I need a name for the characters' job

edited October 2014 in Game Design Help
Specifically, I need an in-fiction name. What do the NPCs think of them as?

So, here:
You're an NPC. You live in a village not too far from a border with warlike monsters. You and your fellow villagers have trained in fighting since you were children, but you are poor and have very little metal -- most of your equipment consists of spears and bows. If the monsters attack, your biggest and strongest fighters will buy the rest of the village time to flee to the nearest fort.

Your village is part of the Western Empire, and the Imperial Army will come to repel monsters once the alarm is raised. They are an impressive force, with metal weapons and armor. You're used to seeing a few of them for mail delivery and at roadhouses when you travel. You are too far from the center of the empire to have a large force close by, though; they defend the border, but they can't have a man stationed every few feet for the whole thing.

In the advent of an attack, once the Army arrives, any monsters that are simply flesh and blood will be pretty much toast. Unfortunately, there are other creatures out there, creatures that Imperial soldiers simply don't know how to deal with. That's where _____ come in.

_____ are unique people who take on supernatural problems the Empire can't fathom, for a fee. Usually working in groups of 3-4, _____ will generally hear about a village's troubles from some Imperial messenger, and then agree upon compensation with the nearest garrison. The _____ will then enter the village and try to first get to the heart of the problem, and then cast out the supernatural affliction.

_____ have an uncanny understanding of Evil supernatural forces. Some _____ may be among the most passionate adversaries of Evil, while others may grow too close to the darkness for their own good. Peering too deeply into the supernatural is not good for the minds of Men; _____ may have special abilities to weather these encounters, but it's hard to imagine that any could walk away completely unaffected. _____ are strange; they are warriors, but are not always the biggest, or strongest, or in their prime years. They tend to carry strange items. Some hide their work from the villagers, while others may recruit an entire village for some task, plus perhaps even the local earl or baron! Tales abound of the deeds of _____, mostly of the heroic and swashbuckling sort, but others of cleverness or even tragedy. It is rumored that some _____ have even become evil wizards after doing the job for too long, or with too little distaste for the supernatural.

There have been some strange omens and disappearances in your village lately. As the Empire seems passive on this front, you are hopeful that some _____ will come. Your village's problem probably only rates a novice group of _____, not any famous outfit you've heard of. If _____ do come, you intend to be as helpful to them as you possibly can, the better to save your village. At the same time, you will probably watch them with more than normal scrutiny, alert to signs both good and bad.
Can you fill in the blank for me? Thanks!


  • Are you looking for something like "WarMage" or "BattleMage"? Or less on the nose?

  • Shadewalkers
    Dark Legionairres
    The Order of Ravens
    Arcane Mercenaries
    Hunters of the Veil
    The Cleanly
  • Dogs

    But I mean, the fact that they're mercenaries suggests a less savoury/grandiose title, or at least something that can be read in a few different ways -- or said with a few different tones of voice, ideally. I like Stephen's 'Ravens' suggestion, but I would just strip off the 'order' part. 'Crows' makes a good variation as well, though obviously it has that derivative thing going on. Animals are a good direction because they come pre-loaded with a variety of contexts.

    Then again, based on the writeup it sounds like these people are held in fairly high regard, or at least that they are celebritized.

    It's funny, at first I thought you wanted a name for what the NPC does (the first line of defense) and I was intrigued by this different take on the genre. Then...
  • Sceadulances ['ʃæɑdulɑːnsɪz]
    Buhai [bu'haɪ]
  • Gish
  • Sounds like they're Witchers to me!
  • I like the set-up here, it has potential.

    Apparently you don't want to just call them adventurers so as to retain a measure of specificity between this and undifferentiated generic gaming fantasy.

    If you want to avoid fanciful symbolic naming (which I assume you do, as it's not difficult to pick an arbitrary noun and decide on that), then "exorcist" seems to fit the job description well. "Investigator", or the Latin form "inquisitor", would also be appropriate. "Investigating exorcist", "warrant exorcist", to indicate imperial sanction.

    Other terms to consider for different cultural styles could be:


    My general point is that I don't see why you wouldn't just name the job for its in-setting job description, perhaps with a specification indicating imperial warrant. Just decide what word the culture in question uses for a spiritual specialist that protects people from supernatural evil (hardly a rare occupation historically!), and that's it.
  • I thought "exorcist" as well. "Inquisitor" is good but implies official sanction and institutional authority; maybe something latinate and menacing like "malifex" (not a real word; but "maleficus"for witch is not quite right) or "venator" (for hunter) would work.
  • Just a random assortment:
    Of course, Rangers
  • Now I feel bad with my suggestions. My first thought was also "exorcist", but then I second-guessed myself into something kuter.
  • I like some of the more colourful versions, like "Mistskein" and "Hunters of the Veil".

    But, knowing your tastes for this game, I think you might like something for "real"-feeling, like a Latinate term.

    Maybe something like:

    (Imperial) Sentinel
    Eye (of the Empire)
  • edited October 2014
    These are all very inspiring! Thank you, and please feel free to add more.

    One important note:
    Just decide what word the culture in question uses for a spiritual specialist that protects people from supernatural evil
    Yep, that's exactly what I'm attempting! Well, plus an extra bit of differentiation from the local medicine man/woman. Some more info:

    Every village has an elder who can dress wounds, give out good luck charms, pray for the gods' blessing, and perform all sorts of folk remedies. But everyone knows that a medicine man/woman's prayers and rituals are insufficient to fight a potent supernatural menace. For that, experts are required, people who have gleaned insight from facing down demonic horrors, the kind of insight you can't get any other way.

    One minor note:

    I think I want a name in English; that's what I use for everything in the game except proper names. For proper names, I use Latin for the Imperials, and old German, old Icelandic, and old English for most villagers. There might be a Latin name for _____, but their primary name should probably be English unless there's a particularly excellent German/Icelandic option.
  • I'm also fond of the ones Paul picked out of the more arbitrary options, those work well poetically. Either would work as the singular dash of pretentiousness in an otherwise straight telling.

    I like the concept of "cunning", "kenning" in English myself, as it pertains to knowledge of the eldritch and the unusual. Cunningfolk is one of those terms indicating local medicine men. You could conceivably reserve "medicine man" or "local healer" for the more mundane sort, and call the heroic variety of supernatural investigator a "cunningman" or "kenningman" - one who knows the supernatural evil first-hand. Sounds cool to me.

    Alternatively, the aforelinked article has an interesting factoid I didn't know before: apparently in Cornwall these sorts of people have at some point been called "pellars" or "expellers" (of the evil spirits), which would seem like a fit term for an Anglo-rooted fantasy linguistic choice. Again, sounds cool.

    I guess my standard for what sounds cool here is whether it'd fit well into a morose folk song :D
  • Is this set in the same world as _Delve_?
  • This is Delve! I just got tired of calling the PCs "Adventurers".
  • Matt! Duh. ;)
  • How about "Seekers"?
  • (This whole description also be a great and easy pitch for a Basic D&D game, of course. Except you'd have to fudge a little to get that whole "corrupted by the occult" vibe into it... but that's hardly impossible, if it's your desired goal.)
  • edited October 2014
    You might also be surprised by how well a nearly-random noun would work for a "folk" name for these people, as Vincent does with "Dog".

    Any animal name
    Hog (as in "truffle hog", expensive animals who sniff out truffles underground)

    If there's some kind of sigil or crest or seal, you can always say it's a reference to something on the sigil. "Oh, we call 'em 'Horns', 'cause of that bump on those 'elmets dey wear, you know? Here comes a Horn now, quiet down..."

  • OK, cool :-) The pitch isn't exactly the same as the old one, is all.
  • Based on their job description only, then something like "fixers", "solvers", "monster hunters", or some other -er word. I thus happen to like Eero's "expellers" a lot.

    Alternatively, looking at this from an in-fiction perspective, how does one become a ______? How do they acquire their "uncanny understanding of Evil supernatural forces"? If you can figure out some traditions or folk beliefs relating to this, then some word may naturally pop out.
  • I was going to suggest "Seeker", Pault_T beat me to it.
  • Ichneumon.
  • Hmm. I actually was thinking about mongoose / ferret, as a creature that crawls down dark holes, kills snakes, and "ferrets out trouble" would be apt. So ichneumon is interesting. Doesn't come off the tongue easily, though.
    How do they acquire their "uncanny understanding of Evil supernatural forces"?
    NPCs believe a variety of things on that front:
    - were crazy enough to face down Evil directly, and have been changed by such experiences
    - born different, maybe under a heavenly sign of wise, noble, or magical portent
    - have been given secrets by the Imperials, or village elders, or veteran _____s, secrets too dangerous to share with anyone not committed to this profession
    - performed dangerous rituals and prayers for insight

    (In most cases, only the first is actually true.)
  • I think it might be good to add more two-word names to the mix. Warden, Watcher, and Sentinel all sound a bit stationary or passive to me, but combined with a word to specify what they're warding/watching for or against, they might work.
    Shade Wardens
    Dusk Watchers

    If there were a short name for the evil force being opposed, that might be handy. But "Evil" and similar terms sound silly to us from over-use. "The Supernatural" is too long, and "Magic" might be too unspecific. I've occasionally called it "Rot", but:
    Rot Wardens
    Rot Hounds
    sounds weird to me...
  • Rot Hunters?
  • edited November 2014
    NPCs believe a variety of things on that front:
    - were crazy enough to face down Evil directly, and have been changed by such experiences
    - born different, maybe under a heavenly sign of wise, noble, or magical portent
    - have been given secrets by the Imperials, or village elders, or veteran _____s, secrets too dangerous to share with anyone not committed to this profession
    - performed dangerous rituals and prayers for insight

    (In most cases, only the first is actually true.)
    The Marked, the Scarred, the Changed or something like that.

    Two-words names all sound irredeemably crufty and fantasy-game-y to me, but of course it's your game. :)
    EDITED TO ADD: unless the two-words name results from a need to clarify them as a subcategory of something else. They could be called "white witches", as long as there are also "black witches" in the world (or there are rumored to be).
  • I dunno … I really liked "stick-eater" for the templars in Bone.

    But yeah, in addition to the mongoose meaning, there's also the ichneumon of medieval zoology which runs down dragons' necks and eats their hearts or whatever.
  • Shadow Chasers??
  • edited November 2014
    Thinking about these suggestions more, here's what seems most likely to me, in-fiction:

    Imperial officers would refer to _____ as Investigators or Inquisitors.

    No nonsense villagers would refer to _____ as Expellers.

    Either of the above might also call them Exorcists.

    Bards and story-tellers would have all sorts of more grandiose names, including Cunningfolk, White Wizards, Rot Hunters, Shadow Chasers and the like.

    I'm still not sure what name the more wide-eyed villager would use. I think something with less melodrama than the bard's options but with more flair than "expellers" would be ideal.

    Paul's idea of a non-obvious etymology, like "horns" for horned helmets, might have potential. I'm trying to think of what separates _____ from other folks, and it's hard to come up with anything visual. Beginning _____ look like peasants, while veteran _____ can look more badass than Imperial officers. Most of the other stuff, I've already covered: _____ are generally smart, brave, know weird stuff, and have weird items. A few of these weird items may recur, though most peasants wouldn't know this -- nasty reddish root plants that quell fever dreams, sharp fragments of a bright, shiny, metallic rock, and decks of prophetic cards used in tarot-style "readings" of supernatural problems.

    Finally, there's an angle I hadn't previously thought of, which is the cosmic or mythological. This world includes a dim and erratic second moon, known to the Imperials as Triculum, which is associated with Mismor, god of stone, secrets, wisdom, cold and the North. Triculum, the Sun, the Moon and the Gods are generally thought to be on the side of humanity, while the stars are Evil and a threat that mankind must banish at seasonal rituals.

    So, some ideas from all that:
    Orrers (taken from orrery, the solar system model; I like the sound)
    Mismor's Hounds

    Not loving those, but maybe they'll inspire other thoughts...
  • Here's a subtle name: "The called"

    Much as ministers and missionaries feel god "calls" them to service, maybe these ____ are "called" to hunting the strange and fighting the others.

    And just like how ministers and missionaries are defined by their activities and objects (travel, preaching, and a bible), maybe "the called" are also so defined. If you do not travel, do not slay beasts, do not carry wondrous items, most people would doubt your status.

    It's a mythological status you gift upon yourself or is given to you by others, but there is no way to really "prove" you are one of the called.
  • Ooh, I like that -- called to a rare duty, called to embrace and make use of unique talents, called by the whispering voice of corruption.

    It's hard for me to imagine that catching on in villager conversations, though. "The empire isn't helping; I hope they send some of the Called." "Elder, a group of the Called has arrived and they seek a meeting." "One of the Called told me to keep away from this stream." It's just awkward always having to use "the", and not having an available group noun. "I hope they send Expellers", "Expellers have arrived", "An Expeller told me" -- much easier.

    Is there a group noun for people who have been called? Receivers, Signalees, Recruits, Converts, Answerers, Heeders... I dunno.

    Actually, random inspiration: village shamans refer to _____ as Heeders of the Call, which was the original name for the job. Subsequently, the shorthand "Heeders" was used, which someone jokingly misheard as "Heaters" when some _____ defeated a famous monster using fire. That group already had a name, so "Heaters" was broadly applied to them and people who acted like them -- Heeders of the Call who did bold and dramatic deeds.

    So now most villagers refer to _____ as Heaters. For _____ themselves, it's kind of an inside joke -- you're not really Heaters until your first really crazy mission with lots of upheaval. Until then, you're, I dunno, Embers or something.
  • edited November 2014
    I think you guys have nailed it! All those names are valid, in different places and times. There's a whole genealogy to it. That's frikkin' beautiful!

  • edited November 2014
    The Latin for "hearers" is "auditors", but unfortunately that's sort of already taken.
    But that train of thought did lead me to the similar "reckoners", if that's of any help.

    It has some nice associations. First they turn up and reckon the number and type of creatures. Then they arm themselves and there's a reckoning. You know.
  • The name heater is pretty cool. I like names that are more passive of vauge - names like "reckoner" make me think of old dragon lance novels and other high fantasy fiction that uses epic ness to gloss over substance.

    But yeah the idea of hearing voices, having a loose knit community - I really think modeling this after missionaries could work. Make it a quasi religious movement that has no formal confirmation. There's no fantastical birthmark, no prophecy of being chosen, no magical aura... It's just s line of work people attach spiritual significance to. All spiritual aspects of it exist in the abstract: people's thoughts and words. Heaters are just people like you and me who believe they're on a vital mission to save society from darkness.
  • The name heater is pretty cool. I like names that are more passive of vauge - names like "reckoner" make me think of old dragon lance novels and other high fantasy fiction that uses epic ness to gloss over substance.
    Ha, "reckoner" made me think more of accountants and functionaries. This is why it's good to run things by a focus group.

  • edited November 2014
    If the people in questions are hearing or receiving some kind of divine (or Imperial?) calling, they might have a name related to that, instead. Like "Beacons".

    If you don't like the sound of "The Called", because it's awkward to use in a sentence, you can always the old fantasy-author standby: make up a new word, one which sounds and feels good to you. Then explain that this word translates into English as "The Called". Simple enough!

    You get the meaning you like, but decoupled from the *sound* that you don't like.
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