One D&D: Dungeons & Dragons drops ‘Editions’, develops VTT tool

The team at Wizards of the Coast have revealed One D&D, which marks the beginning 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 sparse until now. The creative team appeared in a short video during the recent Wizards Presents digital showcase (as well as more information about the upcoming Dragonlance revival and several MTG crossover events) to explain their plan for the future of D&D.

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Throughout the presentation, the team outlined the “three pillars” of this next phase of D&D, which is expected to launch in earnest in 2024. They include ongoing updates to the D&D rules – which 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 that Wizards recently acquired, and (eventually) a set of digital tabletop tools for players and GMs to use in their games at home or online.

“We’re no longer in the position where we think of D&D as ‘an edition’ – it’s just D&D.”

The digital toolkit, 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. “Right now, players are bringing together all kinds of different apps and websites to get a true integrated D&D experience,” says Kale Stutzman, principal game designer for D&D Digital. “What we want to do is actually just provide all the tools that players need to play themselves in one place.”

D&D Digital Pre-Alpha Screenshots

The pre-alpha footage shown during the broadcast showed several types and sizes of digitally rendered tabletops, from heroes appearing with Kobolds and skeletons to a massive Black Dragon looming over the dungeon scene. While these likely weren’t 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 giving players the power to build their own worlds.

“We can give you a pre-made campaign from us that has an exciting castle or keep with a dungeon inside it,” says Carlo Arellano, principal art director at D&D Digital. “But then you’ll be able to take this place, take it apart and build your own. We’re going to have a very robust tool for you to make your own dungeons.”

Despite an early build of the toolkit, it’s still a long way from release. “Right now, we’re in early development of our digital experience,” Stutzman said. “We can role-play some dice, watch the miniatures move around in a 3D playroom, 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 tabletop D&D team approaches the development of the game itself moving forward. “We did a smart thing with Fifth Edition, listening to the fans,” says Chris Perkins, D&D’s Game Design Architect. “And what came out of that process was a system that’s stable, that’s well-loved, that incorporates the best elements of previous editions. Now that we have that, we’re no longer in the position of thinking of D&D as an edition – it’s just D&D.

The next iteration of the core rules is already in its playtesting 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 player race – the celestial counterpart of Tieflings, known as Ardlings – and there are already several notable rule changes, even considering recent changes to the system in TCoE or Monsters of the Multiverse. For example, characters currently receive additional ability points based on their lineage or species – but these increases are now tied to their background in the updated ruleset, and each background now also grants a feat. For example, Soldiers receive +2 STR and +1 CON along with the Savage Attacker feat, while characters with Street Urchin backgrounds gain a bonus to Dexterity/Wisdom and the Lucky feat.

“How can we get more fun, more speed, more options here?”

“Backgrounds are something we took apart, examined every part of, and rebuilt with the goal of having [them] play an even greater role in the character’s identity,” says Jeremy Crawford, another of D&D’s Game Design Architects, during an extended presentation of the new playtesting rules. Other major departures from current 5e rules include that certain feats are tied to a character’s level, truncation of the nine current spell lists for each class into just three based on the magic’s source (Arcane, Divine, and Primal), or codifying the notion of rolling a Natural 1 always means failure – on any check, no matter how skilled a character may be.

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Crawford says that while not all of the proposed changes will eventually become official rules, testing will continue for some time, much like the D&D Next initiative that eventually became Fifth Edition. “The big difference this time is that we’re giving feedback on the game we’re already playing,” says Crawford. “Instead of basically playing a whole new game from the ground up, it’s now like, ‘okay, that’s the game we’re playing now,’ but now let’s zoom in on this part of it and think, ‘How can we get more fun, more speed, more options here? And then move on to another part of the game until it all comes together in 2024 in the new books.”

A D&D is scheduled to officially launch in 2024. In the meantime, check out what’s on the horizon for D&D in 2023, including the revival of another classic setting.

JR is a senior producer at IGN, you can follow him on Twitter for more video games and tabletop RPGs.

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