Human Aristocracy and Naming Conventions | Where the hell did all the Celts come from?


Currently, a character's name is up to the player, and subsequently we have names ranging from the vaguely Roman/Greek to the obviously Celtic to the Tolkienesque. However, when you look at the map and overall cultures of the region, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense - no Romans, no Celts, no Greeks. What we do have, however, is a substantial, logical system of aristocracy, and that can certainly be used as a basis for character names.

Ravenwind has a Noble House aristocracy, meaning the governance is handled by a number of noble houses (families), directly and through their agents. This form of government is typically feudal and manorial. So, in a Ravenwind naming convention, it is easy to divide the populace up by social class:

Nobles (members of noble houses) Freemen
Serfs/Villeins Non-humans (not discussed here)

Recognize that social class may or may not relate to social standing, which is different. Class is a product of birth and/or industry.

Nobles are simply members of the extended Noble Houses. This is by birth, and will be reflected in the surname of the noble-born character. Example: Rorwick, a young member of House Hazlett, may be named Rorwick of Hazlett, Rorwick Hazlett, Sir Rorwick Hazlett, or Rorwick, Lord Hazlett (though this is usually reserved for the head of the House). In any case, the House or family name will be prominent and used as a title. Additionally, some houses may contain any number of associated families. Rorwick of Hazlett may actually be Rorwick Stepan, with the Stepan family being, for example, a prominent branch of the Hazlett family tree. In this case, Rorwick would likely use the name Rorwick Stepan Hazlett, or Rorwick Stepan of Hazlett.

In the Ravenwind setting, we have a built in set of noble houses: du'Arc at the top, the four Major Houses of uth Glitner, Artropoulos, Perthias and Brandon, and the couple dozen Minor Houses. Add to these any number of associated families, and you have not only a set of landed governors but also a wide nameset for characters of noble birth.

Freemen are people who are not associated with the Noble Houses in either a familial or servile manner. Typically, they are one of two groups: landed non-nobles, and successful craftsmen/merchants. The former are made up primarily of successful farming collectives and often mimic a manorial arrangement; the latter are primarily proto-middle class or wealthy tradesmen, often organized into guilds.

For naming purposes, the agricultural freemen would typically take a family surname, but in a environment where familial surname would be a noble prerogative, more often you would see agricultural freemen taking their names from their birthplaces or homes. So Rorwick would be Rorwick of Barduk, or simply Rorwick Barduk. Remember that all places, no matter how small, have names, even if they are not labeled on the 1 hex = 10 leagues map.

Trade/Craft freemen would likely have be more urban, and subsequently less likely to (although not prohibited from) take a place name as surname; rather, they would instead take their profession as a surname (e.g., Cooper, Chandler, Scribe, Ostler). Here, Rorwick Ostler would be, if not an innkeeper himself, then the son or grandson of one. The list of surnames in this case is not as short as one might think, since nearly every service would generate one. At the same time, many of these professions formed into guilds, and these guilds served in many ways as organizing principals for groups of individuals with no familial connection. People born into guild families could take the guild name as surname: Rorwick, born into the Scribes Guild, could take the name Rorwick of the Quill, Rorwick Quill, Rorwick the Linquist (Rorwick La Lange), Rorwick the Illuminator, Rorwick Indigo or Rorwick Madder (after two popular dyes used in illumination), Rorwick of the (ink)Well, Rorwick Stained-Hands, or simply Scribe Rorwick.

Serfs/Villeins are the servants of the Feudal/Manorial system. Keep in mind that this is NOT necessarily a bad thing for the serf! Most serfs strongly identified with their Lords, and were proud of these family associations if their Lords were strong, wealthy or generous. Serfs, obviously, were not allowed to take the House name as their own. They were, however, liable to take surnames that were phonetically similar to the surnames of their Lords. Our man Rorwick, therefore, might be called Rorwick Hazt, Rorwick Zlett, or Rorwick Hasst.

Note: Adventurers may come from any social class, although they are likely to skew toward the noble and freeman classes, since most serfs are both tied to their lords and have few opportunities for learning the skills necessary to become an adventurer.

Special Cases | Mages: Mages are always special cases; even the most humble mage (an oxymoron if there ever was one) would be loath to take such a mundane name as those listed above, although taking the name of a place might be an option that some mages would select. The Tolkein convention would have mages selecting a color (e.g. Gandalf the Grey) which best represents the mage's outlook, but these are likely too derivative to be taken seriously. One option that seems to work is to take the surname "Arcanum," meaning "of the Arcane." Therefore, Rorwick becomes Rorwick Arcanum. Similarly, the surnames "Magus," and "Thaumaturge" could be used in this fashion, and as titles as well: Rorwick Magus, the Magus Rorwick.

Clerics: Priests will certainly identify strongly with their gods, and similarly with the abbeys from which they come. For the former, a cleric may take a stylized version of their patron's name (Rorwick the cleric of Pelor might be called Rorwick Pelorus, Rorwick Pelori, or Rorwick Pel), while for the latter, if the Abbey of Pelor in Haven is called Daystar Abbey, Rorwick might be called Rorwick Daystar, Rorwick of Daystar, or Rorwick D'Star.

Name Variations: Over the course of generations, it is not uncommon for surnames to become corrupted, misspelled, or otherwise altered, especially so in illiterate cultures where printed, long-term records of names would not exist. Even in literate cultures, time alters many surnames. My own, Hostetler, is itself of corruption of Hochstetter, and other variations include Hostettler, Hoestetler, Hochstetter, Hochstadtler, and Hochstadtter.

Typical surname alterations include abbreviation, phoneticism, and mistranslation. Abbreviation is when a longer name is altered to a shorter version; Rorwick of Hazlett's grandchildren, for example, might go by Rorwick Hazt, Rorwick Hatt, or Rorwick Hasselt. Phoneticism is the gradual rendering of a more complex name into a version more phonetically direct. In this case, Rorwick Ostler's grandchildren might go by Rorwick Ossler, Rorwick Osler, Rorwick Assler, or Rorwick Hasler. Lastly, mistranslation is the garbling of a name as it is migrated through one or more languages. Rorwick Hazlett, a denizen of Ravenwind, finds his town lost to Canistan in a battle. His name would have to be translated into Canistani, assuming he survived and remained living where the battle took place. If we assume that the Canistani language is vaguely Arabic or Moorish in character, Rorwick's grandson might go by Rorwick Khazlitt, Rorwick Hahzlaht, or Rorwick Xlat.

-Les


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built by unclefester | sternzwischen | updated 14-05-29 23:15:25