Hot on the heels of the 5e reboot of Spelljammer, the team at Wizards of the Coast has revealed One D&D, which markes 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 sparse until now. The creative team appeared in a short video during the recent Wizards Presents digital showcase (alongside more info about the upcoming Dragonlance revival and several MTG crossover events) to explain their plan for the future of D&D.
Throughout the presentation, the team detailed the “three pillars” of this next phase of D&D, expected to launch in earnest in 2024. They include ongoing updates to the D&D rules – as we’ve seen in recent sourcebooks such as Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything – as well as an expansion of 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.
“We’re no longer in the position where we think of D&D as ‘an edition’ – it’s just D&D.”“
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 makers like HeroForge or Eldritch Foundry. “Currently, players are cobbling together all kinds of different apps and websites to have a true integrated D&D experience,” says Kale Stutzman, Principle Game Designer for D&D Digital. “What we want to do is actually just provide all the tools that the players need to play themselves in one space.”
The pre-alpha footage shown during the broadcast showed several types and sizes of digitally-rendered tabletop minis, from heroes duking it out with Kobolds and skeletons to a massive Black Dragon looming over the dungeonscape. While these were likely not from a specific campaign or dungeon currently in a D&D adventure, that is one of the goals of the project – though the team is also working to give players the power to build their own worlds, too.
“We might give you a pre-made campaign from us that has an exciting castle or keep with a dungeon inside of it,” says Carlo Arellano, Principle Art Director on D&D Digital. “But then you’re going to be able to take this place, take it apart, and build your own. We’re going to have a really robust tool for you to be able to create your own dungeons.”
Despite having an early build of the toolset, it’s still a long way off from release. “Right now, we’re in early development of our digital experience,” Stutzman said. “We can play a game role some dice, see the miniatures moving around in a 3D play space, but that’s just the core of it.”
The biggest shift – and one that players can get their hands on much sooner – is how the tabletop D&D team is approaching the evolution of the game itself moving forward. “We did a smart thing with Fifth Edition, by listening to the fans,” says Chris Perkins, D&D’s Game Design Architect. “And what came out of that process was a system that is stable, that is well loved, that incorporates the best elements of earlier editions. Now that we have that, we are 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 already in its playtesting phase – you can check out the latest Unearthed Arcana on D&D Beyond for the first round of updates and additions. This first release introduces a new player race – the Celestial counterpart to the Tieflings, known as Ardlings – and there are already several noteworthy rules changes, even considering recent alterations to the system in TCoE or Monsters of the Multiverse. For example, characters currently receive additional Ability score points based on their lineage or species – however, these increases are now tied to their Backgrounds in the updated ruleset, and every Background now also provides a Feat. Soldiers receive +2 STR and +1 CON, for instance, along with the Savage Attacker feat, while characters with the Street Urchin background get a bonus to Dexterity/Wisdom and the Lucky feat.
“How might we get more fun, more speed, more options here?”“
“Backgrounds are something that we took apart, examined every piece of, and rebuilt with the goal of having [them] play an even larger role in your character’s identity,” says Jeremy Crawford, another of D&D’s Game Design Architects, during an extended presentation of the new playtesting rules. Other big departures from current 5e rules include certain Feats being tied to a character’s level, truncating the nine current spell lists for each class into just three based on the magic’s source (Arcane, Divine, and Primal), or codifying the notion that rolling a Natural 1 always means failure – on any check, no matter how skilled a character may be.
Crawford says that while not all the proposed changes will eventually become official rules, the testing will go on for some time, much like the D&D Next initiative that eventually became Fifth Edition. “The big difference this time is we’re giving feedback on the game we’re already playing,” Crawford says. “Rather than playtesting basically a brand new game bottom to top, instead now it’s like ‘all right, it’s the game we’re playing now’, but now let’s zoom in on this piece of it and think, ‘How might we get more fun, more speed, more options here?’ And then move on to another piece of the game until all of that coalesces in 2024 in the new books.”
One D&D is scheduled to launch officially in 2024. In the meantime, check out what’s on the horizon 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 RPG shenanigans.