"I kid thee not. I’ve spent 3 solid weeks just working on class details so that every farmer or bowyer etc has something unique about their job."
A creator interview with Alison of the Secret Door.
How did you get into creating random generators?
I have been roleplaying for over 30 years and loved every moment of it, but I grew up with good old text adventures like Colossal Cave Adventure and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After I learned how to program in Basic on a BBC Micro I started writing my own text adventures using large random tables to provide a semblance of intelligence and to breathe life into the world I was creating.
Then I started writing stories and everything just snowballed on from there.
More recently though I have become a full-time creator and DM, thanks in large part to a very understanding and hard-working partner who has given me the space, at least for a while, to live out my dream.
He is a talented software developer and created the tool I use to create the generators, based on my specifications. It is incredibly flexible and has virtually no limits. It's just one huge database. I can add whatever I like to it. Hundreds of thousands of words and branches. All I need is the time and a fair bit of inspiration.
What generators are you most proud of creating and why?
The one I giggle at the most is my Goblin name generator. It’s definitely NSFW but some of the combinations that come up still have me giggling, even after I’ve clicked on the Generate button a 1000 times.
My second favourite is the Lizard person generator, because I love the little quirks each lizard person gets and remember fondly how I incorporated so many of them into some sessions I ran.
What is the most fun thing about creating generators?
They never end.
I can be walking our dog, months later and suddenly think of a new word, new piece of description or piece of random delight to add to one of them, put it in my phone and then rush home to upload it.
A detailed generator can produce some incredible results and I never cease to be surprised or amazed.
I also love the idea of people using them and them helping in some way. I’m not a doctor, a nurse or a scientist trying to solve our world’s problems. But I do have an overactive imagination and I want to spoon-feed it to all you hungry little brains out there.
What are the biggest challenges of creating generators?
Honestly, there are so many generators out there already.
I discover more and more every time I go looking. It was only a couple of weeks ago I discovered a whole reddit dedicated to them!
The biggest challenge for me is finding an idea for one, or looking at what I can already find and saying, “I can do that, but perhaps with more detail or a different take.”
How do you use random generators yourself?
My favourite generators are random encounter builders as I’m not well versed in 5E monsters, so I find some of the results inspire me to look up new monsters.
I also love Medieval Fantasy City Generator as it creates a quick random layout for me which I then use a canvas and massive time-saver in Paintshop Pro.
What is the most interesting generator or tool you've seen?
I find RPG Inspiration has some great variety in it.
What are your next big projects (generators or otherwise) that you can talk about?
I am working on a major overhaul of my background generator.
It was the first one I did and I have learned a lot since then. The new version will be 1 million percent more random and better. I kid thee not. I’ve spent 3 solid weeks just working on class details so that every farmer or bowyer etc has something unique about their job.
Where can people find you on social media?
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I just want to thank you for taking the time to ask me some questions.
It’s wonderful that people are finding my little creations and if any of you have any requests or ideas you’d like to see turned into a generator, with a little Alison quirkiness thrown in, let me know.
You can find more more Creator Interviews on Rand Roll.