Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Game Names: An Intro

They say Tolkien started the Lord of the Rings with the languages and the names of things. And though I didn't know it at the time, it did have an effect on how I weighed other fantasy novels -- the quality of naming, I mean. There was something dark about the word nazgul, and eerie how it tied into the rhyme for the ring (ash nazg = one ring). It gave weight and consistency to place names like Mordor and Barad Dur.

Of course, when gaming, we can't all invent a language or a culture and then figure out the naming of our characters and thing. And sometimes, in a wahoo-type of game you're going to run into characters like Bob the Barbarian and artifacts like The Big Black Book of Evil Sh*t.

But well-named characters tend to stick in our minds, especially when their names roll off the tongue or add to our concept or understanding of the characters by living up to or living down to their names or evoke some sense of character even before walking into a room. Morgan Ironwolf may have had a pic to help her out, but Black Dougal and Gutboy Barrelhouse gave you an instant hook in your imagination without that aid.

In the future I hope to tackle names of well-known people, places, and things in RPG settings. I won't just talk about how they made me feel, but also how some associations and connotations of the names might give GMs (and Players) ideas for further game development.


  1. That is why I take great care in naming things in my game world. The gent who ran the world before me did well, but now that I've inherited it, I've improved upon his design, and even the spells are renamed things that inform the outlook of the game world. It's not "dimension door," it's "travel in the cracks between". World design starts with good names.

  2. There is nothing that makes or breaks a game world faster than the names... Probably the hardest part of designing the world is coming up with names that not only sound good, but also give a sense of place or character to a... place or character ;)

  3. I agree with RJ. I can take a name here or there not working for me--and in actual play, of course, things are going to come up that are far from perfect, but in a published setting, a quick look at the map often unsells me.

  4. Excellent points. Naturally, your mileage may vary, gaming styles may vary, etc.

    But for me (and apparently for other people) SOME thought going into naming is important.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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