WotC Updates D&D's AI Policy After YouTuber's False Accusations

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This awesome art by Nestor Ossandón is not AI

Following a YouTuber falsely accusing an artist who worked for WotC of using AI based on "something feeling off" in a widely watched (but now deleted) video, Wizards of the Coast has updated its AI policy.

For 50 years, D&D has been built on the innovation, ingenuity, and hard work of talented people who sculpt a beautiful, creative game. That isn't changing. Our internal guidelines remain the same with regards to artificial intelligence tools: We require artists, writers, and creatives contributing to the D&D TTRPG to refrain from using AI generative tools to create final D&D products. We work with some of the most talented artists and creatives in the world, and we believe those people are what makes D&D great.


The YouTuber in question is Taron Pounds, username 'Indestructoboy', and made his now deleted video because, in his words, 'something felt incredibly off'. He's an ENnie-winning game designer, and has since posted an apology on Twitter:

I contributed to "rage bait" content this year after the OGL situation. That's on me. If I was frustrated by a situation, I felt compelled to say something to the camera. That's just not okay. I bought in hard on the "anti-WotC" train and should have just put my energy elsewhere.


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Rage-bait videos are a problematic part of not just the D&D community, but on YouTube in general--as a massive Doctor Who fan, my YouTube feed is full of similar stuff about that show. The D&D stuff I see is overwhelmingly negative about how D&D is dying (it isn't, by the way). Unfortunately, that's what YouTube incentivises, and that's what gets the thousands of clicks: video thumbnails with big text, a controversial statement or question, probably a big shocked face, and a giant question mark or arrow, or maybe a jagged cartoony graph trending downwards. It's important to realise that just because that's what gets the clicks, it doesn't make it true. It is, however, a massive part of what drives the community narrative at the moment.

A shout-out should go to Christian Hoffer, who took the time to actually email the artist in question, who confirmed--with evidence--that the art was completely human generated. The YouTuber did not even make that basic step. You can read his report on Twitter here (and you should follow him if you're still on that site). The artist in question is Nestor Ossandón, who responded to Hoffer as follows.

First of all, I do not use artificial intelligence (NOT AI) for my work and no one but you and my director have asked me. And that image is completely painted. It is one of my favorite recent jobs that I have been able to do. And if you see other old works, you can see that my tendency is very similar when it comes to painting. I always play with warm and cold ones on my face. Thanks to the work together with the art director. They give me the freedom and appropriate time to develop it. This character is completely painted from scratch with a gray and superimposed color technique. Then I paint the cold tones to give atmosphere and light. It took me more than two weeks and my director was very happy with this work.


To be clear, Nestor Ossandón did not use AI to create the above art.

The artist provided proof (not that they should have to) which Hoffer posted on Twitter.

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There's not much real journalism that goes on in the tiny corner of the world that is the TTRPG industry; it’s still a niche topic, although it’s more popular than it’s ever been. I myself do not consider myself as such--I report on stuff, but I don't investigate stuff, and my contribution is not much more than simple reportage and aggregation (not that I undervalue that--I've been doing it for 24 years now, and folks still read it, and I recognise my own value!) Christian Hoffer (ComicBook.com), Lin Codega (laid off from iO9, but hopefully they will find a new outlet soon), Christopher Helton (retired) and other folks like that are great examples of journalism in this little industry. YouTube... there's a lot of great, informative, fun stuff on there, and there are folks I follow and enjoy, but you should be careful!

(Edit—I had some examples of video thumbnails here but I don’t want to give the impression they are related to this AI art episode.)
 

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Derulbaskul

Adventurer
Welcome to late stage capitalism.

While it's normal to blame capitalism, and to disingenuously refer to it as "late stage", but the real issue is fake capitalism - capitalism is the free exchange of goods and services with consequences and competition.

"Late stage capitalism" is wrong; "not capitalism" is correct, or even the oxymoronic "American capitalism (sic)".
 

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Kurotowa

Legend
Rather optimistic modifier, isn't it?
In some ways, yes, there is a bit of wishing hard that something new come along. In others, it's like talking about the later days of a D&D edition, where respect for the spirit of the rules has declined and overuse of exploits and power gaming has increased. Which is a metaphor I've used before to explain things to friends, about why systems of government and economics eventually need to be replaced. It's the exact same patterns of human behavior. Just on different time scales by a few orders of magnitude.
 

teitan

Legend
Both of those are perfectly reasonable positions.

He made a whole video earlier this year which was a direct plea for folks to watch more of his creative content (crafting and DMing videos) and less of the RPG news stuff if they don't want to reward clickbait. It's fair to criticize that he could just choose not to MAKE clickbait vids, but they evidently do crazy numbers for engagement. He went ahead and showed some numbers from YouTube to illustrate the point.


His review of the WotC VTT from last week was very positive and civil.

I used to be patreon but when his videos went almost exclusively negative following this video I dropped it. He is extremely creative with great advice but I have yet to see a video on running a game in 9 months from his channel.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Your statement was that you blame YouTube and the platform(s). I don't.

I believe the platforms give us what we say we want by what we click on and what we watch. The algorithms only give "us" what "we" want. "We" are the problem. If we stop rewarding the crap, it will go away.
I think that’s a pretty reductionist and simplistic view of the situation.
 

While it's normal to blame capitalism, and to disingenuously refer to it as "late stage", but the real issue is fake capitalism - capitalism is the free exchange of goods and services with consequences and competition.
No, that is what's called free trade. Capitalism is a system where the means of production is controlled by private owners for profit. Capitalism and free trade often go hand in hand, but they are different concepts.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)

Just to comment on the original claim that lead to all this, I would say you can't spot AI art on the basis of "something feeling off", because unfortunately that also applies to very stereotypical or slightly "basic berk" (euphemising) art some of the time. This is an interesting piece to accuse because to me, as someone keen on being able to spot AI art, I don't think it looks very AI-art-y. For example, selected factors that point away from AI art:

1) The perspective is exaggerated but also consistent with itself. AI art struggles with perspective somewhat, especially in complex and dynamic scenes like this one. It also struggles to do exaggerated perspectives justice particularly. This is part because the training data includes a huge amount of art by artists, who, well, aren't very good at perspective, or aren't very interested in perspective.

Nestor, on the other hand, clearly is.

(That's not to say the perspective is perfect - the shield boss is a little off - but it's a very artistic and intentional use of it.)

2) Faux depth-of-field - this is a very post-modern technique, but you can see how he's got the central figure in sharp focus to enhance the send of speed where the background is more blurry and non-specific - and again this is consistent, something AI struggles with. It's fairly easy to do this with layers in virtually any art tool, but AI art doesn't have layers in general (unless I'm out of date - I'd be unsurprised if a tool had updated to have them, I guess - but it'd a serious paid feature I'd imagine), because it'd so expensive computationally to approach it that way.

3) Consistent sense of movement through multiple parts of the art - for example the necklace flying back as the dwarf rushes forwards. Consistent direction of movement too.

4) Consistent direction of light - this is a classic one for AI and again one it hasn't entirely figured out. Here the light is consistent and coming mostly from through the hole the dwarf is rushing towards. It also looks like it's the same low-angle sunlight that's hitting the tops of the buildings. The shadow under the right boot is a bit questionable but like, is normal artistic licence.

(Part of the reason AI is kinda bad at this is indiscriminate scraping of training data - including of a lot of artists who don't really care about consistent lighting, or who are operating in stylized ways. I understand there are various programmatic attempts to get around this, but they're not there yet.)

5) Thought-through elements and interesting details - like having a bow AND arrows, not just one or the other, having more armour on the unshielded side, having extra weapons and so on. The details are also interesting - the shape of his sword and the type of armour are somewhat unusual, for example (though the axe is the most generic "post-World of Warcraft" axe imaginable)

5) Lack of malformed objects - This is still fairly common even with Dall-e 3 and so on with careful prompts - in any detailed or complex scene, there tend to be miscellaneous "objects" which aren't anything - very often backup weapons on a warrior will turn into these, just weird little unusable pieces of metal, or like, impossibly attached to the warrior. Or like, windows in buildings in dumb places.

6) Lack of weird hands and similar (yes they still do that sometimes) - indeed look at the detail - there's fingernails and everything!

Pointing towards AI art are only two things I can see:

A) The way the left arm connects to the shield. But we've all see artists struggle with this sort of thing, and sometimes if we do art ourselves, we've struggled with it - I know without a life model, I struggle with that sort of thing hugely.

B) Splodges on the face. This is one of the things AI is still, somehow, struggling with, particularly with fantasy painting-style art. So many fantasy character have tattoos, warpaint, mud, blood spatters, wild make-up and so on, on their faces that AI art just loves to put random splodges on the faces (here it seems to be intentional blood spatter). There are also a lot of other splodges in general in the piece, to illustrate speed and there's a weird streamer of blood off a spear to the side, and these are things AI art imitates a lot because they're not uncommon in the art it's being told to generate from.

What I think obvious is that this is digital art - a lot of the techniques are ones you can and would only use with digital art tools. That's probably what triggered the dude in question. But like, when I was still in high school, we were using digital art tools. It's been a quarter-century for people to get used to them!

(Again it's obviously very easy for the relevant artist to prove that it isn't too - because real art always takes time to compose - for example Nestor shows his stages here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/04qgD8 - scroll down to see them)
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
What I think obvious is that this is digital art - a lot of the techniques are ones you can and would only use with digital art tools. That's probably what triggered the dude in question. But like, when I was still in high school, we were using digital art tools. It's been a quarter-century for people to get used to them!
Agreed with everything you said, but to follow off of this a vit...this is a very bad tell for people to key off of at this point, since AI is able to emulate non-digital art formats pretty well at this point, so even "looking photoshopped" isn't going to be relevant for spotting AI work
 

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