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I've been making random generators for about a year now using Orteil Dashnet, and now using GIMP. I don't think I'll be uploading them here though, as I'm not sure if they're allowed, but I do have links at the bottom. On DeviantArt, there's also a method using dice, but that takes way too long to either create because you're limited to the sides of your dice—you could make a sort of tree graph such as "If you rolled a 1, go to question 37 . . ." but I much prefer Orteil Dashnet or making Gif-Set generators.
One of the most useful tools a writer can have are random generators. You can find just about any kind of random generator as simple as choosing a number to choosing a plot outline. The possibilities are endless! They're fun to use, and they're fun to make. While there are a number of sites that let you use their random generators, there aren't a lot of sites that let you make your own, and the few that do may not let you do much at all. Some sites let you create a small number of tables with lists and the generator chooses each subject in those lists, but what if you need more tables of lists to choose from?

Creating a random generator all on your own on your own site is one way, but you would need knowledge in HTML, CSS, PHP, and javascript to create a generator from scratch. HTML and CSS alone can be plenty complicated for the average person. Well, luckily, there is a middle ground.

I've found two ways of making random generators that work for me. One way is very simple, easy, and fast to do, but the results tend to be too simple, and can be predictable, while the other method is somewhat complicated and time consuming when making it, the results can be as detailed as you need them to be and with only a push of a button you can get numerous different results that can't be predicted.

Let's start with the first method.

.Gif Random Generators:

For this method, all you'll need is a some sort of image program like Photoshop, Adobe, or GIMP. GIMP's free, and this has more than enough features for making random generators, so if all you want to do is make a visual and creative random generator, I wouldn't waste the money buying Photoshop. Of course, if you want to share your random generator, you'll also need to upload it to sites like Tumblr, Photobucket, or any site that support gif images. Of course, you could also use MS Paint, and then upload the stills onto a site and make it a gif from there, but having GIMP makes it simpler without the extra steps.

If you don't know what "gif" is, they're basically moving images, much like movies you watch in theaters or at home except they're on a smaller and simpler scale. In order for a movie to show a bouncing ball, there has to be still images of a ball in various positions shown one after the other. You can make a gif using still images and stacking them one after the other, and then put an amount of time the still images are shown.

This is what makes these kinds of random generators predictable. The still images are shown in the order that you choose, and only in that order. In other words, if I can figure out the list of words you used for the generator, and then figure out the order, all I'd have to do is count in my head and wait for the opportune moment to click and drag the image to get the result I want. That being said, if you don't plan to cheat, these kinds of generators can still be useful for those simpler circumstances.

To make a gif, I'll refer you to this video: GIMP GIF Tutorial.

Keep in mind that this is an old video, and GIMP has been updated, so things appear different and features have been moved, but the steps remain pretty much the same. So watch that video, unless you already know how to make a gif, and then come back here and I'll give you an idea of what the frames should look like.

First, from Tumblr, here are some examples.

Click on any one, and you'll see the title of what the random generator's about, maybe some instructions which consist either of clicking and dragging, or of taking screenshots, and then the individual categories of individual traits quickly flipping from one to the other to the next.

The title image doesn't have to be a gif because it isn't moving, so when saving the image, .jpg, .jpeg, or .png. You could use .gif, but it's up to you. (This site explains when to use which). This goes the same for the instruction image if you choose to have it. Of course you don't necessarily need a title or an instruction image, but I think it makes your random generator more recognizable as your own creation.

Now for the categories. You could, technically, use sentences such as "He/she has [trait] eyes," but I think "Eyes: [trait]" works much better for this method. Because the user is clicking and dragging, one hand is holding the mouse, and the other is jotting down the information, and it would be frustrating if the hand holding the mouse slips (and it's worse for people with a touch-pad on a laptop, so keeping it simple one to three worded results would be best; however this is a personal preference, and you can do whatever you want.

Going with the eye example, first create open a new image of whatever size you think is appropriate or allows for easy-to-click, easy-to-drag, and easy-to-read ability. You can design the background, but I would stick with solid colors or a subtle gradient. If you use too many colors in your gradient, it could make the results hard to read.

Choose a font, color, and size that's easy to read and type "Eye:" either in the upper-right corner, upper center, or to the right. Flatten the image so the text and the background are one image in your layers. Then duplicate this layer as many times as necessary based on how many results you have planned for this category.

You can stick with the same font, color and size as the category, but I generally like to at least change the color to make the results stand out from the category, but, again that's just a personal preference. As long as it's still readable, it's fine. One one layer, write one of the results. On another layer, another results and on and on as so:

Eye: Green
Eye: Blue
Eye: Brown
Eye: Gray
Eye: Black
Eye: Purple


Follow the video on how to make a gif, and these layers are your frames. You've officially made one random generator. Make sure to save this under .gif. You can of course make more categories with more traits, but each of these categories are their own gif. You can't just make separate categories and then post them under one image. Well, technically you could, but if you try to click and drag, then the entire image with all of the traits are dragged with it at the same time, and while that may seem like a good thing, it's actually not.

Let's say the eye has six results, the nose has three, the mouth has six, and ears have 4 results:

Eyes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Nose: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3
Mouth:1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4
Ears: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


If you look down each column and jot down each number combination, there's only twelve possible results before the pattern starts over again, but if you keep each category it's own gif, then there are 432 possible combinations (6x3x4x6). Not to mention, because the eyes and ears have the same amount of results, they'll always be the same pairs instead of one trait with another trait that isn't on the same frame. The only possible way to change this is to alter the timing of each frame so the Eyes frames are every second, and every ears frame is every half second or some other amount of time that isn't one second. You could do this for all of the categories and get 432 possible combinations, but that would take a lot longer and a lot of math.

It's just easier to keep each category separate so a person has to click and drag one category at a time.

On Tumblr, you're allowed to upload straight from your computer, but only ten images at a time. So it's either ten categories; one title image and nine categories; or one title image, one instructions image, and eight categories.

There's also Deviantart, but you can only have one image or category per window. Using thumbnails of each of the images in a text-based piece, such as journals or some other text-based art won't work either for this.

Photobucket is an option, but, like DeviantArt, there isn't a way around that one image per window rule.

The only site that I can think of where you can use as many images as you want on a single page, without it being a thumbnail nor having it being a still image, is You-Fic.net, which you'd need to upload the images on Photobucket or some other image hosting site with a direct image url first. You-Fic is an awesome site where you can have free range in customization, but you'd have to know an intermediate amount of HTML and CSS, of which I'm not going to explain. I'll explain a micro-bit about it in the second method, but it's definitely not going to be enough on You-Fic.

With Wattpad, you can also upload images and gifs without any knowledge of HTML knowledge, but you can only upload up to twenty images. This may be more than enough for most of you, but I'm not the average person. Plus, You-Fic allows more features when it comes to the writing portion if I need to further explain some details, such as physical traits that many people may not know.

Now onto my personal favorite method.

Orteil Dashnet's Random Generators:

For this method, all you need is a word document such as Notepad, Microsoft Word, or LibreOffice. It would also help if you have an account on a website that hosts text files such as Pastebin because, while you can make pastes as a guest, once you save it anonymously, you can't edit it. Of course there are other sites you can use, but I personally prefer Pastebin. You also don't have to register at Orteil Dashnet, but if you ever want advice, I highly recommend registering so you can ask your questions in the forums.

I always say that simplicity is better, so I haven't explored everything you can do with this method, but I do know enough to help get you started and to give you extra tips (or point out the tips as explained on Orteil's FAQ that I kept missing). That being said, even with these simple tricks, you can be as detailed in your generator as you want without frustrating people that use your generators. Sure, you can't color the background or choose a different font, but I prefer detailed results over aesthetics; however if your aesthetics are strictly black and white with simple HTML tricks to make it look nicer, then you're golden, my friend.

Speaking of HTML, you'll also need to know a little of that, but don't start hyperventilating, because Orteil only accepts a few of the most basic tags, of which, I'll explain. First, on your word document, I should teach you how to format your generator.

At the top of your generator you should have:

$name :
$author :
$description :
$picture :
$amount :
$button :


This is the heading of your random generator where the title, the creator, summary etc. will be. The "$picture :" is purely optional, but if you want to use it, the maximum image dimension is 128x128px and the url used should look something like "http://.../pic.png". The "amount" refers to the default number of results the generator will produce; however, on the site itself, anyone can change the number (although even if you put "100" only up to fifty results will come up). "Button" refers to what the button on the site will say. It automatically says "Push!" but you can make it say anything. There might be a character limit, but I'm not sure because I keep it only one word.

As an example of one of my own generators, this would look like:

$name : Random Character Personality Generator
$author : HatedLove6
$description : This combines a few of my generators that comes up with a basic personality—the Meyer-Briggs personality, Moral Alignment Type, Love Attitude Style, Attachment Style, and choosing a few philosophies.
$amount : 1
$button : Push!


Which you can see how this will look here.

Next, make your categories and lists. The categories are signaled by the dollar sign, just like your headings' name, author, description, picture, amount, and button. In many of my generators, I often abbreviate my categories, but you can do anything, even stick to numbers if you want. Above the amount is "View Source," so go ahead and click on that, and you'll see what the document looks like without it being converted into the generator.

"mb" stands for "Myers-Briggs," "ma" stands for "Moral Alignment," "la" stands for "Love Attitude," and "style" refers to the "attitude style," "a" stands for the Pearson-Marr "archetype," and "philosophy" is just that.

After you've finished the categories, type "$phrase." This signifies the results. You can type entire sentences, or, as portrayed in this generator, you can use the category and traits results. Look at the source again, and ignore the HTML for now. In order to plug in the category's list in a result, you use the square brackets around the category name without the dollar sign.

Myers-Briggs Personality: [mb first] [mb second] [mb third] [mb fourth]


Once you're done with the phrase, you're technically done with the generator. You can save your document, copy and paste the generator to the text host site, like Pastebin, making sure the document is either unlisted or public, and that it never expires. Then take the jumble of letters and numbers that saved document has at the end of the url and stick it at the end of "orteil.dashnet.org/randomgen/?gen=" and you have the url for your generator on Orteil.

That's the bare-bones part of this method. Here's where I talk about more tips and tricks to enhance your generator.

First, let's discuss the HTML. If you know how to use HTML, great, but I still suggest to not skip ahead because Orteil has some differences in use when it comes to HTML. For those of you who have never even heard of HTML, I'll explain a little bit.

HTML is a computer language that websites can decode to enhance the look and format of your text. (Just replace the "^" with the greater-than and less-than signs.) You want to bold your text, you use the bold tags.

^b^^/b^

Italics? The italics tags.

^i^^/i^

Most of each set of tags has a beginning tag and a closing tag. You put the beginning tag in front of the word or phrase you want to enhance, and you put the closing tag after the word or phrase, like so:

^b^Myers-Briggs Personality:^/b^ [mb first] [mb second] [mb third] [mb fourth]


Only "Myers-Briggs Personality:" will be in bold.

The tags that Orteil Dashnet accepts are: bold ^b^, italics ^i^, underline ^u^, quote ^q^, paragraph ^p^, small text ^small^, big text ^big^, three kinds of headings ^h1^^h2^^h3^, and line break ^br^.

Everyone knows what bold, italics and underline are, so I won't get into that.

Quote turns your text gray and adds quotes around the text.

Paragraph adds an indentation like in paragraphs. It also skips to the next line so if you have something like:

blah blah blah ^p^blah blah blah^/p^


It'll look like:

blah blah blah

blah blah blah


Small text makes your text smaller while big text makes your text bigger.

The heading tags is the aesthetically pleasing side of Orteil. The first heading is a solid black bar with white font, and it makes the text bigger. The second heading makes the text bigger and has a line over and under the text. The third heading simply makes the text bigger and bolder. All of these headings caps locks the text and makes any text after it go to the next line, so if you have:

^h1^Meyer-Briggs Personality:^/h1^ [mb first] [mb second] [mb third] [mb fourth]


Then it'll be something like:

MEYER-BRIGGS PERSONALITY:
Extrovert (E) Sensing (S) Thinking/Feeling (T/F) Perceiving


The line break tag is the only tag that's different from how HTML is usually used. Usually it's typed out as "^br /^" and this is a self-ending tag, so you don't need a beginning and ending tag. Instead, Orteil wants you to type ^br^. Other than that bit of difference it works the same way as you HTML aficionados are used to. For those of you new to HTML, the line break tag simply forces the text to the next line. For example:

Myers-Briggs Personality: [mb first] [mb second] [mb third] [mb fourth] ^br^Moral Alignment Type: [ma primary]-[ma secondary]


Would look like:

Myers-Briggs Personality: Extrovert (E) Sensing (S) Thinking/Feeling (T/F) Perceiving (P)
Love Attitude Style: Eros-Pragma


Now let's say you want the Myers-Briggs and the Love Attitude to have a blank line in between the results. All you have to do is type , doubling the tags. So:

Myers-Briggs Personality: [mb first] [mb second] [mb third] [mb fourth]^br^^br^ Moral Alignment Type: [ma primary]-[ma secondary]


Becomes:

Myers-Briggs Personality: Extrovert (E) Sensing (S) Thinking/Feeling (T/F) Perceiving (P)

Love Attitude Style: Eros-Pragma


If you look into the generator's sources, you'll notice that I have four line break tags at the very end. This is so if someone wants more than one set of the results, there's plenty of space in between each set of results so people won't get confused which category is in which set. It would be confusing if my results were:

Myers-Briggs Personality: Ambivert (E/I) Sensing/Intuition (S/N) Thinking (T) Perceiving (P)
Moral Alignment Type: Chaotic Good-Lawful Evil
Love Attitude Style: Eros-
Attachment Style: Dismissing
Archetype: Hero - Outlaw
Myers-Briggs Personality: Introvert (I) Sensing (S) Thinking (T) Judging (J)
Moral Alignment Type: -Chaotic Good
Love Attitude Style: Eros-Pragma
Attachment Style: Anxious/Preoccupied
Archetype: Jester - Regular Gal/Guy


But see how much easier it is to read if it's:

Myers-Briggs Personality: Ambivert (E/I) Sensing/Intuition (S/N) Thinking (T) Perceiving (P)
Moral Alignment Type: Chaotic Good-Lawful Evil
Love Attitude Style: Eros-
Attachment Style: Dismissing
Archetype: Hero - Outlaw

Myers-Briggs Personality: Introvert (I) Sensing (S) Thinking (T) Judging (J)
Moral Alignment Type: -Chaotic Good
Love Attitude Style: Eros-Pragma
Attachment Style: Anxious/Preoccupied
Archetype: Jester - Regular Gal/Guy


Don't manually push the enter button to skip the lines, even if you put in the line break tags. Just put it as one block of text, no matter how hard to read it is when you try to read the source. Orteil will treat each block of text as a separate result and instead of all five categories, you'll only get one at a time. If you need to edit it, you can break it up, but make sure to delete the skipped lines by the time you save it on Pastebin.

That's it for the HTML tricks, but now here are some Orteil tricks, much of which can be found in the "Make your own" section of the Orteil Dashnet site that I've already linked. I'm also sure that people in the forums will have more tricks that they've figured out if you ask, but here a few tricks that other people have told me. If you look at the source of my generator, you'll probably have noticed odd blank lines such as:

$ma primary

Lawful Good
Neutral Good
Chaotic Good
Lawful Neutral
True Neutral
Chaotic Neutral
Lawful Evil
Neutral Evil
Chaotic Evil


That isn't a typo, I promise. In this case, I wanted a blank to also be a result, so I skipped a line, and on that skipped line, I pressed the space bar and then continued on the list. You can put it at the beginning of your list, or you can tuck it in between the results, but don't put it at the end. You'll more than likely forget it's there, or Orteil won't register that space as a result.

This is why in a lot of my generators, some of the results have that out-of-place space.

In another one of my generators (My Big Overly Detailed Character Generator Source), if you view the source, you'll see a few things that may seem odd.

First, the percentages:

$sex
male
female
intersex {3%}


This is supposed to make sure that "intersex" only show up in three percent of the results, but it hasn't worked. I don't know why, but I'll hopefully figure it out soon.

In this generator, you'll also see:

$nail shape
almond [almond size]
narrow vertical [narrow vertical size]
oval [oval size]
round [round size]
square [square size]
triangular [triangular size]


The square brackets, in this case, tells Orteil, that if the results say that the nail shape is almond, then you also choose a result under the almond size category. Here's the full nail section of that generator:

$nail shape
almond [almond size]
narrow vertical [narrow vertical size]
oval [oval size]
round [round size]
square [square size]
triangular [triangular size]

$almond size
water
fire

$narrow vertical size
vertical
claw

$oval size
large
medium
small

$round size
large
small
high corn kernel

$square size
large
medium
oblong
wide oblong
medium with oval base

$triangular size
spatulate
wedge
shell
high shell


This is the Hands section of the phrase:

$phrase
. . . .
Hands: [hand size] [palm shape] hands with a/n [palm arch] arch, [finger length] [finger shape] fingers, with [nail shape] nails.

Notice I don't have any of the nail sizes. Once the shape is chosen, then the size is automatically also chosen. Here's what the results would look like:

Hands: square hands with a/n uneven arch, long conical fingers, with almond fire nails.


Almond is the shape, and fire is the size. In normal, everyday speech, you'd normally say fire almond nails, but I couldn't specify a size until the shape was chosen, so it had to be switched. Sometimes you just need some clarification notes to go alongside your generator, but as long as you understand it, it's fine. These generators are more for myself anyway, but I share them because I think other people may find them useful.

If you go back to the second generator, the one with the gender and body type, I could have used this, but I didn't. Why? Because you can only use the square brackets once. In this third generator I used the square brackets multiple times, but only once per other category. In the second generator, I wanted it so if the sex "female" or "intersex" was chosen, it would automatically choose a chest size; however, because I only have one chest category, I couldn't do:

$sex
male
female [breasts]
intersex [breasts] {3%}

$breasts
with flat chest
with A chest
with B chest
with C chest
with D chest
with D+ chest


It just won't work. That's why I have "(if is either female sex, intersex, or had a gender realignment surgery)" in the results. Of course, if you make two breasts categories with different titles, it'll work:

$sex
male
female [breasts 1]
intersex [breasts 2] {3%}

$breasts 1
with flat chest
with A chest
with B chest
with C chest
with D chest
with D+ chest

$breasts 2
with flat chest
with A chest
with B chest
with C chest
with D chest
with D+ chest


The reason I didn't do it here is because . . . reasons.

Okay, I'll admit it, I just didn't think of it until now. Are you happy? It certainly gives you an example of what not to do though.

Another bug that I haven't figured out how to fix can be seen in my hexadecimal color picker. What basically happens is that despite having different categories of the exact same list, the results won't repeat a digit. So instead of being able to get these results:

00FF00
FF0000
F0000F


They're:

25093A
5A20D6
B2D8AC


I could just list one category and list all of the hexadecimal color code combinations, but that's a lot of work. There are 16,777,216 hexadecimal codes. That is way too much just for a generator. Even with this bug, there are still 5,765,760 possible codes, which is plenty.

The greatest thing about Orteil Dashnet is that it can be as long and as detailed as you want. The lists in the categories can be long, you can have as many categories as you want, and the results can be as long as you want in any style you feel comfortable using, so instead of having multiple parts, you can just make one big random generator. Aside from the bugs, the hardest thing is formatting the paragraphs and phrases so the results make sense, if you decide to use sentences and paragraphs as the results.

One last thing. Random generators are just like stories and pictures. They are copyright-able. So don't just copy and paste someone's entire random generator and publish it in your name.
Chapter End Notes:
For fun, here are some sites with random generators in case they have something you need so you don't need to make your own:
Orteil Dashnet's Forums
Chaotic Shiny
Springhole
Random
RanGen
Last Gasp Grimoire

Along with my own generators in a comprehensive guide book:
My Personal Random Generators (QuoteV)
My Personal Book of Random Generators (You-Fic)
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