One D&D Explained — The Future of TTRPGs
The “edition wars” are over. Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is hard at work on a new version of Dungeons & Dragons—but don’t call it “sixth edition” or “five point five.” From now on, there’s only going to be one D&D or—as WotC likes to say—”One D&D.”
Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition (5e) launched in 2014. Eight years is a lengthy lifespan for a D&D edition. Dungeons & Dragons—the original, three-book set—was published in 1974. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook was published in 1978. AD&D’s second edition launched in 1989, third edition—which dropped ‘Advanced’ from the title—in 2000, fourth edition in 2008, and fifth—as noted—six years later. This makes 5e one of the game’s longest-serving editions.
We’ve all learned a lot since 2014, and digital gaming—given a massive boost by the COVID-19 pandemic—has become a viable (and, for some, their preferred) option for play. Hence WotC initiating this new project.
The team is adamant that it’s not a new edition. The idea is that there won’t be any more editions of D&D. There’ll just be One D&D. We’ll still see new rulebooks and supplements, but they’ll be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and everything will be backwards-compatible with your 5e material.
In their August 2022 “Wizards Presents” showcase, the team gave up the details—and announced that playtest materials are already available. Here are the highlights.
Which D&D? One D&D.
The presentation emphasized that WotC’s goal is to improve the game in every way, making it easier to play, with more character options, fresh advice for DMs and options to access game material and run games on your platform of choice. It broke the task into three components: Rules, D&D Beyond and D&D Digital.
The team plans to evolve the rules to emphasize what players enjoy. Nothing will be taken away. Instead, the emphasis is on providing more. More options, more character types, more backgrounds, more spells … you get the idea.
Most Dungeons & Dragons players will have interacted with D&D Beyond. Now owned by WotC, it’s a fantastic repository of rules, adventures and more. Physical/digital bundles are coming so you can access your Dungeons & Dragons material on the platform you prefer, whether that’s a handsome physical book, a tablet app or even on your phone.
Did we mention the pandemic? Many of us play online, using various virtual tabletops (VTTs). Different platforms have different materials available—rulebooks, supplements, scenarios, and play aids—some official, some unofficial. Some free, some paid.
WotC is building its own VTT—D&D Digital—using Unreal Engine. Unreal Engine powers many popular video games; the prototype uses a “tilt shift” effect to make the (virtual) miniatures and terrain look like miniatures. Best of all, scenarios and source material will be modular, so you can take apart the different components – walls and halls, mountains and monsters – and put them together to build your games. Think of it as digital D&D Lego.
Play it today
Perhaps the most exciting announcement was that playtest materials are available now. Simply visit the One D&D web page and click the “Start Playtesting” button.
The first package, Unearthed Arcana 2022 – Character Origins, focuses on characters (races, backgrounds, feats and more). There’s plenty to digest, and if you want your input into how Dungeons & Dragons evolves, now’s the time to have your say!
Written by Michael B.
Michael’s from Sydney, Australia. Over the years he’s organized game conventions, contributed to magazines, and written supplements for White Wolf and Dream Pod 9. He’s already wondering if he should use Tomb of Horrors to playtest One D&D. After all, a Total Party Kill is always a blast no matter what edition you’re playing.
[ More from Michael: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space ]
[ Read: Adapting Older D&D to Modern Rules ]