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Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Awesome Tool: Book of Names

There are few books that I have used consistently since they were released. The is one of those rare few: Gary Gygax's Extraordinary Book of Names, by Malcolm Bowers.

I can't find "Gygax" in here, so I'm not
sure where that weird name comes from.

This book truly lives up to its name - extraordinary.  I know the current fad is to use all sorts of online random name generators, but I'm old school, and I prefer a nice hefty book in my hands.  I have two full-height bookcases filled with gaming books (not including magazines), and this is one of the few that has a location of honor on the top shelf.

Inside are over 100,000 names, categorized by real-world anthropological origin or fantastic indicator.  I like to assign each of my races or cultures an equivalent from this book, giving myself and players a solid list of themed names to either pick from or be inspired by.

The author also takes time to explain each culture's naming conventions, origins, and interesting trivia notes.  Importantly, he also pauses to explain basic pronunciation rules for most of the cultures.  These sections are a great value-add that some other books could learn from.

Name Examples:

African (Male Benin):  Obaseki Maga
African (Female Kikuyu):  Wokabi Mwangi
Ancient Egyptian (Male):  Neb-khau
Cherokee (Female):  Hiawassee
Inca (Male):  Chumbi Carua
Japanese (Female):  Shiomi Sadako
Korean (Male):  Jin Hwa Sin (진화신)
The Korean transliteration isn't actually in the book, I just like Hangul.
Polynesian (Male Maori):   Kupe Maiapoto
Russian (Female):  Stepanida Boricov

Fantasy/Harsh:  Jegskut Vaxlig
Fantasy/Smooth:  Eeshom Thalom
Fantasy/Faery:  Flimaldo (male), Dexamer (female)

Prefer British names?  Listings include categories for Anglo-Saxon, Cornish, English/Aristocratic, English/Rustic, English/Medieval, Scottish, Scottish/Medieval, Irish, Irish/Medieval, Gaelic, Welsh, Welsh/Medieval, and Welsh/Old.

There are also sections on epithets, titles, places, inns & taverns, and more.  This book was published in 2004 and there isn't another book I've had since 2004 that has seen as much use.  I do hope Troll Lord publishes more like this!


  1. What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.

    Hence Etoh, Etog, Etom, and that mischievous little fellow, Etol.

    1. Oh, I'm sorry... by rule 248-1-b, 4-letter names starting with "ETO" are forbidden.

  2. Pronunciation rules for most cultures, that is cool.

    1. It is! Here is an example for Russian:

      Remember to roll your r's. There is an extra /y/ sound before some vowels, as in the British 'new' - 'nyoo', not the American 'noo'. The /a/, /o/, /e/ are short, and the /u/ is always long. The /i/ can be short, or a long /ee/ sound. The /y/ is the usual consonant, as in 'yak', except at the end, where it is a long /ee/ sound, and is interchangeable with /i/. The /g/ is hard. The /x/ and /ks/ are interchangeable, so Alexandr is the same as Aleksandr. Written vowel omissions (as in Petr or Aleksandr) show that the vowel is weak and near-swallowed when spoken. Example: "Alexandr" is pronounced ah-lyek-Sahndhrr.


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