06 June 2010

Why are all the good names taken?

The more work I put into my homebrew game, the more frustrated it gets that it doesn't even have a name. It has a codename, and that's about the extent of it. You see, I'm trying to avoid:

  • Alliterations. Dungeons and Dragons, Labyrinth Lords, Tunnels and Trolls; while they're all classic games, they're not what the game should be compared with. This game isn't classic, and it's not particularly old-fashioned, although older roleplaying games are its main focus. It also has a good mix of some independent games, Forge-style, if you will. But trying to have a slightly silly name reminiscent of the old classic isn't something that I relish. To people that like D&D, they'll still play D&D. For people that don't like it, they'll have to waste their valuable first impression time on insisting that it's not like D&D even though it has an alliteration.
  • Long, Wordy Names. I haven't the testicular fortitude to name a game something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Descent: Journeys in the Dark (which isn't strictly a roleplaying game, but c'mon), or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. They imply a certain grandiosity that makes one think of five hundred page games with complex, interlayering rules that I dislike. If my game gets to be more than 50 pages, I'll be shocked and probably have to cut something. My inspiration is the Little Brown Books, not the Encyclopedia Britannica that is 4th edition D&D. Long titles suggest long-winded writing, and a certain lack of economy of words.
  • Acronyms. GURPS is a horrible name. Horrible. I don't care what it stands for, when one says the acronym it sounds like a vulgarism for vomit. And if you say it out, it's another Long, Wordy Name. 
  • Colons. White Wolf lives off of acronyms, and they make buyers sound like idiots. What do they call a game about Vampires? Vampire: The Masquerade or Vampire: The Requiem. I realize that the game is marketed towards people who are interested in a "gothic roleplaying game", but the game would have had a much, much better title of just "Requiem" or "Masquerade." For another stinker, try "Mage: The Awakening." Again, just Awakening would have been a much, much better name. I just don't understand the point of having such a formulaic name. No, "Subject: The Descriptor" is straight out.

I'm currently toying with sticking one-word titles on top of my rough draft and seeing what sticks. For example, the name "Portcullis" makes it sound like a game about defending keeps and "Iron Gauntlet" makes me think of power metal and arcade games.

Clearly, naming a game is an art more than a science, and unfortunately, I'm a poor artist.


  1. How about "The Forge RPG"?

  2. I agree that game names that imitate the double consonant seem very copy-cat. But I do like the game and the name Labyrinth Lord. I'm not certain that all the good game names are taken but you may find you do need the name to be a phrase, not just one word. You might try this, approach the name of the game as if you're naming a novel and see if that helps.

  3. David: As much as I like it, I think the Forge website had one in the making already. Although it was sort of a work of satire, I'm not sure I'm quite "artsy" enough to hang with the Forge site crowd.

    Chris Creel: Hey, I like the names too. They're really cool. And I'd never thought of naming it like a novel, that's a great idea. It's sort of the same thing, now that you mention it- you have to figure out what it's about and how to name it so that it fits the tone.

    RLB: Not only have I always thought the name of your company was clever, but your idea to name it what I'd like to look at is spot-on. It's easy to get bogged down in what other people would like, but for an independant roleplaying game I'm making as a labor of love, it should be what I like first and foremost, yeah?