Names have power. To know the name of something is to define it, limit and control it. For 50 years the Doctor has kept his true name a secret. ‘The Name Of The Doctor’ teased us but didn’t reveal who the Doctor is.
The Doctor’s name could be something you wish to explore in your own campaign. It can also be important to think about in relation to Time Lord characters.
Firstly we know that some Time Lords do have proper names such as Rassilon, Romana, Drax, Borusa and Flavia. We also know that there are Time Lords who just use titles such as the Master, Rani, Corsair and Omega.
The Doctor explains to Clara that his real name isn’t the point. The name you choose is a promise you make. This makes sense in regards to the other Time Lords who use titles. They are statements of intent, letting the world know their nature.
This divides the Time Lords characters into two groups. Those who use their own (birth?)name and those who rename themselves. The key must be their own sense of identity and their place within society.
Those using proper names are often part of the society, part of the political structure or those happy to play their role in society. Borsua was a teacher, Flavia was a chancellor and Romana was happy to run errands for what she thought was the President.
Those who use titles are rogues, who were clearly not happy with their original position in Time Lord society. They refused to let others define them, throwing away their real names and take titles that better described them. They could never be who they felt they needed or wanted to be with their original names.
The anomaly here is Drax, who was an outsider but retains a proper name. Given what we see of him Drax appears to be happy to just be himself. Drax is Drax, what more does he need?
Understanding this can help define a Time Lord character. Their choice about whether they use a name or a title says a lot about their personality and background. Are they part of their society or an outsider. Do they have a healthy self-image or do they need to play a role?
If the player character does use a title it could simply be a matter of choice. Their true name isn’t a secret, they just prefer not to use it. Their exploits will be connected to their current moniker and not their old name.
There could be a more dramatic reason to shed their old name. They could have brought great shame upon themselves, committed a crime or otherwise need to change their identity.
In this case the player character has good reason to keep their old name a secret. People from their past might know the truth. Most importantly their name doesn’t have any significance aside from the actions associated with it.
The player character might have taken deliberate attempts to erase their original name from history. Any appearance of their name in records or the existence of someone who knows who they are is a cause for concern.
The Time Lord might conceal their real name for the same reason that Rip Hunter does in DC Comics, to prevent another time traveller from attacking them when they are young. It could be that the difference between the two camps of Time Lords is due to the amount of time travel they engage in.
The revelation of the player characters true name would make them vulnerable. Once it is out in the world it could only be a matter of time before it reaches the ears of someone with the capability to time travel.
Non-Time Lord player characters might adopt aliases for the same reason. This can give a campaign a spy-fi feel, with the PCs protecting their identities for fear of retaliation from time travelling foes.
If their enemies are similarly concealing their true names then identity can an important part of the campaign. Adventures can be passed entirely around the efforts of one side or the other trying to learn the true name of their enemy.
There is evidence to suggest that names literally do have power, with the suggestion being made in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ that the Doctors name burns in the Medusa Cascade, a place that the Doctor sealed.
Could it be that his name was the key to sealing the cascade? Are Time Lords capable of god-like miracles at the sacrifice of their name? It could be that this miracle is undone if the name is used again, suggesting why one would keep it a secret.
Of course his name could ‘burn’ because there are those within the sealed cascade that hate the Doctor for what he did.
Players may decide to change their name over the course of a campaign. They could begin with a proper name before deciding to adopting a title that more befits them. This can allow the player time to get a feel for their character and decide what role fits them best.
Alternatively a player could decide that their character has come to accept their own identity and no longer wants to be defined by a mere title. In which case they could use their original name or pick another proper name.
A name should never be taken or given away without the consent of the player. While actions speak louder than words a characters name is still an important part of who they are.