Game with lots of named characters - what if player chooses a name in use by one?

My WIP has a growing cast of named characters. I don’t want the experience to get odd if the player inputs a custom name for their MC, and it exactly matches an NPC that they meet later on.

How do you guys prefer that to be handled?

I’ve seen stories that have the player re-name their character (like Tally Ho, by having that as part of a dialogue), and other stories that don’t address the issue at all (so you can end up with " 'Hello, Melissa," Melissa said to you" - not a deal breaker, but can get confusing).

I’m wondering if I should have the matching name NPC go by a nickname instead:

“Your name is Melissa? Oh, my name is Melissa too. But please just call me Mel.”

This runs into a challenge with royal characters, though. I don’t know if a prince would volunteer to go by a different name like this - “Hello, low-ranking noble MC. I see you have the same name as me. So use my totally informal nickname, even though we just met.” Maybe I’ll have to make an exception for this case, and have the player do the re-naming.

What do you guys think?


I think this is a fantastic solution - and a fun nod to how people often share names irl, without getting confusing! I use mostly uncommon names in my WIP, so I just give the player a warning if they choose a shared name and let them decide for themselves to change it or not. But for a story that uses modern names I dig this method.


Personally, I hate when games won’t let me pick the name of a character. I would prefer a simple warning, like “there’s someone else with that name, are you sure you want to continue?” I also think a nickname for characters would work well. Like “if MC=Jessica, then character-Jessica=Jess.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for every name. My name doesn’t have any nicknames associated with it


That seems like it could get a little complicated pretty fast, and could seem a bit out of character.

To be honest, if you wanted an easy solution, I would just have an author note warning that an npc also uses that name and give them a chance to change it, but also let them keep the name if they don’t mind the weird narrative problems it could cause.

If you want something thats more work for potentially very little, but very interesting reward, you could make scenes that account for the possibility that the MC would share a name with a character. For instance, in Fallen Hero, if you use the hero name of either “Sidestep” or “Anathema” there are interesting reactions from the other characters about it.


The main headache with doing a substitute name is that you then have to ensure you use a multireplace for every single instance of that character’s name in the game, which is just kind of annoying to write. (Plus some names are not easily nicknameable, as mentioned)

If you’re concerned about it, I’ve seen an instance where there’s a page right at the start which advises you what names are used by NPCs, but Anna’s first suggestion is pretty good.

Reactive dialogue/scenes based on names are cool, but as with any kind of reactivity, you’re adding more writing debt.

*temp bigname ""
*set bigname "$!!{name}"
*if (bigname = "CHIRON")
  The name ${name} is already the name of a character in the story.
  *goto pick_name

^ That but with every major character’s name.

*if (((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((bigname = "CHIRON") or (bigname = "DANDY")) or (bigname = "PON")) or (bigname = "GIEDIN")) or (bigname = "GRIM")) or (bigname = "MAGUS")) or (bigname = "NYERU")) or (bigname = "PERIDOT")) or (bigname = "ORREK")) or (bigname = "FRIER")) or (bigname = "PETRICHOR")) or (bigname = "PSALM")) or (bigname = "REESE")) or (bigname = "GALLON")) or (bigname = "ROBERT")) or (bigname = "ROBERTS")) or (bigname = "SKYE")) or (bigname = "SYLAR")) or (bigname = "TIANA")) or (bigname = "SNOW")) or (bigname = "TREOTON")) or (bigname = "WELLER")) or (bigname = "CHRYSALLINE")) or (bigname = "LEVOCERA")) or (bigname = "DORNSLEATH")) or (bigname = "CHESAPRIE")) or (bigname = "HEL")) or (bigname = "GARRIE")) or (bigname = "FAYWHILL")) or (bigname = "BERG")) or (bigname = "HASS"))

I’ve played a lot of these games for a long time and have never picked the same name as a character nor had a message come up about it (even though I often use a common name like Chris for modern-day games). I haven’t had people say it’s happened to them either for my games - admittedly they could just be being quiet but it’s therefore not been on my radar particularly. You could always put a list of major characters on the stat page, or if you have relationship scores they’ll be there for a player to check. Nicknaming NPCs can end up a bit of a pain unless you’re calling them by a variable already anyway.


It’s happened to me a couple times, though only once with a major character.


In my experience, providing a suggested list of names will both avoid overwhelming the reader and also directing them to consider names both appropriate and usually different from the cast of character’s names.

My goal in Patchwerks will be to follow in Malinryden’s footsteps and create content to make the experience enjoyable, even if the reader chooses to restart due to confusion of being named the same.

With that said, I think I might include a note in the beginning to key in a reader to potential naming conflict; not sure on this 100% though.


100% honest, If a game dont let me choose my name I just stop playing.

It is a key sign that the game is not planned to be a game of choice from the player. It is designed as a writer’s choice posturing as gamer choices.

Those autor games can be very well written, they usually are. But there are not real games with meaningfull cuestions.

As Spanish we Have monarchy. People is called like royals all time , and it is very frequent find three Marias in friend groups.

It causes no harm any project , because it is a very common thing in the world just put a five lines scene that let player choose a nickname for themself and that or make a early scene based on first choices to earn one.

it is very common on western rpgs. the lone wanderer, The exile, fletchling, the sole survivor etc…


You could set every character name to be a variable. I have considered this myself. So instead of Catherine, I could do ${Catherine} when writing and make sure I define the Catherine variable. Then if you detect that two people have the same name, you just switch the NPC to another name.

1 Like

I think where I struggle writing-wise is where to stop. I could see myself going down a rabbit hole with a character called Catherine, for example. “OK, I need to have a message come up, or the NPC to make a comment, if the player calls themselves Catherine. I guess it would be weird if I don’t put Cathy in there as well. Oh, Katherine and Kathy as well. And maybe Katie and Cat should be included too. Hmm, maybe it would make sense if Ekaterina was mentioned too because it also sounds similar, and maybe just anyone whose name begins with K or C…” By that time it gets a bit overwhelming :sweat_smile:


That is not a good advice if you pretend publish. (I am referring to have variables to name key Npcs)

Art promo, fans will call Catherine Catherine a demo reader will be confuse why Everyone Talks about Catherine and they got Rigoberta instead. It only brings confusion.


i chose same name as npc in 2 different games. for me its immersion breaking bc i cant help but laugh. i agree that its confusing and feel strange. i also like when writers add “easter egg” when player try to name their character same name as one of the npc


I appreciate all the thoughts and suggestions. I’ll add the warning on character creation, and also do some content cleanup. I’ve got some names in there that don’t really need to be - like the MC’s siblings who have all moved away and won’t be present in the story. I also like the idea of side characters with uncommon names. The WIP is set in Victorian-esque times, so I’m sure there are obscure Victorian names I could find. :slight_smile:


And in historical settings, players are probably more likely to use preset names anyway. Some modern names don’t sound quite right in the past, even if it is technically from that time.


Elizabeth never sounds right in any era :wink: lol

1 Like

Consider this also as a possible well of characterization to draw from: which characters mind having the same name as someone else, and which don’t. Who goes by a nickname, a rank, or a surname. Conversely, who has the kind of confidence and social cachet to give the MC a nickname. There’s also some power dynamics at play, especially if the world you’re writing in is meant to be as heavily socially stratified as Victorian England.

I’m just saying, it doesn’t have to be the same solution for every character.


Oh this would be cool, in Fallen Hero my character’s name is Jake so each time Hollow Ground’s henchman is in a scene I always get confused for a sec lol


Very much this. In fact not having a list of names to choose from and just seeing a blank input box very often completely turns me off of a game. 99.9% of the time I will just choose from the list of given names, which would avoid this situation entirely.

For the other very few times where I’ve written in a name and it happened to be the same name as another character (I think it’s happened once) I just didn’t care that much. People have the same name in real life all the time. A throwaway line about how you have the same name might be interesting, though it’s going to be hard to capture all instances of a name that sounds the same but is written differently (i.e Sarah/Sara or Thomas/Tomas) but I guess that all depends on what the names of the characters are.

Ah, the Tiffany problem.