Kathy's All-Purpose Blog

I guess some people have different blogs for different subjects, but this is it for me, baby. One blog to bring them all, or something.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Let Me Tell You About My Character: Vorelle

Vorelle was first created when my friend Tony was getting ready to start a new campaign. It was going to be set in the Forgotten Realms, and everybody was going to need a new character (or at least, a different character from the one we'd been playing in the old campaign). Of course, I didn't make just one new character, because why make one when you can make three?

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 Because of her constant family conflict, she'd be shy and withdrawn, not really comfortable around people.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.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

What Happened Thursday

Wednesday night, or rather very early Thursday morning, I woke up in the night, needing to use the bathroom. That's not unusual for me; I get up three or four times most nights. So I got up, went into the bathroom, sat on the commode, and tinkled. So far, so good.

The next thing I remember is trying to gather my thoughts, which seemed really scattered. They were chasing each other around in my head like little bunnies, but I couldn't get two of them to string themselves together to make anything coherent. Then I realized that I was lying, not in my bed as I'd been assuming, but on a cold tile floor.

Believe it or not, that's not too terribly unusual for me, either. I'm a fainter. I've fainted before and will doubtless do so again. And when I come to, I'm usually very disoriented and confused not to be waking up in bed. What was unusual was that I'd had absolutely no warning signs. No dizziness, no shortness of breath, no sensation that I'm experiencing the world from the end of a very long tunnel--all of which I usually get before I keel over. Nope, one minute I was sitting on the commode and the next minute I was lying on the floor.

My cat was meowing, so I started talking to her to try to reassure her. I realized that I had fetched up against the door and my body was keeping it shut. The cat, who was accustomed to being able to just push her way in, was concerned. Or possibly miffed; it's hard to tell with cats. But while I was talking, I realized that my teeth felt really sharp.

When I felt up to it (which was another minute or so) I got up, and I looked at my teeth in the bathroom mirror. Sure enough, two of them were broken clean off.

By this time I was pretty freaked out, so I went and got the phone. I laid back down on the bed (I didn't want to keel over again) and tried to figure out who to call. 911? The obvious answer, but I needed some hand-holding and the paramedics weren't likely to provide it. Besides, what if I was just being silly? What if it was all nothing? What if I went to the emergency room in my nightie and it turned out to be no big deal? How embarrassing.

I ran through a mental list of people I could call at 2:15 am (because that was the time), and my friend Dave won. Or lost, depending on how you look at it. I called Dave, and he picked up on the second ring. I said "I just fainted with no warning and I broke two teeth and I'm really freaked out," and Dave said, "I'll be right over." This is one of the roughly two million things that makes Dave such a good friend.

I unlocked the door and laid back down, and by the time Dave got there I was thinking something like my old self. Of course I'd have to go to the hospital. I'd fainted and I didn't know why, and that could be serious. Dave came and talked to me for a bit, then waited while I got dressed, then took me to the emergency room and stayed with me until I was discharged around 6 am. Dave rocks.

The ER doctor said that sometimes when the bladder contracts it can trigger a fainting response, and that sometimes people faint with no warning signs beforehand. He agreed with me that it was unusual, and worth looking into, but absent any other evidence it would appear to be just one of those things. So they did lots and lots of tests at the hospital. I had an EKG, and a CAT scan, and blood and urine tests, and a chest X-ray (for reasons I'm still not clear on). And when all the results came back....we still had no idea. Just one of those things, I guess.

By now my face was beginning to hurt. They kept asking me at the hospital what I'd hit my teeth/face/chin on, and I kept explaining that I had no idea. I was unconscious at the time, you see. But they prescribed me Vicodin for the pain, and then Dave drove me to the 24-hour Walgreen's to get the prescription filled.

Back home, I called and left a message with my dentist, whose office was scheduled to open at 8 am. I was by now very, very tired, having had maybe 2 hours' sleep and being on Vicodin besides. But I was sure the dentist's office would call me right back at 8 and I might as well stay up because then I'd know when my appointment was and how long I'd have to sleep.

Eight came and went, and I was really, really sleepy. I took the phone to bed with me, thinking they'd for sure call back any minute and meanwhile it would be lovely to get horizontal. My dentist's receptionist did call me back, full of sympathy and apologies. It seems that last week, when it rained so hard, the office had flooded. They were closed.

She managed to get an appointment for me with another dentist who used to share a practice with my dentist. The trouble was, this other dentist was in Kirkland, and being no-sleep-Vicodin girl, there was no way I should be getting behind the wheel. The other challenge was, the appointment was for 10 am, and it was now 8:50; I had just over an hour to find somebody to drive me on what is usually a 40-minute trip. I called my friend Judith, but she had to get her daughter to kindergarten. I called Dave, but he'd gone to sleep. Thea didn't answer, Beverly doesn't drive, and I knew Rick had an appointment, so I ended up calling a cab (which worked out fine, so none of the people mentioned should feel bad at all).

The dentist fixed my teeth, and did a great job, and I took a cab home and was at last able to sleep.

So now I have bruises on my face, and the gums and nerves where my teeth broke are still really sore. I can't bite (or even put my front teeth together really), and I lisp when I talk. Solid food is not my friend. But I still have some Vicodin left.

So anyway, that is the tale of my Thursday adventure. I'd just as soon not repeat it, but I'm actually pretty optimistic that I won't, after having all those tests at the hospital.

Oh, and judging by the bruise on my chin, it was the tile floor that I hit. There's an actual grout line.