• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

Superhero/villain names

Ysidro

Registered User
Validated User
I've been working on a homebrew setting that's mostly a kitchen sink supers world, but have run into the problem of naming things. I just can't seem to come up with a lot of names that sound ok to me. Maybe it's just self defeatism talking, but I seem stuck. I played a lot of MSH RPG as a kid and created a ton of characters and didn't care about their names. Now I do.

Any advice on coming up with "codenames" and the such? I could even list some of the character ideas I've had if it helps.
 

Redforce

Press 'Play' to Scarlet
Validated User
The first thing to remember is that there is a villain ecosystem in comic books - different villain archetypes that fill certain niches. Think a little about the comics you have read and the types of villains, and come up with bad guys to fill those roles. Don't be afraid to overlap.
 

Andrew_A

Validated Invalid
Validated User
Puns work. You can also take a really lame name and translate it into another language. You could try literary references. Biblical and other religious references work. Mythological and folkloric references are an idea, You could also use the character’s real name if it’s evocative and striking enough
 

Redforce

Press 'Play' to Scarlet
Validated User
Sometimes you can work backwards and start creating the villain, a name may occur to you while you are writing their origin.
 

Crimson Devil

Green Loontern
Validated User
First of all, don't try to be creative all at once. It's self defeating. I keep a list of words and phrases as they come to me. Sometimes the character is obvious, but most times it isn't. It takes a little practice and time. The other thing is to start small. You really only need a handful of villains to start. It's great if you come up with the name of your Doctor Doom or Darksied in the beginning, but unless the PCs are going to fight them it's irrelevant. Another thing you can do is have the Players suggest three villains for their Rogue's gallery. I don't always use them but it does give me a different POV.

Some examples from my list:

Naugahyde, change the spelling to Nagahyde and you get a snake skinned brick.

Circumference, changed to Sir Cumference gets you a guy with a knight theme and circular force field.

Polygamist, a guy who's duplicates are missing the y chromosome. So that becomes a Men's Rights Activist terrorist.
 

John

Registered User
Validated User
You've got a "kitchen sink" homebrew going, but what's the tone?

For my old humorous 1960's-set homage Angel Coast Action Squad game using Supers!, everybody got booze-inspired names:
Brandy Smash - my super strong female PI
Red Lotus
Green Vesper - criminal super genius and Brandy's nemesis.
Moscow Mule and the White Russians
Darque and Stormy - atomic twin teen delinquents committing crimes for kicks
Mudslide
Stinger

You get the idea. There was a "Tom Collins" NPC, too, but I forget what he did.
 

Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
Do you have a general setting aesthetic to work within? A framework can make things a lot easier, and if you've already established that names tend to take a certain form they'll sound "right" just because of fitting it. This lets you get away with some deeply stupid shit - the current major arc villain of the superhero game I'm running is named Isotherm, which out of context sounds terrible. In context I'll absolutely be able to get away with it though, because vaguely scientific names paired up with super tech was previously established as a thing, thematic names within related groups was established as a thing, and questionable pun names of personal significance to the players were established as a thing.

There's also the matter of how deeply ridiculous names can often work by repetition alone, for which superheroes are just one of many examples. Remember when Nintendo released the Wii, a name that at this point everyone looks at and associates with the game console, and which just seems natural? At the time it was all pee jokes all the time, comments about how the name would be considered ridiculous because of it, and other such things, which lasted right up until there was something concrete to attach it to. Then that vanished in a puff of smoke.

Now consider the MCU. "The Wasp" is a pretty ridiculous name, but she's a fun character who gets up to fun scenes, and that's what sticks. "Iron Man" is possibly the single laziest way you could name a tech hero with a supersuit, but it's confidently said as if it's just the name repeatedly, and so it's just the name. "Captain America" sounds like canned jingoism, but even that fades as the character becomes the first association. Most other series are worse; at leas the MCU never gave us "Superman" (peak lazy right there), "Professor X" (Seriously, though?), or "The Great And Mighty Turtle" (and if I'm picking on Wildcards I could be much meaner). All of them still work though, partially because superheroes as a concept are just intrinsically ridiculous and immersion in the aesthetic makes the ridiculous appealing until it just sort of disappears.

Embrace this. Take your tone, run with it hard, present it confidently, and get away with naming a character Corona or something even though the name was technically already taken by a beer.
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
I rolled up a character (V&V, bless your heart) with shrinking powers and a shield. I went all in with a patriotic vibe, except that this guy lisped, so when he called himself "a thymbol of America's fighting thpirit," his name wrote itself.
 

Ysidro

Registered User
Validated User
The tone is probably pulpish adventure, but in a modern "stereotypical" setting. Lots of influence from Warren Ellis, especially Planetary, but brighter than the typical Ellis work (although Planetary was pretty bright for him!) Basic themes of the past (magic, Atlanteans, alien astronauts*) vs the future (psionics, alien abduction**) and the modern conspiracies that are trying to hide them and influence things. But, with an action packed pulp tone to thing (why of course they've been hiding dinosaurs in the American southwest!***)

So, stuff from the past is easy. Rip off history and mythology. Done. Mostly. The future? Also OK, though I keep running around trying to come up with an interesting names for psychics and good and evil psychic organizations organizations.

The big problem is I want this with the superhero setting backdrop. Like of course there's a bird themed vigilante running around, but it turns out he's secretly a legacy hero.

So, it's the fill in characters I can't come up with names for. The funny thing is, I have a bunch that I came up with I was a teen and I'm OK with their names. Go figure.

I generally don't like outright silliness, except for an occasional outright silly character. I realize that most superheroes actually have silly names, but they don't seem so because of the weight of decades of mythology. But things like alcohol named characters or outright puns are too much for me, outside of a comedy game.

* totally ripping off Jerry Grayson's Godsend Agenda.
** totally ripping off alien "Greys" as human descendants from multiple sources but especially the Continuum RPG.
*** Note to self: write an adventure with dinosaurs in American southwest.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom