Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's in a name?

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but if it was called a "goblin's fart" would as many people be willing to give it a chance?

From the beginning, "Chanbara" was only intended as a working title.  I've gotten so comfortable with the name that I may end up using it, but doing so would be a bit disingenuous.  If I call the finished game Chanbara, anyone who knows what chanbara is is going to be a bit disappointed in the game.  It's a bit less about emulating Kurosawa films or the jidai-geki on Japanese TV (although it certainly can be used to do so) and more about sending groups of adventurers of a samurai/ninja bent to battle the spooks of Japanese ghost stories.

Kwaidan, the name of Lafcadio Hearn's famous book of Japanese supernatural stories, has already been used by Rite Publishing for Paizo's Pathfinder, using the more modern romanized spelling Kaidan, as the name of their pseudo-Japan culture.  There's also an adventure for the Bushido RPG that uses the name, with Hearn's original romanization.  Too bad, as that name more closely fits what I envision this game to be.  I suppose I could still use it, but I'm not sure if trying to butt heads with the Pathfinder crowd or having them accuse me of trying to rip off what Paizo/Rite Publishing are doing is the best idea. 

So what does that leave me with?  Something authentically Japanese that lots of people won't understand?

Obake Yawa (Ghost Stories)?
Eiyu Monogatari (Hero Tales)?

Or maybe since it's OGL/OSR/D&D stuff, some alliterative *&* names would work?

Ruins & Ronin has been taken, but that still leaves:

Katana & Kaibutsu
Samurai & Sorcery
Yokai & Yamabushi
Ninja & Nightmares
Bakemono & Blades

Ugh, none of those have the ring that Flying Swordsmen does.  Because this is intended as a companion game to FS, I had spent a considerable amount of time trying to think of a title as "* Swordsmen" but I never thought of anything I liked. 

Samurai Swordsmen - a bit blah
Dutybound Swordsmen - fits for Samurai, but what about Ronin and other PC types?
Grim Swordsmen - ugh, images of the term "grimdark" that I'd rather avoid.
Honorable Swordsmen - dullsville, as far as names go.

Finally, I've got the option to just name it something cool and half-way poetic:

Legends of the Oni Wars
Sunrise Heroes
Blackmarsh Warriors (an homage to Kurosawa Akira)

Anyway, it'll still be a while before I get this thing ready for publication.  I may stick with Chanbara for convenience, even if it's a bit misleading.  Maybe I'll go with Kwaidan (or some variant of that), since the game is focused on monster-hunting and strange magics as much as it is on dueling kensei or skulking ninja.

Anyway, if you've got any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!


  1. Just a note: I follow your blog as well as that of author John Marco. Around the time you posted this post, he posted one with the title "By Any Other Name." The posts were right next to each other on my feed. Weird. Or not. Sorry if this was a stupid comment. I'm very interested in coincidences.