Coming up with good character names can be difficult. The moment you go to actually name something you’re met with this weird blank paralysis. Every idea that pops into your head seems wrong, doesn’t fit, or is too silly. The solution to this problem is much like any other: you need a good framework for creating DnD names.
Why Naming Is Hard
When you’re trying to think of fantasy names for a character it’s easy to come up empty. This is because names follow rules and patterns and when you’re thinking about an imaginary land, you don’t actually have rules or patterns to follow.
DnD names are particularly hard because if it’s not your world that you’re playing in you’ll have a hard time finding concrete naming examples to learn from. Likely your module doesn’t have a written section on names and naming.
To overcome this you don’t need to invent a whole history, culture, and naming paradigm. Instead, you just need to base your names around solid examples, either in game or from the real world.
What’s in a DnD Name?
It always seems silly to have a DnD character named Bill or John. These aren’t fantasy names right? They could be, but more likely the rule of fantasy naming has been built up through fantasy novels, DnD lore, and media classics in the genre.
Because the settings of your game probably match those of known settings, choosing names outside of that can seem weird. If the first player introduces himself and Gersham Warhammer, announcing a character named Sally Rhodes could seem way off.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be.
Names in DnD can be anything. Literally anything. Plain names, complex names, names borrowed from mythology, even just something made up that you like. This of course brings us back to the main problem: with all this freedom, how do you choose a good DnD name?
How to Make a Good Character Name
We’re fans of DnD, we like rules (to some extent), so let’s lay down some basic guidelines for creating a good DnD character name.
- Don’t use easily recognizable fantasy names like Legolas.
- Consider your character’s upbringing, race, and region for examples. The son of Bill and Linda Smith isn’t likely to be named Gurruk Skullsplitter.
- Borrow from real world cultures first. To most Americans, foreign names can sound like fantasy names if people have never heard them.
- Norse, Swedish, and Northern European names work well for Dwarves
- Celtic Names work well for Elves or Drow (add some z’s and x’s to make a name more Drow-ish)
- Humans can take classical Latin names or any name from Latin or Germanic based langues (German, English, French, Spanish etc.)
- For more high fantasy names, elongate them or use long vowel sounds to stretch the name out.
- Barbarians and Orcs typically use fewer vowels and have more hard consonants: Gorok, Kragrak, etc.
- Simple can work just fine, one word names are a good go to.
- Last names are for nobles, commoners get trade names: Smith, Cooper, etc.
- Try foreign words for trades as last names (Forgeron is French for smith)
- Make sure you can say the name, you’ll likely say and hear it a lot.
- Don’t use a joke name. While funny, 3 years of sessions with Butts McToots could be a bit much.
These guidelines typically won’t steer you in the wrong direction, but they do need some finesse. The guidelines can keep you from making some classic blunders, but you can get some rather flat names this way too. Remember to try the name out a few times before you settle on it. Most of all, don’t forget to figure out if there are any terrible nicknames you might get for any name you use. A bad nickname can follow a character for years.
DnD Names On Autopilot
If you’re still having trouble naming your character you can always roll the dice on it. We love taking chances, it’s why we play DnD. Consider using a DnD name generator. The one here at Master the Dungeon even has options that let you roll names based on the character’s race, making it easier to get fitting names for your characters. Or you can try other generators on our generator resource page.
If you need to get a character name fast, generators are definitely the way to go. While you might not get the most unique names out of a generator, they also act as a great way to get you thinking about names in general and can help you push past writer’s block and come up with your own.