Mar 27 , 2023
The biggest news in Dungeons and Dragons this year had to be the announcement of One DnD. There’s a lot to say about it because there’s so much speculation. Will it be good? Will it be bad? We’ve been playing fifth edition DnD for years now, what will become of it? Well, we still have until 2024 to collectively pull our hair out and finally see what it’s all about. But until then, let’s take a look at what they announced, what has been released for playtesting, and what I hope gets fixed before release.
Let’s start at the beginning and just analyze the trailer Wizard of the Coast put out. If there is one word to sum up what they promise with One DnD, it would be “more”. More spells, more customization, more immersive, more open, more options, more inclusive, more fan-friendly. That’s all well and good but every company always promises that. Digging deeper, it looks like Wizards of the Coast actually means it. They want to give players more.
One DnD is a bit of a unique concept. They want to do away with the edition model of role-playing games. For the last fifty years, Dungeons and Dragons can be analyzed by editions. 1st edition was when it all started and it was a very crunchy game. Much more akin to a tabletop war game. It had rules that really involved everyday life. Characters had to pay taxes and such. Then came Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It smoothed out some of the rules a bit and it’s where a lot of older DnD players got their start. Then came AD&D 2nd edition. Then 3rd edition. Next was 3.5, 4th, and finally 5th edition. Each edition has both its strong points and also their drawbacks but from 1st edition to 5th the goal was always to get more players involved. The idea behind One DnD is to just have Dungeons and Dragons. No more editions but a constant state of revision and feedback from players to create a truly communal game.
One of the things specifically mentioned was revising the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Just like in years past, the goal is to get more people involved. They want to redo the rules, see what works, what needs to be clarified, and what can be simplified, and allow more people into the game. Let’s face it. Dungeons and Dragons can be a very complex game. Just look at the number of rulebooks needed to play. Most board games have a rulebook of about ten pages. Dungeons and Dragons has the Monster Manual, the Player’s Handbook, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. And that’s just the base. That’s not including modules and supplementary materials to provide more options to players. That’s three hefty books totalling almost one thousand pages! Well, most people know that a lot of the material is a google search away. And that’s where DnD Beyond comes in.
When you have a complex game, especially in the information age, there’s no shortage of websites and information available with a google search. They want to bring that all in-house. Make a virtual database where you don’t have to go searching all over the internet for that one obscure rule. It’s all right there in one place. Need a stat block for a monster, it’s right there in DnD Beyond. No more lugging around all the books when you want to play. It will all be accessible through DnD Beyond.
The one thing that got my friends and I most excited was of course the 3D-rendered virtual tabletop. Here’s where they are promising the moon. 3D models that are fully customizable along with 3D maps and terrain to really throw players into the world and have a digitally immersive experience. Let’s be real. This is a direct shot at online websites like Roll20. Roll20 is a great platform. They have everything you could want to get a game rolling. They have the modules. They have virtual tokens to symbolize players and enemies. They have programs to roll dice and all the little bells and whistles to make playing the game as easy as possible. It will do the math for you and has detailed explanations for abilities and spells. It also has a fairly good character creation system to help players.
DnD Beyond is taking it to the next level. Where Roll20 will have a flat surface with little icons to signify monsters and players, DnD Beyond is promising fully rendered 3D models in a 3D environment. There’s no comparison as to which one looks better. Then they go on to say that each piece of terrain can be customized to fit into your homebrew games. All of this is still way too early to judge but it looks very promising.
Even before writing this article, they have been heavily relying on fan feedback for shaping One DnD. It’s not set for launch until sometime in 2024 so there’s a good chance it will be two solid years of playtesting and tweaking before we see the finished product. That’s what makes this so exciting. It’s not a handful of game developers parsing through 50 years of gameplay mechanics. Everyone can have their say and put in their two cents to make the game better.
So far, they have announced some of the changes they plan to make. Some are good. Some are less good. For example, level 20 is a bit of a tease. Most campaigns don’t have players ever reach level 20. So, if you’re playing an oath of devotion paladin in the 5th edition, chances are good you’ll never get that Holy Nimbus. So, one of the proposed changes is to lower that and at level 20 to give players an epic boon. Epic boons are a throwback to older editions and honestly, they need to be juiced up a bit. But the idea is great. At level 20, your character has reached demigod status and should get a really awesome feat at that level.
In order to make characters more customizable, they are taking a lesson from Dragonlance and reintroducing levelled feats. Everyone starts the game with a feat but it has to be a level 1 feat. After all, not all feats are the same. Some are just more powerful than others. It gives you a chance to really customize your character and get rid of some of that sameness feeling that comes with doing a standard array character build.
There’s so much more to talk about but in fairness, let some time pass and see what they come up with before going too critical. But keep your eyes open. This will be the future of Dungeons and Dragons.