Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learningGeorge Bernard Shaw
In my previous post, Insight Check: The Role of ChatGPT in My TTRPG Journey, I detailed a bit about how I use ChatGPT, an AI generative resources as a tool, rather than a complete replacement for imaginative self-creativity. Much like that post, we’ll now discuss Midjourney, an AI tool used to generate striking visuals.
What Is Midjourney
The Hot Debate
I’m not here to argue whether or not one should use Midjourney. My aim is to share my methods and possibly offer ways it can amplify your gaming experience. That said, I believe its outcomes shouldn’t be commercialized without appropriate credit, and any utilization should be transparently communicated by the artist.
For an example, a current hot topic is the discovery that an artist used AI image tools to enhance their artwork for one of the latest Dungeons & Dragons books Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants. Be sure to read this article: A Note on ‘AI’ in D&D – The Monsters Know What They’re Doing by Keith Ammann for additional context.
That’s not Dog…It’s Imitation
When I think of the process that Midjourney actually performs, there are two distinct scenes from two of my favorite movies that come to mind. This scene from John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, and this scene from The Fly. Spoiler warnings if you have not seen either.
Yet, that’s its function: interpreting your request by emulating existing art. When we humans create art, aren’t we essentially doing the same? Drawing inspiration and reproducing what we’ve observed before? Nonetheless, I veer towards a contentious discussion with these thoughts. Just something to ponder.
My use of Midjourney is simple and straightforward. I use it to help me visualize the world I’m playing in for “my” games and that’s it. It’s not intended to be used for any commercial purpose.
How I use Midjourney
I use Midjourney to come up with a page header for almost every single Session post in my Well… that was interesting series of solo roleplaying games. Additionally, I use it to create character visualizations once I’ve created characters for my game much like for my ALIEN RPG and Dune RPG solo games. I’ll show examples in just a bit of those results, but let’s demonstrate by an example.
I have the Midnourney bot installed in a specific channel in my Discord server so that I don’t have to fight with the absolute noise from the official midjourney channels. Here I issue the command with the following prompt
/imagine prompt: A Bearded man wearing a steampunk outfit drinking coffee. Ghosts in the background. A Lonely Dog. Ultra Realistic --aspect 2:1
Each portion of the prompt is a hint to Mindjourney of what I want and includes style keywords as well, such as Ultra Realistic. and I dictate the aspect ration I want with the –aspect parameter. Using different styles and parameters is beyond what we’ll cover here, you can go read up on that yourself, however nearly 99% of all the images I generate for my solo games have the “Ultra Realistic” style words and use the –aspect 2:1 parameter.
Midjourney then presents me with 4 different options to choose from. I can either tell it to Upscale a specific result (Clicking the U1 through U4 buttons respectively, clockwise), or to give me a variation of one with the V1 through V4 buttons.
For the sake of simplicity and time, I’ll just choose one of these to upscale and show it’s fully realized example. In this case, it was the 4th result.
I’m then presented with options such as varying this image, zooming in and out an so on, along with viewing the full image on the web and then being able to download.
You can see how Midjourney took my descriptive prompt to generate an image. For Ghosts in the background, it seems that it created a Ghostly haze or mist, but I don’t see any specific ghosts… but then again, SHOULD we see ghosts?
I’ll generally try 3 to 4 different types of prompts till I find something I specifically like. I then download the image and use the Image Resizer tool from the Microsoft Power Toys to resize the image to a standard I’ve picked for page headers and other general images on the site.
Another great option you can use with Midjourney is to feed an image reference as part of your prompt for it to use the source image to guide it in what it generates. For example, for one of my games, I wanted the character to look similar to Kurt Russell. I used the following Midjourney prompt:
/imagine prompt: https://s.mj.run/Yl75VKmx8ig a male human bard with grey hair and groomed beard, wearing a cap with a green feather. wearing a kilt and strong leather boots. Eyes a bright shade of blue. A Doss Lute strapped to his back, and a longsword in hand. Ultra realistic. --aspect 2:1
The image reference I passed in was the following:
To generate the following image:
For a full set of images I’ve created for one of my solo games, see these images used for my Blade Runner RPG solo roleplaying game.:
Utilizing tools like Midjourney to craft AI-generated visualizations has been transformative for my tabletop roleplaying experiences. These dynamic images serve as a tangible anchor, grounding the abstract concepts of characters and settings. They act as vivid tapestries that paint the world of the game, allowing the narrative to unfurl seamlessly in my mind’s eye, giving life to the ephemeral and the fantastical. This immersion is essential, especially in solo roleplaying, where the onus of visualization rests solely on the player. In group settings, shared visual aids can foster collective imagination, ensuring that all participants are ‘seeing’ the same world, thereby enhancing collaboration and shared storytelling.
I truly cherish the capability of Midjourney to bring my games to life through its vivid visuals. Yet, I’m fully aware of the controversies surrounding its use in commercial arenas.
The advantages that such tools offer can’t be overlooked. They can transform abstract concepts into tangible visual experiences. Nevertheless, when it comes to commercial undertakings, a heightened sense of responsibility and discernment is needed. The debate around integrating AI-crafted content in marketable products isn’t to be dismissed lightly. Should creators choose to harness these tools, it’s paramount to uphold transparency and ensure that consumers are not left in the dark. Moreover, due recognition must be given where it’s due. As we delve deeper into merging AI with our gaming realms, it becomes crucial to tread the path balancing innovation with ethics.
However, for personal use, particularly to enrich the experience for you and your circle in a non-commercial setup, I wholeheartedly endorse diving in and reaping the benefits Midjourney offers.