Choosing names from the list

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Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2011, 05:18:00 PM »
My gut feeling on the name list is "why wouldn't you use it?" because I'm a guy that likes to be told "this is what you have to do, make something with it." For example, in the only other AW series I played in, the Hardholder name list entry "Vega" made me think of the brothers that Michael Madsen and John Travolta play in the Quentin Tarantino movies. I got an idea for an urbane, suave sort of brutal thug. That name inspired me to suggest a character who'd set up a fiefdom of class, excess, and brutal efficiency in the ruins of the Luxor casino. All this inspiration before I moved on to the second list.

But when both Paula and another player, Matt, felt to varying degrees uncomfortable with having to choose a name from a list, I tried to sift out my emotional attachments and try to figure out the purpose that that rule might serve in the design.

I think the lists are there to give your Apocalypse World a unified feel, to give the many Apocalypse Worlds a bit of a common seed, to advertise to the fiction and the other players who your character is and what he's capable of, and to suggest what kind of Hardholder (or Angel, Battlebabe, or Maestro'D in this case) you want to be.

Also (and I think I said this at the time, but if not, I'm sorry), I don't think it's an accident that the very first thing you do as a non-MC player in this game is choose your name from a limited list. It sets you up very well for the way the game will work as things play out. You'll be forced to make a limited choice that you might not always like.

Of course, ultimately, I didn't want anyone to feel like they weren't having fun. Dickson and Doc Margrave certainly felt very apocalypcian (I pointed out that if someone wanted to be something like Jake Raiford, that would really spoil the mood and there was a whole playbook for that kind of thing). Paula got a little zealous in her offers to pick a name from the list, but I said that if she had formed an attachment to the character based on that name, and that to change the name would change her conception of the character, I didn't want to force her to do that.

So we kept the names and the game didn't feel unlike AW. In the future I'd still like to roll with "pick from a list" for the names, but I think I'll handle it like this next time if it comes up again.
Misspent Youth: Teenage rebellion in a fucked-up future.

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lumpley

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Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2011, 08:39:08 PM »
I think John's nailed it. I don't think anybody's playing this wrong, certainly not Rob and Spiral.

"Can my car be a helicopter?" "Can my hardhold be a caravan of trucks, buses and vans?"  "Can my infirmary be, like, a meditative state I go into, to go with my healing touch?" "Can my name be Dickson even though it's not on the list?"

The MC gets to say yes or no. All's well.

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2011, 09:10:31 AM »
I tend to make player authorship (which is what that is) based on their inclusion in the process. In other words, if you want a new name for yourself come up with a themed name list I can use for other NPCs. If you want something to exist in the game that your character knows about then let's see a custom move et al.  And often that's not off the cuff or at the table rather between games.

-Don

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2011, 09:46:46 AM »
Don, I like your idea.  I would love to come up with some names of my own for NPCs or even playbooks. 

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2011, 10:04:52 AM »
I think that's not only entirely in the spirit og the game but I'm sure it'll help out Rob as well.

As an aside I have an odd issue with the current MC name list. I connect to the APs and equate the names to characters in other games so it really colors the NPCs I choose for those names.  I added a list of names from Dogs because we're in Amish country and I suspect every 6 games I will add a new name list and discard the old one. We'll see.

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2011, 06:17:52 PM »
Having run this exactly one time, my inclination is to say yes to whatever the players want unless I have a darn good reason.  Of course, when the players introduced their characters in a clockwise fashion, the third of six players used two names, and then everybody else's character after his suddenly had two names.  To them, multiple lists meant multiple names.  Pick one of each.  Jesus Dolarhyde and Inch Grip, I believe, were all the better for it.

Now, of course, I wonder... what would a *non*-AW name sound like?  Fantasy names like Lorithien seem right out, but if popular enough might've been cobbled from the relics of pop culture (A Gunlugger Named Legolas, a straight-to-DVD release)... seems like you'd have to really work to find a name that *wouldn't* fit in, or seem ironically appropriate, in AW.

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2011, 07:14:56 PM »
For our 'Decimation City' game, we've pretty explicitly established that everyone born after the Apocalypse, including the PCs and NPCs, all have names out of the book, but that figures from the Golden Age of Legend are not so constrained.

Hence Adele the Savvyhead trying to get some "Tony Stark" DNA to open the battered old briefcase of his that Hammer the Chopper scrounged up.


Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2011, 11:02:03 AM »
Names have power. To name is to bind, as they say.

Rob's comfort with the AW naming conventions (which is to be found in most members of this forum) has to do with a broader "best practice" of subsuming individual creative impulses to those of the group, particularly given the incredible individual agency AW grants to a PC both over the fiction itself and their interactions with other PCs.  We all have to die, pay our taxes, and choose our damn names off the damn list:  that's the way it is.  We're all in the same boat.  It's the fucking apocalypse, y'know?  This helps some people by immediately intervening at the hardest stage in character creation – naming the guy/gal/thing – and others by restricting selection away from Crazyville, creating an easy, unified game naming aesthetic from the get-go.

Of course, the caveat that "your group may vary the naming thing if so desired" has also been acknowledged above.

Spiral Jacobs' discomfort with choosing names off the list, however, comes from our vague unease that by surrendering our very characters' names to a "system," we have somehow lost something important.

From my gut, I agree.

After reading numerous AP reports on this forum, and encountering there numerous incarnations of the same named individual – Jones, Burroughs, Hammer, Dremmer – I am suddenly stricken with a sense of semiotic ennui.  The signifieds matter less, because the signifiers can neither attract my attention nor concern.  After all, the hero not only possesses a thousand faces, but a thousand names as well.  We live in a world rich in language and possibility, and possibility through language. A place where a crowd-sourced name book (http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/story-games-name-project/3594462) is a real commodity, and where players can inhabit specific cultural fantasies under the auspice of a few uttered syllables.

I know there are many who would make the argument: "Hey, isn't it cool that a set cast of characters can have such radically different experiences?"  Sure, but also lost is the sense of the literary lurking behind those experiences... especially in comparing between different AW games.  It all blurs together into a semio-miasmic soup of the Same.  Heck, even archetypes like in The Journey (http://jeepen.org/games/thejourney/) – The Man, The Woman, The Daughter and The Stranger – are somehow more palatable because they tie into traditions of medieval Everyman plays, etc.

(It sounds like I'm verging on a literary analysis of AW here, which means I should stop and go back to my dissertation and maybe boil my head.)



Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2011, 11:43:24 AM »
Someone (I forget who) once said that if players ask if they're supposed to pick names off the lists, the answer is always "Yes", but if they just choose a name on their own that isn't from the list and run with it without asking, then that's cool too.

I've found this to be an exceedingly well-thought practice and have always acted accordingly.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2011, 12:11:43 PM by amnesiack »

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2011, 03:24:33 AM »
I am suddenly stricken with a sense of semiotic ennui.  The signifieds matter less, because the signifiers can neither attract my attention nor concern. 

Boil your head or not, I actually agree with this --  but really only insofar as I am a reader of AW Actual Play threads. When playing the game itself, a second campaign with similar names tends to produce additional interest, novelty, etc. -- it is not too hard to hold two characters under one name and appreciate the contrast, when you have been relatively invested in both characters, but the same investment doesn't really exist for a random AW thread.

I am curious if it is possible to play enough actual AW campaigns that the same effect would start to manifest in play. Certainly an (entirely subconscious, but obvious in retrospect) effort was made in my second AW campaign to choose relatively non-overlapping NPC names.

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #25 on: April 30, 2011, 05:34:35 AM »
I don't think there's any logical reason for going one way or the other. The book has a few themes and one theme is scarcity, so it makes sense for there to be zero-sum lists of names, but the book also strives to be extremely customizable. You can make either argument; it's just about your vision for Apocalypse World.

How intensely will you pursue the theme of scarcity? Personally, I think it's cool to limit everything and be a hardass about it. Unless a player is severely put out (and I silently question the validity of this perspective, given that we're supposed to be role playing), I make them choose from the list.

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Simon

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Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #26 on: April 30, 2011, 07:26:05 AM »
I'm going to throw my two cents in here as well:

Every game I've played or run, I've never had the players choose from the list. The first few times we played, we didn't even realise you were "supposed" to choose names off the list, and even when we saw the various opinions being bandied about on story-games and wherever, we still decided to stick with a choose your own name system. Partially this is about ownership - a lot of the game is about asking other people and players their takes on things, their interpretations, where they live, and then for some reason not allowing them to choose their names? That doesn't really fly, with me. The names struck me as being flavour fuel, like the ones on the NPC lists, something to draw on and add to as appropriate.

This really comes down to my own personal taste, which is a real dislike of the names offered themselves. I can't justify a lot of the names with what is said in the book! People name their children whatever they want because they don't have cultural references, but for some reason every Driver is either a Golden Age movie star or a car model. Every Hoarder is named for a shoplifter/rich guy from modernity/fictional dragon*.

Someone once commented in an old story games thread that a Japanese name is inappropriate for an ethnically Japanese character, and I couldn't disagree more. A Japanese name is as valid for an ethnically Japanese character as it is for an ethnically Lebanese character, or an ethnically Argentinian character - if we're assuming a world has zero cultural references, a word is a word is a word, and there's nothing more to it. If a word exists, it can be made into a name for anyone, regardless of background. Isn't like there's a birth certificate with your REAL name on it anywhere.

This is all opinion, of course! Your mileage may vary.



*Come on, Smaug, really? Anyone who has read the Hobbit is going to be the first to die in the apocalypse.

Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #27 on: April 30, 2011, 10:29:21 AM »
People name their children whatever they want because they don't have cultural references, but for some reason every Driver is either a Golden Age movie star or a car model. Every Hoarder is named for a shoplifter/rich guy from modernity/fictional dragon*.

They're a-cultural for characters, but for the players they are heavy with references. Player-wise, it can be a tool for a quick immersive feeling.

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Simon

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Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #28 on: April 30, 2011, 11:34:23 AM »
They're a-cultural for characters, but for the players they are heavy with references. Player-wise, it can be a tool for a quick immersive feeling.

Oh, no doubt, and I don't want anyone to get the impression that I don't appreciate that the names are a good tool for introducing the idea of a world without reference. I just personally would never hold a player to use the names presented, since I would never (and have never) hold to them myself.

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Chris

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Re: Choosing names from the list
« Reply #29 on: April 30, 2011, 11:59:17 AM »
I think everyone forgets that, like greg said, the names don't just communicate things into the world, to the other PCs and NPCs, but also to the players around the table.

The fact that the gunlugger has a list of dog names communicates very little to the other characters in the world, but it communicates a lot to the other players and most of all, to the player of that character himself.

A character named Steve and a character named Vonk the Sculptor are two very different characters and I defy anyone to play them the same.

That said, I'm sure Baker doesn't claim to have a patent on cool post-apocalyptic names. The playbooks are designed so that someone who has never played the game and has no character concept in mind can make an appropriate character for Apocalypse World. So my rule has always been "If you can come up with a name that everyone thinks is better than one on the list and is setting appropriate, go for it. Otherwise, the list it is."
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"