D&D General Deep Thoughts on AI- The Rise of DM 9000

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid your character can't do that.

One thing I've been thinking about a lot recently is Artificial Intelligence, and I know I'm not the only person. The last year has seen the public-facing aspects of the technology explode into the public consciousness. It was approximately a year ago that we first started seeing people start popping up talking about the AI art programs, and the first thread on enworld dedicated to AI-generated art for D&D dates back to December 2021 (if my search skills are accurate), when @BookTenTiger posted a thread about wombo.

From there, we see sporadic threads about AI, mostly art, although a few more specialized ones (such as @darjr posting about an adventure hook generator), until the first real post that raised some concern- @Hexmage-EN with a post asking if people would purchase D&D books illustrated by AI instead of humans.

Now, of course, in just the last few months, we are seeing it everywhere. Most obviously, it is in popular culture, with both the art programs (such as midjourney) and the AI text programs (such as chatGPT) becoming ubiquitous. We see it on these boards, as people post entire comments written by chatGPT, or show how it can be used to help write adventures (as @The Shadow is currently doing). There have been rumors about the possibility of an AI Dungeon Master in the future - perhaps as a feature in a future version of the WoTC VTT, or perhaps just as wishcasting.

Given all of this, I wanted to put up a thread to discuss AI advances generally, and then to allow people a place to discuss what they think this means for the hobby more specifically.

A. The Story of Snarf- Why I Learned to Start Worrying about the Impact of AI
I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.

99% of the time, the next big thing ... isn't. A lot of the things that end up revolutionizing your life don't necessarily appear that way at first, while the things that are hyped up as changing things forever ... just don't. Which is a way of saying that you realize that in the aggregate, you can bet for progress, but against any particular thing being that revolutionary. Standardized shipping containers were revolutionary, NFTs weren't ... if you know what I mean.

And it was the same with AI, or so I thought. I remember the cute wombo art when it debuted. Having kept somewhat abreast of the image recognition and generation, it was ... fine. Fun. Free. Three of my four favorite f words. But it wasn't all that. Even as we began to see how useful and powerful AI art generators were, and could be, I still wasn't that impressed. At a fundamental level, I intuitively understood how they were working, and understood the domain they operated within (generating art, pictures, and the like) and thought it was just the usual ... technology, moving forward, as it tends to do.

And then came ChatGPT. At first, I thought this was more of the same. You know- cute. Just a demo of tech that wasn't going to have much of an impact on life. But ... this was different. In a lot of ways. I couldn't quite grasp why, at first. Part of it was the ubiquity - I would see mass media talking about it. Random youtube videos that I would watch would suddenly have a feature on it (this week, How To Drink had an episode with cocktails designed by AI). But that wasn't it. People on youtube are, by definition, computer savvy and looking for the next big thing. Instead, it was that it was already having an impact on people in my regular life. Two stories to explain this-

1. I was traveling for a high school event and talking to some of the teachers. They were genuinely frightened of the impact it would have on the ability to test the students using standard essays. Both of them said that they were already suspicious of some of the work turned in by certain students that had mysteriously improved, and that the school district was looking into technology that would allow them to determine if something was likely generated by ChatGPT (or other similar programs) just like the school district had previously invest in anti-plagiarism (aka, anti-Wikipedia) software.

2. I was talking to someone I knew who was ... well, not a complete luddite, but certainly not technologically advanced, and they were telling me that they had ChatGPT write a letter for them. They had wanted to write a formal protest letter to a community board, and they were able to get ChatGPT to write the letter that they wanted.

Suddenly, I was getting that weird feeling. This was ... accessibly already. This was mass adoption, and it wasn't even integrated into products. But was it ... good? I tested it myself. And ... it's not good, but it's also not bad. More importantly, it doesn't just write. It creates (for various versions of "create"). It write poetry. Heck, I had it write code for me. Given how rusty and out-of-practice I am at coding, it was better than I am right now. As a lark, I even had it try and write a few legal documents ... that didn't go as well, probably because it didn't have anything specific, but it at least had the basis. Not to mention it can write essays- not as good as a real writer right now, but better than a lot of people. A lot of people either can't, or won't, write ... and ChatGPT will do it for them, in a passable manner.

And this is just the beginning. There's two more factors to consider-
1. The underlying technology is going to improve quickly. This tech is scalable and cheap. It gets better the more people use it and the more material it has. However good it is today, it will get that much better tomorrow, and even better the next day, and so on.
2. The tech hasn't been integrated yet. Imagine when it's fully integrated into Bing, and Google. Or, for that matter, Word and Google Docs- instead of writing a formal letter, you just tell your word processor (or Siri, Alexa, whatever) to draft a letter about X to Y and then do a few quick edits before sending it out.

...and that's when I realized what could happen. With the rise of the internet, and the information economy, we had an increasingly bifurcated workforce. But if you have AI that can code, how many programmers do you need to supervise them? If you have AI that can write legal briefs and draft contracts, how many attorneys do you need to actually go to court or review the contracts? If you have AI that can create bespoke adventures for you, how many companies do you need churning out APs and modules?

If you had asked me one year ago whether a computer could just, you know, make a movie on its own ... say, "Do Tron, but in the style of Jodorowsky," I would have laughed. To me, that was Star Trek holodeck-level fantasy. Now?
Maybe not.
I mean, perhaps we will be seeing movies never before imagined. There's a big leap from stills to moving images (and the processing power required), but it's no longer fantasy or far-off science fiction, but just engineering now.

Woah.... Things might change, and rapidly. But this doesn't bring us to the hobbyist issue. Let's go there.

B. What Will AI Do To D&D? DMing? The Hobby?
Enough about me, already. What do YOU think about my hair?

When it comes to AI and D&D (and, for that matter, the hobby in general), I think it would help to look at three different areas. But before doing that, there is a caveat-

Caveat- Obviously, there can be lawsuits, or changes in the law. Currently there are suits alleging copyright infringement against the AI art companies, for example. There may be regulations or norms (I believe Kickstarter is not accepting AI-generated artwork) that will change things. All that said, it is my belief that while the law and lawsuits might influence the development of what we see, the genie is out of the bottle. Lawsuits might have ended Napster, but they didn't stop what was driving it- the dissemination of information on the internet. Lawsuits might slow the spread of AI-assisted technology, but it won't stop what we see today. IMO.

1. Art. This is the most obvious (and currently the most controversial). Everything from generating character avatars to generating the pictures used for books to, perhaps, generating bespoke and on-the-fly fantastical landscapes for a VTT.

2. Words. I am using this loosely, but an AI would be able to generate anything from custom adventures to custom subclasses for D&D (the singularity will occur when someone makes the mistake of asking an AI to generate the best possible bard ... you've been warned, humanity) to create custom rules and even custom games.

3. People. Is Derek missing from the Sunday session because, you know, Derek? Well, why not have an AI take his place? Do you want to get some gaming in, but can't get a group together? Well, say hello to tonight's GM, DM 9000!

And that's pretty much where I wanted to leave it. Are you looking forward to the use of AI in D&D (and other RPGs)? Do you share my assessment that it will be increasingly common, if not ubiquitous, over the next decade? What uses-cases do you see for AI in the hobby, and are you looking forward to AI in RPGs with glee, with dread, or with some mix (glead?).

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
(I hope this doesn't derail your thread, but I was tongue-in-cheek thinking about this topic yesterday...)

The future of moderation is AI

ChatGPT already has built-in moderation. Let's say I wanted to tell another Enworlder:
Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

Well I can type that into ChatGPT, which says:
I'm sorry, but I cannot rewrite that statement in a friendly or polite manner as it's a well-known insult from a comedic movie. It's important to communicate in a kind and respectful way, even when we disagree or have negative feelings towards someone. Let's try to use words that don't attack or hurt others.

So basically, the short-cut to communicating with emotional intelligence could be via artificial intelligence, which is pretty out there

/end tongue-in-cheek>

In general, am looking forward to interesting and innovative and curious uses of AI that nobody might predict


I crit!
When there are easy to use apps and kids grow up using it starting before they learn to write, well then the world will be different.

It’ll happen.


I'm a teacher. ChatGPT is not on my radar. It is in my classroom. Yesterday I had to have a serious talk with a student that his Theory of Knowledge essay, in its current form, would earn a 0 from International Baccalaureate and thus cost him his IB diploma, because he only wrote about half of it. The other half, which I could identify because it was so much easier to read, was clearly written by ChatGPT.

That is a current problem all teachers are facing, but it is actually a superficial one. It is mostly a problem because we have spent the entire existence of public education assessing the wrong things, and now ChatGPT is exposing our BS. We have always focused on assessing product rather than process because it's so much faster (and thus cheaper) to assess product. But if the point of teaching is to help students learn how to learn, how to be creative problem solvers, then we need to be assessing them through their process in identifying and solving tasks that are meaningful to them. ChatGPT means that education will have to become much more individualized, which it always should have been.

The fact that you can automate essay writing quite effectively indicates to me that maybe essay writing was never as special a skill as we had assumed.

I am now working with the assumption that every student has a personal assistant to help them with writing. I have to wrap my head around what that means. It is early days, but it is obvious that my entire field is changed forever, in a profound way.

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The fact that you can automate essay writing quite effectively indicates to me that maybe essay writing was never as special a skill as we had assumed.

I am going to push back on this, slightly. The fact that ChatGPT can currently write a decent high school essay doesn't mean that it wasn't a special skill - just like the fact that AI Art programs can make cool art doesn't mean that making cool art ... isn't a special skill.

Mastering the basics of clear communication in the form of high school writing is difficult, and not every student does that. Doing it at the college level? Even harder.

In my own experience, I deal with people that, theoretically, have gone through high school AND college AND have learned to write in law school as well (at a minimum, the IRAC method), and I can assure you that there are a ton of bad writers out there. Many of them I wouldn't trust to write a clear high school essay.

All of which is to say- I think we might be misunderstanding what is transformative about this. It's not just writing a high school essay (although that is what is getting the current coverage). Coding. Drink recipes. Creating adventures. Sure, it's based on what people have done before ... but that's what people do too.

At a fundamental level, I think we might not be fully appreciating this, because we keep viewing this in terms of the past. "Oh, I guess chess isn't as special as we assumed because a computer can beat us at it."

Let's try this out- imagine that you believe that, "Writing prompts that make cool stuff come forth from an AI," is, in fact, the "special skill" that humans have. Now, imagine we have ten years of people writing prompts to AIs, and we use that as the corpus to train an AI to ... write prompts for AIs.

What is the special skill? Anyway, not to get dystopian (at all!), because I think this is amazingly cool, but I truly think we are going to see some transformative effects in the next decade that we have trouble imagining, of the type that makes the changes from the internet look like small potatoes.


Jedi Master
Using ChatGPT for the first time was like the first time I tried out a friend's iPhone. It felt like magic. We're going to be in for a wild ride the next couple of years as people start figuring out applications for the tech.


AI at this point doesn't really create. It takes existing work, rehashed an recombines it a bit . Which is true of most things posted on the internet.

But the thing is that it doesn't really understand anything about what it's saying, it's not truly intelligent it's just faking intelligence. That doesn't mean it's useless, but if you ask it advice on how to build a rocket engine, all you'll end up with is an expensive fire hazard.

AI for the foreseeable future will act as an adjunct. It will replace some job activities, technology has been doing that for centuries.

But bringing it back to D&D, I don't see it replacing DMs anytime soon. Starter ideas for a game or even a game? Random NPCs for inspiration? Even character portraits? Sure.

Bur don't confuse true creativity with being able to repackage goods without understanding the pieces you're putting together.

Or maybe I'm wrong and all we can hop is that our new overlords are benevolent.


So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
RE: Essay writing

In the morality thread, I inputted the OP into ChatGPT and my observation is that the AI's answer to a complex moral hypothetical was more holistic or well-rounded than the human responses which tended to be more like individual opinion pieces.

While human writing has a tendency to opinionate within subjective parameters, the opinion-less AI is synthesizing all those POVs into a whole.

That could be incredibly useful tool to zoom out and see the bigger picture first, and then dive deeper into our thesis.


Not particularly related to the thread, but I find how ChatGPT will just lie to you kind of ... concerning but unsurprising?

I asked ChatGPT a few questions yesterday (what were lines 2 and 3 of a particular poem by Wright I gave the title and line one to, tell me which three fictional chefs I named was best according the literature, tell me about the 30 years war in a part of Germany) and it kind of lied on all three. It made up verses to the poem, assigned one of the chefs to a book they weren't in, and said there were important battles there but when pressed couldn't name any.

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