One of the most threatening things for both players and GMs at the time they are creating their characters is the concept of creating a name. Often people will flake out and go with something that has absolutely no relevance to anything. Think about how many times you’ve seen the name “Bob” at the top of a sheet and wondered to yourself if this has to always be the weak link to your sound character concept. Well in this article I am going to present four methods to help create better character names, two specifically for a modern or futuristic setting and two for a fantasy setting.
A. Modern/ Futuristic
1. Combine Names of Others
There have been numerous instances where I have been stuck on an idea for a character and just so happen to be watching something on the television. One day it hit me that if I were to combine the names of some of these characters I would be able to have a very well made character name. For instance, one of the characters I used in my Post- Modern GURPS game went by the name of Drake Wright. For any fans of Gold the Series you will instantly recognize this as being a combination of two of the main characters last names, Jonathan Drake and Richard Wright.
2. Use Family or Extended Persons Names
Around the time that I started using a campaign service known as Obsidian Portal I also began running a Harry Potter game. For the first session I was going to need a name for the villain. I examined what my players listened to and watched and found one terrible fact; while most of my players listen to Happy Jack’s RPG Podcast none of them can remember the cast names. I decided to put this to my advantage and used the name Stuart Venable for the name of my villain. This method can be done with most anyone so long as they decide not to mock you for what they are named after.
One example of this going badly is the name of an organization in my Post- Modern GURPS game. My friends that I GM for are all heavily into video games so when I presented “The Rapture” as being the corporation that they were going to have to fight against they could not get past the name, making references to Bioshock even though I had not realized the similarities.
B. Fantasy/ Past
1. Combine Parts of Names
You may have been going through this article wondering what the name at the top, “Naractes Chamter”, means. Well it is there to illustrate another point of making great character names. What I decided to do was actually combine the two words “Character” and “Names”, moving the Na and es from names and the Ch and ter from Character. This method is an extremely easy method and can even be used when you are in a crunch for a name. Thus, Adam Sawyer becomes Saada Wyerm, who could very well be a traveller from the desert villages.
2. Play Off of Phrases
One of my most favorite characters I have ever played was a manic depressive mage named Ceumtheen Staraenge (pronounced Something Strange). When I was creating this name I was stumped so I decided to set out to create the funniest name but wanted to have it spelled out in a way that would make others think it was very sophisticated. When I came up with the idea for Ceumtheen I decided to think of creating an interesting way to spell it. This name has created hundreds of great roleplaying moments and has even spawned a whole generation of characters who names are as follows: Neutheen (nothing), Uatevar (whatever), and Heealoa (hello).
The opportunity for great character names is only limited to a person’s imagination. By taking these four simple tips into your character generation experience you will find that rather than having a weak character name that doesn’t do your concept justice, you will feel proud every time a character calls out your name as you deal that final blow.
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