Names are an important part of any game. They can make cultures seem mysterious, warriors sound heroic, and villians remain memorable. Well-crafted and appropriate names are powerful tools for DMs and players alike. Although it can be difficult and time consuming for a DM to create lists of non-human names approrpiate to particular humanoid characters and cultures, there are frequently resources available to help with these tasks. Dwarven names might be taken from Norse myth, and numerous elven names are found in modern fantasy literature.
Less common fantasy races can be far more difficult to find names for. This is particularly true for nonhumanoid races, who appear less frequently as major characters in fiction. And while few DMs need names for a pair of owlbears who attack the party, some monsters need good names as much as the PCs do. Most famous of such monsters are the mighty dragons, from which the D&D game takes part of its name. Dragons can be found as master villians, helpful advisors, cunning rivals, or even romantic interests for characters. For any of these roles, dragons need interesting, consistent, and memorable names to bring their personalities and roles to life.
The dragon name generator below is designed to assist with this daunting task. No list of name fragments could ever include all the possible names and variations found among the different dragon sub-races, but this generator can serve as a starting point and easy reference for creating draconic names.
How It Works
Each draconic name consists of one or more name fragments (from Table 2). Definitions have been included in this table to help determine what a name means once it has been generated. A dragon may also have several common monikers it has earned or chosen, and Table 2 can also help develop these. Dragons are complex and ancient creatures, and it would not be unusual for one to have a dozen or more names and titles it uses in different circumstances.
You may randomly generate a draconic name by rolling on Table 1. If you prefer, it is also possible to pick a set of definitions you like and assemble a name from the fragments listed with each definition. If trying to name a wise silver dragon who lives on a mountain, you might decide that his name means Bright Scholor. Looking at the definitions in Table 2, you can end up with Alaerthauntyr (or Alaeauntyr, Alaeuntryr, or Alaeauntryr).
It is important to remember what impression you want the dragon to make when assembling its name. As with any random generator, not every combination will sound good, and some names might not be appropriate for a particular creature. If you want to portray a dragon as swift and graceful, you won't want a name that sounds lumbering and clumsy.
If you don't like a particular combination, thry some of the alternate spellings listed, or add (or remove) an ae, ar, i, ix, u, g, r, s, t, or th. Sometimes only a minor change to a name is called for, and sometimes a whole new name may be more appropriate for the dragon. If you can't make a particular name work, try one with a similar meaning. If you didn't like Alaerthauntyr, try a name that means "Ancient Sage," instead.
Draconic names are almost always self-referential. Name fragments that are defined as a catagory (like Ethar, which means "any breath weapon") almost always refer to the dragon itself. Thus a blue dragon's name Ethar is likely to mean "lightning breath," but for a gold dragon Ethar will mean "fire breath" or "breath of gas." Name definitions with more general definitions (such as Dalagh. meaning"any weapon") likely refer to some favored object of the dragon. Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules. A draconic name can also have "Dragon of" or "Wyrm" added to it. This simple name Anthar could mean "The Dragon of the Swamp" or "Dire Wyrm."
If you have randomly generated a name and don't like its definition, try altering the order of the words. It is also possible to use the definition as just a starting place for a name's meaning. Often the definitions can be combined in a poetic way for better results. In the case of a name with three or more fragments, try droping one or more of the definitions. Thus Feliymhoon could mean "Dragon of the Evil Shrine to Storms," "Stern Raider of Evil," "Storm of Pain," or just "The Adamant Wyrm."
Draconic nicknames or common language monikers can be chosen or rolled up in the same way. You can randomly roll on Table 1 for a few definitions you like as a starting point. If you have decided to name the scholarly silver dragon Alaethauntryr, you might decide to roll up a few random titles for him, or just decide that bards refer to him as "Father Sky," and the nearby orcs call him "The Slumbering Terror." The older the dragon is, the more monikers and titles it is likely to have.
Don't worry about two names sharing the same meaning or having two definitions for one name. Although draconic names have all descended from the same root language, the different sub-races have slightly different definitions and pronunciations for the same names. Besides, who's going to argue if an ancient red dragon decides to change the definition of its name?
by Owen K.C. Stephens
Originally printed in Dragon Magazine, issue 260, on pages 56-58.
Owen Stephens is a veteran DM who lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Although there weren't many dragons in Oklahoma to interview for this article, Owen syas it's amazing who you can talk to on the Internet if you know where to look. His article on otyugh names is proving harder to research.