The topic of using AI/Machine Learning in TTRPGs just won’t go away. Most recently, I see that Monsters and Manuals has declared for the Luddite side. I can certainly appreciate this position from an ethical standpoint, and from an aesthetic standpoint I can see why a person would think that computer-created content lacks soul (and I agree, given the current state of the art, though I think that a computer will learn to mimic soulful words and pictures eventually. The question here is how long “eventually” takes to arrive).
In the meantime there is a way in which AIs can be used both ethically and soulfully, particularly in the field of writing. And that is by putting a human in collaboration with an AI. Human-to-human collaborations like this already exist – think of the classic comedy writing duo, or the sitcom “writers’ room”. Even many RPGs and RPG supplements are created by teams – I’m thinking in particular of Tracy & Laura Hickman, who really shook up the D&D world when they wrote the Desert of Desolation adventure series (and went on to write Ravenloft and then Dragonlance, both of which had an even bigger impact).
So, how about a writing duo, one half of which is a computer? It’s fairly easy to picture how this would work: the human writer writes some stuff, feeds it into the computer, the AI riffs on the writer’s ideas and style, throwing out new ideas which the human can then either incorporate into the original text, or finesse and publish as an entirely new piece of work.
In fact, this is already happening. My friend Charlene Putney who writes scripts for computer RPGs (including games such as the Divinity series and Baldur’s Gate 3) is one of the people behind a piece of software (currently in beta-testing) called LAIKA, which is intended to do just this. Once you have trained LAIKA, it will make suggestions as you write, throwing up options you may not have thought of, and helping you to break out of writer’s block. You can also use pre-trained models in LAIKA if you would like to, say, write like Dostoevsky or Dickens, although that’s not something that appeals to me at all (but it might help if you were writing a Dostoevskyan or Dickensian RPG). I have had a quick play with LAIKA, but don’t really have enough of my own writing on which to train it. I’m working on that though…
I just started thinking again about this collaborative approach to AI because I revisited my earlier, surprisingly popular blog post “Generating random content for RPGs using Artificial Intelligence” and was impressed at rediscovering the surreal creativity of the prompts I wrote (at the very end of the post) in order to provoke the AI to also be surreal and creative. I don’t think that the AI-produced random encounters are as good as the ones which I wrote (please, allow me a moment’s immodesty), but the computer also produced some gold dust: I would never in a million years have come up with the idea of a “magical amulet, which will allow the wearer to control any sand-dune within 100 miles” and which an evil wizard is using to slowly bury a village in sand. I could very easily run with just that concept alone, spinning it out into a fully fledged adventure, without any further assistance from the computer.
My project Nanodeities keeps getting kicked further and further into the future, but when I eventually get around to it (and I really do hope to do so) I shall certainly be collaborating with computers, probably in several ways including using both machine learning and procedurally-generated content (my Twitter bot @deitygalaxy currently runs procedurally). In fact, part of the conceit behind Nanodeities is that any tiny sentient entities which are already lurking inside my computer hardware and software (and I’m pretty certain such beings do exist, right?) will be gently pushing the content in whichever direction they see fit.
By the way, I am in the process of writing a book “King Arthur vs Devil Kitteh”, and if you could visit the Kickstarter page and sign up to be notified on launch, that would help me an awful lot, thanks!
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