Naming Imaginary Places

Today I started revising my first draft of the Parsantium: City at the Crossroads book. I’ve been through some of the notes, feedback and emails I’d gathered in the five months or so it took me to write the first draft, and have sorted them into some semblance of order.

I haven’t touched the text yet, apart from one thing I’ve been putting off. I needed to change the placeholder names I’ve been using for the lands surrounding Parsantium since 2008. This was a pretty big deal – I like these names and the players in my campaign had got to know them too. But they needed to go, because like many DMs, I’d nicked them.

Batiara is the name of the Italy-like land in Guy Gavriel Kay’s excellent Sarantine Mosaic series. and Rhodias is its capital, from the same books. Sahasra is the name of a cool Indian-style campaign setting from Dog Soul Publishing. Akhran is the name of a god in Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Rose of the Prophet series. These are very cool names. When you say them out loud, they don’t sound weird, and the players don’t giggle.

The new names I’ve gone with aren’t that different – if they were, I’d probably end up confusing myself! Let me know what you think of them. Batiara is now Bathura, so Parsantium was once part of the Bathuran Empire.  Rhodias is now Rezana. Sahasra is now Sampur. I haven’t changed Akhran yet. I toyed with Aqhran and Akerhan but both looked wrong to me. Any suggestions, gratefully received!

While I’m on the subject of names, it would be remiss of me not to let you know about a fantastic site – I can’t remember who put me on to this, but I’ve used this website time and time again to name NPCs in Parsantium and in my D&D games.

How do you come up with names for your games?

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6 thoughts on “Naming Imaginary Places

  1. Fantasy names can be bit of a minefield. Some authors have an ear for it, though it’s not necessary – or desirable – to actually design an entire language (unless you happen to be a professional philologist, Professor Tolkien). Others don’t – one of the things that puts me off Game of Thrones is that the names sound like crap, or too like English. Jack Vance, on the other hand, could make up great names in his sleep.
    As for Akhran – it has a Mid Eastern sound to it so it might be worth switching some of the letters for other sounds common in analagous real languages, aspirating the initial sound, popping in an unstressed syllable or diphthong. Akhraz? Hakhrain? Akhrazan?

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  2. You’re put off the names in Game of Thrones but not Glorantha?!! 😉
    I’m probably really slow on the uptake but it took me ages to realise that Stark and Lannister sounded quite a lot like York and Lancaster.
    Thanks for the Akhran suggestions!

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  3. I rather like Aqhran. It sounds like it should have an authentically phlegmy pronuniciation to it. Although, I’m afraid that to me ‘Bathura’ sounds too much like the Jon Favreau film (and board game) ‘Zathura’
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0406375/
    Of course, I’m possibly one of the few people who remember that film, so it’s probably not a problem!

    Since Parsantium often has the cultural and linguistic flavours of the Eastern Med, Near East and Middle East, then I’d go into Google Maps and pick a country in the right area, zoom in and look at small towns and villages for a name that works and use that as a name for the country/region/city.

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