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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quickie Dice Tool: Names

I want to explore the many ways of using the quickie dice tool in more detail, starting with the simplest use: rolling random letters for fantasy names. The basic procedure, as described in the key, is to roll 2d4 to 4d4 on the tool to get a name of 4 to 8 letters; the dice are read in numerical order, based on their results. Each die's vertical position represents a consonant, read from either the left side or the right side of the sheet as you prefer; each die's horizontal position gives a vowel, read from the top of the sheet. The letters are read in consonant+vowel order by default, giving names like "Mavido" or "Lykora". If you roll two 1s, for example, then those two dice are read as a consonant cluster followed by a pair of vowels; if the consonant cluster looks hard to pronounce, as in "Mvaido", move one of the vowels to the front ("Amvido",) or insert an apostrophe and pronounce it with a short schwa-sound ("M'vaido".)

You can reverse these rules for forming syllables, reading the results in vowel+consonant order, for names derived from another culture. You can also set each culture to a different number of dice: two for halfling names, for example, giving names like "Mavi" or "Lyko". If you are rolling d4s, rolling 3 or 4 dice increases the chance of consonant clusters and rolling more than 4 dice guarantees clusters. On the other hand, you can use just 2 to 4 dice, but use larger dice to decrease the chance of consonant clusters. Elven names might follow a rule like "roll 3d20 of one color for the first name, 3d20 of another color for the last name, read in vowel+consonant order." This gives names like "Amivod Ylokar".

Another way to vary naming rules by culture is to add more specific prefixes or suffixes depending on the actual dice result. For example, you may decide that all dwarven first names end in "-d", "-n", or "-r". Roll 2d4 and read the letters in consonant+vowel order, then add a "-d" if both dice are odd, an "-n" if both dice are even, and an "-r" otherwise. This creates names like "Mavin" or "Lykor". On the other hand, you could roll 3d6 for orcish names, but only use the first vowel rolled, dropping the others, to create short names heavy in consonants.

The dice can be interpreted as more than just two-letter syllables, though. Consider what happens if you use the habitation type (on the right side) instead of one of the consonants; use the first part of the word as the entire first syllable of a name. Instead of a vowel, use part of the behavior (across the bottom) as the second syllable of the name. Each die rolled becomes a two-syllable name, so that the same roll that produced "Mavido" could have been interpreted instead as three names: "Pateen", "Legite", and "Enold", among other possibilities. Or, alternatively, use one die per syllable, replacing the vowel in the first part of the word rolled with the vowel rolled, which would create names like "Lyg", "Holl", or "Ran".

There's a way to get more meaningful names, but I'll cover that in a future post.

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