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Is it possible to use AMPScript to create/display dynamic content in Marketing Cloud? Will AMPScript do this out of the box?

(I know there's a built-in way to set and define Dynamic Content, but I'm curious about whether this can just be done with AMPScript.)

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Yes, you can use AMPScript to create and display dynamic content out of the box. Here's the function reference and list of personalization strings.

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Yes. Since I can't comment yet on the outdated 2014 response from Adam Spriggs, here's the current link to the AMPscript function reference.

Personalization Strings:

Personalization String Description
_CarrierID Carrier ID associated with the contact, contained in the contact CarrierID field.
_Channel Channel associated with the contact, contained in the contact Channel field.
_City City associated with the contact, contained in the contact City field.
_ContactID Contact ID associated with the contact, contained in the contact ContactID field.
_ContactKey Contact key associated with the contact, contained in the contact ContactKey field. Used to send SMS messages in MobileConnect.
_CountryCode Country code associated with the contact, contained in the contact CountryCode field.
_CreatedBy The entity that created the contact, contained in the contact CreatedBy field.
_CreatedDate The date on which the contact was created, contained in the contact CreatedDate field.
_FirstName The contact first name, contained in the FirstName field.
_IsHonorDST Indicates whether the contact's time zone honors Daylight Savings Time, contained in the contact IsHonorDST field.
_LastName The contact last name, contained in the contact LastName field.
_MobileNumber The contact mobile number, contained in the contact MobileNumber field.
_ModifiedBy The last user to modify contact information, contained in the contact ModifiedBy field.
_ModifiedDate The last time a process modified contact information, contained in the contact ModifiedDate field.
_Priority The priority to use when sending a message to a contact, contained in the contact Priority field.
_Source The source of contact information, contained in the contact Source field.
_SourceObjectID The object ID of the source of contact information, contained in the contact SourceObjectID field.
_State The state associated with a contact, contained in the contact State field.
_Status The send status associated with a contact, contained in the contact Status field.
_UTCOffset The time offset from UTC associated with a contact, contained in the contact UTCOffset field.
_ZipCode The ZIP code associated with a contact, contained in the contact ZipCode field.

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