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.
- 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.
- 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”)
- “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.
- 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.
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