Hot on the heels of Spelljammer’s 5e reboot, the team at Wizards of the Coast has revealed One D&D, marking the beginning of “a new generation of Dungeons & Dragons.”
WotC has been working on “what’s next” for D&D since last year, but details have been scant so far. The creative team appeared in a short video during the recent Wizards Presents digital presentation (along with more information on the upcoming Dragonlance revival and various MTG crossover events) to explain their plan for the future of D&D.
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Throughout the presentation, the team detailed the “three pillars” of this next phase of D&D, which is expected to launch in earnest in 2024. They include ongoing updates to the D&D rules, as we’ve seen in recent sourcebooks. as Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. – as well as an expansion to D&D Beyond, the popular digital compendium that Wizards recently purchased, and (eventually) a set of digital tabletop tools for players and GMs to use in their games at home or online.
The digital toolset, dubbed D&D Digital, is being designed in Unreal Engine 5 and appears to be an all-in-one hybrid of virtual tabletops like Roll20 and TaleSpire and custom mini-fabs like HeroForge or Eldritch Foundry. “Players today are throwing together all sorts of different apps and websites to have a truly integrated D&D experience,” says Kale Stutzman, lead game designer for D&D Digital. “What we want to do is provide all the tools players need to play themselves in one space.”
D&D Digital Pre-Alpha Screenshots
Pre-alpha footage shown during the stream showed off various types and sizes of digitally rendered tabletop minis, from heroes clashing with Kobolds and skeletons to a massive Black Dragon looming over the dungeon landscape. While these likely won’t be from a specific campaign or dungeon currently in a D&D adventure, that’s one of the goals of the project, though the team is also working on giving players the power to build their own worlds.
“We could give you a pre-made campaign of our own that has an exciting castle or dungeon inside,” says Carlo Arellano, Lead Art Director at D&D Digital. “But then you can take this place and tear it down and build your own. We’re going to have a really solid tool for you to create your own dungeons.”
Despite having an early build of the toolset, it is still a long way from release. “Right now, we’re in the very early stages of developing our digital experience,” Stutzman said. “We can role play with some dice, see the miniatures moving around in a 3D game space, but that’s just the core.”
The biggest change, and one that players can get their hands on much sooner, is how the tabletop D&D team approaches the evolution of the game itself. “We did something smart with Fifth Edition, by listening to the fans,” says Chris Perkins, Game Design Architect for D&D. “And what came out of that process was a system that is stable, that is well-loved, that incorporates the best elements of previous editions. Now that we have that, we’re no longer in the position where we think of D&D as an edition – it’s just D&D.”
The next iteration of the core rules is now in its testing phase – you can check out the latest arcana discovered in D&D Beyond to see the first round of updates and additions. This first release introduces a new race of players, the Tieflings’ celestial counterpart, known as Ardlings, and there are already several notable rule changes, even considering recent system alterations in TCoE or Monsters of the Multiverse. For example, characters currently receive additional Skill score points based on their lineage or species; however, these augments are now tied to their Backgrounds in the updated ruleset, and each Background now provides a Feat as well. Soldiers get +2 STR and +1 CON, for example, along with the Savage Attacker feat, while characters with the Street Urchin background get a bonus to Dexterity/Wisdom and Lucky feat.
“Backgrounds are something that we take apart, examine each piece and rebuild with the goal of having [them] play an even bigger role in your character’s identity,” says Jeremy Crawford, another of D&D’s game design architects, during an extended presentation of the new playtest rules. The current nine spell lists for each class into just three depending on the source of the magic (Arcane, Divine, and Primordial), or codifying the notion that rolling a Natural 1 forever means failure – on any test, no matter how skilled a character is.
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Crawford says that while not all of the proposed changes will eventually become official rules, testing will continue for some time, much like the D&D Next initiative eventually becoming fifth edition. “The big difference this time is that we’re giving feedback on the game we’re already playing,” says Crawford. “Instead of trying a basically new game from start to finish, now it’s like ‘okay, that’s the game we’re playing right now,’ but now let’s get to this part and think, ‘How could we get more fun, more speed, more options here?’ And then move on to another part of the game until all of that is merged in 2024 in the new books.”
One D&D is scheduled to officially release in 2024. In the meantime, check out what’s coming up for D&D in 2023, including the revival of another classic setting.
JR is a senior producer at IGN, you can follow him On twitter for more video games and tabletop role-playing games.