Hot on the heels of Spelljammer’s 5th reboot, the Wizards of the Coast One team has unveiled D&D, marking the start of “a new generation of Dungeons & Dragons”.
WotC has been working on “what’s next” for D&D since last year, but details have been scarce so far. The creative team appeared in a short video during the recent Wizards Presents digital showcase (alongside learning more about the upcoming Dragonlance revival and various MTG crossover events) to explain their plan for the future of D&D.
During the presentation, the team outlined the “three pillars” of this next phase of D&D, which is expected to kick off in earnest in 2024. They include ongoing updates to the D&D rules – as we’ve seen in recent sourcebooks like Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything – as well as an expansion of D&D Beyond, the popular digital compendium Wizards recently acquired, and (eventually) a set of digital table aids for players. and GMs to use in their games at home or online.
The digital toolset, called D&D Digital, is being designed in Unreal Engine 5 and appears to be an all-in-one hybrid of virtual tabletops like Roll20 and TaleSpire and custom mini-makers like HeroForge or Eldritch Foundry. “Currently, players are working all kinds of different apps and websites together to have a truly integrated D&D experience,” said Kale Stutzman, Principle Game Designer for D&D Digital. “What we want to do is really just provide all the tools the players need to play themselves in one room.”
D&D Digital Pre-Alpha Screenshots
The pre-alpha footage shown during the broadcast showed various shapes and sizes of digitally rendered minis on tabletops, from heroes battling it out with Kobolds and skeletons to a massive black dragon looming over the dungeon landscape. While these probably didn’t come from a specific campaign or dungeon currently in a D&D adventure, that’s one of the goals of the project – though the team is also working on empowering players to create their own worlds as well. to build.
“We can give you a ready-made campaign from us with an exciting castle or dungeon in it,” said Carlo Arellano, Principle Art Director at D&D Digital. “But then you can take this place, take it apart and build your own church. We’re going to have a really robust tool that allows you to create your own dungeons.”
Despite the toolset being built at an early stage, its release is still a long way off. “Right now, we’re in the early stages of developing our digital experience,” Stutzman said. “We can play a game roll with dice, see the miniatures move in a 3D play space, but that’s just the gist of it.”
The biggest shift — and one that players can get their hands on much sooner — is how the D&D team on the table approaches the evolution of the game itself. “We made a smart move with Fifth Edition by listening to the fans,” said Chris Perkins, Game Design Architect at D&D. “And what came out of that process was a system that is stable, that is loved, that contains the best elements of previous editions. Now that we have that, we are no longer in a position where we think of D&D as an edition – it is just D&D.”
The next iteration of the core rules is already in the playtest phase – you can check out the latest Unearthed Arcana on D&D Beyond for the first round of updates and additions. This first release introduces a new breed of players – the celestial counterpart to the Tieflings, known as Ardlings – and there are already several notable changes to the rules, even if we consider recent changes to the system in TCoE or Monsters of the Multiverse. For example, characters currently receive additional Ability score points based on their lineage or species, but these increases are now tied to their backgrounds in the updated ruleset, and each background now also offers an achievement. For example, Soldiers receive +2 STR and +1 CON along with the Savage Attacker feat, while characters with the Street Urchin background receive a bonus for Dexterity/Wisdom and the Lucky feat.
“Backgrounds are something that we took apart, examined every part and rebuilt with the aim of: [them] play an even bigger role in your character’s identity,” said Jeremy Crawford, another of D&D’s Game Design Architects, during an extensive presentation of the new playtesting rules. Other major departures from the current 5e rules are that certain Feats are linked to a character’s level, bringing the nine current spell lists for each class into just three based on the source of the magic (Arcane, Divine, and Primal), or codifying the idea that rolling a Natural 1 always means failure – at any check, no matter how skilled a character is.
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