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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #330

NPC Name Tips and Resources


Edited by: Isaac Calon

This Week's Tips Summarized 

NPC Name Tips and Resources

  1. Group Lexicon
  2. Prepare Names In Advance
  3. Name According To Genre
  4. Create A Cast Of Characters
  5. Subscribe To Word Of The Day Lists
  6. Quick Name Tricks
  7. Internet Name Resources

Readers' Tips Summarized 

  1. 240Names
    From: Lord Skudley
  2. PvP
    From: chrysaeteos
  3. Online Noire Comic
    From: Kate Manchester
  4. Villain Ideas
    From: Kit Reshawn

"Against the Darkness" Now Available in Print

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Against the Darkness at Tabletop Adventures

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A Brief Word From Johnn 

Know Of Any Card-Based RPG Tools?

I received this request for card-type RPG tools from a Tips reader. If you have any suggestions, please e-mail me at


I've been on the hunt for card-based RPG tools, enhancements, aides, etc. I think any idea that reduces the bulk of gaming materials that a player/DM has to carry around is worth looking at.

Could you put out the call to see what card-based ideas/items people have either found on the Internet, in stores, or developed themselves?

Here's an example of the kind of tool I'm looking for:

Inspiration Cards for Writing and Roleplaying

Thanks, Mike

Have a great week!


Johnn Four,

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GM Mastery: Adventure Essentials: Holidays

From the Ennie/Gencon award wining writer of NPC Essentials comes a new GM Mastery guide for holiday based adventures!

"This eBook is about helping you plan, prepare, and GM better adventures. While you can use the information that follows to craft interesting holidays, my main goal is to help you use holidays as the backbone for campaigns, adventures, and encounters. Holidays can be much more than the minor quirk of your game world. With strategic design, as outlined in the coming pages, you can transform holidays into a vital GMing tool to create immersion, realism, and most importantly, more fun in your game sessions." -- Johnn Four

Download a free demo from RPG Now

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NPC Name Tips and Resources  

NPC Name Tips and Resources

By Johnn Four

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1. Group Lexicon 

Names are a primary game element. They provide a lexicon the group shares to help identify what you are talking about. Imagine the confusion if NPCs didn't have names and you only referred to them indirectly: Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third. :) [ ]

Some general naming tips:

  • Pick serious names if you don't want NPCs to become one- dimensional.
  • For recurring NPCs, pick memorable names. If names are hard for the GM and players to remember, it becomes frustrating while you scramble through notes, and gameflow and immersion suffers.
  • Pick names that our pronounceable. Say names out loud before the game. If you can't pronounce them, your players won't, either.
  • Be consistent. Strange names are prone to shifts in pronunciation, especially if they're not well-known or remembered and you need to read out loud from notes. Consider creating a pronunciation hint or guide, or spelling names phonetically.
  • Spell them out for the players. Break out of character for a moment while GMing and spell names out loud for any record keepers and note-takers. Pick your timing for this as you see fit, but it's important that interested players get accurate information for future consistency.

Players often refer to notes and game logs to remind themselves about who they've met and who they know about. You want to avoid confusion due to mis-spelling and inaccurate notes - unless that's your intent for puzzle or gameplay purposes.

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2. Prepare Names In Advance 

You need to create names primarily for two occasions: while planning and while GMing.


You can speed planning up by having lists of names crafted in advance. Instead of wracking your brain trying to think up each name as required, you can just pick one from a list and move on.

I research names for my games on the Internet. For example, in my current Greyhawk game, I hit a few Greyhawk websites and copied name lists from resources, downloads, forum posts, and so on. For a Birthright campaign, I looked up historical Earth names.

Next, I put name lists in a spreadsheet with a random function. Hitting the F9 key gives me a random name fast and simple.


While GMing, how many names do you actually need to create during a typical session?

It depends on the type of game you are running, the genre, and where the PCs currently are (like in a dungeon vs. a city). However, chances are you don't need a hundred names. Make a best guess. Mine is 10. Make that the number of names you need to prepare for yourself before the game. Why take a long time to conjure up 1000 names when you just need 10?

In addition, with only a small number to deal with, you can craft a cheat sheet for yourself that includes a small number of names for each common culture or race in the game.

For example:

  • 10 Veluna male names
  • 10 Veluna female names
  • 10 streetwise nicknames
  • 10 goblin names
  • 10 orc names
  • 10 female elf names
  • 10 male elf names
  • 10 dwarf names

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3. Name According To Genre 

Nothing breaks immersion faster than a name from the wrong genre or world. Han Solo the wizard, Bob the vampire, and Bilbo the car mechanic are names that might derail game sessions. It's ideal if your players respect the game and give it the same dedication, passion, and enthusiasm you provide, and goofy names can ruin your hard work.

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4. Create A Cast Of Characters 

Document names as you use them to keep your games consistent. One of the best tools I've found for name documentation is the cast of characters.

A cast of characters is a simple list of names and notes put on paper, in a chart, or in a spreadsheet. You can expand on this tool in a few different ways as well:

  • Mind map. If you remember pictures better than bulleted notes, use mind map notation to not only track NPC names, but their relations, connections, personalities, and other in-game info.

    I used to think mind mapping was just drawing lines and circles. However, these sample mind maps illustrate the technique's full potential:



    mind map gallery
  • Full contact sheet. Using a chart or a spreadsheet, you can add as many bits of information about your NPCs as you like. I use OpenOffice spreadsheets to track basic game data, factions, PC-NPC attitudes, encounter areas, links to the NPC entry on our group's wiki, links to the NPC in the MyInfo software I use, and more.

    Check it out: (OpenOffice Format, 41KB; Warning: contains Temple of Elemental Evil spoilers.) Cast of NPCs.ods
  • Index cards. You can buy 100 cards at the dollar store. Each time an NPC pops into existence in your campaign, take out a card and write their name at the top. Store the cards in a box and file them alphabetically. Each time you come up with more information about the NPC, take out the card and make notes on it.

    When plotting, pull out cards for the NPCs involved and lay them out on a table, or tape them to a surface. Arrange them in piles, beside each other, touching each other, or in any configuration that would help you craft encounters and plot adventures with them.

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5. Subscribe To Word Of The Day Lists 

Word of the day lists are awesome name generators. Each day, you receive a word and a definition. Many words in English make interesting NPC names suitable for many genres, including fantasy, sci-fi, and modern. Some words won't make good names, but when you receive ones you like, paste them into a list.

Another cool feature of word of the day lists is you can use the definitions to hook NPC personalities upon. Not only do you get a potentially great name idea each day, but you also get ideas about who the NPC could be.

For example, her are some words and their definitions from the word of the day list I subscribe to:

  • skosh (skosh) - A small amount; a little bit.
  • paisano (py-SAH-no) - A pal, buddy. A fellow countryman.
  • boodle (BOOD-l) - An illegal payment, as in graft.
  • miscible (MIS-uh-buhl) - Capable of being mixed together.
  • caustic (KAW-stik) - Capable of burning or corroding. Highly critical; sarcastic.
  • ode (rhymes with code) - A lyric poem celebrating a person, event, thing, etc. written in an exalted style.
  • monody (MON-uh-dee) - A poem in which the poet laments someone's death.
  • epopee (EP-uh-pee) - Epic poetry or an epic poem.
  • palinode (PAL-uh-noad) - A poem in which the author retracts something said in an earlier poem.
  • epithalamion (ep-uh-thuh-LAY-mee-on) - A poem or song in honor of a bride and bridegroom.
  • dandle (DAN-dl) - To bounce a child on the knees or in the arms. To pamper or pet.
  • exiguous (ig-ZIG-yoo-uhs) - Scanty; small; slender.
  • quaggy (KWAG-ee) - Marshy; flabby; spongy.
  • galen (GAY-luhn) - A physician.
  • hermeneutic (hur-muh-NOO-tik, -NYOO-) - Interpretive or explanatory.
  • roscian (ROSH-ee-uhn) - Of or related to acting.
  • schlub (shlub) - A clumsy oaf.
  • maven (MAY-vuhn) - An expert, connoisseur, or enthusiast.
  • yenta (YEN-tuh) - A busybody or a gossip.
  • iris (EYE-ris) - A rainbow.
  • rapparee (rap-uh-REE) - Any freebooter or robber.

Some lists you can subscribe to:

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6. Quick Name Tricks 

Here are a few tricks for creating NPC names, taken from the Roleplaying Tips Weekly archives.

  • Spell words backwards
  • Look at food ingredients
  • Use foreign languages - Internet translators, or foreign language dictionaries (which you can purchase cheap from dusty corners of used book stores)
  • Phone books
  • Baby name books
  • Draw names from similar reference books. For example, use horticulture/plant name books for elven names, engineering books for gnomes or hi-tech cultures, history books for a specific culture
  • Credits lists in your RPG books
  • Use random draws of scrabble tiles

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7. Internet Name Resources 

Here are some links to name resources from the Tips archives, courtesy of the Roleplaying Tips GM Encyclopedia:

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Hit Location Die (d6)

Roll a dice to see where you hit. Just $1.76! Check out a photo containing all six sides:

Hit Location Die (d6) at RPG Shop

Readers' Tips Of The Week: 

1. 240 Names 

From: Lord Skudley

The following list is from a name generator I created using names from the US census of 1990 and some name sites found on the web. The generator, by default, will generate 10 male or female names (both first and last) for the nationality you choose from a dropdown box. This generator can be found at: Community:3e Utilities packaged with the Rumor Generator.

Male Names


  1. Steathford Naquin
  2. Hollis Quintana
  3. Rickey Kahn
  4. Thorndike Hutchings
  5. Tolland Marroquin
  6. Lenny Linares
  7. Brain Burney
  8. Ullok Dawkins
  9. Friduwulf Francois
  10. Esteban Rea


  1. Cathaoir Caolan
  2. Malvin Nathraichean
  3. Sruthair Britschgi
  4. Meadhra Allebach
  5. Tier Anderson
  6. Gilmore Bigelow
  7. Beth O'brouwer
  8. Morrissey Clennan
  9. Beiste Ynbristow
  10. Rowin Mcgillespie


  1. Karlis Merit Royal
  2. Aleron Lemanneville
  3. Darcy Laverrell
  4. Harbin D'romain
  5. Ancil Les Karcsi
  6. Karcsi Page
  7. Manville Merit Rousset
  8. Guerin Albaric
  9. Burel Romain
  10. Vardan Laburcet


  1. Maynard Vonderry
  2. Drud Vonbogohardt
  3. Lorenz Luiginw
  4. Wilmod Vonulrich
  5. Dedrick Vonalrik
  6. Fremont Vandermisha
  7. Hanz Derkostya
  8. Bren Vonandrya
  9. Binge Derlaurentij
  10. Adelhard Nicolai


  1. Ilya Vanderrickard
  2. Oleg V'hartmann
  3. Burian Vanderjakob
  4. Petenka Burkhart
  5. Edik Vongerard
  6. Dimitri Vasya
  7. Nikita Vandertusya
  8. Jeirgif Foma
  9. Nikita Karol
  10. Cheslav Yurochka


  1. Patricio Josue
  2. Hector Delmar
  3. Aurelio Degli Blas
  4. Natalio Macario
  5. Garcia Porfiro
  6. Cornelio Donambrosi
  7. Gualterio Del Alessandro
  8. Nataniel Abramo
  9. Ramon Primo
  10. Salomon Ferdinando


  1. Donatello Gervaso
  2. Pascal Del Humberto
  3. Guido Degli Palben
  4. Ugo Armando
  5. Lucan Zacarias
  6. Fabroni Lucio
  7. Galtero Donarturo
  8. Este Pietro
  9. Donatello Corradeo
  10. Gaetano Donato


  1. Aesculapius Erkerd
  2. Alcyoneus Othmann
  3. Arion Peppi
  4. Agestes Rald
  5. Alcmaeon Alwin
  6. Adrastus Adalwen
  7. Artemus Adel
  8. Ander Ailbe
  9. Cole Hobbard
  10. Anchises Ardal


  1. Thormod Sigvat
  2. Buri Munin
  3. Thord Thjalfi
  4. Jan Olin
  5. Illugi Birger
  6. Tyrkir Lars
  7. Vili Ilmari
  8. Hamar Jormungand
  9. Paavo Lars
  10. Hallbjorn Lukas


  1. Tanjiro Shen Nikki-Rai
  2. Chen Nikki Zi-Toshiro
  3. Kaemon Kado Zi-Botan
  4. Sachio Keiji Suzu-Morio
  5. Kenjiro Yasuo Zi-Raidon
  6. Li Kentaro Lirong-Renjiro
  7. Kaemon Kin Zi-Taro
  8. Cong Saniiro Zi-Shen
  9. Cong Dai Jin-Li
  10. Reizo Yukio Zi-Kong


  1. Aditya Adeben'fahime
  2. Akshobhya Anzety'upala
  3. Tsekani Gahiji'jivanta
  4. Memphis Lateef'azale
  5. Vivek Sahan'lazize
  6. Rishi Bhaskar'dameer
  7. Ottah Menes'debbani
  8. Bali Fenuku'mehadi
  9. Chuma Sekani'kerani
  10. Hasin Khaldun'isis

American Indian

  1. Kono: Miwok name, meaning unknown
  2. Siwili: tail of the fox
  3. Nodin: wind
  4. Chayton: Sioux name meaning falcon
  5. Ocunnowhurst: Cheyenne name meaning yellow wolf
  6. Vaiveahtoish: Cheyenne name meaning alights on the cloud
  7. Ohitekah: Sioux name meaning brave
  8. Muraco: white moon
  9. Nawat: left-handed
  10. Etchemin: Algonquin name meaning canoe man

Female Names


  1. Autumn Landers
  2. Gerald Vann
  3. Johana Oates
  4. Naida Edmonds
  5. Deena Sinclair
  6. Kira Borden
  7. Adelaide Millard
  8. Coletta Viera
  9. Son Hamer
  10. Cassaundra Chu


  1. Honor Keegan
  2. Honora O'brockway
  3. Christa Boreland
  4. Siubhan Tighearnach
  5. Robina O'scot
  6. Dervorgilla Cowen
  7. Edina O'oney
  8. Fia Mcnaughton
  9. Feenat Mcbostrom
  10. Niamh Cullo


  1. Cadence Channing
  2. Aubine D'algernon
  3. Nadine Masson
  4. Harrietta D'gifford
  5. Marianne Lavail
  6. Karolina Rust
  7. Jacquenetta Dennis
  8. Angelika Cort
  9. Coralie Leroy
  10. Marianne Merit Tyeis


  1. Winifrida Ardal
  2. Rilla Waller
  3. Irmuska Tabbart
  4. Linda Benat
  5. Hertha Adalrik
  6. Odiane Oleg
  7. Aloisia Alek
  8. Isana V'roman
  9. Albreda Pavlya
  10. Tibelde Meino


  1. Allochka Vonbittan
  2. Kisa V'egon
  3. Galya Hackett
  4. Tania Vonrodrik
  5. Lyudmila Derjohann
  6. Marina Ilya
  7. Sinovia Levka
  8. Ranevskaya Roman
  9. Lyubochka Fyodor
  10. Galenka V'fadey


  1. Delcine Sabino
  2. Fonda Prospero
  3. Alejandrina Fabio
  4. Conchetta Isidoro
  5. Jakinda Dontulio
  6. Mendi Alessandro
  7. Bella Egidio
  8. Agueda Doncecilio
  9. Marisol Guglielmo
  10. Filipa Giulio


  1. Viviana Enrique
  2. Constanzie Degli Turi
  3. Ghita Isidro
  4. Baptiste Desiderio
  5. Angelia Oliverios
  6. Guillelmina Giancarlo
  7. Bambi Pascual
  8. Carmelita Donugo
  9. Constanzie Degli Giuseppe
  10. Ysabel Guglielmo


  1. Calandra Lambrett
  2. Charissa Bernardyn
  3. Galatea Ald
  4. Coretta Alarick
  5. Alyssa Jaye
  6. Gregoria Lamarr
  7. Melantho Rico
  8. Calliope Alarick
  9. Dorothea Hewlitt
  10. Elpida Aric


  1. Anrid Asgerd
  2. Hlif Rungnir
  3. Russu Knud
  4. Kriemhilde Kalman
  5. Asvor Sveyn
  6. Auduna Garm
  7. Borgny Gilby
  8. Astra Royd
  9. Annalie Karl
  10. Lovisa Bjolf


  1. Kioko Yukio Kyoko-Torio
  2. Sachi Kenjiro Jun-Saburo
  3. Midori Kuan-Yin Zi-Kuan-Yin
  4. Zhi Saniiro Taka-Lian
  5. Xinqian Takeo Sakura-Cong
  6. Huiying Kado Zi-Toshiro
  7. Bo Shoda Zi-Roka
  8. Chiko Akeno Zi-Rei
  9. Kimi Li Zi-Rai
  10. Michiko Nikki Zi-Manzo


  1. Esmake Ata'samvarta
  2. Emarat Seth'dirayat
  3. Sarmadee Anish'badieh
  4. Indumati Jumoke'varunani
  5. Shasti Bhaga'marit
  6. Sitara Kantu'sarama
  7. Amurra Nephthys'abhirati
  8. Sakari Apophis'gauri
  9. Fitnat Aswad'nassiat
  10. Bizre Badru'genoubee

American Indian

  1. Eyota: great
  2. Chimalis: bluebird
  3. Nahimana: Sioux name meaning mystic
  4. Algoma: valley of flowers
  5. Ptaysanwee: Sioux name meaning white buffalo
  6. Ayita: Cherokee name meaning first to dance
  7. Wuti: Hopi name meaning woman
  8. Aiyana: Forever flowering; eternal blossom
  9. Chu'mana: Hopi name meaning snake maiden
  10. Kolenya: Miwok name meaning coughing fish

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2. PvP (Player vs. Player) 

From: chrysaetos

Roleplaying Tip #328: Discouraging PvP

In response to kurtiswarr's tip on discouraging PvP: cursing the characters not to attack each other is putting the wheelbarrow before the chicken, so to speak. PvP is not an in-game problem; it's a problem in the (usually unspoken) social contract between players.

The best way to discourage PvP is to tell the players, not the characters, that you don't want to deal with a bunch of PvP in your game. If you want to introduce some in-group tension, there are better ways than through antisocial behavior resulting in physical conflict.

Ideally, this discussion should take place before the game even starts, but it may be something that just comes up. "My character would" isn't a valid excuse; you're in control of your character, not the other way around. If you think your character absolutely must kill his erstwhile buddy, then either talk it out while out of character or find a reason why he shouldn't.

Pop culture is full of pairings that generate friction without coming to blows. C-3P0 and R2-D2 come to mind, as a comical example. Legolas and Gimli had a friendly rivalry running through most of the books. Conflict makes characters interesting, but the conflict must be minor enough not to act as a wedge in group cohesion.

[Editor's note: I agree with chrysaetos, but I think establishing game expectations as early as possible, be they for PvP or not, is the key. You could have a great deal of fun pitting your characters against each other (and fun is the greatest good here), and the right DM can make his adventures soar with that kind of conflict for fuel. It's rare, but I welcome this into my games as a player or as a DM, as long as I know about it to begin with. ;]

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3. Online Noire Comic 

From: Kate Manchester

Roleplaying Tips #329: Web Comics

Here's a great series of comics in the Noir genre, though the most current ones are stalled. Supernatural Crime

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4. Villain Ideas 

From: Kit Reshawn

People act how they think they should. Even if they fear or feel they are wrong in their actions, they will rationalize that this decision is the best one they can make. Dictators through history have killed millions, but none of them did it because they believed it was wrong.

Who are you more afraid of, the 200-pound ruffian who is trying to steal a loaf of bread from you but knows it's wrong, or the waif who believes with all her being that you stole her baby? What is each capable of? In answering that question, I fear the waif.

The same is true for villains. Righteousness is the greatest cause of all, making heroes from cowards and recruiting new blood with each step forward. This does not mean that every villain has to be doing horrible things and believing he's right, and sometimes having the party encounter the reluctant villain creates a lot of complexity and enjoyable roleplaying situations. What will the PCs decide if they finally break up the bandit ring plaguing the king and find out that he is a Robin Hood character?

But, usually you want your villains to be someone the party can hate, and that can be tricky. A baron who plots to start a war is perhaps 100% loyal to his king and country and has an unblemished reputation. Why would he do this? Well, the barbarians just over the border are a plague on society and hardly human anyway. It is his duty to remove the threat they pose to the kingdom by exterminating every last one of them, down to the last baby. In his mind it doesn't matter that there is a recent treaty with the barbarians, because you cannot trust what those animals say anyway.

This is a better villain than the guy who wants to open the gates to hell and let the underworld devour the world of the living. He is dangerous because he believes that what he is doing is the only solution to the problem, and that he is acting in the best interests of the nation. Because he has a good reputation and is attacking an age old enemy he will have an easy time getting support from others even as he commits atrocities. Should the party ever corner him he will never surrender and will become dangerously unpredictable as he takes every risk necessary to win.

By doing this you give your bad guys much more personality, and you create believable NPCs. Players will remember the bad guy a lot better if they are able to understand why he did what he did, even if they completely disagree with his actions.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If you have these villains, then magic that harms evil creatures/people probably won't work on them. Using the D&D alignment system, they would probably be considered some sort of neutral alignment. It is best to just forget alignment completely and realize that people do what they do because they think it is right, and sometimes they are wrong.
  • It is ok to have purely evil villains sometimes, but they should be rare. The best pure villains are demons or devils. Alternately, you can have a person who is doing what he thinks is right, but what he thinks is right is anything that gives him what he wants.
  • Don't give every villain a sob story. Yes, it may be cool to have your bad guy be bad because some group killed his sister when he was only 7, but if you have a sob story for every villain it gets old fast.
  • Try to give most villains some 'good' traits. Perhaps he gives money to poor children, or has a zoo full of cute, fuzzy animals he has saved. This is a great way to introduce the party to the fact that the bad guy has more to him then just the main plot, and may even get them interested in learning a lot more about him.

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RuneQuest: Glorantha

This book contains everything you need to launch an epic Runequest campaign set in its classic setting of Glorantha, a world of mythic adventure. In its glorious Second Age, Glorantha is the prize of warring empires. Two empires, more similar than they'd like to admit, vie for ultimate dominance. The God Learner Empire seeks to crack open the very secrets of the gods, manipulating them to their own ends. The Empire of Wyrm's Friends works to transform its land and people into a gigantic, mystical dragon, which will take flight and reshape the entire world.

RuneQuest: Glorantha at RPG Shop