View Full Version : Birthright names are wrong

09-26-2008, 03:26 PM
Wir CAROLUS der Vierte / von Gottes Gnaden / Römischer Käyser / zu allen zeiten Mehrer des Reichs / und König in Böhem

Aldebrandin, von gottes und des apostolischen stuhls gnaden markgraf von Este und der mark Werners

Otto von gottes gnaden herzog zu Österreich und Steyr

Wir Friderich von gottes gnaden Römischer keyser ...

Wencezlaus dei gracia rex Boemie quartus et sacri per Germaniam imperii procurator

These are just a few examples I found on the net, but which demonstrate that the creators of Birthright completely messed up the naming of characters. It hit me today while I was reviewing in my mind how a typical charter went that I've never, ever in any medieval source, seen a LAST NAME, of course, because no one ever used them.

Charles IV and Wenceslas IV are both "Luxemburg", and Otto and Friedrich are "Habsburg" but they never referred to themselves as such, its an anachronistic "tag" that was ascribed to them later on by historians when last names became common practice.

Darien, by the Grace of Haelyn, Prince of Anuire, Duke of Avanil, etc.

Not Darien Avan.....

Aeric, btGoH, Archduke of Boeruine....

We players got so used to each regent having a last name when in fact our characters shouldn't even be aware of such a concept. A noble is the sum of his titles.

Thus, for Gavin "Tael" there should have been a castle or something called "Tael" for him to get that name and he would never use it personally, nor would anyone ever address him as such. He'd be Gavin, baron of Ghoere.

There shouldn't be a Laela Flaertes, but just Laela, Duchess of Taeghas. What Flaertes is supposed to mean, I've no idea, perhaps an ancestral fief her family hails from, but the thing is that even if it were so, to actually use that as a principal title would be demeaning. She could be "duchess of Taeghas, countes of Haess, lady of Flaertes" for example, but not Laela Flaertess.

I just can't understand why I never thought of this abominable and anti-noble Birthright concept before...

Green Knight
09-26-2008, 04:59 PM
Oh no, here he goes again :)

Not everyone agrees with him though:


09-26-2008, 05:03 PM
Yes well, chalk it up to ignorance about mediaeval European cultures again! Whether lords and kings have surnames is really a matter of custom. English lorded tends to have them, even if they didn't use them, whereas kings generally took their dynastic name as their surname, if they used it all.

09-26-2008, 07:28 PM
Consider it the difference between player knowledge and character knowledge.

However, when considering fantasy games, it is just as appropriate to demand where the Praenomen is. Why just give NPC's a nomen and a cognomen?

After all it depends where the true inspiration for the game lays. Or there is the crazy notion that it has its own history with its own naming scheme. The names themselves are a mix of invented fantasy names and celtic (or anglicized celtic names). Even the Khinasi have names that seem to have a celtic dose poured into the brew. Perhaps its the influence of the elves, perhaps the designers just really liked the celts.

Maybe we should use celtic naming conventions?

So, I would either consider this the difference between character knowledge and player knowledge (I am playing Edward Plantagenet, or as he was known, Edward, son of Edward, son of Edward, to the chroniclers, and Edward, King of France and England. The business about "by the grace of god" I strongly suspect was only found in formal written documents and would not be the way someone spoke. Except maybe a prelate.

Or go with the idea that Cerilia has its own history and perhaps five different naming systems for the various humans.

09-26-2008, 09:51 PM
The business about "by the grace of god" I strongly suspect was only found in formal written documents and would not be the way someone spoke. Except maybe a prelate.

I would also like to add that many of the formal written documents that have survived for historians to study are religious or at least religiously approved. I mean most everything else was burned as sacrilege or "lost".

The dominance of the church in our own European history can be easily dismissed as cultural and setting specific circumstances. With wizards and mages having institutions that seemingly are not governed by a dominant religious authority the cultures in Birthright can vary as we see fit. Reason being that religion is not the sole proprietor of archiving and or the truth as it were. The populace in many respects is much more enlightened as well. (arguably so)

Elton Robb
09-28-2008, 12:00 AM
I don't believe that Birthright Names are wrong within the context the setting was designed. They are wrong when you take Birthright and compare Birthright to Medieval Europe. However, I love the way the setting is designed. I.e. surnames are used instead of a long list of titles. It keeps the setting short and sweet in my opinion.

Aeric Boeruine is much easer to say than Aeric, Archduke of Boeruine.

09-28-2008, 02:16 AM
I personally hate the use of surnames. For my own purposes I mostly agree with Robbie. Now the Khinasi and the Rjurik certainly use patrinyms, which are not surnames, and are a period approach to naming.

Shakespeare referred to people by their location portion of their title: Gloucester enters, Gloucester speaks, "Ho Gloucester, we bid thee welcome".

For me, too familiar and accustomed to noble styles, surnames turn someone into a nothing, a middle class person who should be engaged in a trade. Its not just history, but literature that has established this situation. No one refers to Lancelot as "d'Lac".

09-28-2008, 01:04 PM
Yah. I'm not saying that people should change the way they play the game or that BRSC should be changed to reflect this, but knowing that surnames were not used as they are today might provide an insight to those that would like to make their individual games more "realistic" (if such a thing exists heeh). Thus, and this is especially true for PBEM games, player might refer OOC to Aeric Boeruine, and in IC communication call him "Your Highness, Aeric, Duke of Boeruine"

Even in the show Tudors, King Henry calls his dukes by their titles, for example 'Buckingham', or 'my lord Buckingam' and not 'Henry Brandon.'

That the authors of Birthright have misinterpreted a lot of stuff about medieval Europe is definitely true, but what bothers me the most is that they've, for instance, laid down a well structured hierarchy of nobility in PS Roesone and then neglected to apply it to Anuire in general. However, I've debated this on many forums and I've no intention to do so again :)

Green Knight
09-28-2008, 04:58 PM
I don't agree - I think the "surname" is tied to the lineage of the scion. It doesn't tie in with location or some such, it is a bloodline identifier. And Andurieans are very fond of their lineages and bloodlines...or at least that is how I reason in the surname thing.

09-28-2008, 05:13 PM
The medieval world took lineages very seriously too. They had clear notions of a family with specific traits, including divine blessings, organized as houses. They could easily speak of Plantagenet, Capet, Wittelsbach, and so on, but they didn't go about saying "Hey Plantagenet, what's up?"

09-28-2008, 11:14 PM
I personally like the surname/patronym format given to the Anuirean setting. I won't pretend to be well versed in medieval studies; I know the format in France changed quite a bit over time, and I know the northern italian fashion post renaissance. Flaetes could be something similar to "Medici" (name of a bank! the founder of the house of medicci was "Giovani di Bicci", and Medici was his bank -- or Guild... to stay in context!)

As for referring someone using either "patronym" or "Landed title" I can imagine both were in fashion at different times and the most common would definitely have been the "landed title"; though either can be used to designate a "dynastic" family (Patronyms: Plantagenet, Capet/Capetian, Land: Valois, Orange, Bourbon). Even in smaller nobility Patronyms had a place; my family is from the 1600, so late renaissance early baroque but the fashion predates in france to have "patronym + landed title" as being your actual name, and then for short, people would call you by your landed title, so in my familly's case we are "Dupin de Saint Cyr" (dupin patronym, "de" the famous "particule", and "saint Cyr" the name of the land or title) often called "Saint Cyr" -- this is true for most writers of the time like "Michel Eyquem de Montaigne" (the famous "montaigne" writer/philosopher).

You do see patronyms "slipping" into titles though, and I would argue that "Tael" might have been similar to having both patronym AND title be "Tael" ( like Sir Walter Scott's "Edward Waverley of Waverly" -- granted this is the Jacobite 1700's erra). In my adventures I often use junior branches from reigning dukes as powerful vilains, or possible ladies in distress: Countess Blanca Avan of Durienne is one such. This allows me to give weight to her threats (and bloodline) but make sure a real important royal didn't die! So I'd argue that birthright Patronyms do have important uses, and I do commend the designer's idea of close patronym/land sets (eg. Avan of Avanil and Belamie of Belam). It does add a softening element (campaign specificity) which makes drawing parallels with medieval Europe more vague, more difficult...