What's in a name?

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Just out of curiosity I am wondering how many out there in the rp community either as a player or a dm give their (n)pc's last names or even a title of some kind. I for one with the hombrew world I have been running for 13 years now give many of the npc's that inhabit the world a last name. Yes it's very time consuming, bit it is another element that my regular players really enjoy.

Are there others out there like myself that either feel the need to or failed their compulsion save to add extra flavor by giving (n)pc's sir names or titles to make the world more interesting. As an example of a title I submit a random name like Elcarr the Red. That could describe his hair color, the color of the clothes he wears, or even a derogatory name because he has a skin condition like exzema or he blushes really easy.

Would love to hear other peoples thoughts.

Dark Archive

I do as a DM, but my player's usually don't ask about it unless they're a noble.

I've had games where the characters don't even ask for each others' names.

I'm not talking about hack and slash or sudden death dungeon crawls either. Imagine, years of in-game time together, having saved the world from divers threats, and realizing you're not sure what that bloke is called.

So, while I do full names for characters and important NPCs, they rarely see the light of play.

I almost always give NPCs a last name.

Not like it takes any more effort than giving them a first name.

Very rarely do I ever not give a character or npc a last name. My players have even sugested names for people as well as possible professions, and where in the game world they think that they would best fit in. That has always been really helpful for a couple reasons.

1) The obviouse is that it lessens the work for me.
2) The players like knowing that they helped shape the world beyond the aspect of being a pc.

Of course as a general rule they know that any npc they create isn't a guarantee that they will meet that npc in game to interact with.

Generally for me, characters from "civilized" races or regions get a family last name, ie professional fighters, studied mages, most dwarves and elves etc... My current character is an adopted human cleric from Cheliax in RotR- Pavus Ruticulus. He's currently courting Ameiko and if they get married I even plan on changing his last name to the noble Kyjitsu.

Characters from the "wild" like barbarians, many half-orcs and the occasional dwarf usually get surnames or no last name and rarely get a family last name. Once had a dwarf named Fangus the Foamy.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I'm a big fan of a fantastical first name and compound last name, like Sturm Brightblade or Finder Wyvernspur.

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I had a group fall into the same thing where they did not even know each others names. So during a session when one member was going to arrive late I had them searching a town for Thomas BrightBlood who of course was not found until the missing party member arrived as it was his character and noone knew his name

I almost always give last names, middle names, often nicknames and so on. Names for some characters might be accumulated along the way as well for their deeds.

If I make a character without a last name (or some sort of cultural replacement, like a clan affiliations), there's a reason they don't have one. Someone adopted who didn't feel comfortable taking their adoptive parents' surname, for an example I'm using at the moment.

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The Short Version: Almost always.

The Long Version:

Elves: Are asexual, like the Drak from "Enemy Mine." Every elf can trace their lineage back to one of the original Elelven (first 11 elves). A parent gives their child an elven name that is usually very long (since they're darn near immortal, who cares if it takes an extra few seconds to say a name) followed by the lineage name. When interacting with other races, the elf will usually just use one word of their translated name. So "Wanishlinay Naynonomtebah tel'Laiqua" which translates as "The Infinitely Curling Spiral of the Fern Leaf of the Line of Laiqua" simply becomes "Fern" when talking to humans and such.

Dwarves: Dwarves place a great deal of stock in family and community. So, like Bajorans, a dwarf's surname is placed first, then followed by a given name. Therefore, it is Lagerchugger Brap, not Brap Lagerchugger. That's Agent Lagerchugger of Hammerstrike, not Agent Brap.

Gnomes: Their names are very long, involved and descriptive. Other races usually cut off the gnome and just pick a name, like the Vikings in "13th Warrior:"
BULIWYF: "What's his name?"
HERGER: "What's your name?"
AHMED: "Ahmed ibn Fahalad, ibn Farakhan, ibn Alamek, ibn--"
HERGER: "Ibn."

Halflings & Humans: Very typical of RL humans

Monstrous: Usually descriptive names like Big Boss Uggin, Ruk the Bonecrusher, Gorm the Gutspiller, etc.

OldSmith wrote:


I had a group fall into the same thing where they did not even know each others names. So during a session when one member was going to arrive late I had them searching a town for Thomas BrightBlood who of course was not found until the missing party member arrived as it was his character and noone knew his name

That's pretty funny, nice idea.

I've recently tried calling players by their character's name all evening on game night. It feels method, but it works.

Scarab Sages

OldSmith wrote:


I had a group fall into the same thing where they did not even know each others names. So during a session when one member was going to arrive late I had them searching a town for Thomas BrightBlood who of course was not found until the missing party member arrived as it was his character and noone knew his name

Great story!

I have gone so far as to give more than one NPC the same first name. For two or three sessions they did not even think about it. But when they had to return to find one of them, they only knew the first name. Other townsfolk would of course point them to the 'Joe' they were most familiar with. After messing with them for a little while, I finally had an NPC point them in the right direction.

My players take notes now. Which is nice because I don't have to keep notes handy from several sessions ago.

I always include a last and first name unless the character doesn't know it or if it needs to not have one for other reasons (in hiding, Cher, etc).

My characters tend to always introduce them self because it would feel weird not to; a conversation just doesn't assume they know your name and it would take me out (barring circumstances such as fame). A name is important because it makes them more than just Ogre #452 or Defense Post Guard #213. It makes the characters and the world feel more lived in and I find that it makes the characters more attached.

Also great for making new plot hooks when you hear about a character such as Antaraxis the Sundown; and want to know where their name is from, why they have it, and what their life was.

I give them names, often at a moment's notice. I should have a list of names prepared for every game, because someone in my group will ask the NPC his or her name every time.

DungeonmasterCal wrote:
I give them names, often at a moment's notice. I should have a list of names prepared for every game, because someone in my group will ask the NPC his or her name every time.

I got a naming dictionary for those moments.

Mykull wrote:

The Short Version: Almost always.

** spoiler omitted **

I have a similar naming system as well and is very cultural in nature

Fell like the odd one out. As a player I always give my PCs a family name or title if it feels appropriate. As a GM usually NPCs will get a full name, but sometimes NPCs don't even get a name at all. They'll get a first name if a player asks or it becomes relevant, but most of the time it never comes up.

For me it really depends what type of creature it is whether it gets a surname or a title.

Humans, elves, halflings, gnomes almost always get a full name in keeping with the conventions of the setting's rules for the race. I'm running my game in Pathfinder setting's Ustalav so tend to use names that sound Balkan or Eastern European. I also like the name list from the old AD&D Ravenloft Guide to Transylvania (a Masque of the Red Death supplement).

If they're just meant as a combat encounter, sometimes I'll make the name up on the spot only when it comes up.

For monsters, sometimes they'll not only have a name and title but multiple names for the same creature. Rarely do they only have one name with no title. If they do, it's intentional.

A long list of examples:

My nabasu demon (with 8 growth points):
Caractus the Glutton

The nabasu's juju zombie lieutenant (granted via Improved Death Stealing feat):
Manheim (elected to only give him a surname, but that may change)

The CR 15 huge umbral dragon:
Dimyrion Shadowhunter or Dimyrion the Shadow Hunter (so far only called Dimyrion in-game)

My buring skeletal champion undead lord:
Theodore Pyreborn, the Lord of Burnt Bones. His real name is Ludovic Teodorescu

My dread shadow rogue:
The Hidden Master, also known as The Master of Deep Shadows

The dread ghast rogue with Civilized Ghoulishness (appears human):
Rukalla the Quiet

The unique CR 20 mythic fey lord (that I will stat-up eventually):
Caradoc Brac Caerwyn (intentionally used names of Gaelic origin)

The berbalang cleric that harries the party on occasion:
Carmen Musat

The lare (house deity - LG invisible incorporeal native outsider):
The Argent Chamberlain

The vilkacis (former werewolf, former village guard captain):
Garrett Racivado


The village guard bailiff and captain:
Everett Racivado

Village councilwoman:
Kaitlyn Racivado (widow of Garrett Racivado, sister-in-law of Everett Racivado)

Village councilman/local farmer:
Mikhail Aretti

Village mayor:
Barovan Sweetwater

Local farmhand/general laborer:
Iago St.Kavapesta (who, despite being named after the Pharasmin saint, is not very religious)

The village general merchant:
Lee Favensorzi (his name is a mnemonic. I think of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard, or the actual Civil War general, to remember his name.)

The magic/alchemy dealer:
Toben Gunderso (actually named after the monster Toben from Ravenloft)

Halfling tavern owner:
Sumac "The Slip" Sarzini

The hedge witch:
Katla Maleva (references mythological witch (Katla) and the old "gypsy" woman (Maleva) from The Wolfman)

The weaponsmith/weapon merchant:
Marcus Ogden

Village thug/layabout:
Elijah "Eli" Ogden (son of Marcus Ogden)

Village guards:
Alezandru Merton and Dana Ogden (other son of Marcus Ogden)

Tavern elven barmaid:
Cavena Nightwhisper (has been missing for some time, presumed dead)

Village priest:
Brother Sergei Quinnell of Pharasma (has been missing, presumed dead)

Replacement priest:
Felix Ghoulkin of Pharasma (a dhampir cleric of the Lady of Graves)

Cleric of Jezelda:
Tarabitha Czelnai (a witchwolf that hopes to gain lycanthropy from second-hand exposure to the vilkacis)

Leader of the Fire Snakes gang in Kavapesta:
Davros "The Mandragora" Czelnai (first cousin of Tarabitha Czelnai)
(His last name hasn't been mentioned in-character that I recall.)

Innkeeper at The Broken book in Kavapesta:
Beadlin Nightjar (Old human bard)

Archery merchant in Kavapesta:
Jim Nimble

Posh socialite in Kavapesta:
Gregor Traladora

Vampire bride in the castle in the Vale of Red Breath
Emera Galdyce (gravewalker witch 9, her surname is from canon, as I made her the wife of the canon nosferatu Viscount Oilic Galdyce mentioned as having dwelt in the castle there)

Dhampir rogue that serves Emera and claims to be her son:
Aelic "Galdyce," (though he appears to be a standard white-haired dhampir, not an Ancientborn, so likely has not actual blood ties to Oilic Galdyce)

Vampire servant of Emera:
Milos Constante (vampire rogue/fighter with a viridium greatsword)

Ratling oracle that serves the vampires:
Loremaster Gray

Green Hag witch:
Sister Faye Ashrella
(has been mentioned a couple times in-character, has not interacted with PCs yet)

Twin changeling witch daughters:
Babette and Suzette Ashrella (who believe their mother is their step-mother, though they're nearing the age when she'll try to convert them into hags)

Those are just the NPCs I remember off the top of my head. There are a few I thought of but couldn't remember their whole names so didn't list them (Beadlin's wife, another set of twins--twins are common in the village, as part of a plot element).

I use a LOT of proper names in my game, and try to support names with faces by using Paizo's Face Cards. I own a lot more Item Cards than Face Cards, but the Face Cards see actual use at the table, while I haven't figured out how to integrate Item Cards in a way that isn't a logistical nightmare.

As for the players:

Their PCs don't have/give surnames most of the time, or at least not written on their sheets. Once in awhile they'll have a surname, and I noticed that the two newest characters to join have surnames. They don't have any trouble remembering each other's character names though, because I tend to refer to them by character name all the time, and that's how I write their initiative down too.

They captured and interrogated one new PC that was following the party around without introducing himself, and just last session the until-then-newest PC pulled a sickle on the just-joined PC, who was sleep, and demanded he tell them who he was, why he was there, and his business.

Playing in my campaign is kind of like playing a game of Memory because of all the names floating around. That kind of pleases me though, because I named the campaign "Relics, Reliquaries, and Remembrance." I do need to see about inserting more relics and reliquaries, but the "remembrance" part we've got covered.

I always give my characters last names.

My characters almost always have the same last name of de'Morcaine. Don't know where I came up with it, but I started using it back when I was a teenager and have been using it ever since. {shrug}

As far as NPC's go? Well it can be good and it can be bad. Usually an author will try to make up names that all sound like they come from the same country yet are not normal real life names. Unfortunately, that tends to make them all sound so similar, that I can't tell one from another.
Not too long ago we had 4 or 5 major reoccurring NPC's that had names that started with 'Ak,' ended with 'ite,' and were mostly consonants. I couldn't pronounce a single one of them and could rarely tell which one the GM meant when he said it.

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