Just this week Wizards of the Coast released the first snippet of their new ruleset under the title One D&D. It's available on DnD Beyond for download for free, and understandably the community has taken great interest. Here, we're going to do our own brief dissection of the new release.
A Quick Summary
- One D&D is just a playtest, not the final rules
- It only includes race and background character creation rules, plus some separate clarifications
- Every character gets a feat at level one that is dependent upon their background
- Initial skill point increases now depend on background instead of race
- Ability checks and saving throws can crit
- 5e sources will be backwards compatible
One D&D is not a final draft of the new rules. It is a playtest, one which Wizards of the Coast is actively looking to improve upon via survey in early September. Additionally, the rules which this playtest covers are minimal, only including the new rules regarding character creation, excluding class options. The biggest change for character creation of what was released is that backgrounds are now drastically more important, providing skill point increases as well as a feat at level one. Also worth noting there is a cool new race option called Ardling which has a limited fly speed (much better balanced than the current Aarakocra) and the head of a divine beast. Another big change is the clarification that ability checks, saving throws and attack rolls are all referred to now as a d20 Test, and all of them can crit. A 20 always succeeds, bypassing any negative modifiers, and a 1 always fails, bypassing any positive modifiers. Additionally, when a natural 20 is rolled, the character that rolled it gains inspiration. Finally, WotC have announced that the new ruleset will be backwards compatible with 5e sources. Now, let's go through the good things coming out of this playtest, the items which people are worried about, and what it could mean going forward.
To be excited about
A feat at level one
Some DMs will do this anyways, a lot of players choose Variant Human in fifth edition because of its starting feat, basically it is just a lot of fun to have a feat at level one. There's really no reason not to be excited about this change other than if you're constantly playing with brand new players, in which case you'll have a little more explaining to do before the game gets going.
Background importance in general
Honestly it just makes more sense to tie skills and feats to backgrounds instead of races. Strangely problematic if you think about it too long, tying skills to race...
WotC looking for feedback
This is by no means the first time they've looked to the public for help. But just because they've done it before doesn't mean it's not a good idea. If you care about D&D and have thoughts on the playtest rules (after reading them, not just reading this blog post), go take the survey when it goes live on September 1st.
It's not entirely clear how this will work yet, but any attempt to make the wide array of current 5e content usable for the new ruleset is excellent. Dumping the thousands of pages of official content and millions of pages fan created content would be a bummer. Of course 5e and all its content is still going to be just as playable and available even after the new rules come out, but being able to use your preferred of two rulesets to play your favourite adventures? Well that's even better.
Things people are concerned about
"One" D&D, subscription and future updates
There are a number of people who are scared that DnD as a ruleset is going to stop releasing editions like they have been in the past, and move to a single subscription service (because they now own D&D Beyond). That to get updates and new sourcebooks and new campaigns we'll all need to pay a monthly subscription. I think there's a lot of validity to this fear, but it's worth noting that regularly buying hardcover books is also very expensive (though permanent) and if you don't use and pen and paper, odds are you're already paying D&D Beyond's subscription fees. This doesn't excuse corporate attempts to gouge us for more money, but if it means they can make quick updates and produce more available content, then I might actually be better. And that's all still if this is even the case, so far the assumption that the edition system is being phased out is just that: an assumption. A lot of that assumption is based on the name "Oe" D&D, even though the playtest for fifth edition was called D&D Next, which could imply the same thing if it was used today.
I was surprised at how many people hate the ability check crit rule. It's a rule that I already play with at my table, my players love it, and it adds a level of chance to a game that otherwise suffers from extreme power creep for its PCs. That being said, I understand it feeling bad when you're supposed to have mastered arcane knowledge but suddenly not knowing something because you rolled a 1. Or vice versa, where some idiot whose never read a magical book suddenly grasps a mystery of the arcane because they rolled a 20. The bigger issue with it in my opinion is players that try to cheese the system by stating highly specific, crazy outcomes that must succeed if they crit according to the rules. That being said, the DM runs the table, and decides when players roll. If it's not possible, they shouldn't roll, and if it would so easy there's no reasonable chance of failure, they shouldn't roll. Beyond that, just like I decided at my 5e table that ability checks do crit, DMs for the new ruleset can do the opposite because the DM runs the table. The crit rule codifiers one of the beautiful things about DnD: chance. No matter how good you are at anything, sometimes you just have bad luck. And if you disagree that's great! That means you know what you prefer and can apply the rules as you see fit.
Personally I'm very excited for the next iteration of the world's greatest roleplaying game. Change is good, and if D&D is to survive into the next generation of players it needs to adapt and keep updating. Of course as a community it is important to stay vigilant, so if you disagree with any of this or have thoughts that Wizards of the Coast should know, take the survey. This is not a situation in which we are powerless. And never forget that this is a hobby, for fun. So however you and your players are having the most fun, do that. But whatever you do, keep rolling. And feel free to reach out to us for any reason.