Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nomenclature Assistance

Along with druids, I'd begun to work up a version of monks for use in my Dwimmermount campaign. I was thinking of doing a series of posts about them, but I haven't yet for a couple of reasons, the biggest of which is that I never came up with a satisfactory name for them. The name "monk" is likely a reference to Shaolin Monastery strongly associated with kung fu. Furthermore, as I've mentioned before, the name initially confused me as, to me, "monk" suggests a Christian ascetic rather than a martial arts master. The conception of the class I was planning to introduce into the Dwimmermount campaign was more of a semi-psionic warrior trained through the use of mental discipline to use his very body as a weapon. This conception ties into some things that have come up in the campaign over the last couple of years, as well as the limited background established about the Eld, the Thulians, and the mysterious Ancients.

So, what I need is a name, something more appropriate than "monk" that evokes the idea I've outlined above but fits within a fantasy context. Any suggestions?


  1. J'dai.

    Evocative of the literary antecedent, but sufficiently different so as not to invoke elements of the antecedent not desired.

  2. "Adept" works for me, though that also suggests a wizard, since that was a term used in 19th century occultism. "Hoplite," as in the Greek citizen-soldier?

  3. Psiontologi.. no, sorry.


  4. A master of unarmed combat also sounds like a Ninja, but that name comes with a lot of baggage.

    Why not make your own term? Then you and your players can define the specifics as you game, which has been a hallmark of your current campain.

    I'd suggest starting with the terms Kapap and Krav Maga. Both are fighting disciplines developed by jews in the turbulent 1930's. I believe the terms are suitably "exotic" and leave you lots of room to work in your own details.

    You could develop from a defensive "Kapap" to a "Master Krav Maga" as you gain levels.

    Perhaps the Wiki references would inspire you:
    Krav Maga:


  5. Beastfighter, which I'm borrowing from Thomas Biskup's ADOM. He uses his hands for unarmed combat, either mimicking nature or (if you still want the ascetic angle) his god (Bear God, for example).

  6. The only two I could think of were Physiomancer or Anchorite.

  7. The Brothers Who Are All Out Of Chewing Gum

  8. "a semi-psionic warrior trained through the use of mental discipline to use his very body as a weapon?"

    Sounds like the Warrior-Poets from David Zindell's Neverness novels.

    These books also had another mysterious group called Cetics (etymology from ascetic, of course) who were masters of psychology and the ruthless mind-f**k. :-)

  9. I like the Mystic even if it has RC baggage. Otherwise another vote for Treys suggestion.

  10. Some ideas:

    Fistolier (okay, I'm brainstorming)

  11. Sensei

  12. Dragon Warriors has a character class called a Mystic. Basically it a characters with psionics abilities that mainly improves their own combat ability and survivability.

  13. Sōhei (僧兵, literally "monk warriors"?) were Buddhist warrior monks of feudal Japan. At certain points of history they held considerable power, obliging the imperial and military governments to collaborate.

    They were similar to the mountain ascetic yamabushi warrior monks, but unlike the solitary yamabushi, sōhei generally organized into large armies or mobs. A famous monastery is the Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei, just outside Kyoto.

    The sōhei shared many similarities with the Western lay brothers, members of a monastic order who might not have been ordained. Much like warrior monks of Germany (see Teutonic Knights), or other religious orders, such as those involved in the Crusades, sōhei did not operate as individuals, or even as members of small, individual temples, but rather as warriors in a large extended brotherhood or monastic order. The 'home temple' of a sōhei monastic order might have had several, if not tens or a hundred, smaller monasteries, training halls, and subordinate temples.

  14. One of two things I would suggest.

    1. Putting aside the confusion between eastern and western ideas of what a monk may be, the reason that "monk" works as a class name for a martial artist is that there is a certain context there. Monk in no way means martial artist, but most people understand the connection because of the close association over the years. So with that in mind you could name the class practically anything as long as it works within the context of your campaign. The only problem is that there might be a lack of clarity and intuitiveness should it be taken separately from your world. So is this about supplementing the rules in general or supplementing your campaign?

    2. I kind of like "mystic" as it implies a certain sort of introspection and rebuilding of one's inner self. However the images it conjures to mind run counter to the physicality I would associate with the type of class you're suggesting. Personally I might go with with something like "seeker" or the like as to suggest that same inward journey while remaining at least neutral in terms of physical implications.

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  16. Hmmm, how 'bout:

    enlightened one or the enlightened

  17. Do they study alone, or collectively? Do they signify detachment from the phenomenal world via any particular symbols or ritual practice? Is this a collective term for any who achieve this power, or a particular sect? Are they part of the local society presented in Dwimmermount, or from some foreign realm or dimension?

    Anyway, my suggestions, although like all terms for such individuals they're tied up with the cultures they came from:

  18. Hashshashi.

    Or, perhaps, Batman.

  19. A Dualist (might be better for a Cartesian metaphysical swashbuckler)

    Kidding aside, given the (western) ancients element of your campaign, maybe taking a look at ancient philosophical concepts relating in some shape or form of monism (as opposed to body/soul dualism) would be worthwhile, since, if I've understood correctly, this class seems to fuse mind and body.

    (BTW if any of the following are of interest it might be best to double check, since I've simply plucked them from the usually-but-not-always-entirely reliable wikipedia)

    I'm thinking some might well be combined with other terms suggested previously, such as Trey's "adept" (which I think works quite nicely).

    ***Anaximander: Apeiron (meaning 'the undefined infinite'). Reality is some, one thing, but we cannot know what.
    ***Parmenides: Being. Reality is an unmoving perfect sphere, unchanging, undivided.
    ***Neopythagorians such as Apollonius of Tyana centered their cosmologies on the Monad or One.
    ***Middle Platonism under such works as Numenius express the Universe emanating from the Monad or One.

    Combining them with the "adept" idea, you'd get things like: Anaximandian Adept, Apeiric Adept, Parmenidic Adept, etc.

    Perhaps such adepts could belong to a brotherhood/legion/order: "Adept of the Parmenidian Brotherhood" or some such.

  20. Priest. Replace some of the super powers with cleric spell casting.

  21. Disciple +1

    It's simple and generic enough to describe the class, and you can make it more setting-specific by adding a regional, religious, or technique name:
    Disciple of the Northern Mountains(region)
    Disciple of the Hidden Fortress(place)
    Disciple of the Jade Tiger(style)
    Disciple of the Seven Silver Saints(religion).

  22. Eremite

  23. For my upcoming Red Tide campaign setting, I use "Vowed".

  24. Mystic.

    It has some Old School cred, having been used as the name for "monks" in the Mentzer BECMI edition.

  25. To borrow a term from the Neal Stephenson novel Anathem, how about the term avout?

    It can be used as a noun (he's an avout from the next city) or an adjective (he acts in an avout manner).

  26. Kind of tough, considering whenever someone mentions a "semi-psionic warrior trained through the use of mental discipline to use his very body as a weapon" I think of "Monk" immediately.

    I've used "Nephilim" for an ancient psionic warrior culture in my campaign world (drawing on the ancient heroes briefly mentioned in the bible). Has a bit of that old, ancient feel to it but doesn't really strike me as a class name.

    Judges? Paracletes? Primates? (Now I've got religious terms on the brain...)


  27. arcadian said: "Conceptors?"

    Wow, that has a very different connotation for me. (!)

  28. Well you could borrow 'Paragon' from TnT.

    But I have to say I do like 'Myrmidon' as mentioned by RUI above. It's kind of esoteric, doesn't really carry a lot of baggage from it's historical connections, and, to me, sounds kind of cool.

  29. Empty-hand fighter.

    Since the D&D monks have no god-based powers at all then what difference would the "Monk" be from a combatant who trained to fight unarmed and un-armored? whether or not said combatant did it for religious reasons or out of pure bad-assery that person would still, in essence be an un-armed fighter.

    Martial arts were created by humble folk who had no weapons to fight against armed aggressors. In some cases the martial artists were monks, in others mere peasants fighting off a foreign invader(Okinawa-Karate), while some were sailors who would have been imprisoned for defending themselves with a clenched fist(France-Savate) in any case, the result is the same, scrawny dude with no armor, beats the snot out of big, bad, armed warriors.

  30. Damn, my actual suggestions (Adept, Disciple, and Eremite) all got made already! :( In that case, I will add in the proper name for a battlemind: the Fightbrain!

    I would vote against Myrmidon - to me, that *does* carry strong connotations, and isn't unarmed by any means.

  31. The Shaolin monastery works much in the same way as the Knights Templar and the Hospitalers, namely; they are a spiritual clerical monastery that studies and trains in martial arts and applications as a part of their spiritual practice.

  32. Going with the mind-body unity angle I would suggest Tawhidi, except like all these exotic terms it either has the wrong associations or none at all.

    Disciple, again. Because of its closeness to discipline.
    And autocorrect tried to put an apostrophe in that its. Ugh.

  33. Alas, if semi-psychic warrior is what you want, there's probably no more explicit, better pop-cultural term than Shaolin. Cf. Shaolin Soccer (movie)

  34. Mystic, Adept or Disciple. They are simple, easy to remember and fit the class.

  35. I'd name it something that describes their role in the individual campaign, like Termachian Hermit.

    General names like Initiate and Disciple have the same problem as Monk, in my opinion: you have a conflict with the word's actual meaning. What do you call people who live in a monastery if 'monk' means 'wandering martial artist adventurer' (or don't monasteries exist in your world? Or are they all full of martial artists for some reason?)

  36. I rather like 'cenobite'.

    It doesn't hurt that this was the name used for the supernatural baddies in the Hellraiser films.

    In reality it just means 'member of a monastic community'.

    But it's fairly obscure, and isn't tied to any particular image of religious practice. Apart from the Hellraiser characters, anyway.

  37. The description makes me think of "Esper" which is used in this context in many Japanese games; it's used in other contexts elsewhere, and I'm still not sure whether I actually like the word.

    I like "adept" a lot as a suggestion, but it was used for the monk-like characters in Shadowrun, and you may not want that association.

  38. Dzhedai. It obscures its origin even more than "J'dai" does.

  39. You know, I'm flailing, because I still don't really know what the nature or source of the class's abilities is in your game, so I don't know exactly what we're supposed to evoke. Maybe if you posted the article withholding a class name?

    I found Telecanter's musings on monks and psionics useful in clarifying what bothered me about the semi-psychic warrior. And I've always been bothered by the handling of armor and all those cinematically unarmored classes in D&D. If there's one thing my hands itch to rework (aside from Vancian magic and alignment) it's that whole system.

  40. What to call "a semi-psionic warrior trained through the use of mental discipline to use his very body as a weapon"? How about a "psikicker"?

  41. I'd go with adept (which has been suggested a few times).

  42. > a semi-psionic warrior trained through the use of mental discipline to use his very body as a weapon.

    This brings to mind two things: first the lying-on-a-bed-of-nails fakirs of India/Southeast Asia.

    (fakir: a Muslim or Hindu religious ascetic or mendicant monk, especially one who performs feats of magic or endurance.)

    Second, the most basic of Magic-User abilities/spells from EPT:

    "Control of Self: the user can control his own body: e.g. hold his breath indefinitely, stop his heartbeat, hold some object with an iron grip for a long time, enter into a trance, have total memory recall, seal his ears, etc. He cannot perform actions impossible for a body (e.g. extend his arms twenty feet). This spell can indeed be broken, but only by very powerful magic or strength: a person or being of nine or more hit dice can break the grip of a person using the spell, for instance. Usable twice a day."

    So, Fakir. My other suggestions are mendicant and swami.

  43. Fakirs is great.

    I'm a fan of re-purposing foreign words:

    Yogi would work well too in the Indian sense, but then you hit yogi bear jokes.

    Otimitl for the warrior society that were allies of the Aztecs.

    Pehlivan is the Turkish word for their oil wrestlers.

    Which leads me to LUCHADOR!

  44. Bene Gesserit Witch. Or possibly Power Ranger.

    Every example of this idea in the popular culture gets a distinctive name tying it to setting, because there's no good generic term for it. Over the past couple of decades the word "Warrior" seems to have drifted in the direction you want, connoting not just fightin' but also an internal state, but it's not quite there yet. It might be best to give it an in-world name--as with Jedi, Bene Gesserit, etc.

    If you really want it generic--Mystic Warrior? Spirit Warrior? Soul Warrior? Warrior-Wizard?

  45. The more I think about it, the more I, personally, would just stick with "monk" for the generic class name. At this point and time in the world of RPGs, most everyone knows what is meant by "monk": essentially "a semi-psionic warrior trained through the use of mental discipline to use his very body as a weapon".

    Some of the other names mentioned would work, but essentially would conjure some of the same confusion you initially had when encountering the monk class years ago. Disciple evokes a religious connotation as much as monk does. Mystic suggests a magical background, and given what you've said about the class, that doesn't seem entirely appropriate.

    The more cultural specific terms such as Yogi, Sensai, Fakir, etc... carry their own baggage and specific imagery associated with them.

    I would probably just call the class the generic "monk" but then come up with a specific, setting appropriate title or organization for any monks actually in your campaign.

    It's not like clerics go around introducing themselves as "Candor, lvl 5 Cleric". Instead they are "Brother Candor, High Servant of the Iron God" or whatever he is now.

    This is why I like level titles within classes and I think would work perfectly for this problem.

  46. How about plain old "Martial Artist"?

  47. "Jedi?"

    They're called "padawans" until they reach a certain level, "knights" at a higher level and "masters" at the highest.

    If D&D can crib paladins from Poul Anderson, rangers from Tolkien and thieves from Lieber, why not swipe Jedi from George Lucas? It might even make the psionics system worth the hassle.

  48. I don't get the hangup with the term "monk". Instead of groping for a new term for Shaolin-type monks, I refer to Christian-style western monks as "brothers", "sisters" or "disciples". Simple and clear enough for just about anyone to handle.

  49. Yamabushi. If you look on Wikipedia it gives some background (

    They were obviously mighty warriors who fought alongside armies, but were also holy men. Kinda fits both needs, there.

    Personally, I split the monk into two classes. The pure Martial Artist and the Monk, who had his powers (and others inspired by Jedi) set up like Spells, with Vancian slots and all that, as well as specialized skill with a quarterstaff, rather than punching and kicking. But I don't think that's what you're looking for.

  50. Many gamers have asked themselves the same question over the years, and I've never seen a really good answer.

  51. I agree with those who suggest sticking with "monk". There are lot of alternative words available that can be used to reference Western-style monks - friar, mendicant, brother, etc. There are few words that carry the storied connotations of "monk" in D&D.

  52. Given your Pulp Fantasy fandom, you are no doubt aware of The Shadow and the monks who taught him to 'cloud mens minds' (clearly a psionic power as typically presented, though never directly referred to as one).

    In other words, 'Monk' is fine, though I like 'Adept' and 'Cenobite', as well.

  53. "Adept" is already a Cleric level title, but if you aren't using it as such, it would be a good choice.

    The "name level" for the class should be Ascended Master.

  54. I would call him a Martial Artist. He has nothing to do with a monk or friar.

    It is interesting that 4th Edition D&D has decided like you that "monks" are psionic.

    (I would rather not have any martial arts in my campaigns, but I would love a Friar class: a religious wanderer who wields a staff and a mug like Friar Tuck.)

  55. Luchador

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

  56. James, the historical discipline you are seem to be gravitationg in your conceoptualization is the ancient Hindu psychological discipline of SANKHIYA. Read up on it, those dides practised physical exertion and breathing and towered over other indians with broad shoulders and giant chests. They were forerunners of Yoga, and historically you can call them Dravidians, Yogis, Yogins. Fantasy wise, you can call them Agnesians (from AGNI, ancient Indo-European word for fire).

  57. Borrow from 3e/PF Psionics:

    Psychic Warrior

    or if they're using "weapons":


  58. Pankratiast - Pankration is a Greek martial art that according to legend was invented by Hercules and Theseus as a combination of boxing and wrestling.

  59. Maybe something like Wych, or Wyrd (taken from warhammer 40,000 universe nomenclature) or variations thereof; wych-knight or wyrd-knight.