Author's Note: Bunnyfer over at Blog Azeroth suggested two questions for blogs. I'm going to address the first one, "How do you come up with your character names?"
Kyrilean. Funny thing is I invented this name, but evidently so have many others. If you do a Google search for Kyrilean, the first item in the list is my blog page. Currently the third item down is a link to Allakhazam for Dark Age of Camelot. There’s a few more so you’ll have to take my word for it that I came up with it on my own. Ironically, I also read Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Absolutely love them. In one of the books, there’s a character named Kyril. I use this a lot as a nickname, but I’ll explain that as well.
Back in high school I used to play D&D, back when it was still owned by TSR, Inc. I was still playing a little by the time Wizards of the Coast bought them, but not as much. Because of this I used to spend time inventing names for characters. It was during this time that I invented Kyrileanthos Silverblade.
At the time I was reading a lot of the Dragonlance novels. In fact, I read them over and over constantly. I was intrigued by the characters Tanis and Laurana. Tanis and Laurana are shortened names for Tanthalas (if memory serves) and Lauralanthalasa. The long names and shortened versions intrigued me and I wanted to create a name that had similar characteristics.
This is where my memory gets a little hazy. I don’t remember exactly if the correlation came before or after I created the name. For Star Wars geeks, we all know that the Millenium Falcon was a Corellian freighter. Corellian and Kyrilean have very distinct similarities. I cannot remember to this day if I thought of the name first and noticed the similarity or if Corellian was an influence. Anyway, I attached the “thos” at the end of the name. Looking at it later, I unintentionally had created a name that could also be shortened to Kyril, adding another nickname. I thought that was pretty cool. It wasn’t until creating Kyrilean, Kyrileanthos didn’t fit, and adventuring in Azeroth that it was even shortened further to Ky by guildmates. I accomplished what I wanted with this name and have been proud of it ever since.
That was probably the only name I created using that method. Most of the names I’ve created involved picking a letter that I wanted the name to start with and then picking random letters to start filling in spaces within the name. As soon as you get a few letters together with a sound, begin substituting letters until you get a name that works well with the character you’re inventing.
Another technique I use is to take a name I like and change it. I’ve always liked the name Jason and I once modified it to Jasyn and created a character named Jasyn Blackhawk. That’s a simple example, but you can take it much farther. Take my character Luthe from Ultima IV—if you’ve never had the chance to play this game, it’s been widely said that this became the template for all future role-playing games, so give thanks to Lord British. I believe I started with something close to Legolas from Lord of the Rings, substituted and removed letters until I got to Luthos, which became Luther and finally just removed the ‘r’.
Other techniques just involve envisioning your character in your head and then having that determine the letters and sounds that will ultimately become your character’s name. Remember I mentioned I was reading Dragonlance? Quite possibly my favorite character in the entire Dragonlance series is Tasslehoff Burrfoot. I wanted to create a similar character and envisioned a Halfling. From there I decided I would use the letter ‘K’. For whatever reason the letter ‘u’ seemed like it would fit perfectly so it became “Ku”. After that I cannot remember where it went, but eventually it settled on Kupix. The name itself does not evoke a sense of dread, so it wouldn’t necessarily work well with a warrior. However, for a semi-innocent Hafling thief? It worked and the name stuck.
One final technique to use is foreign words. This becomes harder for those that cannot speak another language, but for those of us that do it can be a great help. I recently created a Human Female Priest character named Maedchen. For anyone that knows German, “das Maedchen” is “girl”. Kinda corny I know, but the average person won’t know and it’s a good looking name. I also created a Shaman named Erdkrieg, which is using the German words for “earth” and “war”.
Whatever technique you use to create your own character names, have fun with it. As long as you like the name, that’s all that really matters. Try to create something that you won’t regret later. I’ve seen some fairly silly names online that I can’t imagine anyone would want to live with all the way through level 70. At least Blizzard gives us the chance to change those names now.