Naming a character: why character names matter


Pathfinder Society

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RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

Matthew Morris wrote:

I'm thinking about a rakasha tiefling named kooshka. Has to be female though.

** spoiler omitted **Gods I'm old.

Oh gosh, I did the same thing. Except I called him "Le Kapow."


Andrew Christian wrote:

My wife's Heaven Oracle is named Merga Troid.

Any old timers get it?

Of course! But, hey, I am old. :-D

Dark Archive 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Minnesota—Minneapolis aka Silbeg

There is a reason that my Tiefling wizard (born in Cheliax... now "free" from his oppression there) has an overblown name... Angelo Gaius Cassius Fierro... first, because Chelish names seem to be typically Roman in nature. Adding to that, he is just the kind of "person" who introduce himself as "Angelo Gaius Cassius Fierro" ("the greatest mind you will ever meet", etc...)

The sad thing is that he doesn't realize that it makes him sound like a pompous ass. Like when he told Kyra to let a real intellectual try to figure out something (with a Know: Religion check)... of course, he went and rolled a "nat 2" after that.

My rogue (first PFS character), is named after my typical alias/username (Silbeg), which came from a D&D character in the late 80s.

Magnus (also "reused" name of mine... from a fighter long ago), is a Paladin. Very straight forward. Very... um... literal minded. And confused. He's the guy that can't remember that Aroden is not his family's patron...

Finally, Jayne Munny. That's a name that took some time to develop. At first, when I was thinking about building a Gunslinger, I thought of the character Will Munny... and starting basing him on that. Then, I thought, I should name his gun... and Vera came to mind (Jayne Cobb's gun)... so, he turned into a mixture of the two...


Sitri wrote:
Didn't one of the main books (or perhaps it was a 3.5 book) specifically say not to use these type names?

Possibly, but even if it did, it probably was couched in wording like "it's not a good idea to..." I would be stunned if you could find a quote in a Pathfinder rulebook (or a 3.x D&D book) that specifically banned silly / anachronistic names...it's a matter of personal taste, like so much of the game itself.

Again, for some players, the PC's name is a real thing, worthy of serious thought and consideration, while for other players, it's just a label for their two-dimensional toon, or a way to express their sense of humor. PFS is a big tent.

Also, bear in mind that the creator of the genre, Gary Gygax, was a big fan of character and place names that were anagrams for his players' names, a lot of which clearly looked like exactly that.


Andrei Buters wrote:

No Bobs at my table!!!

;)

"Bawb? Your name is Baw.... Oh wait you don't speak draconic/dwarven/chelaxian do you. Well, in draconic it means... No. No I can't repeat it. Not in mixed company. Can I call you... "Hope?"

Liberty's Edge

Sammy T wrote:

I don't care what you name your character.

I don't care if you RP or not.

I only care that you are mentally present and engaged in the game we are playing.

I care. I care a lot.

/cue Faith No More


Curaigh wrote:
Andrei Buters wrote:

No Bobs at my table!!!

;)
"Bawb? Your name is Baw.... Oh wait you don't speak draconic/dwarven/chelaxian do you. Well, in draconic it means... No. No I can't repeat it. Not in mixed company. Can I call you... "Hope?"

Or, how about "Kate"? It's short for "Bob".

Liberty's Edge

Andrew Christian wrote:

My wife's Heaven Oracle is named Merga Troid.

Any old timers get it?

Yes.. :-(

Sovereign Court

TriOmegaZero wrote:
I GMed for an Azaroth and one I.P. Freely at PaizoCon. -_-

I played at that same table with them..I just shook my head...

The Exchange 5/5

ok... now to admit a personal failing.

I had to google Azaroth to figure out the problem - and even then I'm not use what the issue is.

Liberty's Edge

Dan Hackley wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
I GMed for an Azaroth and one I.P. Freely at PaizoCon. -_-
I played at that same table with them..I just shook my head...

Oh, I staunchly defend their right to name their character any thing they like. As I staunchly defend my right to make fun of their character and his/her/its name. IC'ly, of course! :-D

Scarab Sages

Does a rose by any other name not smell as sweet?

Does a pile of manure by any other name not smell as disgusting?

Keep in mind though that some would prefer the smell of manure to the smell of roses...

Names are that big of a deal to me, how they play the character (or GM the scenario) is.

I like Andee Brane and his summoned companion Peenkee. Course he typically goes by just Andee and I have yet to see a GM call an eidolon by name (except me).

The Exchange

most of my names are things I've come up with for video games over the years. I spend way more time thinking about it than i probably should, honestly.

The name has to be easily nicknamed into a short 1 or 2 syllable easy to pronounce word. I generally use languages that I think sound cool. Sometimes I'll just take a stereotypical name, but rarely.

I have the following.
Arcanis
Vieras (veerus)means alien/unfamiliar in finnish (he's a wayang)
Tarnas
Tylion (tillian) or Ty, half-elf maneuver master monk
Valta (val) means set fire to in latin. Burning Arc blaster :)
Taikuus (tai) Conjurer wizard, means "Magic" in Finnish
Kal Jakir (Zen archer, kinda like superman...)
Grimbulg Ironkeg, Animal companion's name is Gnom
Trayce


TriOmegaZero wrote:

*sighs* Some of the people at PaizoCon...

Of course, my brother and his friends were little better.

We try.

Generally speaking, I find that any name can be used, so long as you have a reason for it. The different races have name conventions, so you can easily design a name that fits, but if you have a backstory that justifies what you chose then it should be fine (like my human named gnome).

Shadow Lodge 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka thistledown

I knew a druid bob once. But it was Baughb.

thistledown was a kender I invented while walking around on the driveway something like 15 years ago. I do not remember why I was walking around on the driveway.

My character names are from the culture I identify them with.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Greyswindle wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:

*sighs* Some of the people at PaizoCon...

Of course, my brother and his friends were little better.

We try.

Ha, the summon spell worked!


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Careful with your names and titles. At my table I keep track of initiative via 3x5 cards and have the players write their name at the top. I've had players specifically ask, do you want my character name or my name (despite the card specifically asking for "character name")?
That experience has now lead me to telling players to put whatever they want me to call them during combat. Of course I had one player write in something like "Sir Alain Gregory Baristad III, Chosen of Iomedae." I said that full title every time his turn came up and it was glorious(ly exhausting)! :-)


Brett Cochran wrote:

Does a rose by any other name not smell as sweet?

Does a pile of manure by any other name not smell as disgusting?

Keep in mind though that some would prefer the smell of manure to the smell of roses...

Names are that big of a deal to me, how they play the character (or GM the scenario) is.

I like Andee Brane and his summoned companion Peenkee. Course he typically goes by just Andee and I have yet to see a GM call an eidolon by name (except me).

lol

Haven't seen those in a while & it reminded me of a 3.5 character and his pet. Anhob and Calv. :)


Greyswindle wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:

*sighs* Some of the people at PaizoCon...

Of course, my brother and his friends were little better.

We try.

Generally speaking, I find that any name can be used, so long as you have a reason for it. The different races have name conventions, so you can easily design a name that fits, but if you have a backstory that justifies what you chose then it should be fine (like my human named gnome).

Y'know, that's the thing. I've never understood the naming conventions of almost all the races, unless they have names like Bloodmaw or Barkskin or something. Can someone explain them to me?

The Exchange 5/5

Kyle Baird wrote:

Careful with your names and titles. At my table I keep track of initiative via 3x5 cards and have the players write their name at the top. I've had players specifically ask, do you want my character name or my name (despite the card specifically asking for "character name")?

That experience has now lead me to telling players to put whatever they want me to call them during combat. Of course I had one player write in something like "Sir Alain Gregory Baristad III, Chosen of Iomedae." I said that full title every time his turn came up and it was glorious(ly exhausting)! :-)

heck, I use cards with both the players and PC name ("if you don't answer to the first, I'll call you by the other") - but I have one regular player who just puts things like "Sexy"...


If that's not your wife, Nosig, I hope she's not around when you call other people sexy :)

The Exchange 5/5

Curaigh wrote:
If that's not your wife, Nosig, I hope she's not around when you call other people sexy :)

nope - and I've not actually called Ernie "Sexy" yet. Close, but not yet.

Scarab Sages 5/5

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Curaigh wrote:
If that's not your wife, Nosig, I hope she's not around when you call other people sexy :)

and Darlin', it depends on what NPC I'm playing! This is a Role Playing Game ya know!

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Tampere aka Rei

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Benrislove wrote:

I have the following.

Arcanis
Vieras (veerus)means alien/unfamiliar in finnish (he's a wayang)
Tarnas
Tylion (tillian) or Ty, half-elf maneuver master monk
Valta (val) means set fire to in latin. Burning Arc blaster :)
Taikuus (tai) Conjurer wizard, means "Magic" in Finnish
Kal Jakir (Zen archer, kinda like superman...)
Grimbulg Ironkeg, Animal companion's name is Gnom
Trayce

Since you seem to enjoy Finnish names, I'd like to point out that Valta is also a word in Finnish. It's a bit hard to translate into English without context, but it translates to something like "the power given by right of rule". Vieras can also be translated as "stranger/guest". Taikuus' nickname also translates to Finnish. It means "or". :P

Googling what your character's name might mean in different languages is a pretty smart thing to do. I once ran into a pair of roleplayers whose characters were siblings, both of whom coincidentally had given their characters names that meant something in Finnish. The boy's name was Verstas, which roughly translates to "workshop". The girl's name... was the swear word version of "poop".


My character Da'ud al-Hasan (human sorcerer from Qadira) has just been chosen as the captain of his ship. The first mate is the monk Sum Ting Wong. It seems all the players weren't on the same page where names are concerned.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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Kyle Baird wrote:
That experience has now lead me to telling players to put whatever they want me to call them during combat. Of course I had one player write in something like "Sir Alain Gregory Baristad III, Chosen of Iomedae." I said that full title every time his turn came up and it was glorious(ly exhausting)! :-)

Every time I go to WhichWich I'm tempted to write "Prince Ali! Mighty is he! Ali Ababwa" on my bag where it says name.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

My Tiefling (Oni-Spawn) is called Ue, which means hunger/starvation. He's also got a Bite attack and an +10 profession cook.

Still want to run my Gnome Illusionist Rayne Boughbright.

The Exchange

Rei wrote:
Benrislove wrote:

I have the following.

Arcanis
Vieras (veerus)means alien/unfamiliar in finnish (he's a wayang)
Tarnas
Tylion (tillian) or Ty, half-elf maneuver master monk
Valta (val) means set fire to in latin. Burning Arc blaster :)
Taikuus (tai) Conjurer wizard, means "Magic" in Finnish
Kal Jakir (Zen archer, kinda like superman...)
Grimbulg Ironkeg, Animal companion's name is Gnom
Trayce

Since you seem to enjoy Finnish names, I'd like to point out that Valta is also a word in Finnish. It's a bit hard to translate into English without context, but it translates to something like "the power given by right of rule". Vieras can also be translated as "stranger/guest". Taikuus' nickname also translates to Finnish. It means "or". :P

Googling what your character's name might mean in different languages is a pretty smart thing to do. I once ran into a pair of roleplayers whose characters were siblings, both of whom coincidentally had given their characters names that meant something in Finnish. The boy's name was Verstas, which roughly translates to "workshop". The girl's name... was the swear word version of "poop".

VALTA IS NOW THE BEST NAME EVER! That is awesome:)

also your second paragraph is a wonderful story. Has to be awkward to speak finnish and call a character's name realizing that you are swearing everytime.

I like Finnish a lot, it seems to translate pretty well, and uses similar sounds to english, so many of the words are pronounceable even to the language impaired such as myself :)

Silver Crusade

My first character was a ninja that was from Tian Xia. I named him Enyo no Shottou, which is a mashup of Greek mythology and Japanese which translates to "the chaos of death". Unfortunately, I liked the name better than the character so before I hit level 2 I changd him into a Kellish inquisitor of Sarenrae. Not know what Kellish names were supposed to sound like, I named him after a lesser known historical inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. Hence, Francisco Cisneros came into being. Unfortunately, he is almost always called Frank.

Most of my other names sound pretty decent:

Human Taldan Gunslinger - Ezekiel Bainbridge, when I play him I have to channel my inner Deliverance for the entire 5 hours

Aasimar Bard - Zaigan the Outspoken (will have many ranks in Perform (oratory) or (comedy))

Aasimar Paladin of Ragathiel - Beltin the Devout

Elven wizard - Rai'el (I had just seen Man of Steel, sue me!)

Human Chelaxian alchemist - Alexys (isn't Alexys just an inhererntly eveil sounding female name?)

Aasimar ninja - Imesah the Unseen

Tengu barbarian - Eap Bloodbeak (he's a jet black natural attacking tengu, look at his first name and think if they were initials)

Aasimar life oracle - Evangelyne (kind of the antithesis of Alexys, just sounds like the name of an angel)

Human archer fighter - Ajax Sophix (it's pronounced Aye-axe, I named him after the Greek hero from the Trojan War and Sophix is pseudo-Greek for wisdom)


FanaticRat wrote:
Y'know, that's the thing. I've never understood the naming conventions of almost all the races, unless they have names like Bloodmaw or Barkskin or something. Can someone explain them to me?

I don't have my rulebooks on hand, so I can't be sure, but I believe that there are detailed descriptions of how the racial names work in them. If not, I know there are sample names in them that you can extrapolate other names from, and there are explanations in the companion guides for races (Gnomes of Golarion for example). Sorry I can't give you more details off the top of my head.

Grand Lodge

nosig wrote:
And please-please-please pick a name I can say... one that is easy for me to read and remember.

Just because you cannot pronounce my bard's name nosig does not mean it is not full of awesome :)

Aggrandizer is a perfect name for my bard because, well, he makes others better.

Silver Crusade 3/5

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I tend to name my characters along three lines.

1)Actual names (or just words) from the real world analogous regions. Has lead to Faraj Wahbi ("heal" and "gift", Arabian names, cannot remember which was which), cleric of Sarenrae from Qadira. Or Ta-weret, an Osirian druid named after an Egyptian goddess.

2)Just whirling around sounds in my head until it sounds nice and namelike. Has led to Zabaleta

3)Jokes. These have various origins. I tend to want to make even my jokey names plausible enough, so that I don't want to abandon the character if I get tired of the joke. Best example would be Pikzi Skixboob, a gnome ninja/sorcerer. This name has a longer story, but I just recommend you play The Disappeared and think about a certain name for a while.

Spoiler:
It's "Zarta Dralneen" run through the cypher key that rest of the text has to go through, which let us to joke that "Pikzi Skixboob" is her real name.


I am now inspired to create a monk named, Hong Kong Fuy......

A have been at both extremes in 2nd edition darksun I had a half-giant named Fubar, a ranger druid mage named Sanstree......

A kender named Trapdodger Barefoot.

Scarab Sages 5/5

names....
yes, it's THE Toaster. Don't ask.

Liberty's Edge

Leathert: I must admit naming conventions for some factions/character backgrounds are easier. Obviously with the Ottoman influences with Katapesh and Qadira its easier to name a character from that region: Similarly with Osirion and the obvious Egyptian connection.

When I named my Galtan Musket Master, I was pretty stumped for a name. I went with Samuel Revell because it sounded.. ordinary. (I also believe that everyone gets given a second name. There are cultures that give a single name only but they are few and far between)

Its characters from regions like say Andoran or Cheliax or Taldor that I have more issues for with names.

Although I do sorta like that my rant thread has been overtaken by people talking about their funky character names. Keep bringing it!

Silver Crusade 5/5

Percy Footman... because I'm a "footman". From a long line of servants. One day, if I work hard, I may change my name to Percy Butler.

Scarab Sages 5/5

Katisha Lee. -

You can call me Kat, or Tish. Just don't call me Kat-Tish.

because Lee is the most common last name in the real world


Puns make good names.....

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Tampere aka Rei

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Benrislove wrote:
I like Finnish a lot, it seems to translate pretty well, and uses similar sounds to english, so many of the words are pronounceable even to the language impaired such as myself :)

I'm a Finnish-English Translation and Interpreting student in university, and I can tell you Finnish is actually kind of hard to translate out of and into with full fidelity. There's a lot of wiggle room in Finnish semantics once you really go into detail: for instance, my half-elf Skad's middle name, Songwalker, I would personally translate into Finnish as "Laulukulkija", which would in turn translate back into English as something like "Song-traveller", since "kulkija" refers to someone journeying, typically on foot and usually with a set destination. Another option would be "Lauluvaeltaja", which in turn translates back more towards "Song-wanderer", except with slightly more purpose, because a more meandering and destination-lacking choice of words would be "Lauluvaeltelija", and that leaves the realm of the original. A more literal translation would be "Laulukävelijä", but this sounds a bit awkward to my "language ear". There are a lot of underlying semantic tones in words that are quite hard to explain in brief. Stuff like this is why I try to avoid names that contain proper nouns. :P /linguistics

Shadow Lodge

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I'm actually curious as to what constitutes a bad name, because - while I'm neither offended nor apologetic for what's potentially been caused here - my rule of thumb is to keep a name simple but cool.

I am hopeless with fantasy lore of any kind, so anything that sounds elvish or whatnot is completely out the window. Even if it's suggested to me, I don't usually like them enough to make them my character.

Some of the simpler ones I've used are, and take into account using only the bolded name which is usually all you'll hear during a game:


  • Roger Ordinary (a comedy bard)
  • Cairo Oraci (cleric, sounded cool-enough, anagram)
  • Mellon Maenvan (wizard, sounded cool-enough)
  • Snake Ekans (summoner with a serpent eidolon, anagram, talks with a lisp excessively when people are looking)
  • Odelian Landruff (druid, sounds cool: get it?)
  • James Stalwart (archaeologist, sounds boring, until you put the James-Bond Indiana-Jones tone to it, and then it somehow sounds cool)
  • Ric "Sparky" Grady (alchemist, likes blowing things up)
  • Judas Electio (sczarni paladin, the last name is latin for "chosen")
  • Valunch Zuk(ovski) (this was meant to be a half-orc, who likes food, work in progress)

Most of those might seem like bad names in one way but pretty good in another; I've seen mixed reactions (and probably haven't seen some bad ones) ;)

That's only the questionably named characters. My favourite and most well thought out is Snickers, the nickname of my witch. Possibly also questionable.


nosig wrote:

One thing that has always bothered me about names in fictional settings... why don't we have two people with the same first name?

I've worked in an office with 3 people named John. Out of 5 people.

And please-please-please pick a name I can say... one that is easy for me to read and remember.

if your PCs name is 15 characters long and has more X's and Q's then vowels... please try to understand when I call you "Bob".

I have heard that the most common first name in the world is
** spoiler omitted **

and the most common last name?

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

I was very disappointed to learn that David and Wong are not the most common first and last names respectively.

Shadow Lodge

Cire wrote:
nosig wrote:
And please-please-please pick a name I can say... one that is easy for me to read and remember.

Just because you cannot pronounce my bard's name nosig does not mean it is not full of awesome :)

This is actually a pet hate of mine when either playing or GMing. How do you roleplay properly with someone when you can't pronounce their name?

Every time it comes up, I always ask the player to tell me how to pronounce it. It's surprisingly common to just start calling you something else instead, and that's probably not the reputation you had in mind for your character(s) ;)

Shadow Lodge

Sammy T wrote:

I don't care what you name your character.

I don't care if you RP or not.

I only care that you are mentally present and engaged in the game we are playing.

The problem with this is that if I'm trying to address another character in the party and their name is Zgjiazairus, I'm going to do a double take and lose my engagement every time it happens.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for creativity, but let's keep it within reason.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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Andrei Buters wrote:

No Bobs at my table!!!

;)

You don't have to live on Planet Bob.

Shadow Lodge

You could split the difference and give your character an old-fashioned-sounding name from the place that corresponds to their place of origin.
While it's easy to give nicknames, especially compound noun ones, giving your character both will allow you to say stuff like,
"My name's Luke Thenrick, but everyone calls me 'Home-wrecker'."

...Though I am guilty of making up an elf with a long, complex name, who just tells people to call him, "The Elf". In every session he's been in, he's been the only elf, so it's worked out so far.

The Exchange

Avatar-1 wrote:
Cire wrote:
nosig wrote:
And please-please-please pick a name I can say... one that is easy for me to read and remember.

Just because you cannot pronounce my bard's name nosig does not mean it is not full of awesome :)

This is actually a pet hate of mine when either playing or GMing. How do you roleplay properly with someone when you can't pronounce their name?

Every time it comes up, I always ask the player to tell me how to pronounce it. It's surprisingly common to just start calling you something else instead, and that's probably not the reputation you had in mind for your character(s) ;)

Well my bards name is a common English word. Its not hard to pronounce. I'm just making fun of my friend, Mr. Nosig.

Sczarni

I built four families, Lokrien, Savet and two I don't use in online PbP . . . Yet. Each bloodline has some basic familial traits, attitudes, and goals. They also have patriarchs and matriarchs that vie for power in the one line.

I then pick which person in the bloodline I am aligned with, and tweak everything around until the character feels right, and then I pick a name, write a story, and then stat the story. Kinda more fun for me that way. I try to stick to real names for the most part, Esmeralda, Eleanor, Cordelia, Persephone, Amme, etc.

My goblin alchemist is named Imagunnakilya though . . .

Shadow Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—San Francisco Bay Area South & West aka JohnF

I've got a ranger called Gil Robinson ...

Sovereign Court

The Toaster wrote:

names....

yes, it's THE Toaster. Don't ask.

Actually, nobody has ever asked me why. I never thought about it before but now I have to say that I'm not sure why no one has asked for the background of any of the names of my characters. They all have a reason (mostly). :-)

P.S. In my home game I had a Tien based fighter named Y'not.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber
Brett Cochran wrote:

I have yet to see a GM call an eidolon by name (except me).

I've done this. Had a player in my game playing a summoner with a very-aptly named Eidolon "Throatripper".

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