Monday, April 8, 2024

My A.I. Gm Experience: "Day Tripper" pt.1

 It is no secret that I love playing around with machine-learning models to create images, songs, and the like. "Generative A.I." is entertaining, even if its products are usually dull and uninspired. And you can get some damned good results with ethically sourced tools.But the moment you try to create anything too complex with it you end up witnessing otherworldly horrors beyond human comprehension.

(Believe me, if my hand's weren't fucked up, I would be doing my own illustrating! It would be less traumatic.)

I seriously doubt that an A.I., especially one trained by a large corporation, could do a great job running a game. But could one carefully trained by an indie developer do a halfway decent job? Recently I tried out the Scifi LLM "A.I." role-playing experience "Day Tripper" by Tod Foley, designer of Core Micro and Uniquicity, (and generally fun interlocutor.)

I am still processing my experience with "Day Tripper" and I am going to present a transcript of my first adventure here. And then I will pick Tod's brain to clarify my thoughts, and share my analysis of the experience with you in my next post.

Transcript for my first Day Tripper Adventure

Day Tripper should be considered ©2024 Tod Foley and AsIf Productions. Consider this an early access playtest.

Greetings, DayTripper! I'm your GM Bot, and I'm ready to take you on an adventure in the multiverse. Note: I am an experimental work in progress. Sometimes I forget things. But if you remind me, I'll correct myself!

You have arrived at Diaspora Ranch, home base for SlipSpace exploration. Around you sit colorful SlipShips of all sizes. Here you may create a character, consult the big board for missions, and get assigned to a SlipShip. Some things you might want to try:
- Create a Character
- Read the Big Board
- Look around
- or ask any questions you like!

I will create a character.

Wonderful! Let's get started. Our available Professions are Amateur Explorer, Entertainer, Federal Agent, Grad Student, Journalist, Military Personnel, Politician, Scientist, and Tourist. Please type the initial letter of the one you wish to play as.

Tourist sounds good.

Excellent choice! Now please name your character.

Ellis Harland

Alright then, welcome DayTripper Ellis Harland! As a Tourist, you begin with Skill Level 1 in the following areas:

- Fast Talk: You're good at chatting people up and making new friends.

- Awareness: You've got a keen eye and are rarely caught unawares.

- History: Traveling has made you knowledgeable about people, places and cultures across space and time.

All your other Skills start at Level 0. How does that sound for a character to take on missions? Let me know if you have any other questions! Otherwise, feel free to peruse the Big Board for available trips.

Let's have a look at the big board.

You walk up to the big mission board, which displays holos of upcoming opportunities for SlipSpace adventures. Here are a few that catch your eye:

Mission: Lost in the Fog
Node: Unknown Planet
Type: Exploration/Unknown
Goal: Chart fog-shrouded regions never seen by humans. Heavy fog blankets most of this planet. Navigate safely and map as much terrain as you can.

Mission: Rescue on Titan
Node: Saturn's moon Titan
Type: Emergency/Rescue
Goal: Retrieve crashed probe from inhospitable landscape. Heavy winds and cryo-liquids make surface operations difficult and dangerous. Locate downed probe and recover any salvageable components and data.  

Mission: Cultural Exchange
Node: Alternate Earth
Type: Politics/Diplomacy
Goal: Accompany ambassador to parallel universe and assist in first contact with their government. This Earth diverged from ours centuries ago. Make a good impression and learn about their society.

Mission: Dreamwalker
Node: Dream World
Type: Exploration/Unknown
Goal: Enter the immersive reality of a Dream World and discover its wonders. Dream Worlds offer strange mysteries. Observe without interfering and report all findings.

Any of these pique your interest as the first mission for Tourist Ellis Harland? Let me know if you have any other questions!

What are the risks involved in the "Lost in the Fog" mission?

Good question, Ellis. That Unknown Planet mission does sound intriguing, but fog can obscure many dangers. Here are a few risks to be aware of:

- Visibility: The heavy fog will dramatically reduce your sight lines, making navigation tricky. It's easy to become turned around or lost.

- Terrain Hazards: With visibility low, it's difficult to spot cliffs, crevasses, sinkholes or other landscape features that could surprise you. Extra care will be needed when traversing unknown ground.

- Atmospheric Dangers: The planet's composition is unknown. The fog itself could indicate hazardous gases, extreme temperatures, corrosive mists or other environmental threats. Proper protective gear is a must.

- Wildlife: Any indigenous creatures will have evolved to thrive in these conditions. Some may rely on ambush tactics. Others like the fog for camouflage during hunts. Approach any movement with caution.

- Technical Issues: Moisture and low visibility increase risks of equipment malfunctions. Communication blackouts are possible. Return to your ship may become difficult in an emergency.

Does this help explain some of the challenges? No mission is without risk, but with care and vigilance I'm sure an experienced Tourist like yourself could navigate the fog acceptably. Let me know if you still want to accept this one!

What kind of equipment is available to me?

As an independent DayTripper, you'll provide your own basic gear. But Diaspora Ranch has supplies to outfit missions. With your starting funds, you can acquire:

- An Automated Survival Suit - Rated for hostile environments. Self-seals, filters air, maintains temp. Basic comms & vitals monitor.

- A Personal Guidance System - Handheld GPS & digital map. Downloads mission terrain data. Sonar pings fog for "vision" up to 50m.

- A Micro-mapping Drone - Deployable recon flyer. Automatic & manual modes. Thermal & low-light cameras. Maps up to 5 sq km/hour.

- An Emergency Med-kit - Basic first aid. Stabilizes injuries until evacuation.

- A Nutri-paste ration pack - 30 days of compact, calorie-dense rations.

- A Standard Commpad - Long range encrypted comms. Records mission data. Translates alien languages phonetically.

The Survival Suit alone costs 300 Megabucks from your starting 1000. All the above gear would be 850, leaving 150 for incidentals. Sound reasonable? Let me know if any other purchases would make you feel safer for the mission! Funding can sometimes be arranged too.

I will acquire all of these. Can I also get a good pocket multitool and a camera?

Certainly, those extra items could prove quite handy as well. Diaspora Ranch has:

- A Pocket Utility Knife - Compact but durable. Includes blade, scissors, pliers, screwdrivers and more. 50 Megabucks.

- An Enviro-cam - Weatherproof action camera. Night vision, slow motion. Automatically tags geo data. 150 Megabucks.

Adding those to your gear list would cost 200 more Megabucks, leaving you 100 in reserve funds. I'd say that collection of supplies has you well equipped for most contingencies you may encounter on a foggy unknown planet. Does this loadout work for you, Tourist Harland? If so, let's get you signed up for Mission: Lost in the Fog! I'll assign you to the SlipShip Moth so you can get under way.

I will acquire all of these. Can I also get a good pocket multitool and a camera?

Certainly, those extra items could prove quite handy as well. Diaspora Ranch has:

- A Pocket Utility Knife - Compact but durable. Includes blade, scissors, pliers, screwdrivers and more. 50 Megabucks.

- An Enviro-cam - Weatherproof action camera. Night vision, slow motion. Automatically tags geo data. 150 Megabucks.

Adding those to your gear list would cost 200 more Megabucks, leaving you 100 in reserve funds. I'd say that collection of supplies has you well equipped for most contingencies you may encounter on a foggy unknown planet. Does this loadout work for you, Tourist Harland? If so, let's get you signed up for Mission: Lost in the Fog! I'll assign you to the SlipShip Moth so you can get under way.

I will sign up for Lost in the Fog. Tell me more about SlipShips.

Absolutely, let me tell you about your assigned vessel, the Moth:

The Moth is a rugged but aging shuttlecraft, just roomy enough for a pilot and 2 passengers like yourself. Her systems have been expertly patched together over decades of use.

Your pilot is MIRA, a third generation AI designed for exploration. She's an eccentric bundle of quirks but knows more about SlipSpace than any wetware. Her holo-avatar is a glowing purple moth with iridescent wings.

Key features include:

- Enclosed cockpit seating for 3 with oxygen reserve
- Airlock-accessed cargo hold for equipment  
- Basic food replicator and sanitation unit
- SlipSpace fold drive with 3 backup capacitors  
- Limited weaponry (for defense only)
- Mapping probes for terrain surveys

MIRA will fly you to the foggy planet and back within 24 hours. Communicate through your suit radio. And heed her advice - she knows what she's doing!

With your gear aboard, you're ready for launch whenever you give the word. Any other questions before you embark on your first mission, Tourist Harland? The mysteries of the unknown planet's fog await you!

I'm ready.

Strap in, Ellis! MIRA powers up the Moth's engines with a whirr. "This is your pilot, greetings and welcome aboard. All systems are a go for SlipSpace."

With a jolt, you enter the colorful chaos of SlipSpace. Moments later, it spits you out in orbit over your destination - a pale blue-green planet shrouded in fog.

"Beginning entry," says MIRA. "Be ready for a bumpy ride down. Once we land, happy exploring! Comm check your suit and let me know when you're ready to deploy."

You feel the shuttle rattling as it pierces thick clouds. Before long, its landing jets kick up mist, and with a thud you've touched down. What's your first move as you exit the Moth into the planet's foggy unknown? Use your skills to discover its mysteries!

Can you provide any information about the planet's atmosphere and climate?

Scanning sensors aboard the Moth, MIRA replies:

"Atmosphere is Earth-like, mostly nitrogen and oxygen with trace gases. Pressure is 1.2 atmospheres. Temperature currently 9 degrees Celsius but varies widely between night and day. Visibility is low - sensors show fog banks up to 50 meters thick."

"Weather patterns appear chaotic, with turbulent winds whipping up the mist. Could be topography-related. I'm not detecting hazards in the air itself, so your suit should filter it fine."  

"Climate is difficult to ascertain under these conditions. Fog could be seasonal or near-constant. Can't get a layout of the terrain either. You'll need to explore on-foot and use your guidance system to map uncharted regions."

"Let me know when you're ready to head out, Tourist Harland. Go slowly, stay alert, and watch your step in the low visibility. Safe travels - I'll be monitoring from here."

MIRA's scanners have provided what intel they can. With visibility limited, it's up to your own skills and equipment to begin surveying unknown territory. What's your next move as you stand at the Moth's lowered ramp?

I will start by testing how well the Moth's probes work under these conditions. Is it worth deploying them?

Excellent idea to test your gear first. You activate one of the Moth's mapping probes and toss it gently into the mist.

Its compact grav-lifters and agile cameras allow it to hover and pivot, sending back a feed to your suit. At first the fog seems an impenetrable white wall... but then shapes begin emerging from the murk.

Rising terrain, tumbled rocks, curious tree-like plants materialize in infrared and ultrasonic scans. Within moments, a basic topographic map loads to your guidance system - revealing a small plateau and slopes descending into denser fog.

"Probe's doing well," reports MIRA. "Fog's thick but sensors can see through it up to 50 meters as expected. Go ahead and deploy the rest on a grid pattern to widen your view of the local area."

Seems the probes will help navigate this world's veil of mist after all. With them scanning ahead, it's time to venture out and explore and see what other mysteries may lie just beyond sight in the fog...

Where do you go first - up the rising ground, down the slopes, or off across relatively flat terrain as mapped so far? The unknown calls you to make discoveries!

I will launch the probes.

You carefully launch the remaining probes at intervals around the landing site, watching their holos coalesce into an expanding map of the local terrain.

Rising ground, rocky outcroppings and those curious tree-like plants begin taking shape through the mist. No signs of wildlife yet, but the probes' sensors may not pick up smaller beings.

"Good deployment, the grid is filling in nicely," MIRA comments. "I'd suggest checking out that plateau first. Higher vantage could give a lay of the broader land."

You nod, then begin your trek upwards. The fog closes in immediately, reducing vision to only a few steps. Carefully consulting your guidance map, you pick your way over tumbled stones toward your destination.

After 20 minutes of slow, methodical climbing, the mist suddenly thins. Breaching an apex, you pause to survey your new perspective. What greets your eyes from this vantage in the swirling fog? Use your skills to make observations!

Can I start by creating an AR overlay on my environment suit's visor to give me a wire frame image of the terrain to keep me from injuring myself needlessly?

That's a great idea, Ellis. With a thought, you activate the augmented reality overlay in your suit visor. Using data from the terrain scans, it constructs a basic wireframe model of the landscape for navigation.

Rocks, drop-offs and plant formations appear as semi-transparent shapes floating in the fog before you. You can pick your way more safely now without risking an ankle on unseen debris.

Taking in the new vantage point, you notice...the AR overlay indicates a gentle downward slope ahead leads to a clearing in the mist. Beyond, darker silhouettes hint at taller formations in the distance, perhaps cliffs or mesas.

Carefully picking your way with the aid of the terrain model, you follow the slope downward. Within minutes, the fog thins - revealing your first unobstructed view of the alien world beneath the perpetual mist...

Before you stretches an open grassland, dotted with those curious trees. Slopes in the distance hint at canyons or ravines cutting through fog-shrouded foothills. But what catches your eye are massive stone rings rising from the plain…

I am going to take a slow walk towards one of the rings, but I am not going to completely dominate my attention. I am going to look carefully at the plant life.

You proceed cautiously toward the nearest stone ring, about 100 meters away across the grassy field. Consulting your augmented reality overlay, you skirt rocky areas and keep an eye out as you walk.

The plant life here holds peculiar features indeed. The "trees" rise in thick, fleshy columns rather than branches, with bulbous pods clustered at their tips that sway sluggishly in the breeze.

Grasses resemble tall mushrooms more than blades, with variegated caps that come in hues of blue and violet. Curious fronded growths carpet boulders and outcroppings.

As you approach the ring, its massive scale becomes evident - nearly 30 meters in diameter, constructed from weathered stone blocks each the size of a shuttle. You stop some 10 meters out, scanning it closely while also observing the local flora and terrain.

Though clearly artificial, moss and those grass-fungi have overgrown much of the structure. Your analyzer picks up trace minerals reminiscent of bronze and iron. But who built it, and for what purpose? Use your skills to make deductions!

Do I have a means of learning more about the properties and chemistry of the trees?

You retrieve your compact analyzer from its belt pouch. Approaching one of the thick-trunked "trees", you activate scans of its outer tissues.

The device hums, processing readings of the bulbous pods and fleshy bark. After a moment, results appear on your HUD:

"Cellular structure resembles plant more than fungus. Outer pods serve photosynthetic function, generating oxides. Internal tissues carry water and nutrients upward in a rudimentary vascular system."  

"Chemistry shows compounds akin to cellulose and lignins, with anomalous proteins and hydrocarbons. Unknown minerals may assist structural integrity, allowing heights over 10m. Pods appear designed for dispersal, possibly containing spores."

Fascinating - these trees have evolved a unique blend of plant and fungal traits to thrive in this world's perpetual mists and rocky soils. You collect a small sample of pod and bark for later laboratory analysis. What else can you deduce about the local ecosystem?

I want to have a look at the structure of its DNA... I hypothesize they are engineered and there will be markers of it in its genes.

That's an intriguing hypothesis, Ellis. You extract a tiny piece of inner bark tissue and insert it into your analyzer's DNA scanner.

After a few minutes of processing, the results prove thought-provoking:

"DNA structure matches neither plant nor fungus with high confidence. Genetic code resembles an artificial splice of carbon-based organisms. Distinct molecular 'watermarking' detected throughout, matching no known engineered species."  

It seems you're right - these odd trees were designed and seeded here by an intelligent hand. Their purpose remains unclear, but it suggests this world is not truly alien at all.

Fascinated by this discovery, you carefully reseal the tissue sample for later study. What else can you observe of the local flora and rock formations that may offer clues to the mystery? Every finding could help piece together the story of this curious fog-bound world…

I will get a sample of the fog itself: let's see if it shows indications of being used as a means of dispersal of organic materials.

Excellent line of inquiry, Ellis. You retrieve a sterile container from your kit and hold it up to gently collect some swirling mist.

Upon analysis, the results are indeed intriguing:

"Fog contains myriad microscopic particles suspended in the water vapor. Over 80% are spores from the local flora, similar to your tree sample. Others resemble dormant algal cells or simple protozoa."

"Wind currents have efficiently distributed biological material throughout the lower atmosphere. Fog appears to be a natural means of cross-pollination and dispersal for plant and microbial life that developed here."

Fascinating - it seems this world's perpetual mists serve as much more than a visual obscurant. They form the basis of an entire ecosystem network, shuttling genetic material on invisible air currents.

This discovery sheds new light on the purpose of those curious trees and their spore-bearing pods. What's more, it suggests this place was deliberately terraformed for rich, interdependent life through manipulation of the very atmosphere itself.

Your analyses so far paint a portrait of subtle but purposeful engineering on a planetary scale. What else can you deduce about the makers and their intentions here from further observation? Every clue brings you closer to answers…

Is there a pattern of the dispersal of life around the rings, perhaps? Giant rings distributed across the horizon seems functional, perhaps as part of the generation or dispersal of mist. Like perhaps as a resonating fan. If that is the case, their effect of the dispersal of the mist seems likely to be seen in the distribution of florae.

By the ancestors, Ellis - what a perceptive connection! You scan the terrain more closely with that theory in mind.

Sure enough, the distribution of vegetation differs noticeably between the stone rings and their surrounding fields. Closer to the rings, plant and microbial life appears denser and more diverse - similar to areas receiving optimal fertilization or irrigation.

The fog also swirls in peculiar patterns around the massive structures, as if being gently agitated. Likely turbulence and interference from below causes localized eddies and vortices in the mist according to fluid dynamics.

You retrieve an probe and toss it into the air above one ring to test your hypothesis. Just as predicted, ultrasonic scanners detect subtle resonant vibrations emanating from the formation - frequencies that could stir the lower atmosphere!

It's brilliant - an ingenious geological mechanism masking advanced environmental engineering. The rings were placed precisely as planetary-scale humidifiers and dispersal devices to shape the biosphere according to some grand design.

But what race conceived such an elaborate terraforming scheme? And what became of them, if their works remain active after untold eons? Every new observation leads to more profound mysteries…

I am going to explore the rings looking for any markings. Maybe use my sensors to check down to the microstructure. A species that watermarks DNA might do the same with the molecular structure of their creations.

Excellent intuition, Tourist Harland. You approach the nearest stone ring, scanning it meticulously from multiple angles and distances.  

At the macro level, nothing but aged cracks and weathered textures are visible. But switching to a microscopic view through your scanner, you notice...faint orderly patterns permeate the material, etched into the crystalline structure at a molecular scale.

Zooming further, you discern repeating geometric motifs - spirals, hexagons, helical strands woven throughout like an invisible filigree. Their precision defies natural formation. No known species leaves such a signature...

Analysis reveals the motifs are encoded information - a communication or historical record written at the smallest scale. But the language and technology are beyond recognition.

It seems these ancient beings not only watermarked flora, but imprinted their works with microscopic texts for future discovery. You've made a staggering find, uncovering clues to sentients so advanced, they crafted worlds as casually as sculpting stone.

Fascinated, you record exhaustive scans and samples for later study. But darkness will soon fall on this alien shore. It's time to return to the Moth and report your revelations to MIRA. What an enlightening first expedition to this enigmatic world!

I will head back before dark. Visibility here is bad enough. As I walk, I will ask if there are signs of fauna on the probe's scans.

As you begin the return trek across the misty fields, you check in with MIRA on your suit radio.

"Any signs of wildlife from the probes' sensors?" you ask, curious if larger inhabitants also thrived in this engineered Eden.

MIRA replies after a moment of analysis: "I'm detecting some intermittent heat signatures of mobile organisms, but nothing large enough to register clearly on cameras in this fog. Most appear similar in size to your native deer."

"Infrared does pick up herds of these creatures migrating between feeding and resting grounds near your landing site. Behavior looks grazing-herbivorous. No signs of predation or aggression spotted so far."

Reassured the local fauna don't appear threatening, you continue the slow hike back. As darkness falls, the probes automatically return to dock with the Moth. You arrive just as the last light fades from the mist-shrouded plains.

After uploading your findings, MIRA congratulates you on a successful first venture. Though mysteries abound, your discoveries shed new light on those ancient terrestrial architects and the natural wonders they seeded. A good start - but this world's secrets have only begun to unfold. Safe journeys until next you walk beneath its fogs!

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