One D&D: A Starting Point for the Future of Dungeons & Dragons

D&D continues to evolve.

At Thursday’s Wizards Presents showcase, Wizards of the Coast unveiled a wealth of notable new content coming for Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering. These updates included a number of new MTG sets and further information related to a number of upcoming releases for D&D, such as this year’s Dragonlance and newly announced multiverse-expanding 2023 titles including Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants, The Book of Many Things, and a book set in the classic Planescape setting. However, the most notable announcement will certainly be the soft reboot of 5th edition that will be known as One D&D.

Corresponding with the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast’s new One D&D initiative is designed to move beyond the traditional edition-based system and create a new layer to existing content that features a number of important and needed developments. Focused around a rework of the core texts (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual), this initiative will consider the game as it has developed so far in an attempt to establish it for the future without a complete overhaul inherent in a new edition. The intent is to keep the immensely popular 5th edition rules as a base, while positioning Dungeons & Dragons for the future, with the important facet that it will allow for backward compatibility with all already released content since the start of the 5th edition.

One of the major faults of D&D content over the years was its ethnocentrism of traditionally European-inspired content. Over the years, content was introduced that was inspired by the culture and beliefs of other peoples such as those from Asia or Mesoamerica, but it was always as an exotic locale or appropriative and steeped in racist stereotypes. In addition, much of the old editions contained homophobic, misogynistic, and ableist content. Wizards of the Coast has made marked efforts to improve this in recent publications by not only telling these stories as integral parts of the broader D&D mythos, but by employing writers, artists, and designers who represent the full spectrum of humanity, with a prime example being the BIPOC-led Journeys through the Radiant Citadel. This new initiative to soft relaunch the current edition incorporates more cultural variety and improved flexibility into the core rules of the game, as well as an increasing variety of options for character creation. Inklings of this appear in the initial playtest material, known as Unearthed Arcana, with notable changes to the background choices and the introduction of options such as sign language. Further new content is hinted at, such as the new playable race of the celestially descended Ardlings.

Additional changes will release in playtest format soon, but the first Unearthed Arcana for One D&D contains a number of new mechanical tweaks that recognizes what a lot of players wanted or have adopted in their home games already. Auto failures and auto successes, first-level feats, critical hits limited to weapons and unarmed strikes, and more incorporate many of the homebrewed rules that many players and dungeon masters are already incorporating into every session. Other changes including categorizing spells into arcane, divine, and primal lists, for example, have the potential to demystify many of the more complicated aspects of the game that are often barriers to new players.

Dungeons & Dragons 5E | What is One D&D | Wizards of the Coast
Dungeons & Dragons 5E | Wizards of the Coast

It is important to note that the new changes in the Unearthed Arcana are not official yet and subject to change after feedback from the players and community during the playtest period, with final content not slated to be released until 2024. In addition, today’s Unearthed Arcana release is just the first in a slew of such releases over the next year to year-and-a-half. That being said, it is almost certain that there will be many controversial decisions that this Unearthed Arcana will indicate Wizards of the Coast is considering. With a player base as passionate as D&D’s, there is certainly to be some rather loud voices. And that is to not say that today’s playtest release is not without controversy; the proposed removal of half-elves and half-orcs from the new Player’s Handbook (a questionable change for me personally) and the addition of the orcs (a very positive change in my opinion… it’s 2022, why do orcs still have to be evil?) are certain to be debated at length, as are some mechanical changes such as the official introduction of first-level feats and the removal of monsters’ ability to land critical hits.

There is a lot of information packed into the 21-page PDF of the first Unearthed Arcana for One D&D. While there is certainly plenty to debate, discuss, try out, and provide feedback on, I am certain that Wizards of the Coast will adhere to its promise to listen to fans. On first look, One D&D has plenty of promise for the future of Dungeons & Dragons, one that includes everyone who wants to sit at the table and see themselves in these stories of magic and adventure. I look forward to seeing where it progresses next.

The Wizards Presents showcase is available in full on YouTube. The first Unearthed Arcana for One D&D is available for download as a PDF on D&D Beyond (, while the accompanying video on this playtest material can be found on YouTube.

By Patrick Dickerson

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