The Robots are Coming, The Robots are Coming!

My TikTok feed has been filled with people experimenting with AI art, especially an anime/manga filter. There are also several apps that will generate AI art for you—sometimes using a picture as a seed, other times solely based on a description you type in. Additionally, there has been a ton of buzz about ChatGPT AI. It is an artificial intelligence chatbot that has shown some rather impressive results. Of interest to me as a software developer, I’ve seen it produce entire computer programs based on a description. I’ve seen others use it to create RPG characters, plot outlines, and more.

While the impact of these technologies in the software engineering space is especially interesting to me, I’m pretty certain for the readers of this blog, the capacity of these tools in the RPG space is of high interest.

Chaosium has recently updated its Artist Guidelines requiring that any artwork they use be produced by humans. In these guidelines, they discuss concerns about the possibility of an AI creating derivative works that violate copyrights. You read more regarding Chaosium’s statement here.

Where do I think this will go? My hunch is there will be a lot of initial hype followed by a die-down while people figure out how to use these new technologies practically. In my own industry, I’ve seen how technology has changed software engineering over the decades. Well before my career began, the height of technology was assembly code, which provided a human-readable version of every instruction a computer would follow. Over time languages like FORTRAN or C were developed, which provided a far more advanced language that a compiler would break down into instructions a computer could understand. More recently, advanced libraries have provided tools for advanced machine learning technologies. I imagine AI tools will provide another layer of simplification, allowing for more powerful tools.

I tend to agree with Chaosium’s current stance. One of the challenges with machine learning is it is not always easy to determine how something was specifically produced. And if the data used to train something has a bias, then the completed process will inherit that bias. Copyright violations do seem possible if copyrighted material is used to train an AI. There are a lot of laws that will be settled in this area over the next several years.

What will I be using it for? I could see using a tool like ChatGPT to get some scenario inspirations. And as someone with nearly no visual artistic ability, I could see myself using images produced by an AI as counters or handouts.

I’d like to share a little of what it generated. At the time of this writing, I’m nearing the end of our Great Pendragon Campaign.

I’d like some ideas for a Pendragon adventure near the end of Arthur’s reign, just after the grail quest. Any ideas?

Here are a few ideas for a Pendragon adventure set near the end of Arthur’s reign, just after the grail quest:

  1. A powerful sorcerer who seeks to claim the grail for himself and use its power to unseat Arthur and claim the throne of Britain for himself.
  2. An ancient dragon awakens from its slumber in a remote corner of the land, and begins to terrorize the local people. The knights of the round table must hunt down the dragon and put an end to its rampages.
  3. Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, gathers an army to march against Camelot, in an attempt to claim the throne and the grail for himself.
  4. A powerful undead knight, who was once a member of the round table, returns to Britain with the grail, determined to use its power to raise an army of the undead and conquer the land.
  5. A band of Saxon raiders led by a powerful warlord, invades Britain, intent on looting and burning the countryside. The knights of the round table must rally to defend the people and push the raiders back.
  6. A powerful giant terrorizes the borderlands between Logres and Gore, forcing the knight of the round table to venture forth and defeat the giant to restore peace to the land.
nice. would you happen to know what happened to the holy grai in legend after sir Galahad found it?

In the Arthurian legends, the fate of the grail varies depending on the version of the story. In some versions, it is said to have been taken to Avalon by the Lady of the Lake, while in others it is said to have been carried off to a celestial realm or to have been lost.

In the Queste del Saint Graal, Galahad achieves the Grail and is carried off to the celestial realm by angels. He’s then enthroned as the spiritual king of Sarras, a mystical island. In this text and others, the grail is not seen again on earth after Galahad’s ascension.

In other versions, the grail is said to have been taken away by Joseph of Arimathea, who then uses its power to perform many miracles.

In any case, the grail is not seen in the mortal world after it has been achieved and disappeared from the stories.

It is important to mention that the grail in Arthurian legend has many interpretations and symbols and the object in the quest may not be a physical vessel, but it could be other things, like wisdom, a spiritual union, or a transformative experience. The grail quest is primarily a spiritual journey, therefore, the grail itself may have different meanings across different texts.

The conversation gave some interesting results. The AI clearly focused on the idea of making use of the Grail in follow-up adventures in Camelot’s twilight. This is probably due to my mentioning the Grail Quest in an effort to get the AI to focus on a specific time frame. I will say that idea with an undead knight seeking to use the Grail to rise up an army of the undead seems… kinda cool. It’s a little more fantastic than expected in a twilight period adventure. Still, it relies on a divine object, the Grail, instead of the heavy faerie-based magic earlier in Arthur’s reign.

As I got into a long conversation with the AI, any illusion I might have had that I was talking to a human vanished. It kept returning to previous topics, restating points, etc. Unless one can argue humans do that too?

I’m not sure if I’ll use this idea, but it did give me the idea to play with it on the “AI Art” iOS app. I typed in the exact adventure prompt, and the bot produced the following image:

My ability to draw is pretty atrocious, so it’s not bad, but I’m not certain what I’d use this for—if I were publishing an adventure, I’d be uncomfortable using it in a commercial product. It’s a little too abstract for a digital counter. Fine-tuning the parameters for an undead, unholy knight, I got something I might use as a counter in a VTT:

Note – The Featured Image was AI-generated. I’d asked for Terminator-like Robot vs. Bob Ross. That’s not quite what I got…

~ Daniel Stack

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