A few weeks ago a read an article on Big Ball of No Fun about PC naming. It was about why a player get to choose his character name if they, themselves, could not choose their own names. No one gets to choose his own name, why should the player's choose their character names? Although this does make a lot of sense, the characters are their creation, and as creators, they choose the creature's name.
But let's think about it a little more. Actors play characters in ways that they are creators themselves and they do not get to pick their character's names. They create a unique way the character act, talk and express themselves but are still stuck with the name someone else gave them. Does that make their experience less valuable? I do not think so.
Why am I saying this, you ask. Am I against the the player's choosing their character's names? Well, yes and no. Let me explain what I mean with this.
I usually have no problem with people naming their characters. They usually think about what kind of persona they are creating, his background, culture and other aspects and them they give the character a nice sounding name that fits well with the feel of the game. I do, however, have some issues with those players that doesn't put any effort on creating their characters and give them names such as "Bob", "Saddam Hussein", "Robin Hood", or even names of characters from Japanese animation that doesn't fit the european medieval or other kinds of settings. If we were playing Legend of the Five Rings, I would have no problems with that.
Last Saturday I went to a RPG event (see this post) and we had a player (a very annoying one) who named his elf ranger "Kakashi". Really? Kakashi?! Why do I have a problem with that you may ask. Well, first and foremost it doesn't fit in to the canon of the setting at all (I don't believe it fits on any setting with elf, as far as I am concerned). Secondly, it makes the other players and the GM to question the "realism" of the character name, thus creating some interference with the level of immersion of everyone in the table, disrupting the game. And last, but not least, I don't like Japanese animation and I don't think it should get its dirty fingers on my beloved hobby.
Most of the time I pretend I am OK with those things, but add that with other silly things that player did on our table and I had to say something, even if it would be on my blog.
Recently, in my ongoing Dark Sun campaign we had one of my player's characters change name. He was named "Eben Ironfist". Not a bad name, I just thought it would be more appropriate if he was named "Stonefist" instead, but that was just my paranoia talking. Wasn't I surprised when the player willing decided to change his name to "Stonefist" cause he thought it was better this way taking in consideration the lack of metal on Athas? I was proud of him for a moment.
I confess I tend to take some things in my games too seriously, and maybe I take character naming too seriously also, but I think it is really an important factor in the creation of stories we all will enjoy. I think it's kind hard to remember fondly of the story of the group composed by Bradis, Aluriel, Faruk, Guido and Kakashi. One name definitely stands out as strange and not "real". Or, maybe it's just me. What do you think?