RPG Tools Interview: Creator of Donjon

I managed to peer behind the curtain at the wizard behind the great Donjon website that is chock full of great RPG tools. Enjoy the interview!

> 1) Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

i exist at that point in the venn diagram where rpgs, computers, and lego intersect; where variables are named head_of_vecna (because snake_case); where no castle is a castle without ac/20s and tracked suspension.

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> 2)  How would you describe Donjon?

donjon is a collection of generators and tools which i created for my own gaming campaigns, which found their way online, and which have been developing and gathering interest there ever since.  if i were to describe it in three words, they would be “hoom”, “oops”, and “neat!”

> 3) What made you decide to create Donjon?

essentially, failed laziness.  once upon a time, i had to invent a lot of npcs and map a lot of dungeons on the run for my d&d campaign, and every computer programmer in the world is instinctively drawn to turning those sorts of repetitive one-and-two-hour tasks into thousand-hour development projects.

> 4) When did you launch, and how has it gone so far?

technically 2009, though many of those primordial generators were just moved over from the dire press website, my tiny foray into d20 publishing just as d20 was winding down, and had been on my personal website for quite some time before that. my primary criteria is “can i access these things when i’m gaming at a friend’s house,” and by that it’s been a wild success.

> 5) Any changes or updates you plan in the near or distant future?

i’ve been working on building out some generators for the alien rpg, there’s an idea i’d started on for call of cthulhu, and i really should get back to rewriting the fantasy calendar and initiative tools into something slightly less feral.

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> 6) Any other RPG tools you use frequently?

a dice tower?  regarding online tools, not particularly.  there are many others which i admire greatly, and some of which i am sinfully envious, but donjon was written to very much fit my needs and preferences.

> 7) How long have you been into tabletop RPGs?

i remember getting the ad&d 1e player’s handbook in the very early 1980s, and was fully into it by the time the d&d cartoon began airing. i’ve played a lot of different rpgs over the years, although my current group has been pretty content with d&d in general, and 5e specifically.

10) Of the many polyhedral dice, which is your favorite and why?

the d30, because its a big middle finger to plato.

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> 8) Can you tell us a little bit about the back-end tech that makes the site shine?

there are a lot of different parts here, but in general most of the server code is written in perl, and i will fight anyone who thinks poorly of it.  the fractal world generator is written in c, based off of john olsson’s original code.  any code which runs in the browser is obviously javascript, typically using prototype and vue frameworks.

the various name generators use markov chains, and the text generator is just doing very fancy token replacement upon a vast corpus of strings.  the dungeon generator plonks rooms into a cs 101 recursive maze generator, and renders images using gd.pm, which i am not entirely happy about because it can’t do compositing.

> 9) What is your favorite tabletop RPG system at the moment?

as a playable system, i’ve been very happy with d&d 5e, for all the typical reasons.  but i find the forgotten realms to be the dullest of the dulls, so i read and steal a lot of concepts from other rpgs for my own campaign settings, such as living steel, call of cthulhu, numenera, eclipse phase, and star wars.

> 10) Of the many polyhedral dice, which is your favorite and why?

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the d30, because its a big middle finger to plato.

> 11) Anything else you would like to add?

hug your kids and teach them to play.  for every clever feature in a programming language, there is a linter rule which prohibits it.

remember sean lock.  don’t be fooled into thinking there has to be a reason for everything.  0118-999-881-999-119-725-3

Paul Bellow

LitRPG Author Paul Bellow

Paul Bellow is a LitRPG author, gamer, RPG game developer, and publisher of several online communities. In other words, an old school webmaster. He also developed and runs LitRPG Adventures, a set of advanced RPG generators powered by GPT-3 AI. Here at LitRPG Reads, he publishes articles about LitRPG books, tabletop RPG books, and all sorts of DND content that's free to use in your personal tabletop campaign - i.e. non-commercial use. Enjoy your stay and reach out on Twitter or Discord if you want to make contact.