One D&D, the next phase of Dungeons and Dragons, has been officially announced for 2024 release. While you’ve likely heard the news elsewhere by this point, there is a lot to be excited about. One of the aspects I am most excited about is that it seems like the developers are relatively happy with Dungeons and Dragons as it is here toward the end of fifth edition thanks to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and Monsters of the Multiverse. As a storyteller, I’m always interested in how a roleplaying system will empower the players to create their character and to add their story to the collective.
So far, even though it has been a discussion in the community, it appears that Wizards is going to stick with the term “Race” instead of another term, such as species or ancestry. That discussion aside, character race appears to be mostly de-emphasized in character creation. Note: it doesn’t become UNimportant, but it now feels like it is a decision equal to background.
There are some cases where this shift feels the most changed and that is that there are no more half-elves or half-orcs appearing in this document. While it’s not a definite that they are no more as a separate race, there are now fairly fluid rules for how you can combine any two humanoids to create a character who has some traits from both parents. That aarakocra-goliath love-child you’ve been dreaming up is now easier to create. What I appreciate about this is that it means that this sort of thing isn’t “homebrew” anymore– you can create a half-dwarf, half-orc without breaking a sweat.
Another change along these lines is that there is a major shift in understanding when it comes to “sub-race.” Some races are combined into a single race now with the understanding that the differences really were intended to be cultural. The dwarf is the prime example of this: no longer are there mountain and hill dwarves as much as there are dwarves who live in the mountains and dwarves who live out on the hills. Other races do separate out into “lineages,” acknowledging physical and mechanical variations which do matter. Elves are still separated out into high elves, wood elves, and dark elves, but this is partially understood as elves connected more to magic, elves connected more to nature, and elves more connected to the underdark– each elven lineage has a buff at first level, gains an innate spell at 3rd level, and another one at 5th level.
The one thing that does stand out in this section as a slight negative is that a new race is added: the ardling. I haven’t seen many people weigh in on it yet– but as they are described as “celestial” and the aasimar are “celestials,” I’m not sure what their place really is or what gap in play they’re really meeting. Maybe it’s a rename for the aasimar? That would be fine in my book– but otherwise it’s one of the only parts that feels superfluous.
One of my favorite parts of this update is that background feel so much more important of a decision now than before. In 5e, race and class gave so much and background seemed to mostly just give flavor. Backgrounds now are where ability score improvements are given, you gain two skills, one tool, one language, one 1st level feat, and some equipment (or coin to spend).
Really, with that in mind, you can create any kind of specific background you want. It feels wide open for a lot of choices. I love that ability score improvements are based on background, not on race. I love that there are example backgrounds that you can tweak to fit your character best.
Say you want to play a farmboy who is becoming a mage hero in the Eberron nation of Aundair– a Luke Skywalker/Harry Potter hybrid. The background is supposed to start with +2 constitution and +1 wisdom– but we easily switch to make constitution, wisdom, and intelligence +1 to honor both where my character came from, but where they went. Change the language from halfling to elvish (to make it more in line with Eberron lore for where I want them to be from and what I wanted them to learn). Keep the skill proficiencies (animal handling and nature), carpenters tools, and tough feat (which will be helpful as a squishy wizard class). I have a background that easily reflects the backstory I want my character to have.
All characters are going to start as polyglots in Dungeons and Dragons, as player characters are wont to do. All characters speak Common, one language from their background, and one additional language that they choose. Of particular note here is there is a Common Sign Language– a neat addition that I love.
Feats are becoming more standardized into the game this time. Technically, feats in 5e are an optional rule that players can ignore or dungeon masters can veto. In this next edition, you’re going to take a feat at level one no matter what with your background (and humans gain AN ADDITIONAL level one feat as well). I have always felt like feats are what eventually make my character different from the next human fighter or tiefling warlock, and I’m glad to see that at least once in the game I can make that decision without having to choose between a feat and ability score improvement. (Or being a human.)
Most of the feats look pretty familiar to what we have in 5e, but now it’s easier to see if a feat is repeatable and there are some level requirements for feats– which is not a bad idea.
There is a section which goes over some specific changes from 5e to this phase of D&D:
- All rolls are a kind of “D20 Test” and so there are abilities that do affect ALL D20 tests and others that only effect specific ones: ability checks (including skill checks), attack rolls, saving throws.
- Rolling a natural 20 is an always success– no more DM’s still asking what your attack or ability modifier is if you roll a natural 20. This is more or less unofficially standard across tables and is a good to see written down. (It’s also good to remember that sometimes a success is just not dying. If you try to persuade the king to give up his kingdom for democracy, a natural 20 means he won’t try to have you beheaded then and there.) You also gain Inspiration. This is balanced by–
- Rolling a natural 1 is always a failure. This has always been how I treated natural 1s. No ability modifiers change this — because even heroes have a mishap or two. (I’m sure this is one where they will get the most pushback though.)
- Inspiration is no longer a rule to ignore or vary. It has been varied by podcast and stream DMs, home DMs, and everyone running a game besides. It is becoming a very standard part of the ruleset. Some changes include that inspiration must be declared before the roll, not before the DM states the outcome; you can give your gained inspiration to a friend if you gain it and already have the one inspiration you are allowed; and you lose inspiration if you take a long rest and don’t use it. (Humans wake up with inspiration though!)
- Spells appear to now be divided more broadly between three types (arcane, divine, and primal) and not by a class list. It appears that classes will have access to a specific type of magic and leave it at that. I’m excited to try this with a ranger or paladin to see how this alters their play.
Overall, it looks like they’re keeping a lot of what has developed over the course of 5e and are altering things to be more fluid. I think if they’re looking for a system that they want to see built on as a nearly permanent structure, this is a strong start. You can find this playtest material and the feedback form on DnDBeyond.com.
Tune in to my podcast as I create a couple of characters using this skillset!
Thank you for reading!