We all have tools that help us dungeon master.
They might be source-books, loot tables, or monster guides.
They help us with our preparation, and often make our work lighter and faster to get through.
One of the newer tools in a DMs arsenal is AI. It’s something I’ve started really investigating this year.
Before we begin I just want to put forth a sort of disclaimer, because people can have all sorts of preconceptions when it comes to AI.
So, key thing to remember: AI is a tool that can help you do your job, it cannot do your job for you.
If you are a DM who is looking for ways that AI can help you, you've come to the right place!
AI is a multitool with a lot of uses for dungeon masters, but one I particularly love is how incredible it is at combatting “Blank paper syndrome”!
I’ll go through how to use an AI Chatbot (in this case the famous ChatGPT) to help with your DMing and show you some of the really cool ways it can shine.
So let’s get stuck in!
AI is a DM's Tool, not a DM.
The first thing to understand when using AI to help you prepare D&D games, is that you cannot just tell it to “build a cool dungeon for me” and expect great results.
It’s a bit like rolling a random dungeon from the tables at the back of the Dungeon Masters Guide. You’re much more likely to have success if you put effort and thought into what you’re creating and use the tables as inspiration.
Chat GPT can’t do your job for you, but if you learn how to use it properly, it can help you create much faster than you could on your own!
It’s also a really fun way to world build!
So how can AI help me Dungeon Master?
AI can be used to help world build in a whole bunch of ways, from designing a dungeon for you with suggestions for loot and lore, to acting as a sounding board while you create in-depth factions that tie into your existing world.
Chat GPT can help with much more than that (balancing statblocks, making large numbers of complex rolls, suggesting battle tactics, designing traps to name a few) but we’ll stick to world building as an example for now.
Think of using AI like having someone around to bounce ideas off of. I find that it sparks my own creativity and makes for a fun and engaging way to world build.
There are all sorts of AI tools out there, but I usually use the infamous Chat GPT.
Chat GPT is free to use (hence I like it!). You can sign up here to get your account.
Decide what you want to create
Before we get going with the AI though, first we need to decide what we want to come away from this conversation with. You will probably have your own requirements tailored to your game.
Take a moment to think about what those are!
For example, if I was using AI to help build a dungeon I might draw up a shopping list like the one on the right.
I won’t get all of these things immediately after my first input. Chat GPT will probably give me some ideas but they will need improving.
Creating with the help of an AI is very much an iterative process - i.e. you have to bounce ideas back and forth with it.
As you begin your conversation with the AI bot you’ll want to follow the same cycle with each topic.
State - Give the AI context and specifications
If you want detailed, relevant suggestions you are going to need to give Chat GPT some context. The more context you give, the better tailored the answers will be.
I begin by giving Chat GPT a bit of a lore dump, as well as a clear explanation of what I want out of our conversation.
I call this the “Primer”, as it is priming Chat GPT to be able to give answers more detailed and specific to your world.
Here are some suggestions of things you might want to include for your own primer :
Writing the primer can take a bit of time and thought, but the good news is that you can save it and use it again the future (with some tweaking!).
It’s also just useful in general to challenge yourself to summarise your world like you're talking to someone who knows nothing about it.
Sometimes that alone can help spark ideas!
Generally Chat GPT either comments on your primer telling you what insights it has pulled out of the world, or it will go straight into trying to give you the answer it thinks you want.
I tend to ignore this and run through the state, create, debate, curate cycle again for each of the individual points I want to cover. It gives me more detail and more options to provide context!
Create - Get the AI to begin the brainstorming
After priming Chat GPT for the first time I ask it to create ideas.
For me, this is where AI really shines. Blank page syndrome is real and Chat GPT just tears through it!
I start a “create” stage by giving the AI a more specific set of context and asking it to generate ideas around a specific question.
For example, if I’m building a dungeon and I’m not sure where to set it, I might ask something like this:
“To begin with I want to decide the location for my dungeon and what it looks like.
The dungeon needs to be somewhere in the city or close outside it. The dungeon is medium sized and needs to be completable by three of my party .
Can you suggest three standard suggestions and three weird suggestions for where and what the dungeon might be?”
Generally, you’ll get some good responses with a short paragraph of detail. If you don’t vibe with them then that’s totally fine. Just ask Chat GPT to regenerate its response.
I find that within 2-3 goes I usually have something that sounds useful. I might even blend several ideas together.
Debate - Lead the conversation as you refine ideas
Now that we have asked Chat GPT to generate some ideas it’s time for you as DM to take the lead.
Start going back and forth with the AI, taking the suggestions that resonate with you and ignoring the ideas that don’t. Give everything a heavy dose of tweaking to make it your own!
For me, this is the part I find the most enjoyable! I love having ideas suggested and being able to counter with my own and keep developing. Constant building and improving and tweaking makes me very happy!
Be warned though! It’s very easy to get caught up in the bouncing ideas back and forth and go into further and further detail that you may not need. Remember that list we made earlier? Use it to make sure you are roughly still on task!
Curate - Choose which ideas you’ll use and which you won’t
Choose the best ideas and suggestions from your conversation with Chat GPT and trim the parts you’re less keen on.
If it’s a cool idea you don’t want to delete, you can always chuck it in a “Cool ideas” folder to revisit another time.
You have probably already been curating along the way, while debating ideas with Chat GPT.
You’ll still want to do a final sort through as well though!
As we mentioned before, the strength of AI-generated content is as inspiration and a starting point.
Try to use the AI-generated content as a foundation and refine it with your own creativity and storytelling skills. Your players want you to DM, not Chat GPT! :)
The Final Takeaway
So in the end we have learned that AI can be a very useful addition to the Dungeon Master Toolkit.
To use AI effectively we have to prime it with context about the world it’s working in, then hone ideas using the state, create, debate, curate method.
Before I go, I want to remind that you are the Dungeon Master for a reason! AI can be a great tool for DMs but it lacks the perspective and judgements that you can make. It’s your spark that brings the world to life :)
Bouncing ideas off of AI is a really fun way to brainstorm and develop your own plans. I’d encourage everyone to give it a go! It might not be for you and if so that’s ok ... but you might find it really useful and fun. I do!
Hi! I'm Annabelle! I'm the author of this blog and a huge nerd!
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