A quirk of spell name styles

This post is an aside from my normal fare, being that it is just a random thought. Not a smackering of new rpg material is here to be found. Apologies. Please join me in a little navel gazing on what and how I like spell names to be.

An aspect of spell design I enjoy is the bit where I sit and ponder its name. Leaning back in the chair, partially stumped, looking for the right words. Right from the start an interesting spell name might lead to an unusual effect, outside optimal, but within the theme of the game. From the fist read of the Ars magica rules which to me renamed Lightning Bolt to the The Incantation of Lightning made me sit and take notice.
Some spells have names which reference history, others strange devices, and the really quirky require either a sense of humour, or a dark touch. As much as I love it, the folks doing the main writing for the Ars Magica line seem to have mastered the art. Clever bloody chaps.

Over the range of spells I’ve written there are a tendencies.

I tend to seek a naming convention for related similar spells. For example I like all the transformation into beast or monster spells to be like the core examples; Form of the Swishy Something. The recent post about Dragon transformation is still in draft, and that’s because I can’t suss a snappy name. I’ve got a second rate version, but it’s not right.

I tend to like and be slightly jealous of names which capture the essence if the effect, but also leave your mind to wander.

Thematically the essence of the creating wizard might be a factor, but more so the name should stand apart from the creator.

Which leads to a dislike of the creators name in spells. Mordenkainen was a groovy and opulent name for a Wizard, but his spells could have been so much more. Bigby was just kind of lazy. Viliano’s Sling might be a cool effect, but it strikes a little bluntly as a name.

So we get names like,

  • Object of Increased Size, Enlarged, or Gift of the Bear’s Fortitude to Beasts – which are plain paper dull, but will sort very well in a character sheet.
  • The Unobtrusive Observer’s Sight in Stone, and The Unobtrusive Observer’s Voice in Stone – which tells the reader that these effects are linked, and allows for variation for different senses and different forms later, with no change in the naming convention.
  • Withhold the Drunkard’s Muse, Taint the Drunkard’s Desire, Call for the Drunkard’s Demise – all of which share the theme of a spell to exploit those who cannot resist alcohol.
  • And The Harpies Screech or Blessing of Eternal Joy which should indicate clearly what it does.

Anyway, just random thoughts; happy gaming.



2 thoughts on “A quirk of spell name styles

  1. I think the necromantic spells have great names. When you pick up a game and it has spells like “Lay to rest the haunting spirit” and “Whispers through the black gate” you know that atmosphere matters.

  2. Agree totally Timothy. Whispers Through the Black Gate has a gravity all of it’s own. That’s the flavour which the great effects in game evoke time and time again.

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