What's In A Name?


Few fantasy writers (and computer role-playing game designers) have the time or the patience to create an entire working language for their worlds, and use it to create wholly original, intelligent names. There's nothing wrong with that. Even without an original language, there are still plenty of good ways to create plausible names... yet how do so many people get it so wrong?

Would that which we call Norrath by any other name smell so bad?

Long ago, in the ancient realm of Uhsergp, the childless king Pdsfbnncdjkl announced a great tournament. The prize for this tournament was not gold, or fine weapons, or the hand of a fair maiden... the victor would be crowned Prince Regent, and made king upon Pdsfbnncdjkl's death. Pdsfbnncdjkl was old, and he knew his time on the earth was short. None of the other nobles in the Uhsergp had a valid claim to the throne, and the king knew they would protest if he named any of them his successor. The nobles respected strength, however, and King Pdsfbnncdjk hoped they would follow the winner of the tournament.

Knights from every corner of the realm flocked to the great event: Sir Wixkavugh from the plains of Gnillor, Gronst Fleshcrush the Strong of Lesmuc, Lord Fadfrwe of the Ynows Mountains, the brothers Ybrtlei, Yfarienrt, and Ealiuqty from the province of Emcaiar... even the elusive Elvish prince Ma'quell'serni'oryn'da'taille came to fight for the throne.

The tournament lasted many days, and many great champions fell. The mighty dwarf Rockeater Stonechew was struck down by the poisoned blade of the dark elf known as Captain Q'a'tlyv, and the wizard Saru'mann was slain by...

I'm sorry, I simply can't write any more of that drivel. The flaw in the above passage isn't the plot - it may be cliche, but it's no worse than most hacked fantasy. Nor is there anything really wrong with the phrasing - again, it's a bit awkward in places, but it's still infinitely superior to anything written by, say, Dennis McKiernan. The major problem with the passage, the thing that makes any intelligent reader wince in pain, the utterly loathsome quality shared by far too many CRPGs... is the names.

Few fantasy writers (and computer role-playing game designers) have the time or the patience to create an entire working language for their worlds, and use it to create wholly original, intelligent names. There's nothing wrong with that. Even without an original language, there are still plenty of good ways to create plausible names. The writer (or designer) can use common names and variations, like George R.R. Martin does: Jon, Eddard, Bran, and Joffrey are similar to everyday names, but fit just as well in Martin's medieval-style fantasy world. Another possibility is to create simple names that mean nothing, but still follow basic rules of composition - Guy Gavriel Kay's worlds are populated with people such as Tabor, Loren, Levon, and Torc. Yet another option is to use names based on other languages, such as Orson Scott Card's countless character names derived from Portuguese.

There are, as I said, plenty of ways to create good names. Unfortunately, there are just as many ways to create wretchedly bad names. EverQuest is the best example of this: the designers employed at least three different methods to create the thousands of atrocious names in Norrath.


Why bother creating a new language for your game when you can simply rearrange existing English words? I hadn't noticed the EverQuest anagram system when I first started playing... but a friend pointed it out to me a few months ago, and I haven't been able to respect the gods of Norrath since. The names of most of the gods and goddesses are simply anagrams of the deity's role. Tunare, goddess of druids and rangers - Nature. E'ci, goddess of frozen water - Ice. Xegony, from the Plane of Air - Oxygen. To some people, that might make a twisted sort of sense, but I personally could never worship any entity whose name was so... banal. Gods deserve strong names, powerful names: Jehovah, Allah, Odin, Hades. Not Ice.

Random letters

I don't care how foreign or unusual the Tier'dal language is... names like X'Onnu and X'Lottl would not exist in any sentient culture. Names have to be pronounceable to function on a basic level. Drugged or otherwise incapacitated parents might name their children Happy, or Sunshine, or even Placenta, but no parent would ever be wasted enough to name their offspring F'Lok. Not even dark elven parents. And C'Luzz isn't a name, it's what appears on the screen if you clean your keyboard while in Word.

Overly descriptive

Descriptive names are generally encouraged in EverQuest, and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with them. A good descriptive name can tell a fair bit about a character's personality. I've had plenty of characters with such surnames: Warweaver, the fighting halfling tailor; Axebiter, the slightly stupid steel-chewing dwarf; Alebane, the perpetually drunken cleric, and a handful of others. But there's a fairly major difference between the name Thorokin Warweaver and Guard Pinebramble. Or Moonshadow. Or Moonwind, or Highmoon, or Moonwhisper, or Noonshadow (the latter makes about as much sense as the name Brightdark), or the dozen other NPC names used in EverQuest for rangers, druids, and wood elf guards. Streamtree... is that the name of a wise, ancient wood elf, or a cul-de-sac in a modern country club subdivision? Either way, it's trite and offensive to the eyes. Names should consist of something more than two randomly selected nature words joined together.

The creators of EverQuest certainly did a good job of taking a vast, potentially fascinating world, and stripping every shred of credibility from it. And I haven't even mentioned the place names in Norrath ("The Vasty Deep" - enough said). The final nail in EverQuest's coffin, however, was driven by the players themselves.

Names like Bobba Fett, Keanu Reaves, and Jayz Funkmaster have no place in a fantasy world, even a world as poorly drawn as Norrath. Most people agree on this point: few things spoil a fragile roleplaying experience more than being accosted by a flirtatious female troll named Brittney Spears. What is more difficult, however, is convincing someone that their name Itsybitsy is just as inappropriate. Those who have such names claim that they simply reflect their personality or appearance... but would you name a child Littlecrier? Or Bigbaby? Or Milkguzzler? Names are simple tags assigned to individuals. Sometimes they mean something, but they're most often because they sound right, or they honour a family member. When I was born, my parents looked at me and said "She looks like a Kate!". They didn't frown, scratch themselves, and say "Uh... well, I don't have any ideas, and the random name generator sucks, so let's just call her Tinypinkthing."

What's in a name? Sometimes nothing. Mnydogg, the name of my dwarven fighter, had no real meaning: it just looked right. Sikandra the mage, Arthan the bard, Thela the halfling warrior... none of them mean anything, but they are names nonetheless. When it comes to fantasy CRPGs, sometimes the simplest names are the best.

I just wish someone had told that to the people at Verant.

For even more examples of EverQuest's naming flaws, check out the EverQuest Easter Egg website at http://amtgard.pinkpig.com/everquest/easterquest.htm.

"What's in a name? Sometimes nothing. Mnydogg.."

Uhm, Mnydogg!? How exactly do you prenounce that? :)

Your article was reasonably convincing until this point, so I hope either that's a typo or you are willing to admit you are being a bit hypocritical towards people with names like F'Lok or X'Onnu. Those I can pronounce quite happily, and in fact I have met people, generally of asian descent, who have names which when translated to English appeared far more unprounounceable than the above, and due to my limited vocal abilities as an English speaker proved totally unpronounceable, as I was not able to form the correct inflections etc.

Apart from that note I generally agree with what you said, especially about people with names like Keanu Reeves or Britney Spears, those are people who never were taught what ROLEPLAYING means.

I have to agree with Caliban. Names such as X'lottl, while difficult for most English speakers, CAN be pronounced. Have you ever tried reading case studies on the Kalahari Bushmen and tried to pronounce names like N!kai or X!abbu? They don't look pronounceable, but they are. English simply doesn't have the characters needed to express the sounds.

That said, the rest of your article is right on. Nothing kills a game like a bad name. Now, I have to admit that I've been just as guilty as anyone else of using bad names in adventures, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. If you don't believe me, check out my Scarlet Servant adventures on this site. I have a major villain being referred to as Chupacabra. Fortunately, my group was brain dead enough to not get the reference right away.

Have to side with Caliban about Mnydogg, man it sounds worst than most of the ones you mentionned.

But I have to agree with you on most of your article. We used to play a game set in an orc kingdom. All the players' characters were monsters so alot of experimenting was done. Here are worst names that were ever created:

1 - Shravrickr, who was from then on called the unspeakable.

2 - Mmpf (kind of the sound a cow or bull makes when it vents air through its nostrils), a minotaure. The name was fine in a conversation, but try to yell: "watch out Mmpf!" without blowing snot all over your chin or bursting a sinus.

3 – Mettrick the Troll, actually I didn't realise what how it sounded before I said it and it was too late.

The anagram trick is a nice one, but use it on names and surnames, it works well I find. Some names like Smithicks, Grolsh and Bauer also sound great, even if they are brand names.

Anywho just my grain of salt.

Cthulhu Matata

Oh by the way Thorokano, ever try pronouncing aztec and maya names, good luck man.

"I don't care how foreign or unusual the Tier'dal language is... names like X'Onnu and X'Lottl would not exist in any sentient culture."

Well, I guess you define sentience by how limited a language can be in its range of "vocable" (sorry don'y know the english word for that one) you know the sounds contained within a language?

Any how end of second grain of salt.

Good call on the Aztec names, Sam. Ever tried pronouncing a name like "Tlaloc?" Or "Ixtacihuatl" for that matter? The problem is that nahuatl was an ideographic language to begin with, so when Spanish monks started transliterating it after the Conquest there were some sounds that the Aztecs could make with their mouths, but that just couldn't be expressed using a romanized alphabet. That's why there are, like, 15 different ways that historians spell "Moctezuma." Okay, end rant, you can tell I'm a Spanish major, can't you? (c;

But seriously, I think one of the things that makes a name seem silly sooner than anything else is when the players *make* it silly. I think "Mettrick" is a perfectly decent troll name, personally; if the players had tried to forget about what it meant in their world and just taken it for what it was. Names are tough to do well, as this article very nicely shows, and some players are really self-conscious about them. The last thing anyone needs is their gaming group snickering behind their hands when they introduce their character, especially if it's something they really slaved over. That said, maybe gamers should just cut each other a little slack from time to time...unless someone's character is named Britney Spears, in that case throw the Monstrous Manual at them.

Nice idea for an article. But Mnydogg? Oh dear. Was this 'When in Rome' or just 'Can't be bothered'? Add to the list of say what languages Inuit. I suspect the troll named Britney had a troll player as well. Incidentally, did EQ bother to give a list of sample names? Just a thought for all you budding game designers out there.

Anagram names in computer-based games - a fine and noble tradition - even if it C4's suspension of disbelief. Still that's why you have kewl grafix & sounds, right? As for players naming their characters with un-FRPG names, you have limited control on an online game and trolls are everywhere. Just ask Britney.

Gamerchick's point about silly names can actually work for you in RPG situations. One of the most effective threats I've used to get a player on track is to threaten to let the other players name the character if they don't. Someone called me on it and Cannasing the bard became legend. Needless to say it didn't happen again.

Unintentional humour in names however is part of real life though, so why not RPG? If you open a telephone directory, you can find many a Pratt and even the odd Wanker (US only I'm assured). Deadpan humour and enforcing roleplaying may be your most effective tool to turn a humourous situation tragi-comic. "They're laughing at the King? I, Sir Badars, challenge them to the tourney. Badars being the proverbial irresistable force should make them realise that court jester was not always a position that commanded respect.

Tranche de Vie:

In grade 10, in my first AD&D campaign the first recurring vilain my party encountered was a paladin named Avogadro (Since I hated Chemistry I had named him after the guy who invented the "table of chemical elements?" LE TABLEAU PÉRIODIQUE EN FRANÇAIS) Anyway, the guys laughed for one game, but they soon dreaded the name as much as I dreaded chemistry quizzes.

By the way I find that Russian makes for great fantasy hero names Vftornik (Tuesday) Dourak (Stupid) Padajdi (Wait). Spanish too is a great language, don't stick to english folks.

Our D&D table has names in English and in French except when it comes to dwarves, who for some reason all sound German or Russian.

C ya

I meant anti-paladin not paladin. Sorry if I pissed off some paladins out there.

You can send the duel challenges at my e-mail adress, I'll answer them in order of reception : )

One of my favorite characters used the last name "Hellspire".

My DM at the time was skeptical of this (pointing out that the character was good-aligned). I reminded him that you nobody gets to choose their last name (well, unless you have it legally changed but I doubt that happens much in fantasy worlds).

Sam, I too feel your pain. Avogadro's formula was the bane of my existence in High School Chemistry. May Avogadro go down in History as a bad, bad man. :)

Okay, two pieces.
I will agree with the previous posters in terms of tradition. Kenobi285 is as much internet tradition as anything, and thus, for Everquest, in contest with any other sort of naming proprietry.

But I'm really here to defend the whole dual name thing. In fact, I think it even fits a grander point.

In a game of mine, all northerners will have dual names. It started as an accident, really. Icewind, Bladeflower, Blackrock, Pineheart and so on. And, yes, things do get silly when you start getting to Lord Fireplace in Castle Lastnight. But the point is it fits into a scheme. First off it gets applied to more than just people, and folks start getting into the linguistic games that surround how such a language would develop and what it would mean for a psychology. But moreover, Northerners have a way of identifying themselves. What would be stupid, becomes cool because it transforms into an issue of pride.

See, the point is not that Larana is somehow a better name than Hakhhhoq, but it is a name that fits a certain context. For pseud-euro fantasy, the latter is unreasonible. But give that unpronouncible a good context and away you go. And the former would be completely unsutible if, for instance, the game was set pseudo-mid-east fantasy.

However, it does show disrespect for the Everquest system.

However, I am not suprised.



How would 'Lord Fireplace', as a name better the game? You say that in your campaign all northerners will have dual names. What is the cultural reason for these dual names? What are the rules for these names? Is there a limited choice of words for the first half of the name?

Lord Fireplace will only be good if there are rules governing the choice of names and a strong logic behind those rules. From the selection of names you provided, Fireplace doesn't even fit. Lastnight doesn't fit very well either. With those two exceptions all of the other names have an ITEM as the second name. Flower, Heart, Wind and Rock. A human can pick up, smell, taste and interact with any of these items. 'Place' is so generic so blah. One cannot smell a place, touch a place or even interact with a place. Now, if that place were a cave, then one could smell it, touch it and even interact with it (in a limited sense). Lord Firecave would work. Fireplace just doesn't. I'm not knocking your desire to inject flavor into your game. In fact, go to it. Make sure your game has all the flavor of a good plate of Curry Chicken, but make sure there is a recipe to your curry.

Actually Wooz I disagree with you, "Lord Fireplace" can be a good name, if it doesn't mean lord of the "Foyer". If the Fireplace family are the sacred guardians of some holy flame or those who keep the lighthouse working it is a great name.

And as far as castle last night goes, the name might have started as "castle of the Last Knight" and believe me old names have a tendency to change over time. You would be surprised how many of our names are batardisations of older names from a few centuries ago.

Anyhow, for all halflings in our games we've been giving names that relate to scenery and plants. Humans from certain kingdoms tend to have descriptive names, especially the commoners "Shoemaker, Smith, Carpenter etc." Gnomes have very descriptive and unending first names. Their last name tends to get lost since they never get to say them before we fall asleep or wander away :-)

C ya later

Only with your explanations does the name Fireplace begin to become palatable. I agree with you totally about the castle name. That's why I centered more on the name of the lord, rather than his castle in my little rant.

J.S. mentioned linguistic puzzles, etc. No matter how illogical and stupid people are, their languages actually follow and maintain a certain degree of internal logic. Exceptions always exist in the form of petrified conjugations or plural forms, but the number of those exceptions vary from language to language (i.e. a few in German to hundreds, maybe thousands in English and French). I still stick by my first arguement that the names he cited for examples do not hold together logically. On a side note, am I the only one who thinks of a Fireplace as the actual structure a person burns wood in? I had never heard it referred to as the foyer before, I want to check if the foyer bit is a Canadian/UK usage or not. Sam, what would you call the place where you stoke the fire in your house? The grate? I think that's whay I am thinking more of with the word fireplace rather than foyer.

Actually Wooz, "foyer" is a frenchism. It has a narrower meaning than its French equivalent, but nonetheless I used it wrong in my previous post (it's one of those words I always screw up like noteworthy and notorious which are the same word in French).

And being up to my nose in student debts, the place where I stoke the fire in my house is nowhere, but if I had a fireplace, that would be where I would stoke the fire (unless I was a pyromaniac, which isn't what you were asking right?)

Anyhow, I do agree that when foreigners meet the Northmen from J.S.'s game, it must be hard at times to remain serious. But then I once met a guy named Cole Gates... somehow I couln't help but smile...

Oh by the way, many English words and expressions are extremely funny when translated to other languages. For example Microsoft can be interpreted as "Small and not hard", poor Bill. Remember the Nova fiasco in Mexico, the car had a cool name Nova, but in Spanish "No Va" means doesn't work... In alternity there was a race called the Tsa, in Québec Slang, Tsa means "This".

And I won't go on.

But this gives me an idea for a rant.

Cthulhu matata

Ok. I just wasn't sure how you were using foyer. I too am under the burden of student debt. The statements make great kindling for starting a house on fire. :)

Yup great kindling, especially if you imagine you are closer and closer to burning the last one... Sometimes I feel like I sold my soul to the Devil and that little piece of paper feel like it's written in blood.

That makes me think, the Cleric has been complaining about how poor the party was... enters the Hell Spawned Banker bwa ha ha ha ha.

And yes I'll try to give him a cool name... probably an anagram on banker.
Say, how does one write banker en espanol? (sorry can't find the tildé on my keyboard).

Vayan con dios amigos.

Sam: Banker in Spanish is "banquero." Pretty straightforward, huh? Gotta love cognates. (c;

I would have found it first if all of my dictionaries weren't packed up for moving. Honest! :) Ask me another question. :)

Okay Wooz,

What does: "Despues la puerta negra te vas encontrar la muerta" Ok I know the syntax is a bit off and the style is bad but it's better than "Me gusta la puerta azula"

What is it with me and the word puerta?


Thanks GC, now the money lender's name will be......
Quanbero... or Beronqua, I'll give him a gnome or a halfling's appearance. The PC's always trust these two races.

Bwa ha ha ha!

Ack, Wooz, I wasn't clear, I apologize.

To date, no Lord Fuzzypants has appeared. But let's do the numbers:

I was responding to the author's original comments, to the extent that the dual word overdescription is:
"...trite and offensive to the eyes. Names should consist of something more than two randomly selected nature words joined together." And then using personal tales to support the view that the author was missing the forest for the trees.

The dual names work out because all words in Ancient Troish are composed of two parts, or "idioms," which mean things in and of themsevles but which are never used by themselves. Names basically come from two sources: ancient words for various things, places and what have you that became associated to vairous families, and also the wholly fabricated ones which are given to the child by his or her mother's maid-of-honor. Technically, she provides the former as well.

In short, yes, there is a heavy internal logic. There wasn't one to start with, but one grew. Your fears are justified but unwarranted.

But logics always break down in the face of expediancy. To the same extent that in a game where people had normal names people tend to default when they need to make one up to Bob or Dave (excact name depends on the speaker), when dealing with Northerners there is no ready default. So the defaults tend to end up silly ("This sword...er...Lady Blacklight gave it to me) which, seeing as how we're dealing with LARPers mostly, there's a lot of.

My point is, to steal your analogy, recipie is all important. Curry doesn't belong in pasta sauce, but it sure does belong in curry. Practically anything has some use in some recipie somewhere. Know your recipie. If you use names like K'lagggeq, put him/her/it in a context of people with equally difficult names. Do whatever, just give it context. And remember that it won't always keep up, becuase there will be times when you are silly and namestarved and keep using Blargag over and over again.

Damn right curry doesn't belong in pasta. It belongs on my rice!

Makes more sense now. I can't deny that I have dropped the ball on interesting names. I hereby get off of my soapbox.

Now, where am I going to get some good curry chicken? Hmm...

I think the best solution to this problem is to not allow players to choose their own names. Why should they be able to? I didn't get to choose mine. Just assign them a name from a good random name generator and be done with it.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha

Thanks X you just made my day.

I can't wait for BloodBunny the Barbarian and Klrrabfniklliktij the mage to appear in my next game.

Both of those are probably better than most of the names most d3wdz would chuz for th3ms3lv3z.

But regardless I did say a "good" random name generator. If they can put characters on the moon, then they can build a better name builder.

No they can't, check out what is out there.

I use my Palm and a memo in there to write down interesting names when I hear them or see them. That way, I can have a list to peruse when the time is needed.

I also must admit that the main country in the gameworld created by my husband and myself is named Thearea because I misheard what he said. He was in another room, and I heard him speaking, and thought that he'd named the country Thearea. When what he really said was The Area. But it stuck, he liked it, and now I must live it down. Forever.


Well I dunno... Ragnar Hairybreeks was a *real* Viking.
So Lord Fuzzypants cannot be that far behind.

I always found the phone directory to be a good place for names. You can also buy books of names and yes, they contain some really bizarre ones.

On the better name-builder front, I s'pose there is some argument for inserting some linguistic rules. But then we wouldn't have had X'lottl. Interesting name that.

Best thing about a name like X'Lotti is that you can always tell someone that they're mispronouncing it.

No, X'lotti.
No, X'lotti. Aren't you paying attention?


Remember the funny random name generator in Dragon 200+ (can't remember the exact number). That was a funny article and a silly generator.

It gave great names to many characters in our gurps and D&D tables. It also was the source of many completely unpronounçable names that kept us laughing for hours.



"No, you idiot, Jhusdui - just the way it's spelled!"

--The Sigil


This generator should only be used in a High Humour low drama game.

I'd just like to point out that the names of Gods (Odin, Jehovah, etc.) only seem strong and proud because they're centuries upon centuries old. If Odin had been named Bill, today Bill would be reverred as a strong and proud name.

P.S. I like to use latin for my character's names, but usually I just make them up.

i agree with caliban and the others mnydogg is just plain silly and is alot less creative than F'lok iether way i dont really care, i do agree with you that names like britney spears are simply idiotic.

i have always enjoyed the eq name generator and i think its bullshit for you to say its crapy when if you had such a popular game i bet youd find a quicker way to make up names than just put letters together till it sounds fitting.

the point is a name generator when effective has to put out a whole lot of names and therefore it would have to have a certain way of putting them out and not making names that are exactly alike.

anyways thats how i feel.

Yeas, I have to comment about that some of those names are completely pronounciable using Finnish, because everything is written as pronounced. But pronouncing those names in English would be very hard. At least to me because my pronunciation is not very good at all (well, I sometimes pronounce even Finnish wrongly). But there really could be some odd names. For example my surname is extremely odd (but easily pronounced because of the pronouciation rules) and if I announce it most people here in Finland would make some mistakes (if not knowing anybody who has such surname). And to tell it in Finland is nowadays 15 people who has that surname and 11 of them are close relatives of mine. And about over hundred years there has been 26 people who has that surname.

Try combining exsisting names to create new ones-- Suitcase names like the words Lewis Carrol was so fond of:

Ellyndre = Ellen + Andrea
Ellandja = Ellen + Angela
Ebrandice = Eurydice + Brandy
Mortessia = Morticia + Tess
Royowen = Roy + Owen
Gabermuel = Gabriel + Samuel
Jenfarmen = Jennifer + Herman
Xenderon = Alexander + Ron
etc... you get the point.

Try it-- also try household objects, brand names, common words spelled with some of the letters missing or added.

Rheen (from an air conditioner brand)
Esjeke (from "Deskjet")
Ultisyn (from "multisync")
Rotec (from "protected")
Devent (from "advent")
Clo'kall (great thri-kreen name from "clock on the wall")
Have fun!

I must point out that celtic (a common language of medieval times) is pretty irresponsible here as well.


I must confess that I cut copy pasted this. I haven't the finger strength or patience to type out the whole bloody thing.

Durabaly yours,

I remember to this day one of the worst naming incidents in a game I was DMing. The party had initially recovered a powerful item and then had it stolen by a group of NPCs. The NPCs got ahold of the item and realized that it was actually a locator for other items, and decided to give it back to the heros and let them do all the heavy work. In order to make it less obvious that they were doing this, they decided to trick the heroes into a duel and then throw the fight. It all went pretty well, until the enemy fighter announced his name. It had been Sirius, but perhaps after one too many beers he said in a deep, menacing voice...
"I am Serious."
His prospective opponent couldn't stop laughing for about two minutes.

If anybody's ever read Glen Cook's Black Company books, a lot of the characters have colorful and unusual names like Croaker, Goblin, One-Eye, Lady, or Raven. It's a possibility in many fantasy settings for people to be named for a distinctive trait and carry that name with pride. As they said with Lady, it sounds like a name in any language but one.

I think part of the problem that many MMORPGs have is that they try to force people into having both a first name and a last name, which might very well not be true in a lot of fantasy worlds and probably wasn't necessarily true in our own for some people. If I recall correctly, a great many of our names today come from a person's trade or something like that. IE, John Smith might have been the descendant of Tom the Smith, and the two just got run together. Miller, Baker, Carter, and Ect are all names based off of what a character or his ancestor might have done.

My own campaign is seeing something like this. The party's leader is a half-orc named Taps, because he has a habit of tapping the butt of his weapon on the ground. His assistant, Digger, was once Patches because he made a habit out of stabbing people in the eye. The party's rogue is named Meryl....and that's stayed stable. The NPC wizard I drag in to help them is called Whisper because he doesn't say much and would rather not let his true name be bandied about.

*blinks again*
Huh? What the...?

Now you made me curious, Theophenes.
I'll do a quick google for that word...

*returns a short time later*
Criminy... that wasn't just a joke.

There's even a domain called

Let me quote their intro:
>>[...] is the longest single word (without hyphens) .com domain name in the world. It was registered by Internetters on 21st October 1999.

This Welsh town actually exists and its name translates as "The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave".

For brevity, it is understandable that many of the locals simply refer to their village as "Llanfair" www.llanfair.com or "Llanfair PG" or "Llanfairpwll" which, of course, makes for easier typing and is faster to pronounce.

Prior to October 1999 it was not possible to register .com domain names longer than 26 characters (including 4 for the .com suffix). This denied many businesses and organisations the ability to register their full trading names as a .com domain name. However in October 1999, it became possible to register domain names up to 67 characters in length (including the 4 for the .com suffix).

There is a station in Wales called Gorsafawddachaidraigodanheddogleddollonpenrhynareurdraethceredigion but this is well less known.

And finally, sadly even the 67 character allowance for a .com domain name is still insufficient for the town of Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipukapihimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuaakitanarahu in New Zealand with a staggering 92 characters however even this seems positively tiny compared to the town of


in Thailand which is a whopping 163 characters long so long that it doesn't even fit on one line! However whilst the New Zealand place name is recognised by the Guiness Book of Record, the Thailand name is not.<<

Well, well. The English translation of the Llanfair thing sounds cool. Now THAT is a place name with a history. :) But I daresay that unless you and your players are from a Welsh-speaking background (or at least used to languages in which the name does not look like a random unpronouncable letter salat), it's not a good idea to spring names like that on unsuspecting players. Plus, if you the GM don't know how to pronounce it correctly either, forget it.

As a German, after years of having read Fantasy roleplaying game books and modules that were *saturated* with English names and place names - Dragonlance is especially notorious in this regard - I now try to avoid English names alltogether unless the setting is pseudo-historical Earth. Why would elves speak "English"? Instead I try to borrow from real-world languages that fit the real-world historical culture the Fantasy-world culture in question is patterned after, and mix this with some made-up names that just sound a bit Spanish, or Breton, or Anglo-Saxon, or whatever.

Books of historical names, nicknames and place names help immensely, too, as do books of Folktales and mythology; unless a name is too strongly associated and too widely known, i.e. Merlin, Orpheus, Onan, Oedipus, Moses. On the other hand, variants (like Myrrdin), or by-names ("Ambrosius", from the Merlin Ambrosius of legend), or simply names of lesser-known legendary figures (like Taliensin) can still work, if you keep in mind and remind the players that it was common practice to name children after some famous figure of history or myth.

Even today, you could name a child "Jesus" or "Mohammed" or even "Thor", and no-one would snicker. Usually these names are still around *because* they were very common. Take William the Conqueror, or King Artus... the latinised form of Arthur. Arthur is a common name, no reason why it shouldn't be used anymore? Good name for a little boy whom the parents wish to grow up into a brave and honorable man.

On the other hand, there are names that have taint associated with them, or are ambiguous. An example for the latter might be "Loki" (he was NOT an evil Norse god, even though he wasn't an Aesir, he was a trickster, though he fought on the wrong side during Ragnarög. Only the Christians turned him into a devil figure). An example for the former would be the German first name "Adolf". Once very common by various spellings, it's now virtually extinct. You might meet a few old people who still wear it, but that's about it.

Or is there any Christian today who'd name his son "Lucifer"? It's a beautiful name, isn't it, as it means "the Lightbringer".... ::sigh::

If you, the GM, are running a campaign with detailed cultures, adding little touches like these can add immense colour and mood.
NPCs named after ancient elven heroes.
A renegade exiled dwarf who, in defiance, gave himself the surname of an evil mine spirit from dwarven folktales, a name that is taboo for any normal dwarf to speak as doing so would invite desaster, it is said.
A bard who was named after a famous king before said king became less famous and met a grisley end (assassin with hot pokers up a toilet shaft, anyone?). ;-)

And yes, I myself have shamelessly used "fused" names, too :)... I still run a wizard/rogue character called "Tobrian": a fusion of "Tobias" and "Brian". One or two player characters who don't particularly like spellcasters annoy him by calling him "Toe-brain" whenever he gets into thaumathurgical geek mode. But at least it's a unique name.

Nope, not a joke. But admittedly it's a pain in the rear to say three times fast and would be one hell of a bet for treausre against a dragon.....

"You have to say (that long word) three times before the pendulum swings twenty times," the dragon says, grinning wickedly

"Llanfereiskeilkabad...err..could you write it down?" the thief stammered
"You lose your money! Hand it over, small man." Cue dragon poiting to treasure horde.

I must say that was an interesting minithought.
Anyquack, Bookaya! ( would someone else please use the word...pwetty pweese?? *cutsie eyes* Pweese?)

This is mainly for that one thief who manages to gamble himself into alot of money and needs a real challenge.

I have to say, naming really kills the pretty non-existant world of roleplay everywhere...it's really hard to get into a game when you're runing by players named: Ihateu Alex, Nachogirl, Peewee etc.

I use these names as I've actually seen them in passing on numerous occasion. My main charachters name in EQ2 is Flurrie Cindersnow, a wizard who, as such, has spells of fire, ice, electricity...basically all the elements. But, she isn't my only charachter...I also have: Silhouette Cashmer my dirge *rogue / scout*, Mrss Demeanor my berserker *tank / meatshield*, Countess Bathory my shadowknight *spell casting tank*, Beauty Songfeather my inquisitor *plate wearing healer* and Prestige S'Pagan my fury *squishy healer*. Ingame a name, to me, is something that kind of makes sense, has meaning of some sort to the player and her class and is named as such to help me feel as though I'm actually in the game. But, this isn't true for all people unfortuneatly. For example, Nachogirl...I've often wondered, if disecting her name, as a necromancer, it's really not appropriate, does it mean, she's not-yo girl? Or does she like nachos? Either way I doubt if in the FANTASY ROLEPLAYING circuit of things her parents would name her that!

I spent four years in foster care, in which time I found out my foster mothers parents had a wicked sense of humor. They were going to name her Penelope Anne...nickname...Penny Annie.

My point? Not everyone names their charachters to mean something or to fit a role. Besides the fact that sadly enough but true, not everyone is as creative as others. What sounds like a hard worked name to them = Peewee the Coercer, though stupid to us, is really all they could come up with. Now I mean no disrespect to those who haven't got the creative gene, but it is true. I'm one of those 'old school' gamers, at 28 years old who believes in order to play a fantasy roleplaying game, you should be able to atleast incorporate some fantasy aspect to the name...but my beliefs aren't neccessarily everyone elses :-/ In retrospec that could be said about peoples opinions about religion, sexuality, race etc...which would go into an arguement about first amendment and 5th amendment and so on...though it's hard to know why people choose the names they choose, it IS known, that they themselves do chose them. And they do pay to play like the rest of us :-/ I agree with this document, but I also believe, again, my opinion, that before typing things out with such vigor, you should take into account that not everyone thinks like you, I do, but others don't, I hope that comes across the right way.

Course it doesn't just stop at names though, why make a post about just names making a game bad for you...I've played WoW, L2, FFXI, SWG, AO, DAoC, CoH, DA, Redmoon, Runescape, Shadowbane, Horizons and many more and ya know, in all those games, there are more 'farmers' who play to rip people off just to sell stuff on e-bay, than there are 'bad names'...just something to think about ;)

I apologise for rambling...Flurrie Cindersnow ;)

Interesting post, but I'm not completely sure of your point.

It could be said, too, that what parents would name their child "Flurrie Cindersnow". How would they know that their child would grow up to be a wizard who casts elemental spells?

Not trying to steal your thunder. Just seems that you contradict yourself, unless I'm ignorant and not properly seeing what you've written (which is entirely possible; just ask around on the boards for a consensus!).


But that's just my $0.02 worth.

[edit: I do like the wizard's name as a name he/she was given upon some kind of graduation to the ranks of spellcasters. If that were the case, it'd make more sense to me.]

In many cultures it is typical to give children various names. A birth name, adolescent name, and a professional name are quite common. Like Oldtimer is suggesting -- a professional name is often the most discriptive.

Yamaguchi Sensei (founder of Japanese Goju-Kai Karate) had a professional name of Gogen (meaning rough) although it was not his birth name. His sons, as they became karate masters were given names like Gosei and Goshi.