When you’re choosing a name for an NPC, place, sinister ritual or sci-fi gadget, if you nail it on the first try, you usually know it — “That’s the perfect name!”
But what about when you’re naming an important campaign element and you’re not sure it’s the best choice? Here are five ways to make sure you picked a good name.
1. Run it through the mockery filter, just in case. First, rule out the possibility that you picked a problematic name like Dildon, Englebert or Choadar.
2. Say it five times out loud. Important names are going to be repeated often — see if the name can handle it. Just don’t say it too many times: any word will sound silly if you repeat it over and over.
3. Does it sound as cool as it looks? Chances are, you’ll be seeing the name a lot in print, while your players will most often be hearing (and saying) it out loud. Some names work well one way, but not the other.
4. Watch for clichés. Anti-paladin named Darkfyre Synystrus? Square-jawed action hero named Lance Fury? Those are exaggerations, but — especially when you’re pressed for time — it can be easy to fall back on names like these. (And in some genres, like four-color supers, that might be just fine.)
5. Who else has it? This is most important in modern and historical games, where you’re generally using real names. If you name a female NPC Britney, the comparisons are going to be inevitable — and the same is true if your uber-wizard is called Gandalf, of course.
As with any game prep, you can take choosing perfect names too far. Don’t worry about it so much that you wind up paralyzed, unable to pick a name at all. Just give it a bit of additional consideration, and then move on — that extra couple of minutes will pay off.