The AI chatbot ChatGPT has made a lot of headlines recently as people worry about this technology having devastating effects on the world. Fans of Star Trek know that an over-reliance on technology can create problems but in general we aren’t technophobes. So what are some upsides to this bot? Here are some ideas specifically tailored to Star Trek Adventures!
One part of GMing an RPG, any RPG, is coming up with plots to keep the story going. The Division books are great for developing new missions and there’s so many plot hooks in the Quadrant books but sometimes you just want a flash of inspiration. That’s one of the best functions for ChatGPT and it works with Star Trek as well.
For instance, I asked ChatGPT to generate a plot for Star Trek involving the Klingons and Romulans. It happily obliged with something that was, honestly, a little generic to start: following a war with the Federation (presumably the one orchestrated by the Dominion), the Klingons face renewed aggression from the Romulans trying to take new territory. This is basic stuff and I think even partially seen onscreen. The AI said that a new wrinkle would be a “powerful new starship armed with devastating cloaking technology that allows it to slip past Klingon defenses undetected” which is alright as well. General Martok sends “his most skilled warrior, Worf,” to infiltrate and deal with it.
Obviously some missteps there that a Trek fan would have to deal with but you can try the AI out for that as well. I asked it what was so special about this new cloak and ChatGPT helpfully said that it was because they could stay cloaked while firing their weapons… interesting but also we’ve seen it in Star Trek VI with General Chang’s bird-of-prey. I called ChatGPT on this and it listed out some differences in that the Romulan’s improved cloak is mass-produced and not a prototype, it is more efficient and doesn’t require a ton of power (unlike Chang’s), and it said it might have some new feature as well such as phasing through matter. I’ve still got lots of questions but this conversation felt good and like brainstorming with a fellow Star Trek Adventures GM, even though I can do it during bathtime with the kiddos.
Another plot that I’ve always been interested in is a Dominion-Borg War. The major power of the Gamma Quadrant and the major power of the Delta Quadrant meeting up would be big but coming up with a plot that big might be a challenge. I asked ChatGPT what might happen and it laid out a dramatic story where the Borg bring the Dominion to their knees, only to have a desperate battle where a band of Jem’Hadar slips into a Borg cube and unleashes a devastating computer virus. They send the Borg retreating but they’re worried about a return of hostilities. They approach the Federation and an alliance grows but then someone plants evidence of betrayal throwing the whole thing into doubt. It’s a really cool plot and every additional prompt helped build it out more and more.
This one took a lot more follow-up questions than the last one and I think the plot is more filled out than you’d typically want for a mission that gives players agency. This can be alleviated by phrasing things to be open ended. Use “plot hook” and “start of a story” to have ChatGPT leave things a little less complete. Alternatively, start your mission in the middle of a story by having this fairly complete and your players take on the next chapter. You can also keep going with the plot to your liking and then give it the prompt of “turn this story into an RPG adventure.” It terms things like a standard D&D setup (“the party is hired by”) but ignoring that gives you a solid three-act outline for Star Trek Adventures.
New Alien Species
New species and situations are a mainstay of Star Trek and ChatGPT can help you with imagining new ones. I asked it to make up a new species for Star Trek and it came up with the Xyronians, a bioluminescent species with electromagnetic senses. They can sense emotions and control electronic devices with their mind making them strong innovators, but they’re sensitive to pressure changes and usually wear environmental suits for protection. I asked for a First Contact situation and the AI came up with a situation where a Federation ship made contact but a catastrophic pressure change that would have been fatal. The Federation medical team saved the delegation, prompting good relations, and the Xyronians ended up joining the Federation where they often serve in technical positions because of their abilities. This was a couple prompts but very easy to get ChatGPT to come up with something that would be easy to use.
I wanted to try something different so I asked ChatGPT to come up with a Gamma Quadrant species specifically. Hence the Tharaxians, an ant-like species with intense pheromones, were written up by ChatGPT with plenty of color. They are described by the AI as “a peaceful species, with a deep reverence for all forms of life. They possess incredible healing abilities and have developed advanced technologies that allow them to cure diseases, repair injuries, and extend life spans.” Obviously, this is something that the Dominion would love to get its hands on so I asked about that next. “The Tharaxians’ commitment to peace and their deep respect for all life has made them highly skeptical of the Dominion’s aggressive expansionist policies,” it told me.
“Despite the Dominion’s attempts to recruit the Tharaxians, they have steadfastly resisted joining the Dominion… The Tharaxians have also been able to defend themselves against Dominion aggression through their superior knowledge of biology and their powerful defensive pheromones.” A plausible story but I wanted something specific so I asked it to describe a battle where the Tharaxians repelled the Dominion. It went into detail about guerilla tactics prepared by the wary Tharaxians and the ebb and flow of an invasion that ultimately ended up as a costly win against the Dominion. Could I have come up with a better story? Probably, given time… But this whole exercise was well under 30 minutes and that’s a quick prep time if I’m rushed getting ready for a session!
Sometimes you just want an answer for something that doesn’t have a bearing on the plot but is useful background info. If a character searches for something unexpected in the computer’s database, you’d want to give them an answer instead of just shrugging and saying “I don’t know.” Sometimes it’s worth brainstorming about and in that case I say you develop it as a table. “Do you know anyone on this other Federation ship that you’re about to rendezvous with? I don’t know, you tell me and let’s come up with any history that’s between you!”
When you don’t want to derail the action, though, ChatGPT can be a great resource for coming up with a quick answer to background questions. Did the Xindi ever join the Federation after their appearance on Star Trek: Enterprise? I think so yeah… Oh, you want to know how it went? Well let me just see… ChatGPT generates a response in seconds that brings in the turmoil felt by the Xindi when they realized they’d been manipulated into being pawns in the Sphere Builders’ grudges. They were offered a chance to join the Federation with the sponsorship of Captain Archer, and the AI even summarizes the speeches by Archer and a Xindi-Arboreal representative at the welcome ceremony! If you are nervous about it you can skim the response ahead of time, but when you need the response then do your best computer voice and read it verbatim.
I also wanted to check on expanding things in a new direction… In Star Trek we often seen Humans showing their different cultures (Chakotay, Sisko, and Sato to name a few) but alien species are more or less monolithic units. I love the idea of different ethnicities among, say, the Cardassians but I don’t want to put a ton of time into developing something that my players might not even care about and explore. So instead I can ask ChatGPT to develop a few ideas. I asked it for three and it came up with three ethnicity names, a little about them, and what people tend to think about them. It’s enough to run with and I can expand or add as we go, sprinkling this into missions to see if any players bite. If they do, I take the reins and delve into this topic for real!
There are probably a hundred ways you can use ChatGPT to support your gaming experience and I think these six are a good start for Star Trek Adventures. You can come up with a plot for a mission, develop a framework for a campaign you want to run, come up with alien species, develop species that have plot hooks attached, write up background for some unexpected player questions, and jumpstart an idea that you have to deepen your setting without sinking a lot of valuable time into a passing curiosity.
Like so many topics, there is no way that ChatGPT is going to replace your traditional approach to Star Trek Adventures. Each prompt yields something useful but you definitely need to massage it to work out the kinks. A Jem’Hadar taskforce led by “their leader Weyoun,” a warp core that takes “a new type of dilithium,” and a space station at the center of “a network of interstellar wormholes” were all things that I just ignored from the AI that a Trek fan wouldn’t even consider. And yet that’s part of it, right? Sometimes you get stuck in your rut or you’ve come up with all the low-hanging fruit and are pressed for time. In those cases, think of ChatGPT like a work acquaintance who is also into Star Trek Adventures and is willing to talk over your lunch break. You bounce ideas for a bit, the bid adieu and use your own expertise to make this into a reality at your table.
So who out there has used the AI for making Star Trek plots? If you get interesting results (or funny missteps) let us know in the comments!