Monday, November 25, 2013

The Importance of Names

Last week, Paizo released the playtest document for 2014's Advanced Class Guide. While I gave my first impressions of the 10 "hybrid" classes, I want to focus on one of the criticisms I gave to the Bloodrager. For those of you who haven't looked at the playtest document, the Bloodrager is a hybrid of the Barbarian and the Sorcerer who gains the ability to access a number of supernatural abilities while enraged and cast a small number of spells at later levels. 

The class itself is an interesting concept and there are a few character ideas floating around in my head that would be a perfect fit for the class, but the name is just terrible. Yes, the name describes the concept of the class nicely (someone who accesses the power of their blood by raging), it sounds like a cheesy metal band from the 80's. Don't get me wrong, I love cheesy metal music, but a name that might work for that genre wouldn't necessarily work as a name for a Pathfinder class. 

Names are important things. Sometimes, something that's cool or interesting might be weakened by a bad or boring name. For example, lets say we have a game with three simple classes: the Combatant, the Expert, and the Spellcaster. All three of theses names give you an idea what the class does. The Combatant is great at fighting, the Expert is a specialist in a certain area (like disabling traps or sneaking around), and the Spellcaster casts spells. However, the names are kind of boring. Names such as the Magician, the Rogue, and the Warrior are much more interesting and sound much cooler than the more bland names. 

Names, at least certain ones, have a number of preconceptions tied to them. When choosing a name, you should think what kind of preconceptions it might have and how those preconceptions will affect how certain people view your creation. For example, when I hear the name "Swashbuckler", I envision a martial combatant who focuses more on finesse and wit that brute force. So, when someone hands me a class called "Swashbuckler", I expect to see a class focused on Dexterity and Charisma, not Strength. 

Finally, names can also affect how serious someone takes something. For example, lets say you create a monster to throw at your players. Depending on the name you give the creature and how you describe it, your players might take it as a serious threat, or laugh at it and see it as nothing but a joke. It sucks when you spend all this time coming up with a cool monster and your players laugh at it because you've given it a cheesy name. 

So, the next time you create something, give some thought to the name. The creation's title is sometimes just as important as the creation itself.