With lives as busy and distracted as we have, there are times where getting into the game can be difficult. Whether it’s a bad day at the office or realities of life pressures it can be a lot to let go. So starting with a simple effort to engage immersion can be the best way to get the character’s blood pumping through you…
Immersion Exercise: What’s In a Name?
In many years of gaming we have seen a lot of ways people come up with names for their characters. Remixed foreign languages, clever inside jokes, and ever random noises that collide to make a sound pattern the player likes. But like in the real world, EVERY name has a story behind its gifting. Exploring your own or investigating another character’s name is a quick what to incept a story within a story immersion:
- Who gave the character their name? – This biographical definition will be significant to each character somehow, even if the cases of an assumed name that the character has chosen for themselves. There is a reason behind it. From a mother who wanted an auspicious life for her child to an assassin trying to bury all ties to his past. The identity of the giver of a name is a flame to ignite a character’s backstory.
- What kind of name is it? – Does the name have religious significance? Is it tied to a hereditary name or beloved family member or friend? Is it simple a word cast like a wish to the Fates to bias the child’s life? A rite of passage name assumed when the magus cast her first spell? At least as significant as the identity of the giver, the nature of a name has serious roleplaying implications for a character. Occasionally, these significances are even magical in nature.
- What does the name mean? – Does the name have a meaning? Is it poetic or metaphorical? Is it only a vessel for a legacy or bloodline? Are the surnames, clan names, or other social components to the name? A combination of more than one thing?
- Who knows the name? – As obvious as it may seem the way a character has used a name–from calling card to close guarded secret–has lasting consequences for a character, particularly in games using fame or reputation. If your character has aliases he or she might even start to have diverging social stories.
- How does the character feel about the name? – Maybe a character hates their ancestral name? Do they respond to familiarizations or nicknames? Do they prefer them? Do different people get different names? If so why? The simple implications of who can and can’t familiarize a name set unspoken boundaries for us everyday. Stories gain immediate and instinctive reality when names are approached this way.
A key thing to keep in mind is that this exercise is probably NOT an introduction exercise but rather a realistic interaction or exploration after a party has begun to build the foundation of trust. Not to mention roleplaying every character’s name origins in session one would probably mean nothing else happens that night! At the right moment exploring your own or another party member’s name can be all you need to slide into character solidly for the night. It’s probably more interesting that Tom’s at the office.