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Thread: Naming your Character

  1. #1
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    Naming your Character

    OK, this particular forum was my idea, so I guess I'd better kick it off.

    Over on the RPG.net forums a couple of weeks ago, S. John Ross asked a very pertinent question - when creating a character, at what point do you give it a name? Here's the text of his question:

    <dl><dd>This is a tiny detail that's always fascinated me. Naming a character is always the first physical step for me ... I'll toss concepts around in my head and with the other players verbally, of course, but when it comes time to put graphite on paper the name is always (absolutely no exceptions) the very first thing I write down. It's the ribbon-cutting ceremony for me; the kickoff; the first ball of the season; the starting gun; the concrete foundation, the spank on the ass.

    I've had several friends who are the total opposite; the name is the very last thing they write, and sometimes the name won't go onto the sheet until days after the character has been fleshed out both personally and mechanically. They find naming an agonizing process and just put it out of mind until absolutely necessary.

    I've had even _more_ friends who just jot it down whenever it comes to them. For them it's not particularly agonizing, nor is it a traditional kickoff. They just name 'em when they name 'em. This strikes me as the most sane group of people, and fortunately they're the largest.

    So this post is a general poll of the when and the why-the-when. But also, it's a search, because I've known lots of folks in group C and a fair number in group B, but so far I'm the only freakazoid nutjob I know who comprises group A. C'mon now, somebody else out there has to see naming the character as the joyful kickoff. If there are two of us we can form a guild and take over the city.
    </dl>

    And here's my reply...

    <dl><dd>I'm firmly in camp "A" - I almost always name the character first, even when making up NPCs. I come up with a name and broad character concept, run it through the character generation system, then tweak the concept and background. A name is so central to who a character is that I can't really get into doing it any other way.</dl>

    Anyone else?

  2. #2
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    I am a type B, without a doubt.

    I usually start with the personality of the character, adding a history/background, building up a suitable skill set that the character could have aquired and then, at the end, spending twice as much (if not more) time to figure out a name. I have never been good at remembering names, and I am even worse when it comes to creating one.

    But at least, if it is a modern setting, or a setting that uses modern names, resources like Behind The Name helps me a lot.

    But then, throwing together a quick personality and motivation for a NPC, that I later can flesh out if needed, is very easy for me.

  3. #3
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    Most of the time, I'll come up with a character concept first, flesh out the character's stats, background and personality, then come up with a name that best fits him or her. This is especially true for the NPCs I create.

    For naming, I make heavy use of the "Everyone, Everywhere List," which has given and surnames for most real-world regions. (I use real world analogies for most of the races in my current D&D campaign setting.)

    However, there are times, especially in my superhero games, when I will create the hero around the name. That's always a fun exercise.
    Davy Jones

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  4. #4
    AB - I start with the character concept, then I think of a name. Once all the brain storming ends I roll or design the character up.
    Phoenix...

    "I'm not saying there should be capital punishment for stupidity,
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  5. #5
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    I name the character once I have a firm idea of who/what the character is in my head. That may be right at the beginning (for a game where you build the character, like Hero or Gurps), or somewhere in the middle of the process (if you are rolling up randomly, like D&D).
    Hugh Casey
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  6. #6
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    Concepts of characters I really like often come to me name first, NPCs or PCs. In general, these ones are very well fleshed out, and I'm then trying concepts I never did before.

    When I'm not so inspired, I flesh out the character and then find a name, but these characters are not nearly as enjoyable to play as the first ones!

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  7. #7
    To be honest I have never really considered the issue. Sometimes I will start with a name, and have a strong identity. Other times the name comes to me before the game begins.

    And yet other times, the names never seem to fit.

    And through it all. I have had 1 character name that has appeared in both Fantasy and Sci-Fi setting. hauq Tranatas (or alternate spelling thereof). And while the name has never been re-used for other games within the same game system/world, but as far as I am concerned different systems offer a new opprotunity for 'my character' to be reborn.

    A lot of my NPC name's tend to be based on TV/Movie characters and assume those names. Or suffer the curse of the un-named. "My name is not important." Is a regular joke in the group. Not has turned up as an NPC in several games.
    DanG/Darth Gurden
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  8. #8
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    I'm a gorup C kinda guy. Sometimes the name creates the character, sometimes the character creates the name. Other times I get halfway through the process, come up with a name and change what I'd been doing before.
    Former Decipher RPG Net Rep

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  9. #9
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    In general, B. Naming the character is always the worst thing for me, which is probably why I end up recycling old names for new characters with new groups.

    Alex

  10. #10
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    Somewhere between B and C. usually, at least in some respects I name the person based on what personal qualities he has, his motivations, his species! his profession and the era / period / genre it falls under. Sometimes it's an agonising choice at the end of the generation process, sometimes a name comes to me as I'm doing it. usually the name comes in once I have the basic precepts for the character, when i am generating the GM NPC's - however PC's I make for games are often made then and there, and if we're using a new system I'm too busy trying to get my head round the concept of the mechanics to worry about names.

    In superhero games, however, the name does indeed go hand in hand with the personality and the mechanics, and often I've been an A in such cases, because I prefer to give his powers a point and a feeling, not minmax based on the coolest powers, then try to figure out what the hell it is! (which happens in allot of games for some of our less subtle munchkins!)

    Startrek names are a MAJOR pain! Trying to think up names which sound alien and strange are hugelly exausting. Plus my group are trivia nuts, so trying to NOT reference the shows, recent TV programmes, historical genres and or cleverly obfuscating those makes writing adventures.. I've written adventures where I spend 10-20 minutes being stuck on a name, and trying to find something that works, which really interrupts the flow of the writing process. If the name is not important sometimes you can just get away with the old profession based name "the captain" "the engineer" "The Ferengi trader" etc.

    There's always the case that if I do create authentic names that people mock me too Especially if they are generally unpronouncable (I.e. Far eastern, Icelandic, African etc - or just plain alien!) and I get a constant tirade of humour which annoys the hell out of me after a while!
    Ta Muchly

  11. #11
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    Thinking about it, in my Startrek Campaign there is a Starfleet engineer who hates most of the crew (because they tried to drug him and steal the ship!) and every game he's referenced, has a character sheet with skills and stats, yet for some reason never got a name, even though everyone knows who he is "That Starfleet Engineer, you know the One that hates you all"
    Ta Muchly

  12. #12
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    I do all of the above.It just depends on the character &/or my mood.

  13. #13
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    For me its always different but usually depends on the campaign as such. If it is story carried game with drama and such, I usually try to find a name with a meaning behind it and usually do so before creating the character since it is supposed to be more or less a description short. E.g. my current Mage: The Ascension character ( an Akashic mage, of unknown age and background, since he does not age and lost his memory ) is called Alexander Severus. Alexander is Greak and means something like protector of men, which si reflected in his attitude and skills - rather combat orientated. Severus is Latin and means serious, which is what be behaves like. So the Mage character is type A.

    On the other hand the name Evan van Eyk of my favourtie ST PC, simply came to my mind because I had used more American or at least English names for Trek characters in the past and wanted something more European and therefore created that Dutch name meaning something like "of oak". However I became so fond of it that two other PCs of mine now bear the same surname and are "relatives" of him, set in prequels, the current one is Lt. Cmdr. Dr. Hendrik van Eyk, Armoury Officer of Starship Ranger NX-03. Overall the "van Eyk thing" was more a type C thing.

    But of course there is Type B as well. When we started to play a Star Wars prequel campaign just when Episode I was out, I took a very slow approach. I wanted something that would be as "meaningless" but as well-sounded as Obi-Wan Kenobi. We had already played two adventures before I finally came up with Ronen Tal-Ravis.

    So in general, usually a character's name does not happen accidently with me but there is always some thought to it. It only differs when I "need" it, but I made the experience that Type A characters usually have more depth and background - although in that case they may look a little "constructed" and not so much "grown".
    We came in peace, for all mankind - Apollo 11

  14. #14
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    Cool

    Depends on the system for me.

    If its Fantasy based (DnD) or has some Fantasy element (Shadowrun) then the name really counts. Its what sets your character apart from the mundanes and thus you need a good name first and you build the character up round that said name/idea.

    If its a more Modern based system (Trek, Robotech, et al), especially with ranks etc. Then you don't have to stand out so much (IMO), its your actions that do the talking. Thus i use a concept first and the naming is more of a formality.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Burke
    I'm a gorup C kinda guy. Sometimes the name creates the character, sometimes the character creates the name. Other times I get halfway through the process, come up with a name and change what I'd been doing before.
    Ditto.

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