Although a name is not necessary to generate a character and is not really required for a character until he is actually brought into play, the name chosen for a character makes an impression on those he meets and says something to the other players about the character, even if only on a gut level. Having a character name, even if only in part, going into the character generation process may actually help guide the player’s hand from time to time as he goes through it. Many of the names chosen for roleplaying characters embody the essence of the character, exemplifying who and what he is, or they can be made amusing by the use of irony in contrast, as in the naming of Robin Hood’s rather large associate “Little” John.
The same standards and approach discussed for PC names should be observed by the GM when determining the name of a NPC, as well.
Family names, or “surnames”, while in common general usage among the people of the period of the game (particularly in towns), will be hit-or-miss in regards to the source from which they are taken, whether origins or trade or parents’ names. Many surnames were taken from the trade practiced (“Tailor”, “Smith”, “Walker”, “Tinker”, “Tiler” (Tyler), “Cooper”, etc.) and would change with the trade practiced from one generation to the next, or would simply be made up of the father’s name with the suffix “-son” attached. One of the most common identifiers attached to a name as a form of “surname” was the village or town of origins, but generally only when a person has travelled out of the district in which he and his family are known, to distinguish him from those of the same name who are local. The player can always go to the GM to get a list of place names for the area he plans the first adventure to take place in to put to this use.
Sobriquets are often used to distinguish father and son who bear the same name, especially “the Elder” and “the Younger”, or between siblings with the same name, but any appellation might be used to distinguish one from another who has no sobriquet at all in the same family, or who has a different sobriquet. The practice of naming more than one child after the father is often followed by parents trying to insure that at least one child survives to carry the father’s or mother’s name on, to give it again to the next generation. These sobriquets also tend to be very descriptive or convey an impression.
Sobriquets such as “Longshanks” like the sample character, Bictric; “Ill-rede” (bad counsel); “Dragon-” or “Dwarf-” or “Elf-Friend”; “Even Handed”; “Foe Cleaver”; “Arm Strong” or “Strong Bow”; “the Bloody”; “the Swift”; “the Just”; “the Red” (-haired, or “Rufus”); “the Unready”; “the Fair”; “the Gold” (-haired); “the Good”; “the Insouciant”; “Wind Rider” or “Lightning Rider”; “of the Long Sand”; “the Lucky” or “the Hapless”; “the Bastard”, or the like. The adoption of surnames for general use was a means to aid in identification of citizens on the tax rolls, and an acknowledgement here of the practice followed in the period of the game.
It will not be uncommon, either to see a name bearing both surname and sobriquet, in an effort to assure that there will be no confusion over identity.
Naming can be key in establishing the medieval-fantasy flavor of the identity of the character, so the player should be as free and creative as he likes in coming up with a name. BUT the player should keep in mind that “Destrier Strongbow” is not a very appropriate name for a quiet, scholarly Wizard or delicate Courtier who quakes at the thought of physical violence or the possibility of being hurt, unless the character’s father was a great Warrior of renown who had originally pinned great hopes of his son following in his footsteps, and the player wants to disarm those meeting him and get them laughing at him when they find out his name, leading them into underestimating him. Then it becomes a useful joke. Perhaps the character will be a prideful coward, and when he gains the strength in skill and knowledge that comes with advancing in his trade he will be a force with which to be reckoned and his name will no longer be a joke.
A character can always be set up to fulfill the promise of a name this way, in ways never imagined by his parents and siblings. Of course, for the simple respect of his fellow Warriors, a huge strapping lad who wades into rank upon rank of foeswith gusto who is named Wendel Milquetoaste by his parents would probably give himself a more appropriate professional name at the end of his apprenticeship, or amend his given name by trading the surname for a sobriquet like “Deathstalker” or “Doomslayer”, for example.
The following roster of names has been provided for the player’s reference because truth is always stranger than fiction, and there are some really great and strange actual period names included. The more common and popular of these will be readily available. Some are hold-overs from the Anglo-Saxon period and others are French imports brought by the Norman conquerors. The player should keep in mind the fact that England was a melting pot, historically, with Celtic roots, the influence of Roman-brought Latin scholarship, Anglo-Saxon remnants, and Norman French traditions. While the names included reflect these varied heritages, they are NOT divided according to their cultural heritage. These can be discerned fairly readily in most instances, though.
Period Men’s Names
Aethel(h)ard, Aethelstan, Aidan, Aimar, Aethelward, Aethelwold, Aethulwulf, Adalbert, Alastair, Albert, Aethelbeorht,
Aldred, Ealdred, Alan, Aleyn (Alain), Aldwyn, Aelfrede (“elf counsel”, Alfred), Algar, Alger, Aelfgar, Alured, Alwin, Alvar,
Aelfhere, Alvin, Alwine, Aldwine, Aelfwine, Aethelwine, Alexander, Alix, Ambrosius, Angus, Andrew, Ansculf, Anthony
Archibald, Arcenbaldus, Arlebaldus, Arlaund, Arley, Arnold, Artur, Artor, Arcturus, Arthur, Aubrey, Aulay, Austen, Austin,
Austyn, Osten, Ostin, Augustin(e), Aylmer, Aethelmaer, Baldwin, Bartholomew, Barnabas, Basil, Bede, Bedivere, Bennet,
Benedict, Bertram, Berwyn, Bern(h)ard, Bevis, Bictric, Blair, Blei, Bors, Brandon, Brian, Burton, Canute, Cerdic, Charibert,
Charles, Chad (Cead), Ceadd(a), Clarence, Clement, Colin, Conrad, Constantine, Crispin(ius), Darryl, Donald, Dunstan,
Edmund, Edwin, Eadwine, Elmvi, Emeric, Ethel(h)ard, Ethelbert (-beorht), Ethelstan, Ethelward, Ethelwold, Ethelwulf,
Eubolo, Eudo, Eudes, Eustace, Finn, Felix, Frederick, Gafiot, Galahad, Gaheris, Gareth, Gaston, Gawain(e), Giric, Geoffrey,
George, Gerard, Gerhard, Gerald, Gervaise (Jarvis), Geraint, Gilber(t), Godwin, Greash, Guillot, Guala, Harduin, Harvey, Haymo,
Hamelin, Henry, Hengest, Hereward, Horsa, Hugh, Harold, Harry, Honorius, Hilarious, Humphrey, Hubert, Humbert, Idhel,
Irwin, Ivanhoe, Isambert, Jack, Jacob, James, Jasper, John, Julius, Kenneth, Kenric, Kendric, Kerrick, Cynric, La(u)ncelot,
Lamorak, Lawrence, Lewes, Lewis (Louis), Leofric, Levric, Lionel, Logan, Lucien, Malcolm, Matthew, Michael, Milton, Morgan,
Morcant, Murdoch, Morton, Nathan, Nicholas, Noel, Ogier, Oliver, Odin, Olvinus, Ulwinus, Osbern, Osbert, Oswiu, Offa, Osric,
Orlando, Owen, Pandulph, Pelayo, Peregrine (-inus), Peryn, Percival(e), Peter, Piers, Philip, Picot, Ranulph, Ralph, Rory,
Raymond, Reginald, Richard, Robert, Robin, Roger, Roland, Roderick, Rede (“counsel”, Reed), Reinhold, Reynold, Seymor,
Saebert, Siward, Simon, Sheldon, Sherman, Stephen, Tasso, Thaddeus, Theobald, Theodore(-ic), Theodosius, Thomas, Todd,
Tristan, Vergil, Vortigern, Walter, Waswic, Wat, Wigstan, Wayne, Wilhelm, William
Period Women’s Names
Adelicia, Aiglentine, Ada, Adeliz(a), Adelina, Agnes, Alys, Alis (Alice), Alais, Aelis, Alicia, Aldgith(a), Aldreda, Alida, Alina, Althea,
Annes, Annys (Annis), Annibel, Amabel, Amanda, Amy (Ami), Amice, Amisia, Anabel(-la), Annora, Arabella, Araminta, Ariel,
Arnburga, Auda, Aurelia, Aurora, Averil, Aver(h)ilda, Barbara(-y), Basilia(-ie), Beatris(-ice, -ix), Belle, Berengaria, Blancheflor,
Brian(n)a, Bridget, Bryony, Catherine, Kate, Katherine, Cecily, Céciles, Celestine, Clementine, Clare (Clair), Clarissa, Clot(h)ilda,
Chita, Charlotte, Darla, Daisy, Daphne, Delphine, Drusilla, Dulcine(-a), Dorothea, E(a)dith, E(a)thelbalda, Ethel, Ever(h)ild(a),
Everhildis, Eleanor, Elizabeth, (E)Liz(a), Emma, Bess(ie), Beth, Lisbeth, Lisa (Liza), Eade, Emma, Emmota, Erembourc,
Eremine(-a), Emmeline(-a), Ermingard, Etheldreda, Evageline, Ferne, Fiona, Flora, Florabel, Georgina, Githa, Gretchen,
Gwenburga, Gwendolyn, Gwenhwyfar (Jennifer), Guibourc, Heather, Hellisent, Helen, Helga, Hermengart, Hestia, Hildegard,
Honor(i)a, Iris, Isabel(la), Isabeau, Ida, Ismay, Isolde, Ingoberg, Jacquette, Jeanette, Joan, Julia, Juliette, Juliana, Karensa(-za),
Kimbra, Leonora, Lea, Leda, (O)Livia, Laurel(ea), Louvaine, Louvenia, Lyla, Lyrabel, Mabel, Magota, Margaret, Margery,
Marjory, Marie, Mary, Mat(h)ilda(-is), Maud(e), Maurine, Millicent, Morgaine, Morganna, Morgause, Or(i)abel, Ottilie(-is),
Pansy, Philomena, Plaisance, Plectrude, Rose, Ros(a)lynn, Rosamund(a) (“rosy mouth/lips”), Scarlet, Sidony(-ie),
Sigrid, Sophia, Tamsin, Tansy, Theodora, Theodosia, Tyne, Ursula, Valeria, Viola, Violet, Wanda, Winifred, Wilhelmina,
Willamina, Ydain, Yvain, Ygraine