DM of the Rings XLIX:
The Name Game

By Shamus
on Jan 10, 2007
Filed under:
DM of the Rings

Rohan. Remembering Merry and Pippin.

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.

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  1. Sartorius says:

    ‘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.

    • StarSword says:

      I tend to use it to mean there’s a syllabic break that you wouldn’t normally have.

    • Scampi says:

      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.

      • Darkstarr says:

        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?

        • Zen Shrugs says:

          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.

  2. Erik says:

    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.

  3. VikingMonkey says:

    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.

  4. Rhykker says:

    “Steelers, Knights of Pittsburgh”

    Genius.

  5. 3eff_Jeff says:

    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?

  6. nella says:

    It’s like living in a word without proper nouns.
    *snorts DrPepper through nose*
    That was refreshing, thank you. :o)

  7. mjspawn says:

    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.

  8. Ineti says:

    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. :)

  9. Alasseo says:

    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…

  10. Deoxy says:

    The most important reasont to know the names of the NPCs…. the players might think to ask.

    Seriously.

    GM: [desciption of person]
    Player: “Hi – what’s your name?”
    GM: “Uh…”
    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.

  11. Deoxy says:

    Oh, and the “I haven’t seen them” line is PRICELESS.

  12. Rolld20 says:

    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.

  13. Andre says:

    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.

  14. Florian says:

    Here’s a trick back from the time I DMed Paranoïa: *write* the names on cards and show them to the players.

  15. Paul says:

    “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.

  16. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    GO STEELERS!

  17. Clyde says:

    And take the Pirates with you?

  18. Tirgaya says:

    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?

  19. theonlymegumegu says:

    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

  20. Steve says:

    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.

    Steve.

  21. Lil'German says:

    You find Apostrophs already annoying?

    Try some more recent literature and find lots of äëïöü 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!

  22. Jurrubin says:

    Notice how everyone always knows exactly who is being talked about whenever someone makes a reference to “The elf babe…”?

  23. 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.)

  24. Baduin says:

    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”.

  25. nigel says:

    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!

  26. Myxx says:

    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.

  27. Darkenna says:

    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.

    Seriously.

  28. orcbane says:

    I always mispronounced names on purpose, much to the displeasure of the DM.

    “Rumiel” the NPC was always called “Ramon” by my character “Brog”

  29. Sithson says:

    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

  30. Fickle says:

    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.

  31. Jouk says:

    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

  32. Tom Zunder says:

    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.

  33. gwen says:

    “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!

    (*grin, duck*)

  34. party squad says:

    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!

  35. Antiquated Tory says:

    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.)

  36. Deoxy says:

    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.

  37. Parzival says:

    “Wow. Were those really their names?”

    Priceless.

    Peter Jackson really needs to see this comic. I think he’d love it.

  38. HcaneAndrew says:

    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.)

  39. Steve says:

    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

  40. Steve says:

    Sorry about not properly closing that italic tag there.

  41. KennyCelican says:

    “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.

  42. KennyCelican says:

    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…

  43. AJ says:

    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.

  44. Karl says:

    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.

  45. Me says:

    “one Peregrin Took”

    Was I the only one expecting a rejoinder along the lines of “Sounds like a lead. Where is this Peregrin guy?” :-)

  46. David V.S. says:

    Ironchan, author of the webcomic Get Medieval, recently made drew and described RPG character named the Necromancer of Awesome:

    As Mad Scientist types go, The Necromancer of Awesome is at the fairly benign end of the scale. He’s not out for World Conquest or Revenge On Those Fools At The Academy. He just wants to make zombie pirates, zombie ninjas, and zombie dinosaur cyborgs. Because he can.

    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.

  47. David V.S. says:

    Arg. Typo. Should be “Ironychan” above.

  48. Mauro says:

    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.

  49. WizWom says:

    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.

  50. Rick says:

    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.

  51. Vicky W says:

    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?

  52. Medium Dave says:

    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

  53. Ermel says:

    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.

  54. David McKinnis says:

    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.

  55. Will says:

    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.

  56. Telas says:

    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

  57. haashaastaak says:

    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.”

  58. Rick the Wonder algae says:

    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.

  59. Cliffy says:

    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.

  60. Damon says:

    “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.

  61. Kulebri says:

    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.

  62. Donald says:

    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.

  63. Matt says:

    “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.

  64. MrDeodorant says:

    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.

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