Even though ChatGPT and similar “AIs” don’t really understand anything, they can still be fun to play with. On a whim, I asked ChatGPT to be my dungeon master for a quick game of Dungeons and Dragons, and it went surprisingly well.
Here’s how the rest of this game played out:
After I’d finished, and posted this screencap on Mastodon, one commenter pointed out that I never went back and rewarded the goblins. So I went back to ChatGPT and picked up where I left off, yielding this short sequel:
A happy-happy ending! I like ChatGPT’s positivity here. But I did want to ask it a couple of post-game questions:
I think this is mostly very impressive — miles ahead of anything that, a year ago, I would have expected to be able to do today. And it highlights where the present generation of “AI” is strong: in making stuff up. For gaming, this is just what we need. When it tries to give out facts, its tendency to make stuff up is the exact opposite of what we want.
Appendix: a transcript
Let’s play Dungeons and Dragons. You are the dungeon master, I am the player. My goal is to kill an evil wizard, and I have already begun the journey to his tower, deep in a wild forest. Describe my surroundings and ask me what to do next. Feel free to throw in combats and other challenges.
You are walking through a dense, dark forest. The trees tower above you, blocking out most of the light from the moon and stars. The underbrush is thick and makes it difficult to see more than a few feet in front of you. The only sounds are the soft rustling of leaves and the occasional hoot of an owl.
Suddenly, you hear a twig snap behind you. You turn to see a group of goblins emerging from the trees, brandishing crude weapons and leering at you hungrily.
What do you do next? Do you try to sneak past them, or do you prepare for combat?
I happen to speak the goblin tongue, so I try to befriend them and ask the way to the wizard’s tower.
As you approach the goblins and start speaking to them in their language, they seem taken aback at first. After a moment, they lower their weapons and start talking to you in a guarded manner.
You ask them about the wizard’s tower, and they tell you that they have seen it, but they caution you that it is well guarded by the wizard’s minions. They also mention that they have heard rumors of strange and dangerous creatures in the area, and that the path to the tower is treacherous.
Do you still want to proceed, or do you want to find another way to the tower? Or maybe try to find out more information from the goblins?
I ask the goblins what they mean by saying the path to the tower is treacherous, and I remind them that if I am able to defeat the wizard their own lives will be freer.
The goblins tell you that the path to the wizard’s tower is filled with traps, both magical and physical, that have been set by the wizard to protect himself. They also mention that there are rumors of strange creatures in the forest, including giant spiders and other dangerous beasts that have been attracted to the area by the wizard’s dark magic.
However, they also tell you that there is a secret path through the forest that they know of, which should be relatively safe and lead you directly to the wizard’s tower. They offer to guide you there in exchange for a share of any treasure you find.
Do you accept their offer, or do you try to find the secret path on your own?
I give the goblins one gold piece each in advance, promise them 10% of any treasure I recover, and ask them to lead me to the secret path.
The goblins seem pleased by the gold pieces and your promise of a share of the treasure. They lead you through the forest, keeping a sharp eye out for any danger. After a short while, they bring you to a narrow, overgrown path that winds its way through the trees. They tell you that this is the secret path to the wizard’s tower and bid you farewell, warning you to be careful.
You continue along the path, moving as quietly as possible. The trees start to thin out and soon you find yourself at the edge of a clearing. In the center of the clearing stands the wizard’s tower, a tall and imposing structure made of dark stone. You can see flickering lights in some of the windows, indicating that the wizard is still inside.
What do you do next? Do you approach the tower directly, or do you try to find a way in without being seen?
I summon my familiar, an owl. I direct her to fly up to and around the tower, looking into the upper windows. I am able to look through her eyes. What do I see?
Your owl takes to the air and flies towards the tower. As she gets closer, she circles the tower, flying past windows and observing the interior.
From what you can see through your owl’s eyes, the inside of the tower is dimly lit and cluttered with books, scrolls, and other magical paraphernalia. You can see the wizard moving about in one of the upper rooms, surrounded by strange and glowing runes inscribed on the floor. The wizard seems to be engrossed in some sort of spell-casting and does not seem to have noticed your owl.
Do you have your owl continue observing the wizard, or do you recall your familiar and come up with another plan of action?
Still using my high-powered owl eyesight, I carefully examine the exterior of the tower and try to determine whether there is a way to climb up the exterior.
Your owl flies around the exterior of the tower, scanning the walls for any weaknesses or handholds. After a few passes, you notice a narrow ledge running along one side of the tower, which might provide a way to climb up to the upper floors. However, it looks to be a difficult and dangerous climb, with a long drop to the ground below if you were to slip.
Do you want to try to climb the tower, or do you have another plan in mind?
I use the spell Acrobat to buff my dexterity, and climb up the tower. Slowly, carefully and quietly, I approach the wizard’s window.
With the help of your spell, you begin to climb the tower. The climb is treacherous, but with your heightened dexterity, you are able to make your way up the ledge with relative ease.
As you approach the wizard’s window, you slow your movements and try to remain as quiet as possible. Peering into the window, you see the wizard still engrossed in his spell-casting, with his back turned towards you.
Do you try to sneak into the room and attack the wizard from behind, or do you wait for an opportunity to present itself?
I cast a Silence spell, and gently open the window.
You cast the Silence spell, muffling any noise you might make. You then carefully open the window and climb into the room. The wizard is still so focused on his spell-casting that he does not seem to notice you.
You take this opportunity to move quietly across the room, drawing your weapon and getting into position for a surprise attack.
Do you make a sudden, forceful attack on the wizard, or do you try to find a more subtle way to disrupt his spell-casting and catch him off guard?
I use Power Word: Kill, applying the killing touch via a stealth approach.
You unleash the powerful spell “Power Word: Kill”. This spell delivers a lethal blow to your target, instantly killing them if they have 100 hit points or less. The wizard, caught off guard by your stealthy approach, has no chance to defend himself. With a final gasp, he crumples to the floor, defeated.
You have successfully defeated the evil wizard and fulfilled your quest. You take a moment to search the wizard’s lair, gathering any treasure or valuable magical items you find. You then make your way back down the tower and out of the forest, ready to return to civilization and claim your reward.
Congratulations, you have completed your mission!
How much treasure did I find in the tower?
As the dungeon master, I don’t have specific information about the amount of treasure you found in the tower, as that is something that can be decided based on your play style and the rules you follow in your Dungeons and Dragons game. However, it’s common for defeated wizards to have accumulated vast wealth from their exploits, so it’s possible that you found a substantial amount of treasure and valuable magical items in the tower.
You’re the DM, you can make it up. Give me a number of gold pieces.
Alright, let’s say you found 500 gold pieces in the wizard’s tower, along with a few magic items of moderate value, such as a wand of fireball, a potion of healing, and a scroll of teleportation. These items could fetch a good price if sold to the right person or could be useful for you in future adventures.
OK, thank you. I make my way back along the secret path until I find the goblins. I give them 100 gold pieces and the healing potion — in fulfilment of our covenant, in gratitude, and in demonstration than people of different races can live together harmoniously.
You make your way back to the secret path and soon find the goblins, who eagerly greet you upon your return. You fulfill your promise to them and hand over 100 gold pieces and the healing potion. The goblins are ecstatic and express their gratitude, bowing and thanking you profusely.
By keeping your word and treating the goblins with kindness, you have shown them that people of different races can live together in harmony. This positive interaction might lead to future cooperation and understanding between goblins and other races in your world.
You continue on your way, feeling proud of the good you have done and the positive impact you have had on the world. The memory of your encounter with the goblins will stay with you for a long time, reminding you of the importance of trust and cooperation in achieving your goals.
Wait a minute — how much did I promise the goblins, again?
You promised the goblins 10% of any treasure you recovered.
So how much would that have been?
Based on the previous statement that you found 500 gold pieces in the wizard’s tower, 10% of that would be 50 gold pieces.
Those little buggers ripped me off!
It seems that the goblins might have taken advantage of the situation, as you only gave them 100 gold pieces instead of the 50 that you had agreed to in your original deal. However, as the dungeon master, I will leave it up to you to decide how you want to handle the situation. You could choose to confront the goblins and demand that they fulfill their end of the bargain, or you could choose to let it go and move on from the experience. The choice is yours.
Someone at my church, who works in education, recently asked me: ‘Do you think these things mean the end of being able to use essays as a means of assessment?’
I thought for a bit and replied, ‘You know, these things have no real understanding of what they are synthesising. All they can do is search the inter-net for the phrase they have been given, find other blocks of text that occur in close proximity to it, copy those, paste them into a document, and stitch them together with some plausible-sounding linking material, with no actual comprehension either of the topic or the task which they have been set. However, as this is basically what undergraduates do, yes, you are going to have some trouble distinguishing between the outputs of what is essentially the same process.’
We ended up deciding that this would lead to a revival of the viva voce as a way of assessing understanding, and that this would be no bad thing.
I do feel like vivas may end up being the only meaningful way to evaluate people’s learning.
Astronauts pointing picture
‘Always has been’
H, is this comment perhaps on the wrong post? I can’t figure out what it means in the context of this one.