Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where I Shall One Day Retire To...

I’m playing the name game of world-building at the moment. Despite how much of the world I’ve put together, I remain amazed at how many little but important places need at least a name before play begins.

Names are one of those facets of role-playing design that some people excel at and others just can’t do. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Knowing that I do have difficulties from time to time, I regularly add new words to my commonplace books. These can be words that either sprung to mind or ones that I encountered while reading or watching the History Channel. Anything interesting or odd enough to catch my eye gets scrawled in as insurance against the day I reach creative bankruptcy.

I can be notoriously choosy about names too, which doesn’t help the process any. Oftentimes I think I’ve matched some feature with the perfect name only to go to sleep and awaken the next morning completely dissatisfied. That’s one of the benefits and curses of creating on the fly during a gaming session—with no time to second-guess yourself, you play what you’ve got. Unfortunately, in the case of a real stinker, you’re also stuck with it (and with the ribbing you’re bound to take from your players).

To further complicate matters, the perfect fantasy name has already been created and it wasn’t by me. I know that no matter how many more years I spend at these pursuits, I will never, ever top this single creation. And it’s not an overly obscure one either so I don’t even have the option of ripping it off.

What is it, you ask?

Ool Hrusp.

Just say it out loud and savor how it rolls off the tongue. With all due respect to the Professor, Fritz Leiber wins the fantasy name contest as far as I’m concerned. That’s one great name.

Of course names are highly subjective things. Just look at the current spate of Hollywood baby names: somebody thought those sounded good.

While I’m sticking with Ool Hrusp, anyone have a personal favorite from either literature or the home sandbox? Send it up the flagpole in the comments section and we’ll see if anyone else salutes it.


Timeshadows said...

Sounds neat.

In Vrun, it would mean: 'People of the two rivers; workers of the furrows between them.' :D

Dan said...

I highly recommend Gary Gygax's Book of Names, that was published by Troll Lord Games, if you don't have it. It also includes last names. I think any writer or GM should have this book.

Blair said...

I love the names in Lin Carter's World's End series.

Anonymous said...

From E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros:

The enchanted mountain of Zora Rach Nam Psarrion.

Say that one out loud.

The Grand Wazoo said...

I always was a sucker for Arcadia.

Mike K. said...

There's an old fort on the Isle of Skye called Dun Ringill. I like the sound of that.

Chris said...

"Minhariath", springs to mind. It's just the name of some obscure, never-visited-by-the-story part of Eriador in LOTR, but it speaks to me.

PTR said...

The names of the islands in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books are the best ever IMHO. Korp, Kopp, Holp, Tok, Iffish, Vemish, Sattins and Yor. They go on and on.

Jayson said...

^^^ Oh, agreed. Roke and Gont in particular just sang to me as a ten-year-old.

For some reason, I always loved the sound of "Helium" as a "Jeddakdom" in the Barsoom books (and "Jeddak" is a kickass title, too).

Pavinguire said...

R'lin K'ren A'a always did it for me, thank you Mickael Moorcock... ps, just recieved a copy of Stone Hell, most excellent!

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

For me, it was the names of the places and races in Steven R. Donaldson's Unbeliever series.

Anonymous said...

My favorites are also Leiber's. Lankhmar and Quarmall. They sounds different enough from the standard "fantasy stew with apostrophes" names, and they just LOOK right when you have them on a page.

Players have a decent chance at spelling them right, so long as they remember that half-silent "h".

At two syllables they're just the perfect vocal length. Single-syllable names are fine for unimportant people and places (like Dirk or Crosp) but you get a greater possible variety in sounds if you use two. Three syllables is just too long to use easily. Greyhawk has a problem with random-letter-combo nonsense names that are too short or too long (Verbobonc, I'm looking at you, though Nulb and Kron and Greyhawk work).

I like that Quarmall uses an uncommon letter and does it well - it's not just a weird name.

Finally, they're divorced from the trope of naming a place based on what's there. Like "Lakewood" or "Waterdeep". Or just appending -dell or -vale or -dale to the end of another word. Both of those are used extensively in the Forgotten Realms.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Earthsea names being awesome! I added a whole archipelago to my first D&D world after reading that trilogy.

From my early campaigns, Mount Dwarfdoom and The City Of Many Years were favourites. The village of Stalkrift Hill and the elven ruins of Elvanrion are a bit obvious in their meaning...

wv: zonpe - go on, you know you want to name something Zonpe.

Clovis Cithog said...

here is the quick and easy way to get a Barsoomian sounding character name

go to your white pages of the phone book, place finger on any page (randomly)

take first five letters of last name (space)
followed by first three letters of first name

examples . . .

Chare Mic
Hilli Lar
Tompk Deb

Chris Maler said...

I've always enjoyed Sumerian names.


These are just great names.

Anthony N. Emmel said...

Gygax's Stoink in Greyhawk. Such a cool name..., not that I'd want to live there are ever visit. I would love to retire to Hommlet myself. :)