Wizards of the Coast has announced One D&D, the next phase of Dungeons & Dragons would arrive in 2024. Here’s what excites us the most about this change.
Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition is arguably going stronger than ever. The game has seen an incredible groundswell of popularity in recent years, thanks to a combination of excellent new products, actual-play shows like Critical Role and The Adventure Zone, and just a general culture-shift toward accepting the hobby.
Doing well, however, does not mean it’s perfect. In fact, the development team acknowledges that there are many aspects that could be improved. To this end, One D&D was announced this week: an initiative to revise and republish the central rules, while incorporating official digital toolsets to make the game even more accessible, immersive, and customizable. The core rulebooks will be republished in 2024, marking the next evolution—not necessarily edition—of the current game.
Change can be daunting, especially when there’s a possible need to repurchase books, but One D&D sounds like a net gain and a huge opportunity. Here are five reasons why:
5) A Digital Tabletop in Unreal Engine
One of Wizards’ three pillars of the One D&D initiative is the creation of software that allows Dungeon Masters to bring their tabletops to life for players. This new tool, as demonstrated in the announcement trailer above, already looks really impressive this early in development—perhaps thanks to the use of Unreal Engine 5. Players will be able to customize their avatars to reflect their character, while DMs build the play space and enemies with immersive tools. The team is mindful to make it feel like looking at a tabletop game and not a video game, using elements like their “tilt-shift” camera.
Digital aids like this have existed for years, with more hitting Kickstarter regularly, but an official outlet straight from the game’s developer that utilizes a powerful engine like this sounds like the next step forward (for groups who play with physical components, that is).
4) Incorporating D&D Beyond
For most of Fifth Edition, D&D Beyond has offered players a suite of tools to aid in their tabletop experience. This started as a means of creating characters, but has grown to incorporate monsters, an Encounter Builder for DMs, and a bot for use on Discord for those who play remotely. Official sourcebooks and adventures could also be purchased on Beyond, adding their races, classes, items, monsters, etc. to users’ content pools.
However, there was always a big disconnect for many players. D&D Beyond was originally founded by Curse LLC, an esports company that changed hands from Amazon to Twitch, and then Fandom. As such, those who bought physical books like Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything would have to buy the same content on D&D Beyond to be able to use its myriad class options on Beyond. There’s long been a call to add codes for the digital content in the physical books, as the hardcover books themselves retail at $65 CDN and most digital books are about $30 USD normally.
Wizards of the Coast purchased D&D Beyond from Fandom earlier this year, and now One D&D will use the service as one of its three main pillars. This fall’s new adventure, Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen will be available as a Digital/Physical bundle in both its standard and deluxe editions (granted, for a higher price). Hopefully, this will be the new status quo for other upcoming books. Removing this wrinkle is a huge win for players and the game alike, new edition or not.
3) Existing Material Will Still Be Compatible
Speaking of content, one thing that gets existing players’ backs up whenever a new edition is suggested is the fear of losing value in all the books they already own. No one is enthusiastic to throw out an collection of expensive rulebooks, especially when the game is going strong, but One D&D will not render everything from D&D 5E obsolete.
The dev team doesn’t like to consider One D&D an entirely new “edition,” but as continuing to cultivate the extant game with even more options. Their approach sounds less like “fixing something that’s broken,” and more like “fine-tuning something for optimal performance.” Groups can use the new playtest rules to roll new characters, then run them through existing adventures like those published recently in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel. Later, printed monsters and adversaries may have new stat blocks to be referred to instead.
2) Fine-Tuning the Rules
Over the past two years or so, Wizards of the Coast has been listening to player feedback and slowly instituting subtle rule changes that can have a big impact on player representation and character customization. One D&D is a natural evolution of this process, and the new changes are evident as soon as you open the first packet of playtest material, even if it only covers the first step of character creation.
Restrictions on playable races have been lifted, allowing players more freedom in the process in both cosmetic and game mechanics—like making shorter human characters, and thus dashing outdated fantasy tropes. Racial origins are now less important in determining ability scores, with the onus for that now placed on backgrounds instead. It’s a subtle change that not only avoids harmful stereotypes, but gives players more flexibility in the race-class combinations they can feasibly use; roll orc spellcasters and halfling barbarians without worrying that their stats are innately unoptimized.
Now that they’re doing more mechanical heavy lifting, backgrounds have been expanded. There are more premade configurations alongside the means to create your own, putting ability score bonuses where you want them and taking a free feat at level 1. This was an underwhelming part of D&D 5E, but the first look at One D&D’s updated rules quickly makes it much more engaging, while the free feat enables players more utility and expression out of the gate.
And that’s just the first phase of character creation, and the first batch of rule updates. If the rest of the new rules moulds the rules into a better state in the same way, we could soon be playing a very fluid and refined version of the game.
1) Player Input Will Shape One D&D
The beauty of all these mechanical changes is that we will get to help shape One D&D’s final product by participating in playtests. As was the case with Fifth Edition, Wizards will be periodically supplying packets of new rules for players to read over and test out. We not only get to sample the changes, we can provide feedback directly to the team.
This not only helps to assuage concerns about potential changes by letting players see them for themselves, it also helps the dev team catch potential problems before they’re finalized. No matter how much a game is tested in-house, players have fresh perspective and a knack for finding holes and exploits.
Playtest feedback was so instrumental to making Fifth Edition a success that Wizards still uses it, releasing Unearthed Arcana packets for many things that make it into new books. It’s fitting, then, that the same process is at the heart of One D&D. We can help make the game itself, just like the campaigns and characters we play out with friends.
The final product of this bold new initiative is still about two years away, and the future seems bright right out of the gate. Hopefully the care and passion that the dev team has put into shaping the game thus far will allow One D&D to truly elevate the world’s most prevalent tabletop RPG to the next level—and after all, who doesn’t get a rush from levelling up?