Silly character names: fun or buzz-killer?

Well known fantasy character with non-dorky name

So you made this awesome world and this awesome adventure.

Everything’s in place and it’s time for character generation.

The players roll up these cool characters and equip them for all it’s worth.

Then.

Naming time.

“Uuuööööh….I dunno, I think my character will be Bob the Farter

You guys recognise this?

Now, Bob the Farter might be a fun name (or not), but I think it’s also a feel-changer and a potential setting killer.

Why? Depending on the feel and scope of your new campaign, these random “couldn’t think of anything better”-names tend to draw focus from the setting ambience. Imagine Bob in your Ravenloft game. Cool? No. Would Aragorn be as cool if his name was Bwian? Or Woody Funnywalk? No.

As a player, I have a hard time with immersion in the game when my fellow PCs in the dark dungeon have names like Whanko or Hornian.

As a GM, I’ve always been tolerant with goofy names, not wanting to override my players’ creativity, but lately I’ve been thinking of veto-ing those names I deem out of campaign context. At the same time I don’t want to curb any enthusiasm by being some Ministry of Silly Names.

What’s your thoughts on this? How do you handle your player’s silly name choices?

Or should I maybe embrace it and make a d100 silly name generator table?

PS. Yes, all those silly name examples have been used in my play group at some point. More frequent in our teens, but I have 2 players that NEVER EVER have chosen anything else than these types of names. DS

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3 thoughts on “Silly character names: fun or buzz-killer?

  1. I’d say it’s 100% reasonable for a group to pick a tone they want to aim for, and then ask people not to sabotage that. A lot of D&D games are pretty comic in various ways. In some of those silly names are just part of the fun, maybe you’re taking a slapstick take and having evil furniture or brassieres of elemental control or whatever. Other types of game, even if they’re not very serious, aren’t a good fit for silly names – there’s different genres of comedy, after all. It’s like how, if you’re running a comedy game, you don’t want one player insisting on things being realistic all the time.

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    • Absolutely, I agree fully. I guess the problem arise when the tone is one and the players still adhere to another time despite being asked not to. And thanks for commenting.

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      • Oh yeah, it’s a tricky one. I suppose my starting point would be pointing out that silly names will ruin the tone you’re aiming for, so hey, let’s pick something more in keeping. If people kick off at that, then I’d be asking myself what they’re doing there. I mean, you sign up to play a game together, and that means cooperating to make a game that’s fun for everyone. One or two players insisting on their preferred tone *all the time* at the expense of other people’s preferences seems like they’re not playing fair.

        I’ve been lucky so far, and I think only ever had to gently suggest that a name wasn’t a good fit with the rest of the game. I’d probably be considering just not inviting the Bob the Farter players when I want to run a game with a different tone, but I know not everyone has that option.

        I suppose you could play Dungeon World and insist on using the name generator…

        Always nice to be appreciated! I just stumbled over your blog and it looks interesting, I need to dig into this archive.

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