Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Race names

In my effort to distance myself from D&D (and sometimes other fantasy settings) in my DARK•HERITAGE setting, even when I'm cribbing ideas directly from D&D, I've often led myself into a state of semi-confusion with regards to nomenclature.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the names of my non-human races.  To rectify this, I've decided I need to quit messing around with names and decide on one name for each race, and stick with it.  I also need to avoid names that are used for other concepts in D&D--for example, I've used changeling (which is, of course, a name rich with folkloric meaning) to refer to my take on tieflings and shifters both--a situation which only tends to confuse me more than anything else.

This post will rectify that--establish once and for all the PROPER name for each race in the form that I'll actually be using it.  It may lend itself to verisimilitude to have multiple names for each race, but it doesn't lend itself to ease and clarity on my end.  Of course, I say that and... they'll be one or two exceptions.  I love the name Kvuustu, for instance, but it's not very reasonable to expect that someone in a Mediterranean style setting would be able to say that. Cavusto as an alternate is perfectly fine.

Without further ado, here are the list of races and their "proper" ID tag, excluding the various human ethnicities, plus the "concept" from which I originally got the idea.

  • JANN.  Original concept from D&D: fire genasi.  Brick red skin, usually blondish, wispy hair, yellow eyes, Arabian Nights style culture.  The jann claim to be blessed with the blood of the ifrit from the legendary City of Brass in their distant ancestry.  Luckily, for this one, I've had a pretty consistent take on the name.  I've always called them either jann or the very similar djinn.  Mostly jann.
  • WILDLING.  Original concept from D&D: shifters from Eberron, although the tharn from Iron Kingdoms made an important contribution.  Also, based largely on the wild man body of Medieval folklore, not to mention toned down werewolves.  This is one I've had lots of problems with.  Wildling may not be a great name, or terribly original, but it's awfully descriptive and does the job.  I've toyed with calling these guys wildmen, woses, vucari, and changelings, as well as occasionally slipping and calling them shifters.  I'm going to stick with wildling and be done with it.
  • KEMLING.  Original concept from D&D: tieflings, but they're really as much based on Nightcrawler and Darth Maul as anything else.  Not to mention Graz'zt, old witchcraft trial accounts of Satan visiting witches as a Black Man, and even Nyarlathotep for that matter.  Another bad draw for me; these poor guys have been called darklings, tieflings, hellspawn, hellkin, and changelings.  Because they have a culture that's supposed to be reminiscent in some ways of the Bronze Age ancient Near East (as well as names from that region) the name I've come up with is original, and yet oddly similar in basic concept to the D&D term tiefling.  The suffix -(l)ing is a really old (as in Common Germanic old where it was *ingaz, and it carries forward into lots of Old English words, and a handful of modern English words still too--sibling, darling, duckling, etc.)  It's a masculine suffix that connotes a sense of belonging to, or son of--later corrupted to mostly being a diminuitive.  It's also the suffix used in Wolfgang Baur's coining of the term tiefling in the first place.  Apocryphally, Baur coined tiefling based on the German word for devil, which is Teufel, but that's a bit debatable since that should have rendered as Teufling.  Tief in German means deep, so tieflings are directly translatable into English as deeplings.  Either way, it's supposed to suggest their nature--the descendants, via twisted and obscure lineage of humans and some kind of fiend.  Kemling, then, has a similar meaning, using the Germanic suffix -(l)ing and the ancient Egyptian word kem, which means black (suggesting the skin color of kemlings in DARK•HERITAGE, it is both descriptive and evocative of their culture, their heritage (which is dark.. Hahahaha.  Umm. Yeah.) and their actual physical appearance all at once.  Also: hamazin in this scheme becomes merely a place-name or nationality type, i.e., someone from the Baal Hamazi region, whether human or kemling, either one.
  • CAVUSTO/KVUUSTU.  Original concept: these are late surviving neanderthals.  That name obviously won't really work, as it's specific to the Neanderthal, or Neander Valley in Germany, where the first neanderthal fossils were found.  As I mentioned, I'll keep the two names, since one is clearly derivative of the other.  This actually is one that works well at lending some verisimilitude without being confusing, unlike the other examples I was courting.
  • NEPHILIM.  Original concept: the Nephilim, from Apocryphal Judeo-Christian tradition.  Also, aasimar from D&D, except that the angels who are the distant ancestors of nephilim in my setting are, of necessity, fallen angels.  I never really had another word for this one, although I'd have liked to.  Nephilim is so Hebrew that it doesn't really seem to fit as a word that would be used in the Mezzovian Sea region.  Oh, well.  It fits the concept perfectly, and it's already well-known.  I'll just live with it.


James Sullivan said...




Joshua Dyal said...

I just can't seem to get something for that that I love. Werelings? Diminuitive of werewolves works well too, since they're kinda like diluted werewolves.

We'll see.