Salutations, nerds! We’re going to talk about something fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons players absolutely love to flash around, something that doesn’t break your game or have a value in gold points. All it takes is a little creative thought on your part. I’m sure most of you have read or at least seen Game of Thrones so you’re probably aware of the nicknames pretty much everyone in the series has. The Mountain, the Hound, the Imp. Sobriquettes, kennings, titles in 5E D&D — that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
Titles cost you nothing
Titles can’t imbalance your game. There is not a one size fits all list of titles you can use. You have to come up with ones to fit your characters in particular. It only costs you a little bit of time, and if you’re another player, giving your fellow party member a title almost guarantees they’ll feel good about themselves and their character. A title isn’t a loot drop you’re going to find at the bottom of a dungeon, but when word of a character’s deeds gets back to town it is one they’re likely to find at a local tavern. Everyone feels like a bad ass with a new title to flash around. Heralds add titles to your name when you’re being announced and peasants to whisper your title in hushed voices whenever you’re alluded to.
A note about bards
The Dungeon Master is probably going to be busy doing a lot of other stuff. But you the player have much less to keep track of and will be watching your other party members closely. This is a super good idea for you because it helps control the reputation of your party and builds on the legend. Come up with a nickname clever enough and your DM will be excited to drop it at every opportunity as well. Clever branding is how you go from functional adventuring party to nigh living legends.
Titles based on character traits
Of course they call Tyrion the Imp because he’s a dwarf. There are going to be some very low hanging fruit options here. It’ll be very easy to call the party tiefling something like the Riverside Devil or Old Mischief. (Memo to me: make a character named Old Mischief.)
There are other things to consider though, aside from race and class. Is this character a smoker? Greycloud. Is this character a gambler? Rattlebones. You see where I’m going with this. We have a character in one of our games who survived being dropped by lightning at least three times and we call him the Lightning Rod.
Keep track of the major traits characters exhibit regularly and see what cool stuff you can stitch together.
Titles based on character deeds
Watch what the rest of your party members do. Exaggerate their traits. I had a character who earned the nickname Sunsetter because of a particularly bloody battle set to the backdrop of bleeding dusk in which she was the last man standing.
Did they kill a dragon all by their onesie? Dragonsbane. Or a helpless goblin with a treasure on his chest? Goblinsbane. (Sorry Asa, I couldn’t resist!)
Okay, there’s more to do than slaying. Someone who talked their way out of a particularly difficult situation might have earned themselves the nickname Silvertongue or Snakecharmer.
Titles to discredit character
Of course you’re always going to end up with rivals who try and undercut you by calling you unflattering things. Sometimes these unflattering nicknames will do their work, and sometimes you’ll turn them around and own them. I seem to recall in Dragonlance at one point, Raistlin’s classmates nicknaming him the Sly One. The joke is on them with how much he came to embody those words. For another reference some of you will get, some of you won’t, and some of you will deny understanding to your grave, Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony struggled incredibly hard to escape the disparaging nickname Rainbow Crash until the Wonderbolts started calling her that and it became a badge of honor. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: It’s a good show! And Tales of Equestria is a fun RPG]
A particularly superstitious community might nickname a character after an animal they perceive to be unlucky like a black cat or a spider. Or a maggot.
In the novel Six of Crows, Kaz Brekker earned the nickname Dirty Hands because there was no job he wouldn’t take, no matter how vile. I guess also probably because he wears gloves all the time but that is neither here nor there. By the time the story starts he uses it shamelessly as a reminder that nothing is off limits for him.
Titles to haunt characters
Okay so there are some examples up there, but there are a few other ways a nickname from the past could stick around. For instance, Maedhros in The Silmarillion was called Coppertop as a child for his coppery red hair. Think of some of your own childhood nicknames or the nicknames of those around you. My little brother couldn’t pronounce Marshmallow so we ended up calling him Marshmalifoe as an affectionate tease sometimes. I have a cousin whose middle name was Austin who was Tex for the first ten years of his life. If you’re a player this is something you can work out for your own character and if you’re a DM it’s something you can work with your players about. It can lead to some super cute moments when the rest of the party finds out.
Tell your title tale
Do you have any cool titles for your 5E D&D characters or fellow adventurers at your table? Ever given or been given one? Please tell me all about it in the comments below, and of course, stay nerdy!