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Gloomhaven board game creator: “AI art feels like theft”

Gloomhaven board game designer Isaac Childres shares his thoughts on AI art in tabletop RPGs, as well as hints of future plans for open gaming licenses

Gloomhaven AI art theft - three fantasy characters walking through Gloomhaven, as seen on the board game's box art

In a Wargamer interview about the upcoming Gloomhaven RPG, board game designer Isaac Childres shares strong opinions on the use of AI art in tabletop games. “AI art very much feels like theft to me”, he tells Wargamer. “You’re training these AI with specific artists’ influences and then just not crediting them at all.”

When asked about the policies other RPG publishers are implementing surrounding AI art, Childres says Cephalofair is likely to condemn the use of AI art in future. “We don’t mess around with AI at all, so it hasn’t really affected us too much”, he says. “But it does seem like it’s only getting bigger and more prevalent. I’m sure we’ll have to reckon with it at some point.” “I see us probably adopting the same sort of policy [as Paizo and Chaosium]”, he adds.

The Gloomhaven tabletop RPG, which is set in the same universe as the Gloomhaven and Frosthaven board games, was announced in December 2022. However, a lot has changed in the RPG space since then. January 2023 saw Wizards of the Coast face backlash over plans to change the DnD OGL, and publishers like Chaosium and Paizo recently banned AI art and text in their products as debate about the technology surges.

It’s still early days for the Gloomhaven RPG, but third-party licences have crossed Childres’ mind too. “I feel very strongly about fostering the creative community”, he tells Wargamer. “When Gloomhaven came out, I released all the files for that under a Creative Commons licence and just let people go wild.”

Gloomhaven AI art theft - Cephalofair promo image of the Gloomhaven tabletop RPG logo and art

“With Frosthaven, we’re not quite doing the same thing; we want to create something a little more robust”, he adds. “We’re still working on that, and we haven’t announced anything, but eventually we will be releasing tools for people to use for Frosthaven as well.”

This will apparently have a knock-on effect on the Gloomhaven tabletop RPG. “The foundation we’re building there should also extend to the RPG to make it very, very easy for anybody to come in and create whatever they want for the RPG and to present it to other people looking for more content”, says Childres.

While there are plenty of new factors to consider when debuting an RPG, Childres seems optimistic. “We’re hoping [the OGL situation] only affects us in a good way”, he says. “I feel like a lot of people are looking around for RPGs other than D&D at this point, so we’re hoping that brings more people to us as well.”

Many consider Gloomhaven one of the best board games around right now, and it was only recently beaten as top ranked game on BoardGameGeek after a five year reign. This means the recently released Frosthaven and the upcoming Gloomhaven RPG both have a tough act to follow. Wargamer will have more insights about both games to share very soon, so keep an eye out for our full interview with Isaac Childres.