Instant Names: Mythic Flavor

Another instant name trick, this one for making up mythic titles on the fly while maintaining a strong cultural flavor. We just played a pre-Conquistador Aztec game (and by “pre” I mean, “hey, what’s that white sail on the horizon?”) so we got to whip it out. And now I share it with you.

First, think about the setting you’re going to be playing. Just imagine it. Now write down ten or a dozen words that come to mind. You’re looking for evocative words that really capture the flavor of the environment. Limp words should be cast out. If you’re GMing you may be doing this by yourself (particularly if you’re going to be the only one using it), but in a GMless game you can brainstorm your list together.

For our Aztec game, we had something like:

serpent, feather, obsidian, mirror, gold, blood, sun, smoke, jaguar, knife

Now any time during the game, when you need a cool title for a temple, a sacred place, or a god, just pick two random words from the list and combine them: obsidian serpent, feathered mirror, blood sun, smoke serpent, feather knife, and so on. Would you cross a warrior known as the Knife of the Sun? Dare you enter the Valley of the Golden Smoke?

These are names or titles, not necessarily the literal object (not everything in the world are mirrors, knives or jaguars). Pretty much any combination should come up with something fairly cool that also feels right for the setting. There’s a natural urge to divide your list into adjectives and nouns, but that isn’t necessary. If you’re feeling bold, number your list and get some dice ready.

Let’s try a different setting, something a little more Teutonic. Here’s a list off the top of my head:

iron, wolf, bone, grave, hammer, eye, storm, frost, axe, blood, rune

Just looking at that list, you probably have a good idea of the vibe I have in mind. It’s a recipe for the flavor of the setting all by itself.

Need a cool name for a warlord? Easy. Stormwolf, Bloodhammer, Wolf-axe, Bone-eye: they’re all good. Combine this with the one-letter name trick and you’ve got Lord Jharles Stormwolf, bearer of the dreaded sword Gravehammer.

    Ben Robbins | April 4th, 2011 | | show 5 comments