Dungeon Master GPT: Using ChatGPT to augment my creative world-building (a series)

I’m not a dungeon master, but I play one on TV. Okay, maybe not, but I have always found myself building worlds in my head. I’ve kept notebooks, doodled, drawn, and taken notes, but I’ve never really fleshed out a world. My creations have always been skeletal, superficial, and very top-level. My most recent world-building project has become somewhat of a hobby of mine, it helps me wind down at the end of the day.

World-building

However, since I started using ChatGPT, I’ve found it invaluable for supplementing my creative world-building. Call me a cheater, but ChatGPT has significantly enhanced my craft. It speeds up my world-building process, and I absolutely love it. With ChatGPT, I can create worlds rich in lore, politics, and character. It acts as a soundboard and editor for my wild ideas, augmenting my creativity.

This series takes a step back from AI in the context of libraries and educational purposes, instead exploring using AI for fun and creativity.

It all started last spring when I was testing ChatGPT’s capabilities with the free version of GPT-3.5. I entered a simple prompt: Create a Dungeons and Dragons campaign that combines vampires and Cthulhu from H.P. Lovecraft.

ChatGPT responded: “Certainly, here is a campaign setting that combines vampires and Cthulhu from H.P. Lovecraft…”

The ancient vampire lord, Strahd von Zarovich, has long ruled over the dark land of Barovia. But something strange is happening in the mists that shroud the land, something that even Strahd himself cannot explain.

As your adventuring party arrives in Barovia, you are immediately struck by the oppressive atmosphere of the place. The people seem to be living in constant fear, and rumors abound of strange happenings in the night.

As you delve deeper into the mysteries of Barovia, you begin to uncover a dark secret: the vampire lord is not the only creature of the night that stalks these lands. Something else, something far more ancient and terrible, is stirring beneath the surface.

You soon learn that a group of cultists has been summoning Lovecraftian beings from beyond the stars, hoping to use their power to overthrow Strahd and take control of Barovia for themselves. These beings are not like any you have encountered before, and their very presence warps reality around them.

To make matters worse, it seems that these cultists have somehow gained the favor of one of the Elder Gods, and they are using its power to further their dark goals. You must not only stop the cultists from unleashing this Lovecraftian horror upon Barovia, but also find a way to banish the Elder God back to its own realm.

As you travel deeper into the land of Barovia, you will encounter powerful vampires, grotesque monsters, and mind-bending entities from beyond space and time. You will also need to navigate the complicated politics of the vampire court, where loyalties are fickle and alliances are made and broken on a whim.

Can you stop the cultists before they unleash the Lovecraftian horror upon the land? Will you be able to banish the Elder God back to its own realm? Only time will tell, as you venture deeper into the dark and twisted world of Barovia.

ChatGPT, 2023

Holy shit. I want to play this.

A place I want to visit

Since then, the world of Barovia has taken on a different shape. The pandemic stole years of travel from me, but right before it hit, I took two trips to Japan. Since then, I’ve become fascinated with Japanese culture. I’ve read books on Shinto, the history of the Shinkansen, and many other works discussing Japanese culture.

For this D&D campaign, I took ChatGPT’s Barovia and started tweaking the world to reflect a place I wanted to visit. I transformed the Eastern European-sounding city and vampire lord, Barovia and Strahd von Zarovich, into the more Japanese-sounding Kagenoki and Shirudonoyami.

Why incorporate Japan?

My love for the nightscape of Japanese cities made perfect sense for a vampire city. The idea of fluorescent lights illuminating a city that comes to life at night was so appealing, and it made me instantly fall in love with the world of Kagenoki.

I became captivated by a campaign world I realistically wouldn’t play D&D in, but I found myself returning to Kagenoki conceptually. I kept expanding the lore, the city, the people, the politics, and, most importantly, the threats facing the city.

Some people like to throw on a Netflix show and knit; I would put on The Office (which I’ve probably watched five times) or the NHL playoffs and lose myself in the world of Kagenoki.

Inkarnate for city building, ChatGPT for idea generation

I started using Inkarnate to build the city and continued to converse with ChatGPT about the world. For example, what might a vampiric druid guild be called? What might their history look like?

An "under development" fantasy map of Lumina's Cross, showcasing a town with a central dense cluster of buildings. Prominent features include a large circular structure (arena) near the center, small lakes scattered throughout, and a network of roads connecting various areas. The town is surrounded by a river to the north, rocky terrain to the south, and green fields to the east. The western side features farmlands, and trees are dotted across the landscape. The map has an earthy color scheme with vibrant accents highlighting significant structures and areas.

I wanted the vampires of Kagenoki to defy stereotypes. They are just another race trying to make it in the world, but there would still be those who cling to old histories (the MAGA crowd, if you will—Make Kagenoki Great Again). The development of this world is not purely fantasy, it;’s based on my studies of Japan (a vampire city loosely drawing on Japanese isolationist history) and my research with Inkarnate city building.

ChatGPT as an augmentation of my creativity

Using ChatGPT to augment my world-building has been invaluable. This series showcases the world I’ve become so fascinated with. While it may be a slight departure from my usual education and library posts, it highlights my evolving relationship with ChatGPT, akin to two writers bouncing ideas off each other.

The eventual upgrades to ChatGPT would allow me to not only bounce ideas for the story. It would also allow me to generate images of the world. The images aren’t perfect reflections of my vision of the world. However, they certainly give me ideas and allow me to explain my ideas to others. I also find the “prompt engineering” that goes into generating these images, helps me to articulate my ideas better.

A ChatGPT created image of a majestic, ancient tree with extensive roots is depicted in a vast, cavernous underground space. The tree is bathed in ethereal light filtering from above, symbolizing the heart of a fantasy world-building setting.
The city of Kagenoki is built within a long-dead volcano, in its center, a legendary world tree. 
A ChatGPT created image of an atmospheric night scene of a traditional Japanese-style tavern, illuminated by warm, glowing lanterns with intricate designs. The wooden buildings have detailed architecture with curved roofs, contributing to an immersive world-building experience.
A Japanese-inspired inn with some Western aesthetics included. This would come to be the inspiration for “The Four-Fingered Tavern”. The home base for adventurers coming to Kagenoki. 

This world-building series could, in some ways, be seen as a game developer’s diary. I hope to share through these blog posts my use of ChatGPT to build the land of Kagenoki and the people and threats that live in it. 

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