D&D Ideas — Name Days
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is name days, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of name days if you thought your last holiday get together was awkward you ain’t seen nothing yet because things could get messy in Dinner Party. The truth about your character’s painful, embarrassing or otherwise personal information comes to light for fellow adventurers to learn along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.
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Delving Dave’s Dungeon
Name days or birthdays seem like they should play bigger roles in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. Maybe name days take a bigger role in your games but not ours. If your games are like ours then perhaps you should also consider giving them a bigger role. One of the biggest obstacles to incorporating name days into 5E D&D is tracking time and calendars.
In our first Ulthe-Ganya campaign world we created a calendar and tracked time more closely. We became a bit more loosey goosey with tracking time and don’t really use calendars anymore. Our games are far more casual these days. Even so there isn’t any reason we couldn’t incorporate calendars and tracking time for things like name days and other important dates into our games.
A Dungeon Master can decide on a frequency like once per real world calendar year, once every 24 sessions or whatever works for them. Each player can declare their characters’ name days in the game. Then the DM can make a note based on the frequency they decided on, perhaps setting other stipulations like only a certain number of players can declare their name days during any particular session or conversely all the players decide at the same time.
At this point based on the decided frequency make a note. Perhaps you’ll set other stipulations like only a certain number of players can declare this in the same session or perhaps it’s a thing where they all declare it in the same session.
Characters receive a boon on their name days. The DM might let each player choose or grant characters a boon of their own choosing. These boons could be limited to one per tier of play to prevent characters accumulating too many extra features.
Boons could be something minor like the benefit of a bless or guidance spell for a whole session. Maybe boons granted on name days are Ability Score Improvements or feats. You can look at chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide for some ideas and inspiration. Both the Supernatural Gifts and Epic Boons would all work for gifts on character name days from the powers that be, karma or the gods themselves.
From Ted’s Head
Holidays are fun to incorporate into your roleplaying games. When you look at holidays so many in our world are based on religions or celestial events. Examined in this way some things can be converted to an extent but everyone has a day they are born. So having name days celebrations can be a big deal for some cultures.
There are several ways to go about using a name day in an RPG like fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The first is the most obvious — treat name days like birthdays. Does the culture your character is from celebrate birthdays? Having a birthday celebration can be different for each culture this becomes an opportunity to create something unique. A culture celebrating life and opposed to a god of death might celebrate each year an individual escapes these clutches on their name days.
On the other hand people from some cultures incorporate multiple names like one given by parents and then another when some significant event takes place. This could be something as simple as coming of age or it could be when an individual overcomes a certain challenge. If a culture stands against a specific foe in the area name days could be when a person defeats one of them for the first time or following a first successful solo hunt if the culture is dependent on hunting for survival. Anything can work if you feel the culture works for the world they are from and you would enjoy roleplaying the circumstances. This second name could be a name chosen by the character and represent their choices rather than a name chosen by parents before a personality emerges.
Name days can also be something even more. There are so many powerful names throughout the history of each world. Perhaps some cultures give a name to characters based on deeds. The movie Avatar has a title, which in some ways is a name. “Toruk Makto” (“Rider of the Last Shadow”) is a big deal and all the characters look on with reverence. Decades ago I played a character who was a cleric of the god Idalyn. He proclaimed he was the Voice of Idalyn. The populace reacted to that name.
As these names and titles get to have power it makes me think about making a new category of magic item for 5E D&D. Magic items have names and I am imagining items only only those with a certain name or title can attune to. A vest, stole or robes dedicated to a particular faith or a mantle, crown or weapon dedicated to a culture based on invading other cultures are a couple of examples coming to mind. Whatever you decide to make you can introduce such a fun item into the campaign early. The characters cannot make use of the item yet but a character might just discover a new goal or ambition to earn such a title and thus utilize the magic item.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
While I wasn’t on camera during the live chat about name days in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons I was hanging out in chat and I made a note to revisit one of the thoughts I shared there for this newsletter. I like to consider adventuring is a vocational choice to some extent and so when an individual in a 5E D&D world makes a choice to begin a life of adventure this auspicious moment becomes their Name Day.
An Adventurer Name Day functions like shorthand to other such bold individuals letting them know how long someone has lived the life. If you go all in on adventuring as a vocation like I often do in 5E D&D campaigns adventurers’ badges (magical devices with a variety of effects) can change on Name Days to reflect this adventuring age. Perhaps there’s symbology attached, or simply a number to denote years, months or maybe even completed adventures. However you imagine professional adventurers delineate the passage of time starting with their Name Days works.
This creates a great opportunity for player agency or engagement. When characters run into other fellow adventurers they can swap stories of Name Days past. If the campaign features things like fast forwards between sessions or narrative arcs players can fill in the gaps with their own tales. Scenarios like this can even be ways to convey information by showing rather than telling. Variations in age, level and other factors related to these Name Days can reveal a lot about an individual.
The more I think about it the more I dig this notion. Traditions related to Name Days can emerge like a belief an adventurer ought to do something special on theirs. This deed could be something particularly adventuresome or maybe the expected thing to do is help support a younger adventurer.
Incorporating Name Days of any sort — adventurer related or otherwise — can also make for a quick adventure hook. Imagine the next time you get together with your friends to roll funny shaped dice and play some 5E D&D the Dungeon Master begins thusly:
“It’s so-and-so’s Name Day today. What does your character get as a last minute gift before the party this evening?”
From there it’s up to the players to decide what to get their friend and where to find it in time to attend a celebration later the same day. No time for a long rest!