A fairly simple program that I tried to write in Common Lisp in order to practice/learn. I'm sure this can be done more elegantly but Lisp's string handling seems to be very werd.

(defun d20 () (+ 1 (random 19)))

(defun initlist (specs)
  (let* ((ilist (map 'list #'(lambda (n) `(,(first n) ,(+ (second n) (d20)))) specs))
         (sortedilist (sort ilist #'> :key #'second)))

(defun htmlinitlist (specs)
  (apply #'uiop:strcat `("<table><tr><td>&nbsp;</td><td>&nbsp;</td></tr>" 
   ,@(loop for (a b) in (initlist specs) collecting 
        (format nil "<tr><td>~A</td><td>~A</td></tr><tr><td>&nbsp;</td><td>&nbsp;</td></tr>" 
                a b))

(defun htmlinitlists (specs count)
  (format nil "~{ ~A~}" (loop for i from 0 to count collecting (htmlinitlist specs))))

Sample usage from REPL:

(htmlinitlists '(("Elvish" 5) ("Wizgit" 2) ("Alaric" 8) ("Pounder" 6)) 17)

I wouldn't use strings at all. I would write to a stream.

If wished, I would convert the stream to a string.

(defun d20 () (+ 1 (random 19)))

initlist can be written more compact:

(defun initlist (specs)
  (sort (loop for (a b) in specs collect (list a (+ b (d20))))
        #'> :key #'second))

Now we pass a stream to htmlinitlist and write the contents to the stream:

(defun htmlinitlist (specs stream)
  (write-string "<table><tr><td>&nbsp;</td><td>&nbsp;</td></tr>" stream)
  (loop for (a b) in (initlist specs) do 
        (format stream
                a b))
  (write-string "</table>" stream))

If we want to get a string from a stream, we can use with-output-to-string. This binds a stream variable, which we can use and pass around...

(defun htmlinitlists (specs count)
  (with-output-to-string (stream)
    (write-char #\space stream)
    (loop repeat (1+ count) do (htmlinitlist specs stream))))

Alternate version of htmlinitlist using only one FORMAT call:

(defun htmlinitlist (specs stream)
  (format stream
          (loop for (a b) in (initlist specs) collect a collect b)))


All the various string operations (which are creating lots of intermediate strings which are immediately garbage) have been replaced with the usual output functions and a stream.

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