What’s in a name?

Having spent a while thinking about economics, I have the structure sussed now – and it is just the boring part of updating the wiki and spreadsheets.  But then something one on my players said got me looking at classical Roman and Greek names.  I have always had a vague idea of Roman naming structures, but I  read up on it, I realised how well those ancient name structures would work in the Stolen Lands, and Pathfinder in general.

Pathfinder APs often talk about Noble Families and then, splits them up into greater and lesser Noble families.  However, it then goes on to give them traditional European titles of nobility, but it is often a bit lax in the way that it uses those titles – then, in some APs it says that other rulers (such as lords in the River Kingdoms) just take titles that suit them.  That is all very good and fairly accurate, except that it means that each DM needs to have their own concept of structure to work with – well, people like me need a structure to work with 🙂

OK, a DM doesn’t NEED that structure, but I like to run campaign games that encourage players to get involved with Game World.  That might mean building businesses, towns and strongholds – and dealing with the world’s political situation. Along with Role-play with other characters, it gets a few experience points.  Not a huge amount –  perhaps a couple of levels (over the course of a campaign) if the PC leverages all the RP opportunities, but enough to be of some benefit – as well as adding an extra dimension to the game.  However, that means I need to have a good understanding of the way the game world works, and I need to give the players ways of working out how other families, groups and factions work.

For the stolen land, I have used a system of pseudo-western titles and conventions linked to a concept of double-barrelled names to try and describe social position and allegiance in Brevoy generally, but I didn’t really have that in place before the game started. Then ran into trouble when PCs wanted third or fourth allegiances represented.  That means names can get complicated, very quickly!  That said, so does the Roman tria nomina system.  However, it has a more of a structure, than the current system.

NOTE:  This is only really relevant for characters in an Aristocratic or Noble family, others probably have a single surname –  and  (for NPCs)  probably a trade based name, such as Besh the Hunter – also known as Besh Hunter, he is related to Arven Fisher and Ramo Tanner.  PCs can, of course, do as they wish –  but it might have political ramifications.

The Roman System used Praenomen, Nomen and Cognomen  or in modern terms – Forename, Clan, House.  That is a simplified overview of one stage of the tria nomina, but it serves, well enough, for my purposes.

Modern forename, is personal (although it wasn’t always that way for the Romans) and I intend to keep that modern styling.  Each Character can have whatever forename suits them.  It might be that Characters name themselves, or their children, after other family members – but that is a matter of choice.

The nomen was an indication of a super family.  Sometimes the family name was taken from the name of the Family patriarch or founder although other factors, that indicated a common origin, were used as well.  And that matches up very well with the concept of great houses and distributed houses, as found in many PF modules.  In many ways it indicates a broad allegiance, rather than focussed allegiance.  A modern RL example could be Clan Donald.  In game, I hadn’t given that much thought – but I’ll extend that to include philosophies, political movements and racial groupings etc.  So for example Golka, will be the super-clan name for the Dwarves, although required formally, it might well be dropped for common use – For example,  Lutz Golka-Stigmar, is commonly known as   Lutz Stigmar.  Other nomen would be Lebeda, Lodkova, Surtova, Medveyd, Garress, Aldori, leMaistre, Varn and even Rogarvia.  There is still a Baroness Rogarvia-Green, who holds a Viscountcy around Skywatch.

The cognomen, was used to specify which part of that super family they belonged to.   Extending our RL example there were the Macdonalds of Clanranald , MacDonnells of Glengarry, MacDonnells of Antrim, MacDonalds of Largie , MacDonalds of Ardnamurchan, MacDonalds of Keppoch, MacDonalds of Dunnyveg – all part of the larger Clan Donald.  And that works well enough with my double-barrel name system.   I already have leMaistre-Bowe to represent Henry leMaistre’s sister and her family.  His cousin Beatrix, a cleric of Pharasma, might use one of Pharasma’s epithets as her cognomen, and call herself leMaistre-Graves (after The Lady of Graves) or leMaistre-Soul (from Mother of Souls) – ironically both recognised, modern, surnames in their own right. 

Interestingly, under the roman system an individual could change both their Nomen and/or Cognomen.  For example, many emperors were ‘adopted’ by their predecessor and changed their names to recognise that fact.  The same is true for adopted plebeians (commoners), freed slaves and some servants.  I will keep that concept, if you want to change from being a Lebeda-Smith to being Aldori-Smith   that is fine  (assuming you have the approval of the Aldori first)

At various stages of the Roman Empire different parts of the tria nomina were most important – and at one stage individuals were known by an agnomen, or nickname, rather than any section of their formal name!  And that works too.  If you want to be known for a specific feature, event or achievement –   just add it as an extra word to you full formal name,  and tell people it is your name.  For those of you who wonder, Bigjob’s name is a nickname –  and no, he isn’t going to tell you his full formal name.  Just in case you laugh, and he has to hurt you!

The Romans had Plebeian and Patrician families, with some evidence of major and minor patrician families –  the rule system I use has Royal, Noble and Aristocrat  as patrician equivalents.  I think that works well enough, that I am not going to change it – the split makes sense when people see it, and three stages is  good for progression purposes.   It makes an extra challenge for some players –  can they form a  aristocratic ‘house’ and  advance it all the way to Royal Status?

If you are interested – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_naming_conventions

Posted in World Building.

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