Wednesday, August 24, 2022

First Impressions: One D&D

 I've taken the time to sit down and read the first round of OneD&D material. It is pretty much exactly what I expected it to be. They're making a lot of serious changes to try to appeal to who they believe the critical role-driven audience is.

EDIT: I originally stated that Charm Person was not in the new spell lists. I checked twice and did not see it, but it is there. 


The game doesn't do away with race entirely, but they try their damnedest too remove what they believe to be "bio-essentialism."

  • Race is no longer have ability score bonuses. Instead, PCs pick one step for +2 and one for +1 based on their background.
  • Languages, even racial dialects, are now learned through background, and class.
  • Half-Elves and Half-Orcs had been removed from the game.
  • Orc has been put forward as a PC race, and is portrayed very differently from early editions of the game. They are a mix of noble savage and tragically misunderstood character now.
  • Player Characters can create hybrids of any humanoid races, but they have to choose mechanics from one race. They may blend appearances as they see fit. This means that mixed heritages are mechanically insignificant, but allow the players to customize character appearance to whatever combination of traits they see fit. 
  • A new playable race, the Ardlings, replace the Aasimar as part-human part-divine creature in the D&D cosmology. They are essentially furry characters, with animal heads, and traits like scales, fur, or appropriate skin to match their animal head. Many have tails.

And as you might expect, the same people that have been complaining to Wizards of the Coast about the function of Race in D&D, have already found some serious faults with the new model. I don't think this will ever by a battle WotC can win.


They have also changed the way feats work significantly:

  • All characters now begin with one fat. Humans begin with one feat and the skilled feat as a bonus 
  • Feats have been restructured to be generally more effective, and are written as one strong character ability, or as bundles of character abilities.
  • Characters gain additional feats as they level up.
  • Flat bonuses are being replaced by the ability to reroll things like damage dice or dice for hit points restored by healing.
  • Martial feats like Taven Brawler and Savage attacker offer very solid benefits. I expect that Fighters gaining benefits based on additional feats will return to the game's structure.

In other words, we have turned back the clock to 3rd Edition in the way feats are applied to characters, while further simplfying their mechanical impact. Some feats, like Magic Initiate, Tavern Brawler and Musician give a pared-down version of the abilities of a class that is nearly on par with being a 1st-level member of that class. Musician gives you a sizable portion of a bard's musical abilities, and might be close enouh to satisfy some players who might otherwise consider a one-level dip into Bard, for example.


There have been several minor mechanical changes to the rules that seem to be designed to do both simplify the game and make it a little easier at the same time. 

  • Natural twenties are now an automatic success, just like the popular house rule that is being making its rounds in 5e culture.
  • Natural ones are automatic failures.
  • Only player characters get critical Hits on a 20-sided die. A critical hit does maximum damage plus an additional damage die roll.
  • This takes a little more risk out of combat, by making unexpected heavy damage to player characters less common.
  • Powers based on feats and racial abilities, if they are not used only once per day, tend to have a number of uses per day equal to a character's proficiency bonus.
  • Most bonuses to damage or other rolls gained from feats or special abilities tend to be based on proficiency bonus as well.
  • This should have the upshot of making racial and feet abilities grow with the character regardless of multi-classing.

Most of these changes are expected. They are moving with the culture of the time, and decoupling a lot of character abilities from class as well.

One that did catch me eye: none of the powers or abilities listed in the test document recharge on a short rest.


Magic has undergone several significant changes. 

  • In the vein of Pathfinder 2E, spell lists have been decoupled from class. There is a primal, a divine, and an arcane spell list. Various feats, and classes will grant you access to spells from those lists.
  • This removes a great deal of the unique spell abilities that divides warlocks, sorcerers, and wizards from one another. But, is, again, more consistent with the older D&D3e approach. I expect that the sorcerer and The Wizard may be bundled in together as part of the same class.
  • Magic initiate lets you choose one list and gain access to two cantrips as well as one first level spell castable once per day from it. Player characters May use that spell with their spell slots if they have any, as well.
  • Clerics have been strongly decoupled from gods and religion. They are now gaining their power by channeling energy from the upper planes, with gods, patrons, Spirit guides, etc as intermediaries.
  • Various planes in the AD&D planar wheel model used in Oerth and Faerûn have become associated with specific spell lists.
  • Magic Initiate as a feat is granted buy a number of the character backgrounds, and a racial ability with equivalent power is granted to Ardlings, Tieflings, Gnomes, and Elves.
  • Charm Person is notably absent from  the Arcane spell list.

Even without revised classes it is already very easy to create a character with some spellcasting ability. It may be difficult to create a character without at least a little bit of magical ability.

Character Background 

Background story is now King for building characters. Players are encouraged to come up with a unique background, and choose a feet, two skills, languages, and skill proficiencies appropriate to that background. Or vice versa, figure out what they want their character to be able to do, and write a background that justifies those abilities. They put a little more emphasis on the fact that the backgrounds listed in the test document are merely suggestions then they had in the 5e players handbook.

This screams of the potential to breed an army of Old Man Hendersons to me.

No Alignment?

Alignment as a concept, as expected, has all but been removed from the game. There is no reference to alignment in any meaningful way in racial descriptions, even when dealing with Ardlings, Tieflings, and Orcs.

The battle against good and evil is downplayed in the description of those races and of clerics.

Because Tieflings and Ardlings don't come with the same connotations of good and evil, some emphasis is put on the idea that Tieflings are widely accepteted, as are Ardlings and Orcs.

The new D&D, Universe, having no real sense of Good and Evil is a Universe where people are generally accepted, unless they're particular subgroup, clan, or tribe has a bad regional reputation. Even then they are more likely to be "misunderstood" than "evil."


One thing I haven't seen a lot of commentary online is the idea that this Dungeons & Dragons is trying to create a single universal cosmogony for the entire Dungeons & Dragons multiverse.

Common is stated to be a real universal language, rather than a regional Lingua Franca, and that it originated on Sigil. Sigil is reachable by all worlds, even if they do not connect to the planar wheel model from Oerth and Faerûn.

Setting worlds with more radical cosmologies, such as Eberron have their creation stories relegated to myth. For example, it is asserted that Gruumsh created orcs, and that the orcs of Eberron simply do not remember him as it does not fit with their religion.

Likewise races have different Creator deities in different worlds, they are usually fused. For example Moradin, Reorx and Mordain, are all said to be different names for the same deity. The same is said of Tiamat and Takhisis.

The settings of Krynn (Dragonlance), Oerth (Greyhaek), Faerûn (Forgotten Realms), Athas (Dark Sun), Sigil (Planescape) and Eberron are all mentioned as part of this universe

This does mean compromising the integrity of both Eberron and Athas has settings in a number of ways. However, it does accomplish what both Spelljammer and Planescape set out to do in the early 90s: it creates a context in which player characters who started in one campaign setting can easily be jumped over to another.

Likewise, it has to reinforce the Planescape approach to the idea of The Balance so Central to the Greyhawk campaign. Namely that The Balance is a mystical or cosmic principle, but rather a practical game. So long as law and chaos, Good and Evil do not get the upper hand, neither hell nor the invisible falter in there internal war and destroy or enslave the rest of the planes.

Notably absent from this list is Mystara, which is not a surprise. It's very different cosmology, concept of immortality, and concept of common language make it hard to fit with this method of universe universalizing Dungeons & Dragons.

I was surprised Tal'dorei (Critical Role) was not included in the list of included D&D worlds that are a part of this Universe.

D&D as Subscription

D&D is offering immediate integration into D&D Beyond and Roll20 for every PC and campaign as a part of a service that also includes constantly updated and errataed digital copies of manuals. Likely the subscription will also include a lot of means of cross-platform porting of PCs between VTTs, D&D Beyond, Organized Play, Table Finding software, and likely video games in the future.

This subscription model will do more to enforce ecumenical play than AD&D's tournament culture or organized play ever could. With everyone using digital character sheets and VTTs designed by WotC, the DM won't be interpreting most combat rules: combat will be executed automatically.

Some have also voiced a worry that WotC will use it as a means to enforce a TOS for use of the subscription that will allow them to enforce ideas like safety tools on any campaign played using the tools.

I am going to wait to see more details, but I can certainly see a swarm of pros and cons.

My Take

I am actually stunned at how close my December 2020 article's predictions for a 6th edition actually were. I didn't see feats making this comeback, and Tal'Dorei doesn't seem to have taken the lead as the preferred campaign setting, but most of my other predictions were surprisingly on the nose.

Sadly., this still isn't the game I want to play. By its very structure it is too safe, too slow and detailed in character generation, and too morally ambiguous for my taste. I like my idea challenging, lethal, fast, and built on mythology and the ideals of heroism, and the battle between good & evil.

One D&D isn't going to be bad, but it offers me nothing of the type of gameplay that I am looking for.,


  1. To make RPG's work you need to have a reasonably intelligent person acting as the GM, and a decent portion of players like that as well. And there are degree's of this within the hobby itself: A lot of people are just not that creative, don't trust their creativity, or are unwilling to move away from 'official' product. And those effects are what WotC is doubling down on with their VTT push.

    But even then - you need a hobbyist GM to make the game run. The Hobbyist GM is the true pillar of support holding up the hobby.

    I think that their VTT initiative is an attempt to create 'casual' GM's by having tons of turnkey premade Adventure Paths and content. They want to make it as easy as possible to "GM" for D&D. For all the talk of having this modular virtual playground - there is only a tiny percentage of Hobbyist GM's that will take the time to really use all the bells and whistles.

    I think that the D&Done + VTT will be tied at the hip with their adventure anthology and AP releases after 2024.

    Yes, you can get the hardback book; But even more importantly the same AP is available at launch ready to go with all the bells and whistles in the OneVTT...

    Now 'anyone' can "GM" for D&D - All the Content and Creativity is done for you.

    In my opinion: WotC knows 6 session "campaigns" do not reliably create the hobbyist GM that will keep the games network effect intact moving forward into the future.

    Having their D&D product fully integrated with a VTT allows them to lower the bar and have 'casual' GM's. With the integrated VTT you will just need someone willing to jump in and paint by the numbers.

    Will this lead to a degradation of the in-game experience, compared to a game run by a good GM?


    But that doesn't matter.

    WotC is not interested in making new GM's better. They desperately want a way to monetize the player base that traditionally buys much less product than the hobbyist GM's.

    1. Very insightful! Lowering the bar to become a GM by letting a computer handle the rules, and adventures that run on rails would increase the potential pool of GMs.

      But I suspect that they will also need to do something like create exclusive content for GMs to incentivise the leap from Player to "adventure path administrator." Thoughts on how they might get the horse to drink the water?

  2. I think that there are a few things they can do to get casual GM's to give it a try. So off the top of my head:

    The First is financial - "new" GM Bundles with buy-in incentives. This would require them to have at least half a dozen adventures, and a few AP's ready to go at launch. But they can offer them as a sweetener to get people to sign up on the GM level.

    - GM 'tutorial' bundles. Specially designed adventures that start small and increase in length prepping a new "GM" to run a full AP. This can go along with special video tutorials for each adventure telling you how to keep things moving in the adventures.

    Financial incentives for new GM's to run the premade adventures/AP's. The more you run, the better discount you get on upcoming AP's and adventures.

    IMHO, the initial price for Premade adventures and AP's should actually be fairly low to begin with. The goal is to try and monetize the player base with 99 cent microtransactions. If that hits they should be swimming in cash. So subsidizing the cost of premade paint by numbers Adventures/AP's to bring those players in seems like a no-brainer.

    And I'm sure there is much more they can do for new GM incentives.

  3. I didn't think 5E as a game was bad. It wasn't what I wanted to play but not bad. These rule changes makes all the things I disliked about 5E worse. Whatever they end up calling it, 5E was in the category of games that "I would play with a good GM and a group of friends." One D&D will be in the category of "would not play under any circumstances."

    1. I actually liked 5e as a game, but the source books and adventures written for it got worse with every book. The lack of QC was embarrassing, and the culture around the game increasingly vapid and puerile.

      I'd play 5e RAW or in hardcore mode quite happily with a good group of experienced players. I switched to OSR because it plays faster and rewards creativity more. I stayed OSR because there is so much imagination going in to OSR products while WotC D&D has become bland, corporate Pablum.

      And there is the heart of my problem with 1D&D, it has none of the soul of D&D. It is dull, safe, self-referential postmodern non-fantasy. AND with these rules changes, it isn't as good of a game to boot.

      Give me Swords & Wizardry, DCC, or LFG a y day.