Names and their power

  • 10 Replies
Names and their power
« on: February 07, 2012, 02:37:39 PM »
Going along at character creation, I've never had anyone deviate from the Looks, Eyes, Body, etc. bit. "I have a lush body, I wear fetish-bondage gear, I have arresting eyes, all fine." I'm sure it happens, but I'm talking about personal experience - it's never happened, for me.

Names are another thing entirely.

This isn't about "Do you let your players pick names other than from the lists?", because that conversation's been done to death. I'm talking about why they would even want to. For reference, nearly all of my players have selected their own names, using the list of names as a color reference, like how you might scroll over some old-timey biblical names when you're thinking what to call your characters in Dogs in the Vineyard.

No, you can tell a player, "You get to be either a Gunlugger or a Skinner. You get to be either really Hard or really Weird, but not both. You can have this feature on your gun but not that. Are your eyes like this or like this?" And you go on and on, narrowing it down even more, until you arrive at a person. They don't resist! Do your players? Maybe. This was the same when we'd play Vampire, and they were all, "Gotcha, I can pick from this list of clans. I get to pick from these powers. I get these abilities, these skills."

But when you enforce naming conventions, that's when I've seen major contention.

Names means something else above and beyond everything else about a character - at least for my players, anyway. And I've played with a lot of different people! They'll take forever, maybe hours or even days, to find the right name. We're talking having giant lists of baby names in different cultures bookmarked, and going through them in painful detail to find just the right thing.

I found this especially relevant due to AW's list of names, a small selection it wants you to pick from at the start, and my players' insistence on deviating, despite being cool with every other detail.

Do names imply more about a character than their eyes, their clothes, than what they say? Can slapping a bad name on an amazing character ruin things? Does a name have more power than we think? I'm curious as to everyone's stories and thoughts on this.

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2012, 03:35:34 PM »
I have a friend who names his characters after the names and ingredients of soft drinks. He just combines a bunch of words and sometimes they sounds like names. Sometimes they just sound like soft drink ingredients.
"Sir Colt"

It's pretty great, but it doesn't really have any impact on his characters.
Personally, names are not a big deal to me. I usually just go with the first name that pops in my head.
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Re: Names and their power
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2012, 05:04:26 PM »

I am sure I have said this somewhere else before, but AW is such a relief for me because normally I am absolutely that person who takes days and days to come up with a 'good enough' name -- whereas in AW I have almost no trouble instantly naming characters and NPCs.

But it's not just because of the name lists -- I often choose names that aren't on the list. A lot of it just has to do with the tone the name lists establish -- the wide-open cultural appropriation that has thoroughly detached sign from signifier (two things which really aren't even that close together for names.) It basically makes it impossible to choose the wrong name; no matter what you pick, it's appropriate, so you just pick whatever sounds right. This doesn't mean there might not be better or worse names, but pretty much any arbitrarily-chosen word will end up being awesome once you start playing.

That said, the name lists are generally full of pretty good names.

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2012, 03:01:06 AM »
In my experience, players have mostly been eager to choose names from the lists. I'd say 65% of PC-named characters in games I've been in have been from the lists.

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2012, 09:32:13 AM »
Oh, man, I love having name lists to pick from. When they're included with the game, I pretty much always pick from them.

I don't like coming up with names and I have a hard time doing it anyhow. When I'm absent a list to choose from I usually just ask the other players for ideas.

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2012, 07:25:12 PM »
I love the names... well.. I loved them. I've played in a number of AW campaigns now, and the same names always popping up serve to confuse the hell out of me. At times, though, they add a certain level of humor or a shared consciousness "There's always a Dremmer" but often i get mixed up between ongoing campaigns. It's more of a problem with the NPC's than the PC's generally, but in at least three games now I've had a Savvyhead named Spector, and nearly every Angel ever has been named Gabe.

And let's not mention the many troubles of Specialist Tammy Jackson.

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2012, 08:51:26 PM »
Everybody in all the games I've been in have chosen from the lists.  I get a kick out of the names echoing across different games and AP reports.  There have been three Choppers in the games I played, all named Goldie.  Two of them have weirdly similar concepts: one's a teen-aged girl who lives on a zeppelin and leads a pack of kids who fly gliders, and the other is a Fagin-type who lives in a treehouse and builds Rube Goldberg flying devices piloted by kids.

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2012, 02:31:07 AM »
@Joe - Thanks for the AP's

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2012, 06:48:44 PM »
And let's not mention the many troubles of Specialist Tammy Jackson.

I was about to say something about how Jax was cool. . .but wait, EVERY Quarantine has a Tammy Jackson, don't they? OK, yeah, that's weird.

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2012, 08:33:56 PM »
But to redirect it back towards the topic at hand: is there a certain status with picking from the lists? Or is it just, We're picking from the lists because we're getting in-character with Apocalypse World's flavor? Do you just go along with it, or is there a concentrated effort to try and "own" the name you select? And of those not selecting from the list, why stop there? Why not make up your own look, eyes, face?

Re: Names and their power
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2012, 09:40:09 PM »
My personal experience comes from four characters. One was a Quarantine, so it almost doesn't count. You get to pick a name for that. One was Spector the Savvyhead (go figure). By the time I'd gotten the look and the workshop set up, he was a creepy mad scientist. The name fit fine, I went with it. Another was Satan the chopper but that game never really got going. The rest of Satan's concept came from the name, androgynous trouble causing Lightbringer. The other was a Touchstone. Most of note was that her Token was a pendant of the goddess Athena, so her vision of the future is kind of two parts Athens, one part Sparta. None of the names really jumped out at me but Nike seemed like a great pun as goddess of victory and a brand of sneakers.

I stuck with the looks choices because they're very broad and open to detailing. Vintage wear can mean an old lab coat. Survival gear can mean pretty much anything tough and practical. For the face and eyes descriptions, I have yet to find one where nothing seems to fit. Again, they're just detailed enough to add character and just general enough that there's a lot to work with.