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    The eZine
  Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:30 pm
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This is a blog post. To read the original post, please click here »

Originally published in eZine 11

Feeling British


A lot of people find strange satisfaction in using Japanese, Latin, and German translators to find strange and exotic names for their towns, villages, provinces and worlds in their games.

Something you need to think about is this: when is your game set? Where is your game set? The simplest answer is, in almost all RPG Maker cases at least, medieval England. We are talking the age of Kings here. Ok perhaps England is a bit too narrow-minded there; what I should say is Medieval Europe but think about it logically: your people are speaking English. Not German, not French, not Dutch - so it is safe to assume we are talking about old age England here.

It's useful, therefore, to find out English naming conventions when coming up with the areas of your game.

Image

Shire

Shire stems from Old English for "Shore", and the country was split up into several Shires (each with it's own shore!). Over time as borders began to change many of these counties shrunk, a lot of them ending up strangely land-locked but keeping the -shire suffix.

Examples:

Staffordshire
Warwickshire
Leicestershire

Features

Some towns were named after key features at that location. A major town at the end of a river for example would gain the -mouth suffix.

Examples:

Exmouth (town at the end of The Exe)
Portsmouth
Dartmouth (town at the end of The Dart

Other river-based naming conventions include "ford", a common term in placenames. Crossing rivers in those days was both important for trade and also difficult. The major rivers didn't have many bridges - thus a bridge or a ford would be an important place to place a town!

Examples:

Pendeford
Oxford
Stafford
Cambridge

Borough/Hampton - administrative divisions

If a town had a large populace it might also be the name of it's administrative division and the two might have intertwined with one another.

Examples:

Wolverhampton
Northhampton
Southhampton
Edinburgh nb: burgh = Scottish for Borough
Peterborough

Also,

Westham
Burnham

Image

Key Features Cont'd

Other areas which might need disambiguating - maybe two areas exist with the same name - would add an extra word to their name, maybe based on a river flowing through it (common).

Examples:

Stoke on Trent
Newcastle Under Lime
Weston Super Mare nb: latin for "on sea"
Burnham on Sea

Transport

Ports were obviously key to trade in old times and therefore we find names such as Stockport, Stourport, and so on.

Areas around one another

Areas nearby one another often share the same prefixes, usually deriving from a local river name.

For example, Stourbridge is nearby Stourport. Fordhouses and Pendeford are next to one another. In the West Midlands, most major towns begin with a "W" - Wolverhampton, Walsall, Willenhall, Wednesbury, Wednesfield, etc.

Named after people

Towns are often named after the people who founded them. Wolverhampton takes its name from "Lady Wulfruna" for example.

Personally, if I ever get back into game making properly again, all of my placenames (major ones, at least) will follow this kind of structure. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. You only have to look at a train stations list to see that:

Birmingham
Water Orton
Coleshill
Hinckley
Narborough
South Wigston
Leicester
Melton Mowbray
Oakham
Stamford
Peterborough
March
Ely
Cambridge
Audley End
Stanstead

You could of course invent your own prefixes or suffixes to use.

For example, let's imagine "gate" means a place with a gate in a long wall. We might have a wall such as Hadrian's, stretching across a continent. You can pass it at gates, and towns are built around them.

We could have Elmgate, Oakgate, Petergate, Gateshill, Westgate.

The county ruled by the Earl of Westgate might be called Westgateshire.

Hopefully this little guide has given a little insight into how to come up with some great, realistic, and unique names for your game. Have fun!

And remember, Cantham and Lencester sound a lot better than Ulrik'kakaka and Sven'ouon Eri'kson.


~Commodore Whynot

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