Way back when, in a post about the many steps in character creation, I talked about using (or maybe abusing) the online resource of Google Translate to make creative monikers for new heroes, villains, and everyone in between. There are two major benefits to this technique, so major in fact that I use this this method of naming characters, places, and objects on a weekly basis. Today, I’ve created a method to my madness in the form of the ‘Google Translate’ Name Game, so that you can use (and abuse) it too!
Just briefly, let me detail the benefits I mentioned.
- It’s so darn fast! Unless you’re using dial-up internet, but that would mean you’re still living in 1998 and haven’t read this post yet.
- It guarantees creativity. It’s way too easy for our subconscious to get hung up on all the names and sounds inherent to our native tongue. By using a different language to name your character, you’re forced to think outside of the words & phrases you’d normally use. The result is a creative moniker that you wouldn’t come up with when left to your own devices.
HOW TO PLAY!
While this method can be used to name just about anything in your campaign, I’m going to address it to character creation for the sake of clarity.
- Follow this link to visit the Google Translate site. Set the desired language on the left box to ‘English.’
- Roll a D6 to decide how many words are in the character’s name.
1= 1 word name, 2-5= 2 word name, 6= 3 word name
- Roll 2D20 to determine the language from which you’ll be generating (translating) the name;consult the chart below. Then select that language from the drop-down box on the “To:” side (right box). ***Let me apologize in advance to the languages available on the list that didn’t make it into the chart above. To make the game easier for everyone, I had to eliminate those languages whose native alphabet didn’t transliterate easily into an English reading (e.g. Hindi, Hebrew, Cyrillic).
- For each word in the character’s name, roll a D6 to determine the part of speech of the English root word.1-2= Adjective, 3-4= Noun, 5-6= Verb
- So here’s the part that really depends on you. You have to pick which root words, corresponding to the appropriate parts of speech, you want to plug into the Translator. They may be qualities or actions or hobbies or objects that are intrinsic to your character. For instance, if you are creating a world-weary war veteran who has a 2-word name that has a Noun and a Verb as its roots, you may choose words like ‘shield’ or ‘battle’ for the first, and ‘fight’ or survive’ as the second.
Obviously, if you already had some root words in mind, you may have just skipped Step #4 and plugged them in already. For example, an NPC in a past adventure was a clan elder and an uncle to all of our interconnected PCs. We already had a family name, drawn from two characters in our party. The uncle’s first name- Strijko- was created from ‘stryko,’ which in the Slovak language means “uncle.”
Since I like this game so much anyway, let’s try it out once and see how it works! I rolled a 3 for Step #2, meaning that this as-yet uncreated character will have a 2-word name. Now to determine the language we’ll generate from… Hmmm. While mathematically improbable, it’s really no surprise to me that I just rolled two 1′s on two twenty-sided dice. (I just hope that isn’t an indicator for this weekend’s gaming marathon.) So 1+1 = 2, which means I’m going to set the right box on Google Translate to Vietnamese.
I got a 2 (Adjective) and a 5 (Verb) for the root words’ parts of speech. I’m going to pick ‘subtle’ and ‘change’ for my root words, in keeping with my theme of transforming everyday words in one language to character names in another. When I plug those words in, the transliterated result reads like this: “tinh tế sự thay đổi.” I need to make a two-word name out of these five translated words, so I’m going to combine the first three and the last two to create the final product.
After a little nudge here and a tweak there, my new character’s name is Tintesu Thaydoi. Now let’s see what kind of trouble I can get old Tintesu into in an upcoming game!