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Here is the thought. Names give a culture flavour. You hear a name and you immediately start cultural associations. Rightly or wrongly a name trips your cognitive bias and imagery or assumptions about that person or place hit the imagination.

Names are powerful things.

So can we make use of this when bringing new players into a larp?

There are some fantastic settings and mythos in larp, I think it’s a natural trait of larpers and larp designers to come up with wonderful stories and settings.

I sometimes wonder though if writing a story or mythos with a some heroes and great places is enough.

Yet how do we do more. Chronicling every location, and every event isn’t realistically possible. Besides which trying to think of everything at once would probably not lead to anything useful. Settings need time and space to grow. They cannot be magicked out of a hat.

So here is the idea. Write the mythos and the setting. Create the backstory and in it leave enough mystery for future growth and surprise. Then in addition come up names. Names for the ordinary man and women in street. Not characters – just names you might hear. Come up with the names of towns and villages. Not whole maps. Just names you may hear. The same is true public locations – shops, hostelleries, meeting spaces, and so on.

What you are doing is not adding to your background; or detracting from it. You are just creating some flavour.

If you are then generating characters use the names you have written but do not be limited to them. Does a change to pronunciation of an existing name work – go for it. If you think of a new name then great – add it to the list. This evolves the name dictionary for your world.

If your players are creating characters then make sure thet have the list. Let them pick from it but also make it clear that this is an inspirational list. Not a rigid thing to select from. Instead more of a set of guidelines to help their imaginations along the right path. If you like the look of the names your players come up with then these can also go on the list.

Everytime a character is created you are then either using a name that fits or adding to the richness of your games mythology.

This should also help your plot writers when it comes to adding another story to the background of your larp.

Every story helps name the things in your world and every name helps build the world.

Of course the bonus is that all the characters will have names that help describe their shared heritage and background.

Names will make your world richer and more flavoursome.

Of course games set in the real world, or a previously highly developed fictional setting already have this advantage.

The image used in this page comes from Flickr User KyOn Cheng.

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