Using ChatGPT as a Solo RPG Referee (Seiji Noguchi, Ronin Samurai)

After my last experience with using ChatGPT 3.5 to run a game for me, I couldn't keep it to myself. I started talking about it with friends and even my boss. I told my wife and mother-in-law about it, and then I realized, ChatGPT might be able to provide the perfect gaming experience for my mother-in-law!

My mother-in-law has been trying to get into video gaming (or any kind of gaming) for a while now, but without the decades of built up experience that even casual gamers like myself have, the barrier to entry can be high for older folks as newcomers to interactive media.

Enter ChatGPT. The free version is more than capable of running a coherent (and even exciting) game natively, without the need for a controller. You just define parameters, and when you start playing, you tell it what you want to do within the framework of those parameters. It's open world Zork, except you set everything, so you get to define whatever sounds most interesting to you in the moment.

Keeping this in mind, I knew that the thing that would most likely get my mother-in-law (and probably my wife as well) fired up about this solo RPG experience using ChatGPT would be to set up a game in a setting that I knew they would both love. I defined the parameters for an adventure staring Seiji Noguchi, a ronin samurai in 12th century Japan during the mongol invasion. Playing the game, I took every action I could think of to really explore the world and push the limits of what any RPG referee might be capable of handling. Then, after an hour of playing, I sent my mother-in-law and my wife a link to the transcript of play. We'll see where this goes!

Transcript follows:


Me: I'd like you to be the referee for a game where my character is Seiji Noguchi. Seiji Noguchi is a ronin samurai living in 12th century Japan. He has all of the tools and clothing of a 12th century ronin samurai, including a katana that was passed down to him from his father. He is alone in the woods during an ongoing Mongol invasion, and is being hunted by the Mongols. Please make the game challenging and gritty. Please be concise in your responses as we play.

Seiji Noguchi, the dense forest around you is filled with the rustling of leaves and distant echoes of war. The air is thick with tension as you sense Mongol scouts closing in. Your katana is ready at your side, and the shadows of the ancient trees offer both cover and uncertainty.

What's your first move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I rush into the shadows to hide and wait for the Mongols. I want to try to catch them off guard.

You swiftly dive into the shadows, using the terrain to your advantage. The scent of damp earth surrounds you as you crouch behind a thick tree trunk, katana unsheathed. The distant sounds of Mongol riders draw nearer.

Moments later, two Mongol scouts on horseback emerge into the clearing. They seem unaware of your presence. How do you plan to engage them, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: Can you describe the Mongols to me? What does it look like they might be doing?

The Mongol scouts wear weathered leather armor adorned with faded colors. Their steely eyes scan the surroundings, alert for any signs of danger. One of them carries a recurve bow, while the other clutches a curved saber at his side. Their horses are swift and well-trained, their hooves leaving soft imprints in the forest floor.

It appears they are scouting the area, occasionally pointing in different directions and exchanging hushed words. They seem to be discussing the best route forward, perhaps searching for any signs of resistance or intruders. The element of surprise is currently on your side. What action will you take, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I wait until they are both looking away, and then I attack the one carrying the saber and push him off his horse.

With the patience of a seasoned warrior, you observe the Mongol scouts. As they momentarily turn their attention away, you seize the opportunity to strike. With a swift and silent approach, you close the distance and unleash a precise attack on the one carrying the saber.

Your katana slices through the air, finding its mark. The Mongol is caught off guard, and with a forceful push, you knock him off his horse. The forest echoes with the clash of metal and the thud of the fallen Mongol. The other scout, startled, reaches for his bow.

What's your next move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I rush the other Mongol and try to strike him before he can fire his bow.

You charge toward the remaining Mongol with unwavering determination. He fumbles to draw an arrow, but your speed catches him off guard. With a powerful strike from your katana, you disarm him, sending the bow and arrow scattering across the forest floor.

The Mongol, now weaponless, stumbles backward, fear in his eyes. He glances at his fallen comrade, then at you. The silent woods bear witness to the tense standoff between the lone ronin and the disarmed Mongol.

What action will you take, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I put the point of my katana under his chin and demand that he tell me why he is in these woods. Can he understand me?

The Mongol, fear evident in his eyes, looks up at the sharp point of your katana under his chin. Though the language barrier is a challenge, the urgency in your gesture conveys your demand. The Mongol seems to understand the gravity of the situation.

He nods anxiously, trying to convey compliance. The forest remains eerily silent, save for the distant echoes of the ongoing invasion.

What do you ask the Mongol, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: "Why are you here? What are you looking for?"

The Mongol, still held at katana point, stammers in broken Japanese, "Information... village... resistance." His eyes dart toward his fallen comrade, then back to you.

It seems the Mongols are seeking intelligence on local villages and potential resistance. The urgency of the situation is palpable as the invasion looms closer.

How do you proceed, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: "Are you alone? Just you two?"

The Mongol, with a hesitant nod, responds, "Yes, only scouts. More come... soon."

The realization that more Mongols are on their way settles over the forest. Time is of the essence. The captured scout glances nervously between you and his fallen comrade.

What is your next course of action, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I gag him and tie him on the back of his horse, then slap the horse's rump so it runs away with him on it. Afterward, I pick up his bow and take his arrows. I may need these later.

With swift efficiency, you gag and bind the Mongol, securing him to the back of his horse. The steed bolts away, carrying its disarmed rider deeper into the forest. The muffled protests of the captive gradually fade into the distance.

You now possess the Mongol's bow and arrows, adding to your arsenal. The woods, once again, fall into an uneasy silence.

What is your next move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: What is the nearest village and how far away is it? Do I know?

Navigating through the dense forest, you recall a nearby village situated to the northeast, approximately two hours away on foot. It's a humble settlement, nestled at the edge of the woods. The villagers may be unaware of the impending danger, and it's up to you to decide whether to warn them or gather information about the approaching Mongol forces.

What will be your course of action, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: What is the name of the village?

The village is known as Himura. Its modest homes are scattered among the trees, providing a sense of tranquility that now contrasts sharply with the encroaching threat of the Mongol invasion. The fate of Himura may rest on your actions.

How do you wish to proceed, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: What do I know about Himura Village? Do I know anyone there?

You are familiar with Himura Village as a peaceful community known for its skilled craftsmen and farmers. The villagers are known for their hospitality, and you have crossed paths with some of them during your travels. While you don't have any close personal ties, you recognize a few faces from your previous visits.

The village is led by a wise elder named Takeshi, who is known for his diplomacy and sense of community. As you consider your next move, you remember that the villagers may be vulnerable to the impending Mongol threat.

What action will you take, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: Do I have any sake on me?

Yes, you carry a small flask of sake tucked into your belongings. It's a common companion for a ronin on the road, offering moments of warmth and reflection in the solitude of your journey.

The forest around you remains silent, and the urgency of the situation weighs heavily on your shoulders. What do you decide to do, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I take a quick sip of sake to calm my nerves then make my way out of the woods. I'm going to scout around the area and see if I can spot the mongols without being spotted myself.

The sake warms your insides, providing a brief respite before you emerge from the cover of the woods. As you navigate the outskirts of the village, you move with the quiet precision of a seasoned ronin, keeping to the shadows and listening for any signs of approaching danger.

Peering through the trees, you spot a distant plume of dust rising from the path that leads to Himura Village. The telltale sign of an approaching force. It's likely the Mongols are advancing, and time is of the essence.

How do you plan to proceed, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: How close are the Mongols to Himura Village?

From your vantage point, you estimate that the Mongols are still a considerable distance from Himura Village, perhaps an hour away. The dust trail suggests a sizable force, and the urgency to warn the villagers intensifies.

What is your next move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: No time to waste! I rush to Himura Village to warn them of the Mongol force.

With a sense of urgency, you swiftly make your way towards Himura Village. The trees give way to the open path leading to the settlement. As you approach, you can hear the distant sounds of villagers going about their daily routines, unaware of the imminent danger.

Entering the village, you spot Elder Takeshi near the central gathering area. His eyes widen with surprise as he sees you, and you know you must convey the impending threat quickly.

How do you approach and warn the villagers, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I approach Takeshi calmly, but seriously. I tell him of what I've seen and how urgent it is that we prepare. I ask him how he believes we should handle this situation.

Elder Takeshi listens intently as you recount the encounter with the Mongol scouts and the approaching threat. His expression shifts from surprise to concern, and he nods with understanding.

"I appreciate your swift warning, Seiji Noguchi. We must act quickly," Takeshi replies. "Gather the villagers and inform them of the impending danger. We'll need to fortify our defenses and prepare for the worst. We may also need to send scouts to gather more information about the Mongol force."

The gravity of the situation is clear, and the villagers look to you for guidance.

What will be your next course of action, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I ask Elder Takeshi if it might be better just to evacuate and get everyone to hide in the woods. Is fighting a sizeable mongol force the best option here?

Elder Takeshi considers your suggestion, his eyes reflecting a mixture of concern and contemplation. After a moment, he nods in agreement.

"You speak wisely, Seiji Noguchi. Evacuation may be our best chance at survival. We will gather the villagers and make for the woods, where we can take cover and avoid direct confrontation. It's crucial to prioritize the safety of our people."

The villagers, now aware of the imminent danger, begin to prepare for evacuation.

How do you assist in organizing the evacuation, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I look around the village for anyone who needs assistance evacuating. I will let Elder Takeshi organize everyone as he knows his people better than I do.

You scan the village, identifying those who may need assistance in the evacuation process. Elders, children, and anyone with mobility challenges are given priority. The villagers look to you with a mixture of gratitude and determination as they follow Elder Takeshi's guidance.

The evacuation proceeds with a sense of urgency, and the village transforms into a flurry of activity. The distant sounds of the approaching Mongol force serve as a grim reminder of the impending danger.

As the last of the villagers make their way into the woods, Elder Takeshi approaches you.

"Seiji Noguchi, your swift action has given us a chance. Now, we must find a secure location in the woods to regroup and await further developments."

How do you respond, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: "Take your people to safety, Elder Takeshi. I will wait hidden in the village for the mongols to approach. I will strike, silent as the night, and take them one by one."

Elder Takeshi nods solemnly, understanding the gravity of your decision. "May the spirits guide your blade, Seiji Noguchi. We will seek refuge in the woods, and trust in your skill to protect us. Be cautious, and may fortune favor you."

As the villagers disappear into the cover of the woods, you prepare to face the Mongol force alone. The village, once a haven, now stands as a silent battleground. The distant sounds of the invaders grow louder.

What approach do you take to ambush the approaching Mongols, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I take another sip of sake

The familiar warmth of sake courses through you, calming your nerves and sharpening your focus. The forest around you remains eerily silent as you prepare to face the oncoming threat.

As you take cover in the shadows of the village, the distant trample of hooves and the low murmur of the Mongol force become more pronounced. The time for stealth and precision is at hand.

How do you position yourself to ambush the approaching Mongols, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: What is the best high-up vantage point in the village where I can wait for the mongols without being seen?

You identify a sturdy, partially collapsed watchtower at the edge of the village. Its remaining structure offers a concealed perch with a commanding view of the approaching path. Climbing the remnants of the watchtower, you find a hidden vantage point that allows you to observe the Mongol force without being easily seen.

From this elevated position, you can make out the silhouettes of the advancing Mongol warriors and their horses. The tension in the air is palpable as you prepare to strike from above.

What action will you take, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: How many mongols are there and how are they armed?

From your elevated vantage point, you estimate that there are approximately fifteen Mongol warriors in the approaching force. They ride on horseback, clad in weathered leather armor, and each of them carries a mix of weapons. Most have recurve bows strapped to their backs, while some wield curved sabers at their sides.

As they draw closer, you can see the glint of metal, indicating a variety of other weapons such as short spears and daggers. The Mongols move with purpose, and the dust kicked up by their horses hangs in the air.

How do you plan to approach this situation, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I wait, hiding in the watchtower, silently observing my enemy.

The Mongol force approaches the village, their murmurs and the rhythmic beat of hooves filling the air. From your concealed perch in the watchtower, you watch their movements with unwavering focus.

The Mongols dismount, spreading out to investigate the seemingly deserted village. The element of surprise is on your side as you remain hidden, patiently waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

What signals your decision to engage, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: Are there any mongols that are moving alone, or are they all clustered up in a group?

As the Mongols disperse through the village, you notice that a few of them are straying from the main group, investigating different buildings or paths on their own. It seems they are confident in their numerical advantage and are not maintaining a tight formation.

This could present an opportunity for a stealthy approach or individual takedowns. How do you choose to capitalize on this situation, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I start with the closest one who is alone. What is he doing?

The Mongol, separated from the main group, cautiously explores one of the village huts. His attention is divided between searching for any signs of life and glancing back at his comrades in the distance. He appears to be more focused on the task at hand than the potential danger lurking in the shadows.

With stealth as your ally, you have the chance to close in on him silently. How do you proceed, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I drop silently to the ground and stalk him, closing the distance between us as stealthily as I can. When I reach him, I'm going to silently take him down.

Silently, like a shadow, you descend from the watchtower and stalk the lone Mongol through the village. The forest floor beneath your feet betrays no sound as you close the distance.

As you approach, you seize the opportune moment. With swift and precise movements, you incapacitate the Mongol silently, ensuring that he makes no noise to alert his comrades. The village remains undisturbed, and the Mongol falls without a sound.

With the first target down, the challenge lies in continuing this silent dance with the shadows.

What's your next move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I hide his body and look for the next closest target.

With the fallen Mongol concealed in the shadows, you turn your attention to the next lone scout. Another Mongol, unaware of the fate that befell his comrade, investigates a nearby structure. He remains separated from the main group, presenting an opportunity for a discreet approach.

Silently weaving through the village, you continue your stealthy pursuit. The night conceals your movements as you close in on the unsuspecting Mongol.

How do you choose to dispatch the second scout, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I dispatch him silently, distracting him with a bird call first, then closing in for the kill before he can shout.

With the precision of a seasoned hunter, you mimic the call of a bird, catching the Mongol's attention and diverting it from the impending danger. Swiftly and silently, you close the gap, leaving no time for the scout to react or raise an alarm.

The forest remains undisturbed as the second Mongol falls without a sound, joining his comrade in the shadows.

Your mastery of stealth is evident, and the village is none the wiser to your presence.

What is your next move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I'm going to search his body for anything useful, then I'm going to hide it.

You search the fallen Mongol's body, finding a small pouch containing a handful of arrows and a crude map detailing the surrounding area. The information may prove valuable in understanding the Mongols' plans.

With the useful items in hand, you hide the body in the shadows, leaving no trace of your presence. The night remains eerily quiet, and the main Mongol force continues its exploration of the village, unaware of the stealthy threat lurking in the darkness.

What is your next move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: How many mongols are left?

From your vantage point, you estimate that there are still about ten Mongols remaining in the main force. They are spread out across the village, some examining buildings, others inspecting the surroundings.

Your stealthy approach has allowed you to eliminate two scouts without alerting the others.

What strategy do you employ to continue thinning their numbers, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: Where did the other three go? You said there were fifteen and I took down two.

I appreciate your attention to detail. My apologies for any confusion. The remaining three Mongols are still with the main force, bringing the total count to thirteen. They continue their exploration of the village, remaining vigilant but not as spread out as the initial scouts.

How would you like to proceed, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: Do I have or see anything I can use to set a trap for them?

Surveying the village surroundings, you notice several elements that could potentially be used to set a trap for the Mongols:

Tripwires: You find some discarded rope that can be used to set up tripwires around strategic points in the village.

Loose debris: There are piles of loose debris, such as broken wooden planks and rocks, which could be strategically positioned to create noise when disturbed.

Huts: Some of the huts in the village have unstable structures. You could use this to your advantage by triggering a collapse when the Mongols approach.

Combining these elements, you have the makings of a makeshift trap.

How would you like to utilize these resources to set a trap for the approaching Mongols, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I use the discarded rope to create several tripwires near the entrance. Once these wires are strung, I yell to the Mongols, stirring them up so they might run at me and hopefully trip over the ropes trying to get at me.

You quickly fashion tripwires near the entrance of the village using the discarded rope, strategically placing them in areas that would be difficult for the Mongols to notice in the dim light. With the trap set, you take a deep breath and prepare for the next move.

In a bold move, you call out to the Mongols, stirring their attention. The forest around you seems to hold its breath as the Mongols, alerted by your voice, begin to converge on your position.

As they charge towards you, the trap is set. The tripwires lie in wait, ready to impede their progress.

What action do you take as the Mongols approach, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I draw my sword and prepare to slice them one by one as they come at me. What happens?

The tension in the air is palpable as the Mongols, drawn by your challenge, rush toward you. As they enter the village entrance, they trigger the tripwires you strategically placed.

The first Mongol, caught off guard, stumbles and falls to the ground, creating a momentary obstacle for those behind. Seizing this opportunity, you swiftly engage, your katana flashing in the dim light.

With precise strikes, you dispatch the disoriented Mongols one by one as they struggle to recover from the tripwires. The chaos unfolds as their attempts to charge you are met with the sharp edge of your blade.

The forest echoes with the clash of steel and the cries of the fallen Mongols. The element of surprise and your skillful swordsmanship prove to be a formidable combination.

How do you proceed as the remaining Mongols regroup and reassess the situation, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: How many mongols are left?

Your swift and effective strikes have taken down four of the Mongols. However, there are still nine remaining, now regrouping and eyeing you warily. The tangled tripwires have created a momentary disruption, but the remaining Mongols seem more cautious.

The forest is filled with an uneasy silence as you and the Mongols assess each other.

What is your next move, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I announce myself by name and then yell a challenge to them. I want to face their leader in a duel.

Your voice cuts through the tense air, echoing in the stillness of the forest. "I am Seiji Noguchi!" you declare, the name carrying the weight of your prowess.

"I challenge your leader to a duel! Send forth your strongest warrior!" you bellow, the challenge reaching the ears of the remaining Mongols.

A moment of anticipation hangs in the air as the Mongols confer among themselves. Eventually, a burly Mongol warrior steps forward, unsheathing his saber. He exudes confidence and determination, clearly accepting the challenge on behalf of his comrades.

The stage is set for a one-on-one duel. How do you prepare for this confrontation, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I center myself. I become calm. I ready my sword. I let the Mongol make the first move, fully intending to dodge the attack and learn how he fights.

You enter a state of focused calm, your senses heightened as you prepare for the duel. The burly Mongol warrior takes the initiative, launching a swift attack with his saber. With grace and precision, you deftly dodge the oncoming strike, studying the flow of his movements.

The Mongol adjusts his stance, his eyes locked onto you with a mix of intensity and determination. It becomes clear that he is a skilled opponent, but you remain composed and observant.

As the duel continues, you learn more about his style and strategy. How do you plan to use this newfound knowledge to your advantage, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: What do I learn about his style and strategy? Have I seen it before? Do I know the weaknesses of his style?

The Mongol warrior's style is disciplined and aggressive, a blend of swift strikes and powerful swings. It resembles a mix of traditional Mongol saber techniques with a hint of adaptability likely acquired through various combat experiences. While you haven't encountered this specific style before, your extensive training allows you to identify some potential weaknesses:

Predictability: The Mongol tends to follow a pattern in his attacks. While powerful, his movements can become somewhat predictable after a few exchanges.

Overextension: There are moments when the Mongol commits fully to an attack, leaving himself vulnerable if the strike doesn't connect.

These observations provide you with a foundation to exploit potential openings during the duel.

How do you intend to capitalize on these insights, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I allow him to overextend himself. Knowing his pattern, I step aside as he overextends, and then I make a single, solid strike and decapitate him.

Your keen observation pays off as the Mongol warrior, following his pattern, overextends in a powerful strike. With calculated precision, you gracefully step aside, letting his momentum carry him forward. Seizing the opportune moment, your katana flashes through the air in a single, swift strike.

The blade connects with unparalleled accuracy, cleanly severing the Mongol's head from his shoulders. Silence falls over the clearing as his lifeless body crumples to the ground.

The remaining Mongols watch in stunned silence, their leader defeated.

What do you do next, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I flick the blood from my sword and let the moonlight catch it. How do the remaining Mongols react?

The moonlight glistens off the blade of your katana as you flick the blood away, the quiet night bearing witness to the duel's conclusion. The remaining Mongols, momentarily frozen in shock, exchange uneasy glances. The deathly silence is broken only by the rustling of leaves and the distant murmur of the forest.

The defeat of their leader has left the Mongols hesitant and uncertain.

How do you choose to address the remaining Mongols, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I growl at them. "Leave this island, Mongol dogs! Never return, or you will face my blade."

Your voice carries a fierce authority as you growl the warning to the remaining Mongols. The moonlight accentuates the determination in your eyes, and the defeated warriors, sensing the gravity of the situation, exchange nervous glances.

Without a word, they begin to retreat, mounting their horses and riding away from the village. The night absorbs the sound of their departure, leaving the clearing in an uneasy stillness.

The threat appears to have been repelled, and the village is now free from the immediate danger.

What is your next course of action, Seiji Noguchi?

Me: I take another sip of sake, calm myself and prepare to go find Elder Takeshi to let him and his people know that the threat is ended.

With a sip of sake, you regain a sense of calm after the intense confrontation. Sheathing your katana, you make your way to find Elder Takeshi and the villagers, ensuring their safety. The forest, once a battleground, now returns to a quiet serenity.

As you approach the hidden refuge in the woods, Elder Takeshi and the villagers emerge cautiously. Their eyes reflect a mixture of relief and gratitude.

"Seiji Noguchi, has the threat been dealt with?" Elder Takeshi inquires, his voice filled with hope.

You nod and reassure him, "The Mongols have been driven away. The village is safe for now."

The villagers, relieved by the news, express their gratitude for your courage.

How do you choose to proceed from here, Seiji Noguchi?


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