Wizards of the Coast enlisted extensive player feedback through D&D Next for what became 5th edition. The company is taking the same approach for One D&D, the evolution of 5th edition, which will see the release of new versions of the game’s core books in 2024 to mark both the 10th anniversary of 5th edition and the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons.
Playtesting for One D&D begins today with the release of Unearthed Arcana: Character Origins. The rules are backward compatible with the rest of 5th edition but reflect the changes that have been gradually released in books such as Monsters of the Multiverse and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything that have stripped ability modifiers from the game’s playable races.
“We have deconstructed the game’s rules, examined them through the lens of the playtest feedback we’ve received on D&D over the last decade, and looked for ways that we can enhance fun by bringing in new options and brand new pieces of content that the game hasn’t had before,” D&D game design architect Jeremy Crawford said. “We’re reconstructing it with all of those elements in place, ensuring that it still feels like the game that we’ve been loving and playing since 2014, but it also feels ready for the next 10 years.”
Nothing in the playtest is to be considered final, and Wizards will be using surveys to solicit player feedback on the changes. The initial 21-page document offers rules for creating your own backgrounds, which each provide a +2 modifier to one attribute and a +1 to another along with a language, a tool proficiency, two skill proficiencies, some equipment, and a first-level feat. They also present sample backgrounds including classic ones like acolyte and new options such as guard.
“People have loved backgrounds ever since we introduced them in the D&D Next playtest process,” Crawford said. “Our desire has been to keep them, but have them deliver even more for your characters so that you can feel your background’s effect throughout your adventuring career, which makes sense because the background represents your life before you became an adventurer, whether you’ve spent that time as a soldier, an acolyte, a sage or something else.”
One of the big ways that impact will be felt is through feats, which were a key part of earlier D&D editions but were relegated to an optional rule in 5th edition. They’re now viewed as class-agnostic class features that are divided into levels to avoid overwhelming starting players with choices.
Existing feats have been improved. The Healer feat maintains the feature that gives any character the ability to use a healer’s kit to provide a bit of combat healing, but characters now also gain the ability to reroll 1s that come up when restoring hit points with either a kit or a healing spell. The Alert feat has been tweaked to add your proficiency bonus to your initiative roll instead of a +5 flat bonus. A player with the feat can also swap their initiative with that of another ally.
The playtest is also overhauling core races. Tiefling players can keep the same resistances and spellcasting abilities found in the 2014 Player’s Handbook by playing an Infernal tiefling, or they can choose to change things up by playing a Chthonic or Abyssal tiefling representing that they trace their heritage to a different lower plane. Many races, including humans and tieflings, now have flexible sizes so you can play a small impish tiefling.
The angelic aasimar have been replaced by ardlings, who trace their heritage not to angels but to guardinals, hound archons and the avatars of gods who appear with animal heads. Like with the tiefling, you can choose an association with different planes to receive different spells but, perhaps more importantly, suggestions for what animals your character resembles such as a cat, elephant or bear. All ardlings have the ability to briefly fly with spectral wings and can be medium or small sized.
“We have found with tabaxi, giff, tortles and the other animal folk we have released that fans really respond to them,” Crawford said. “The ardlng is us leaning into that even more and giving you the option to really play an animal person of any kind.”
The playtest also shifts the way spells are grouped. Rather than divide up lists by class like wizard or cleric, they’re grouped by power source: arcane, divine, or primal. These terms have been used in 5th edition but were more commonly applied in 4th edition. Arcane spells represent the ambient magic of the universe and are cast by bards, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards. Divine spells are drawn from the gods and the Outer Planes and are cast by clerics and paladins. Primal magic comes from the forces of nature found in the inner planes and is used by druids and rangers. Future Unearthed Arcana articles will explain how the classes use these lists and how classes or subclasses can gain access to new lists.