House Names & Etymology

Bjornear - dumb
Bonisagus - maybe okay
Criamon - get out
Diedne - silly
Ex Miscellenea - What is this. I mean, What is this. Why. I want to know why I've been tortured
Flambeau - doesn't sound bad ass
Jerbiton - NO
Merineta - nope
Mercere - nope
Quaesitors - okay
Tremere - suitable
Tytalus - appropriate
Verdituis - never liked it

The bigger issue is the latin pronunciation vs people guessing how to actually say the name. I resented when I was younger the bizarre pronunciations.

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I get the feeling based on your post that this might be a product of playing with people who pronounce the names weirdly rather than the actual names themselves...

What is your actual problem with the names, like why do you okay Tremere but reject the very similar Mercere? What would you call all the houses instead? I've genuinely never heard someone have such a gripe about the names in Ars before and I'm curious.


I've stuck with anglicized pronunciations of the houses for the most part. I've seen criticisms of the Ars Magica house names on other boards, maybe or . I've always thought that fans were too polite to complain about the House names on these boards... Though I do think it's come up on some of the previous 6e threads (from me) with a reply or two. The names evoke a Latin feel, yes, but sounds also have psychological associations - ask any marketing director. They were very obviously created in the early 90s -- and it's okay to change things 30 years later.

Fans of the game don't mind, but to new people? I'm not so sure.

Consider how well the Harry Potter house names match the themes they invoke:


Simply put, most of the OoH names are not evocative of anything.

I'm really not following here, because two of the house names you said were not good, Bjornaer and Flambeau, are very much evocative of their concept - animals (Bjorn, bear) and fire (Flambeau, I feel like this one hardly needs explained). Ditto for Bonisagus (Boni = good, sagus is like a latinsation of "sage").

Likewise Ex Miscellanea (Out of Miscellany) has a very literal meaning that doesn't just evoke but describes their whole shtick.

Mercere is the house most tied to the whole mercurian thing... pretty obvious etymological link there.

I'd also say that names don't have to be evocative outside of their association with the bearer of the name - would the name Aragorn evoke any specific imagery for someone who had never heard of LoTR? Would Ravenclaw give someone who has never heard of harry potter vibes of bookishness, or would they think they are some kind of edgy dangerous house because of the associations of "claw"?


I suspect you aren't tracking because you're far more educated than most people, and did not play the game with blue collar types, like I have. RPG players come in all stripes. A new edition needs to target a specific audience but at the same time much broader appeal.

I may have heard once that Bjorn means Bear, but mostly I thought it a Scandinavian name. Many people, RPG players included, do not study much etymology, nor do they care. Most are lucky to get a bit of french language education, and certainly not any latin or greek.

How many people know that Boni means good? Seriously? It has the obvious phonetic associations to "Bone," than "good."

Ex Miscellanea - Does sound like miscellaneous, which is also a mouthful to say and doesn't roll off the tongue nicely.

In some sense, having the OoH house system radically changed might really work. You have generic members of the OoH. If they so choose, based on talent and affiliation, they can join other "clubs" (I use that word loosely) in the order. The basic idea of societies, mystery cults, and lineages is interesting.

Bon appetite? Bon Voyage? commonly used French phrases demonstrate the association between "bon" and "good", and the engish word is sage for a learned person, so not really difficult.

Flambe? flamboyant? again, common words that use the same root with the same "a" sound.
and "beau" does not refer to handsome or beautiful in this situation. honestly either you are going through mental gymnastics to try and change the meanings of the words or the people you are playing with are less blue collar and more redneck.

Uh, yes. "Flamboyant" referring to gay men who are "flaming"

it amuses me though that you refer to a "certain reputation" for gay men in the same post you accuse me of being classist. You brought up the question of education levels, I was merely requantifying. Given that rednecks culture is one which takes pride in its lack of education, I think the descriptor fits your points quite nicely.


So a lot to unpack here:

I suspect you aren't tracking because you're far more educated than most people, and did not play the game with blue collar types, like I have.

Making a lot of random assumptions about me. I play with a mix of people, and frankly the implication that working class people are ignorant or uneducated by default really rubs me the wrong way.

Many people, RPG players included, do not study much etymology, nor do they care. Most are lucky to get a bit of french language education, and certainly not any latin or greek.
How many people know that Boni means good? Seriously? It has the obvious phonetic associations to "Bone," than "good."

Ars is played in lots of places. In some of them being multi-lingual is very common. You don't need to know any Latin to get a lot of these things, just some exposure to other languages. Where I live almost everyone studies a romance language in school so this would be pretty obvious (Bon, Bueno, Bene, etc.).

I suspect "Beau" sounds french to most people, and possibly effeminate for that reason. That is a bad brand association.

What's with the anti-French stuff here? Why do you think French things are effeminate, and even if that were true why would that be a bad association?

Why not just call them "Good Sages" or "Handsome Flames"

Now there are names that actually sound stupid in my opinion. The order speaks Latin, of course the names are mostly Latin.

Flamboyant is literally a word often used to describe gay men, the word has acquired a certain connotation. QED.
A house about badass fire wizards being associated with a word for gay men is bad marketing. It's simply off brand.

This is outright homophobia. I should not have to state that gay men can be just as "badass" as anyone else. Sexual orientation has no bearing on the character of a person.

Also for the record Flambeau is a French word meaning a torch or light. So it isn't even Flam+Beau it's Flambe+-eau (according to wiktionary, anyway).


Look, if Ars is played significantly in multi-lingual countries where etymological associations are more easily understood, than maybe nothing should be changed. Atlas doesn't share their sales data, so I have no idea about the larger international market. (I think the game sells reasonably well in Britain, and has a French translation.)

Where I live, people learn French in school most often, and it's taught terribly. The situation is so bad for french teachers that people are teaching it without even knowing the language, thus exacerbating the situation. (According to the news.)

The bigger problem is that all of our opinions here are subjective. Family background, town you grew up in, place of education, level of education, gender, race, culture, region, state/province/prefecture, and country, type of media consumed, friend circle etc shape how words are perceived. "Thug" to me means someone who beats up another person, but it sure has a much stronger (negative) racial connotation in parts of the US and Canada.

I don't know how to set up a focus group to understand RPG players (not the public opinion) perception of latin based words. Such an activity would require a solid market research department that is simply out of the scope of every RPG developer today, unfortunately.

My main point, is that the names of houses, the genre niches they fill, should be reviewed. I suspect there is some peer reviewed psychology, marketing, or linguistic research about associations various audiences have about certain words. International appeal is important, and should likely be considered.

The only person who is raising these strange "connotations" is yourself. I'm not going to write a big involved reply here because this is getting off topic in an unproductive way. I'll just say that assuming the best of intentions bringing sexual orientation and now race into this discussion unprompted in this way was not a good way to try and make this point. I regret asking the question in the first place.


I live in the Midwest US, and thug does not have racial connotations where I am from. First homophobia, now racist remarks, dude stop digging.

Thunder Hammer needs to be banned. His remarks are homophobic and derogatory. See, I am the uneducated wage worker around here, and I am grossly offended. Being blue collar is honorable, but it is not an excuse for ignorance or insults.
And it is not even the Flambeau thing (though it is a mistake to rile up that Flambeau guy, which is I).


now racist remarks, dude stop digging.

I am not digging RE: Thug. Look at this: I was quite surprised to start reading about this myself, as I never had associated that word more than being a violent jerk, myself. From what I've read, it seems to be more of an east coast thing but don't pretend to be any kind of expert on it.

His remarks are homophobic and derogatory.

I can see my remarks regarding Flambeau were off base and have deleted them. I patently deny any homophobia. I did do a bad job pointing the that word associations people may have are not always politically correct, and not in our control.

Thank you for calling out on the various *phobia.

Edit: someone fortunately asked the question on how to block a user in another thread.
Just write your user name in the link:
Do not copy paste the user name to be blocked into the box, it will autocomplete once you type Thunder.

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Thug is tricky. It definitely has very racist roots, and there is still a lot of biased usage in the media. That said, this coding is generally subconscious for a lot of people. They don't know the history, and they would be as likely to associate it with a mafia hitman as with a black gang member. But in how it is used by the media, it is much more commonly used when describing, say, a black victim of police brutality, vs a white one. Regardless, this is probably not the right place to hash this out.

One thing I was thinking about 6th edition...I think that Ars Magica should not try to be something to everyone. There are already games that fill that, and I don't think Ars Magica can overtake D&D in that regard. But Ars Magica has a very dedicated player base willing to buy 20+ books of source material, which is definitely something. I think expanding the appeal should definitely be a goal, but it shouldn't lose its soul in the process. If someone hates magic, wizards, and doesn't want to play with them...this might just not be the game for them. Instead, I have talked to a LOT of people who really love the core ideas of Ars Magica, but are turned off by the extended complexity. Heck, I'm playing a game and loving it, and I'm still turned off by the complexity! There's just so. Much. There. And a lot of it doesn't really add much. To me, this is a critical issue in the game.

Also, I should define what I mean by complexity. People talk about essential complexity and incidental complexity. Essential complexity is the complexity that is core to the thing you want to do. Incidental complexity is complexity you get nothing for. The magic system is "complex," but I've never seen anyone complain about it...that is essential complexity. Because the game is directly about magic, and the reward for grappling with the system is a beautiful, extensible, coherent magic system. But the skill system has a ton of incidental complexity. "Turn to page 72 of a book that came out 15 years after the core rules to find 3 pages describing a new obscure subsystem."


First, he said in some parts of the United States and Canada, not every part, so it is irrelevant if in some places it doesn't mean that. He even pointed out that that isn't what he's used to it meaning. Meanwhile, pointing out that a term has racist connotations in some places is not a racist remark. Here is an NPR piece on "thug":

Though written poorly and derogatorily, I thought he was trying to point out that game terms that may evoke such sentiment are risky. I don't think "Flambeau" would do that at all. For an obvious example, what if I wrote a game set in the southern US decades ago and had the N-word throughout it as the word was used in the setting in real life? That would be a bad choice, yes? That is quite so many huge steps beyond "Flambeau." Thankfully he has gone back to delete these statements. He was right to be called out for some of them, just not for racism.

Meanwhile, he's not the only one saying such things:

Lots of people use the N-word to describe each other and when talking with each other. That doesn't mean being from outside that group and using it is acceptable by claiming "requantifying."

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You can also flag posts as off-topic or inappropriate to bring them to the attention of the moderators, by clicking on the "..." next to "Reply", then the little flag icon. Discourse is designed to empower community members to self-police, and flag from trust level 4 users (or levels 3s on levels 0s) have automatic effects.

(And someone with TL4 should probably do a thread-split to remove these off-topic posts to another thread in general discussion, where they can be ignored in peace)

I think the point being made wasn't necessarily the issue (for me anyway) it was that the examples being used veered into offensiveness (whether intentional or not) while also requiring pretty big leaps to get to them.

For example the same point could have been made with, say, Verditius. That's a name which you could argue sounds more like the name of a nature magic house than a craftsman house, because it sounds close-ish to "verdant".

Should we split off these posts into a 'Changing the House Names" thread as @IdiotSavant suggests? I don't want to just arbitrarily do it myself, but they do derail the thread a bit.


Thug comes from the Thugee sect of Kali worshipers in India who resisted British rule via assassination by strangulation and thus the word entered the English language with an association of violence. While there is arguably a racist component to that origin it is completely unrelated to any American usage in the modern day.

Some people may use a word in a way that implies racism, that does not mean that word association belongs to an entire country, or even regions of that country.

This is demonstrably untrue. Again, there are dissections of how the word is deployed in the media. But it's true that a given individual's associations are not necessarily, or even likely, to be explicitly racist.

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