NPC Name Habit

  • 24 Replies
NPC Name Habit
« on: January 05, 2018, 08:31:11 PM »
Does anyone else have a mild obsession with collecting NPC names?

They pop into my head at any time of day and I jot them down on an index card or my phone.

Writing them down seems to encourage my subconscious to suggest more and more of them.

Adam Cadre has a game where the main characters are named after cities in Oregon and it's just so good.

Went to look at Wikipedia and dumped about 2/3 of into my file.



  • 415
Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2018, 09:02:17 PM »
Cool. I grab bundles of them now and then and randomly sort right before a game, but I often find that it works better if I just grab images and imagine who they are and name that. So I tend to work with random image piles in the hundreds (monochrome) or thousands (colors) instead.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2018, 10:33:15 PM »
Oh, yeah!  I gotta start collecting character photos and inspiring landscapes.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2018, 01:35:37 PM »
I think the ease of naming NPCs in Apocalypse World is one of the game's genius features!

Almost any word will do, so long as it rolls off the tongue in the right way. And, since most names are nouns - in particular, nouns which have lost their meaning in the post-apocalypse - you can use their actual meaning to inspire the NPC portrayal.

Want to have an NPC called "Roofie"? How about "Vicar"? They all suggest interesting things about the character.

I had an ambiguously-sexed medical assistant character in my other AW game, and I named them Toyota. It was the perfect fit.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2018, 02:23:26 PM »
OK, now I've collected over 550.  Some of these are so good -- I can't wait to find out who they are.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2018, 03:19:42 PM »
(OK, obsession appears to have burned itself out at 768 names.)

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2018, 07:56:00 PM »
Whoops, hell not at all.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2018, 07:58:11 PM »
OK, no one asked, but I'ma overshare.

I'm MCing my first game in February and I've been daydreaming apocalyptica, but
mostly what comes out is just names. Over a thousand now. They just sort of
float the the surface of my unconscious and then they're up in exploding neon
like Dirk Diggler.

(Please don't get me started about names for bands or spaceships.)

I wanna say: Leap Forward With Named Characters is genius. Tabletop is a textual
medium. It's spoken text, but it's text. When we introduce a character by name,
we meet them. The name's connotations suggest a whole life behind it. A good
name is generative, a seed crystal around which a living character can

Many of my names are handles, nicknames, words ripped from their context
according to hallowed Apocalypse World tradition.

(There's also an in-fiction reason for this in my world, a widespread
superstition that Bad Things somehow found people by their names during the
apocalypse. Our ancestors discarded their legal names as a hex against
revelation. I might have more to say after I find out more about this.)

Things that seem to push my buttons: (Your buttons may vary.)

  Characters who are referred to only by their last name (Vasquez, Steckler).

  Homophones (Case, Bering, Planck).

  Place names (Corvallis, Calais, Madras, Arcadia, New Jersey).

  Names of tools or machine parts (Mattock, Crowbar, Fanbelt).

  Names of ambiguous gender (Cassidy, Schuyler).

  Women with feminine names that are shortened to masculine names (Sam, Max).

  Men with delicate names (Jasper, Quinn).

  Nouns that are also adjectives or verbs or which convey a quality of movement
  (Mince, Shear, Hopper).

  Evocative animal names (Cormorant, Badger, Heron).

  Names of inventors that are used to refer to the thing they invented
  (especially Halligan).

Names are modifiable with titles, honorifics, and diminutives from as many
cultures as I can get my hands on. (OK, I also have a list of these.) Also,
colors. A few of these make it into the list (Lord Meg, Trash Master, MC Donald,
Ogrina, Remnant King) but you can hack any name as long as the result is cool
and/or affronting.

(Remnant King is actually the name of a carpet store that was on ran ads on the
radio in New Jersey when I was a kid.)

There are names that I love, but which are too prominent in recent pop culture
or are from content too close in tone to Apocalypse World not to feel corny or
distracting. Finn, Stannis, Corvo, Tracer, Chell -- I adore you and all your
running around and getting shot at, but you're not invited to this party. (Uhh,
unless a player insists on bringing you, all starry eyed, in which case I might
have an awkward time turning you away.)

Once a name from pop culture has had time to ripen and ferment, it feels like
fair game again. Thumper is the rabbit from Bambi, but also the device Fremen
use to distract sand worms, and evokes future slang for a defibrillator. Thumper
may be a dashing young angel with inappropriately perky bedside manner and zero
fear of monsters. A good, kinetic name.

I want to avoid mis-applying names in ways that are too on-the-nose or that are
act as slurs. "Ace" is a fine name, but maybe not for an asexual character? I
think "Spade" is a great name for a Gunlugger, but wow OK it's super offensive
if he's African American. Avoid racist caricature.

I love names from cultures different from my own, but as a white guy, I also
want to be careful about appropriation and representation. I love these names,
but I'm also uncomfortable. I'm OK with being uncomfortable. I'm not OK with
making other people uncomfortable.

Meg and Vincent's names from the threat map and playbooks are fantastic. I've
tried to avoid duplicating any of them, though one or two may have snuck in via
parallel invention.

So OK, here are too many names I've collected:

I've put them in a Gist so I don't break Vincent's CMS, so I can add more names
(send help), and so you can fork and modify it if you are some kind of nerd.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2018, 11:28:00 PM »
A fine collection!

I can't imagine what you'd ever need that many names for, though...

A counterpoint to consider:

The post-apocalypse is all about scarcity.

Are people a scarcity? Are there only 200 survivors left in the world?

Are names a scarcity? Maybe only so many have survived, and people hold on to them with greedy fingers.

Would you kill someone if they took your name? Is it the only way to get it back?

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2018, 01:32:41 AM »
I definitely don't need that many, they just keep showing up.

Maybe they need me.

I like your ideas about scarcity.

What about a world where we are nameless until we take a name from someone else?

(When an unnamed kills a named, they assume the name. This is not a crime.)

What if the number of names are decreasing, like musical chairs?

(When a named kills another named, the name dies with them. This is the only crime left.)

Who do I become when I give my name away as a gift?



  • 415
Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2018, 02:30:32 AM »
Heh. I just keep a really really really long list of names and images, then tell my computer to put them together randomly until I like what I see. Then I drag it into roll20 and tada. In this type of situation, you can never have too many names--unless they're just bad as names.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2018, 06:31:35 AM »
Oh wow that sounds like a powerful technique. Mix & match name and image, then recognize compelling pairs.

Evocative words and images randomized, then subjected to the minds pattern recognition.

That's like, Tarot.

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2018, 04:37:40 PM »
That's really cool, Ebok.

How does it work, from a technical angle? How did you set this up?



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Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2018, 11:51:21 PM »
I hacked together a locally hosted javascript application that could upload images, transforming them into monochromatic black or white and resize / cropping them so they look best. With a database of images, I then added a list of names in the database as well. It's like 2400 names long. Then I have a page that read from the list of names and picks from the images randomly and combines it into the following html:

Then, because I saved the generated cards to a specific game instance. When I am logged in under that instance, I have access to all previously created cards... and the used name and image are excluded from the those generated using the button. On the page where this card is created, I have a button that takes a screenshot of the html wrapping the card, so I end up with what you see above. I can then upload that to something like roll20 for my players.

The point is I can quickly generate until some combination looks really cool. So if something is just wrong, one button later and it never existed. Then... I got the bright idea to build an entire web application for it so my players could use it to handle their character sheets and we could track associated history between npcs, and group them into names groups, and place them named (and also generated) locations, and record the triangles created during the history of the gameplay... but then I got busy at work and left off in the middle so atm I don't have working version of this. Haha.

The end goal was to build a custom roll20 with a live map, and shared whiteboard using websockets. One that I had full control over and that didn't pander to the D&D. Also, it would be cheaper. And we could save weapon and item lists (since we recreate those for our custom games anyway) I really want to be able to draw on an Ipad for my players, like it was a piece of paper, too. >_> I got overzealous, and burned out.

Hopefully, over the next few weeks or months, I'll get around to publishing the mini version on GitHub or something. Then I can just drop instructions on how to spin up the server and use it for anyone locally. (though with their own image and name list, because I don't want to be dealing with copyrights)

I also wanted the name to be on the side, so I got a perfect square (or above if a landscape oriented image), because I hated getting stuck working with 2x3 squares on roll20. I have roll20 characters sheets too that are intense... but, they're also hacked per game and not really general enough for common publication. (I also hate roll20 custom character sheets, because I want better control of layouts and also javascript.)

Roll20 example: (slightly malformed because I shrank it to fit as much as possible in this labtop's screen. Everything fits on one line and is legible there <_<)
« Last Edit: January 12, 2018, 12:32:57 AM by Ebok »

Re: NPC Name Habit
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2018, 03:49:25 AM »
Ebok, this is glorious.

I mean understand why you want to build the rest of it and I respect your ambition but, fuck.

Just the bit with the names and pictures, that's an artistic tool I want.

I want it for every game I run.

I want everyone to have it for every game they run.

It's simple and powerful and I can't wait to see what comes out of it.

What can I do to help make this happen?

(I'm also super curious to see your name list.)