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I am planning on running a High Elf Far Traveler Sorcerer, whose "far traveler" motifs are due to a loss of memory early in life. He lacks an upbringing to draw motivation from - he is self-motivated but lacks a true purpose. The loss of memory could have been due to the effects of the source of power entering him, or possible a curse gone wrong that gave him his abilities, I'm not sure yet.

He travels to better himself and try to discover his purpose by visiting ancient ruins and impactful destinations. The point is, I believe it would be logical that he would not remember his name, or had a curse that prevented his name from being spoken. (Maybe part of the power gain early in life. I'm still developing him).

Can I have a nameless character (I'd really rather not have to make up a fake/pseudo name but will if absolutely necessary)? Alternately, what are some possible workarounds to make a nameless character more playable?

Please support your answer by citing evidence or experience (per "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective").

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 1 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ My character is fluent in Common, Elvish, Draconic, Celestial, and Sylvan. Are there any words from the less spoken languages my character is fluent in that mean something very generic like "the sorcerer" or "the traveler" or "the wanderer"? \$\endgroup\$ – NeonKraken Aug 2 at 21:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NeonKraken: That's an entirely different question. I'd suggest asking it separately, but I'm not sure any official lexicons/dictionaries of the in-game languages even exist so there might not be any meaningful answer to it other than "ask your DM". \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 2 at 23:51
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Sure, you can, but it's going to be clunky for the story

There is no real reason why rule-wise a character without a name is not going to work. You don't derive any stats from having a name and it shouldn't really matter that you don't have a name as far as the game-aspect of D&D is concerned.

But in terms of your narrative, it's going to be a mess. How is your character going to introduce himself to new people? "Hello, I'm the mysterious elf wanderer, I don't have a name so don't worry about it"?

That's, of course, never going to work. Unless you are in some sort of hive mind where "the individual" does not exist, your character is an individual, and other individuals are going to want to have a way of referring to him. If your character does not have a name and refuses to come up with one, people are just going to make their own name for him.

It might be "that elf guy without a name", or it might just be "no-name over there", but sooner or later, people are going to come up with some sort of alias for your character to reference him by, or he's going to end up dead when "hey you, watch out for that boulder!" doesn't catch his attention because he didn't realize it was addressed to him specifically.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If there are no other sorcerers in my party couldn't I have him be referred to as "the sorcerer?" \$\endgroup\$ – NeonKraken Aug 2 at 18:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NeonKraken that has its own share of problems. It’s the kind of pseudonym you said you were trying to avoid, the existence of any other sorcerer anywhere makes it ambiguous (“our sorcerer” or similar is a bit more specific but still not unique), and at least in the west, a lot of our surnames started as profession titles. \$\endgroup\$ – 40355 says Reinstate Monica Aug 2 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Notably, the player character in Planescape: Torment which loosely used AD&D 2e rules was "The Nameless One", but video games have options to avoid many of the issues you raised that table top playing does not. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Aug 3 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ If people start referring to your character constantly as "the sorcerer", that is essentially just their new name. That's literally all a name is, a way people know who they are talking about. If everybody knows you as 'the sorcerer', that is your new name. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Aug 3 at 18:08
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You should talk to your DM about this. I can't imagine any reason they'd say no. In fact, I've played at tables several times where characters for various reasons had a "I don't know who I am" or "I no longer deserve my name" shtick, and it was fine.

However, the rules do literally say "Your character needs a name."

So, we are in table-specific territory here. As a practical matter, people will need some way to refer to you, and based on my experience above, the DM or the rest of the party will come up with some nickname if you don't. And if you don't like that nickname, there's pretty strong incentive to pick one of your own. (In one example, the DM referred to the character as "Nameless", so we all did — leading to the constant protest of "that's not my name, you know". In that case, it was all in fun, but I suppose it could have lead to conflict if done with a little less humor.)

It's probably also worth reading the Player's Handbook/Basic Rules section on Elf names, which among other things note that:

On declaring adulthood, an elf selects an adult name, although those who knew him or her as a youngster might continue to use the child name.

You should talk with your DM about whether this particular bit of lore applies to elves in your table's game setting, and think about how that interacts with your backstory idea.

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