Let Me Tell You About My Character: Vorelle
I do that a lot, actually. I like making new characters, and trying new things, so when asked to create one new character for a new campagin, I'll likely as not show up with a selection for the DM to look at. Of course, the DMs always say, "Play whichever one you want to play," which is no help at all.
Anyway, for this Forgotten Realms campaign, I decided to see what I could do with a Ranger. For inspiration, I turned to the Hero Builder's Guidebook, an excellent D&D reference, and began rolling randomly on their character background tables. I made some interesting rolls. My new Ranger's family turned out to be not very nice people; they came out as both poor and evil, which I interpreted as petty (and not very competent) criminals. I began to get a picture of this character as the only good member of a pretty rotten family, who (perhaps) had taken to wandering the woods in an attempt to escape her home life.
I started to wonder what it must be like for a good character to have to be constantly battling with her family. What would that constant conflict do to a person?
I remembered an interesting thing that happened in Lois McMaster Bujold's book, Shards of Honor. The heroine has been tasked with keeping a secret, and everyone around her (under the impression that they're helping her) is trying to get her to talk about it. She has to watch what she says so closely that she develops a stutter.
I don't know whether that's medically sound or not, but it was a cool literary device and I decided to swipe it for my character. Because of her constant family conflict, she'd be shy and withdrawn, not really comfortable around people. And because she'd had to watch what she said for so long, she'd have a stutter.
I had the basic character, so now I had to name her. The Forgotten Realms sourcebook, while an outstanding refernece in most respects, uses the very annoying "six names" method of conveying naming conventions; instead of actually explaining what the naming convention of particular culture is, they just give you six sample names and call it good. In an earlier post, I discussed why that's no good. I didn't want to use one of the six, but I did want to find something that vaguely fit. Taking a look at the names, I tentatively decided that they sounded vaguely European, sort of French with a bit of German on the side.
Armed with my baby name book (an invaluable resource for any gamer), I set out to create a French-y name. I rejected the "-ette" ending immediately as too obviously French...but the "-elle" ending, I thought, had possibilities. I scanned for a suitable syllable to go on the beginning, and was looking, I think, at "Veronique." "Verelle" was okay, but I decided I liked "Vorelle" better, and I had my name. As made-up names go, I think it's one of my better ones. It isn't a real name, but it sounds like it ought to be, which is (in my opinion) what you should be shooting for in a made-up name.
And, after all that...I didn't use the character in the Forgotten Realms campagin. I opted for a version of the Grace character instead. I kept the single paragraph write-up for Vorelle anyway, because she was an intereting character and I thought I might get the chance to play her someday.
My chance came less than a year later when I joined an online game in the Wold. The game I was joining took place in a "City of Thieves" which was trying to go straight. The players were exchanging e-mails about what kinds of characters to create, and we'd decided that it would be kind of cool to have an "all-stealth" group. A lot of Rogues, sure, but also other kinds of stealthy characters--notably Rangers.
My initial character idea for a Rogue got rejected as too dark for the world (and she's quite a character, too; I'll need to do a Blog entry about her someday). I was poking around looking for ideas for an alternate character, and came across my notes on Vorelle. I thought she might be interesting to play--and the stutter struck me as much more do-able when I was typing my character's words and actions rather than actually trying to speak like that.
I've been playing Vorelle on line for just short of two years now, and I have to say she has surprised me. I knew that giving her that stutter would make her an interesting character, but what I didn't appreciate was how heartbreakingly vulnerable it would make her. Here's somebody who pretty much can't talk, and I continue to be surprised at how often that's actually dangerous. Vorelle is a fun and interesting character, with all kinds of growth possibilities. I'm having fun playing her, and I know she's made an impression on my fellow gamers.