This year is the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. To celebrate, Wizards of the Coast is releasing an updated set of core rulebooks for 5th Edition. That means a new Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual are on the way. The Player and DM books have been announced for September 17 and November 12, respectively. They used to be called One D&D, a term still used by people Googling to find out what it’s all about.

Players are wondering what exactly this new set of rules means for their games. Can they just keep playing 5E as they have been for years? Will future campaign books phase out the old rules and force them to learn new rules? And is parent company Hasbro really trying to turn D&D into a subscription-based service like every video game is nowadays? 

The future of D&D is very much up in the air, with a lot of old school fans turning their nose at recent products and trust in Hasbro plummeting. Yet no one can truly predict how these new books will sell or what impact they’ll have on the game. What we can do is look at the D&D team’s statements to learn what One D&D (or D&D 2024) is, and what it isn’t.

One D&D Is Not Actually One D&D

via: WotC

In 2022, Wizards of the Coast announced “One D&D” for the 50th Anniversary. The preview video gave an impression of smaller updates over time, similar to how online games like Fortnite shake things up every few weeks. But the new name, hints of core changes, and teases of flashy digital integration all seemed to point to a new edition. 

Then in 2023, Wizards clarified during a content creator summit that One D&D is not a new edition. In fact, the One D&D name was ditched shortly after. The new books are now simply referred to as the “2024 Player's Handbook” and the “2024 Dungeon Master's Guide.”

One D&D Is Not A New Edition

D&D is currently on its 5th Edition, called 5E for short. Obviously this means that there have been four previous editions (technically more but that’s a whole thing). The history of D&D editions is a whole deep dive all on its own, but the short of it is that every few years the game is updated. Sometimes it’s to reflect changes in the way players run their games, sometimes it’s a sort of reset to welcome new players, and sometimes it’s just corporate shenanigans. 

With it being 10 years since 5E released, the game’s 50th anniversary, and the whole One D&D push leading up to this, it does seem like the stage is set for a new edition. However, 5E is extremely popular. More people are playing this version of D&D than ever, and 5E is the game used in fan-favorite shows like Critical Role and Dimension 20. The 5E rules certainly do need an update, and corporate probably wants a huge product release for the 50th. However, a whole new set of rules would probably push away more players than they’d entice. 

Perhaps in light of these facts, the 2024 D&D books are not a new edition. After shedding the One D&D title, Wizards has been treating these books as more of a facelift. Updated rules, detailed guidance for DMs, more high-quality art, and an all-around polish. However, Wizards has also assured us many times that these books will be backwards compatible with 5E content. 

One D&D Is Compatible With Your Old 5E Adventures 

via: WotC

One thing that has remained true since this initiative was announced as One D&D is that it will be backwards compatible. But what does that mean? 

The 2024 D&D books will be usable with old 5E adventures like Curse of Strahd. That’s the verbatim example used in an FAQ posted on D&D Beyond. Since the rules are more of an update than a brand new edition, they’re similar enough that the gameplay still applies. You won’t have to jump through hoops or throw out all your best ideas just to run your favorite campaign under these new rules. At least, that’s what the D&D team has been promising in the marketing lead up to the new books’ release. 

D&D Beyond Is Not Required To Play

Around the time that One D&D was announced, Wizards CEO Cynthia Williams said these now-viral words during a shareholders meeting: “D&D has never been more popular, and we have really great fans and engagement, but the brand is really under monetised.”

She and Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks went on to pitch a recurring payment model like “you see in digital games.” 

The intended platform for this scheme seemed to be D&D Beyond, the website where people can buy digital access to D&D books and create online character sheets. D&D Beyond announced around the same time that it was creating its own Virtual Tabletop, a hub for playing D&D in addition to storing all of your purchased content. In light of all this news, the social media machine put together a worrying prediction: Wizards was planning on going all digital with D&D so that they could nickel-and-dime players like a mobile game.

The reality? It’s tricky. Wizards does seem to be pushing digital by offering frequent sales on D&D Beyond content and bundling physical books with digital ones. It’s a not-so-subtle effort to get more players locked into the online platform. However, it’s also actively partnering with third-party VTTs, an odd move if it means to dominate the digital market. 

In the end, the 2024 rulebooks will be widely printed in book form. You’ll still be able to buy a book and play with a paper character sheet like the good ol' days. Just expect to see more and more players moving to digital as Wizards makes it easier to adopt.

One D&D Is A Fix For The Ranger (Depending On Who You Ask) 

via: WotC

The Ranger is often seen as useless except under very specific circumstances. Those circumstances being a survival campaign based around wilderness exploration. Unfortunately, many players find long-term survival gameplay boring, preferring fast moving plots and high-damage builds instead. Even when the Ranger does get a chance to shine, it’s usually just making one Survival roll. Something a Druid could do while also casting cooler spells. Yet people still want to be Aragorn, so the Ranger isn’t going anywhere. 

The Ranger seen in playtests for the 2024 Player's Handbook focuses on adding damage options. They have access to a feature called Weapon Mastery that lets them apply extra effects to their attacks with certain weapons. They can also switch out their masteries after a Long Rest to keep their options open and not be too thwarted by enemy resistances. The Hunter’s Mark spell is also always prepared and given some free casts so that it can be a more reliable source of damage. 

That’s not to say that the ranger loses all of its exploration abilities. Instead, they’re just translated into more universal skills. Instead of focusing on a specific monster type to hunt, Rangers now get Expertise in a skill and two terrains to traverse with Advantage. The idea is to keep the Ranger as a nature specialist while giving them more chances to roll and roll well. 

The big question is: Does it work? For the most part, it seems like yes. The developers said that the Ranger was considered the most improved class during playtests. That said, many commenters felt that Rangers now lack identity after being moved away from their wilderness gameplay speciality. So it really depends on the user; if you want Rangers to be more useful in combat, you’ll get that. If you want more exploration, you may be disappointed. 

One D&D Is Adding New Subclasses

Many D&D fans who already own all the 5E books are probably wondering if it will be worth buying a new set of rulebooks. Since everything is supposed to be backwards compatible, why should they spend all that money on a remixed version of content they already own? While the answer will ultimately be subjective, it is confirmed that the books will have new content. 

Each class in the 2024 Player’s Handbook will have four subclasses, with several getting never-before-seen subclasses. The confirmed new subclasses are a World Tree Barbarian, Dancer Bard, and an unknown Fighter subclass. A Brawler Fighter was tested, but didn’t get enough positive feedback to continue on to final printing. 

One D&D Is Adding New Kinds Of Gameplay

via: WotC

At least one new confirmed type of gameplay is coming to the D&D 5E era: Bastions. This subsystem will be in either the Player’s Handbook or Dungeon Master’s Guide. The Bastions subsystem will allow players to build a home base or convert one from an existing building. 

Using Bastions, players can set up the base of their dreams. There is guidance for how to establish and pay for facilities like a study or forge. The adventurers can also hire minions and house them at their base. 

Having Bastions in the game shows consideration for gameplay outside of the main mission. It could help facilitate roleplay, give players something different to do in between quests, and allow them to spend their piles of loot on something besides the frequently-requested custom magic items. Hopefully it also points to expanded rules for exploration, item prices, and other things players have been asking for for years. 

One D&D Is Not Using AI Art 

D&D has been no stranger to AI art controversy. At a time where the tech is often trained without consent on professional artists’ work, a corporation cannot be using AI. Yet Twitter users are actively looking for signs of AI-generated art in professional products, and Wizards faced the collective wrath of the internet over it. 

Twitter users caught AI use in the 2023 book Bigby Presents: Glory Of The Giants. The artist claimed they did the bulk of the work but used AI “to generate certain details or polish” the end result. Wizards claimed no knowledge of AI use, asked the artist to never use it again on future D&D work, and updated its policy to prohibit AI use. 

Later on, a YouTuber stoked sentiment that art of a dwarf for the 2024 Player’s Handbook was made with AI. The artist in question showed his work to prove he did every step on his own. Wizards put out a statement recommitting to its ban on AI use. So, as per Wizards’ official word, there will be no AI art creation tools allowed in D&D products. 

Feb 22, 2024

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