I am very new to DW, so I'm just learning the philosophy of game-play and creation.

Why do the rules require me to choose my character name from a list - and a short list at that?

I understand that, if we don't like the rule as a group we can dispense with it, but the general wisdom (here on SE) seems to be that we agree as a team that it's all right for me to choose my own name.

My question is not 'Can I choose my own name'...

My question is: 'Am I missing something about the mindset about DW that there is a good reason why this is a rule in the first place?'

(Possible answer? A common scenario of starting a game is to create characters on-the-fly at the table. OK, a pre-set list would speed up creation, sure. But surely, the name requirements ought to have '... or choose you own.')

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is highly related to: Do I have to choose my character's name from the list? It references a thread that has some interesting insights from Vincent Baker and others. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 7:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This seems pretty close to a designer intent question? Unfortunately those have been deemed off topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 7:09
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @MaikoChikyu It’s not asking “why did the designer…” so it’s not off topic. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 8:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ No. My question is: what am I missing? What am I to glean from this rule? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 8:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Late to the party here, but DW co-author Adam Koebel has joked about this in the past, saying "If you pick a name from the list, then you are playing Dungeon World. If you don't pick a name from the list, you are playing Advanced Dungeon World" \$\endgroup\$
    – flazzo
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


I don't personally follow or enforce the name rule.

I have never seen that rule played by-the-book, in any of the Dungeon World games that I've run or played in, and I have never seen any negative consequences result from that decision.

Dungeon World's official play sheets have a blank box for name, with a list of possible names below them - this to me seems to express an intent that it is acceptable to choose your own name, even if the rules don't explicitly say so. It is different from the "Look" attributes, where the intent appears to have been that you pick one. (That changed in the 2.0 version of the playbooks, where Look now also has blank lines for you to write your own in for each option, but that blank lines are in-line with the other options, which to me still indicates a stronger suggestion that people pick one of the provided options rather than a write-in.)

That said, picking the names from the list has several merits

While researching for this answer, I cam across arguments from people who do follow the name rule, and swear by it. For example, this forum thread addressing the same issue in Apocalypse World, (linked off of this answer to a related question) has more detail.

In a nutshell:

  • It breaks analysis-paralysis, which is important when characters are being created at the table (which is the norm for Dungeon World).
  • It helps players "share" their characters. If a character is fully formed in a player's head to the point where they can't even bear to change the name away from one they chose, that character was arguably not created in the cooperative spirit Dungeon World expects.
  • It guarantees that all the names will conform to the same setting. All the wizards will sound Wizardly, and all the Elves will sound Elf-y.
  • It provides constraints for creativity - all the lists, do. The player is asked to come up with a character within the options the playbook offers, rather than being given a blank canvas.
  • The names are a hint to the player about how to play their character. It would be jarring to play a rogue named Regulus or a paladin named Trixie.
  • If players find the name lists too restrictive, they can talk with their table about making an exception to the name rule, thus kickstarting a conversation about making exceptions to all the limitations on playbooks, and how much the group wants to bend the rules.
  • \$\begingroup\$ In light of AW/DW's unique at-the-table style of character/team creation, I can definitely see these as good reasons - certainly when new to the game. 'Analysis paralysis' is a concept I am really starting to get. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 19:19

Picking another name is not breaking the rules, but changing them.

It's the GM's job to write new rules as the game requires them. If you're playing a human fighter and you want to pick a different name from the names available to a human fighter, it's for the GM to consider: is this an acceptable name for a human fighter? They'll be saying it all the time, after all, addressing your human fighter by name as they fall into pits, get clawed by demons, and rescue captives.

If they're cool with it, then they change the rules and your name is on the list. If they're not cool with it, they don't have to call you "MC Killzalot" or "Pooty Tootington" or "Steve" if they don't want to.

(And, contrariwise, even if a name's on the printed list, it might not work out. Somebody at table had an egregious ex named Avon who they'd rather not think about when they sit down to have fun with their friends? Sorry Avon, pick another name.)


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .