Well, Blizzcon is gone, 3.02 is here. Warcraft has essentially been reinvented anew and it’s time to start the Katafray Project going. In this project, we intend to basically show you the entire life of a character, from the beginning to the end. (Should an end ever occur!) As with every life, however, this journey begins at conception. So ladies and gentlemen, let’s take a look at how I conceptualised Katafray.
Katafray, of course, had a few basic parameters I had to observe. Since this character was being based on a poll to decide what race, class and gender she would be, I had to create a female draenei paladin. From there, the question was thinking about personality. I’m a firm believer that personality comes first, not backstory – You play your personality, so it’s the most important thing to get right. Backstory can be created on the fly.
As soon as it became clear that I’d be playing a draenei, the idea of inverting the classic ‘can’t speak common’ trope came to mind – I wanted to play a draenei who spoke common with a perfect Stormwind accent, and was proud of that fact. So immediately a few traits were coming to mind: She had to be intelligent, a touch arrogant, and dignified. (She had to be able to sell that declaration, “Actually, I speak your simple tongue quite easily. It was not a difficult task.”)
So, at this point, I cheated. I made an executive decision to rip off someone else’s work, and basically base her wholesale on a character I liked – Charles Emerson Winchester III, from M*A*S*H.
Fleshing It Out
Now, of course, I didn’t just want to transplant Charles into Warcraft – He was too male, too much a surgeon, and too human to be a female draenei paladin. But moreover, I didn’t want anyone to be able to spot my inspiration. I needed to file the serial numbers off. So the first thing I did was create a list of character traits that I felt encapsulated Winchester:
- Classical Music Lover
- Politely Xenophobic
Next, I struck off any that were clearly not ones I intended to use. Blue-Blooded got the flick immediately, it didn’t fit the draenei history, and Bostonian likewise got the flick. Conniving got nixed because it didn’t suit a paladin. In the end, I settled on retaining the following:
- Politely Xenophobic
From here, I wanted to double that list out with new attributes, so that these ones were swamped and an original personality became obvious. These had to be traits that could not be ascribed to Winchester. The first that I thought of was “Inexhaustible”. Winchester, famously, ‘acknowledged only one four o’clock per day’; Katafray was going to pride herself on being able to work through the whole day if need be. This formed a nice contrast to Winchester and hinted at her military background. (Winchester, of course, was a major, but nobody would ever describe him as military.) Also harking to her class, I added in ‘Formally religious’: While I didn’t want her to have a tremendous wellspring of personal faith, as a paladin I wanted her to be concerned with the rituals of her faith.
At this point, though, I was getting worried I was making Katafray too positive. A good character has positive and negative qualities; this is not only realistic but also lets a player involve their character in more scenarios (as they can play the heel or the face). So I chose to add in ‘unforgiving’ as a trait – While Winchester was generally a forgiving person at heart, Katafray is prone to holding grudges. Continuing to try and add in darker fare, I included ‘estranged’. Winchester was proud of his family, Katafray was not going to talk about hers.
At this point, I really needed three more. However, since at the time I did this I miscounted the number of traits that were listed, I actually only had two more that I came up with: Generously charitable, and responsible. Winchester was neither of these – While he was charitable within very formal ways (he continued a family tradition of anonymously giving a box of candy to a local orphanage at Christmas) nobody would ever describe him as freely giving. Katafray was going to believe charity was a noble trait, instead. Similarly, she was never going to say “this isn’t my problem”. She was going to view the lives of anyone in the Alliance as her responsibility; keeping them fed and alive was her job as a paladin. To give this a little light and shade, I altered the trait slightly in my head to not include responsibility for their emotional or spiritual health – That would be a priest’s job. But otherwise, she would not shirk her duty, indeed, she would seek it out.
In the end, my list looked like this:
- Formally religious
- Politely Xenophobic
With this list in my head, I now had a good image of what she looked like. Someone proud and suspicious, yet devoted. Someone who spoke with no contractions, and who never truly trusted the orcs on Draenor. This may well be the cause of her falling out with her family, I decided. On Draenor, she counselled firmly for defensive measures against the orcs, clashing bitterly with her more liberal, trusting family. When the orcs became hostile, she refused to forgive her family for their foolishness, and she forsook her own family in their flight from the planet. As such, I also quickly mentally added in, “Hates orcs” as a trait. This tied her nicely into Warcraft lore, didn’t feel too much like Winchester, but kept the qualities I wanted in place.
I didn’t bother too much with a detailed background. I had a good, solid understanding of her personality, and a few quirks in place to run with. The rest could be developed on the fly.
And now a name…
Of course, I had an advantage with this detail: Her name had to be Katafray. What does Katafray mean? Well, it’s a plant from South America, famed for its use in beauty products. But as Wil Anderson observed, it sounds like a Dungeons & Dragons name.
Now it is one.
Still, in minor tribute to its origins, I decided to declare that the name here means, “Acclaimed beauty”.
And boom! We have a character.
Next up: Avatar design.