Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Tool For Consistent Place Names Across An Area

((I apologize for the late post. I legit thought it was Sunday not Monday due to the MLK holiday. Whoops!))

There are a lot of cool world building tools out there. Between the RPG and writing communities almost every aspect of world building is well covered. Which is how I found this video from "Hello Future Me" on how to name places in your world.

In the video he talks about the three types of names a place will get: named after geographical features, named after a historical event, or named after a person or thing.

These categories are fairly self explanatory. For instance, there seems to be a "Springfield" everywhere you go. Why is that? Well, the name breaks down to "Spring" and "Field" or "a field with a spring in it." Man, that must be rare right? This is also why when you translate every word into english you get things like the Sahara Desert becoming "Desert Desert" and the Avon River becomes "River River."

For historical events a lot of time the name is a reference. New York, famously, is named for being the 'new' York in the New World. York being a city in England. Boston is named for the same reason, named after the place the original settlers set sail from when they came over. Fantasy worlds have more direct connections where you'll have places like Runeterra's "Crystal Scar" named both for it's descriptive qualities, and as a mark of it being a wound from the 'Rune Wars' of the previous age.

Finally, there are places named for people. Georgetown anyone?

The tool I want to talk about today though is mentioned in the Hello Future Me video above, and it is for the first type of place names - geographical features. The tool is easy to make. First, just make a list of common geographical features: rocks, springs, rivers, fields, meadows, hills, castles, cliffs, etc. Now make up a word or sound for each of those things. You may also want to make a word for some linking words like 'and', or for some descriptors like 'big', 'small', and some colors of choice.

Now when you want to name a place, just consider what the features were that were there that would be used to identify it to other settlers. A large rocky outcropping? Great, look to your chart you just made for "big" and "rock" or "rock" and "cliff" throw the sounds together and you have the name for the place.

If those sounds don't go great together, modify them to make it work. Shave letters off, smash sounds together, and otherwise truncate the word. Over time people will do this anyhow, and the name will change to match.

For extra fun you can also blend names with those features. Gettydon could come from "Getty's Rock" with don being the word assigned to rock for your chart. Heck, if Getty was an important figure in the region there could be several places named for them - their forest, lake, rocks, fields, etc.

The point is, people aren't super original when it comes to naming things. Look at the names of things and places around you: fireplace, springfield, table topper, etc. The same is likely to be true in a Fantasy or Sci Fi world as well. So set up the low hanging fruit, and pluck away as you need. With a bit of work and tooling you can even tell stories with place names. Have fun with it. Let your world help get people involved.

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