Sunday, January 15, 2012

Being a Better GM part 4: Names

As a GM coming up with names has always been the toughest part of running an adventure. I always feel like my NPC names are boring, or I sit and stare at my magic object and can't figure out what to name it. Here are a few quick and dirty tips to easy naming.

1.) Check your email spam filters. You can get some good names that way. From my spam filter here are some names I'd use for an NPC.

Esmerelda Odo
Libbey Newsome
Rick Eden
Shal Nelida
Shay Johnson
Rey Goodlatte
David DeSimone
Chris Duncan

2.) Name generators and naming sites. Here are a few good ones that I use.

Behind the Name. I like this one because you can choose the nationality of the name you want to use as well as the sex. It's got a pretty good database of names and it has a meaning for each name as well.

Kate Monk's Onomastikon This site breaks names up by civilization and region of the world. Some of the links are broken on the site, but it's still an interesting read (even if the design is hard on the eyes).

Wizard's Community List of Names This one is put together by the users at the Wizard's forums. It's separated by first and last name and tends to be more fantasy themed.

List of Random Names This one is great because you can choose between several options before submitting your request.

Fake Name Generator I love this one because you can choose everything from sex to nationality and it will give you an entirely pre-generated history for the person down to a fake email address and website.

3.) Things
I find that it's pretty easy for me to come up with magical items. I look at something and then say "what if?" until I get it figured out. Naming is quite another thing. There are a couple of tricks that I like to use though.

I like to use Google Translator to come up with a name for something.  Let's say we have a magic item that will blast fire when a command word is spoken. Take the meaning of the word and translate it into another language. Putting "fire shooter" into the translator and selecting something like Welsh you end up with saethwr Tân. The next step is to switch up a few letters or take them out. The final product is the wand of the ancient wizard Saewr Tan, who loved fire. 

The Forge Fantasy Name Generator This is geared more towards fantasy play, but it's a name generator that does more than people names. You can also get a random name for animals, lands, spells, and magic items. It can be very useful.

Online Etymology Dictionary Use this one the same way you'd use Google Translate. Plug in the meaning of the word and see the history of it and choose something from the list. Plugging "fire shooter" into the OED generates several diverse results, but I ended up liking the word agnih (from the Sanskrit for igneous, aka firey) and the word heorð (from the Old English for hearth). This gives us the name Heoran for either the name of the wizard or the wand itself. 

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