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DMs, GMs, and AIs (Oh, My!)

Playing TTRPGs solo has been around almost as long as TTRPGs have been a concept. While a traditional TTRPG is a social group activity, solo roleplaying games can be more like a journaling experience or guided storytelling through a gamebook (some of which involve dice and stat-tracking, and even modified versions of rules from group-centered games). We’ve talked a bit about solo-tabletop RPGs before - the trouble with solo gaming when want to go beyond the limits of what's been written into a gamebook or published electronic RPG is the GM/DM. There are, of course, many ways people have attempted to solve this. There are the Mythic Game Master Emulator books. There are storytelling dice if all you need is a nudge in a direction. There are even systems that attempt bring in a few different approaches into a single package like RPG Solo. While these are all fine solutions, they all came out before we had AI, or at least before we had what we currently refer to as "AI" publicly available. So... can an AI really be a GM? With just a bit of initial testing, there does seem to be some potential, but also a few notable hurdles we’ll need to figure out how to get past. While this could be a single solitary post on setting yourself up with an AI DM, it's opened up so many possibilities that this is likely going to be an ongoing project we talk about periodically. For now, though, let's work on a bit of initial set-up.

One of the first things to be done is finding an AI to work with. If someone had a paid AI program that already had a track record for doing this kind of project (and doing it well), it might be tempting to drop some cash. A quick search doesn’t show this to be the case, though, at least not yet. That means we're looking for something free and easy to use. While there are probably some privacy issues to consider, and issues with the company itself, the initial choice for this experiment will be Bard. Even just the name seems appropriate, and out of the few free places I tried with my initial testing, it seemed to be easiest to use and worked the best. I even asked if it would mind participating in this experiment and it suggested the following capabilities:

  • Setting the scene and describing the environment
  • Creating NPCs and their interactions with the player character
  • Narrating the story and providing feedback on your actions
  • Generating random events and encounters
  • Provide you with prompts and questions to help you brainstorm ideas and develop your character

All of these seem like the things we are looking for, but there are still a few downsides. We’re going to have to keep good track of the story and setting ourselves, as we can’t trust Bard to do it. The other challenge we’re going to have will be with combat. In initial testing, Bard liked to just complete entire scenes without any player input. Great if you’re looking to write (or outsource) a story, but bad if you’re trying to get a gaming experience. That means we’ll need to be mindful of our phrasing and make sure everything is broken down into enough steps. 

The next thing we should do, if we haven't already, is choose a system. It's tempting to go with our beloved Risus, or jump over to some sci-fi for a change of pace. Most of my own TTRPG experience, though, has been with either Star Wars or D&D. While something sc-ifi like Star Wars would be fun, I think I'll have to go with D&D for this undertaking. While WOTC and Hasbro have done some questionable things, there's still a massive amount of support for D&D, and, for this project, we’re trying to get enough crunch with maintaining ease of support. So initially, we’ll start by using D&D, but we can always test out other systems as we go.

The last thing we’ll cover for this post is character creation. It's hard to know how well Bard will be able to handle NPCs, and some of that management may fall to us, the players. We'll  also need to consider whether we'll be playing with just one character or multiple. Multiple characters would give more to manage, but possibly open up additional opportunities  Once that's decided, a character (or characters) will need to be created to start off with. Unfortunately, though Bard is one of my personal favorite classes, with the AI's name being Bard, it would probably be best to eliminate that as a choice, at least for now. Bringing Bards to Bard is something that can be pondered another time.

Where will we be taking this in the future? Plans for the next post include creating at least one character while getting feedback from Bard AI during development. Beyond that, we're planning to work with Bard to get a town started and a list of NPCs we might get a chance to interact with. Also, as mentioned previously, we’ll need to attempt crossing that hurdle of combat and getting the right amount of narrative control and TTRPG “feel.” Until next time, though, enjoy your dice and your tables... even if they’re run by AI.

Send questions, comments, and paradoxical AI prompts to or join us in "X"-ile at @neversaydice2.


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