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Question! How do you come up with names for fantasy characters?

O_BruceO_Bruce Member Posts: 2,761
Just like the title of this topic suggest, I would like to know how people are able to come up with some good names for characters and creatures in fantasy setting.

The reason I ask is that while I can came up with some ideas regarding the fantasy setting I would like to create in the future - probably very distant future, but still - I have serious problems with giving characters, creatures and deities some well-sounded and meaningful names. And since I would like to finally write down some of my ideas for (very) future use, it would be good for me to start using actual character's names than labels such as "Elven mage", "protagonist" "the litch" etc.

If you are able to share something interesting with me - I encourage you to do so. Thanks.

GenderNihilismGirdleAerakarCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov

Comments

  • GenderNihilismGirdleGenderNihilismGirdle Member Posts: 1,336
    edited August 2016
    If it's an established setting, like FR, I like to look at names already existing in the setting in the books (or on wikis or w/e) and get a feel for the way they look written down and how they sound when I attempt to pronounce them and sort of jumble things around and splice names together until I get an idea for something that actually seems to a) come from me but also b) fit nicely alongside other names.

    If the game is somehow fresh (like say a game company releases an original IP and I buy it on day one so there's not even a wiki with a bunch of characters names for different backgrounds/nationalities/species/etc) and they don't have a random name button for me to click through until I find one I like then I usually just wing it and/or use a name I've used for a main char in a similar game before.

    Most pen and paper RPGs I don't have this problem tho since they usually have a list of example names for each relevant division of background/identity/etc right there in the character creation chapters, and if not at least a few named NPCs or something floating about the published material.

    Making my own setting though? It depends if I go with wildly inventive China Miéville style species or generic fantasy mainstays like elves/dwarves/orcs/etc because for the former I go nuts and for the latter I look to past examples and synthesize my own out of a half dozen or more using the above methods.

    Edit: go nuts as in I just let my creativity take me where it feels right, since I'm creating species out of whole cloth rather than copying from elsewhere

    O_BruceCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • O_BruceO_Bruce Member Posts: 2,761
    I would like you to know that I appreciate your replies and I am thankful for some ideas. I can't understand why I never tried to go "Voldemort route", really. This is so obvious that I really can't explain myself.

    GenderNihilismGirdleCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • batoorbatoor Member Posts: 677
    Depends on race and what origin I imagined for them, until recently I generally tried to avoid surnames though. Some of the names I make, just seem really weird outside the games I play though. So I don't really trust my own naming sense in that area.

    One of my favorite series called Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb has a lot of names I don't really like that sound weird or stupid even WITHIN the setting though. Like Chade, Verity, Shrewd, Regal, Kettricken, Burrich, ultimately it's a minor thing that doesn't diminish how much I enjoyed the series..but I never really warmed up to how she named her characters.

    GenderNihilismGirdleO_BruceCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • sarevok57sarevok57 Member Posts: 4,984
    These are the names I use when I make my characters:
    Human male warrior: Caernor
    Half-Orc male warrior: Orok
    Dwarven male Warrior: Kargreth
    Gnome male warrior: Ulgar
    Human/Elf male non-warrior: Bellum
    Human/Elf female: Darsa (usually cleric), Taere (usually thief), Asuna/Suna (usually arcane caster)

    SkaroseO_BruceCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    edited August 2016
    batoor said:

    Depends on race and what origin I imagined for them, until recently I generally tried to avoid surnames though. Some of the names I make, just seem really weird outside the games I play though. So I don't really trust my own naming sense in that area.

    One of my favorite series called Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb has a lot of names I don't really like that sound weird or stupid even WITHIN the setting though. Like Chade, Verity, Shrewd, Regal, Kettricken, Burrich, ultimately it's a minor thing that doesn't diminish how much I enjoyed the series..but I never really warmed up to how she named her characters.

    @batoor Farseer trilogy is so good I loved it as a teenager

    batoorCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • ConjurerDragonConjurerDragon Member Posts: 101
    O_Bruce said:

    Just like the title of this topic suggest, I would like to know how people are able to come up with some good names for characters and creatures in fantasy setting.

    The reason I ask is that while I can came up with some ideas regarding the fantasy setting I would like to create in the future - probably very distant future, but still - I have serious problems with giving characters, creatures and deities some well-sounded and meaningful names. And since I would like to finally write down some of my ideas for (very) future use, it would be good for me to start using actual character's names than labels such as "Elven mage", "protagonist" "the litch" etc.

    If you are able to share something interesting with me - I encourage you to do so. Thanks.

    Sometimes I simply use my real name for the main character, sometimes I look at the NPC´s job and name it accordingly, e.g. in Pool of Radiance my Ranger was "Robin Wood", my Mage "Merlyn".
    In Realms of Arkania I named my Druid "Taraxacum" (Dandelion) and sometimes I borrow from novels (e.g. a female Paladin "Paksenarrion")

    GenderNihilismGirdleO_BruceCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • the_spyderthe_spyder Member Posts: 5,017
    For me, I have a list of characters in my head that have already been fleshed out. They have histories and skill sets (more or less) and I pick one and mold it to whatever character I play.

    As for that list, some names I took from elsewhere and adapted them to my own style. Others I merely thought up. One or two are characters that were played by my friends when I was young and I keep them around in my head even of those friends are no longer in my life.

    GenderNihilismGirdleCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • AliensonAlienson Member Posts: 3
    Usually I pick up some encyclopedia, open a random page and point at a random article - so, it's quite funny, but strange)

    GenderNihilismGirdleCrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • chimericchimeric Member Posts: 1,163
    edited August 2016
    Letters have a different taste, feel and color, a different effect on the breath and origin - from deep in the throat, or shallow from the front teeth, grated and rolled, held impossibly long on the back of the tongue (Heeliope, Kirmuchan). But letters and combinations of letters also have meanings that combine and collide, not always in obvious ways. Sometimes a contradiction is a part of the sense they carry in a context, resounding and rolling in it. For instance, calling a heroic astronaut character Boy means one thing, if he is a grizzled veteran of intergalactic warfare; if he is a cool-faced diplomat, this will resound with another meaning; if he wears a large and overpowering mustache, then it's something else again. Or maybe it's a woman called Boy, perhaps a lesbian. That would connect to meanings and imply a mental adventure I, as a man, could not be a part of. I simply do not know whether Boy would be a good name there, and in what sense. At any time there are always universes half-closed and completely off-limits to our imagination, or too small or subtle to stick in the net we cast.

    And when we manage to be universal, as greats like Shakespeare or Tolstoy have been able to do, when we admit the multiplicity of meanings, sounds and destinies, then we realize that there is really no single story expressed in names, just as names themselves have different pasts and bloodlines. My real name, for example, I inherit from an Italian city, which had, some time in the Middle Ages, produced an archbishop for the Byzantine orthodoxy. The man was great and powerful, apparently, so others began to be named after him, and some centuries later the name migrated from Byzantium north to Kievan Rus and lives on in modern Ukraine. If I look at that name, I see no expressive combination of sounds, unlike in fictional monikers. There is no tinkering of consonants, no susurrant sibilants or arched bridges of a, o, e. Real names work differently. Instead of being suggestive, they reflect some circumstance, ethnicity, a law of linguistic change - some feature of the natural world, you might say. And this is striking.

    I can only speak for myself about a progression in this recognition, but I have noticed the better-rounded and farther-reaching writers to also stay away from expression. On the whole, after you have realized the benign and broad indifference of the world that shows itself in language, you accept whatever names come before your mind. Eventually, in exchange for all the time you have spent cooped up in yourself, you develop a kind of agreement with your brain to only produce relevant and delightful combinations of letters. Other than this, they can be anything. There is no "fantasy style." Names shape reality of a story more than they reflect anything, so it is really all the same what to call characters. Of course, you can start with a personality, a job or a circumstance, then use your expressive understanding to express that in sounds. But this is boring. It will result in a completely predictable character, one who has no future and can only develop the original theme. For contrast, in the original AD&D game characters were rolled randomly - for example, by using 3d6 for each of the statistics. Some methods were more generous than others, but there were no rerolls allowed, no distribution of points, you had to stick with what you got. Like statistics, names were not pondered too long. And it was fine that way. So here also trust your imagination. As far as personal taste goes, I like to delight myself with something elaborate or exotic, so I tend to produce names in the style and rhythm of Jack Vance - the likes of Cormuncopice, Zelbadron, Shiy, Ludre, Ok, Mursch, Zomblin, Phorps or Eldahore. I just came up with these, and I like them. They declare nothing specific but hint of a universe that welcomes originality and is full of surprise.

    GenderNihilismGirdleJuliusBorisov
  • 10Bazza1110Bazza11 Member Posts: 162
    I generally take a name based on a standing fantasy character a start tweaking it until I end up with something I like. As a rule yy halflings, elves and dwarves tend to have very Lord Of The Rings sounding names. However I do like to call all Paladins things like Sir Render, Sir Round, Sir Ton and Sir Cumfence. When I used to play pnp Oriental D&D all my Ninja characters were names after tea things like Lap Sang Su Chong, Darjeeling and Ceylon.

    JuliusBorisov
  • TheElfTheElf Member Posts: 798
    Name generators, or picking out of the silmarillion. If it's a human character I just pick something that's medieval sounding and not used much today.

    CrevsDaakJuliusBorisov
  • AerakarAerakar Member Posts: 674
    I like to use fantasy names that fit the character and their race/class as this helps me 'get into character' when I play which adds to my fun level and my identification with the character. I would add though that I do not like to use names that are blatant rip-offs from literature/movies, but tweaking them creatively is ok.

    I have developed name lists suitable for different races and classes over the years. When I come across a cool name, I add it to the list, even if a class or race I am not playing, as who knows in future. I have been doing this for a long time, but even still the right sounding/feeling name is not always there, so I hunt for ideas on the net, look at baby-naming books, check-out deviantart portraits, etc. I may think about it for a few days. Usually this works and I come up with a name that matches the character.

    O_BruceGenderNihilismGirdleJuliusBorisov
  • CrevsDaakCrevsDaak Member Posts: 7,145
    edited August 2016
    Testing: qwerty1234 or test_[insert test number here]

    Playing the game for the first time (on any game): Crevs Daak

    Creating a new character (of elven origin): get the Silmarillion while re-rolling (kinda saves up time but makes it easier to roll past those 90+ rolls), get a good list (~10+) of good names by making them up by getting several words in Quenya/Sindarin, putting them together in the most fitting and better sounding order, giving them a little touch like removing or adding a letter to make the sound better and filter them up when I complete the list so I use the one that fits my character the most/I like the most, then choose proficiencies according to my character's name/alignment/stuff (I edit NPCs' proficiencies so I can pick any type of weapons I want) and maybe touch the name again if I change my mind and pick a different weapon in the end.

    Creating a new character (non-elven origins): no idea how this happens inside my head. I came up with a name and touch it so it sounds better, or change real fantasy name to make it sound funny.
    If I'm going to play a Dwarf, I give him a surname with a metal or heroic adjective and another word such as his weapon of choice/worst enemy (eg Durlag Trollslayer, Kagain Goldpicker, Cromwell Silverhammer).

    Creating a new character (Orc): smash keyboard as if human be orc. you have to be orc to get orc name. replace a bunch not all non-vocals with vocals (Editor's note: Orcs can't spell "consonants". Shame.) mix syllable order make orc name cooler orc like cool. orc name ready. orc happy now

    AerakarJuliusBorisov
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