Ever since I read "All Games Need Names" by Katharine Kerr in my copy of Dragon #75 I've been facinated by fantasy name and language generation. Although I've rarely(ok never) put in the effort to create my own fantasy language naming scheme. I started a couple times but it was always tedious work instead of fun like drawing maps.
I've learned to appropriate names instead.
Hello my name is Oak Veneer Nightstand
I still tend to name dwarves out of my Ikea catalog.
Googling for baby names brings up lots of sites like this one for Indian Names. The cool part is they usually list meanings for the names. Which is esp awesome for players and a great incentive for them to create names that "fit" the cultural background of their characters yet still have personal attachment. And in case you don't find it here's the Canoical List of Evil Baby Names.
Kabalarian Philosophy goes one step beyond. Detailing the (I assume) Kabalistic importance of over 802,169 names. Sadly they want $15 bucks to see more than a sampling from each of 120 or so languages. Still, it's worth looking at. Did you know that if you were a Zoroastrian named Beezu that your questioning, critical, practical nature makes you prove all ideas to your own satisfaction, rarely accepting anyone's word or ideas. And, the name Beezu creates a dual nature. For you desire to systematize your life to progress step by step, but frequently you are taken into new experiences, instability, and change. Huh, I wonder if Norm is modern white boy for Beezu?
For my first campaign I went to the map library at the Univ. of Kansas. In addition to drooling over topo maps of fjords I copied down lists of place names from Norway and Finland. Using one each for the two big cultures of my world. It's an easy way to have consistent and reasonable sounding names. Although, I'm sure native speakers would laugh at my NPC's named "Big Forest" or "Valley of Red Trees". Today you might use google maps instead. But their maps tend to be a bit sparse for the more interesting parts of the world. Besides there are better sources of names, generators!
Walled City of Lord Lau
Villainesses, Gnomes such as Dwobbert and Wimmalkin, a bit silly Sword & Sorcerish Sites and the like can all be found at Nine French Boys. Well, slap my reptilian, pimply netherbits! they have a smattering of amusing non-name generators as well.
Inspiration Pad has a heap of generators including various name ones split up by culture and gender which is nice cause you know boys and girls are different. Harn Names, CyberPunk Corporations, Taverns, and many more.
Cult of the Squid generators let you choose between various cultures or themes. Using a specific unique generator for each culture really enhances the verisimilitude of a campaign world. For my current game I used related Roman and Latin name generators for the ancient and modern versions of the primary language.
But Philllip Riley's Page is probably the best source of real world name generators. From Teutonic to Basque, Egyptian, Hindu, Russian, Frankish, Norman(represent!), Yiddish, Persian, Hawaiian! Many more including a few fantastical ones such as always useful Medieval Street Names.
Lutzur's Primordial Enmity
Dying Earth Spell Names are a bit specialized but far too awesome not to mention. Some other interesting generators are linked from there. There's also PERL code and data to generate a slew of name styles from real world and fantasy languages.
The Seventh Sanctum I believe gots the most generators of all. Their "normal" name ones are kind of weak. But they have several unique generators. My favorites being Lovecraftian & Wrestlers. Who doesn't want to see the cage match Harold "Hateful Soldier" Perkins vs L'zothaach!
Garden of Forked Paths & Earthly Delights
Abulafia is the bomb, a very slow to load the bomb but none the less the BOMB! A wikified random generator, Zomg! I don't have enough adjectives, aphorisms, and acronyms to convey the awesome in my pants right now. Their name section, they have everything you are looking for. Cause if it ain't there it's up to you to add it. I'll have a pint of Ape Destroyer Ale. Quick wench! Before the Halfling Hippies stink up the bar. Can't wait for tonight's Wonderful Fraternity of Ultimate Man-at-Arms gathering. We're watching Tosyleelaneyptodplooopal's travel pics from the Dread Doldrums of Eternal Peril.
I do not fancy(too random) the Bard's Tales Name Generators with standard, short, long, and "hard". But maybe just the thing for weird tales / pulp fantasy or any campaign were Kargen & Notor traveling to the Crystal Palace of Xithanm to steal back the red princess from Kortem the Twisted fits in just fine.
Yet more randomish fantasy names YAFNAG
Post a comment with your naming sources and check again next Wednesday for more semi-thematic links from my collection.
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