Author Topic: Monstrous nomenclature  (Read 248 times)

Jubal

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Monstrous nomenclature
« on: April 20, 2020, 01:26:06 PM »
So, I've been adding more to The Exile Princes lately, which has meant trying to work out turning some more medieval demons into enemy creatures for it - which has led me to be pondering the problem of naming them quite a lot. When a monster appears which is new to you, do you prefer it if its name is a) plain words (e.g. "devourer", "abyssal beast"), b) contains plain elements (e.g. "cemetaur")  or c) novel (e.g. "sarien", "vorthal")?

Initial thoughts: a) works best for individualised monsters. Fighting the Master of Lies works well, fighting 2d4 Masters of Lies works less well. It also seems to give a more demonology/biblical feel, though I honestly don't know why (As in, I don't know if that's a result of biblical texts actually giving creatures plainer  names, or if it just dates back to things like Warhammer where the bloodletters, plaguebearers, screamers etc have the plain-ness as a distinct nomenclature feature).

The middle option I think works well mainly if you can relate the creature well to something else. Like, the cemetaur is a disappointment in The Witcher because we're used to -taur being half-and-half beasts (cen-, mino-), even if that is etymologically nonsensical. So it's possibly the best option but hard to actually use in practice.

Doing something really novel gives more freedom of action, but OTOH it can make it harder to explain to people why they should care about the new creature and how they should feel about it, because they have less mental hooks to hang it on. That's great for a weird/SF aesthetic, but can be more of a struggle in a fantasy one, especially if you have limited time or options to build up people's feelings and mythos around a creature.

(Also it strikes me that this could be a good subject for an article, if anyone would be interested in reading that?)
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Phoenixguard09

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Re: Monstrous nomenclature
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2020, 10:40:26 PM »
With regards to your own question, I feel like Option A would be the way to go. For the kind of project Exile Princes is, you probably want easily recognisable and remembered names to facilitate ease of gameplay.

I would be keen to read an article on the subject though.
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Jubal

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Re: Monstrous nomenclature
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2020, 11:22:05 PM »
Mm, I'm mostly going with C so far, oddly enough. Partly I'm really struggling to find plain names that seem to get the gist of the creatures I want or have available.

Like my latest additions are the vorthals. They're kind of like winged brown monsters with weird heads that look very 1970s Doctor Who. I've decided they're arboreal predators, that drop down on the player as ambushers sometimes. Now I could call them, I dunno, "drop screechers" or "arboreal stalkers" or something, but I'm not sure that gets much useful across anyway? The player has probably encountered them by being ambushed in deep forest, a name that tells the player "hey this sounds like it might ambush me in a deep forest" doesn't feel super relevant by that point! So "Vorthal" is less to remember in syllables, and I just build what they are into the player's interactions with them.

The main monsters regularly are the wibulnibs (type three, but obviously basically imps), kinklades (bipedal boar-like creatures, no idea what a plainer name would even be), and quarquares (wierd grassland bipeds with trunks that look a little like medieval qbert). Most monsters get at least one descriptive term when you encounter them or click them on the map e.g. "a party of whooping quarquares" or "a pack of ferocious wibulnibs" which gives the player a bit of flavour. The lanfyches are the fourth most common monster and I guess are type 2 in that they're land fishes -> lanfyches, they're literally a fish with legs (and a gas breath weapon).

I'm considering having plainer names for some of the bigger boss monsters though, where you'll probably fight no more than one of them in a game. I'm going to add three new boss fights for the end of dungeon crawls sometime soon. One I've decided has a type C name, the Morglathax, a sort of disgusting smelling troll with lots of human heads growing out of the back of its neck. One I'm thinking has a type A, the Beast of Deceits (fits as you already get Decievers as creatures in lower dungeon levels) - the BoD will be genuinely horrible to fight as it's comparatively weak for a boss but will possess your companions and force you to fight and possibly kill them. And then I have a creature which is going to switch form between a defensive pile of serpents that's hard to hit and an aggressive snarling many-headed beast. I can't think what to call that. Was thinking "abyssal devourer" or something but I don't really know if I want this world to have that sort of Abrahamic-religious idea of a demonic abyss. Thoughts welcome!

But yeah, an article sounds like an idea. If I ever have the time and energy again.
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Phoenixguard09

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Re: Monstrous nomenclature
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2020, 10:17:30 PM »
For your third boss, have you considered going with something which evokes the Lernean Hydra? From your description, sounds like there are a few similarities (though clearly it is quite a different creature).
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Jubal

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Re: Monstrous nomenclature
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2020, 11:01:11 PM »
I think my worry is that if I evoke the hydra, people will assume it IS a hydra or works like one, which from a tactical perspective I don't want. For example, that might lead them to waste precious resilience points on using fireball abilities if they have them (burning off the head stumps being traditionally how you kill a hydra) whereas that won't be tactically that effective here.

(This is especially true since monsters elsewhere in the game  that actually have a mythical pedigree do have mechanical specialities in some cases to simulate their weaknesses, like the cockatrice which is traditionally mainly harmed by the crow of the rooster, against which the battle chicken unit has a *massive* damage bonus).
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Phoenixguard09

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Re: Monstrous nomenclature
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2020, 11:12:11 PM »
I see your point, but that said, the bait and switch as the player uses fire in an attempt to get an advantage and then watching as it has less than the desire effect could still be fun. :P
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