Computer? Generate a Character, Please.

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It may not come as a surprise to most of you that I enjoy some specifically nerdy things, and that I consider Artificial Intelligence one of the most fascinating areas for speculation within the broad realm or nerdy-stuff. I’m certain I’ve mentioned Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom at some point as a fun exploration of AI’s history and potential future, but today I want to spotlight something a bit less theoretical.

I’ve been lurking in the LitRPG Forum Discord server for a while, occasionally participating in discussion with authors and readers in the genre, but always keeping an eye on one of the pet projects over there. Paul Bellow has been using GPT-3 to create a Swiss Army Knife of tools for his own works and, more recently, TableTop RPG players and other writers. Recently it’s gotten a bit of an upgrade and its own discord server instead of just being a channel in the LitRPG Forum server.

Let’s rush through the tech words and get to the good stuff. GPT-3 is OpenAI’s current AI based natural language model API, which is powerful enough at producing high quality content that they weren’t comfortable just throwing the source code out for anyone to re-create it. The gist of it is that GPT-3 can produce quality text from prompts, and the text it generates can be trained based on the data you feed it. This would allow you to, for example, have it spit out a character backstory in the style of a specific author based on parameters you set for the character, if you had models built for that purpose.

LitRPG Adventures has exactly that, and I have been absolutely abusing it for idea generation.

The first thing that caught my attention was the variety of author models, with options including Terry Pratchett, Octavia Butler, and Jim Butcher just to name a few. From the tinkering I’ve done I’m impressed at how subtle yet noticeable the author models are. You want something a little off-kilter? Grab the Pratchett or Douglas Adams model and it’ll inject a flair of that British humor. I tried my hand at training GPT-2 models off data sets not that long ago and it’s not a small feat to get the AI to mimic a specific voice without breaking the model.

Getting auto-generated content in an author’s voice is only half the battle, you need a prompt in order to make that data useful. This is where the generators come in. The site had Fantasy and Sci-Fi generators for everything from player Character Backstory and Magic Items to alien races. and planets.

I can only imagine the headaches the NPC generator would have prevented when running D&D games. Normally, you have to pull a name, personality, and description out of thin air and try not to contradict yourself when the players suddenly decided to adopt the random goblin in the bar as their mascot or whatever. That’s part of the fun, of course, but it can become a chore at times. It would have been nice to just roll an NPC Commoner, pick the author style, race, gender alignment, profession, and optional personality modifiers and click a button. Boom! Here’s Halk Grading, your R.A. Salvatore-styled, Chaotic Good, male Goblin Barber with AI generated name, appearance, backstory, interaction notes, and D&D style stats.

With its roots in tabletop RPGs, the default option for generating content is to make it available to the rest of the users on the site. You don’t necessarily need to roll everything unique and can grab from the pool as needed. Even if your players browse the public content occasionally you can still trust that there were be new things as people use it. This public content is available for all to use for their games, but isn’t usable commercially.

Alternatively, you can generate the output privately instead of publicly. Private content grants you the rights to use the AI generated output in your own works, like books or custom RPG modules or whatnot.

I am enthusiastic about things that I find value in and highly recommend giving LitRPG Adventures a look. The link I used for it is an affiliate link, meaning if you follow it and decide you want to upgrade past the free tier it’ll kick a few credits my way. I’m more interested in seeing what people make with it than anything else.