The first few times I played DAO I just used the names BioWare had assigned to each origin; partly out of laziness, partly because I quite liked the names they’d chosen. As I racked up multiple playthroughs I had to start coming up with my own names and I’ve noticed that I can often tell you what I was reading when each new game began: Sybilla Amell was created during my Crusades phase, Elayne Hawke and Liane Amell came from separate re-readings of the Wheel of Time series, Jaelle Mahariel was a nod to the Fionavar Tapestry, and Asha Cousland was, of course, inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire.
By now you’re probably convinced of my epic laziness, but I did notice something else: the names I chose were mostly in response to the type of character I was role-playing. If you’re not familiar with the works in question, we have Sybilla (scheming and a bit of a romantic), Elayne and Liane (both mages, and Elayne sort of looks like her namesake too), Jaelle (icy and manipulative, with a massive chip on her shoulder), and Asha (sarcastic kick-ass warrior).
Let’s be clear, I didn’t consciously set out to do this; after the first playthrough of an RPG, where I make the decisions I would make in a given situation, I start subsequent games with a broad brush idea of personality that is consistent with the choices I anticipate making for that character. So am I playing out how I think those literary characters would act in Thedas? Or am I unconsciously identifying my characters with those I’ve recently encountered who share similar traits?
There are exceptions:Tristan, Elanor, and Aimée (all Hawkes) were just names I liked, as were the names of my 2 male wardens, Alexander and Amaury; otherwise though, I seem to be playing with other people’s toys.
I assume that my first Inquisitor will stand in for me, at least in terms of the choices she makes, but I’ve just re-read Anne McCaffrey’s Tower and Hive series, so if a Rowan or a Damia crops up there may be less of me there than I was expecting.
NB. If you feel you suck at naming things Behind the Name is a great website which includes a random name generator.