Names for Nimrods

Just wanted to quickly throw is article out there, no meta-jokes about the blog being dead, no graphics. Let’s get to it.

It occurs to me that a lot of people who run/play RPGs have trouble naming things in their games. Characters, cities, or organizations, they all need a catchy name that the players will easily remember. Maybe it comes easier to me, because I don’t really place too much overall importance on it, but I’ve known players that took days and days to come up with a name for their character, looking for that perfect one. But names, like any other idea, are cheap, and there are a few methods for coming up with names that I’d like to share, in hopes of alleviating some of that “perfect name” stress.

  1. Syllable Smashing – The first because it’s the easiest to do, syllable Smashing is just that. While you’re doing your writing, just start stringing random syllables together until you come up with something that sounds vaguely like a word. The stress and “softness” (or hardness) of various sounds can say a lot about the setting, for instance, I find that a lot of harsh V and K sounds are good for more sinister or uncivilized settings, and G’s and Bs are better for more “traditional” people or places. Like if I were to say “Revik of Varkara and Gorel Gabriath met to discuss a truce”, you could probably guess (given proper context) That Revik is a goblin.But obviously, there aren’t a lot of aspects to this method that could be considered hard-and-fast rules. Pros: Easy, Quick. Cons: Can sound like baby-talk if not handled carefully. More examples: Dorgenallen Xerxesian, gnome archmage of The Xermesa Mages Alligiance, located in the city of Tongadall.
  2. Translate-Speak – Arguably one of the better ways to name things (if my opinion matters at all), Translate-Speak is when you come up with a name of a person, place, or thing by first coming up with an important aspect of that thing, be it a physical or personality trait, taking that aspect, and running it through Google Translate in various languages. For instance, say I want to create a knight. Let’s say that this knight is a loose cannon, a champion for the people who doesn’t always play by the rules. So, I choose the word “headstrong” to represent him. Let’s see……how about Welsh? Google Translate says that headstrong is “bengaled” (ben-yal-edd, says the computer voice) in Welsh. We can take this couple of ways. I could go the redundant route, and name him simply “Bengaled The Headstrong”, or it presents me with the syllable “ben”, so why not name him “Bennett Yaled”, or even simply “Benya Led”, and so on… Pros: an easy way to tie in a character name to something about them, which can reinforce the trait in your (and possibly everyone else’s) mind. Cons: if you make it too on the nose or too silly (Sir Adonde S. L. Banyo),  it can break immersion, but still I trust you. Example: Serkefele Sango (the words for “blood” and “veil” in Tolkien’s Elven language, Quenya, and the Esperanto word for “blood” as well for good measure. Better than Bloody McBloodguy) The Vampire Lord, Master of house Sango, residing in Castle Makilo (a corruption of the Arabic Translation of the word “Stronghold”)
  3. “Adjectiveverbing” (or verbadjectiving) – Plain old English. Nothing simpler. If not very exciting. This is simply the act of throwing English words together in an order that comprises a name. Many Star Wars characters have this naming scheme. Luke Skywalker, Biggs Darklighter, Bendak Starkiller. But you can use the scheme in a different way, one that sounds more at home in fantasy, such as: John Redfeather, leader of the Elmstar Watch, Lady Michaella Whitetower, Pierre Halflace, Grodep Skullbasher of Fort Blackstone. ‘Nuff said. Pros: Easy, descriptive. Con: can get repetitive when everyone has 4-5 syllable names with the same inflections.
  4. Actually Doing The Research – I don’t mean that to sound sarcastic. Because it isn’t actually a better or worse option than the others. It can crossover with #2 if you’re dealing with a homebrew setting, but most established settings in D&D (and other games, I imagine) have lists of names you can choose from based on race, or country of origin. For the longest time in my early days of gaming, my friends would just go down the list of name suggestions in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book (page 11, if you care) and grab from there. The Forgotten Realms specifically was great for this, because of the wealth of cultures within the setting. within my groups, this lead to names like Roland Lamstrand, Kwallu Leedragon, and Nicos Nathos. Pros: Setting appropriate names. Cons: not always a large pool of names to choose from. Examples: Wulgar Skulldark, Dwarven Champion of New Ammarindar, Umbero Domine from  Alaghôn.

I hope this brief rundown of fantasy naming might help you or your players avoid tearing their hair out over the finer details of character creation. I want to end my article with a list of names I’ve used in the past in my games. You can use them, I guess, but why would you want to? Names are a dime a dozen, and you’ve got all the tools at your disposal now.

Cities/Places:

Gandwal, Tongad, Rog’Alev, Godshand Mountains, Estonteca, Cleora, Ironspen Range

Names (people/entities): Fangiris Mirikai, Omaro Balthasar, Jack Redwave, Sopena Wren, Kertiek, Ojarak, Kerrik (of course),  Lasseter The Plucked, Taproot Burrfoot, Jogan Mallow

Names (Groups/Races): The Fauka, Sons of Pasatheon, Kuudzufae, The Song/The Voice,   The Mago’wa

Goblin Interstitial: The most powerful DM tool at your disposal.

So, throughout my tenure as a DM, I’ve garnered a few tricks of the trade that make my job just a little bit easier. I’m feeling charitable, so I’ll let you in on the biggest innovation in gaming since the to-hit roll. It may seem a little crass, but the sheer brilliance of it will blow your mind.

Are you reading intently by now?

Steal anything you can get by your players. And a few things you can’t.

I occasionally challenge myself to see just how much I can do to stretch immersion. If you wanted to say, slip the entire plot of Fight Club into your game. Do it. I have. It’s actually really easy, depending on how subtle you are, and just how many in your group have seen it. If I were to approach my players with “You hear the sounds of a scuffle around the corner. If you choose to follow it, you find a young half elf exchanging blows with apparently no one”. That immediately draws the whole group in. As soon as they learn that his name is Tyaldur Denn and that he runs the soapmakers guild/laundry, the players who have the movie fresh in their minds might get a little suspicious, and when he invites them to a secret club that meets in the laundry basement, that’s when the rest of the alarm bells will go off. The subtlety comes in when you space out this information, perhaps even over a session or two, at that point, by the time the jig is up, they rest of the players will look at you with a collection of looks that either say “this man is the cleverest guy on the planet”, or they’ll look as if you just told a really bad pun (and who doesn’t secretly love puns?). Either way, by this point, you’ve still given them an interesting set up, and from there, you can decide whether or not to stick to the movie, or throw them a curveball (hint, use the curveball. Keep those sons-of guessing). You’ve got whole universes of fiction to pilfer. Your players can’t have read all of them.

RPGs are the best medium for idea stealing. It’s not like anyone’s going to sue you over adding Gollum to your D&D game. Have some fun with it. Some call these “references”, or say they were simply “inspired by” a certain work. I say I just stole an entire dungeon from the ending scene of Freddi-Fish 3, and I’m extremely happy about it. Who the hell remembers that game besides me? They aren’t going to notice. Plus, saying I stole something of that type makes me feel like Carmen Sandiego. She stole locations too. and she loved it. Don’t you want to be like Carmen Sandiego? No? Liar.

If you’re not too amazed by my DMing savvy, and aren’t currently preoccupied scraping your brains off of the wall behind you, leave a comment or find me on twitter at @GoblinGilmartin and harass me. I don’t mind. I’ll get back to movie reviews shortly. I just need a LOT of time to recover from that last one…