D&D's Wizards of the Coast come under fire for AI (again) after advertising for a 'principal AI engineer', but insists 'our stance on AI hasn't changed' since videogames don't count

Gale, a wizard from Baldur's Gate 3, looks very bloodied and very sad at the player while a celestial midnight blooms behind his depressed mug.
(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Back in August of last year, D&D's owners Wizards of the Coast came under harsh scrutiny for accidentally working in AI imagery into its (at-the-time) upcoming book Bigby Presents: The Glory of Giants—a backlash so dramatic it saw the company swear off using generative AI for its source books and materials. In theory.

Back in January, the official Magic: The Gathering account (a property also owned by WoTC) posted AI-generated art, insisted it wasn't AI art, then admitted it was indeed AI art and that its inclusion was a mistake. Then, in an interview with VentureBeat during the 27th annual Dice Awards, Hasbro (who owns WoTC) CEO Chris Cocks said that, while the company couldn't "be very cavalier in how we think about AI", that it was nonetheless "exciting":

Cocks added: "D&D has 50 years of content that we can mine. Literally thousands of adventures that we’ve created, probably tens of millions of words we own and can leverage. Magic: The Gathering has been around for 35 years, more than 15,000 cards we can use in something like that."

Now Wizards of the Coast has a "principal AI engineer" job listing on its website.

"WOTC is once again moving forward with their AI Plans," writes now-formerly D&D creator SpicyEncounters on Twitter, adding: "We fix their game, expand its horizons, & make it popular. And yet Wizards is either willing to abide by or unable to stop those who would replace us with... bots."

"This is so damn frustrating," writes a Nala Wu, an indie art director and illustrator in the TTRPG space: "I’ve defended WotC [I don't know] HOW MANY TIMES [because] I was made promises to my face by the art directors at this company that this would never happen … MAN does this feel like a slap in the face."

Speaking to ComicBook Gaming's Christian Hoffer, however, Wizards of the Coast has some words of comfort to offer, kinda, if you squint at them right. "Our stance on AI hasn't changed … This job description is for a role for future video game projects," the company said, before providing Hoffer with a link to its AI FAQ page on generative AI art, which reads: "we require artists, writers, and creatives contributing to the Magic TCG and the D&D TTRPG to refrain from using AI generative tools to create final Magic or D&D products."

So the official company line presently being towed is that it's fine, it's videogames—videogames don't count. It's like a cheat day on your diet.

According to WoTC, a "principal AI engineer" should "Design, build, and deploy systems for intelligent generation of text dialog, audio, art assets, NPC behaviours, and real time bot frameworks." It then later calls out "knowledge of major advancements in AI, including LMMs, 2D and 3D content creation, and audio generation."

It should be noted that these responsibilities can be read in a few different ways—generative AI, distinct from the AI we're more used to in video games, is definitely involved—but in order to develop systems for, say, NPC behaviours and real-time bot frameworks, you'd have to be experienced in making those things. It's a slurry of expectations and disciplines. But honestly, the fatigue with WoTC and Hasbro's apparent umm-ahhing is annoying me more than the job listing itself.

AI is going to be used in videogames. It likely won't be used in the ways that big-tech idea heads would like you to believe—I don't think we need NEO NPCs, for example—but the cat's thoroughly out of the bag, and there are applications for dull busywork that I can see being reasonable in the same way that, say, devs have used procedural generation for years.

But I feel like WoTC wants to have its cake and eat it too—Hasbro wants D&D to be this multimedia megastar franchise after the success of Baldur's Gate 3. However, the use of AI art in TTRPGs is even more unpopular than it is in videogames—with, generally, good reasons. A sourcebook doesn't need that much art when compared to the baffling scope of a AAA game, for example. There's no real exhausting, mindless gruntwork to point to and say "see, the tech makes sense here".

But also, WoTC wants to make videogames. Really bad. So it's going to be naturally very curious about how AI can reduce those costs. The rock and the hard place being, the venn diagram of D&D players and videogame enjoyers overlaps massively, so avoiding the conversation about ethical AI use is impossible—and complete PR poison.

Right now, I mostly just feel like I'm in a game of "here comes the aeroplane!" to trick me into eating my food, except the person with the spoon keeps going "don't worry, we've sworn off using aeroplanes in our spoons. I mean, okay, we're interested in aeroplanes. We are hiring an aeroplane manager. But our position on aeroplanes hasn't changed." It's enough to make you lose your appetite. Anyway, considering how much of a disaster Google's AI search is, I'm sure we can expect more debacles from WoTC in the years to come.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.