|Second in a series of articles intended to make life easier for new writers who want to contribute to the Metamor Keep setting. See also: Writing in a Shared Universe.|
Characters in Metamor Keep
by Christian O'Kane
©2004 Christian O'Kane -- all rights reserved
Characters: These are the people who populate the Metamor Keep universe. Indeed, they are in every story, and are the heart and soul of our narratives. Creating a character and making them feel real is a challenge every writer labors with.
Metamor Keep, like all universes has a large roster of characters. Some have played small parts while others are major figures. All are important to the story universe, and a new writer needs to consider using them carefully.
In Metamor Keep the characters are rather loosely divided into two groups: writer owned and NPC.
Writer owned characters are, as the name says, 'owned' by a particular writer. This means they are the property of that person, and the 'owner' has the final say about what happens to them. This means that if you want to give John Doe's character a major role in a story, you need to gain John's permission. If you intend to use a character for just a cameo appearance, such as if he doesn't really do anything besides say "Hello" to someone, permission isn't needed. Even so, you do need to have some knowledge of any character you use, cameo appearance or not. For example, if a character is mute, it would be wrong to have him say hello rather than wave or hold up a printed note or some such. I have found that the best thing is to simply ask advice and permission of a writer before using any of their characters. One final thing: A character's owner has the right to control how that character is used. The owner has the right to make you change how you're using his character, up to forbidding you to use their character at all.
NPC stands for "Non Player Character". The term is a holdover from my days of playing role playing games. An NPC is a character in the story that does not belong to any one person. A good example of this in a role playing game would be the barkeeper in the tavern that a group of players have just entered. The barkeeper isn't being played as a character and is run by the Dungeon Master, therefore he is a perfect example of an NPC. In Metamor Keep there are many such NPCs, two of them being Duke Thomas and Nasoj. Neither are owned by any one writer, and both are 'public property'. However, these characters must be used with the same care as any other characters. No less than any 'owned' character, Duke Thomas has his own personality; there are some things he will do gladly, and others that he would never do at all. As the MK controller I have final say about NPCs, so if you are unsure about something to do with an NPC please ask me.
Using a character you don't own is not a hard thing to do, but it must be done with care and understanding. When you do use a character you need to be sure to use them correctly, and not have them act against their known personalities or quirks. For instance, the characters of Matthias and Rickkter are bitter enemies. Any scene with those two in it must take their enmity into account. You cannot have them exchange warm, friendly greetings; the best you could expect from them would be that they acknowledge each other with cold, barely polite glances.
You want to create your own character for Metamor Keep? That's easy. Fortunately, making a truly memorable one isn't as hard as you might think. Having created more characters in MK then I really care to think about, I can pass along a few good suggestions.
First and most important: Make the character real. That might sound silly, but let me explain. Real people aren't perfect; they have flaws, foibles and failings. Make sure your character has his own particular imperfections. Give him good and bad points. For instance, my character, the red fox Misha, is a powerful fighter -- but he is blunt and is famous for his bad temper.
Second: Don't make your character too powerful. We all like having characters that can do everything easily, but they make for poor stories. In Metamor Keep we call this 'the Superman syndrome'. Show me a character with all kinds of massive powers and skills and some dark, earth shattering secret in their past, and I'll show you a victim of the Superman syndrome. Even I made that mistake with Misha. His axe is incredibly powerful, and if I had the chance to do it over again I would tone down the axe's powers or remove them entirely.
The best characters are not all-powerful but have limited abilities. What's great about them is that they have to struggle to overcome obstacles that a more powerful character wouldn't even notice. How interesting would Lord of the Rings have been if Gandalf had been able to simply blast Sauron into oblivion? A good example of this in MK is Rickkter. When he was first introduced, many people complained -- and rightly so -- that he seemed all but omnipotent. He could wield powerful magic and was a superb fighter. But as he appeared in other stories, his limits became apparent. His magic may be powerful, but there are quite a few mages whose spells are stronger. And he may be fine in combat, but there are many at the Keep who are better warriors. One of Rickkter's biggest problems is that he is never really trustworthy. He always has his own agendas going and people are never really sure of his motives. Even Misha, who considers him a good friend, doesn't trust Rickkter completely.
Another example is Misha. He can cast spells and fight, like Rickkter, but with a wide difference. The fox (Misha) is the better warrior of the pair, while Rickkter has a significant edge as far as magic is concerned. In a straight-out, fair sword fight with no magic, Misha would win -- but Rickkter never fights fair, and Misha rarely does. Both would use every trick at their disposal to win.
One big tip on how to make a character really come to life is to base them on real people. Misha is based on me; he has a lot of my likes and dislikes including a love of history and a hobby of building miniatures. Misha's sister, Elizabeth, is based on my own sister! She has my sister's likes, dislikes and habits. I even gave the character a greyhound dog as a pet, just like the one my real sister has!
To close this essay, I'm including some of the more important characters in Metamor Keep. This is only a few of the 100 or so characters in the setting! I have arranged them in the following manner:
Species or type of change
Notes about the character.
Creator: Thomas Hassan
Duke Thomas, a horse morph, rules Metamor Keep from the central courtrooms and chambers of the inner castle, but also spends a good deal of time out on the streets as he talks with the people of the Keep. He doesn't do this every day, but often enough that most Keepers know him by more than just his title. He has many assistants that shadow his movements. The Duke is an NPC; for more information on him, please contact me.
Creator: Charles Matthias
Father Hough was an Ecclesia Priest at an as- yet-unnamed diocese to the south. He is the one who is sent to the Keep during holidays to perform the rites for the small, but earnest Follower population at the Keep. Kidnapped and brutally assaulted by Lord Loriod, he has recovered from the trauma at the Keep. Now he is the Priest for the Keep's Faithful.
Owns and operates the Deaf Mule, a popular inn at the Keep. Can speak, but prefers to listen. Donny is an NPC.
Raven hin'Elric the Lightbringer
Creator: Raven Blackmane
Being of the Lightbringer line, Raven is the head priestess at the Keep, and is the direct intermediary between the gods and the rest of the Keep. She is a wolf morph, and takes her duties seriously, and does not mind extracting a price out of others for her services if it is necessary. Raven tries to maintain a cool, professional exterior at all times. She is generally distant and businesslike with others in the Keep and doesn't open up much emotionally. Still she has a heart in there somewhere. Outwardly, Raven is self-confident to the point of arrogance. She will tolerate no disrespect toward her position or the order. When she has business that involves other members of the Keep, she has a tendency to appear without warning or summons, present her request directly and without preamble and disappear as suddenly as she came. She has developed a close rapport with Kyia (rhymes with sky-uh), a nymph who is actually the spirit of Metamor Keep. Kyia acts as a sort of advisor and general confidante for Raven when she's seeking guidance or focus. Raven's nickname among the Long Scouts is 'The Ice Queen' because of her cold demeanor.
He is a tall, slender man with neatly trimmed hair and dresses in dark robes. Nasoj and his minions, foul green-skinned creatures known as Lutins, have for years been trying to destroy Metamor Keep, which is one of the few things left standing between him and the Midlands. In the Battle of Three Gates, his forces were thrown back, but not after he managed to cast a powerful spell with supernatural aid, a spell which transforms any who abide overlong within Metamor Valley.
No one knows precisely where Nasoj is, nor what his exact plans are, at present. What is known is that Nasoj is out there somewhere, waiting to strike at Metamor Keep again. He controls all of the Giantdowns, but after his defeat in the mega-story Winter Assault his control is definitely slipping. He is the major villain in MK at the moment. Nasoj is an NPC; please contact me before using him.
Creator: Charles Matthias
Thalberg is the Steward at Metamor Keep. The position has been filled by Thalberg, and his forefathers before him, for as long as the Dukedom has existed. The present Steward takes his job very seriously, and he is often a bit too meticulous. He is very hard to deal with, and lords over the running of the maintenance and appearance of the Keep with a tight grip. Only on Duke Thomas' word can an order given by Thalberg be changed. Though he has no magical capabilities, he exerts his influence through force of personality and presence. He is respected by most around the Keep, though he is generally not liked by those who do not know him well.
Misha Brightleaf (did you think I would leave my favorite character out?)
Creator: Chris O'Kane
Red Fox Morph
Misha, a red fox, is thought to be a bit mad by many at the Keep. They consider him an axe-wielding maniac. The axe they are referring to is an ancient weapon of immense power that Misha wields deftly to the detriment of his foes. He cuts off an ear of any Lutin he kills and keeps it on a loop of metal as a memento. He is also a very good mechanic, having fixed the music box that Charles had bought for Lady Kimberly for the Equinox-Easter festival. He is good friends with Will Hardy -- the Keep's Jeweler -- and his daughter Caroline. Misha is head of the Long Scouts, a group of elite scouts at Metamor Keep. Badly wounded in the fighting after Winter Assault, he is has lost part of one ear and several fingers off of one hand.
Lord Brian Avery
Creator: Charles Matthias
One of the nobleman of the valley. Rules the town of Glen Avery. Lord Avery watches over the small village town of Glen Avery from high atop his treehouse with his wife, Angela, and two sons, Christopher and Darien. His father was killed when Nasoj marched over the town seven years ago before reaching Metamor itself. Most everybody in the Glen is a fur because the rest were killed or wounded too seriously to return. They have taken to living beneath the ground in caves or burrows. All of Brian's family are squirrels, an oddity of the curse affecting his children since birth. Lord Avery rules over his people fairly, and treats them as equals in all ways. Recently, he fought in battle himself when Baron Calephas tried to make an assault. This small hamlet has since found peace once again.
Baron Garadan Calephas
Creator: Charles Matthias
One of Nasoj's chief lieutenants. Baron Garadan Calephas was the son of a minor Midlands noble who showed great promise in his early years. He was the pride and joy of his people, displaying brilliance in tactics, strategy, and in trade. However, he had a terrible secret which shocked both his people and most especially his father. Calephas committed pedastry over a hundred times: in other words, he enjoyed seducing and brutally raping young boys. He was exiled from the Midlands, and soon found his way into Nasoj's army. He is master of the port town Arabarb on the western frontier of Nasoj's realm. Recently, he oversaw a campaign in the mountains to the northwest of the Metamor Valley, but was defeated when a small band of Keepers threw his army into disarray. He escaped by turning into a bird, and has since returned to Arabarb. Another favorite villain.
Brian Eirik Coe
Creator: Brian Eirik Coe
Coe, a raccoon, is the Healer at the Keep. However, his skills are almost always in demand throughout the Metamor Valley. It is very hard to find him staying for one place for very long, as there are always more patients it seems. When a patient is so far gone that not even Coe can help, usually the Lightbringer is brought in to intervene on behalf of the gods.
Copernicus is a large lizard, weighing in at 300 pounds. He's quite friendly, fortunately, and loves to share a brew with some friends. He loves astrology and writing, but is mainly mediocre at both. Competent at most things, however, Copernicus can be found anywhere from making eyeglasses to duking it out with the Lutins. Has an ungodly level of skill in pool and other barroom games. He has never been beaten (That is actually written into the MK guidelines!). Cope created the MK universe and controlled it before passing along the reins to me. This character is an NPC.
Creator: Fox Cutter
Red Fox Morph
Fox, as he is usually called, is the Keep librarian. He spends most of his time in the Library in fact, he has a little place beneath his desk where he can curl up to sleep. He is a recluse, and many rumors surrounding his arrival have surfaced. Only Charles knows the truth about his arrival -- that Fox was once a hired killer, and that he came here only to escape the justice that awaited him for killing a knight. Crippled in one leg during Winter Assault, he now prefers his foxtaur form for travel.
Creator: Christian O'Kane
Madog is an automaton, a mechanical creation. He was crafted to resemble a giant red fox. He weighs 300 pounds and is the size of a large dog. Madog was found as a twisted, rusted wreck, and was restored by Misha, Jon, and Smithson. They believed it to be nothing more than a complex mechanism. But Madog is somehow more than that. He is free willed being with a soul. Madog's exact abilities are still unknown, but he is very powerful and could easily defeat any one person at the keep in combat. He has an almost childlike personality; curious, energetic, lighthearted, and friendly. Only recently has it come to light that Madog was created by the Amber order as a guard for their fortress. With the order gone, the automaton has transferred his loyalty to Metamor Keep. Madog is known to be over a thousand years old and his real name is Malabrinum.
Creator: Charles Matthias
Charles came to Metamor Keep six years ago of his own volition. Shortly thereafter he managed to get the Writer's Guild organized. He was that Guild's primary Headmaster, though he has assistance from Phil and Dr. Channing. He has resigned to devote his full time to the Long Scouts and to Garigan. He calls his place 'the little hole in the wall'. Charles has a very regimented schedule; each morning he goes into the cellar to spend time with the five rats who live there and refuse to show themselves much to the world. In the evenings he likes to spend time with Lady Kimberly, or at the Deaf Mule Inn where he takes his dinner and plays a few games of pool. He has come to fall in love with Lady Kimberly. He a member of the Long Scouts.
Michael lived with his family until plague took them each one by one. Michael then left home and set off for adventure up in the north. His party was attacked by Lutins, but rescued by the Keepers. He was too injured to leave though, so had no choice but to stay at The Keep. After a startling whirlwind tour by Copernicus, he began to slowly settle into life at the Keep. His change started slowly, but accelerated during the festival and only stopped a few days later. He is beginning to work for the timber crew, and is still quite inexperienced. An odd experience with a Keeper alchemist has left his fur permanently colored plaid.
Michael is the first MK character and appeared in the original story that led to the MK universe! He is an NPC.