Boromir’s death was one of the great movie moments of my childhood. I knew Boromir was going to die. I’d read the books. I knew he was doomed from the start. But when he actually started taking arrows to the chest, I was overcome by the tragedy and the melodrama. I remember sitting so rigidly in my theater chair that my legs and neck started to ache.
Like many things Boromir has said and done (let’s be honest, Sean Bean himself is turning into a meme generator), this over-the-top death is not just a thing that happened in a movie; it’s now a kind of thing that could happen over and over again in the future. In this text toy, Boromir will die every time you refresh the page. His death will be a little different every time, but he will still die. And just like the movie, this toy will overwhelm you with the sheer melodramatic detail of his death. Boromir has 119 hit points! Did you know?
Cory Doctorow’s (mediocre) novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town has a number of weird characters whose names change almost every time they appear on-page. Someone created a web version of this story which randomizes those characters’ names automatically.
This is pretty cool. I think that randomizing the names more fully expresses the effect that Doctorow was trying to achieve in the dumb-paper version of the story. I didn’t much enjoy the book, but I love it when a digital text uses digital tools to enhance and expand upon its core themes.
This kind of stuff is very important to game storytelling. Can we use the way in which a player experiences a story to make the themes of the story deeper and more resonant? We can, and we should be doing it more often.
This is simply an uncommonly good random character generator.
There are a lot of “useful” character/enemy/plot generators on the internet. Most are super old, and I hate nearly all of them. This one’s short and sweet, and it’s got a punch that a lot of random generators lack.
The characters each come with a personality adjective (critical, resentful, irritable, resourceful), an intriguing origin (from the wilds, from a brothel, from a theater company), and a really damn good quirk. Like, really damn good: “who adds a notch to their sword every night.” “who finds it impossible to speak to girls.” “who has serious body image issues.” “who realized the importance of literacy far too late in life.” “who was raised to work in a library.” The quirks suggest a whole range of possible secrets, backstories, and futures without locking the reader down to any single interpretation.
I’ve decided that the biggest quality indicator for any random generator of any kind is the degree to which it recognizes and addresses the inherent shittiness of randomization. Random output is generally worse than output created and curated by a skilled artist. To make random generators good, you either have to:
- sell the randomness itself as the aesthetic (see: fake academic paper generators, some kinds of twitter bots, or the Boromir simulator above)
- invite the user to curate for quality (what we did with Verified Facts)
- limit the entire system in such a way that its flaws are not often revealed.
What I mean by the third point is that, in my experience, short or small random generators are usually better than long, detailed ones which try to tell a whole story. It’s way easier to make a good short generator than a good long one, and robots who try to “tell the whole story” are usually worse than humans. Twitter bots, on the other hand, are short as hell, and some twitter bots are sublime.
This particular character generator accomplishes both point 2 and 3 above. Not only is it short in length, but the elements themselves are suggestive, not exhaustive. None contradict because none are particularly concrete. It tells just enough to interest you, then backs away. I love it.
Anyway, this page would make a great twitter bot. I would follow the shit out of it.