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Creating Names as a GM


(zay422) #1

Howdy! So getting down to business, I've recently started acting as a GM and one of the harder things I've come across in my prep is creating and following naming customs among my NPCs so that they feel like part of a cohesive world.

So I've got a few questions for any GMs and PCs about names in TTRPGs as a whole. What are some names that stuck, giving you an understanding about that character? What kinds of naming customs do you all feel help create a vibrant world? Are there any pitfalls to avoid when naming people or organizations?

I'm looking for ways to stray away from mixing names that are too complex or too simple, and break my reliance on name generators to make names quickly, or create them in advance.

This question was sparked when catching up on Court of Swords, I noticed I really enjoy the names of recurring NPCs in the setting, despite being so different in personality they all feel like part of the same world that cohesion is the kind of feeling I'd like to emulate.

(Kol_Saresk) #2

Naming is the most evil thing in any creative endeavor lol.

I know when some friends and I were creating names over on Bolter and Chainsword for our Chaos Space Marines, one thing we experimented with was taking sounds, and then throwing in vowels and consonants until we came up with something that wasn't too difficult to say and we thought was semi-cool.

Another thing is name generators. Just google any name generator and there you go.

Stars Without Numbers actually comes with several ethnic name generators as well.

Even Blades in the Dark has name generators.

So honestly, if you have trouble coming up with names, either look to your favorite books, shows, etc, or try going off the wall random, or use name generators.

(Typoko) #3

Problem with coming up with names on the fly is that if that NPC ends up being recurring person you don't want them to be named something that doesn't fit the game at all. Then you are stuck with the name if you goofed during the game.

One way to not have a "name generator" is to have a list of names that you have generated/came up beforehand. When you need one, you pull one from that and then cross that name over. You can also have another list that you use to pull a nickname for the character to give some direction for their character.

Having a wealth of good names for a certain setting in your head is hard to have. One of the problems is that in reality same names are used really often, and this was more prevalent in olden times. Still you don't want to use the same names twice in an RPG to be more clear who is who. Also, i'm not that certain how many characters would actually have names or at least names that don't just portray their occupation. Shop keeper could just stay as a Alison the shop keeper instead of Alison Weston. Pedestrians tend to have pedestrian sounding names.

But... if you still want to create cool sounding names and not rely on lists/generators, one can use something that i call the "MMO character name tactic". This works with adding two words together and the end result is a cheesy but somewhat cool name. Examples: Frosteyes, Ironfist or Deathshadow. To get on the next level of epic proportions you translate the words to a fantasy language. One i have used is middle earths elven. Rough translations for the examples would be Heleg Hend, Ang Paur and Gurth Gwathren.

In many ways names tend to describe the person much more than how western people are named nowadays with the name being completely its own thing that doesn't directly portray the person. For example if you use Sindarin elf name generator, the name is composed of few things that are then mashed together. In Japanese culture they use the suffixes to represent social status between the two people talking.

PS: No, i don't know how to speak Middle earth elven, i used translator.

(banned) #4

I think a big crux of this sort of issue is what kind of game you are running. Mainly what setting you're running in.

I do a lot of 40krpgs, so mixed naming conventions are incredibly common. On a hive world alone you can hit basically every naming convention.

The biggest thing is you have to stay consistent with your setting. In an ancient greek game you can't have a "Dave", you have to have an "Odysseus" or an "Achilles"

Where as that sort of thing makes no sense in a 1920's bootlegger game.

Organizations are always a bit odd, because feasibly they can fit anywhere depending on the name. If it's associated with a level of technology it has to be able to be present in the setting.

(HellsCreso) #5

I just use random name generators because im a pleb DM. :itmejphappy: