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Name lists can help the audience get a feel for the language: what sounds are common for the language, what are absent, how many syllables the name has, etc. Varying the linguistic characteristics of a name list can help make the names less generic fantasy.

Name lists can provide a mixture of names that are common and predictable and ones that are more unexpected but still fit in.

Names lists can help tell you what a culture or people value. Matronymics and patronymics tell you that family is important to that group. Bynames suggest that individual personal achievement is important. Names based on occupation tell you about their culture, while names based in nature tell you something else. Puritans named their children little (or sometimes long) sermons about God, to tell you what they thought about the importance of religion. Names can suggest social status and role in society.

Names lists can  help indicate tone: whether a group is fancy, or down-to-earth, or silly or harsh. (A lot of that can come from linguistic properties and word choices.)

Names can inspire the player, and make them think about their characters and the world as vivid and real.


That's a lot you can accomplish, with just a list of names. (There's probably a lot more, too.) The tricky thing is making a list that does those things.