Hello, all. New poster on the website. I read through the etiquette so hopefully not making any faux pas here
I’m interested in discussing the OneD&D playtest document. I did not listen to the actual Wizards of the Coast announcement regarding the playtest, so I may be reiterating some things they have covered. I plan to convert to the playtest rules at some point, but my current 5e game has a plethora of brand new players who have yet to master the rules as-is, so I’m holding off until a more cohesive playtest is released.
Therein lies some frustration with the playtest at this point: it is less of a playtest and more a smattering of variant rules and previews of larger design changes that are to come. With these rules changes come rules interactions that have a disproportionate impact on some classes. One chief rule change is the alteration of critical hits. According to the new rules, these apply only to weapon attacks (no spell critical hits) and do not double any dice rolled outside of the weapon dice. This change has a knock-on effect on classes like the rogue and paladin, so I suspect they will be redesigned to accommodate these rules changes. (A rogue wielding a 1d6 weapon adding 2d6 sneak attack dice rolls 3d6 damage normally. In 5e as-is, a critical hit doubles this to 6d6. In OneD&D, he would roll only 4d6.)
The materials provided indicate that OneD&D is clearly taking cues from D&D 4e, which is unsurprising. The online playerbase has expressed dissatisfaction with D&D 5e for some time. This vocal discontent is unsurprising likewise. D&D 5e has been released long enough that the system’s flaws are well-documented, and the online consensus—an important distinction!—is that the game needs more elements that were hallmarks of D&D 4e. These include:
- A greater parity between spellcasters and non-spellcasters (“martials”). This has always and ever been an issue since D&D’s birth. Spellcasters increase dramatically in spell power as they advance, gaining options that allow them to shape the fictional game world. Spells are simply more powerful and interesting than the limited collection of abilities relegated to martials. The ability for a high-level fighter to attack eight times in a round is powerful within the combat system, but the ability to pump out high damage numbers is not impressive next to the potency of a suggestion spell.
- More choices/options for martials. This flows from the previous point. Ignoring the perceived balance issues in the game, martials are less enjoyable to play for many gamers because of their lack of versatility. In D&D 4e, all classes gained access to a slew of abilities, both usable within combat and outside of combat. Rituals were a spell system accessible to all characters for the low cost of a feat, and later supplements introduced martial practices, which were akin to rituals for non-spellcasters. Utility powers were likewise available to all classes. I believe we will see the return of some of these mechanics.
- Spell list divisions into Arcane, Divine, and Primal is a callback to 4e power sources. I have no strong feelings on this. There is much sound and fury about all classes having the same spell lists now (bards and wizards both being arcane casters, for example) but this is premature as we have yet to see class redesigns to accommodate these changes.
Some additional scattered thoughts:
- The changes to race are overall positive. I do not care for the removal of ability score adjustments from races, but this alteration is negligible. Emphasizing unique mechanics to differentiate the races is desirable, though I wish they centered less on the combat system.
- Increased character options. The online playerbase seems to revel in the character building aspects of D&D. With 5e’s cautious handling of feats, those players who enjoy character building are not fully satisfied with the 5e’s base game.
- OneD&D is phasing out short rest recharge mechanics. This has long been a complaint of the online community. In D&D 4e, it was expected for characters to take a short rest after every encounter to refresh their resources. In 5e, moving short rests from a few minutes to an entire hour has created an awkward situation where players are reticent to take a short rest due to time constraints and would rather take a long rest or not rest at all. For classes dependent on short rest recharge mechanics (like warlocks), this greatly impacted their ability to contribute to the game. Placing characters on a similar power recharge schedule is another cue from D&D 4e. This change leads us to…
- Proficiency bonus times per rest mechanics. Adding individually-tracked mechanics adds a level of bean-counting that I find tedious. Already D&D focuses on tracking expendable resources: potions, scrolls, hit points, hit dice, magic item uses, spells, individual class mechanics. Tacking on additional abilities from races and feats burdens the cognitive load further. As I have game with players who don’t remember to utilize all the mechanics as-is, this is undesirable to me.
- Monsters are being reworked fundamentally, for good and ill. Monsters can no longer score critical hits, and the designers have expressed a roundabout desire to systemize the cadence of a fight. Monsters will now have abilities that provide more consistent damage spikes in accordance with certain climactic moments in a combat—at least, this is my interpretation of events. I think 5e’s monster design needs tweaking, so there are positives and negatives from my perspective. (I find the unpredictability of fights in 5e a mixed bag.)
- Customizing backgrounds rather than offering a predetermined selection is a terrible decision that guts the enjoyable aspects of the system. The interesting part of the character backgrounds in 5e is that they weren’t geared toward character optimization, making it a choice that was more influenced by roleplaying considerations. With a custom background of chosen skills and ability score boosts and a bonus feat, the system simply becomes a Lego builder that encourages optimal configurations irrespective of roleplaying considerations. (Such decisions can be justified as roleplaying, but it will be curious to see how many custom backgrounds happen to grant Stealth and Perception proficiency.)
- Inspiration is acquired upon rolling a natural 20 on the d20. It is lost upon taking a Long Rest. The developers apparently desire Inspiration to ebb and flow readily throughout the game. Players gain Inspiration and then they spend it, and upon spending it, they are more likely to roll a natural 20 and then more likely to gain Inspiration. The design goals are probably to encourage a forward momentum amongst player characters, previous success improving the odds of later success. Although I am uncertain of the mechanical implementation of this, I think making Inspiration a larger part of the game is excellent. As it stands, it’s almost entirely forgotten (at least in every game I have played), and I hope that easier acquisition emboldens players to undertake more daring exploits.
- Character creation will take longer with these changes, as they add decision points to the character generation process. For players who enjoy building characters, this is a positive change. For those who do not, it is a negative. Character creation is largely a solo endeavor. Your mileage may vary on whether this is pleasurable.<
- Unarmed strikes are changed. Shove/grapple are simplified. I don’t have strong feelings on this because I’ve never seen these used prominently. Already online discussions are gnashing and wailing their teeth about the changes, so I suspect these rules will change almost immediately, so I am not devoting any more thought to them.
Individual notes aside, my broader perspective is that OneD&D is going to make a lot of smaller changes to the rules that will be difficult to track. Upon first readthrough, many rules appear to be the same, except there are slight variations that change them. WotC claims that the release in 2024 will be backwards compatible with existing 5e products, but I’m skeptical of this. Although the rules will be superficially similar, I anticipate numerous changes that fundamentally change the game. Yes, you will surely be able to port in the same monsters and characters as listed in the existing adventures—the basics of hit points, Armor Class, etc. will remain the same—but the minutiae will be sufficiently changed as to make this difficult.As far as rules adoption goes, I suspect the majority of people will accept these changes in the same way that the majority readily accepted the change from 3.0 to 3.5.
My coldest hot take from this whole OneD&D project is that Wizards of the Coast is looking to create a digital product that they can “patch” like a videogame, adding errata and content easily without relying on physical sales. Some people are concerned about this, but I am not, as I prefer a physical medium for gameplay and am certain there will be a demand for physical books into perpetuity. The ability to issue errata on the fly or clarify/rewrite rules text instantly is an interesting prospect that will have a huge impact on the hobby—for better and for worse. We will no longer be paying for D&D books, but instead we will purchase a D&D service. If we don’t like the rules changes from D&D 5.1 to D&D 5.2, one wonders if we’ll be able to “roll back” to a previous version. I suspect not.
What are your thoughts?