What’s in a name?

Shakespeare wrote in “Romeo and Juliet”: “What’s in a name? That which we call a ‘rose’, by any other name would smell as sweet”. But I say: “Yeah, but it wouldn’t be the same”. Well, yes and no. Let’s call it ‘chufli’ instead of ‘rose’ and, although it’s still the same thing, it’s not. Take as an example “Here, my love, a bouquet of chuflis”, or “But he who dares not grasp the thorn, should never crave the chufli”. It’s the same thing, yep, a red flower with a thorny stem; but it doesn’t convey the same stuff.

Romero

O Romero, Romero, wherefore art thou Romero? Deny thy zombies and refuse thy name

The power of names can’t be denied. A name tags and sums up the nature of what it defines. In DCC RPG‘s Appendix S the question Juliet asked herself in Shakespeare’s play is also posed: “What’s in a name?” Although in this case, the answer is: “The start of an interesting encounter”. They’re right, so use names. To start with, explore the vast world of titles and sobriquets. The titles in the different class charts are there to be used. Why being “Valbroso, level 3 neutral cleric” when you can be “Valbroso, the chronicler of Amun Tor?” Your attitude is not the same when you bear that title. On the other hand, you don’t have to use those exact titles. There’s a heap of sobriquets in Appendix T for each class, or you can even make up your own personal title or nickname. But taking Valbroso as an example again: it’s such a different matter that if instead of calling him “Valbroso, the chronicler of Amun Tor” you go for “Valbroso, Pontifex of riddles”. Sometimes, nicknames come up during adventures, and they can be used in place of or as well as the character’s title, such as in “Valbroso, Pontifex of riddles, Goat Slayer”. If you wanna foster this nice practice amongst your players, you can use the usual tools at your disposal, like threats or blackmail:

a character recovers one Luck point at the end of a session where she lived up to her title or sobriquet, or where she used it to impress a bunch of gullible villagers or a band of petty enemies.

Now with magic. Jack Vance is one of D&D‘s biggest influence, and by extension, DCC RPG‘s as well. One just needs to read one of the first short stories from his The dying earth, Mazirian the Magician, to find the magic system that has shaped D&D’s magic not only from the beginning but also to this very day: the so-called “Vancian magic”, where spells are learnt and forgotten once they’re cast. However, something got lost on the way: proper nouns, as a result of making and organizing a list of spells.

Mazirian the Magician, trying to pick a stranger up

Mazirian the Magician, trying to pick a stranger up

Being as it is as close to the Appendix N source material as possible, DCC RPG states that, like in The dying earth, there’s a finite number of spells (716, more than enough); that wizards keep jealously their secrets; and that every one of them casts and writes them down differently. That’s why we’re invited to rename each spell, so our wizard makes those spells her very own. Rules like Mercurial magic and Spell manifestation are crystal-clear clues to the uniqueness of spells. According to those two rules there shouldn’t be two Magic missile spells alike, because every spell is just a blueprint from which to build up our personal spell. In other words: a Charm person manifested as a black cloud that also scares animals is very different to a Charm person manifested as a musical murmur that leaves the magician craving for food, and it should show. “Vapors of supremacy” has nothing to do with “Melody of the consuming allurement”. Names evoke a certain atmosphere and a tone, and they help making every magician unique through her studies and creations. One-of-a-kind and inmortal, Alcémides the Warlock will die in a horrible and violent way and he will be certainly and completely forgotten after a few years, but his spell formula “Vapors of supremacy” will be sought-after by many wizard’s apprentices. Once again, to help your players adopt this lovely habit, use blackmail:

a named spell gets a +1 bonus to its spell check.

This isn’t a bonus to get crazy about, but knowing how mean roleplayers can be, they’ll surely won’t let this opportunity slip by. Go for it! Spice up your game sessions!

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