Like others, I tend to pick a real-world language to provide the base of an imaginary-world country/locale/era/whatever. Even with just a cheesy dictionary and couple off-the-cuff "grammar" and/or pronunciation rules, it becomes pretty straightforward to djinn up consistent sounding names by roughly translating a place description. Online translators make this almost trivial nowadays.
Bonus points if a "false friend" can be exploited, whereby two languages ascribe different meanings to a name that happens to sound like a real word in both languages. Lots of fun can be had when a place name means "Hills of Glittering Gold" in one language, but also means "The Pit of Gruesome Death" in another.
What I'm going to do for my campaign, is actually ues the name of the band "Queens" and the names of their songs to come up with names for places. For instance, the game takes place on the Bohemian Peninsula (Like Bohemian Rhapsody). I'm sure someone could do something similar with other bands, or maybe painters, actors, and the like.
Actually, the band famous for Bohemian Rhapsody is "Queen", singular, though I understand how Freddy's flamboyant stage appearance might cause a mix-up ;). A good band and good music too.
Old thread but really quite thought provoking. Helps out quite a bit on my own difficulties of keeping naming in a certain "FLAVOUR" to different areas of my world map.
There's a funny passage in Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guards where he talks about the town of Bengloarafurd. Each part of the town's name, "Benglo," "Ara," and "Furd," means "ford" or "crossing" in another language. As different cultures got ahold of the place they would keep the town name and append their word for "ford" because it was an important river crossing.
I like to either just make stuff up randomly, fiddle with a word till it sounds about right. Or i'll find existing place names, from the past or present, and change them around somehow. Or let half the name inspire the rest of the name.
Though I don't usually do maps (maps, not even once?), I do need to come up with names for geographical locations in my short stories. I actually find it harder to come up with names for modern non-fantasy fiction names (think more Lovecraftian geographical locations), than with fantasy ones.
For the fantasy ones, I usually go with the standard naming conventions that the OP discusses. However, I do consider the fact that usually a location has several different names for different cultural groups. I also like to give the names a twist by using historical forms of the words, or even other languages, to craft the toponyms.
For example, one of my settings includes the names "Abeenben", "Cambuscoile" and "Smirrhaughs", derived from Scots or Scottish English; it includes "Midsburns" - middle stream, and "Corbie River" - Crow River. There is also a settlement "Corbietràigh" - Mouth of the Crow. However, all of these names are given by the newly settled population, and there is a name that sticks out - "Guruk", clearly a non-Germanic name, that actually comes from Turkis, and in-universe is borrowed by the native tribes.
Also for such a setting I see no reason not to name your locations in an unpleasant way, given that it is a place generally avoided by the population. For example, in the same setting I used "The Droch Bog" for the swamps where the natives live. "Peak Doomy Doom" might be too cheeky, but with a general linguistic twist - like Dømmetopp (Norwegian), Vegzetart (derived from Hungarian), or Gibelpik (derived from Russian), is good, and provides a good genius bonus.
I'm sorry to do this but that's just not correct. The Tokyo and Kyoto kanji are not the same. The To for Tokyo is East whereas the To and Kyo for Kyoto both mean capital. So, for Tokyo, the literal translation is Eastern Capital, while Kyoto is Capital Capital. They don't use the same word.
Originally Posted by Gamerprinter
About strange name, in Rome (Italy) we have places called:
torre spaccata = broken tower
torre gaia = cheerful tower
tor de cenci = rags' tower
tor tre teste = three heads tower
tor de schiavi = slaves' tower
tor bella monaca = beautiful nun's tower
tor carbone = coal tower
torrino = small tower
tor di quinto = quinto's tower
torre in pietra = stone tower
tor pagnotta = loaf tower
Look: none of these places has a tower
I'm with Avalanche - why waste time being creative when the real world has so much fantastic inspiration?
When I create a fantasy or sci-fi world, I make a list of prefixes and suffixes along a theme. For example, my current project has a country whose language and culture is inspired by Welsh. So, looking at a map of Wales, I make a list of prefixes that sound nice, like...
...and some suffixes...
...and maybe a few extra syllables to throw in the middle...
...then I put them into Excel and use that as the basis for a random name generator. So, you get Aberymney, Llandrinaron, Rhadynleth, Caeravenny, and so on. I've noticed that, in general, big cities tend to have shorter names than small villages, so I might cut some down to Ravenny or Andrinon or Rhynleth. They're probably nonsense in the Welsh language, but if your intended audience doesn't know, then who cares, right?
You don't need too many word-pieces before you get a name generator with hundreds of permutations, but which have a kind of cohesion. And don't forget multi-word names, with the equivalent of "Port X" or "X's Landing" or "Mos X" (of Star Wars infamy).
My first language is English, and to my ears countries like Armenia, Pakistan and Finland have beautiful place names. I think you just need to open an atlas and be shameless in your exploitation.