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ONE D&D: What Changes Are Coming In The New Edition?

August 19, 2022

Today, Wizards of the Coast announced the inevitable: A new edition coming to our beloved Dungeons & Dragons. If you’re a grognard like me, this will be the fourth time this has happened to you, and it can be an unsettling experience for those who aren’t used to it. Even then, it always makes me nervous.

Dungeons and Dragons is more than a game I play. It is a part of my way of life. I’ve been playing since I was eight years old, and have loved it just as long. It’s at these times of transition that I realize that my way of life is essentially in the hands of people who are strangers to me. Sure, I can play an older edition, and sure I can and do play other games, but major changes to the primary system hold the potential to cause me great distress or joy depending on the quality of those changes. It’s an unusual situation to have a group of strangers who may not share my world view or motivations change up something very central to my recreation and my identity.

New editions are inevitable and always carry potential. Fifth Edition brought in a lot of new gamers, and the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons and role-playing in general has increased over the course of the past several years. The accessibility of Fifth Edition, ease of play, and low barriers to entry really brought a lot of new people to the table. This is great, as we should all love to share our hobby with a new generation, especially when the alternative is for the hobby to die out.

Game companies also have to make money. While supplements often can be profitable, core books are always the big money makers, hence Wizards decision to create the Open Game License with third edition, which benefits many of us to this day in the perumtations that have arisen from it (like our personal favorite, Dungeon Crawl Classics, which borrows heavily from the system with some amazing varitions). So, there is always a corporate incentive to justifying a new run of core books. I’m not sure this is necessarilly in the players best interest, but part of that will be determined over time.

What is often concerning is the lifespan of an edition. Original Edition D&D was created in 1974 in a few small books in a tiny box, and was published cleaned up as AD&D in 1977, which was the chief system until 1989, when 2nd Edition was published. 2nd Edition was modified in 1995 with what we alwasy called 2.5 or Skills and Powers, which gave a lot of optional versatility to the game. Third Edition was published in 2000, with a revised edition (3.5) in 2003. 4th Edition was published in 2008, and 5th published in 2014.

I would tend to group that more or less like this:

AD&D and variants – 15 years

2nd Edition – 11 years

3rd Edition and Variants – 8 years

4th Edition – 6 years

5th Edition – 8 years so far (and will be 10 years by the time the new edition publishes).

So, we’ve had a good run with 5th edition. With any new permutation, there will be some haters. Time will tell whether the changes coming are good and necessary ones, or if they are a misstep. Wizards promises that this process is one where feedback is involved, and the playtest rules are available for free on D&D Beyond.

We’ve looked at the changes proposed and will summarize them here. There may be more that we haven’t noticed, so make sure you let us know in the comments.

WHAT’S CHANGING?

Backwards Compatbile – First, we should point out (as Wizards was careful to) that all products are going to be backwards compatible, so that adventures purchased today can be played in the new edition with little to no modification. I expect powers might have to be added (like the dwarven ability to tremorsense, see below) but theres no need to throw your books in the garbage just yet.

Racial Changes – The design philosphy espoused in the promotional video has indicated that an emphasis on different sorts of characters acting as heroes should be more possible and more accesible to players. This telegraphs something indicated in the first playtest pdf, which is the first major change.

RACES DO NOT CONFER ABILITY SCORE BONUSES OR PENALTIES

Races do differ in a number of ways from their previous incarnations. The short list is as follows.

Humans – Can choose to be small or medium size (as short as 2 feet tall, apparently); gain inspiration after a long rest (standard rule is to lose it now after long rest); Extra skill proficiences; Gain the Skilled feat or a feat of your choice.

Ardling – This is a new PC race for the upper planes. These animal headed creatures have different forms, but share the ability to fly for limited periods of time, and gain some inherent spell casting abilities based on their type.

Dragonborn stay very similar.

Dwarves are similar to 5th edition, but gain the ability to tremorsense for short periods of time each day.

Elves – Are divided in to three subraces, drow, high and wood and are tied to different regions. Each subdivision gets their own bonus spells based on their region, and otherwise have very similar abilities to previous incarnations.

Gnomes similar to previous editions as well.

Orcs – Listed here as full orcs, not as half orcs, which is an interesting change. Orcs add the ability Adrenaline Surge which allows the granting of temporary hit points during the use of a dash action, which can be used a few times per long rest.

Tieflings – Perhaps the most extensive changes, tieflings now have three variations – abyssal, cthonic, or infernal. Each carries with it some inherent spellcasting abilities and resistences. They all get thaumaturgy.

BACKGROUNDS

There is a new emphasis on backgrounds, which have become more than just a skill and a minor power. These are the major changes:

Stat bumps – It is now your career, not your race, that conveys a stat bump. You get a +2 to one stat and +1 to another.

Tool Proficiency – Each background gains a tool proficiency specific to their type.

Language: You gain a language based on the Background. Sign language has entered the language group as well.

Skill Proficiencies: This has remained essentially the same.

Bonus 1st Level Feat: Each background carries with it a feat appropriate to the background.

Starting Equipment – Starting equipment is now determined by your job.

These are most of the visible changes. However thre are a few other tweaks.

DRUIDS – Now cast from the Primal spell list, which is still essentially the druid spell list of old, but not characterized as divine spells. Too early to tell if this has other implications.

GRAPPLING – Always has been a headache. Now, a successful grapple reduces the grappled parties speed to zero, and imposes disadvantage to attacking anyone but the grappeler.

INSPIRATION – goes away after a long rest (except or humans).. You can inspriation at the DM’s whim, or if you roll a Natural 20.

DIGITAL OFFERINGS – Last but not least, Wizards is once again threatening to create a digital table top, as well as digital copies of the books coming with the physical copies. Digital copes of books are great, though it’s not clear how it wil affect local retailers. The Virtual game table has been threatened for years, but I’ll believe it when I see it. In the end, this isn’t that big of a difference from the current arrangement as most have played online with services such as fantasy grounds or Roll20. It’s really almost embarassing how Wizards has failed to meet the need in the marketplace for something like this, but previous attempts have been utter disasters. The groundwork has been laid by many, now, so we’ll see this endeavor when it really gets going.

We’ll continue to update as playtest items roll out and ONE D&D moves forward.

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