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Why AI will be the game master's best friend

  • July 10 2023
  • Courtland Goldengate

If you could embark on an epic tabletop campaign, akin to immersing in a George R.R. Martin saga, would you do it? What about a campaign as compelling as Critical Role, or as funny as Dimension 20? We'd all love to up level our game, but the problem is that unlike the aforementioned titans of storytelling, I'm guessing you don't have a giant staff of people supporting your table. But... what if you did? What would you want your assistants to do?

A dedicated team of creators to add texture and detail to your world

World-building is akin to crafting a masterpiece; it's an exercise in creativity and meticulous planning. And as the campaign progresses, there's the matter of taking notes, drafting recaps, and remembering the state of the world and its inhabitants. Now remember, this needs to be done as a collaboration between players and game master, and each character should have a back story that fits in the world, a character arc that shapes the world, and their story should be seamlessly woven into the overarching story that includes every player character. You could try and do it all, or... you could focus on the big picture and use AI-powered software to fill in the details.

Whether you're looking to build a metropolis as captivating as King's Landing or design multi-faceted non-player characters, AI can be your backstage magician. By taking over the detailed crafting and organizing, AI allows you to focus on the bigger picture: orchestrating a memorable campaign.

A personal planner for pre-game prep and going off the rails mid-game  

Ever played in an adventure where the GM was not prepared? It's super obvious. If you are a GM, have you ever stressed out about procrastinating doing the prep work? Of course you have, we all have. Prepping for a game can sometimes feel like preparing for the impossible. You never know what direction the game will go, unless the GM puts the party on rails... but that's basically the worst solution ever.

So the challenge for the GM is that they could try and account for the 10 things that the players might do, but even if they did all that prep the players would probably ignore those 10 possibilities and instead swear fealty to a random goblin, secure a castle for him, make him a king, and then embark on a ridiculous adventure to find the region's best pies to bring to the goblin's coronation ceremony. Perhaps the goblin is named Yeemik. I don't know, it's not like this exact thing happened to me or anything 😬

There are a couple ways that AI will help out here. The obvious way is that AI will help you brainstorm possibilities, create encounters, draw maps, make art and so forth. The less obvious way is that being able to generate content on the fly mid-game will mean that not as much pre-game prep is necessary to begin with. And what if the software knew your campaign, your gaming group and their preferences, your and story? It could create content on the fly that fit within your world. And with AI adapting swiftly to player actions and helping maintain smooth gameplay, attention remains focused where it should: on the excitement of the unfolding narrative.

A counsellor for player management

One of the challenges of maintaining excitement and focus on the game is that every player has different motivations and needs, and when they are not met, feelings get hurt! And in extreme situations, major misunderstanding take place and friendships get broken. Successful player management in TTRPGs requires a deep and evolving understanding of the people around the table.

The table's AI assistant could facilitate a deeper connection between the group. It could keep track of the sort of things each player likes and doesn't like. It could mediate rules disputes. It could even offer the game master communication tips for working well with each person at the table, or flag to the GM when a player is starting to get disengaged or if it has been too long since a particular player got the spotlight.

Support that's there when you need it but invisible when you don't

In the riveting world of your campaign, the GM and the players are the stars of the show. As each member of the table is a co-creator, they should be able to focus on the grand narrative, the compelling characters, and the epic battles. AI should just work without being a cumbersome or complex VTT, and handle the backstage logistics while your table enjoys the game.

As you gear up for your next session, think about how much time is going to prep. Next time you feel rail-roaded, imagine how much nicer it would feel to hear "yes, and...". And when you're drafting up notes of the game session to send out as a recap next session, think how cool it would be if that was done for you.

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