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EBoN: The Ever-changing Book of Names

A Review by Rebecca A. Downey, Copyright 2000

Version 2.1 copyright © 1997-1998 Sami Pyörre.

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As a role player, the hardest thing I do is come up with names for non-player characters. A fictional culture should have names that seem to sound the same; and there's only so many times you can use the name Bob as an NPC before your players realize not to waste time talking to Bob's. Taking names from books is fine, if you can find a book that best suits the feel you want to use; and even then - how many master wizards can you name Gandaf? Or ace captains named Harrington?

The Ever-changing Book of Names is a shareware program for Windows 95. It is available from Sami Pyorre's web site:

http://free.prohosting.com/~spyorre/ebon/index.htm

1. The Interface

EBoN: Main

The interface is simple to use, having only 10 components.

  • Chapter: Shows from which source file the name will be generated. Each chapter is a .ebn file stored in the EBoN directory.
  • Down Arrow: Opens the option screen, explained in section II.
  • Pos. Notation/Slide Bar : The slide bar allows you to view the last 100 names generated by EBon as well as the number of the current selection. In the above example, the slider bar is on position (Pos.) 13 of 23.
  • Store Name: The small icon allows you to store the name displayed above the icons (in the example this is "Geidbrek") to the stored.txt text file.
  • Store Many: Allows you to generate and store up to 1000 names to a text file in one generation. The same text file (stored.txt) holds all the stored names. It can be accessed at any time by any program that can read a PC text file.
  • Clear Store: Erases the contents of the file: stored.txt
  • View Store: Loads your default text viewer with the file stored.txt to show its contents.
  • Get Help: Opens a comprehensive help file for Windows that should answer most any question about the product.
  • Generate Next: Generates one name and displays it above the icons. It also increments both the position of the slide bar and the counter. If the counter is already at 100, and the slide bar is at its maximum, these two things will not change.

2. Options

Clicking on the Down Arrow opens the options panel.

EBoN: Options

This panel has three boxes: Generation, Validation, and Store.

Automatic Options, the choice at the bottom of the panel, uses the default options of the program.

To quote from the help file:

Names are generated in two phases:

1. Generation. Names are pieced together from elements and the criteria by which they are selected affects the outcome. The criteria can be modified by changing the settings in the generation box.

2. Validation. After a name has been generated, it's quality is checked by applying various criteria. Names that do not pass this phase are rejected. The purpose of this phase is to block off names that most people would find unsatisfactory anyway.

There are three possible levels of validation (0-2), each one being more complex than the last.

The Store box allows you to define the page size for the Store Many command. The page size can be between 2 and 1000.

3. New Chapters

EBoN version 2.1 automatically comes with the following chapters:

  • adunaic.ebn: Numenorean names
  • arthur.ebn: Arthurian names
  • blkspch.ebn: Orchish/demonic names
  • drow.ebn: Dark Elven names
  • finnish.ebn: Modern Finnish Names
  • khuzdul.ebn: Dwarvish Names
  • latin.ebn: Latin Names
  • midnight.ebn: Names from the Midnight Trilogy
  • quenya.ebn: High Elven names
  • sindarin.ebn: Gray Elven Elven names
  • valarin.ebn: Angelic names
  • viking.ebn: Viking names
  • welsh.ebn: Welsh names

There are two sets of chapters available off Sami Pyörre's web site. They are:

  • Extra Chapters by Ivy O'Donovan (31 Chapters, including African, Biblical, Czech, and Dutch)
  • Miscellaneous Extra Chapters (9 chapters by various authors, includes Ansalonian, Scottish, Planets & Moons, Russian, Egyptian, Greek, Japanese, Hebrew and Jewish)

Three sets of chapters are available off the Schylla & Charibdis site:

  • Clans by Charlie Heckman 1/28/99 Includes: Chybisa, Ivinia, Jarannese, Kaldor, Kanday, Melderyn, Orbaal, Retham, Tharda and Yashain.
  • Given by Charlie Heckman 1/28/99 Includes: Gargun, HarnMen, Harn Women, Ivinian Men, Ivinian Women, Jaraneese Men, Jaraneese Women, Yashain.
  • Heckmanby Charlie Heckman 2/22/99 Includes: AngloSaxon (Men, Women and Common Names), German (Men and Women), Medieval, Melbornian, Norman, Pict, and Saxon names.

All of these combined will give you 92 different chapter files.

4. Registration

There are great benefits to registering this package. For $10USD or 40FIM you can receive not only an "overwhelming saintly feeling" but also additional chapter files.

Each chapter file you make (following the steps in the help file - which includes a walk-through of the process for the Sindarin chapter) must be registered as well. For $10USD/GBP 5/DM 15/ FIM 40 the chapter will no longer generate only a maximum of 5 names before it closes and needs to be reopened.

5. In Conclusion

When I first heard of this product over a year ago I was impressed. In role playing there are a lot of random-name generators available as share ware. A few are even free. But none compare to EBoN. Reading through his guest book on his beautiful web site, I found very few people left bad opinions or even recommendations for improvement.

The Pros:

  1. The program has never crashed my system. I've used it on Windows 95, 98 and now NT 4.0 with Service Pack 6.0. It also doesn't seem to register itself in the Windows registry - making installing and deleting easy (no reboots).
  2. It generates a text file that can be referenced or easily ported into any word processing or spread sheet, as needed. These text files are small and easily backed up, copied or moved - since they do not directly rely on the program.
  3. EBoN's validation of nonsensical or (in the case of Latin, hilarious) names is pretty good. In repeated generations of 1000 names (using the sindarin, khuzdul and Latin chapters) I never got two that were identical, and only about 4 or 5 each that sounded too much like common-day English words for casual use.
  4. The program is easy to use, easy to learn and quick to load. What more could a gamer ask?

The Cons:

  1. You cannot copy the displayed name. Instead you have to store it and then copy it from the stored.txt file. While this is very minor, it would be a nice modification.
  2. The program is not available for Linux, UNIX or MAC.

Two more pros than cons.

On a scale of 1 to 4, I'd have to give it a 4 because it is easy to use and well documented. Only its lack of portability is a worrying con in regards to the program; but on the platform for which it is available, it works well. If you're having trouble figuring out what to call your next place or person - don't hesitate.

Download EBoN and let it solve your problem for you.

Editor's Note

Please post your comments on this review on the Software Discussion Board.

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