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Tips on Naming Random NPC’s

If you were to go around and ask GM’s what one of the hardest things to do as a game master. Many would say the most difficult thing is constantly coming  up with names for the NPC’s the players will meet over the course of the game. The only thing likely worse than this is remembering them all. So today I am going to give you some tips to make this task a bit easier on you.

Now to be clear this is not intended for all of your NPC’s or your main NPC’s. I am assuming that when the game is rolling you already have these persons and their personality’s already penciled in and ready to go. This is intended for the constant throng of NPC’s that your players will meet between the opening plot and the finale. We all know as GM’s our players will stop and get the names of a plethora of NPC’s that have nothing to do with the story. After all its a big world and a lot of people in it. Over the years I have found several tips that you can put to use.

With these tips it is a great idea to have a pad and paper on hand. Or a tablet with a note taking app. I can’t recommend strongly enough the use of things like OneNote or Evernote. Not only are these great note taking tools for all of your RPG needs but they allow you to check back in later to make a few notes about that NPC you needed to name on the fly. In case the players inevitably come back to check in on him like they so often do.

One of the first tricks for naming NPC’s I ever was told was to look around the room. Pick something and use the first letter of the name or shape of it. Another option if the object was a book would be to use the author’s name or again the first letter in the title to come up with a name.

For Example Glancing at my bookshelf right now the first thing that caught my eye was a Pencil Sharpener. The First thing that comes to mind is Paul Sharp.

The problem is with this method you are just as likely to throw a blank as if you just took a moment and thought up a name to begin with.

The second suggestion would be to click on over to the nearest name generator site. First off you will find a ton of them. Second not all generator’s are created equal. With many of them you will find that you might have to click time and time again to find a name that sits well with you. My top choices would be.

fantasy name generators This site gives you a ton of options.

behind the name This site is my personal site of preference of the two.

A third option is more recent with the era of Kickstarter  RPG products. Many of these products like The Strange RPG, Numenera & Deadlands Noir among so many others now have one or more pages with the names of the backers in the books. This is a wonderful source of NPC names for your game. In Deadlands Noir they even break the backer section into group’s of NPC’s For you!

Lastly and the best way to handle naming NPC’s on the fly is to have a list of first and last names ready to go when the players “go of script” and begin talking to anyone that you or they feel the need to give a name.

The advantage to this kind of list is you can narrow down the names by region and location as well as profession if given enough time. Making for much richer name lists. For this come up with around 10 male and female names and 10 last names. When you need a name cross it off the name and later come back and fill in a new name to take its place.

Male First Names           Female First Names               Last Names
Byron                                   Sonya                                             Thatcher
Albert                                   Felicia                                            Fielding
Jonathan                              Cleo                                                Green
Abe                                        Beatrice                                         Wyndham
Roger                                    Ameila                                            Griswold

Male First Names           Female First Names               Last Names
Byron                                   Sonya                                             Thatcher
Albert                                   Felicia                                            Fielding
Jonathan                              Cleo                                                Green
Abe                                        Beatrice                                         Wyndham
Roger                                    Ameila                                            Griswold

With this method on a larger scale you can begin interconnecting NPC’s to one and other in your stories. This in the long run and in the sense of story building is the ideal method.

Now all of this is pointless if you do not write down the names you use and how they came into play in your story. So make sure in what ever medium you store your game info you make a note of who you names in  your game. Because one of great things in any Roleplaying game is if you give an NPC a name. It is likely one of  your players is at some point going to come back and want to talk with him. Even if they do not it helps in general to keep things straight for yourself.

Best of all in a long running game’s you can bring NPC’s back and reference them in further adventures. Lets say that the players bump into Albert and Beatrice in the market. Albert was selling his wife Beatrice’s trail rations she  had made to sell at market. We learn that Albert & Beatrice Whydham who we met at the market three weeks back have since gone missing. The locals have asked the party to look into a reported goblin raiding party near their home. Now even if they only had spoken too our two NPC’s briefly it has made the story that much more interesting and our players are more vested in the plot we are introducing. Because we referenced something from the common groups past.







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