Active from 2005 to 2007 and dedicated entirely to system-neutral GMing advice, Treasure Tables was one of the earliest RPG blogs. It was also the precursor to Gnome Stew, so we decided the best way to keep all of its content -- over 750 articles and more than 7,500 comments -- accessible to as many GMs as possible was to move it here, which we did in 2012. Comments are turned off, just they as were when Treasure Tables closed in 2007. The GMing material and discussion archived below was originally featured on TreasureTables.org. Enjoy! --Martin Ralya

Here’s a random fantasy/sci-fi NPC name: Vexrathaire.

Now turn away from your screen, grab a piece of paper, and try and write that name from memory. If you got it right, pat yourself on the back — but you’re probably in the minority.

When you introduce new names in your games, that’s a lot what it’s like to be a player. “Veksru…what?”

There are lots of ways to deal with this, but the best one by far is just to give your players a list of your NPC names.

Rather than spend time spelling them out loud during the game — which is pretty boring, and can really break momentum — just let your players know that you’ll be giving them a list after the session.

That way, the folks who like to take notes during the game know that they don’t have to worry about spelling, since they’ll get an accurate list later on.

Ditto for whoever is writing up your session logs (or blogging them), if you have a player who does that.

This approach also lets you use an on-the-fly list of NPC names more easily, as you can also provide the notes you took for each NPC to your players (if you like).

And that’s all there is to it: After the session, jot down or email out a list of the names that came up during that session (with or without notes, whichever you prefer), and you’re good to go.

It’s a simple tip, but it can make a surprisingly big difference in how your sessions flow — especially if you introduce more than one or two NPCs per session.

About  Martin Ralya (TT)

"Martin Ralya (TT)" is two people: Martin Ralya, the administrator of and a contributor to Gnome Stew, and a time traveler from the years 2005-2007, when he published the Treasure Tables GMing blog (TT). Treasure Tables got started in the early days of RPG blogging, and when Martin burned out trying to run it solo he shut it down, recruited a team of authors, and started Gnome Stew in its place. We moved all TT posts and comments to Gnome Stew in 2012.



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6 Responses to Give Your Players a List of NPC Names

  1. Yes, that sounds very simple– yet not something I’d have thought of.

  2. I’ve been doing something similar for a while. My D&D campagins tend to be NPC driven in that the early sessions are the NPC’s in trouble and the Characters riding to thier rescue. Then The Characters slowly develop over time and the plots begin to revolove around them.

    But to keep it straight as which Cleric owes the party a favor and which Necromancer escaped thier wrath, I keep an “NPC LOG”. It contains brief physical descriptions, any notes on thier plot involvement and any stats I have assigned to them.

    For my players I print a copy of this list and grab a big black marker and blot out the details the characters don’t know yet.

    It ends up looking like a released CIA dicument, and gets them really interested in that stableboy that has two paragraphs of blacked out notes.

  3. For a modern campaign in which the PCs were all returning to their hometown for the forseeable future, I created a kind of Gazeteer which included locations and NPCs they would be familiar with. Part of the horror in the later part of the campaign was that the PCs knew and liked a good many of the Victim NPCs. Giving a list with Name and a brief physical/personlity description for these NPCs really helped foster that familiarity.

    For NPCs who moved to town since the PCs left, I simply deleted them from the master copy and saved as a PC copy.

  4. For a game I’m about to run, I’m thinking of giving the players a list of the NPCs names, and getting them to provide the short descriptions of them that comprise the public record of who’s who. Less work for me, it gives me an idea of what they thought was important about the NPC (which may well be something that hadn’t occurred to me), and provides a way for the players to say ‘hey, this was a wonderful NPC, more of them please.’

    I don’t know how it will work in practice. If anybody’s tried something like this, I’d love to here how it worked.

  5. When we had a dedicated game room (back in the day) we had a big white board. And during a game we’d write important names on the board. Then we could add important details (priest, magic sword, whatever), that could stay up from one game to another, and if we wanted to, we could write it down and save it for later. It worked pretty well. In part, because it was immediate. This is the high priest, that is the priest that met us at the temple, that was name of the dead paladin, etc..
    It was also useful for drawing pictures, and stuff like that.

  6. I’d never thought of trying any of the things you all have suggested here — the “declassified” list, the gazetteer, having the players create the NPCs, or the build-as-you-go whiteboard list. That’s why I love running this site. :)

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