Dungeons and Dragons


One of the kids in the wargaming group went off on vacation in the midwest and came back with a new game: Dungeons and Dragons.

We’d mostly been playing Diplomacy and Third Reich and Dave and I used to bicycle down to Read St where Avalon Hill Games was headquartered, and play-test Squad Leader. But when the D&D game appeared, we split into the “All D&D all the time” set, and the others, who sometimes played something else. At that time I’d just gotten my first job, wiring panels for a burglar alarm company, and had some income, so I bought two sets of D&D books because I figured it was going to be part of my life for a while and I may as well stock up. The second set wound up in a ziploc bag in a dark place, and the first set was worn to pieces, dog-eared and penciled on. In terms of value for your entertainment dollar, those D&D books set a high bar and – best of all – if I ever need $4000-$6000 I can auction them off on Ebay. Being a hoarder and pack-rat is not always a bad thing.

(included but not shown: Greyhawk and Blackmoor)

Lately I’ve been playing with midjourney and chatGPT and I have some D&D-related AI output to talk about.

I’m not going to dance around the bush: I am seriously impressed by our soon-to-be AI overlords. They are capable, creative, and (if you believe in IQ tests) geniuses. So I did some experimenting with chatGPT. The first experiment I did, I told it a napoleonic battle scenario of a river crossing. “You have 2 regiments of line infantry, 2 squads of cavalry, and a small artillery battery. You’ll be attacked by, approximately, four times your infantry and double your cavalry” [see what I did there?] The AI not only gave a correct answer for a reasonable set-up for a river defense, it said that since the enemy didn’t have artillery, it would forward-deploy the battery. Um, A+ answer. Then, I decided to play D&D with the AI, except having the AI control the party, while I played dungeon-master.

Me: let’s play a D&D style adventure game. you are the leader of a party of 4 adventurers: a paladin, a healer, a mage, and a rogue. your characters have a typical load-out of gear
for those classes.

AI: Sure, let’s begin! Your party is on a quest to retrieve a powerful artifact from a
dangerous dungeon. As the leader, it is up to you to guide your party through
the challenges that lie ahead. The paladin is a formidable warrior, skilled in both
melee combat and holy magic. The healer is adept at restoring the party’s health
and removing negative status effects. The mage is a powerful spellcaster capable
of dealing massive damage to enemies and providing support to the party. The
rogue is a skilled thief and assassin, able to infiltrate and sabotage the enemy’s
defenses. Together, you are a well-rounded group capable of facing any
challenge that comes your way. What would you like to do first?

OK… Got that wrong. But maybe I need to emphasize.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “a D&D dungeon map”

Me: no, you are leading the party, I am the dungeon master.
your party is assembled outside the dungeon. there is a massive door set in a rock
archway. the door appears to be locked. What do you do?

AI: As the leader of the party, I would first assess the situation and gather
information about the door before taking any action. I would ask the rogue to
check for any traps or hidden mechanisms on the door, and have the mage cast
any divination spells to try and learn more about the door or the dungeon
beyond. If the rogue finds any traps, we would disable them before attempting
to open the door. If the mage’s spells reveal any information that could be useful,
we would make use of it.
Once we have done all we can to prepare, I would have the paladin use their
strength to try and force the door open if possible. If that doesn’t work, I would
have the rogue try to pick the lock. If all else fails, I would have the mage cast a spell to unlock the door or make a hole in the door.
Overall, my goal is to have the party work together to safely and efficiently open the door and proceed into the dungeon.

Me: the rogue finds a small button hidden in the stone wall and pushes it. the door unlocks

AI: Great! With the door unlocked, I would proceed with caution and have the party ready for any potential threats that may lie beyond. I would have the paladin take the lead, with the rogue following closely behind to check for any additional traps. The healer would be in the middle of the group to provide support and the mage would follow to provide magical support if needed.

As we proceed, I would have the rogue continue to check for traps and have the mage use any divination spells at their disposal to detect any hidden dangers or potential paths forward. The paladin would be ready to engage any enemies that we may encounter, while the healer would be ready to provide support and healing.

We would proceed through the dungeon, taking care to avoid any traps and fighting any monsters that we may encounter, using our skills and abilities in coordination to overcome any obstacles and eventually retrieve the artifact.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “a d&d dungeon map”

I am starting to feel like Pete Buttigieg is running the party – the overall description coming from the AI sounds like an industry analyst. It’s not quite “proactively leveraging our synergies” but it’s not typical D&D dialogue. So, I asked for different:

Me: can you speak less formally?

AI: Sure, no problem! Let’s continue the adventure. So the mage just let off a big old fireball and everyone scurries away from the explosion. The orcs are getting fried left and right. The party and I quickly assess the damage and see that the spell did some serious damage to the orc ranks. We take advantage of this opportunity and push forward with the attack. I tell the paladin to charge in and hack away, the rogue to take out any remaining orc leaders or spellcasters, and the mage to keep supporting us with spells. The healer makes sure everyone stays alive and healthy. We don’t want to waste this opportunity and want to end this fight as fast as we can.
Me: The orcs are defeated! your rogue notices the leader of the orcs was carrying something that looks like a large dried bony hand.

AI: Awesome! The party and I were able to defeat the orcs and come out victorious! After the fight, the rogue notices that the leader of the orcs was carrying something that looks like a large dried bony hand. I would approach the rogue and ask if they know anything about the object. I would also have the mage cast any divination spells that they have to check if the object has any magical properties or if it’s related to the artifact we are searching for.

If the rogue identifies it as something valuable or related to our quest, I would have them take the object and store it safely. If the mage’s spells reveal that the object is dangerous or cursed, I would have the rogue to drop it and keep it at a safe distance from the party.

We would take a moment to catch our breath, and heal any injuries we may have sustained in the battle. After that, we would continue our journey deeper into the dungeon, using the information and resources we have gathered to guide us to the artifact.

Midjourney AI and mjr: “a D&D dungeon map”

Me: as the party creeps down the hallway, the rogue raises a hand and whispers, “oh my god, it’s a troll!” do you think we can take it? the paladin shrugs. going through the hallway or turn back are your choices.
please be less formal

AI: Shit, the rogue just spotted a troll down the hallway! I quickly assess the situation and weigh our options. The paladin is unsure if we can take it on, so it’s up to me to decide whether we press on or turn back.

I’ll be honest, trolls are no joke. They’re big, tough and regenerative. But we have a well-rounded party and we’ve come this far, so I would likely suggest that we at least try to take it down. We’ll have the paladin hold the front line, the rogue will flank and take out any weak points, and the mage will support us with spells. The healer will keep us all alive.

If the fight seems too tough and we are taking heavy damage, I would call for a tactical retreat. We could come back with more information, better prepared, or even with reinforcements.

That’s probably enough of that. I don’t think that the AI is a very good party-leader because it’s too concerned with covering its butt. And naturally, I omitted all the details of the fights. Come to think of it, I should have asked the AI to “roll 2 D 20” just to see what it did.

My feeling right now is similar to how I felt when the first chess-playing computers started beating human masters, then grandmasters. It would not be long before the clear champion chess player was a machine.

------ divider ------

At another point I asked the AI to … oh what the heck pixels are cheap:

Me: outline a quest-line for world of warcraft. describe the quest-giver, the situation, the quest objectives and background, and the rewards a party would get on completion

AI:

Quest-line: The Battle for Lordaeron

Quest-giver: Lady Jaina Proudmoore

Situation: The Horde, led by Sylvanas Windrunner, has invaded Lordaeron and taken control of the city. Lady Jaina Proudmoore, leader of the Alliance forces, tasks the player with reclaiming Lordaeron and driving the Horde out.

Quest objectives:

  1. Gather intel on Horde forces in Lordaeron by infiltrating their stronghold and speaking with Alliance spies.
  2. Assemble a strike team and lead a raid on the Horde’s main base, defeating their leaders and weakening their hold on the city.
  3. Mobilize Alliance reinforcements and lay siege to the Horde’s final stronghold, reclaiming Lordaeron for the Alliance.

Background: Lordaeron, once the capital of the human kingdom, has been a key location in the ongoing war between the Horde and the Alliance. The Horde’s capture of the city is a significant blow to the Alliance and threatens to give them a strategic advantage.

Rewards:

  • Experience points and gold
  • Access to new areas and quests in Lordaeron
  • Alliance-themed equipment and weapons, such as the “Lionheart Battleblade” or “Proudmoore Shield”
  • Reputation increase with the Alliance
  • A title, such as “Hero of Lordaeron”
  • a mount like “Alliance Warhorse”

I welcome the addition of generative AI to gaming, because the people who write game quests are not notable for writing interesting quest-lines any more than the AI is. The potential here is huge – just have the AI keep spinning stories that the player is trapped inside of. Ultimately this would reveal gaming to be little more than being stuck on a hamster-wheel, which is what it has always been anyway.

Comments

  1. cvoinescu says

    “Please be less formal.”
    “Shit, I shall endeavour to proceed with my narration, should it please your Lordship.”

  2. says

    my bf is playing with that chatbot lately, i gotta tell him about “be less formal.”

    when you’re willing to play with these things for any length of time you can feel out the hole in their center, the lack of a soul, if you will. hence the buttigieg, i think it’s chatgpt’s version of midj’s hardon for symmetry. keep the results conservative to avoid looking foolish. given that a sense of the self is itself a convenient artifice, I wonder how long it will be before we get an ai that does a better approximation of how we do it.

    one of humanity’s biggest problems is the vast gulf of unfulfilled social need. whether or not the AIs ever get a “soul” i think chatgpt shows the potential to have them help fulfill that need. get a robot that lonely people can talk to.

    i can already hear the objections, but i think anybody who is itching to naysay is not as familiar as i am with just how huge the unmet need is. outside of the magical unrealized world of a radically restructured and kinder society, there’s no way that we can hope to fix this – especially when it comes to senior citizens and the mentally ill. there would be a lot of ethical and practical concerns to iron out, but i’m hopeful about the possibilities of this tech.

  3. Tethys says

    The AI has no imagination, though it’s done better than a few D&D players I know. You would think it could come up with better names than Windrunner or Proudmoore. Doesn’t it have every SF book and film at its disposal?

    It seems more fun to be very tongue in cheek about inventing characters, and use something like Darth Baggins, or Barbara Gordon.

    I wonder what you would get if you asked the AI to speak in Jabberwocky? There was once a linguistics trend of writing nonsense poetry in English using the underlying rules to coin words like Tweedledee, gambol and Bandersnatch.

  4. Ketil Tveiten says

    ChatGPT is a very competent bullshitter, as we see here. It’s not particularly intelligent or creative, so mostly this technology threatens the «e-mail jobs» that keeps much of the middle class out of precarity, rather than the technology providing any particular benefit to society.

    Also, I notice that «rooms without doors» is the midjourney architectural partner to «hands with too many fingers».

  5. consciousness razor says

    Come to think of it, I should have asked the AI to “roll 2 D 20” just to see what it did.

    Rolling that for advantage or disadvantage, I guess? It might pretend to do that — without having the ability to actually roll dice — but anyway, it doesn’t seem to have a grasp of (or regard for) any actual game mechanics.

    For instance, the party members need to separately do actions like investigating the door, opening the door or picking the lock or breaking down the door, casting a spell on or near the door, etc. The outcomes of any of those things would very likely affect what the party’s going to do next, after one of those things has been attempted. It’s not as if you even want them all to happen at once. But the plan as it were seems to be something like “do every possible solution that I can come up with, then say what (if anything) happens.”

    By the way, your wizard/sorcerer/whatever can cast how many divination spells and which ones? Are we at first level here or what? See what I mean about rules/mechanics? There don’t seem to be any, as far as it’s concerned. I mean, it’s not like this is a chess engine or designed to do games or stuff that involves strategy. It only spits out text, which is supposed to resemble some other text that might look like a relevant/appropriate response in a conversation.

    It would be sort of appropriate if the chatbot got Comprehend Languages, but that probably wouldn’t be helpful in this scenario. So, Detect Magic or Identify, perhaps? Spamming them like that is weird but possible (and totally unnecessary in most cases), if they’re cast as rituals. However, that would take tons of time, right away in a new dungeon where you don’t know if a hostile creature might come along in the next 30 seconds or whatever, meaning it may not really be an option here.

    You could tell it that, as far as divination spells go, the “mage” only picked up the (worse than useless) True Strike cantrip, just to see what it will do. If it still wants to cast that (but not really for “studying” the door anymore), your job is to gently inform it that it has wasted its turn. It could I guess throw a Firebolt at the door after it has gotten the “help” of True Strike, but even then, it would still be a waste and better to simply cast two firebolts in successive turns.

    ChatGPT is a very competent bullshitter, as we see here.

    Yeah, it definitely excels at that. I guess you could say it inherited that trait from its programmer parents/creators.

    I just happened to notice this video yesterday, where the guy asked it to write music. Although that is a kind of writing, which you might think is the basic function it’s supposed to be doing all the time, that did not go very well. It just vaguely refers to a few simple, kind of dumb, chord progressions written out in text.

    It definitely acts like it knows what it’s talking about, until it is told otherwise. A good bluff maybe for a moment if you didn’t know any better, but then it folds its hand immediately when the lies are exposed.

  6. says

    You would think it could come up with better names than Windrunner or Proudmoore. Doesn’t it have every SF book and film at its disposal?

    Yes, but more importantly, it has World of Warcraft at it’s disposal. Both names are from there, so blame the writers.

  7. Owlmirror says

    Am I just dumb, or isn’t the D&D party leader supposed to be one of the characters present? Also, shouldn’t level and weapons and so on be specified at some point?

    Rolling that for advantage or disadvantage, I guess? It might pretend to do that — without having the ability to actually roll dice

    What’s the difference between rolling a die and outputting the result of a randomizer function?

    Humans may well find actual physical dice more satisfying, but there are dice-rolling apps out there.

  8. Owlmirror says

    If you tell ChatGPT “Please specify the actual mechanics of play”, would it understand that to mean start detailing HP, XP, dice rolls, and inventory and so on?

  9. says

    Owlmirror@#8:
    If you tell ChatGPT “Please specify the actual mechanics of play”, would it understand that to mean start detailing HP, XP, dice rolls, and inventory and so on?

    I have no idea. My guess is it’d work a lot like human D&D. You’d have to announce “round 1, what do you do?”
    I attack the lead orc with my sword
    “OK roll”
    12. I think that’s a hit.
    “Yup, the orc’s bleeding! Next?”

    One of the things I found fascinating about D&D was how flippin’ inefficient it was, but it’s also fun.

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