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AI DM: Olyphants from Gemini

How far can we travel down a solo-TTRPG path with AI before we’re stopped? We’ve talked about the ways people solve solo gaming in previous posts. What we’re doing in this series, though, is using AI to create a solo RPG experience that's less bound by the limitations of pre-scripted offerings. While AI has been around for awhile, we’ve really only recently started to see big advancements become available to the general public. In our first post, we used Google's AI Bard to get suggestions on setting the scene, provide feedback on actions, generate random events/encounters, and give prompts to help with brainstorming. We’ve also worked with Bard and randomizers to create a new PC - a bard tiefling Echo Shaw, and even the generalities of an island forest area of Whisperwind. This week, let's address a potential major issue with this project and then focus on creating a particular point of interest in this town.

The Olyphant in the Room

A funny thing happened when I sat down to work on this project and add to our series on the possibilities of an AI DM: Bard was gone. That is to say, our AI friend Bard is still there, but they're no longer "Bard" - now they're called "Gemini." Along with the name change comes an upgraded paid version called "Gemini Advanced."  Reports suggest that Gemini Advanced is more for business users, developers, and researchers, with the "Advanced" portion bringing new capabilities, advanced reasoning, and a variety of other features. While those features might be useful to our cause of AI DM-ing, they're also locked behind a whopping $20/month price tag. This is something beyond my personal price-point at the moment, and goes against this project's central idea of using a free AI to accomplish our goals. One can also see the writing on the wall when it comes to subscription services (akin to what we’ve spoken about in another post), with the likelihood of prices slowly rising and capabilities slowly locked behind paywalls. Already, some AI services limit usage to a certain number of prompts in a given timeframe or only allowing free usage during a limited trial period. Gemini could certainly go this same way in the future.

What can be done about it? Well, fortunately there are a plethora of different AI services at various price points and with various limitations. While we selected Bard as our first solution, and will continue with Gemini for the time being, it might be worth considering using multiple services, perhaps for different sections of the game. It might be worth giving the same types of prompts and doing a comparison on how each service handles its DM duties. The greatest challenge and point of comparison will likely be tactical contact. For anyone trying to do this project in parallel, or following in the footsteps of these posts, I suggest starting your own document backup just in case one of our AI friends disappears. But until our fears are realized, let us continue our AI adventure (planning).

Points of Interest

There are a lot of points of interest in any given TTRPG locale. The homes and workplaces of leaders, the barracks of area security forces, shops galore, places for everyone else to live, and many things in-between. Possibly the quintessential location for starting D&D locations is the Inn. Even if you avoid the trope of starting the story off in one (is the trope actually always bad to use?) likely your players will want to visit one at some point. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Inn is a community gathering place. Somewhere to eat, drink, be entertained, find work, and possibly even pass out for the night. Even in our own lives, many of those same things apply to our restaurants and watering holes. Putting one, or even a few, of these points of interest, should be a piece of cake for an AI DM.

With a Rising Small Town (2500-3000 people), the size we decided on last time, Gemini is quick to remind us that there shouldn't be an excessive number of inns. Not surprisingly, Gemini avoids making a decision and provides us with a few different options: two inns, three inns," and "Unique Considerations." The Unique Considerations are a possible multi-building inn that takes on additional purposes or inns with "Seasonal Fluctuations." While the unique considerations might be a helpful idea for a game I run on my own without AI assistance, they aren’t things we want to try and keep track of while also testing out an AI DM. We could attempt to force Gemini into making a choice, but having the variety of the "three inn" suggestion seems like a good point to use at our own discretion. With that, Gemini provides three excellent inn names, a one line description, and how Echo, our tiefling,  might connect to these points of interest. Our three inns are as follows:

  • The Moontide Tavern: A lively inn frequented by sailors and merchants, offering exotic dishes, rousing music, and lively conversation. Echo's music could add to the bustling atmosphere, picking up on the rhythm of the sea and trade winds.
  • The Stargazer's Loft: A quaint inn perched on a hill, catering to stargazers and astronomers seeking the island's clear night skies. Echo's music could create a sense of wonder and awe, reflecting the vastness of the cosmos.
  • The Whispering Grotto: A smaller, family-run inn offering a more intimate experience with local traditions and folklore. Echo could learn from the elders here, using their music to preserve and share these stories.

While we may not have Gemini with us far into the future, especially if they again become someone else or get digitally lobotomized, we still have a great start for setting up our session. There's a lot more to do with these points of interest, though. While the summations here are great, all three places could use some fleshing out. There are many questions we can ask about the proprietors, regular patrons, food, regular entertainment, etc. While we could delve into those details now, this post is enough to ingest in one session. Until next time folks, enjoy your tables, dice, and DMs... real and AI, while you have them - you never know when they’ll disappear or turn into someone else. 

- A

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