Today at Wizards Presents, Wizards of the Coast announced that the next generation of Dungeons & Dragons is on its way via a massive public playtest called One D&D. This will include a revision of the core rulebooks: The Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. This update will come alongside an offical digital toolset and virtual tabletop for D&D.
The new rules will be backwards compatible with 5th Edition, or 5E, the current version of the D&D rules. These have been around since 2014 and are probably the ones you play, statistically speaking. Don't panic: We knew this would come. It's not that drastic, and it has happened before.
Wizards of the Coast isn't calling the new ruleset D&D 6th Edition, but that's really what it is. If it doesn't pick an official name other than One D&D, players will call it 6E, or maybe 5.5. Trust me: Wizards tried to make 5E just "Dungeons & Dragons" for years, but we all called it 5th Edition anyway... and now Wizards itself calls it that. The "One D&D" thing won't last.
"One D&D is the codename for the next generation of Dungeons & Dragons that brings together updated rules, backwards compatible with 5th Edition, D&D Beyond as the platform for your D&D experience, and an early-in-development D&D digital play experience that will offer players and Dungeon Masters full immersion and rich 3D creation tools," Wizards said in a press release.
"We did a smart thing with 5th edition by listening to the fans," said D&D designer Chris Perkins, "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."
Wizards tried to be very clear in their presentation that their plans for changes to D&D weren't about "taking anything away" from D&D players or "changing that stuff you love." As a D&D veteran who went from 3rd Edition D&D to its evolution D&D 3.5, then 4th Edition to 4E Essentials, I can comfortably say that's going to be... partly true, probably.
This 5th edition update has a lot of development time behind it, and a lot of play experience with D&D 5E. Subtle rules updates have happened in the last eight years, as has game design philosophy. It'll also benefit, at least in part, from the knowledge gained in those earlier game updates.
But will the thing you like most get changed in the official printing? Maybe. Fundamental core rules are altered in the first document: A natural 20 is now always a success, while a natural 1 is always a failure. That change was made, said D&D's game design architect Jeremy Crawford, because the vast majority of people were playing the game that way whether it was the official rules or not.
Which, if you've done this before, is actually kind of refreshing.
The first playtest focuses on Race and Background, giving an evolved version of previous rules that's still pretty simple and familiar. It also introduces a new celestial opposite of the Tiefling: The animal-headed Ardlings. It also collapses spell lists into three simple, separate Arcane, Divine, and Primal lists.
Then there are much larger changes: Critical hits are seemingly now only for player characters, not for NPCs. That's huge! Some people will hate it.
In many ways, this is the natural evolution of things. Having acquired D&D Beyond, Wizards of the Coast now has, for the first time, a single common platform on which to distribute digital content for D&D—including what sounds like living rules updates over the next several years ahead of those new core rulebooks. (And it's also making an official 3D virtual tabletop tool.)
That was the plan from the start with 5th Edition, but you can forgive us for being surprised that it's still true in the corporate environment of Wizards of the Coast.
If you're interested in the future of Dungeons & Dragons, you can sign up for the One D&D public playtests at dndbeyond.com. Oh, they've also announced the 2023 D&D release schedule, including Planescape.