explain why there are magic users in a place where magic is outlawed.

#3 Adjectivized Monsters with a Thesaural Twist

There I go, making up words again. See? It’s easy! Even for a no-talent hack like me!

In doing #2, I usually try to avoid the really cool-sounding adjectives. Unless they sound amusing when mixed with the monster. A “Feral Goblin” is kinda mundane-sounding, but a “Feral Bunny” sounds pretty stupid, which is right up my alley.

But a lot of the descriptors come out kinda boring, anyway. So I do what any other juvenile-minded, overzealous, low-talent DM would do… I hit the thesaurus. And I grab a synonym for the word I’m looking for, ideally one that’s completely inappropriate, esoteric, or archaic.

#4 – Just Plain Goofy Variants

Gummi Golems. Pus Golems. Paper Mache Dragons.  The idea of some absolutely insane variant or mutant is just kinda fun. So I threw them in.

#5 – Words Reminiscent of Other Words…

Pokmor Xang Cultists serve Pokmor Xang, the god of boils, blisters, and pimples. Yeah, I had fun with that one. And the name just sounds silly – the first reason – and it was reminiscent of the word “pockmarked” – a scarring condition that might follow the conditions represented by this god.

Then there’s the god, Nom. The rat-god. There’s an obvious lame joke there, with rats eating everything (“Nom, nom, nom…”), and it was fun to call his worshippers the Rats of Nom (playing on an old children’s book and movie that somehow got stuck in my head). But in-game they are actually called “Nom Rats.”

So there it is. I really don’t know if my monsters and names in this game are actually any good – but Mr. Maurina didn’t ask for good ideas. He just wanted ideas. I’m full of bad ones. :)


Filed Under: Design, Frayed Knights - Comments: 5 Comments to Read



  • skavenhorde said,

    ALl HAIL The next ruler of the reals NOM The rat-god. His servants squeek, “NOM!! for the NOm god!!!

    Love that name. He wins the game right? Oh come on that would be such a twist that the creatures that are just level 1 training fodder end up as the rulers of the world.

    ALL HAIL NOM! :P

    Absolutely love that name. Thanks for including at least a decent rat in your game and you can’t get any more decent than a rat-god. We normally just get pushed around killed off as training dummies for these snot-nosed wannabe adventurers.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    LOL – yeah. The Rats of Nom have a very small, optional role in this first game. But it telegraphs their much bigger role in Game 2. The quest is currently entitled, “The Rat’s Asp.”

  • Ed Maurina said,

    First, thanks for the fast answer. I hoped you already had an article and I’d only missed it.

    Second, thanks for the article. The fact that you didn’t have an article, but were willing to spin one together in such short order. In a word: Awesome. You sir are prolific. I don’t know how you find the time.

    Third? No no no, let’s not continue with the numbering thing…

    I realized when I asked that you and I were taking a somewhat different directions. You are taking the humorous (perhaps Robert Asprin-esque) road while I am well, let’s call it creative old school.

    #1 – Traditional monsters => Yeah, boring, but somehow comforting. I like your method for your game better, but this is still a possibility for me.

    #2 – Traditional monsters, adjectivized. => Wonderful. I entertained this idea too, but with so many sprites to associate w/ names this hole started to look deep. Nonetheless, I loved games like Wizardry and Might and Magic 1 (my first love in the world of RPGs) and they did this to some extent. Fighting a ‘Tenacious Leprechaun’ just seemed so much more fun.

    #3 Adjectivized Monsters with a Thesaural Twist – This is closer to where I’m going now. Instead of thesaural twisting I’m using lingual-twisting. (Hey, you’re not the only one who gets to make up words.)

    #4 – Just Plain Goofy Variants – Again, a great idea which works in your humorous world, but one I’m staying away from for now.

    #5 – Words Reminiscent of Other Words… – This I hadn’t thought of. This truly fits the ‘juvenile-minded’ direction you say you want to go in. I like it.

    So, thanks again for your time and your effort. As usual, good stuff. I will continue to experiment and go from there. With any luck my end product won’t turn out too badly.

  • Miral said,

    And the Nom Rats outgrabe…. ;)

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Ed – Actually, I’m almost always struggling with topics on what to write about. So I love suggestions. The post I was gonna have up today gets to wait until tomorrow. :)

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