Where do you go for character names for your campaigns or writing? Place names? Any kind of names?
Would it shock you if I said that if you drive anywhere regularly, you’re surrounded by a sea of possibilities? 🙂
Almost a year ago now I wrote an article for Jeffrey Tadlock’s Iron Tavern blog called “License Plates as Name Generator.” That led me to create three License Plate Creations products with a variety of names I came up with while driving around town and a number of ways to mix and match those same names to keep making them unique.
If you look at most license plates, you get a combination of letters and numbers. For Colorado it’s usually three letters and three numbers. When I drive around, I’ll keep an eye out for any letter combinations that my brain fills in with a name. For instance, if I see “KXT” that might be Kixt, “YML” might become Yammil, “VZA” might be Veza, and so on. I used to travel with an audio recorder, but now I just record little audio notes on my phone and then transcribe them later on.
That alone can help me come up with a list that I can pull from if I’m writing and need a name or at the table and need a character, place, or thing name on the fly.
But it’s not enough. A list is great, but if you use every name on a list of a hundred names – it’s only good a hundred times. And probably less than that. Not every name is useful in every setting. Sometimes they fit. Sometimes they don’t.
So that’s why I came up with a number of Transformations. Each takes one name (or more) and changes it to something else. This multiplies the usefulness of that list of a hundred names by many times.
Let’s walk through an example using LPC Fantasy Names I, which includes four basic transformations and a list of a hundred names. Each of these products works the same way, so we’ll walk through the standard steps…
- Roll to determine how many names you pick from the list. Once, twice, or three times.
- Roll on the big table to pick your names.
- Roll on the transformation table to determine which one, two, or three transformations to apply to the names you selected.
First I roll and determine I get to roll twice on the Names table. That gets me (95) Ror and (77) Migo. “Ror Migo” isn’t a bad name right off the bat.
Then I roll on the Transformation table and get to go twice… I get (2) Reverse and (3) Backwards as my two transformations.
With Reverse, I change the order from “Ror Mogo” to “Mogo Ror.”
With Backwards, I alter the order of letters from “Mogo Ror” to “Ogom Ror.”
Sometimes a transformation will completely destroy a name. And other times it will leave it exactly the same, like with “Ror.” As with all things, you can always reroll if you decide you don’t like a result.
Let’s look at a second example…
This time I only get one name from the list – (7) Neryx.
And when I roll for Transformations, I only get one this time – (4) Mixed.
Mixed is a fun one. It’s like shifting letters around on the board during a Scrabble game. I can turn Neryx into:
Again, not all of them will make sense or be useful, but you can end up with some interesting letter combinations.
It gets even more entertaining when you mix and match transformations and names from different products, but we’ll play with that another time!