The designers bringing the Terminator film franchise to tabletop will remove over a dozen separate pieces of AI generated artwork from an upcoming tabletop RPG release, according to a Kickstarter campaign update.
Nightfall Games, the studio responsible for The Terminator RPG, published a post on December 19th informing backers that it had identified and excised 16 separate illustrations from the T2 Judgment Day sourcebook, which allows players to adventure through the post-apocalyptic 1990s with Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese and a certain reprogrammed T-800. Cheekily titled “Skynet tried a stealth attack!”, the post reports that Jared Earle, a member of the four-person studio, noticed an image that bore telltale markers of AI tool generation.
“He pointed this out to Benn and Mark [Graybeaton and Rapson, two other members of Nightfall Games], who have led the production of the project. They both confirmed that the 'art-producer' had confirmed multiple times that he wasn't using AI art generators and instead was producing collages and then over painting and using Photoshop filters to make the art. Mark and Benn trusted this individual as both a long term collegue [sic] and friend.”
Nightfall claims it ran the dubious image through an unnamed “AI art identifying program” that returned a 99.9% match with Midjourney, a popular large language model used to create images from prompts using massive amounts of aggregate artwork pulled off the internet. Fifteen other images from the individual artist returned similar results, and consulting with illustrator peers confirmed what Nightfall feared - they had paid a significant amount of money for AI generated images.
The studio says it is currently communicating with IP holder Skydance Media to approve fixes to both the digital PDF and physical versions of the sourcebook. This is the second time this week that AI artwork and the tabletop space collided, as earlier this week several online creators accused Wizards of the Coast of using an AI generated image to promote Dungeon & Dragons’ 2024 edition rulebooks.
Those allegations ultimately proved false but point to a growing anxiety amongst tabletop consumers and producers. With so much art contracted from freelance illustrators - even amongst the biggest games such as D&D and Wizards of the Coast, we are seeing more instances of artwork smuggled into tabletop games that were created by processes that many argue rely on stolen and unattributed labour.
Nightfall must feel that tension, as the studio openly reported the issue to backers in a public post. “It matters because AI art is theft. It creates art from a massive, massive portfolio of art and images, that have been created by real people. It then splurges out poor mockeries of these arts without any consideration of the artists and can be done by any Tom, Dick or Hary, [sic]” it reads.
“We do not want to cheat artists (we are artists), we don't want to cheat you (our backers and customers). We are a small company, who focus on good and original art and pay well for it. We find this situation abhorrent, upsetting and depressing.”
Nightfall Games originally crowdfunded The Terminator RPG in early 2021, using the S5S system from the studio’s SLA Industries 2nd Edition RPG. T2 Judgment Day was planned to ship physical versions to backers in January or February 2024, but it’s unknown if switching out the offending artwork will affect this timeline.