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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    The Fury's Avatar

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    Default Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    I'm terrible at naming things. At the very least I need a framework to come up with a name for setting locations that I can be happy with. Some people can string together random sounds and come up with something that sounds OK. Not me though, I need rules. (I know. I'm so boring.) Here's a few ideas for anyone that might also need them.

    Do you have a Fantasy Counterpart Culture? It might do to draw on the language traditions of the culture that inspired your setting. It's also helpful to consider what names are common in your setting as it's fairly common for cities, neighborhoods or geographical features to be named after people.

    What historical events have happened in this world? Names of places can inform people on what happened there.

    Finally, there's my personal favorite and one the Order of the Stick has used pretty often-- On the nose names. Greysky City, The Wooden Forest etc. As silly as they are, they make sense in their own way. If those aren't colorful enough for you, it's handy to remember that language mutates over time and place names can change too as they get mispronounced, misspelled and mistranslated over the years. For example "North Town" becomes "Nor-Ton," which becomes "Norton," which then becomes "Nortontown"

    Hopefully that gives some of you ideas to go on when fleshing out your world maps.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Aniikinis's Avatar

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    I tend to name the cities with the tongue of the majority populace, myself. I typically know how the different races/regions/dialects would work in the setting and tend to name them accordingly unless there's a pretty big reason for it to be named otherwise.

    Some examples from random settings/games:
    Ka-hrak'ka "Chief's Throne Land" - Capitol of the Goblin Empire; racially named
    P'rrkhao "North Spike" - Northernmost town under Aven control; Regionally and racially named
    Split-Peak - New Homeland of the Strix after being driven away by humans generations ago, formed within the caves and tunnels of a mountain that is cut in half from the peak to about halfway down; Environmentally named
    Suthkry - Southernmost town of the Porin Kingdom at the red cliffs, an underground river splits in two under the town and creates two waterfalls from two openings on the cliffside resembling crying eyes; Regionally and environmentally named
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    gnomish places should sound unpronouncable and long
    i.e Eftjoralikradiskvanhoos
    Dwarvish places should sound compact and sturdy
    i.e Kurd
    Elvish places should roll of the tongue
    i.e Lyriefidir
    Human places should sound normal (I guess?) probably describing a natural feature of the terrain
    i.e Whitecliffe
    Halfling places should sound cosy
    i.e Cottonton
    Dragonborn places should sound russian, or latin (currenty cand decide)
    i.e dragongrad or Quorilius
    orc places should sound scary
    i.e Skullcamp
    Current characters:
    Drakirr (Blue Dragonborn Warlock)
    Alyfyldyr Hyalythki (Rock Gnome Wizard)
    Harilidir (Half-elf Bard)
    Kazaharad Akaztkl (Goliath Barbarian)
    Luft (air-genasi druid)
    And of course Lizard Wizard (Lizardfolk Sorcerer)

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    If you want somewhat authentic sounding Britishy names, this list can help:
    List of generic forms in place names in Ireland and the United Kingdom

    Translate town names into the counterpart culture language, even if it's approximate and might not be strictly correct. After all you're working in a fantasy world and your players are not likely to go all etymologically pedantic on you. Wiktionary is your friend (together with applications like google translator).
    So Red Town, might become Krasnigorod, (Al Madina) Al-Hamra, Rooiburg, Vörösvaros or Caranost.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Max_Killjoy's Avatar

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    One of the settings I'm working on has a sort of "Greco-Sumerian" basis, so if something is ancient, it gets a Sumerian/Akkadian based name, and if something is newer it gets a Greek-based name. The names of places tend to be based on things about those places physically or historically, and then I drop variations on that idea into a translation service and play around until I find something I like.
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    Orc in the Playground
     
    Trask's Avatar

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    i try to name something as literally as I can unless I have something that just feels right or has a linguistic connection to a specific place or time. I find that it sticks out in my player's minds more.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    Mostly with countries (or planets, regions or whatever's relevant) I go with the "random sounds approach". However any local areas, towns rivers and so on, I mostly name for their most prominent feature. "Whitebridge" "Valley of winds" or the like. Firstly because that's how people often name things in the real world ("Schwartzwald" litterally means black forest, or take the "Rocky Mountains" in the US), and secondly because that's what the players will be using to identify the place with anyway, so might as well make it easy for everyone :)

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    In abook That I am writing, I have the twin cities of bigvtown and little town. Creativity for place names is good but not necessary.
    Current characters:
    Drakirr (Blue Dragonborn Warlock)
    Alyfyldyr Hyalythki (Rock Gnome Wizard)
    Harilidir (Half-elf Bard)
    Kazaharad Akaztkl (Goliath Barbarian)
    Luft (air-genasi druid)
    And of course Lizard Wizard (Lizardfolk Sorcerer)

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    My setting has a couple of cultures in one area, like the Saxons and the Normans. The older one usually names things by trees, the new one by metals, so you'd have names like Alderford and Lightning Oak Ridge, or Copper Forge and Lead Cross.

    Houses are usually named for the owner or a sign / carving on the house, which is usually a saint, animal, or simple object. Go past Grum House, right at the White Bear, and look for the Green Key. This can lead to some overlap--IIRC, there are lots of "Red Lion Pub"s in London because King Somebody's symbol was the Red Lion and having that as your sign was considered a prudent display of loyalty.

    Streets are usually named for the city gate it leads to (Harborgate Way), or a prominent church or other building (St Michaels Boulevard), the item or service sold there (Goldsmith Lane, Hooker Walk, Cloth Street--merchants selling similar goods tend to cluster together, so if the city has ten shops for wedding clothes, eight of them will be on the same two blocks), or occasionally just random (Threadpenny Road, Assassins Bridge where the prince was killed way back when). Streets may also have some overlap -- you might go to "Churchside Alley" only to discover that there are a dozen streets so named.
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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    One thing I've seen written about was the application of Grimm's Law. Grimm's Law (yes, named after and discovered by one of the Brothers Grimm, specifically Jacob, though also co-discovered by Rasmus Rask) is a pattern of linguistic development seen in Indo-European languages; certain consonants would change from a language to its successors (for a super specific examples, "d" sounds evolved into "t" sounds) in almost universal patterns over time. When designing words from the First Tongue for Werewolf the Forsaken, White Wolf writer Ethan Stump claimed that they started with a word or phrase in Sumerian (not necessarily a real Sumerian word for that thing, mind - sometimes they used allegorical and poetic phrases, such as combining "red-yellow-green" into a name for a stoplight spirit), and reversed Grimm's Law on it (the idea being that the language before would then go through Grimm's Law to become Sumerian). A similar process could be used in your world - if there is a particular real world language you are using for a base, or a culture you are using as the starting point for a given in-world culture, you could apply Grimm's Law (or reverse it) to get a similar sounding language but make it distinct.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    One of the other core ideas in naming places is to use animals, activities, early development, and and people (both propper and generic).

    So if you have an idea about how the town was founded or developed you can incorporate that...ferry's, ford, stockyards? (cattle yard not a name root you say? Ox-yard becomes Oxnard, also Vacaville etc) but also military forts, salt mines/brine springs often gave their name to towns (-wich), develop roots for abbey's or the like if you want.

    also "smith's valley", "Jocob's Tor", and pumped through a translator can also be useful in the same way as topographic descriptors. Toss in national Leaders and Heroes (Washington, Jefferson, Lincolns, Chief Seattle for post independence US examples, Georgia, Virginia, Mary-land, Jamestown, the Carolinas, more examples, Sam Houston for an example of a hero) and other cultural figures like saints (okay many many cities in the oLd Spanish empire (but also in Russia, French Empire regions, Portugese etc etc) to start-anything with San, Santa, or Santo . Just figure out a system for translating that and lots more names become easy (only have to do the work once!). Plenty of forts are named for military indiviuals, or noble families may give their name to a town, etc. Also what the town exported/was known for when the local farmsteads/settlers etc became dense enough to be named by outsiders something.

    Also animal and plant names make good roots. Buffalo, Dog-town, Thousand Maples, Lone Oak, Birchgrove, Rook-home, Deer-hill etc. are all easy bases...they work either by themselves or tend to be easy to use with google translate.

    Finally-take any of the above and say them with some very thick accent and write them down again phonetically (and speak them again w/o accent acting)...works easy enough to cover linguistic drift and often covers your very basic naming system since your players are not going to dig too hard.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    Quote Originally Posted by The Fury View Post

    Do you have a Fantasy Counterpart Culture? It might do to draw on the language traditions of the culture that inspired your setting. It's also helpful to consider what names are common in your setting as it's fairly common for cities, neighborhoods or geographical features to be named after people.
    I do a twist on that. In my most recent homebrew world, i have a nation with arabic names, but are based on mongolians. A nation based germany but has greek/byzantine names, another based on slavic history, but with pashto names

    And then i slightly alter most names to removw
    them enough from their obvious origin

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    You can show a lot of history in an area by layering the names. If elf cities have names like "Sindariel" and "Fianlorien" and dwarf cities have names like "Borok-Dor" and "Ghor-Khalesh", then an elvish city named Ghorkashundiel on the border of a neighboring dwarf kingdom hints that it wasn't always elvish. If the PCs have to go down into the sewers to chase a monster, they probably would have a fridge logic moment when they notice that the tunnels all have carvings of bearded faces.

    You can see this everywhere in the real world. Almost every place in the Americas is named in a language not spoken by the people currently living in that place, usually with altered pronunciation (such as "Kanata" becoming "Canada"). The English name of many Native American tribes is the name they were called in the language of another tribe: when the European settlers encountered a new tribe, they asked a tribe they already knew "Who are those guys?"

    This happens with places too. There are a lot of rivers with names that just mean "river" in another language. My favorite example is a hill in northwest England. People from the south moved north and asked "What's that?" and were answered "Penn", so they named it "Penn Hill" in their dialect. Then much later, new people come from the east and ask "What's that?" and the answer is "Tor Penn" so they call it "Torpen Hill" in their language. Eventually, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes merged their languages into one Anglo-Saxon (sorry Jutes!) language and later the Normans come to add in their fancy French vocabulary and everybody started calling big bumps smaller than mountains "hills", so "Torpenhau" became "Torpenhow Hill", which means "Hill-hill-hill Hill".

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    The most important thing, I've found, is simple memorability. In a long campaign, you will be throwing a lot of data at the players. data which is cemented in your head as the world designer, but which they will get in fleeting bursts and often you will find yourself surprised at what sticks and doesn't stick. That memorable NPC that's important to you, Laird Eldric Laudenflat? Becomes "uh... the guy... whatshisface.... the loud guy from the castle. Loud-flats?" to the players three sessions later when they call back to him.

    So, based on that, I tend to stick to simple, memorable idioms that are more likely to be quickly recalled. Some examples from recent campaigns:

    Cat's Laughing
    Bandwagon
    Belltower
    Belfast Bay
    Hagshead
    Wintermoot
    Eldington
    Crossover
    The Prismatic Wastes
    Firegate
    Kish Shalam, Kish Madred, Kish Halal


    I tend to shy away from the traditional long string of syllables (Fyllindral) because either the PCs convert it to something they'll remember (Fallingdoll) or they forget it entirely. So I just go with "Fallingdoll" to start with and it makes it easier on them.


    For Regionalism, it also helps to group things. For a vague Arabic land, I went with Kish at the front of each city. Kish Shalam, Kish Madred, Kish Halal. That gave them the flavor of "this is a unique culture" and made coming up with names on the fly easier.
    Last edited by Gallowglass; 2019-09-19 at 12:29 PM.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Naming Conventions for Places in Your Setting

    I've been mashing color names together for the cities in my current setting. The players are in Teilsaian (teal cyan). There's also Bohn Fahlo (bone fallow) and Mofplim (mauve plumb). The colors help me visualize an identity for the place. Teilsaian is seaside and known for its extensive, sprawling resort beach. Bohn Fahlo is subterranean. Mofplum is kind of mausoleum-like. The syllables are close enough to real-world sounds that they come across as vaguely familiar.

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