Roll Me Up

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I play role playing games. Sometimes, I get to be on the opposite side of the screen and run them for my friends as the game master. When I do, I have a fondness for random tables. They are concentrated packets of possibility, ready to seed your creativity. Naturally, diligent geeks wrote up programs and web apps to do the dice rolling for you and greatly expand what could be done with the venerable random table. Abulafia is a growing collection of these random generators and allows users to edit and contribute more tables as a wiki.

I play RPGs online through a virtual tabletop since my roleplaying group is scattered geographically. I’m not even on the same continent any more! Since we are all on our computers anyways, it is tempting to use these online generators when improvising at the (virtual) table as well as in prep. Unfortunately, they all require just a little too much interaction to find the generator that you want to use and get the random results. Sometimes, you need a dragon name while planning your next Big Bad, but sometimes, you just need some quick tavern chatter for color. I wanted a site where I could just type what I wanted and get the random results immediately.

So I wrote one.

I exported the generator tables from Abulafia, lightly curated them, and fixed some typos and broken cross-references between tables. These generators all have a simple structure, some text that contains references to tables. The tables are just weighted lists of texts that may have other table references that need to be recursively expanded. Piece of cake, thanks to re and random.

Making usable search engine required a little more thought. I wanted to return results as you type, so for a good user experience, the “random” results needed to be stable. Each time you load the site, you will get a new random seed. As you type in your search terms, this random seed will start the random number generator used to generate the results. If a generator continues to match what you are typing, the results will not change as you type each character, but generators may disappear if they do not match the search query. Each match has a link that will take you to a URL that includes this random seed, so you can bookmark results that you liked.

I would like to highlight some of the tools that I used to make the web part of the site. My design skills are rather minimal, but Twitter Bootstrap and other free resources really helped get something looking reasonable in a very short time.

If this is the kind of thing that speaks to you, please try out the site and let me know how you like it.

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