Impractical Applications (Aisling and Character Research)

I’m on GMing hiatus for a little while, so one of my players volunteered to step into the breach with a short-shot: a good deal, if you ask me. So he tells me he’s going to try his hand at the Dresden Files RPG, and while I get a little twitchy (I have this mental block against settings derived from the real world, don’t ask me why), I’m still all right. Until I realize that I don’t know enough.

But that brings me to the character I designed for this mess, a very literary-themed (to the point of being most easily described as a bibliomancer) Irish wizard by name of Aisling. What can I say? I didn’t have much by way of ideas, so her thematics are a combination of Kells references, a whole lot of grounding in literature, and whatever else comes to hand (my personal favorite being a sticky point of her backstory whose solution ended up being inspired by a running joke in the second Dragonbreath book).

Now, most of my characters don’t take that much independent research; usually, I’m pretty familiar with the world, and any situation I find myself in I can metaworld my way through. Not so with this one—it was semi-all-right when I was on an equal (none of us knowing all that much) footing with most of the other players—except the GM but that’s ok—but when we got to the point where almost everyone had read more books more recently than I had, and my library didn’t do a thing about it, I started losing my nerve.

So instead, I ended up researching other things. Taking advantage of the bibliomancer thematics, I pored over some of my other books for useful quotes. A children’s book, Finn McCool and the Great Fish, got me re-interested in Irish legend, something I’d used to enjoy reading when I was younger, and that got me looking at a folk history of Ireland, which actually wasn’t too good for the legends, but was all in enough voice to help me research the dialect.

One other thing I designed her to make me research was manuscript illumination. This was actually the reason behind, and not the result of, the fact that she was a walking hodgepodge of Secret of Kells references; you may remember that my other world is big on illumination, and having a short-term reason to need to research it struck me as an excellent springboard for doing the research I needed for the full-on novel.

Either way, this is one character who’s taken a lot of homework.


  1. satyre says:

    You might find this site to be particularly fruitful for examples.

    Looking at examples of craft, you could do worse than William Morris whose work is very evocative and has an industrial romantic vibe to it which may help you get a handle on modern illumination.

    Good luck with the research!

  2. Ravyn says:

    Thanks! I love the images.

    Most of what I’ve been focusing on lately is materials and techniques, since both Aisling now and the main character in the story I’ve been trying to work on create texts as well as reading them. Illumination’s one of the things my library isn’t too good for; despite the current librarian’s gripe about his predecessor’s predilection for art books, the only thing we had on text illumination was more about the history than about the process.

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