Naming fantasy games

edited July 2010 in Story Games
(Maybe I'm just feeling bitchy today, but...)
Is it just me, or do most fantasy RPGs have really stupid names? Like, names that don't fit the game or increase your understanding of it or anything?

Pathfinder is one that particularly gets me. Whenever I saw the name, I thought it was about wildnerness stuff or something. It was ages before I found out it was a game for people who wanted to play 3E D&D without, y'know, playing 3E D&D.

Then we have the long, long list of games that are named after their settings. NEWS FLASH: I don't care about your stupid setting! Its unpronounceable, not-related-to-any-language-at-all name does not get me fired up or interested in the least. DO NOT put it on your stinkin' cover!

Also, anything that's a backronym (especially you, FATAL). I'm completely fine with backronyms for modern-day or sci-fi games. Not fantasy games.

Now, there are some good ones. The Burning Wheel doesn't make sense at first, but once you read it you realize that its conceptual relationship to the rules. The Riddle of Steel is an excellent name, alluding to both the game's premise and to its mechanics. The Shadow of Yesterday is a good name once you figure out that the past is supposed to matter in the game (I didn't catch that at first, and it was the name that finally clued me in). Even Dungeons & Dragons gets a passing grade: it tells you that this game is about, like, dungeons, and, like, dragons, and stuff.

But, here recently, I've sat down to write my own Big Fantasy Game. And, y'know what? I can't think of a good name for it. It's really hard! And I'm GOOD at naming stuff! I'm beginning to understand why so many of these games have stupid names.
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  • I thought Pathfinder was about finding your path through the tangled web of possible classes your character could become. (Of course without any first hand experience I was extrapolating from my experience with 3rd ed D&D)
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsI've sat down to write my own Big Fantasy Game. And, y'know what? I can't think of a good name for it. It's really hard!
    Yes, it is incredibly hard! For the epic fantasy game that I started developing last year, I had a working title of "Trilogy" which I really liked until I found out that someone else was working on their own fantasy game with the same name. Right now I'm using "Final Hour of a Storied Age" as a reference to 1) the "______ of ______" pattern in The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, and The Sword of Truth, and 2) the "moving to a new age" pattern you get in an epic fantasy plot. I'm not crazy about it, but I think it sort of works.
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsPathfinder is one that particularly gets me. Whenever I saw the name, I thought it was about wildnerness stuff or something. It was ages before I found out it was a game for people who wanted to play 3E D&D without, y'know, playing 3E D&D.
    Well, they couldn't very well call it Sexy Sword-Wielding ... see? I can't even finish my own joke.
  • On top of all that, you have to choose a title that is going to have a half-way decent google ranking. Obviously, I didn't take this advice when I named a game "Do." That forced me to add the subtitle "Pilgrims of the Flying Temple." Altogether, it's not exactly an elegant or original title. :P
  • Posted By: Vernon RI thought Pathfinder was about finding your path through the tangled web of possible classes your character could become. (Of course without any first hand experience I was extrapolating from my experience with 3rd ed D&D)
    Well, that makes sense, but it'd be better to use a title that doesn't sound like a James Fennimore Cooper novel.
  • The correct answer is to write more modern and sci-fi games.

    Just kidding, just kidding.

    Maybe read some more historical stuff based in the age that your fantasy is around? So if your fantasy world is guys with muskets and sabers and epaulets, read about the 18th century and see if a phrase jumps out at you. And if it's not, then don't make your game.

    Just kidding, just kidding. ;)
  • It does have muskets, sabers, and epaulets, how'd you know? It's not 18th century-esque in general, though. I just threw those things in because I think they're cool.
  • In case anyone's wondering: the game in question sports a system similar to the Burning Wheel (with a lot of different emphases and voicings to get a certain different flavor out of it) and a setting with a strong historical feel but no direct historical basis. It has elves and dwarves, but with different names because you wouldn't recognize them -- they're based directly on folklore, ignoring Tolkien, D&D, and their derivatives -- and a few other races. The setting generates the characters (similarly to but more simply than BW): each character is a representative of his race, home, and culture, with certain abilities, concerns, beliefs, etc., plus some player-authored tweaks (to the possible extent of playing, f'rinstance, an "anti-Moradan" who stands for everything the Morada don't). The characters then generate the situation, as their goals lead to conflict which generates plot.

    I've got all of this -- a solid image of setting, situation, character, setting, color, and how it all interacts to form an engine of play -- but it doesn't help with a name. That's how hard it is. Usually I'd have a name even halfway through all of that work.
  • Then I would definitely go back and read a bunch of the historical antecedents until an idea jumps out at you.
  • Posted By: DanielSolisOn top of all that, you have to choose a title that is going to have a half-way decent google ranking. Obviously, I didn't take this advice when I named a game "Do." That forced me to add the subtitle "Pilgrims of the Flying Temple." Altogether, it's not exactly an elegant or original title. :P
    This is exactly why I demand that anyone who posts about my games on the Internet also include the keyword "erection." Searching for Dread gives me a whole pile of nothing. Searching for a Dread erection however, brings me straight to a Walking Eye podcast about the game.
  • Marshall,
    Why would I want to play your game?

    By the time you finish crafting your best possible one-sentence answer to that question, I bet you will have a title.
  • edited July 2010
    Just whatever you do, don't name it "Delve" unless it involves going under ground...

    [big wink]@ Dave
  • Posted By: Marshall Burns
    But, here recently, I've sat down to write my own Big Fantasy Game. And, y'know what? I can't think of a good name for it. It's really hard! And I'm GOOD at naming stuff! I'm beginning to understand why so many of these games have stupid names.
    I think with Fantasy games the optimal solution is probably deliberate overkill. Call it Shadow of the Orb of the Sacred Conqueror's Dragon Pole, or something like that.
  • I'm pretty happy with "On Mighty Thews" as the name of my soon-to-be-released (pulp) fantasy game. I think Jason's advice is sound.

    On the other hand, my other fantasy-game-in-progress is called "Dungeonfuckers".
  • Posted By: Simon COn the other hand, my other fantasy-game-in-progress is called "Dungeonfuckers".
    I shudder to think what google will pull up with that one.
  • Posted By: NamelessI shudder to think what google will pull up with that one.
    Try it. You might like it!
  • OK, I tried it. The first hit was:

    "Dungeon Fuckers | SANDM GAY
    Dungeon Fuckers | SANDM GAY 7 dirty fuckers, 3 raw scenes and a shit load of abuse!"

    I am not even sure it is OK to post this. I chickened out after getting that. No value jusdgement, just neither my cup of tea, nor family friendly or safe for work. This would be a bad game name for that factor alone, even ignoring the profanity in the game name.

    Mods, feel free to delete this if it crosses a line, and I will appologise to anyone that wants one ahead of time. I will retreat in embarrassment now.
  • Okay! So, this one time, me and my best friend Scott were really mashed on this research chemical called 2ci.

    Anyways, it became really important that I take a time out and hide out in this small room. But the thing was that the door wouldn't close properly so I asked him to hold shut. It was really important that the door was closed. Like, metaphysically important.

    I kinda want my AW hack to feel like that, like both needing that door closed but moreover, being the one holding the door closed and heck, Bulwark is neat sounding word.
  • Posted By: Vernon RI thought Pathfinder was about finding your path through the tangled web of possible classes your character could become. (Of course without any first hand experience I was extrapolating from my experience with 3rd ed D&D)
    That's funny, I thought it was because the authors were basically saying 'OK, D&D Fourth Edition has a totally restrictive and somewhat labyrinthine license associated with it. Let us show you an easier route.'

    -Ash
  • "Tavern Attack II: Gnome's Revenge" is the only appropriate fantasy game name.
  • Well, doesn't everybody know the only reasonable solution is to make a game based off of a popular license?
  • Posted By: David BergMarshall,
    Why would I want to play your game?

    By the time you finish crafting your best possible one-sentence answer to that question, I bet you will have a title.
    Yeah, I'm nowhere close to getting that down to a single sentence yet.

    The game's selling points, to me -- that is, if I was brousing a shelf of games and saw this one -- would be its different brand of fantasy (i.e. not defaulting to whitebread medieval pretends-to-be-Tolkien-but-is-actually-only-D&D fantasy) and the fact that you can play, like, regular Joes and still go on great adventures. That and the level of nuance that can be used with the mechanics (but doesn't have to be unless you want it), but BW already does that.
  • Posted By: Marshall Burnsits different brand of fantasy (i.e. not defaulting to whitebread medieval pretends-to-be-Tolkien-but-is-actually-only-D&D fantasy)
    Is there something interesting or unique about the "magic" of your setting (where "magic" is whatever makes it fantasy rather than alternate history)? Distilling this might lead to a good title.
    Posted By: Marshall Burnsyou can play, like, regular Joes and still go on great adventures.
    Normally I would think of "regular Joe" and "adventurer" as conflicting ideas. Is there something in-setting that harmonizes these (maybe a particular organization or philosophy or something), or are you just saying that starting characters in your game are "baseline" for the world?
  • How about "Regular Joe in the land of the Persnickety Beasts."
  • edited July 2010
    Dan,
    The magic system is really big and nuanced. There's lots of different kinds of magic, most of which only available to one race each*, and they all work in different ways with different scopes of effect and so on and so forth. The most similar thing to it is, again, Burning Wheel, where you've got obvious, natural-order-smashing sorcery alongside dwarven artifice which counts as magic because it can surpass the limits of what is strictly possible but doesn't look like magic at all. Magic is pretty pervasive in this game of mine; while the human natural-order-smashing sorcerers are rare, humans still have ancestor worship all over the place, and the ghola eat their dead to preserve their memory and power, and the dweorgen write down history to lock into place and never ever erase a word lest it erase part of the world. It's everywhere.

    *By default. As I said earlier, transcending racial boundaries is a central mechanic in the game.
    Posted By: Dan Maruschak
    Normally I would think of "regular Joe" and "adventurer" as conflicting ideas.
    This makes me want to smack you :) This is an excellent example of what's wrong with fantasy today (and how D&D ruined it) and why I feel the need to write a game that fixes it. Go find a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales and count how many of them are about a tailor who goes on an adventure.

    But you aren't required to play regular Joes. You can play heroic badasses if you want. Or you can mix them; it should work out ok.
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsAs I said earlier, transcending racial boundaries is a central mechanic in the game.
    Is there a word or phrase that conveys this message which could be used as a title?
    Posted By: Marshall BurnsThis makes me want to smack you :)
    Well if this is a point of passion for you, maybe you should explore what gets you worked up about the topic and see if there's a word or phrase that resonates and use that for your title.
    Posted By: Marshall Burnsreally big ... lots of different kinds ... all work in different ways ... aren't required to ... you can mix them; it should work out ok.
    Are there things which are fixed? Things that will be common to every play experience of your game? Things which, if I heard someone describing them, would make me say "oh, they're talking about Marshall's game"?
  • Well, yeah, the basic thing is fixed:
    You've got a guy who is somehow representative of his culture. He wants something, but there's obstacles. So he starts trying to overcome them by doing stuff.

    ...which isn't anything unique or special and doesn't become interesting until you plug in specific values for those variables. Hopefully the specific values that you get to choose from through chargen and the resolution systems will result in something that is special and recognizable; that's the plan, but, y'know, like, playtesting and stuff.

    The basic die mechanic is, of course, fixed. It's basically BW with an injection of Otherkind, and is different enough from both (or anything else I've seen out there) to be recognizable.

    Then there's this reward-y mechanic. I've been calling them Saga points in my rough drafts, but that might not stick. You get them when playing to your character's tenets, beliefs, etc. (collectively termed "traits" at the moment) causes trouble, or when you play against said traits, or changes them. These Saga points are the resource necessary for Transcending racial boundaries, and also allow you to perform heroic feats (even if you're not a heroic kinda guy) and advance stats. They also carry over between characters.

    I want to clarify what I mean when I'm talking about all the options and ways that different things work and blah-de-blah. The way it is, you've got a core rulebook that explains all the basic, fixed rules. Then each race has a handbook that provides an overview of that race, chargen rules, character development rules, skill lists, magic rules, and so on. You've got all this stuff and you can pick what interests you and play with that. Like, sorcery, sailing, mass warfare, shooting firearms, etc. doesn't have to happen in your game, but if it does, flip to page X in book Y to find out how to handle it. Mastery of only the most basic rules is necessary for play; learning the other stuff is not necessary (but is rewarded, since you get to, y'know, use it to further your goals).
  • Alls I know is, my adventure game MARSHAL BURNS (about a pyromaniac turned sheriff) is gonna be awesome.
  • edited July 2010
    Yeah, yeah, I haven't heard THAT one before :)

    (It's better, though, than the guy who would come into the store nearly every day and ask me, "Hey Marshall, where's your badge?")
  • Burning Heartbreaker

    *ducks*

    Ok, seriously:

    My Struggle

    Ok, for real seriously:

    Saga Lords
    Icons and Iconoclasts
    Age of Unrest


    Hope this helps!
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsYou've got a guy who is somehow representative of his culture.
    Posted By: Marshall Burnstranscending racial boundaries is a central mechanic in the game.
    In your descriptions of the game so far, this has been what has attracted my attention the most. Have you got an interesting tension between representing and transcending your race/culture? If so you might be able to build a title around words like paragon, epitome, quintessence, transcendence, etc.
    Posted By: Marshall BurnsI want to clarify what I mean when I'm talking about all the options and ways that different things work and blah-de-blah. ... You've got all this stuff and you can pick what interests you and play with that.
    Normally I'd say focus on the constants instead of the options when trying to pick a title, but if the pick-and-choose thing is something that's exciting to you, is there a fantasy-evoking term that captures that? Maybe something along the lines of "bazaar" or "chimera"?
  • Sorrow and Strife
  • Khrûn: Worlds of the Mjrœ

  • edited July 2010
    Khrûn: Worlds of the Mjræ̈: 100% MORE METAL
  • Posted By: John PowellOk, seriously:

    My Struggle
    Oh, man, with this title it will sell like hotcakes once you get it translated into German!
  • Posted By: Vernon RI thought Pathfinder was about finding your path through the tangled web of possible classes your character could become. (Of course without any first hand experience I was extrapolating from my experience with 3rd ed D&D)
    Actually, that's because it was originally all about trailblazing.

    The above is almost true.
  • I'd go with this one, myself: !Khrûtsẽ |Mbǽ: Worlds of //Dzoëgbø.
  • Posted By: Simon COn the other hand, my other fantasy-game-in-progress is called "Dungeonfuckers".
    Sold, pal!
  • Rafu, I'll send you a draft when it's ready. It's Cronenberg meets D&D.
  • Posted By: Simon CRafu, I'll send you a draft when it's ready. It's Cronenberg meets D&D.
    Sold again!
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsThe game's selling points, to me -- that is, if I was brousing a shelf of games and saw this one -- would be its different brand of fantasy
    You could call it "Not your Grandmother's Fantasy Role Playing Game"
  • Bruce Galloway simply called his game "Fantasy Roleplaying"
  • Posted By: Simon CRafu, I'll send you a draft when it's ready. It's Cronenberg meets D&D.
    Sweet! I'm now anticipating this the way I'd be anticipating sweet, sweet sex. And oversalivating, just a little bit.
  • For the George Martin-inspired game I've been working on it's "Seasons" which fits with the theme of change and the personality mechanics that are based on seasonal analogies (basically "They are the knights of summer and winter is coming" made into a game mechanic).
  • Icons & Iconoclasts actually sums up the premise of the game completely and concisely. If I could find a way to say that that's more punch-in-the-face, that would be awesome. Although I&I is totally a rockin' abbreviation.
    Posted By: Dan Maruschak
    In your descriptions of the game so far, this has been what has attracted my attention the most. Have you got an interesting tension between representing and transcending your race/culture?
    I'd like to think so. The whole chargen process is basically defining how your guy fits into and doesn't fit into his culture. Conflicts in the game come on three fronts: cultural ideals vs. hard world, culture vs. culture, and character vs. own culture. The only way to resolve any climax is to take a stand and pass judgment on your own culture (and probably someone else's).

    I could totally see using the word "paragon" in the title. That's a nice, punchy word.
  • I can also see "Saga" working in a title, too. All the cool sagas that I've read are about the three kinds of conflicts I just mentioned.
    Posted By: DazturFor the George Martin-inspired game I've been working on it's "Seasons" which fits with the theme of change and the personality mechanics that are based on seasonal analogies (basically "They are the knights of summer and winter is coming" made into a game mechanic).
    Just as a datapoint: "Seasons" doesn't speak to me, but "Knights of Summer" speaks volumes. And I know jack about George Martin.
  • edited July 2010
    Another good name: Nine Worlds. First time I saw the name, knowing nothing else about it, I was already thinking ancient astronomy and people living on the surface of the sun.
  • Paragons and Pursuits
  • edited July 2010
    Posted By: Marshall Burns Icons & Iconoclasts actually sums up the premise of the game completely and concisely. If I could find a way to say that that's more punch-in-the-face, that would be awesome. Although I&I is totally a rockin' abbreviation.
    Heroes and Herectics
    Heretic Sagas
    Heretical Sagas
  • Icons and Iconoclasts: The XXXXtreme Sagas

    This so beats real work.
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