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

I’m back, and I’m DMing…5th Edition D&D

So, it’s been an exciting few days for me. New shift at work, made some new friends, I find my blog has been up for a year now (which isn’t extremely depressing…), and I finally got to try D&D 5th edition in earnest. You guys ready for a long rambling story with no pay-off? Good! Let’s GO!

I had three players, and one of them had bought the latest starter set, so I was stuck running that. It was a perfect storm of mediocrity. Not the game itself (although….meh…), but it was 5 AM when we finally got rolling, I was buzzed (maybe a little drunk), and I had a whole group of newbies waiting eagerly for me to teach them a game I was only passingly familiar with.

Because I had nothing prepared, and was not familiar enough with the balance of the game to make stuff up, I decided to try the module included in the starter set. I usually do not like using modules because I find they make it hard for me to improvise, but I’d heard good things about it from my friends, and I’d watched a little bit of ProJared’s playthrough with his buds. So, I put on my best DM voice (which was weakened from an ill-advised attempt to sing Tenacious D a few hours previous)  and cracked open Lost Mines of Phandelver.

At a glance, it looked like a really well structured adventure But I hadn’t the time nor the patience to read the whole thing. The pre-made characters that came with the starter set are tied to various places and NPCs, giving your characters a more immersing experience. Given the lateness of the hour, we only made it most of the way through the first dungeon, the Cragmaw Cave before everyone went to bed. Actually, we WOULD have had more time, but the players ended up killing all the goblins in the opening encounter, ignoring a non-scripted goblin that I added to get them to follow it, even so much as leaving them a trail of goblin blood to follow. Instead, they made it to town, rested for the night, delivered the goods they were escorting, and only then remembered that the two dead horses they’d found belonged to Gundren Rockseeker, their dwarven friend who hired them.

They doubled back, found the trail of blood, and followed it to the Cragmaw Hideout. They spooked a goblin guard by killing the other one, and then followed him inside, where he ran straight through the wolf kennel and up the natural chimney to Klarg’s lair. After taking out the wolves, Our halfling rogue and our dwarven cleric (Tealeaf and Thoradin, respectively) shimmied up the shoot to an encounter with Klarg, the bugbear “warlord”. The rest of us took the long way around,  getting a nice bath when the alerted goblins opened two sets of floodgates to try and wash us out of the cave. after a brief and fiery encounter, Klarg was dead, and so almost, was our halfling.

At this point. I figured we needed to go to bed. We called a break for the night, and resumed, sans one player who had an errand to run. I took over Thoradin for him.

This is where I ran into a couple of problems. The way this dungeon flows, you can go wherever you want. east to Klarg, or west to the goblin living area, where an important NPC is being held prisoner. the way the adventure is written, the “right” way these events go down is west first, meet Klarg’s traitorous second in command who promises to pay you with Sildar’s (the NPC who was guarding Gundren) life if you kill Klarg for him. At this point, Klarg was already rotting away on the other side of the cave. I wasn’t sure how this should go down. I didn’t want to force another battle. The potions we found in Klarg’s stuff weren’t enough to bring everyone up to fighting readiness, and I didn’t want anyone to die on the first dungeons. I got the group to trade a whopping 600 copper pieces to the new chief for Sildar’s life. Specifically, the dwarf threw the chest with all his might at the wall, and all the goblins lept for the coins while we made haste to safety.

The game stopped here. I had trouble motivating my players to talk with the NPCs, and on top of that, I couldn’t find where in the module it explained what happened to Gundren, who has dissapeared, and I wasn’t feeling well. I want to play more with this group, but I want to play a system I’m more comfortable with. I had my remaining players create characters for 3.5. I managed to set up enough of a story that I can now actually prepare for the next session. I’ll let you know how that goes. Until next time!

Proper Party Put-together.

I’d like to make this little impromptu post to address a concern I’ve had. As you may know, I’ve been slowly growing weary of D&D. I don’t WANT this to happen. I love D&D. I love the stories I get to tell, the decisions I get to make. It’s amazing. But I’ve had to deal with a lot of…interesting players. It seems to be a growing trend that players always fall into one of three categories: People that build characters for versatility, People that Build characters for their Special Little Snowflake (SLS) status, and for the purposes of this article, the people who do it “right” (remember folks, cum grano salis I’m only one man). Here’s my issue. At it’s core, D&D is a game about creating a team that works well together, has adventures, faces dangers, and generally cracks skulls. 

When I see a party that ultimately looks like this:

I say to myself “What’s the point?”. You’re all basically playing the same character. There’s little variation, there’s no real stand outs. Everyone is functionally the same. You can all do magic, you can all use magic items, and you all have a lot of points in Dexterity.

And when I see a party that looks like THIS:

Just…Are you freaking kidding me? It creates a case of “If everyone is special, then no one is.” They probably bicker, because each player has so lovingly created a unique and tormented backstory that strives to dominate the narrative. And believe me. This game will be narrative heavy. All the players will talk in character in low tones, growling at each other.

“But Goblin!” I hear you saying. “This type of party can totally work well together”. In a perfect world, yes, sure. But we live in a world of selfish, broken people who have a hard time empathizing with others. If you didn’t want to deal with this type of person, you’re in the WRONG hobby, Dave.

Here’s my argument. D&D is a team game. A good team is made out of individual pieces that work together. checks and balances. Not everybody is going to be great at everything, and not everybody should. Playing with different strengths and weaknesses means you actually have to do this crazy little thing called relying on others.  The best part of playing a more traditional party, doing it “right”, is that each archetype, those being stuff like Cleric, Fighter, Thief, Wizard, all have dozens of interpretations, each one with its own bailiwick of abilities and outlooks on life. Simply amazing opportunities for role-playing. Try them out next time, instead of making that CN Dragon-blooded half-demon Hadozee soulknife-necromancer you’ve been thinking about, consider seeing what kind of mileage you can get out of an Elven Wizard. You may surprise yourself,

Request to the Readers: Feedback

Hey friends! I just thought I’d bring something up. I understood when I made this blog that, eventually, owing to the subject matter, I’d run out of subjects to discuss. This time hasn’t come yet, but it will someday. What I’d really love from anyone who stumbles across my little patch of swamp is to please, leave a comment. Some honest feedback would mean more to me than any numbers my dashboard throws at me. If you want more of my thoughts on a film, especially one under my bailiwick (my favorite word!), or if you have questions about various aspects of gaming, please, let me hear it. Looking forward to a long and healthy relationship! See you next time!