Name Generator Brainstorm

edited April 2014 in Story Games
I hate coming up with names on the fly. Maybe you do too!

So let's do some blue-sky solutioneering. What would an ideal name generator involve?


  • edited April 2014
    That's big.

    Historical Earth Names
    - by Historical Period
    - by Culture
    - by Language
    - Settlement/City/Town Names

    Modern Earth Names
    - by Culture
    - by Language
    - Settlement/City/Town Names
    - Company Names

    Fantasy Names
    - by Race/Culture
    - by Genre/World/Author

    Genre Names
    - Post-Apoc Names
    - Funny Names
    - Pompous Names
    - Serious Names
    - Auspicious Names
    - Killer Names
    - Villain Names
    - Hero Names
    - Alien Names
    - Spaceship Names
    - Planet Names
    - Stage & Screen Names

    It would generate whole lists of them (not just one at a time), which could be easily copied/pasted or printed right from the screen.
  • Wasn't there a book of names? I forget its name, but it was a book that contained various real-life, fiction and fantasy names, sorted by culture, period, genre and so on...
  • edited April 2014
    The Story Games Names Project? I mean, really.
    The ideal name generator would be like that, only bigger and more comprehensive.
    Also, on a computator, like Abulafia, for instant one-button randomizatorium. Dunno if there's a separate list with only the name lists on that site though.
  • Nice resource! Never saw that before. I made a version with bookmarks, because, come on.
  • Yep! I've heard of the Story Games Names Project too. :)

    So how do you/how would you use these? Is it beforehand? Do you keep a phone or tablet at the table?
  • You could print out the relevant pages before a game starts. You won't need the entire book handy for most games, unless your game is particularly genre- and setting-hopping.

    I helped a friend use the book in preparation of her game by translating the pages on A Thousand and One Nights for her. She said it was a tremendous help, since finding stuff on Arabic culture of the period in Korean was difficult. I think it's a book that can help out a lot with only a few pages.
  • I usually just make a short list of appropriate names before a game, or grab whatever list I have lying around.
    I only use printed material for gaming, no computers.
  • Tag-based organization would be great for this kind of thing. You have a big database of names with tags like whether they're first or last names, how popular they are, what countries commonly use them, etc., which makes them eminently searchable. It would also be cool to have cognate lists: like, if I want to name a character "John" but in a non-English variant, I could pull up a list of variants of "John" (Giovanni, Ivan, João, etc.).

    Another really useful tool to integrate would be name construction formats for cultures that don't use a traditional first-name-last-name format. For example, suppose I tell the machine, "I need a Chinese name." It provides me a list of the Hundred Family Surnames etc. to choose from for the family name, and then a list of characters that are commonly used in given names. I'm imagining a similar tool for Arabic names: ism, laqab, nasab, nisbah, etc.
  • While at first this might appear as pure babble text, you can customize the vowels and consonants to apply language rules.
  • edited April 2014
    If I'm looking for a whole fictitious, foreign culture, I like to generate semi-random words from among the set of syllables felicitous in English.

    One tool generates things like:






    I do this with tools like this. (If you want to have it regenerate new lists of words, you'll need to make a copy of the doc and then change a value somewhere (like cell a1), but you can get the idea just from looking at it, too.)

    I have some apps that follow more sophisticated procedures to generate sets of words that tend to sound like they could be from the same language better, but they generate stuff that is sufficiently hard to pronounce that I don't really use them.

    An easier technique is to take regular names and switch one vowel and one consonant for another. Another is to come up with three or four syllables that all names end with and then just make sure that all names end with one of those.

    So, as far as what an ideal name generator would include, the ability to implement all of these strategies and more with lots of dial-tweaking.
  • edited April 2014
    I adore Sean Puckett's random word generator and insist that its functionality be included in any name generating application:

    (There are name lists in Abulafia, including most of the SGNP as I recall)
  • Oh, that really is great. I'm enjoying looking at the differences in the words it spits back when fed different poems. (E.g. Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Poe's The Raven.)
  • Yep! I've heard of the Story Games Names Project too. :)

    So how do you/how would you use these? Is it beforehand? Do you keep a phone or tablet at the table?
    I use the Android app.
  • I created a name generator in Excel that allows you to type in a word/name/etc and then pushes the vowels and consonants up or down to give new words. It's what I did for a quick map for a game I was running. I took an existing world map, flipped it upside down and then punched in real world places and took the names I thought sounded the best with a quick fantasy tweak or two. For instance:

    Dallas because Femmet or Bykkyr and then I would add a flair of Femm'et or Byk-Kyr.

    Of course, you could change a quick letter if you like the sound of spelling better. IE - Kemmet or Tykkyr.

    Quick, easy, painless. If there's any interest in that file, I'll make it available.
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