Seize Everything
Seize Everything

The Naming Game

I am, it turns out, super bad at naming things. Or super good, maybe, seeing as the issue is that other people keep having the same ideas. Great minds supposedly think alike, after all.

Back when I was developing No Honor Among Thieves, I ran into a bit of a problem where someone else started making a game with the same name. This happened twice. Obviously this was because No Honor Among Thieves is a great name for a game, and I’m not the only person to realize it, which in retrospect I probably should have seen coming. It didn’t take me long to resolve the situation either time it happened, but it was still stressful for me, and I swore to avoid the problem in the future by making up words for my next project’s title.

Which brings me to now. As mentioned back in this survey I ran, I’ve been writing a tabletop roleplaying sourcebook to help people in running grungy criminal caper shenanigans in fantasy cities, with themes similar to those present in No Honor Among Thieves. This is a genre that has been seeing more and more popularity in roleplaying games with systems like Blades in the Dark and Dusk City Outlaws coming out, and also rising popularity in the literature I like to read (see The Lies of Locke Lamora, Low Town, Six of Crows, and others). The genre doesn’t really have a name, and “low-fantasy urban crime stories” doesn’t flow off the tongue particularly well, so I thought I’d be clever and invent a term to use. I like steampunk and cyberpunk stuff, and I also enjoy the “punk” genre suffix, so I decided that the term I’d use for these adventures in the gutters would be “gutterpunk.”

I was so damn proud of how clever that word was. What a cool name for a genre, right?

I’ve been calling this book Gutterpunk Fantasy since I started writing it in February. Recently it got to the point where I’m almost done, and have been going back and doing major revision work. At about the same time I figured I ought to start looking into my publishing options, as well as places that I might promote it during the inevitable Kickstarter to fund publication (since No Honor Among Thieves is going to leave me flat broke by the time shipping is done). As part of all that, I Googled the term “gutterpunk.”

Turns out gutterpunk is already a thing. Specifically, it’s a subculture. Of transient punk-rock train-hopping hobos.

I could still use the word, of course, but I’m not sure if I really want that connotation, and that overwhelming population of other Google results whenever anyone searches for the book in the future. My solution to this problem with No Honor Among Thieves was to talk to the other people involved and work out an arrangement where I got to use the name, but you can’t do that with an entire subculture, so this time it looks like I’ll be the one making some changes.

I’ve been putting together a list of alternate titles, with assistance from some friends. My personal favorite is Crooked Alleys: Criminal Roleplaying in Fantasy Cities, but I’m open to other ideas if you’ve got any. Leave a comment below or send me a message if you’ve got something good.

Other ideas:

  • Gutter Rat Fantasy
  • Gutters and Gold
  • Street Rats
  • Street Games
  • Grime and the Gutter

Major themes of the book: fantasy street gangs, heists, mysteries, conspiracies, and lots of random tables for generating cities or adventures. There’s some D&D and Pathfinder content in there as well, included under the open gaming license, but it’s mostly systemless.

(In a city of crooked alleys / Crookeder women and wicked men…)

  • reply KeeperofDusk (Nemesis67) ,

    I quite like Crooked Alleys.

    Urban Underworld springs to mind, though I don’t think it is great. Crooks and Coin sounds good but doesn’t actually describe things well.

    • reply Adam ,

      Crooks and Coin has that traditional D&D style alliteration going for it, too.

    • reply Drew Tanguay ,

      Crooked Alleys does have a certain ring to it. Depending on how much you want to play up the fantasy environment, Spells and Swindles or Alleys and Appropriations could keep that oh so sweet alliteration going.

      • reply Adam ,

        “Appropriations” feels kind of anachronistic, but that’s also a fantastic word…I might steal that to use as a chapter title.

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