Dwarven DiplomacyPrevious Post
Not to be Looked in the Mouth
Nobody wants to play a campaign with Emperor Fred or High Chancellor Gary, and so the usual approach is to give everyone high fantasy names like King Geon’ai, Sir Lua’an-Eradin, or Lady Alaain Mera-Dovrel. You know, strange and fantasy-ish. Of course, this means the names will all be unpronouncable, difficult to spell, and easily confused. For fun, have your players describe the plot of your campaign after it’s over. I promise it will sound something like this:
The dragon guy with that black sword was oppressing the people that lived on those hills. Then that one king with the really long beard got that one chick with the crazy hair, and she went to that one lake. Then she got corrupted by that curse thing that made her attack that group of guys we found dead. You know, the ones that had that +1 sword and the bag of holding? Once we broke her curse she told us about the dragon guy and gave us that thing. And the map. Then we found the dragon dude and kicked his ass.
It’s like living in a word without proper nouns. I’ve always wanted to make a campaign like this:
The Dark Lord Walter, wielder of the Black Sword of choppery, was opressing the peoples of Pittsburgh. Then King George Washington enlisted the help of the Warrior Princess Rapunzel. Sadly, in the Land of Yellowstone she fell under a spell and slew the Steelers, Knights of Pittsburgh. At last the heroes freed the princess, traveled through the kingdom of Barstow, and confronted Walter in the land of Spokane.
Sure, it sounds stupid, but you have to admit: your players will be able to remember, pronounce, and even spell all of the important people and places.
Dwarven DiplomacyPrevious Post
Not to be Looked in the Mouth
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WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
152 thoughts on “DM of the Rings XLIX:
The Name Game”
‘Peregrin’, I think you meant.
Had I my druthers, I would utterly, irrevocably, and permanently bar the use henceforth of the apostrophe in any name of any person, location, or race in a fantasy world. It is the lazy, feeble crutch of the linguistically inept.
I tend to use it to mean there’s a syllabic break that you wouldn’t normally have.
Years too late, but here’s one for you:
the apostrophe is used e.g. in transcription of slavonic languages (as Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian etc.), signaling 1 of 2 mute letters which imply a previous consonant’s pronounciation (soft or hard), thus vastly increasing a language’s total phonetic richness by the simple addition of only 2 additional placeholders. That’s how I imagine they should be used. Therefore: it’s not as useless as it may look and not everyone using it is linguistically inept.
I’ve seen stuff written in some of those Slavonic languages, and all I could think of was, “I’d like to buy a vowel, please.” That, or Mr. Mxyzptlk from the old Superman comics. Either way, it looks almost as unpronounceable as some of those “Fantasy” world place names…
Such as Pso’xja from Final Fantasy 11. Does someone actually sit down and think up these names, or do they just use a random letter generator?
Still more years too late…
I have it on good authority (i.e. some bloke in a pub once told me)* that the apostrophe cliche in fantasy fiction comes from increasing American awareness of Hawaiian culture in the mid-twentieth century. (Not necessarily sophisticated awareness. Think bits and pieces of cultural appropriation like tiki, hula dancing, generic images of ‘paradise’ and the like.)
By convention, when the English alphabet is used to represent Polynesian-language words and phrases, a lot of apostrophes turn up. At the time, this was seen as exotic by many Americans, so it percolated into fantasy fiction in the 70s and 80s.
Or so I’m told.
*I may have gleaned this factoid from an Anne McCaffrey retrospective/tribute collection, come to think of it.
Man, that was funny. But I think the commentary at the bottom was even better. I can’t number the times campaigns have been like that.
The timing on this one is stupendous! I spend a good lot of time a few weeks ago setting up this very “French” village my players were heading towards. Of course, all the NPC’s had distinctively French names. They met the first NPC, who introduced himself as Gautier Vioget – the first words out of one of my players’ mouth was “Ok, right, Frenchie.” I can’t wait to see what happens if they meet up with anyone else.
“Steelers, Knights of Pittsburgh”
Personally, I hate most high-fantasy names. Tolkien is actually the exception to this. Since he was a linguistics professor, instead of making random mouth contortions, he stole them from historical name sources (seriously, go read the Norse creation myth and find the names of the dwarves–you’ll recognize a couple ;). This is my favorite way to do names, since they don’t end up sounding like you pulled them out of your nether-regions, and instead sound like they evolved as name-words in a living culture. Some of us can easily tell the difference.
Here’s the page for the name library of a bunch of SCA name geeks: http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/
The Academy of St. Gabriel is awesome. There’s a lot of name information there.
Also, players should take notes. I have my character sheet on my laptop and under version control. The last two sections are campaign notes and a character history. The notes have every name used in the campaign copied down and spelled correctly, phonetically, and possibly mockingly. If they can’t remember, then their character can’t (I’ve played under fascist DMs who’ve used that rule before–it’s worth it, actually). I also have a copy of my character sheet after every game, thanks to the version control. It works great.
Steelers, Knights of Pittsburg? I’d cry, and you don’t want to see a grown man cry, now, would you?
It's like living in a word without proper nouns.
*snorts DrPepper through nose*
That was refreshing, thank you. :o)
I once had a recurring villian in my campaign called “Thovadarak”. Of course, the players couldn’t remember his name so they renamed him “ThatDick”. They sure remembered that.
So, so true. Every once in a while I get a player who will actually take notes and will write the names down. Sometimes they’ll even ask for the proper spelling, though they usually just make a guess.
And sometimes when I play games I’m that guy taking notes and writing down the names.
And there are times when I GM that I think I’d be better off just naming the characters “Guard 1,” “King,” or “Amused bartender.”
Players are so lazy. :)
The one I’ve tended to see crop up is that players will refer to an NPC by the funny voice the DM puts on to do him. It can get very confusing over a long campaign: “Who’s this guy again?” “Brian Blessed no.3, I think…”
But then, every now and then you have players who do take notes, and surprisingly it seems to be them who mess up the names…
The most important reasont to know the names of the NPCs…. the players might think to ask.
GM: [desciption of person]
Player: “Hi – what’s your name?”
Player: “Ok, he’s not an important character.”
So, I make a habit of naming EVERYONE. Stupid and annoying, but well, that’s PCs for you.
Oh, and the “I haven’t seen them” line is PRICELESS.
I’m usually the note-taker in my groups. Which can be a position of power, as if nobody else can remember something, your word becomes law. >:)
If I ever run a campaign again, I am *so* setting up a wiki. Or better still, getting some player to do it for me. Having a serchable, linked databank of characters is so helpful for any game with more than 5 recurring NPCs.
I try to take my names from real-world sources, fantasy-ize them a bit, and then put them in the game. I also incorporate just a tiny bit of phonetic humor. It helps. The town my player is in right now is called “Darn”, and I drive that point home by including a few “darn” jokes every once in a while, like “Welcome to the Darn Blacksmith!” and so on. I guarantee you my player knows the name of the town she’s in. The tavern in Darn is called “Bim’s Boom”. My player laughed the first time she read the signpost, and she’s never forgotten the name. The bard that hangs out at Bim’s Boom and plays music every night is called “Jeksin” (a play on Jackson, aka Michael or Janet). The Darn blacksmith’s name is Pittur Smythe (Peter Smith), and his shop is called “Smythe’s Smithy”. Again, utterly unforgettable.
That’s not all I do, either. I also use easily pronounceable (and borderline normal) names, like Norbert and Karee (and the previously mentioned Pittur). Not that my player is up on her name origins, but for my own sanity I try to steer clear of religion-based names, or at least to disguise them enough to hide or mar their origins. No Johns, Peters, Christians, or Davids in my campaign, though you might run into a Jonne, a Pittur, a Kristan, or a Dawed. Throwaway NPCs are less important, so I’ll occasionally break my rules and use cheap and cliche names, but they don’t matter as much.
That’s just my two cents.
Here’s a trick back from the time I DMed Paranoà¯a: *write* the names on cards and show them to the players.
“Had I my druthers, I would utterly, irrevocably, and permanently bar the use henceforth of the apostrophe in any name of any person, location, or race in a fantasy world. It is the lazy, feeble crutch of the linguistically inept.”
I call that the ‘Star Trek’ effect. Starting early, with T’Pau, almost every alien race in all of the shows featured apostrophes in their names.
And take the Pirates with you?
Hah! I actually did name my guards as extras! Head Guard, Guard 1, Guard 2 etc. It was the only time my players actually remembered and could accurately address each of the NPC’s. In fact… they had a better functional memory of those guys than any of my carefully planned primary NPC’s.
I have one elf maiden introduced to the PC’s as “Brigadier Eludera” a humanization of her SIndarin name “Eluderiel” The name has a meaning in Sindarin, “Heart Stop Maiden” There are stories behind the name, which is itself a play on her given name in Quendi, “Eluraudhriel.”
They escorted her on a mission where she asserted martial law and became Governess of a human port city. They interact with her very regularly. Despite all this, she is just “the governess” to them.
Now, after discovering how well they latched onto “Guard 1” I am extraordinarily thankful she had a nice memorable human title.
::sigh:: What’s a DM to do?
The look on Aragorn’s face is the best ^_^ Yeah, overly “fantasy” names can get silly sometimes. Though the best name that our DM let a player keep had to be Guac Amole (imagine an accent mark over the “e”, I don’t know how to put it there). And his familiar’s name was Avacado. Even better, we once ran into a relative of his, Tom Amole XD
A friend’s character (back in the late ’70s) was The Non-Dairy Creamer.
(I’m pretty sure he was not an elf)
I guess I played in an atypical group then. We were always refering to “Meatcleaver – My Mighty Sword of Stabbing”, “Keys of Door Opening”, “Water of Thirst Slakage” and so forth for off-the-shelf items.
The magic weapons, items, lockpicks etc all got the usual mundane names (“my sword”, “my wand”, “my masterwork lockpicks” etc) though.
Got to trot. My Boss of Supervision is lurking nearby and I have to do some work of wage-earning.
A lesson learned from Empire of the Petal Throne – The more pronouncable your names, the more people will remember them and use them.
You find Apostrophs already annoying?
Try some more recent literature and find lots of äà«à¯à¶à¼ for your pleasure.
Or rather not.
I nearly threw Eragon away, after the fifth absolutely useless trema/diaresis in his names. Which should have been on page 8 or 9 ;) Darn he even puts spelling-advices in the back where he himself ignores every single bloody trema/diaresis he set.
How i hate such stupidity. Cruel and slow deaths to all the users of Metäl-Umläuts!
Notice how everyone always knows exactly who is being talked about whenever someone makes a reference to “The elf babe…”?
Even my wife, whom has probably never touched a role playing game of any kind in her life, will get an occasional chuckle from something like “I took the Subaru of -3 to Steering into the shop.”
The Rum and Coke of Great Drunkeness was also a hit. (Too much rum.)
The funny thing is, Tolkien also liked sometimes to make the world without proper names. See beginning of Hobbit – The Hill, The Water etc. Or the kings of Rohan – they all are named “king” – but in Old English.
As you can see, Anglo-Saxon has a lot of synonyms for “king”.
no duh, if they’re well known famouse people… king george washington, he didn’t want an arnarce, so king makes no sence at all!
“makes no sence at all!”
A little like this post Nigel I’m afraid, would you care to repeat that in English, or even in Elvish as it might be easier to understand. Thanks.
Good luck waiting for a reply from someone after 11 years.
A DM I used to play with (our group was all very tight friends of many years) would oftentimes morph our RL names into PC names, moving some syllables around, changing some pronunciation, what have you. The best part was that most of us figured it out pretty quick and got a chuckle out of the names, but there was one guy who just wasn’t picking it up… ultimately we suggested he start taking some notes on the adventure, and once he wrote down an NPC name, he softly mused to himself “hey, that’s pretty close to my name.” We all pretty much lost it.
Then there are the other names that are morphs of more well known figures. The crazy knight we ran across in a town named Laman Cha, who was always slightly deluded and always embarking on fantastic quests in the name of Paladin-esque justice. Of course, spelled differently, the name is La Mancha, a take on Don Quixote, renowned for his agression towards windmills. I swear it’s been 10+ years and I remember that name still.
As a DM, sometimes NPC names can be among the most fun parts of the adventure. Sometimes its better if you’re the only one laughing.
We have a dwarf in one of my current Games that is named… I kid you not… Har Don. Har Don has an INT of somewhere around 6.
We have another character, a Gith, named Estalata. Har Don, of course cannot remember this. His first variation on her name was “estalante”, which became “esperante” which became “celantro” (don’t ask). He once conned his way into a mental hospital by saying, “I’s is Doctors Har Don, and this is my nurse, Celantro.”
He hads a devil-girl, once. But he nevers hads a black dragon.
I always mispronounced names on purpose, much to the displeasure of the DM.
“Rumiel” the NPC was always called “Ramon” by my character “Brog”
Okay, This comic officaly rulez. I found this site off of another blog, whos host is a bit geekish himself, and I love the comic, and the Game the Game sessions I absoultly love. More, don’t stop. Im telling all my friends (all 8 of them) to visit :P
Oh man, that is a seriously awesome webcomic. It’ll be my next link of the day, definitely. Great job on the choice of frames and the little dice program to count the comments rocks.
Also, I cheat and take words in foreign language, mess with the spelling and then use them as names. Of course, when J-Pop band Arc-en-ciel came out, I got busted for having a very macho Norse warrior character, Arkonsel, be named ‘Rainbow’.
That put a very quick end to that naming technique.
We play an oriental campaign, and being non-oriental ourselves we sometimes (often) run into trouble with the NPC names so I can heartily relate. We’ve made a habbit of getting the DM to spell the names of important NPCs to us when we remember to. It kind of detracts fromt he campaign when the most feared ninja-assassin get’s called “Rantanplan” (which is the name of Lucky Luke’s dog, his real name was something like Ran’too-Kwan). ;)
Btw, glad to see that in 2007 the comic is even funnier! :D
Actually the Steelers, Knights of Pittsburg sounds pretty good to me. I have increasingly moved to simpler and simpler names. For oriental names it is often better to use an English equivalent, such as ‘Lotus Blossom’ than some incomprehensible jibberish. Oriental names are usually phrases and oddly memorable: Just Wisdom or Twenty Blades or Serene Dawn.
“If I ever run a campaign again, I am *so* setting up a wiki.”
Wow, that’s a really good idea.
So, I’m from Pittsburgh, and am now very curious as to how we came to have knights….. it’s just not that kind of town!
We, as a party, usually have the same problem. every time the DM pronounces the NPC’s name, we go like: WHO?, what? can you spell that. Or one of our players is always asking for pictures with every monster encounter. I think my next Char will be named Bob or something, is a lot easier for the rest. Airen seems to be too hard!
Well, I can barely remember names IRL so I guess it isn’t at all surprising that I can’t remember them in the game, either. I do try to write them down but sadly I am so inherently disorganized that this means 2 minutes of ruffling through papers before every conversation. That is, when I haven’t misheard a name in the first place and thus written it down incorrectly.
Were I DM’ing and needed a local setting, I’d be seriously tempted to pull an Ordinance Survey map of an English county off the net. Provided I didn’t have any players familiar with said county, that is. With luck, the pubs will be marked, too. (I think I’d change the name of The Devonshire Dumpling before setting an encounter there, though.)
Nobody likes the names I suggest for things…
Actually, that’s not exactly accurate.
Nobody likes the name I suggest for everyone (and most everything, too): Bob.
“Wow. Were those really their names?”
Peter Jackson really needs to see this comic. I think he’d love it.
Names, to me, should be somewhat descriptive. I prefer naming characters with a somewhat familiar first name and a descriptive last name. Names of grandparents and great grandparents make for excellent first names. Clifford, Oscar, Francis, etc. Last names can be literal two-word combos. Stormthrower, my shaman on WoW, is good example. ______ Shadowcaller for a warlock, ______ Brightsword for a paladin, _______ Windingstream for a kender, etc. Using foreign animal words as a basis for naming Druids, Rangers and other outdoorsy types works well too. Aguila, Ours, Poisson, Rotwild, Adler all might be good first names. That won’t stop me from naming all my bartenders Caleb though for simplicity’s sake. (Hey, in my world, “Caleb” means “He who serves beverages.” Go figure.)
I save myself the trouble by calling all my characters some variation on André.
Everyone expects it now, and it means people can remember my character’s name.
Of course I spell it differently, just for giggles. Ahn’Dreigh the human sorcerer is emphatically not the same person as Ondray the dwarf fighter.
The names are also short versions of a pre-prepared longer one, in case people ever get curious. They never have, and so never heard the Glory of Ferden Leahnder nek Reighshel den Wickramaseihn (etemology available on receipt of several large Rum & Cokes) and Ondray Skallagrimsson, inspired by Egil’s Saga
Sorry about not properly closing that italic tag there.
“Sure, it sounds stupid, but you have to admit: your players will be able to remember, pronounce, and even spell all of the important people and places. ”
No, no they won’t. I once ran a campaign based on a fictional Earth where the primary difference was that magic worked. To add some slight air of mystique, the basic starter map was that of Europe, only one where the Roman Empire was still alive and in charge.
To make things simple, all of the ‘provinces’ were the modern country names, with one exception. Given the players lack of ability to prounounce or remember Eastern European place names, everything West of the western borders of Poland, Austria, and Italy was lumped into one big area called ‘Mason County’ and run by Masons.
They of course wandered around ‘the south, the north, the west, and England’
To my eternal shame, when looking for a name that was a combination of Zulu and Mongol for a bad guy who was going to lead huge anarchaic hordes to plunder the Empire, I did not come up with Kublai and Zulu, but rather the other halves of those names.
Yes, my players managed to forget, immediately after laughing uproariously, the name of the evil leader Shaka Khan.
Even after making the requisite ‘let me rock you’ jokes.
On names I’ve given my PCs, I always try for ‘real world’ (Neil, Alex, a druid named ‘Wolf’) or names I find on the ‘what to name the baby’ websites.
For the PCs of others? If it’s more than two syllables, or has any uneeded puntuation (read:any) that modifies the pronunciation in any way, the name is getting run through the chipper until it’s few enough syllables to pronounce. I recall an Orc Fighter (later Paladin) who showed affection for another character by using TWO syllables of her name instead of one.
Complaints or corrections add random noise to the nickname, which will then be rechopped to one or two syllables, with no regard to which one to syllables were the original ones.
Right now my compatriots are named Rian (REE-ahn) and Zan’El (ZAHN-el). Only took about 10 years…
Of course, the best part of watching a GM tangle with the person who writes all the notes to everything came up in a Shadowrun game that lasted more than 8 years (scary, I know). The player had every note from the very beginning and the GM would try to throw us all in situations that should present HUGE difficulties, like ghosts of player-slaying, but the player would just look back through his notes and say, “oh yeah, 6 years and 3 months ago we took on the underling of the 5th general to (continues for 3 minutes giving relational details) and killed him, taking his dagger of ghosts of player-slaying-slaying. I’ll use that”.
The look on the GM’s face was priceless. It’s thus been my greatest fear that one day, in the game I run, some player will bring my plot crashing to the floor all because they paid better attention than me.
I had a DM in a Shadowrun campaign that came up with the best recurring villain I have ever run into. Guy’s name was “Clean Steve” and his favorite trick was booby trapping our vehicles with high explosives. Fortunately, we had one guy that always remembered to stop and check his bike whenever we came out of a bar. We got more explosives that way… But the best thing the DM ever did was every time we got a message from the guy (taunting us, of course) it was accompanied by the Halleluiah Chorus…which the DM always had queued up on the stereo. To this day I can’t hear that music and not think of Clean Steve.
Bottom line – all bad guys need theme music.
“one Peregrin Took”
Was I the only one expecting a rejoinder along the lines of “Sounds like a lead. Where is this Peregrin guy?” :-)
Ironchan, author of the webcomic Get Medieval, recently made drew and described RPG character named the Necromancer of Awesome:
The second RPG character at that last link is an even more extreme example of a NPC with a name memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Arg. Typo. Should be “Ironychan” above.
I once knew a GM that used drug names for all his elven characters, sometimes with a different accent, because all tolkien elves sounded like drugs in his opinion. The joke was actually a hit between the players (they were not so uptight about the game, actually had other hobbies :P ), and the more obscure the drug, the more powerful the elf was.
Actually, “Galadriel lotion” sounds like a good relief for that nasty rash.
Heh, the most memorable character in my entire D&D campaign was an 18 str 5 int fighter my brother named Furfin.
He got the name from title off a book on the shelf, Fur, Fin and Feather. but it was goofy enough to be fantastic, and simple enough to remember.
As a DM I like to keep a book of baby names handy, especially one with unusual or weird names, like a book of irish baby names.
And while most of the PC names in our group are “normal” in the D&D world (like Krom the half orc barbarian, Glim the gnome wizard) we also have Choo Mai Phat the monk. *sigh* Its hard being a DM sometimes.
Name thing. We had a character who had a rather memorable name. His name was Antonio Michelangelo Orlando Romeo Escalante “but you can call me Amore’.” He played a Gallant who worshipped Aphrodite. Most of my characters had odd names that at least you could spell or pronounce like Gilranthiel or Nardwen.
The Gallant had an odd thing happen with his (her) dice once. He had a proficiency in courtesy, we were at a Dwarven banquet, and he kept getting passed huge steins of rather strong drink, which of course he could not refuse. So he rolled saves vs drunkeness and made them….about 10 in a row…until the last one, where he failed miserably. We watched in glee as he slowly slid to one side and then slid under the table. We then grabbed him by his perfect Corinthian Leather boots and dragged him up the stairs to his room (kathump kathump kathump as his head hit each and every step, well padded by his cloak but still painful)
Watching what happend the next morning as he was trying to sober up and did a curling cantrip on his rather long hair was amusing….I did mention the DM is my husband and he has a warped sense of humor. Ever imagine a 6 foot in diameter afro that has the feel of a brick and the texture of steel wool?
Many times people will name their children after the local king or perhaps there will be numerous folk named the same.
Tyler the Smith, Tyler the Horse trader, Tyler the Other Smith, Tyler the not as accurate as Watt (Monty Python ref) and so on.
As a GM, frankly I enjoy twisting the knife when I can, lord knows it happens to me enough. Regards
In one SF roleplaying campaign I used to participate in, I regularly unnerved the GM by asking people their names. He wasn’t prepared for that, mostly, but he tried to keep up to the task. Which would result in NPC names like “Phil Rutherford” (because the first thing that came to the GM’s view upon my asking was a Genesis CD) or company names like “Willehad Heavy Industries” (after a brand of bottled water).
But the standard supplier of vehicles did have a rather well-chosen name: Particular Motors.
Incidentally, that leads to my idea for a naming convention: use car makers and model names. They’re plenty, known, and still can be quite exotic sounding. Princess Astra, Lord Chevrolet and the mighty fighter Murcielago, whom for his travels everyone calls the “Grand Voyager”, for some reason or other end up riding the great dragon Phaeton to the land of Ka. Or whatever.
Every time I read “It's like living in a word without proper nouns” I start laughing out loud. I have got to stop reading this stuff at work.
Having never played a minute of table-top in my life, I don’t have a humorous presonal anecdote to add to the conversation. But it occurs to me that a great way to fabricate NPC’s would be to drum up a (realistic) name, pop it into the Kabalarians name analyzer, and build the character from there.
There are a number of names that are familiar, but not too common…
Joshua, Siobhan, Matthias, Jacob, etc. I keep a list on my laptop for NPCs.
Another good source is smam emails… “Yeah, the bartender’s name is Constance T Misunderstanding. What of it?” :P
I always figured Tolkien named places in the Shire “the Hill,” and “the water,” because of typical English egocentricity. After all, they have a place named “the University.”
Re: using more normal names
It won’t work to give your NPCs normal names. Every session my characters meet up with James Heartly their boss in the government agency, and every week they say “What does… that guy… have for us? Ummm John… something?”
On the other hand, they never forget the “king”‘s name: High professor Rufus, despite the fact they’ve met him only once.
So the secret, I think, is to make your NPC names silly to begin with. If they’re so silly they mock themselves, they not only can already remember them, but they seem to be at a lot to make them any MORE ridiculous.
One good trick is a perfectly respectable firstname and a “memorable” lastname. No player has ever forgotten “Typhon Saltpeter” the alchemist. After sixty or so “salty peter” jokes it was worth it not to be “Cliff’s character”.
Non-sequiter, but my fiance and I make a habit of noting the model names of cars we pass and imagining dnd characters to fit. While my sorceress “Elantra” seems to be a hit, I figured I could only get away with this once, so I named a whole party of adventurers for a gameboy DnD game after cars.
Integra, LG Rogue
Laredo, Orc Fighter
Alero, Human Wiz
Avalance, Dwarf Cleric
and Outlander, Human Archer (all the other humans were white,so I made Outlander a black fellow, since he wasn’t from around here)
And the more I look, the goofier the car names get. I can’t wait to play “Escalade”, the fighter with spinners on his platemail and no balance check.
“Had I my druthers, I would utterly, irrevocably, and permanently bar the use henceforth of the apostrophe in any name of any person, location, or race in a fantasy world. It is the lazy, feeble crutch of the linguistically inept.”
These people who so utterly hate use of the apostrophe must hate the French and Irish, i.e. D’Artagnan & O’Connell. Jeeze, rants about such things are utterly ridiculous.
In my gaming group, we tend to drive the DM mad by mutating the names of his NPCs into other, easier to remember (and, admittedly, 100 times less intimidating and mature). For example, Warlord Urunutu became Ubuntu (as in the linux version), Captain Dokkerd became Captain Dickhead, and the Dark Lord Elmored became the Dark Lord Haemorroid. Needless to say, the final fight against the Dark Lord contained more ass-related wisecracks than I’ve ever seen together.
I’m liking the comic thus far, somebody on RPG.net linked to it. Just wanted to leave a comment, since I saw my hometown, which isn’t a large city, used in the spiel down below. Always gives me a thrill. Land of Spokane… hehe.
“The Dark Lord Walter, wielder of the Black Sword of choppery, was opressing the peoples of Pittsburgh. Then King George Washington elisted the help of the Warrior Princess Rapunzel. Sadly, in the Land of Yellowstone she fell under a spell and slew the Steelers, Knights of Pittsburgh. At last the heroes freed the princess, traveled through the kingdom of Barstow, and confronted Walter in the land of Spokane.”
That doesn’t sound stupid, it sounds like the Dark Tower series by Steven King, the greatest story of all time.
I did that myself once, when I wrote up a whole new pantheon of gods rather than use the perfectly good ones in the book. I had each major god with some minor gods below them, all related to the same purpose. The God of Healing and his demigods, for example, were given the first names of the characters from House, and the warrior god, Thor, had Heracles, Musashi, and Conan, who empitomise Strength, Skill, and Rage.
Each demigod (or Patron) was more involved in mortal affairs than the gods, so people prayed more to them. It turned out pretty well; even if people couldn’t quite remember what the name was, when they had the name, they had an idea for the personality of their deity, which made it a lot easier to keep them in character.
Love the comic.
In an atempt to break the fantasy norms I once created a second ed paladin with the illustrious name of Susan Smith. Sadly, her mount rapidly became the GMs favorite character, an ox by the name of Mongo with a higher base int than many NPCs.
I think my favorite character name was the Aztec cleric a friend ran named Upxataco (the X was pronounced “ch”). Though Filchacupacoco the thief was pretty good too.
Well, my gaming group had some funny names:
Angie – elven wizard (she was too lazy to name her character).
N.E.W. – elven wizard (he was way too lazy to name his character, so he ended up being the Nameless Elven Wizard).
Lucky – slash-happy, steroid-fed, totally power-gamed human fighter with a tendency towards surviving the most unbelievably impossible situations. Actually, all this guy’s character’s are called Lucky, doesn’t matter that game it is.
Ben Hu’R – dwarven paladin… as you can see, that was an absolutely original name.
Jo’Anna – gnome rogue (she was also lazy).
Xena – half-elf bard, she tended to sing Shakira and BonJovi.
Gigi – halfling rogue with a tendency to getting hurt.
think my favorite part about this whole commentary is that the players can’t remember the name of anyone or anything in the whole campaign. They can’t remember what’s going on, where they’re going, why they’re going there, or what they’re supposed to do when they get there. What they do remember is that there was this one guy who had a +1 longsword and a bag of holding and they remember exactly which guy it was. I also find it particularly humorous that it’s not unlike the synopsis one of my players gave about the Age of Worms campaign.
“We find stuff out about the Truimverwhatsit and the worms, that leads us to people doing bad things. Eventually we slice open the bad people, and take their stuff so we can more easily find and delete the higher up bad people, it’s kinda like Amway but its to save the world… We did these arena battles to find out more about the bad guy who was running the thing… Along the way we found more information that led us to this city, because of this note that Marzeena has. This lady at the party knows how to kill worms. We went to the party to try to talk to her. Apparently Princy doesn’t like the people she likes, so we thought we would distract the guards so I could find out more about Princy and why he likes worms.”
I think the part where he compares adventuring to Amway is what makes it gold.
laughed till I cried
My best DM simply names characters according to their natures. Thus you get NPCs called things like “Utter Scum”, “Sad Mishap” or “Distempered Buttocks”. To say nothing of the well respected “Bluddengutz” family.
Factions include the “Knights Hospitalize”, the popular and much-feared “Death to Deviancy League”, and the “Society of Hobbits In Trouble” (S.H.I.T.).
After a few months of this, I came to think: who cares about that high fantasy feel? Not only is this approach better than 99.7% of people’s efforts at creating fantasy names – it’s also more authentic. (Most people’s names mean something in the language they originated in – since we’re playing in English, why not translate the names?)
We just used the menu of a Polish restaturant for our names. Barszcz, Zurek, Ryby z Frytkami etc etc or even better were names like Hosanna Inexcelsis, Rimmerov Fuktbutz, Driblezalot Abulchit, Testicue Lacanssa, Tookwan Updeyarz…
Thank you everyone for the ingenious naming methods mentioned in the comments, which I am going to help myself to. Naming always been the part of DMing that I have the most trouble with, a lot of the time I fall back on stealing shamelessly from any source I can get my hands on (which actually works pretty well as long as you stick to minor characters).
There was, however, the time it backfired pretty spectacularly on one of my PCs. After several months of real time running round with an unnamed character he decided to stand with his back to a bookshelf and take a name from the first book he laid his hands on.
Unfortunately with a shelf full of fantasy literature to choose from he put his hand on a very different book and, after we all stopped laughing, decided to stick with it. I couldn’t resist giving him a field promotion the next session and from then on the PC military expert was none other than the illustrious Captain Grumpy.
Ah, fun times for all.
The greatest villain in the history of all of our D&D campaigns was named George Carlin.
I’ve tried to have players explain what has happened in a campaign before and they just say “Blah.” So I had a NPC go “‘Blah?’ what the hell does ‘Blah’ mean?”
I have a simple solution to this. Every non-player characters of utter non-importance is named Lando.
I highly despise “if you forget it, the character forgets it”, because that just degrades me from player to bookkeeper/account/scribe. Tried it and realized it only makes the game slower, since there’s always someone leafing through pages or writing. Extremly annoying for both DM and player. And I, as a DM, have written it down, why the need to do so a second time?!
Solving the name problem: There are many names which stick well, they are just hard to find and sometimes get nicknames (which is great, since then everyone remembers). Also, once we tried the “blatantly steal all names” approach, resulting in a cenery with Urza, Saruman, Oliver Farrel, the Order of “Laitbur”, Demist, Midgard (city), Rath (World), DEATH (character), Malah, and many others. Great to remember, just some giveaways, so name carefully.
BTW antispam is “d20”, how fitting.
The Black Sword of Choppery….. I like that!. I’m gonna have to use it! :) It sounds so Monty Python!
I like sophisticated names with a meaning, I take Gaelic where it fits, or make something up from Latin, Greece (botanic/zoologic names are a great source!)… And most people also have a nickname.
But I’m one of those annoying role!players and like to play not-so-clichéd non-heros. ;-) Meet…
* Diarmuid MacCearbhaill, a curious and learned blacksmith
* Bran “Crwth” MacCathail, a musician/gleeman (not a bard! Crwth: Welsh lyra-fiddle)
* Tairsha MacCathail, his daredevil little sister (and I know most of their family, too)
* Iolladhan “Casà¡n” O’Baoghill, an initerant preacher (Casà¡n: the way)
* Loba Moy O’Tighernach, an old healer and midwife
* Qshyktish, a saurian elephant-riding warrior (named after Carthagian princess Qshykti)
* Francesco da Peggio (il Facefuego), a smuggler
* Bruno Spinoza AKA Master Blackthorne, a mage disguised as philosopher (prunus spinosa: blackthorn, Baruch Spinoza: famous philosopher)
* Salgar Hanno “the shark”, a pirate captain (named after Emilio Salgari, author of “Il Corsaro Negro”, and the common Carthagian name Hanno)
* Chaffi al Khib-fali, a dervish (my ex-wifes character, the name means “coffee and croissants” if pronounced Swiss German ;-) )
* Lia Zorgoloupoulos aka Mama Lia, an innkeeper, with her dimwit daughter Marina (no special meaning/story here)
I always tried to (but seldom managed to ;-) ) note at least where my characters met whom and the names of their companions. It pays off.
Yeah, I have ancestors named Rilda (female), Mabry, Laun, Vate or Vator (I'm not kidding), Halford, Zenobia, & Thecla. I've used some of those & get really weird looks.
I used to randomly put letters together & then see if I got anything pronounceable out of it, for my alien characters. For fantasy or “˜modern' I turned to really old dictionaries & pulled out obscure words. Nowadays, I pull out the Writers' Book of Names. It has them organized by origin & by sex. It's sooo much easier. It's why some of my most recent character names are Nadia, Reed, Kelis, Isolde (with her familiar Tristan), & Edana.
We had an NPC whose name was Telgek. I swear, if it hadn't been for the notes on my character sheet, no one would have remembered that his name wasn't Tailgate. And don't even ask me about the paladin's squire “˜my boy, Elroy.'
For our Five Rings campaign, the gm used sushi names for the NPCs. It does give one a little chuckle to fight someone you know is really called Eel roll.
All except “Spokane”. Because everyone who’s not from Eastern Washington pronounces it “Spo-cane” Like Spork and cane mashed up.
You know, it’s funny, but when I used to take SO much crap about having named my druid “Moss”. I told everyone it sounded like something a druid would call another druid, so it was good enough for me. He became Moss Gnarleywood when the DM pointed out he was from the Druids of Gnarleywood.
22 years later, Moss is the ONLY character from those campaigns that any of my friends remember.
Embrace the simple names. But be careful…some people still call ME “Moss”. So I’d stay away from names like Puke, or Snot.
If you want to come up with interesting NPC names, or product names or whatever, just play Scrabble and take note of the crap letters you sometimes get and the fragments of words you juggle with while trying to make a real, playable word.
There’s a DM I used to play with a while ago and his campaign world seems to be meticulously documented. Here’s a link to his web page… with all the characters, NPCs, special rules, etc. Including a PLAYER-generated log of the game.
My favorite character names….
Codiene the Barbituate
I am one who loves the naming conventions for the games I run and play in. As a matter of fact. I had one player that would always come to me and ask me for a name for his character.
That being said. I find that one of the easiest ways to come up with an elven name rather quickly is to grab a bottle of shampoo or conditioner and look at the ingredients. They are great elf names. I dont want to count how many times I have had a character name Laureth. lol
While I agree with most of the comments pertaining to the inherent problems associated with naming characters (PC or NPC), memorable ones usually have names that add color to them, even if it’s something unexpectedly mundane like Fred the Dwarf (Dar Than’s brother) or inadvertently humiliating like mispronouncing “The Elvis(h) Mystic”. The most inspired name (the rest of us were green with envy) I know of was Hogey Swampbreath for a giant. And for a while there after Bored Of The Rings came out, names like Knee-Humper the Drow were quite the rage.
One good trick is to name NPCs after characters from un-famous books (as long as none of your players read the same books). This is great, because you also have an instant personality.
One of my PCs has a traditions of naming their character something like Rick the Recalcitrent or Luigi the Lugubrius or Indiana the ideopathic, and diliberately misspelling it. He also changes it each time he lvls up, so I’m forced to refer to him as Ogre;)
I usually just stuck with Josef or Gren or some crap that was simple. Heh. A lot of times I was just called Thief.
I like to use a name that sounds like nothing else anyone ever imagined. I especially like names with many consonants in a row.
“I especially like names with many consonants in a row.”
You there!! Experience BIJ!!
Yeah, all my towns are anagrams of names of girls I like, only way I can keep them straight…
“Personally, I hate most high-fantasy names. Tolkien is actually the exception to this. Since he was a linguistics professor, instead of making random mouth contortions, he stole them from historical name sources (seriously, go read the Norse creation myth and find the names of the dwarves”“you'll recognize a couple ;). This is my favorite way to do names, since they don't end up sounding like you pulled them out of your nether-regions, and instead sound like they evolved as name-words in a living culture. Some of us can easily tell the difference.”
The problem is that it’s still pretty similar in the end outcome. People who are invested in the story will remember names. For those who aren’t, it all tends to run together. So while Tolkien was definitely making a cool and interesting move from a WRITING perspective, he’d have been just as thoroughly flustered as the next DM when even a moderately interested player says “So that ancient wizard demon guy hit things with a mace and had this ring that we’re supposed to throw into some mountain with some cheesy name in some evil place.”
In my current space campaign (I have the misfortune of running around 10 campaigns), there is a Flash Gordon-homage NPC originally named Rush Omegar. Considering his resemblance to a character from MST3K’s Space Mutiny episode, his name has now become among the players Big McLargeHuge, which occasional changes to Punch Rockgroin, Roll Fizzlebeef, Gristle McThornbody and Buff Drinklots. I introduced this to my players. I also hate them.
Beloved characters do get remembered, though. And it’s funny when people really into a particular character remember events that you don’t about them.
Over the past year I have become involved with a D&D group filled with old school players. One of the major things I’ve noticed that is different from groups I’ve played with in the past is that at least one of the players takes notes on all the story elements (and usually 2 players take the notes in case the note taker is absent). It definitely helps when the group hasn’t played for a few weeks and someone asks “what were we doing again?”
I hate them boggle-dice names. Seriously: Thoqqua. wtf?
I feel like the ghost of spell checker past!
In the comments under the comic it says
” Then King George Washington elisted the help of the Warrior Princess Rapunzel.”
Which i think you want the elisted to be enlisted.
I hope I am not being too annoying, I can stop.
Thanks again. Fixed.
Never underestimate the ability of your players to mangle npc names. I myself am guilty of it. Once we were in an adventure wandering through an oriental type country as outsiders. An important but slightly drunk npc introduces himself as “I am Lee Ki Yang, and I have one small character flaw.” To which my 5 charisma gnome responds “You know they have medicines for that.” The entire group proceeded to refer to the character as Leaky Yang for the rest of the adventure.
I had a player in a campaign I ran once who never gave his character a name. He was simply the strong, silent fighter dubbed: “The Fighter!” Talk about creative and imaginative players. *rolling of eyes*
we actually named an evil goddess after our math teacher once
wow I haven’t laughed as much reading the comments at the bottom since I really DID play d&d, lmfao, you are HILARIOUS keep it up XD
In my campaign there’s Archmage Ackaborack. His name was so ridiculous that we remembered it.
everytime a player makes a fighter named george i die a little inside
The great thing about Exalted is that you can name characters whatever the hell you want no matter how outlandish. The bad part of that is that your players will never remember those outlandish names.
There was an NPC Lunar Barbarian Queen named Devastina Obsidian Claw–admittedly it was a little out there, but my players kept calling her “Destroyera?” and yes, they always put the question mark there.
So my mage Ap’str’ph’ (from an MMO) would be right out?
I once played in a campaign where the DM named one of his NPCs Can`non and another Fodare. Aka: Cannon Fodder. They lived up to there names, dying an hour later.
The last three lines… perfect :)
My favourite is a character I’ve carried over into DDO: A halfling named Gazunder DeBranche
You want to see funny character names? Hang out in a MMORPG with loose name filters. I’ve seen all of the following:
Leaflette (female elf druid)
Mirror Spock (on a character with jet-black hair, a serious face, and a goatee — Trek reference, anyone?)
Boner (Diablo 2 necromancer)
Helen Wheels (EVE)
Ughree Bugga (troll shaman in EQ)
Bob Noxious (EVE)
Merchant of Menace (trademule in AC)
Blundfors Tromma (troll warrior in EQ)
Remm Eddie (cleric in EQ)
Bounced Czech (war mage in AC)
Rektul Fermomyda (dark elf necromancer in EQ)
Excitable Boy (swordsman in AC — Warren Zevon reference)
And that ain’t the half of it. I write them down whenever I see them.
You should actually do the name thing. I had a DM that did and it was awesome..
my character was named “Wave Lightfoot” female human cleric.
Catch the “Wave”
Everybody would “Wave”
“Wave” around the table.
she just lived by the sea and ran the fastest in the party.
At age 60.
Had a Dwarf character called “Dirty Pierre” once. His weapon of choice was a ballista…
Our group frequently defaults to easily remembered names, and we often reuse them from campaign to campaign. Examples:
Hey, it’s Duke Wellington! And his daughter, Daisy. He’s bargaining with the Princesses Buttercup and Leia. And there’s his herald, Harold! And he’s with the Lord Chamberlain, Richard. Did you see the ship we came in on? It belongs to Captain Jack Sparrow/Harkness (or Captain Morgan, or Hook, or Crunch, or whatever.) Cheesy, but it works and we don’t have to spend brain power on names.
The really “high and mighty” characters get real names like Banathor or something, but the kind of generic encounter characters pretty much get the above treatment. Had one female blacksmith we encountered, named Kate (blacksmith from A Knight’s Tale.) Our PC’s get into it sometimes, like the thief named Schlage or the fighter named Noegnud. (Read it backwards.) We pretty much all take notes in the margins of our character sheets, and SOMEONE will remember Mr. Fancy Pants’ name if it’s not a common one, eventually.
I want a “Sword of choppery”! :D
Hehe … King Fred.
In our campaign I pretty much defaulted to using cheesy, easy-to-remember names, Monty Pythonesque knock-offs, allusions to pop-culture and history … and screw fantasy.
So one group of enemies are the Yellow Turbaned Scarf-heads … another are the Mossy Gay Elves (Eladrin) … then there is the Dwarf Intelligence Cooperative (Dic … a dwarven secret organization) … Aurifex Maximus the Dragon (old goldy) … Baron Bear of the Barony of the Bear (deceased) … Last-crack Valley (Butt-crack valley) … makes things easier to remember.
“The Dark Lord Walter, wielder of the Black Sword of choppery, was opressing the peoples of Pittsburgh. Then King George Washington enlisted the help of the Warrior Princess Rapunzel. Sadly, in the Land of Yellowstone she fell under a spell and slew the Steelers, Knights of Pittsburgh. At last the heroes freed the princess, traveled through the kingdom of Barstow, and confronted Walter in the land of Spokane.”
The closest you’ll get to that is S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse novels.
Bloody brilliant…our group was always mangling names to suit them. Ko’brann quickly became OatBran, which became especially funny when the character saved our butts. “Oat bran! Huzzah for oat bran!!”
I really like to give my NPCs nothing but single syllable names, and 8 or more syllable names that make no sense for important charecter, eg. bob, fred, rick, herb, winstinetonsongrafcorkingdale the third, of the house of paiyle, pothatterysabletoothkins of the order of cheddar
In a campaign I’m planning, I’m making character names both unique and memorable by using the names of villages in the area. The players drive through Preston Candover, Ashley Warren, Sutton Valence and Farleigh Wallop every day, so they’re probably going to remember them.
my DM and our gamers use incredibly unforgitable names… Dr CRONOS must be pronounced the way its written… ALL CAPS, we’ve also had a one legged paliden named PROSTHETIKHAN (prosthetic…Khan)a survivalist named Gruff Ribsby(last name is akward on paper but is just a ‘Ribs Be’)
a (NPC antagonist) named… Baron (not a title… his name)
oh… and i played a plumber of french ancestry named Jauch Swiftplunge (firsname ends like Bach, but has that french ‘shauw’ sound. and the lastname is pronounced Sweeft-pleunge due to overstressing the already horrible accent :P)
no one forgets the names ever…
We had Stinkwood the ranger, explanation “He lives in the woods and doesn’t bathe” and also (it seems to be required) Choo Yon Fat, the monk, and the 6 int sorcerer, Thyng go Pao, also, an Elf named Moonpie.
BUt the best was when, exasperated by our constantly forgetting NPC’s names, he named the CEO of the corporation that had hired us… Bob Marley.
We always remembered that name, for some reason.
Just because it’s pronounceable and not a fantasy name doesn’t mean that anybody will bother using it. In my last campaign (D&D 3.5 crossed over with Final Fantasy), my character’s name was Alexandra. And the other players still couldn’t remember her name, so they called her Bard instead.
Then again, these were the people who managed to all kill themselves off the one week I wasn’t there, because my character was the only one who could mediate between the chaotic stupid black mage (with a questionable gender) and chaotic evil rogue (with even more questionable sanity). ::sigh::
Some friends and I will be starting up a D&D campaign next semester. It’ll my first forray into a table top rpg, but my friends have done this before, and they’ve been guiding me in creating my character, a wild elf monk.
I decided to name my character “Hu D’Nit.”
Am I going for that?
Some friends and I will be starting up a D&D campaign next semester. It’ll my first forray into a table top rpg, but my friends have done this before, and they’ve been guiding me in creating my character, a wild elf monk.
I decided to name my character “Hu D’Nit.”
Am I going to hell for that?
(oh crap! double post! Sorry!)
One campaign we the players arbitrarily named a guard captain “Steve.” Steve has since become a fixture in all campaigns. Also, one guy got a horn that summoned a burrowing bear who we named Sgt. Grumbles.
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to make a campaign exactly like the one you described in your comment after the comic.
Your Wrong. I Would play in a game with Lord bob. Or whatever. It would be very much differnt wouldnt it?
I remember one of the first campaigns i ever did, the end boss’s name was Calorel. Or something. Nobody bothered to remember it but me, so everyone was making stupid names for him like Calorie and such, and for a week i kept correcting them. Finally i got so sick of it that i promptly called him Calarabi during one of our discussions as to what we were doing again, and they all found it so funny that they decided to all call him calarabi for the rest of the campaign.
It’s hard being the only person in the group who remembers anything, the only person who can solve the riddles, and usually the only person capable of actually killing any of the BBEGs.
My friends have learned most of my naming conventions over the years. If someone has a title they are at least a little important or know something you want to find out, if they have a linguistically accurate name from another language they’re likely unimportant, if they have a historically significant name they’re very important, and if they sound like they came from a poem or nursery rhyme they drop everything and sprint the other direction.
This is probably because of a recurring villain known only as Mother Dear.
They’re utterly terrified of a character they usually called Momma.
You can make your players remember just about anything if they can use that knowledge within the game to help make decisions, and you can also lull them into complacency so a character who may be of vital importance could just be named Fred.
At one point I had a last name for a character that I wrote down and refused to pronounce. There was a reward offered to all the other players and the DM if they figured out how to say it. It should be noted that the character’s first name was “Sally.”
I can never remember anyone’s name so I write down all what is going on and the character names. What gets really embarrassing is when they call you by your character name and you don’t remember your own character’s name.
Yay, Pittsburgh reference! I’m re-rereading these, because they’re spot on and funny.
Actually, most people are still going to mispronounce “Spokane”.
I was in a fantasy campaign once when we had to make up a foreign language name on the spot, so player Dan said, “I speak Nebraskan.” It was a really satisfying laugh-lot that ensued. :)
I like creating names like these myself. Like ‘Meracaet, Lord of the Brimhounds.’
For some reason, I hardly ever find these names difficult to spell. Remembering them, however…
Here’s some from an old “how to do bad things to your PCs” supplement, I think it was called “Misfit Magic” or some such:
Helena Handbasket, barbarian princess
Kid Gloves, halfling thief
Fillmore Graves, human wizard
Barnaby Wylde, dwarf cleric
Dustin DeWind, ninja.
Dog, a dog.
Actually….Yeah, they did ask his name already. Didn’t you hear Gimli in the previous comic, DM Tolkien?
“TELL ME YOUR NAME, HORSE-FUCKER!”
In my first D&D campaign, we met a goblin called Hu’Jac who was riding a drake. Since a non-fantasy drake is a male duck, we ended up fighting Hugh Jackman ‘riding’ (perhaps in more than one way; it was never confirmed) a duck. The players were three not-exclusively-lesbian girls and two gay guys, so he got bonuses for removing items of clothing.
I like how you referenced Spokane. That makes me happy.
I just go the Erfworld route and base all my names on puns. Some are really obvious, and some not so much.
There are a handful of messed up character encodings in the comments.
Paranoà¯a should be Paranoïa
äà«à¯à¶à¼ should be äëïöü
Casà¡n should be Casán
(two of those)
Sounds like a Fallout game…
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