Thursday, 12 January 2012
Here's a neat trick for instantly coming up with a plausible settlement name either when improvising mid-game or running out of inspiration when labelling up maps.
Take a real world settlement name from a culture similar to that your in-game culture e.g. Cirencester.
Next change one letter. So from Cirencester we can get Lirencester. Sounds plausible in a pseudo-English setting as would Direncester and Birencester.
Lichfield for example gives us Richfield, Michfield, Lachfield and Lishfield. You can go all Germanic on the name by turning -field to -feld and coming up with things like Lizhfeld, Michfeld and Gichfeld. (Trivia - Lichfield's name is an English translation of Campus Corpus, Latin for "Place of the Dead" named by the Romans after a massacre of Britons there.)
Dudley gives us Rudley, Dutley, Durley, Dudlay, Dodley, Dudlen, Dadley etc.
Bordeaux gives us Tordeaux, Lordeaux, Bordeaus, Bordeaul, Borreaux, Borteaux etc.
Brandenburg gives us Trandenberg, Drandenburg, Brandenrurg, Brondenburg, Brantenburg etc.
This isn't entirely my own work - I noticed in the 1980s when I was a fervent player of the Lone Wolf gamebooks that Joe Dever seemed to be doing this a lot for his place names. The only one I can remember these days is that he had a city in Kingdoms of Terror called Varetta which is only character different to Valetta, the capital of Malta.
Another quick and dirty trick is to take two real world place names from an appropriate real world culture, split them the middle and reassemble the front half of A to the back half of B.
So I take two local town names - Dudley and Tipton - and mong them to produce Dudton and Tipley, both of which sound plausible pseudo-English village names. The next two towns along my commute home from work are Tividale and Oldbury which mongs to Tivibury and Old-Dale which also work. If I carry on along the road I get to Smethwick and Bearwood which give me Smethwood and Bearwick. Again these would work and sound OK to the ear.
Both techniques are the work of a second or two to come up with a convincing settlement name.