RPG Corner: Naming stuff

In light of the comments about the intrepid adventurer in the Fabled Lands, I was curious about how you go about naming things in your RPGs — your character, NPCs if you’re a GM, place names, mounts, spells, whatever, how do you go about choosing a name that sounds good and is genre appropriate without sounding totally lame?

Also, were there names you came up with that you have a real fondness for? Do you tend to use the same name in multiple RPGs?

About Jeff Hebert

Jeff is a 44 year old city boy who has somehow found himself located in Colorado, fulfilling his lifetime dream of making a living drawing super-heroes all day.

27 Responses to RPG Corner: Naming stuff

  1. My 3 most recent characters have all had the initials A.H. I’ve got a few character concepts that aren’t like this, though. Like Shining Eye, a shifter (descended from werewolves) runepriest who focuses on light powers.

  2. My characters and names are usually vaguely historically-inspired, Robert E. Howard-style.

    Things I avoid like the plague are:

    Names that are nothing but vowels. Aeyaialea doesn’t sound like an elf wizard, it sounds like you’re yawning.

    Names that are two English words rammed together. Karya Fire-Spear or Eba Moonriver. So cheesy.

  3. Well, the name “Oquies” I use almost every where as an account name. I came up with it when I was 11 and I thought it sounded and looked good. I have just kept it since then.

    When making names I normally just put letters together randomly till it looks good spelled out and sounded out. Other wise I look for names that have a certain meaning.

    For instance I named a sorcerer “Tonnerre” which means thunder and a ranger Oringo which means one who loves hunting.

  4. I usually get inspiration from what character I’m trying to make plus historical or literary references…

    A few I’ve named over the years (and yes I recognize the references may not be all that obscure)..

    - Logan (ranger)
    - Sonja (warrior)
    - Taarna (paladin)
    - Storm (ranger/cleric)

    currently playing:
    - Melkor “the Bane of the Seas” (evil pirate wizard)
    - Kurt Wagner (cleric)

  5. Oh, I forgot… I use Worf for most online stuff including IGNs (In Game Names), as if THAT wasn’t obvious enough ;)

  6. Isn’t Kurt Wagner Nightcrawler’s real name? Why that particular one for a cleric?

  7. Wasn’t Nightcrawler a priest for a while? Or was that just a bad dream?

    As for my characters, I get them all sorts of ways. Jeryn Raze was a paladin of Loki (long story) and his name just popped into my head when I was filling in the blanks during character creation. Senaric, an evil priest/wizard in the Robert Howard mold, is an anagram of arsenic. Matthew Rigg is a Scion character, a son of Heimdal. Rigg is one of his names. White Wolf encourages that sort of thing in the Scion line.

    And, of course, Bael is phonetically derived from one of my own names.

  8. Oh, reading the comments, I recall using Bogatyr as a paladin in Diablo II ;)
    Loved that name.

  9. amathakathi

    i’ve always used “Alyx of Glade”

    it’s androgynous, nice and foresty (so good for druids, elves, etc.), its simple and short and it can generally sound appropriate for any age or universe without sounding out of place OR too modern :D

    It may seem overly simple – but its good and effective

  10. Most of the characters in my superhero fiction began as RPG characters at some point.

  11. The Doomed Pixel

    I’m currently playing a Magic College student, (technically Lord) Payton Mansfield. I usually use the name Payton, although I am also fond of the name Tristan (and may end up naming a son that! >.> ). I prefer names that don’t sound too wild or out-there, but still have that sort of off-the-wall unusualness to it.

  12. i usually wil use either a randomly generated name from a generated

  13. It depends a lot on the feel of things I want. In a fantasy setting with “relation” to Europe naming will vary much like Europe does. If its a Sword & Sorcery game (something I’ve not used often) I start with English words, and then begin building Sword and Sorcery ones. I do sometimes play with name generators when inspiration is limited.

    Example: http://img215.imageshack.us/i/airumelsmall.jpg/

    Right now it has English names, but I’m cooking up fantastic ones as I can. Like the Kingdom of the Striking Serpent, I think will be something like Zathurm, or Xathuire, while the Trade Guild League will have something like Teskki Haaso or something inspired (but not drawn) from the Finnish language.

  14. I try to find out things regarding the setting first; what kind of names various supplements suggest, for example. I try to find something which captures the feeling of the world, even if the name may be a special snowflake exception name (which also carries information about the character — one of my characters had what others called as “elf complex” since she was a half-elf, and she had a tendency to introduce herself by a new “elf” name every thirty minutes like a teen in the middle of an identity crisis; just like a teen, she had a habit of making OMGwaysupercool, roughly equivalent of Ravyn Darktalon Moonshadow Starlight Dream Princess, except in Sindarin and we’re talking about a character who was a Str 101 (Rolemaster 2nd edition) Beorning/Sindarin half-elf in chain shirt and swinging a warhammer).

    If I can’t find anything suitable, I have two options:

    1) I can use a random name generator we use in my gaming group, or
    2) I’ll make up something nice, using whatever thing that inspires me, from mythology to music to freewheeling chaotic thinking.

    I generally try to pick names that are reflective of the character, regardless of what is the origin of the name, a sourcebook, random generation or my own pick. I feel that “nomen est omen”, the name is an omen; I try to find something which tickles my imagination and inspires me to develop it further.

    Example:

    My favored soul/combat medic who worships Bahamut is called Elehiel; this was created by using random generation, with the option “angel names” on, combined with various real and fictious languages at the generator’s whim. I wanted to use “angel name” to put more emphasis to her divine connection. Her family name — Akharod — was combined with a fictious human and dragon language; she worships Bahamut, and is dragonblooded as well.

    My Eberron psychic warrior shifter is called Durga Ghostclaws; the name was intentionally picked. “Durga” is a name you can easily imagine rolling from the mouth of a feral shifter; it is also the name of a goddess of war (or rather, the warrior aspect of Devi) in real world Hinduism. She is “Ghostclaws” due to being as pale as snow, and the halfling who tagged her so in the background story had a bit of foresight — Durga makes lots of ghosts with her claws, and she is haunted by her past.

    I paid even more attention to my ninja/spirit shaman character in our anime fantasy/historical Japan game; Kawachi Reiko (surname+given name — 河知 霊子) was a result of some furious digging through archives and dictionaries and consultation with people who actually live in Japan at the moment and speak the language. This is because of the way a name is written — after all, there are multiple kanji with the same pronounciation, but a completely different meaning based on how it is written. That, and the fact that a character in a game set to late 16th century Japan has a surname carries a setting-specific detail as well… (Since this campaign is at the moment ongoing, I’m not going to reveal more, lest it spoil the surprise for other players who may be reading this.)

    That said, I’m not above bad puns or being funny.

    In a one-shot game, I had a dryad whose name was Fragária Vesca — go ahead, Google it. Perfectly safe. :)

    In an another one-shot game (4e D&D), a razorclaw shifter swordmage… by name Jasmin Howlett. ;) Yes, that’s pretty obvious, if you think about it…

  15. Also, i’ve been looking for good Biblical names for characters – “Gilead” seems like a good one for an elf.

  16. @Jeff: Yes, Kurt Wagner IS Nightcrawler’s name, and Bael is right, he was a priest for a while (as far as I know he isn’t one currently).

    I actually thought someone would ask about where Taarna came from (unless y’all know already)…. OR Melkor (for the LOTR uninformed) ;)

  17. @eric try going to behind the name you can look up meanings and history of names

  18. Yeah, i use that site sometimes.

  19. got this name out of a book titled: the thief lord, Scipio
    ive use this name for stories i write

  20. darkvatican

    I usually start with a letter and go crazy from there, when coming up w/character names.

    “B – Boris, Borgias, Bradley, Beldor, Breldor, Brendor, Brendorf, …etc”

  21. I go with Welx Ml’veitt, an anagram of my real name.

  22. dementedtheclown

    @worf Taarna is from Heavy Metal, right

  23. My longest existing character got named after a ready made character in an adventure module, but he has had additions to it after his exploits. First it was Trollbane, then Dragonblood.

    Second character that name was based on its theme. I generated character after an anime character. Then I named the character by starting with the name of the anime character. I made up a new way to write the name, then changed a couple of letters to make it sound a bit different.

    Of course putting together random letters works too.

  24. @dementedtheclown: Correct. Taarna is the white headed female warrior from Heavy Metal

  25. Worf, I noticed your references from Heavy Metal. Did you know Taarna wasn’t exactly their first choice regarding the final story? It was actually going to center around Taarak the Defender and really both were based on Moebius’ Arzach stories. Little FYI fer ya.

  26. Me Myself & I

    One of the other players in one of my groups named his elven wizard “Nothelf”. He ended up being the but of many a joke for that one.

  27. Something I find that work well for creating names is that ou take an existing name or word and reverse it, than change a couple of letters (or just the spelling) so it’s less obvious. You thinker with the word out loud a while to see what sticks.

    For example, I have barbarian named Nazrath (remove the h and revese the name, what do you get? That’s right, tarzan)

    Or a Drow named Rezspid