10 Ways Chat GPT Can Help You DM Great Games

I have wanted to write a post like this for some time now but have been wary about doing so.

AI is everywhere at the moment, and not all of it is good. In fact, a lot of it isn’t good. MidJourney is essentially just repurposed theft, yet sites like Drive Thru RPG are already allowing AI ‘art’ to be sold commercially. In my profession, teaching, Chat GPT poses a constant plagiarism headache, and again, you are starting to see adventures written by Chat GPT for sale on RPG sites. Thinking beyond the RPG space, you have deep fakes, Twitter algorithms, face recognition technology used by authoritarian regimes . . . there are big worries out there. And on top of that, I’m not an expert on AI, and don’t want to dive too deep into a subject I’m not very knowledgeable about.

But for all this, AI is here to stay, and it has the potential to be used ethically and responsibly as a powerful tool for our tabletop RPGs. The applications I suggest in this article are fun yet (as far as I am aware) not particularly problematic. In fact, I would argue that they are essentially just a high-powered version of existing tools. We’ve been using thesauruses, random tables, predictive text, and similar writing aids for decades; AI takes some of these options and makes them faster and more targeted. But if I’m wrong about the ethics of all this, please jump in the comments below.

A few general principles for how I use Chat GPT:

  1. Always check the response before using it verbatim. You can, and will, get some funky results.
  2. Use responses for brainstorming and inspiration, not whole-sale product creation.
  3. Maths is hit and miss. I don’t why this is, but for some reason, Chat GPT often seems to struggle with basic numeracy.
  4. Refine and revise. The first result is rarely the exact thing you were after, so tweak the prompt until you get what you want.
  5. Small-scale prompts tend to work better than the big stuff. If you want Chat GPT to do something complex, try breaking it down into individual tasks first.

In no particular order, then, here are ten ways you can use Chat GPT for fun, not profit. And before it comes up: no, this article was not written by Chat GPT.

1. Names

Having a list of names to hand is a solid tip for any aspiring DM, but it’s something I often forget to prepare. Now, you could just use a prompt like ‘20 fantasy names,’ but you can also go more sophisticated than this. For example, you might feed Chat GPT some names from a particular culture, ask it identify patterns, and then get it to feed back similar names. I did this with female dragonborn names:

Based on the given names, here are some patterns and observations:

Length: The names seem to have varying lengths, ranging from four to seven characters. This suggests that there is no strict pattern in terms of name length.

Vowels: The names contain a mixture of vowels, including “a,” “e,” “i,” “o,” and “u.” The presence of different vowels indicates diversity in the naming pattern.

Consonant sounds: There is no specific pattern in terms of consonant sounds or combinations. The names include a variety of consonant sounds, such as “k,” “r,” “h,” “v,” “n,” “l,” “s,” “b,” “d,” “j,” “m,” “p,” and “t.”

Endings: Some names end with an “a” sound, such as Akra, Farideh, Harann, and Thava, while others end with different sounds, such as Biri, Daar, Havilar, Jheri, Kava, Korinn, Mishann, Nala, Perra, Raiann, Sora, Surina, and Uadjit. There is no consistent pattern in terms of name endings.

Uniqueness: The names appear to be distinct and do not resemble common or widely used names. This suggests that they may be fictional or from a specific cultural or fictional context.

Overall, while there are no clear patterns that apply to all the names, it is possible that they were created based on a specific naming convention within a fictional setting, such as a fantasy world or a constructed language. Without further context, it is challenging to determine the exact patterns or origins of these names.

And asked it for 20 more:

Arian, Arin, Biri, Daar, Elira, Farideh, Harann, Haven, Havilar, Jheri, Kiara, Kava, Korrin, Liria, Mishann, Myla, Nala, Nova, Perin, Raiann, Renn, Serena, Sora, Surina, Tessa, Thava, Uadjit, Zara, Zevan, Zora.

You can generate names for so many things. Towns, nations, magic items, monsters, the titles of books and songs . . . if you’re stuck for a name, try Chat GPT.  

2. Descriptions

This isn’t that different from a good old-fashioned thesaurus. Sometimes I use it for better vocabulary, but often I’m looking for key details to create a sense of immersion: smells, sounds, specific names for flora and fauna, that sort of thing.   

3. World-building

This is one of my favourites uses for Chat GPT. It’s essentially a concept board for bouncing ideas against. ‘Give me five fresh takes on elves’; ‘what would a gnoll city look like’; ‘what real-world aesthetics could I draw on for drow’: when you want to daydream, try posting some interesting questions into an AI generator to see what comes back.

4. Puzzles

In my experience, players really enjoy puzzles, but creating them can be extremely time-consuming. Chat GPT can help. Riddles, logic puzzles, mysteries, cyphers, patterns: I’ve used AI to create satisfying challenges for all of them.

5. Stat blocks

Chat GPT can do a surprisingly good job at this. As an example, I asked for a 5e stat block for a vampiric owlbear with a CR 7 challenge rating. It’s . . . not awful!

Vampiric Owlbear
Large undead, neutral evil

  • Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
  • Hit Points 135 (18d10 + 36)
  • Speed 40 ft.

20 (+5)12 (+1)18 (+4)3 (-4)12 (+1)7 (-2)

  • Skills Perception +4
  • Senses Darkvision 60ft., passive Perception 14
  • Languages
  • Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)

  • Keen Sight and Smell. The owlbear has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.
  • Regeneration. The owlbear regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point and isn’t in sunlight or running water. If the owlbear takes radiant damage or damage from holy water, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the owlbear’s next turn.
  • Vampire Weaknesses. The owlbear has the following flaws:
    • Forbiddance: The owlbear can’t enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.
    • Harmed by Running Water: The owlbear takes 20 acid damage if it ends its turn in running water.
    • Stake to the Heart: If a piercing weapon made of wood is driven into the owlbear’s heart while the owlbear is incapacitated, the owlbear is paralyzed until the stake is removed.
    • Sunlight Hypersensitivity: The owlbear takes 20 radiant damage when it starts its turn in sunlight. While in sunlight, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.

  • Actions
    • Multiattack. The owlbear makes two attacks: one with its beak and one with its claws.
    • Beak. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (1d10 + 5) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) necrotic damage. The target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken, and the owlbear regains hit points equal to that amount. The reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.
    • Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d8 + 5) slashing damage.
    • Vampiric Bite (1/Day). The owlbear makes a bite attack against a creature it is grappling. On a hit, the target takes 14 (4d6) necrotic damage. The owlbear regains hit points equal to the amount of necrotic damage dealt.

I’ve also used Chat GPT for magic item stat blocks, traps, and hazards.

6. Music suggestions

I love background music in my sessions, but coming up with the right track can be time-consuming. Try to be specific what you’re looking for, then cross-reference the results with YouTube. For example, I wanted creepy ambient music that could work for the New York subway at night and got some great suggestions:

7. Session recaps

I’m a big fan of a session recap, and Chat GPT can help turn simple bullet points into a concise summary. As always, you might need to do a bit of tweaking, but it can definitely get you started.

8. Props and handouts

Shoot! You have a session in ten minutes, and you forgot to write the letter from Lady Alustriel outlining the delicate political situation on the council of the Silver Marches . . . With a bit of prompting, Chat GPT can help you out!

9. Session prep

If you’re familiar with the Eight Steps of the Lazy Dungeon Master (and if you’re not, go familiarize yourself now), you’ll be pleased to know that Chat GPT can help you with just about all of them! Cool locations, interesting NPCs, a strong start, a selection of treasure and monsters . . . Chat GPT can do all of this, and the results are usually pretty satisfying (if a bit generic).

10. Random encounter tables

These can be very time-consuming to put together yourself but are handy to have around. You can specify the setting, the CR range, the general vibe, and Chat GPT will do the rest. It might not be exactly what you would generate yourself if you had the time, but in a pinch, it will do.

What other uses have you come up with for Chat GPT and similar tools? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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