Thursday, August 2, 2012

KitM: What's in a Name?

Kingdoms in the Mist: What's in a Name

It occurred to me last week that if I was going to keep an ongoing chronicle of my new campaign from design stage right through to actual play, coming up with an official name was something of a priority. A name might help solidify the tone or atmosphere of the campaign, and it would certainly make the task of organizing and labelling my blog entries a lot easier.

For the past month or two, as I played around with the idea of creating a new fantasy campaign, I tended to use the phrase The Southern Isles as a quick mental tag. This was mostly based on the simple fact that the initial campaign setting was leaning toward some islands of a far-southerly persuasion, but I think it was also partly an initially unconscious mirroring of the name of my current Pathfinder campaign - The Northern Isles.

When I realized the two names were so similar, I decided it was time to explore some other options. I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea of The Southern Isles as a campaign name, but I wanted to make sure the name truly reflected some aspect of the new campaign. I started by brainstorming a list of “possibles.” Here’s what I came up with:

  • The Southern Isles
  • After the Fall
  • A New Dawn
  • After the Fire and Ice
  • The Second Age
  • Lost Realms
  • The Seven Kingdoms
  • Kingdoms in the Mist
  • Islands in the Mist
  • The Middle Isle
  • Bone Isle

After looking over the list I decided to eliminate a few right away: 

  • The Southern Isles - I decided, after all that it was too similar to the name of my PF campaign, and I didn’t want to put too much initial emphasis on the notion of south (let the players figure that out for themselves);
  • After the Fire and Ice - hmmm, too close to A Song of Fire and Ice;
  • Lost Realms - too close to The Forgotten Realms;
  • The Middle Isle - the campaign is initially set on the Middle Isle but I expect the players to visit other islands, and the mainland is only 200-250 km. away by sea (and there are other ways of getting there too); and
  • Bone Isle - Bone Isle is another name for The Middle Isle; the previous objection is still valid - and I started wondering whether I might prefer Isle of Bones to Bone Isle anyway.

Having winnowed the original list down to six remaining contenders - though I was willing to consider last-minute entries - I decided to make a short list of some of the design elements I was thinking of for the campaign, and then see if any of the names made sense in that light: 

  • campaign takes place after an Age of Greatness/Wonder - so lots of ancient ruins, artifacts and magic of the past, etc. lying around to be discovered/explored;
  • the previous Age - dominated by an Elven Empire - ended with a series of disasters/catastrophes, the Days of Fire and Ice, that the world has taken centuries to begin to recover from;
  • some people think the new age is - or should be - the Age of Man;
  • it is the - tentative - beginning of an Age of Exploration and Discovery; mostly rediscovering lost lands and lost knowledge; and
  • some other key descriptors: eerie, horror, mystery, the unknown.

When I re-examined my list of “contenders” the name I was happiest with was Kingdoms in the Mist. It seemed to hint at mystery, the unknown, long history, and maybe a sense of the eerie; and the word “kingdoms” suggested a fragmented, quarrelsome world. After choosing it I was a tiny bit concerned that the name echoed Gorillas in the Mist too closely, but I thought the subject matter was different enough to make the point moot (unless of course I get in the habit of adding hordes of killer apes to all my adventures).

So, Kingdoms in the Mist it is.

Next time … Design Decisions Part I.

P.S. The painting, The Fortress Bridge is by the amazing fantasy/SF artist Bob Eggleton. Check out his blog @ The photograph is - I believe - of the ruins of Machu Pichu.