OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Use a random generator to give all your NPCs Japanese names

Commander farsight

If you’ve got a Star Trek game where you visit new planets often, or have a classic D&D party where you’re visiting one village to the next meeting different and interesting trbes of people, isn’t it cool when a new tribe you meet all have similar names – or names on a theme? 

Themes are important, they make things memorable, so perhaps the next tribe or aliens you meet all have traditional Japanese-sounding names? You could extend the theme and incorporate traditions from Japanese culture, or mention symbols and iconography, building on it to make the tribe memorable – whilst tapping into preconceptions so you don’t have to spend a hundred hours explaining the culture of these new people in great detail.

Once you’ve established this naming scheme for every character you meet from this tribe (or aliens, or whatever), use a random character name generator. It makes the process quick and easy, and you don’t have to trawl through books looking for someone with an interesting.

There’s a list of cool character name generators here, but for one with traditional Japanese names, I’ve found this one handy recently:

flying pyramids

Stargate SG-1 applied existing themes to aliens, the Goa’uld had an Ancient Egyptian vibe

Maybe Japanese is too obvious, so perhaps use a less well-known culture? There’s name generators for all sorts of different types of names, modern and traditional. Here’s some ideas:

  • Basque character names
  • Croatian character names
  • Estonian character names
  • Lithuanian character names
  • Welsh character names
  • Ancient Greek character names

Perhaps Ancient Greek names have been over used in scifi (often in scifi for names of spaceships – also Norse, Norse is user-used!), but I personally think a race of aliens with Welsh or Croatian names would be really interesting and unique.

What sort of naming schemes do you find best for tribes/planets of NPCs?