About a year ago, Wizards of the Coast announced that they had begun work on a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Some called it 6e, some called it 5.5e (since WotC swore that it would be compatible with the previous edition), but speculation didn’t actually go very far. There wasn’t much information out about it, and more immediately interesting content was also being teased in the same announcement.
But this week WotC finally released some of the playtest material in the form of an Unearthed Arcana document. They’re calling it “One D&D”. You can view it here: UA2022-CharacterOrigins (dndbeyond.com)
One D&D Character Creation
The initial content for One D&D (a name that seems to be trying to imply that this is a definitive edition, which somehow transcends the differences between editions) is mostly character creation. It’s mostly the same content from the Player’s Handbook, but with a few major changes.
It’s now your Background that gives you your Ability Score Improvements (ASI). They also give a feat instead of a unique roleplaying ability. These given feats seem to be slightly altered versions of the feats already found in the Player’s Handbook. Races instead give you a few stats (size, speed, lifespan, etc.), plus a few racial abilities, which do seem to have been changed from 5e.
Subraces, much like your overall race, also don’t affect your ASI.
Our Thoughts on One D&D Character Creation
The stuff for character creation is a big change, but it isn’t necessarily bad.
I don’t necessarily care for the fact that races no longer infer ASIs. I’m of the opinion that they represent physiological differences between each option and humans as a species – orcs get bonuses to Strength because the average orc is larger and stronger than the average human, which in turn is because they evolved differently. And humans are the default baseline because that’s what your players are. However, 5e moved away from that viewpoint somewhat by giving human characters ASIs of their own (since they removed negative racial ASI it would have made humans severely underpowered if they didn’t).
I do appreciate that subraces (the equivalent of human races, where “races” are more like species) no longer affect stats. That always felt a little bit uncomfortable to me.
While I don’t hate all of the changes made to Backgrounds in theory, I don’t care for how they executed them. Each one grants only two pre-chosen skill proficiencies, which limits the customizability of 5e characters even further. I wish they would have added something to replace that customization option instead.
Background feats also feel like they’ll get pretty overpowered pretty quickly, since 5e feats are powerful enough that they seem like they’re meant to be taken in place of ASIs, not in conjunction with them.
The languages also seem pretty arbitrary. There’s no reason that the Farmer background should give Halfling, for instance. Halflings may often be farmers, but a farmer of another race has no reason to speak it if they don’t live near any.
Miscellaneous One D&D Changes
There are a few other changes in One D&D.
The most obvious of these is separating spells into types: Arcane, Divine, and Primal.
There are also a few additions to the content, rather than just changes. Common Sign Language is added to the list of languages, and a new race called Ardlings (people with Celestial lineage) is added to the races.
Finally, natural 1s and 20s are automatic failures and successes, in and out of combat. This was already a common house-rule, but it will be inherent in One D&D rules-as-written.
Out Thoughts on Miscellaneous One D&D Changes
I like the separation of spell types in One D&D. Arcane and Divine were separate in previous editions, and it’s something that I’ve always carried over and used for storytelling and homebrew purposes. The additional Primal spells seems like a natural progression of lore.
The new language and race are also fine. Sign Language is a great addition that I’m surprised hadn’t already been introduced. And Ardlings feel like an adaption of aasimar, but a cool concept with some interesting abilities.
I really hate making 1s and 20s automatic failures and successes, though. Players frequently attempt things that are actually impossible, or that their DM might not want to allow for their own reasons. Having the “auto success” rules will make players feel wronged when their DM tells them “no” for impossible checks. It also weakens the abilities of characters who can count one roll as another – Rogues, for instance, can treat anything below 10 as simply a 10. Except ones, it seems.
Our Overall Thoughts on One D&D
Firstly, despite the fact that they’re marketing this edition of D&D as a definitive ruleset that is compatible with all previous releases, this content is only compatible with 5th edition. It took some cues from earlier editions with the feat structures, but the actual content could not be used with 2e, 3e, 3.5e, or even 4e. If you want to use previous content with “One D&D”, it has to be 5e.
Secondly, I’ve seen several people imply that this edition of D&D is copying Pathfinder. Specifically, the aforementioned feat structures. That’s not really true – Pathfinder is something of a spiritual successor to 3.5e after 4e was so different. It seems much more likely that One D&D is drawing from older editions of its own game (that remain popular to this day) than one of its competitors.
Finally, announcements from WotC have been in conjunction with DnD Beyond, and several announcements that they’re going to be “improving” DnD Beyond and D&D Digital Play. I’m not so excited about this – I’ve always preferred pen-and-paper play, and found DnD Beyond difficult to use and needlessly pricey. Further integration of digital assets, particularly things that you need to subscribe to, does not interest me in the slightest.
What do you think about the new One D&D? Are you excited about it? Are you going to stick to your previous editions? Let us know in the comments below!