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.
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. 🙂
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