This is the 5th AI Artifact, a magic item based on an image generated by an AI from randomly generated words. In this case, those words are “guarded”, “exultant”, and “sanguine”. If you want to know what this is about, you can find the rules here.
I’ve had my first “filter problem” here – and I realize that there need to be safeguards, for several reasons. The original third word, as it came of the generator, was “bloody”. I chose to replace it with “sanguine” rather than using another random word – not despite of the ambivalence but because of it.
The prompt used
Starting out “old school”, this is what I entered into the image-creating AI Midjourney in order to hopefully generate something interesting.
/imagine prompt magic artifact that is guarded, exultant, sanguine, in the style of a video game asset
I’m still not sure what makes it go all “boxy” with this prompt, so, once again, I experimented a bit. Here are a few prompts that I tried – kind of in vain (the … in the caption stands for the three words).
No clear winner this time either. The re-rolling did look better, and I find it interesting that it started adding words to plaques and such. This might be an interesting addition to the inspiration, but comes out of nowhere.
The Image – guarded, exultant, sanguine
Here is the winning prompt – I can actually see tackling multiple of those, but at some point I decided I could only pick one. Maybe I’ll do a lightning round of designs that didn’t make it at some point.
Bottom right was a strong contender, but then I realized that I like the idea of a dragon trophy more than I like the idea of writing for one. Also, bottom left instantly sparked some ideas for random tables, while the dragon head is only good for a story. Not a bad thing, but I enjoyed creating the two recent random tables, and I think this is something I want to do more of.
Frankly, I preferred the original version in the image of four offerings, with less of a pronounced bird head on the plaque. Checking up on that, I found that the AI has a different upscaling option, which apparently retains more of the original look.
So, the question becomes, what is guarded, exultant, and sanguine? Glad you asked.
The Winged Guardian
The town of Cannaburgh is interesting. While it sits near the border of a country that is, historically speaking, prone to the act of conquering, Cannaburgh has never been successfully attacked, breached or razed in its century long history. Famously, it never actively participated in warfare either.
The item responsible, which actually consists of two parts, resides in the town hall. One part is the stand, shaped like a mighty bird of prey in a more or less protective pose. This part looks like the artist that crafted it has seen such animals before. As a matter of fact, the mountains near Cannaburgh host their fair share of large and small flying predators.
The other part, a shield or badge of sorts, rests beneath the bird’s wings on the stand. It is warm to the touch, and looks like whoever made it had no idea of what it was they wanted to depict. What is obvious to anyone holding it, though, are the haphazard runes scratched into the back, which look like chicken scratches at first glance but form an intricate and slightly vibrating pattern.
This all started when an invading army laid siege to the town, nestled into a mountainside and thus without retreat. The exact sequence of events is lost to time, but the army – large and capable enough that they planned on taking the capital further inland – eventually left with less than half their numbers, and their equipment reduced to shreds. They were, historically speaking, never heard from again. Cannaburgh is still around, and new aggressors tend to give it a wide berth.
From all that researchers can tell, Druids were involved at some point, as they are prone to be. At least the writing on the back of the badge appears to be some nature-based dialect. According to legend, there was also a gigantic bird that protected the city. The residents are particularly tight-lipped about these rumors, and there have been no sightings of unnaturally large bird entities for centuries, anyway.
The Winged Guards
If the person removing the badge from its holder has the trust and confidence of the town – which, in wartime, is an easy thing to achieve – they are bestowed the unique abilities that make Cannaburgh a very well defended town. Carrying the badge further than the town walls loses them that ability, though, and the badge returns by magical means at sunrise if it is taken from the town.
The spirit of the great old beast, Cannanung who guards the mountains, resides within this item. The entity and the town have made a deal long ago, and it now serve as protector in exchange for a fondness of birds. Cannanung’s spirit can imbue objects to fight and protect. Over the years, however, this has developed a rather interesting display of natural power mixed with a dash of urban lifestyle.
Guarding Effects (very random flying things)
At its very basic, the effect of the badge is very simple: a [thing] sprouts [wings] and [defends]. What that thing is, what the wings look like, and how it goes about protecting its home are three things that can vary depending on the situation. If you roll on these keep in mind that depending on the circumstances, some options, especially for “thing”, are much less likely than others.
|protects weak spots in defenses
|harasses intruders on the wall
|drops repeatedly onto enemies
|wedges itself into siege engines
|destroys supply crates
|repeatedly bashes into enemies
|carries enemies away
|blots out the sun
|follows enemies around
|spills water on cooking fires
|attacks supply carts
|sets fire to tents
|scolds enemy scouts
|tries roosting on enemies’ heads
|points out enemies’ character flaws
|sings discouraging songs to the enemies
|discusses politics with enemy leaders
The aim here is not to create one single thing that can best an army in combat, nor a massive thing that could just trample it – although both would be interesting ideas. Instead, the goal is to harass the enemy with hordes of annoying things that will wear them down over time.
The enchanted things are imbued with extra sturdiness. In most cases they will return home, damaged and bruised, but in one piece. If you look closely, you can find a lot of signs of past engagements on everyday items. They are kept in working condition, but damage that does not impede their use is generally left alone and considered a mark of pride in Cannaburgh.
Epic Scenes & Broken Wings
While this set of random tables may not be as applicable as the previous ones, I enjoyed the mental images it conjured for me. An army laying siege, the town off in the distance, and a cloud of animated winged things rising up to defend it. I imagine a scared soldier in the foreground, pointing at the approaching swarm, while a few of the flying things are close enough to hammer home the fact that these things are not birds, not at all.
At this point I thought, “this whole series is a by-product of the ongoing discussion of what AI can and can’t do. Let’s try to make this epic image!” So I did. Here are a few of the prompts I tried for your entertainment, because there is nothing epic about the results. Maybe there are ways to excert more control over the end result by using more complex prompts.
So here’s my hot take: using AI to create random art and then adapting your story or ideas to that art works. Having a story or idea and getting matching art for it does not.
Do you feel more guarded already?
I hope you find this item and the tables somewhat helpful, whether for a fully fledged city defense or a single weird thing to happen to spark an investigation. I think I should mention that you are of course free to use the ideas in this article however you see fit. Maybe it is ancient magic that changes random things into winged items that attack the inhabitants of a cursed village. Maybe the item is not limited to a single town, but is passed down from wielder to wielder, and they get to chose how to use it.
Thanks for stopping by, and remember to Be Inspired!