Tag Archives: NPCs

Beyond ‘Fred’: Ancient Persian Names

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It’s often difficult to come up with names for characters. I’ve seen enough variations on Tolkein names to last me a lifetime, not to mention those based on movie characters and other SF/Fantasy series. But where can you go to find a name that’s different, but not overly so? How about from another culture, historical or otherwise?

Beyond ‘Fred’ is an occasional series that provides lists of names from real-world cultures, both past and present. In other posts, I’ve covered everything from Italian to Ancient Egyptian. This time, we’re covering Persian names, ancient and newer.

An important note: I’m listing names that I think sound cool for rpg game purposes. I’m not worrying about historical accuracy. If you’re looking for a name for historical re-enactment, please check out my list of sources at the end of this post. I also don’t usually cover name meanings, but again, most of my sources list those. Finally, I tend to stay away from names that are currently in common usage. I figure if you were interested in those, you wouldn’t be looking at this list. 😉

[Photo courtesy of hsivonen via Flickr Creative Commons]

Ancient Persian Names


  • Aêtava
  • Airyu
  • Bêndva
  • Byarshan
  • Chamrav
  • Dahâka
  • Drâdha
  • Datis
  • Erezavant
  • Erezrâspa
  • Frâchithra
  • Frânya
  • Gaevani
  • Gaomant
  • Hanghaurvah
  • Hvova
  • Isvant
  • Jannara
  • Jishti
  • Kaeva
  • Karesna
  • Mathravaka
  • Mazdayasna
  • Nanarasti
  • Neremyazdana
  • Paeshata
  • Parshinta
  • Ravant
  • Sadhanah
  • Sâma
  • Stivant
  • Taurvati
  • Tura
  • Usan
  • Uxshan
  • Vâgerezan
  • Varâza
  • Vyâtana
  • Xexes
  • Xshtavay
  • Yima
  • Zairita
  • Zavan


  • Ahoo
  • Amytis
  • Atosa
  • Banafsheh
  • Dughdhô-Vâ
  • Eredat-Fedhrî
  • Franghâd
  • Freni
  • Ghazal
  • Humayâ
  • Hutaosâ
  • Hvôv
  • Jagkrut
  • Kanukâ
  • Khoshfarberan
  • Lila
  • Narges
  • Narpestan
  • Paêsanghanû
  • Pouruchista
  • Sarvenaz
  • Thriti
  • Tûshnâmatay
  • Urûdhayant
  • Ushtavaitî
  • Uxshentî
  • Vadhut
  • Vanghu-Fedhrî
  • Zairichi
  • Zeheratzade

Newer Persian Names (19th century)


  • Abadi
  • Adarvan
  • Bahadur
  • Beramji
  • Burzin
  • Chaxshnush
  • Cirrus
  • Dadar
  • Delir
  • Dorabji
  • Edalji
  • Erach
  • Erachsha
  • Fardunji
  • Firdous
  • Freortis
  • Gashtaham
  • Goberu
  • Govad
  • Hardar
  • Hirji
  • Hutan
  • Isatvastra
  • Ishvat
  • Izadyar
  • Jahandar
  • Javidan
  • Jehangir
  • Kai
  • Kavas
  • Kurush
  • Mahdat
  • Mervanji
  • Mohor
  • Nadarsha
  • Nevazar
  • Nima
  • Nush
  • Omid
  • Orvadasp
  • Palash
  • Pishkar
  • Puladvand
  • Raham
  • Rashna
  • Rushad
  • Sahi
  • Shahen
  • Surin
  • Tahmtan
  • Temulji
  • Tizuarshti
  • Ukarji
  • Ushah
  • Ushedarmah
  • Valash
  • Varshasb
  • Vaspar
  • Wehzan
  • Yadgar
  • Yazad
  • Yima
  • Zal
  • Zand
  • Zirak
  • Zurvan


  • Abanhir
  • Aimai
  • Arzu
  • Avabai
  • Bahar
  • Banubai
  • Behruz
  • Chaman
  • Cheherazad
  • Deldar
  • Dinaz
  • Dinbanu
  • Farida
  • Franak
  • Friyana
  • Gohar
  • Gulbai
  • Gilshan
  • Homa
  • Hormazbanu
  • Hutoxi
  • Iranbanu
  • Irandokht
  • Jahanaray
  • Jarbai
  • Javaneh
  • Kaniz
  • Khubrui
  • Khushnam
  • Lalagul
  • Laleh
  • Lilya
  • Mahzarin
  • Meherbai
  • Morvarid
  • Narenj
  • Nezhat
  • Nilufer
  • Omid
  • Oranous
  • Orkideh
  • Parendi
  • Parvin
  • Puyendeh
  • Rambanu
  • Roshni
  • Ruhae
  • Samannaz
  • Shirin
  • Sudabeh
  • Tehmina
  • Thrity
  • Tishtar
  • Ushtavaity
  • Vahbiz
  • Vira
  • Virbanu
  • Yasmin
  • Yazdin
  • Yazdindokht
  • Zarin
  • Zer
  • Zoish


Other ‘Beyond Fred’ Posts

Top 11 for 2011

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I can’t believe the end of the year is on us already. It’s been a good year for me and I hope for you, too.

Here’s the eleven most popular posts this year:

  1. Character Questionnaire: Just what the name says–it’s a character questionnaire to help GMs and players alike flesh out important characters. This has been the number one favorite page since Evil Machinations began in 2009.
  2. Where are we again?” Creating Unique Fantasy Cities and Towns: List of on-line resources that can help you create cities and towns for your game world.
  3. February Blog Carnival: Worldbuilding: Check out the comments of this post for great links to blog articles about worldbuilding. This was the introductory post for when I hosted the RPG Bloggers blog carnival in February of this year.
  4. Building Better NPCs III: Character Webs: What are character webs and how can you use them to help bring your NPCs to life. Also a perennial favorite post.
  5. X Marks the Spot: 11 Map Making Tutorials: Another list of on-line resources, this one on making great maps for your game.
  6. And *Then* What Happened?: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas: Ever come across an adventure seed you really wanted to use, but you couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a full adventure? This post is the first in a series that can help.
  7. Creating the Adventure Outline: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas, pt. 9: Another post in the above series, this one on how to develop you idea into game outline or flowchart to make running that adventure a little easier.
  8. Handling Problem Players: A list of web resources with great ideas on how to handle problem players.
  9. Finding Events: Using Adventure Seeds/Hooks/Starts/Ideas,  pt. 8: How to come up with the encounters and challenges that make up an adventure.
  10. Campaign Worksheet: The campaign worksheet I use when creating a new campaign.
  11. Beyond ‘Fred’: Russian Names for Characters: A list of Russian names for PCs and NPCs.

There they are: the top eleven posts for 2011. Thanks to all my readers–you’re the reason I’m still here and looking forward to a great 2012.

Beyond ‘Fred’: Names for Victorian Games

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Everyone has trouble coming up with character names, at least occasionally. Especially GMs, who frequently have to come up with names on the spur of the moment. That’s what this series, “Beyond ‘Fred'” is all about: providing lists of names from other times and cultures so you can find a name that feels right for the time and place of your game.

In this series, I’m more interested in finding names that capture the feel of various game settings. Historical accuracy is not a factor here. In the spirit of my new Castle Falkenstein campaign, here’s a list of names common in Victorian England and America:

Male Names

  • Aaron
  • Alonzo
  • Ambrose
  • Barnabas
  • Bartholomew
  • Bernard
  • Byron
  • Cecil
  • Cyril
  • Clarence
  • Clement (Clem)
  • Clinton (Clint)
  • David
  • Edward (Ned)
  • Edwin
  • Eldon
  • Ernest
  • Ezra
  • Francis
  • Franklin
  • Fredrick
  • Gabriel
  • Garrett
  • Harland
  • Harrison
  • Henry
  • Horace
  • Isaac
  • James
  • John
  • Jasper
  • Julian
  • Lawrence
  • Leander
  • Louis
  • Maurice
  • Maxwell
  • Merriweather
  • Micajah
  • Morris
  • Nathaniel (Nate, Nathan, Nat)
  • Nimrod
  • Oral
  • Orville
  • Patrick
  • Perry
  • Peter
  • Reuben
  • Richard (Dick, Rich)
  • Samuel
  • Simeon
  • Thaddeus
  • Thomas (Tom)
  • Victor
  • Walter
  • Wilfred

Female Names

  • Abigail (Abby)
  • Agnes
  • Beatrice
  • Charity
  • Charlotte
  • Chastity
  • Constance
  • Dorothy (Dot)
  • Elizabeth (Bess, Betsy, Bessie, Eliza, Liza, Lizzie)
  • Eudora
  • Eva
  • Fern
  • Fidelia
  • Frances
  • Flora
  • Geneve
  • Genevieve
  • Grace
  • Hattie
  • Helene
  • Hester
  • Irene
  • Ivy
  • Jessamine
  • Josephine
  • Judith
  • Katherine
  • Lenora
  • Letitia
  • Lily
  • Lottie
  • Margaret
  • Maude
  • Mercy
  • Minerva
  • Molly
  • Nellie
  • Patsy
  • Parthena
  • Permelia
  • Phoebe
  • Rowena
  • Rufina
  • Sarah
  • Sarah Anne (Sarah Elizabeth)
  • Sophronia
  • Theodosia
  • Victoria
  • Winnifred (Winnie)

Biblical names were very popular in the Victorian Era, as were virtues (such as Chastity or Hope), and flowers (primarily for women). Both boys and girls were also given “nature” names, such as Forrest, Fern


Other “Beyond ‘Fred'” posts:


Change Your Hat, Change Your Character

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hatsI myself have 12 hats, and each one represents a different personality.  Why just be yourself?
–Margaret Atwood

I love props. I’m constantly making props for my games, from fake newspaper articles to treasure maps. Sure, you can tell your players what their characters fine, but then they’re seeing the prop through your eyes. You can’t help but put a spin on their findings as you describe them. Having an actual prop the players can handle allows them to form their own opinions without any “coloration” by the GM.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/dspender/ / CC BY 2.0)

Why use props?

Props can also help you get into character. This is what I love most about them. Each of my characters has (PCs and important NPCs) has something that identifies them.  Not only does this prop help distinguish one character from another, the type of prop chosen says something about the character who uses it.

The  main props I use with my PCs are costumes. Every one of the characters I play has a “costume” that comes straight out of my wardrobe. Now, that doesn’t mean I come to the gaming table looking like a refugee from the local Renaissance Faire (though that can certainly be a lot of fun once in a while). Instead, I find something in my wardrobe that reminds me of my character.

For Galen, my 14th level human bard/sorcerer, it’s a purple tank top with a green shirt over it, his patron’s colors. On the other hand, Feynan, my half-elven rogue/sorcerer with a penchant for lightening, requires an orange tank-top. Rafe, a classic WoD mage, wears a black leather motorcycle jacket, while Naiya, a Tremere vampire always sports an antique rhinestone necklace. The one thing all these costumes have in common is that none of them cause anyone to look oddly at me when I stop at the grocery store for some snacks. Having a prop (or clothing article) helps me get into character before the game even starts.

Props as a GM tool

I find props immensely valuable as a GM tool, as well. Now, I don’t worry about a prop for every Tom, Dick an Haley in my game; only the major NPCs get props. But having a prop for each character allows for two things: 1) my players know immediately who they’re talking to and 2) it helps me keep my NPCs straight and helps keep me from getting sidetracked. Having something in my hand or on me reminds me to stay focused on that one character.

Types of good props

Hats make great props for NPCs because they’re generally quick and easy to put on and take off. Small trinkets, particularly if they inspire a physical mannerism, also work really well. Perhaps your NPC likes to stack coins, play with Chinese harmony balls, or roll dice. Maybe he always has a toothpick in his mouth. Or maybe she carries a walking stick or cane and uses it to punctuate her speech. Or perhaps he doodles while he talks or creates origami animals.

Using props

The main point when using props is to avoid overusing them or making them so obvious they upstage the what you’re saying. Usually, a prop in use should be subtle, something the character does absent-mindedly. You want to use the prop in such a way that it helps the players remember who they’re talking to, but without causing the prop to take center stage.

Notice, though, that I said usually. Sometimes a prop is absolutely crucial to the story. If your players know that any prop you pick up when you’re speaking in character actually exists in the game, you can have an NPC play with it to bring it to the PCs attention. Or you can place it on the table in front of you and wait until someone asks about it.

Any of the techniques above can help your players (and you) feel more immersed in the game. Props are great tools for both players and GM. You can start small — pick one prop for you PC or for a major NPC. Think of a way that character would use that prop. You know you’ve really got it down when your players can tell who they’re speaking to without you having to say a single name.

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Meadowbrook Needs You! Contest Extended

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Since I’ve only received one entry for this contest, I’ve decided to extend the contest through the end of November. So, if you haven’t been wanting to enter but haven’t had the chance to get to it, you’ve still got time. I’ll post the winner in early December.

Just for reference, here’s a link to the original contest information:

And here’s the information about Meadowbrook itself:

Unintentional Sexism in RPGs (Even Women Do It!)

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We’ve all seen a lot written about women in roleplaying games. We’ve read about the kinds of games women prefer (roleplaying vs. combat-heavy). We’ve read about how the “boys-club mentality” tends to discourage women from the gaming table. About how the depiction of women in rpg game books can turn female players off…

This isn’t one of those posts. In my experience, most players and GMs want to do everything they can to avoid being sexist, men and women alike. Most are horrified if you find something sexist about their games and will be more than happy to fix the problem. But sexism is very deeply buried in our society and we — both men and women — unconsciously insert that into our games without realizing it.

For those gamers trying to eliminate those elements from their games, I’ve identified eight issues that I’ve noticed tend to creep into my own games, if I’m not careful. With each, I’ve got some suggestions on how to counter-act those issues. If you’ve some tips along the sames lines, please share them! I’m always on the lookout for more ideas.

8 Common Gender Stereotype and How to Fix Them

  1. Watch how you describe NPCs. What words do you use? Do you tend to describe more women as “pretty”, “delicate”, “shy”, “timid”? Are your male characters usually “brave”, “strong”, “fierce”? There’s nothing wrong with brave men or shy women — the problem comes when most (if not all) of your NPCs are described with gender stereotypes.
    • Solution: Make two lists — one of “masculine” adjectives and one of “feminine” adjectives. Pick a certain number of NPCs — say, every fourth NPC you describe — and try to find an adjective on the “opposite” list that will fit the character and use that. You may have to change the adjective slightly — like describing a male NPC as “handsome” or “good-looking”, instead of pretty. But you can have a shy male character, for example, or a “sturdy” female one.
  2. Watch what animals you compare your characters to. If you compare your NPCs to animals, which ones do you tend to choose for women and which ones for men? Are your female characters like does or cats while your male characters like lions or bears?
    • Solution: Similar to above. Make a list of animals you normally associate with “masculine” behavior and one for “feminine” behavior. Draw from the “opposite” list from time to time. A woman can be “fierce as a lion(ess)” and a man can be “retiring as a deer (stag)”.
  3. Watch your character’s professions. What professions do your female NPCs have? Are they all traditional female roles, like caretaker, cook, or cleaning woman?
    • Solution: Mix it up. Occasionally have a female blacksmith or a male pre-school teacher.
  4. Notice any character patterns. A few years ago, I noticed that I tended to make my male characters magic-using types, while my female characters tended to be fighting-types. It wasn’t intentional — just for some reason I have that male = sorcerer, female = warrior association in my head. Do you have a similar type of pattern?
    • Solution: Break your usual pattern from time to time. I still have to consciously make a male warrior character or a female wizard.
  5. Watch your characters’ clothing. I’m not talking about the rampant problem of women in bear-fur bikinis while their male counterparts dress in full plate. This is a matter of having all of your characters wearing appropriate clothing for the tasks at hand.
    • Solution: As you describe characters, make sure their clothing is functional for the kind of work they do. This also goes for things they might be carrying or tools the might be using.
  6. What are your characters doing? When the PCs come across any one of your NPCs, are they always working at gender-specific tasks? Are the women washing, mending, serving drinks, walking the streets? Are the men smithing, fighting, playing chess?
    • Solution: When an NPC isn’t important to the plot, try alternating female and male characters. Have a female fixing a sword or a male playing with children.
  7. How comfortable are you with players who play characters of the opposite sex? As a GM, you have to play both male and female NPCs. Are your players any less capable of do that then you are.
    • Solution: The obvious solution is to allow players to play the “opposite” sex. However, if doing that makes you so uncomfortable you feel you couldn’t GM it, let your players know. A large gaming group (about 12-14 people at any one time) I once belonged to, half the players were women. One of our occasional GMs was honest with us that it really bothered him when women played male characters and vica versa. Because he took responsibility for his own feelings (saying it was his personal “hang-up”), I always played a female character in his game. So did the other women in the group. If you’re honest and up-front about your feelings, most people will respond positively.
  8. Watch for reverse sexism. A game setting where men are never warriors and women are never caretakers is just as sexist as the reverse.
    • Solution: Use the tips above to help you create a more gender-balanced game.

If you’re deliberately creating a male- or female-dominated setting, these tips don’t apply. But if you’re trying to create a more balanced game, these ideas should help. These tips are designed to help those who are trying to avoid unintentionally creating gender bias in their game. I keep this list with my game prep stuff so I can do a quick double-check before each game session.

Are there any steps you take to help gender-balance your games? Please share them!

Meadowbrook Needs You! — Win Dice!

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contest-winnerBack in June, I created a town called “Meadowbrook”. This month, I’m sponsoring a contest based on that town. All you have to do is create a NPC — an inhabitant of Meadowbrook — using the information given in this blog. The characters I like best will become part of the “official” Meadowbrook setting. In exchange, every entry you make gives you a chance to win a set of green Crystal Caste Dice from RPG Shop.  The winner will be chosen at random from among all the entries, so even if I don’t use your character, you still have a chance to win.

How to Enter

Leave a comment below detailing your NPC. Meadowbrook is a system-generic setting, that is, it’s designed to be used with any fantasy game system. Your character description should be equally system-generic, though you can include stats for your favorite game system(s) at the bottom of the description, if you wish.

The contest will run until 31 October 2009. A winner will be chosen at random on 01 November and will be announced on this blog on 02 November, 2009. You can enter as many times as you wish, each time with a different NPC.

NPC Creation Rules

  • You may use any of the existing NPCs as part of your character’s background, but you may not alter them.
  • You may use or add to any or all of the existing locations and other information, but must use the existing material as written. You may not change any of the information provided.
  • Character portraits are welcome, but not required. To use a portrait, upload the picture to your own site, then link to it in your entry.
  • I reserve the right to “tweak” NPCs to better fit the setting before placing them in the Meadowbrook information.
  • By entering your NPC, you retain the copyright on your material, but you agree to allow me use of the character. Full credit will be given to you whenever the character is included in Meadowbrook material.

Meadowbrook Posts

Here’s a list of all the Meadowbrook posts:

That’s all of the official stuff. Please feel free to post any questions you may have in the comments below, or you can email me at jade(at)rpggm(dot)com. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Building Better NPCs III: Character Webs

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What is a character web?

A character web is a map — a specific kind of map that charts the relationships of NPCs to one another. It’s a great tool for figuring out how one NPC may respond to another — or to anything related to that NPC. This is a tool to use with your major character NPCs; it’s not something you need to work out for every town beggar.

How do I create a character web?

  1. Break your NPCs into groups of who knows whom. Most likely, not all of your NPCs are going to care — or even know — about each other.
  2. Pick one group of NPCs to work with right now.
  3. Choose the leader of the group. If the group doesn’t have a leader, pick a key person.
  4. Write their names (and small portraits, if you have them) in a circle, with your leader on top, like so:character web: names
  5. Decide who knows about whom in the web. It’s possible for a character not to know about one or more of the other characters in their group. For example, we can say that Martin and everyone else in this group have conspired to keep Kristiana in the dark about Sashia’s existence. But Sashia knows about Kristiana, due to a kingdom-wide announcement by Martin’s father, the king.
  6. Draw arrows from each character to every other character the web he knows about:character web: arrows7. Along the arrows, write what each character feels about the others she knows: character-web-3

From this, we can tell the Prince’s chances at marital bliss are little to none. His soon-to-be wife loathes him, while being love with his best friend. His mistress is protective of him and consideres his betrothed to be a very lucky woman. Meanwhile, the bodyguard is in love with the mistress! Note that these are the predominant feelings of each character. Sashia isn’t going to feel protective of Martin all the time — there are times she’ll be annoyed, hurt, affectionate. But the map gives you the character’s overall attitudes towards the others around him.

Ways to use the web

In addition to helping determine how each character would relate to the others face-to-face, these webs can be used to figure out the reception the PCs might get from each one, based on how that character views the PCs in relation to others in the web.

For example: Say the Prince asked the PCs to carry a message to Kristiana. If Kristiana knows they’re coming from the Prince, she’s likely to be polite, but cold to them. After all, the last thing she wants is a message from her betrothed. However, if the PCs arrange things so that Kristiana thinks they’re coming from Morik, they’re likely to get a warm welcome and perhaps a small token of appreciation.

Another example: The PCs have been asked by the Prince’s father to substitute for Martin’s regular bodyguard for an important event. Tyleck, who feels the Prince is a foolish young man, may go along to the event on his own — just in case the Prince tries to do something stupid that the PCs won’t be expecting. He may interfere with the PC’s duties — with the best interests at heart.

A character web can provide an “at a glance” shorthand to figuring out how a given NPC may react under various situations. This can help make these characters more complex and interesting, as they don’t have the same reactions to everyone else all the time.

How about you? Do you have any tools you use to bring your NPCs to life? Please share them with us in the comments.

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