My problem is that I was in need of a nice-sounding name for a character during one DnD session, so I used one from the Player’s Handbook, since I thought that it’s not going to be an extremely important NPC. But yeah, I was wrong. Now it has a huge background, history etc. and I considered writing a story (maaaaybe a book if my determination won’t leave me) about that character.

The question is - do I have to change his name? If I had to guess, I’d say yes, but on the other hand, it would sound a bit weird for me aferwards. Can I maybe just add a silent ‘h’ or something?

As “example names” I meant the ones given in the elf, dwarf etc. section in PHB.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you running the game at home or at an organized event/FLGS? Is it a question about legality or conflicting names in published material? \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like the drive of this question is: "I named my character after someone from the player's handbook. Now I want to write a book about them. Do I have to change their name in the book?" — is that right? Or are you asking if you need to change their name in your games or something? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ If so, hopefully they did not choose the name "Drizzt" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 17:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Quentin The licensing and copyright practices/issues around RPG materials is something we're more expert in than writers.se, so it's on topic here, and likely even to get a better answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that this question needs a bit more detail regarding the content of the story that you intend to write. If you don't plan to use anything from the OGL, then you're in a very different position than if you do. \$\endgroup\$
    – corvec
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


You would almost certainly be better off using a different name.

You are the only person to whom a change would sound "weird", since this is a new story you are publishing.

The danger in using a name from the PHB is that you have no record of its provenance. It could be just a name pulled from mythology or world culture, or it could be a name used by a published character of greater or lesser prominence. The only way to be sure would be to hire someone qualified to do a copyright/trademark search to prove due diligence.

IP rule of thumb: when in doubt, don't. If you must, consult an expert. Don't cross your fingers and hope or take the advice of random answerers online as final (including mine).

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    \$\begingroup\$ + many for last paragraph =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 21:26

You cannot, without licensing the character.

The only license under which you can freely distribute 5e content is the OGL:

Permission to copy, modify and distribute the files collectively known as the System Reference Document 5.0 (“SRD5”) is granted solely through the use of the Open Gaming License, Version 1.0a.

You cannot use any "Product Identity" under the OGL without specific licensing:

  1. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity.

...And "Product Identity" encompasses character names (emphasis added):

"Product Identity" means product and product line names, logos and identifying marks including trade dress; artifacts; creatures characters; stories, storylines, plots, thematic elements, dialogue, incidents, language, artwork, symbols, designs, depictions, likenesses, formats, poses, concepts, themes and graphic, photographic and other visual or audio representations; names and descriptions of characters, spells, enchantments, personalities, teams, personas, likenesses and special abilities; places, locations, environments, creatures, equipment, magical or supernatural abilities or effects, logos, symbols, or graphic designs...


The following items are designated Product Identity, as defined in Section 1(e) of the Open Game License Version 1.0a, and are subject to the conditions set forth in Section 7 of the OGL, and are not Open Content: Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master, Monster Manual, d20 System, Wizards of the Coast, d20 (when used as a trademark), Forgotten Realms, Faerûn, proper names (including those used in the names of spells or items), places,

If you're just pulling names from the suggested names in the races section, the infringement might be minor enough that nobody will care. You might even be able to claim that it was a coincidence, since many of those are just generic fantasy jumbles anyway. However, there's no explicit exception for those names, so you're still technically violating the OGL.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this applies to the example names in the Race chapter. Especially since some of them are clearly copied from other and older non-WotC content. (And aren't "characters" either, just names.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik that's true, and I doubt that Wizards could/would claim copyright on something like "Thorin," but those names are still proper names in the PHB and thus technically fall under the license. \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like Blizzard, George R.R. Martin, H. P. Lovecraft, Square Enix, and countless religions are all in violation of this license. Either that or a general license that encompasses lists of names you print in a book doesn't hold any weight. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luke
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 4:14

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