The Dungeons & Dragons AI art controversy feels inevitable

AI artwork on the cover of a Dungeons & Dragons book
(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

AI art remains hugely controversial, but it's starting to crop up in so many places that resistance is becoming more difficult. Dungeons & Dragons is the latest brand to find itself embroiled in controversy after fans criticised the use of AI art in a new adventure book published by Wizards of the West (see our pick of the best AI art generators).

D&D has confirmed that the cover featured AI art and says it has updated its artist guidelines to clarify that AI must not be used. But will that be enough?

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The controversy relates to the cover of Wizards of the Coast's upcoming Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants. The official D&D Twitter account DnD Beyond says that it was not "aware of the artist's choice to use AI in the creation process" for the book. It says that it is now revising its process and updating its artist guidelines "to make clear that artists must refrain from using AI art generation as part of their creation process for developing D&D art."

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The artist Ilya Shkipin has tweeted to say that the illustrations are going to be reworked. He has deleted posts in which he demonstrated that he had used AI only to "generate certain details and polish" the work.

However, fans are concerned that the response might not be enough. The controversy feels a little inevitable as more and more artists start to use AI for parts of their process (in this case, the artist didn't use AI to create illustrations from scratch but to modify parts of their own work). And if the use of AI was missed this time around, a rule against its use in the future will only work if the publisher checks for it from now on.

"Feels like this is (like with most creative endeavours) about to be an industry-wide problem," one person wrote. "If steps aren’t taken now, everybody’s gonna be swept up in it". "Permanently blacklist this artist and their current and previous works submitted to WOTC. That's the level of seriousness this requires," someone else tweeted.

The artist Jon Lam, who has worked on X-Men, Overwatch and Diablo wrote: "Publishing GenAi is a betrayal to the entire Art community as well as artists that have championed you in the past. Whether 'polished' or not, the datasets are unethical and stolen. SHAME."

Some have questioned how nobody realised that AI had been used when the artwork was signed off. "If it IS true that WOTC were unaware, I question how that art got past quality control," one person wrote. "Weirdly enough it's not even polished. Art directors would never let such works pass 2 years ago," one person wrote However, some say the issue is being overblown. "This hysteria about AI seems a bit over the top," one person argued.

Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants will be released on 15 August. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

See our pick of the best AI art tutorials to learn more about how AI art generation works.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.