This is the second post describing my process for the Iron Chef Adventure Challenge. The first part is here.
Looking through all of the hooks for the characters, I've managed to put together a situation that incorporates all of them and allows the players to have plenty of choices along the way to accomplishing the goal. I won't go into the situation until I get to putting together the full adventure. Before I put the adventure into its final form, though, I have to deal with a couple of difficulties that I encountered in the process.
First, some of the characters have classes or items that don't work for me. I'm going to use Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion to put the adventure together. That means I need to get rid of the psionics for the Dark Sun characters, and I need to change some of the equipment. Not really a big deal, but it does make for some work fiddling with the details.
Second, is the level range of the characters on the cards. Outside of Layla, none of the characters is what I would call low level. Most of them have double-digit levels, which makes them fairly noteworthy in my view. And having this many high-level characters concentrated and involved in a particular situation makes it pretty world-shaking. To get around this, I'm putting together a few different options for the adventure so that it will be playable with any level characters and the NPCs will scale to match the party. Basically, each NPC will have a low-level, mid-level, and high-level version and details of the adventure will change based on the scale you choose for the NPCs.
Third, I need to change the names of the characters. A lot of the names on the cards need to be changed because they don't make sense, seem too cliche, or are just distracting. These are some of my continuous complaints about names in a lot of fantasy products, especially from this era of D&D, so I wasn't surprised to see it show up in these cards. That's what I am going to deal with right now.
A lot of fantasy writers and game designers seem to default to the same phonetic constructions, regardless of the way they sound (if they are easy to pronounce) or how they feel. Most of them attempt to induce a fantasy feel by introducing names that have so much difference from real-world naming conventions that they break the spell for me. They immediately kill the fantasy by being so fantastic that I can't take them at all seriously.
In this case, the opposite is also true. They use names or nicknames that are so real-world that there is nothing fantastic about them at all or they invoke something that is completely modern.
Aside from these concerns, though, I'm going to change all of the names to remove as much of the copyrighted material as I can. So the first order of business is to change the names to protect my sanity and strip off the serial numbers from the characters.
I'll say up front that I suck at making up names for characters in fantasy games. Most of my characters back in the 70s and 80s tended to be named after characters from fiction or comics, the majority coming from the index of characters in The Silmarillion. Since then I've come to rely more on either historical lists of names or online resources for naming. The resource I use most frequently is the reprinted version of the Treasury of Archaic Names from Judges Guild.
The ToAN has tables for male and female first names, surnames, and titles. It also has tables and systems for creating random "fantastic" names, which tend to be the jumbles of letters that drive me a little crazy, a tavern name generator, and systems for place and geographic names. Most of the names are drawn from medieval European sources, especially old Celtic and Norse. I like it because it forces some consistency on the naming I do and the names sound better to my ear than most of the names produced at random by fantasists. I don't think it's still in production, but you could get a copy from the normal used game sources.
The male name table in ToAN is a d1000 table, so I'm going to roll three d10s and look up all of the possible combinations those three dice could produce on the table. For example, if I rolled a 1, 5, and 8, I would look up the results for 158, 185, 518, 581, 815, and 851 and choose the one that works best. Female names are a d500 table, so I'll roll the same three d10s but divide one in half for the hundreds to produce the same options for each roll. If it seems appropriate to the character, I'll tack on a title or nickname as well.
So, running through each character and using the ToAN, here's what I've come up with:
451 Sagus: I'm reading this like magus with a leading s. It's not horrible, but it really doesn't seem to fit a druid that works as a mercenary. I would have changed this one anyway. The roll is 1, 2, and 6 so the names from the table are Asaf, Barstow, Bracken, Clipster, Irvin, or Jawaharial. I'm going with Bracken.
452 Benson: This one definitely needs to get changed, because I can't look at it without thinking of the sitcom from the early 80s. ToAN gave me Conor, Cylarus, Natty, Plummer, Tufnell, and Wightman. I like Conor for my former bear-wrestling druid. For the bear, I'm tempted to call him Ben since I have old TV shows in my head now. I'm going with Natty instead. It seems like a good name for an old bear that used to wrestle in a circus.
453 Aldo Gladhand: This is one of the names I probably would have kept. Aldo seems to fit a halfling, and Gladhand is a great surname or nickname for an outgoing, friendly nature priest. Rolling gets me Barret, Bjarni, Griggs, Hollister, Tilloch, or Vokos. Hollister is the diminutive nature priest.
454 Layla Necuurluf: I would probably keep her proper name, but drop the surname. There's no sense in a character that has no family or understanding of human language to have a surname. Rolling gives me Brita, Cora, Mignon, Renata, Silvia, Vicentia. I'm going with Renata as her given name, but taking a clue from the movie Nell, she calls herself Nana.
455 Martha Bigbones ("the Great"): Martha and her nicknames actually work or this character, but they're pretty bland. ToAN gives me Aina, Alfrida, Banba, Beara, Halina, or Helga. Helga is too typical for a large woman in a pseudo-medieval fantasy environment. I'm going with Beara. If anyone met someone that new here before she learned to cover her weight with illusion, they would hear her called Big Beara or Beara the Bear.
456 Bilkon: Meh. I could probably take or leave this one. Name choices from the table are Alcan, Allyn, Darrell, Eager, Hunter, and Kaspar. I'm calling him Alcan.
573 Manawabe: I like this character's name. It completely distinguishes the character from everyone else and gives the feel of a pulpy African jungle shaman. I'm going to change it to something more Meso-American. A quick search on Aztec names and a roll on this page gets me Nochehuatl as the name of our visiting shaman.
574 Logan: Every time I see this name I see Wolverine from the X-Men, not a reclusive female druid. Rolling got me Aithne, Bruna, and Maya, thanks to rolling double ones. I love the name Maya for the former Grand Druid.
575 Grindlethorpe: This works for a gnome for me, but somehow doesn't seem to fit Krynn in my mind. Moving it out of Krynn, though, it would be okay. ToAN gives me the choice of Findley, Forester, Halfdan, Hatcher, Kirk, and Kurd. Since gnomes seem to have surnames in a lot of the old TSR materials and Forester makes a great surname for a gnome, I'm taking the first two in order and calling the illusionist Findley Forester.
576 Burganet: This is another one of the names that doesn't sound horrible, but doesn't really seem to fit the character. Rolling got me Aldwin, Alvan, Endicott, Freeman, Marsden, and Norvin. None of those really screams to me either, so I'm going with Aldwin and giving him a title as well. Rolling on the title tables came up with Golemsmasher. So the formerly megalomaniacal abjurer is Aldwin Golemsmasher.
577 Usteria: This name makes me think of a houseplant. It definitely needs changing. Rolling on the female tables got Karine, Leila, Lucinda, Ludmila, Nita, and Novomira. I like Nita.
659 Herminard the Eloquent: I like this name, but it reminds me of the evil cleric from Dragonlance. The roll got me Amadis, Arder, Megan, Pinkstone, Thornwell, or Whitwell. I'm using Thornwell and changing up his nickname to get Thornwell the Glib.
660 Quick Wenzer: Oh look, a fantasy name with a z in it. How unusual! Besides that, it reminds me of Kenzer & Co. As appropriate as a gladiator named after the makers of Hackmaster is, it needs changing. The tables give me Bede, Bjorn, Jahverbhai, Maddern, Todhunter, Walsham. Since every good former gladiator needs a nickname, I'm picking one of those as well. A roll on the title tables came up with Helmhewer. I'm changing that so we have Bjorn Helmsplitter.
661 Dlasva: This has a nice Slavic sound to it, but doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. Instead, our merchant gets to be either Baring, Barton, Greenleaf, Hartwig, Ivor, or Kroh. Ivor it is.
662 Captain Kazhal: I actually like this name for a caravan master, even with the zh in it. I'm keeping the title. The Treasury gave me Beck, Bidwell, Jagadis, Lovegood, Ranald, or Sibert. I'm combining a couple to get Captain Ranald Beck.
664 Barnabas: This is another one of the names that works for the character and doesn't sound too crazy or out of place. Rolling gets me Cadwallader, Carlyle, Dirk, Duer, Eudo, or Eyulf. None of those really fits as well as Barnabas, but I'm going with Carlyle.
So, the druidic faction is Bracken the mercenary, Conor and his bear Natty, Renata or Nana, Nochehuatl, and Maya.
The cabal of wizards has Alcan the invoker, Findley Forester and Big Beara the illusionists, Aldwin Golemsmasher the abjurer, and Nita the transmuter.
The caravan consists of Captain Ranald Beck the caravan master, Ivor the trader, Bjorn Helmsplitter and Carlyle the guards, and Thornwell the Glib, entertainer and orator extrordinaire.
Finally, there's the halfling nature priest, Hollister.
Now I have to write up the stat blocks, draw some maps, and write out the details of the adventure.