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A truename is a unique identifier that defines a creature or thing to the cosmos. Anyone who correctly speaks a being's truename gains great power over them, and creatures who know their own truename go to great lengths to keep it secret.

A creature's true name is not the same as its normal name. Rather, it is a secret name in the original langauge of the universe, and most creatures do not know their own truename.


Researchers of truename magic understand that the universe possesses a true language of creation, now long forgotten by all but the gods. Only fragments of this primeval language are known today, discovered over centuries through painstaking research.

The language of creation is difficult to pronounce, including hundreds of consonants and thousands of vowels. It consists primarily of unique nouns, including proper nouns for every individual who has ever existed or will exist. Merely practicing the pronunciation of truespeech is exhausting.

Introductory books describing truenames include Analects of Vondellak, The Spotted Libram, and Hadrakk's Tome. Lists of truenames are included in The Merciless Catalog of Fiends, which lists demons and devils, and Splendor Beyond the Veil, which lists the truenames of many powerful undead. The Book of Vile Darkness is believed to include the truenames of various fiends.

All intelligent creatures have a truename. This naturally excludes unintelligent creatures, such as a gelatinous cube or zombie, as well as most insects and animals.

Speaking a truename

As a creature becomes more powerful, their truename becomes more difficult to pronounce correctly, as if the universe is paying greater attention to their activities. The necessary pronunciation becomes more exacting.

A creature's truename never changes, except through the user of powerful magic or divine intervention. A high level ritual of renaming allows a creature to change their truename. An even more powerful arcane spell, unname, erases a creature's truename, utterly annihilating them from existence.

A rare few individuals possess a truename such that its utterance causes a terrible backlash.

Speaking the same name multiple times in short succession is difficult, as if the universe resents such meddling. Truename researchers understand this as the Law of Resistance, one of a set of logical rules which govern the use of truenames.

Publication history

D&D 3rd edition

Truename magic appeared in Tome of Magic (3e) (2006).

Tome of Magic introduced the notion that truenames extended beyond individuals as part of an ancient magical language of creation, which includes verbs and common nouns. Previous books describing this concept include College of Wizardry (1998), which described the Language Primeval or Aleph, a true original syntax of magic, the research of which led to the invention of metamagic; and the Words of Creation detailed in Book of Exalted Deeds (2003), which Tome of Magic author Matt Sernett describes as part of the same source as Truenames.[1]

Creative origins

The idea that knowing a person's true name grants power over them appears throughout real-world mythology and folklore. In one Egyptian myth, the goddess Isis gains power over the god Ra by learning his true name.

In the well-known folk tale Rumpelstiltskin, published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, an imp strikes a deal with a farmer's daughter, but allows her to escape the contract if she can guess the imp's name.

Reception and influence

The use of truenames appeared in Matt Colville's The Chain Twitch series, in which a character gives another his truename in order to stop him should he ever lose control of his power.