Friday, December 15, 2017

Discussion: Name Tricks

Every GM has to deal with naming NPCs. Every GM has their own way of doing it. Some people prepare their NPCs, all their NPCs, well in advance and have a name and everything for all of them. Some have lists and lists of names ready to be struck off and put into play as the game goes on.

I personally do a mix of the above two. I try to plan out my important NPCs, or NPCs I think the PCs will try to interact with. At the same time, my PCs have a tendency of wanting names for characters I didn't realize would be so important, at which point I'm grateful to have lists of names to pull from. For L5R I've even gone as far as to script an excel page to take a clan and randomly assign a family and character name for the NPC.

Recently I ran across another suggestion from someone on /r/dnd. I wish I could remember the username. He recommended you just grab any three letters and in playing with pronounciation you end up with a name. LRB Becomes Elarby. SNI could become Sonny. In playing around with NEU someone came up with "Anywho" as a character

What about you? Do you have any tricks? Care to share them with the group?


  1. Usually I make up some names before the session starts. My players enjoy diplomatic sessions and questioning NPC's, so usually I have a pretty good idea of how many names I need. Sometimes I give NPC's the same last name (or first name) and watch if my players decide they're connected to an earlier NPC or not. And I have a list of random names I can pull up whenever I need a name at random, and haven't prepared a name in advance.

    Then there's one thing more I tend to do: sometimes I introduce an NPC and realize he/she looks a lot like a character I've seen in an movie/series/book/whatever. I take that mental image, twist it a bit (or not, depending on how obscure the character is), usually change the name in a way that it still reflects the character... and throw him/her at the party. My players love these little easter eggs when they find out I transported an existing fictional character they recognize, and I mix it up enough for them to ensure they can't be certain the character is exacly like their fictionl counterpart or not. Sometimes they can use their meta-knowledge to predict an NPC's actions, and sometimes they can't because that leads them into a trap.

  2. I do the same as you A.L., I name important NPCs ahead of time. In addition, part of my pre-session routine is to always open a genre-appropriate name-generating website.

    I think one of the universal things that players notice is which NPCs have names (not counting the ones where the GM remarks, "oh, um, what should I name this guy?"). So I err on the side of giving NPCs names that the PCs encounter. I find that it encourages roleplaying - NPCs with names are individuals.