We all know that names have power. As GMs, we leverage names to invoke feelings of dread, comfort, and security…
- Ravenloft evokes images of dark, Poe- or Lovecraft-inspired evils.
- The Forgotten Realms evokes the ideal of a storyteller’s paradise, full of places to discover and explore with a history.
- And the Shire… doesn’t it just feel like home?
But why do those work? I’m sure there’s a science there I don’t quite grok yet. Even though I don’t how how to come up with names like that consistently, it doesn’t stop me from trying!
For instance, I needed the name of a small, fairly primitive village near a swamp for a new adventure…
Tried using some existing tools to help with this effort… but nothing I generated in a few mouse clicks in my browser really worked for me. Even so, they definitely gave my subconscious something to chew on. Here are the places I tried for feature and village names in this case:
- Fantasy Name Generators – Town Names
- Mithril and Mages – Natural Terrain Feature Name Generator
- Name Generator 2 – Town Name Generator
- Rink Works – Fantasy Name Generator
I got some good options, but nothing that really stuck with me. So when that didn’t work, I went back to the drawing board.
I started with my favorite thesaurus and looked up “swamp” for inspiration. The first five words I found were bog, marshland, morass, mud, and quagmire. Not too helpful… The next five were more useful however – bottoms, fen, glade, marsh, and mire.
Using common sense, a group of people attempting to form a new community near a swampland probably wouldn’t build in the swamp itself – instead choosing to build somewhere near it on solid ground. There aren’t usually a lot of mountains near swamps, but hills might provide what I was looking for. “Hills” aren’t all that inspiring though, so someone living in a valley or flat lands might think of a hill as a mountain of sorts… Back to the thesaurus! Ridge, peak, bank, mound, and mount all had possibilities.
Combining the two, I came up with a few possibilities:
Out of all of them, Fenmont seemed the most “Conan-esque” so that’s what I went with.
How do you create names? What’s your process? I’m finding that mine seems to be slightly different for each project, though I’m liking this thesaurus + common sense approach.