Next year, all three of the Dungeons & Dragons core rulebooks will get revised versions that renovate Fifth Edition (known as 5E) to make a wide variety of tweaks and improvements. IGN was invited to Wizards of the Coast’s headquarters for an early look at what’s to come, and here is a comprehensive list of all the biggest changes we saw.
The Player’s Handbook Will Now Teach You How to Play D&D
Right off the bat, this is a pretty big improvement. One of the biggest hurdles to getting into D&D is that most times you need to “know a guy.” If you don’t know anyone who’s already familiar with the rules, it can be exceedingly difficult to get started, since the Player’s Handbook mostly just lists rules, but doesn’t offer much in the way of advice for actually organizing, running, or participating in a game session.
In the 2024 edition of 5E, there will be a section focused on teaching you how to play a tabletop RPG before it asks you to make a character. This is the first time such a chapter has ever existing in D&D and should be a welcome change to newcomers.
More Subclasses, Evenly Distributed
The imbalance between 5E’s 12 character classes becomes immediately obvious when looking at the number of subclasses offered. For example, in the current version wizards have a staggering eight subclasses to choose from while bards have only two.
But Jeremy Crawford, a Game Design Architect for D&D, tells IGN that this imbalance will be corrected in 2024’s version of 5E, as all 12 classes will now have four subclasses each.
They’re also just adding more subclasses in general, with a total of 48 available in the Player’s Handbook when it debuts next year.
An Overhaul to Backgrounds and Species
One of the biggest changes Wizards of the Coast disclosed was a rework to Backgrounds and Origins that can already be seen in the Unearthed Arcana preview content that’s already available online.
Backgrounds and Origins have now been folded into a new chapter of the book called “Character Origins,” which takes several elements of character creation and combines them. The chapter is used to answe the question: “Who was your character before they were an adventurer?” and has 144 pre-generated options that can be expanded upon and customized through homebrewing.
Going forward, player Backgrounds will now include a first-level Feat, primarily because that addition makes it possible in future setting materials to create new Backgrounds that include perks exclusive to those Backgrounds.
The section formerly referred to as “Race” is also being rebranded to “Species,” amid player feedback that the latter is more favorable (and accurate) to what is actually being selected by the player. While Race used to be an entire chapter, Species will now be folded into the Origins chapter.
A Bigger Focus on Social Encounters
While 5E has always been great at combat, the other two pillars of the game (social encounters and exploration) often feel much less developed. Wizards hopes to change this at least a little, as they told IGN that “any class that previously lacked out-of-combat utility is gaining it in some way, because we want to make sure that every character has the ability to shine.”
Some classes, like the bard, already have tons of tools for playing outside of combat, so they won’t be gaining any new options, but a lot of the non-magic classes will be getting an update. This includes barbarians, who already have a new ability in the Unearthed Arcana preview that gives them out-of-combat benefits to using their rage ability.
IGN also confirmed that the champions subclass for the fighter is getting some additions to address current non-combat gaps.
A More Focused Dungeon Master’s Guide
It’s no secret that the current version of D&D 5E includes lots of specific tidbits while omitting some pretty basic stuff that every Game Master is likely to deal with, like how to find players or what a game master screen is and how to use it, or how to deal with difficult players. These are all things that every GM is likely to confront during their tenure, and which the current version leaves for GMs to figure out for themselves.
In the 2024 version though, these kinds of questions will be explicitly answered as a means of taking a more hands-on approach to guiding the game’s administrators. There will even be parts dedicated to the creative part of running a game, like writing adventures, creating settings, and more.
There May Be a New Chapter About Building Bases
One thing that was teased by Wizards was a new chapter at the end of the Dungeon Master’s Guide called “Bastions,” which sounds like it’s going to provide rules and mechanics for players who want to build a base of operations for their characters in a campaign. It’s likely the section will contain content similar to third-party 5E expansions like Matt Colville’s Strongholds and Followers, which offers this as an option to players unofficially today.
Unfortunately the team at Wizards kept their cards pretty close to their chest when pressed for details, declining to confirm any real details at this time, but it certainly sounds like something every diehard D&D fan will want to keep a close eye on.
The Monster Manual Will Have More Baddies Than Ever
According to a Wizards representative, the new version of the Monster Manual “will be the biggest treasure trove of monsters the game has ever seen,” and will include new and returning monsters with a total stat block count that’s higher than any previous version.
No current monsters will have their challenge ratings changed (a score that helps GMs navigate encounter difficulty), but since not all monsters are meeting the level of challenge promised by their CR, some monsters will have their stats and abilities adjusted to meet their rating.
As for new monsters, Wizards will be providing more challenging monster ratings for existing enemy factions, with one representative specifically calling out a high CR fae creature, a super-powered Arch Hag, and an ooze monster with a 20+ CR.
The Core Rulebooks Will Not Be Released at the Same Time
While all three of the core rulebooks are being revised at the same time, they will not debut together. According to a Wizards representative, this is a limitation based on the extremely high volume at which they print their books, and their printing partners wouldn’t be able to handle so many copies all at the same time.
Instead, all three books will have staggered releases next year (though those exact dates remain unknown). When asked about the digital versions, which don’t have the same supply chain limitations as physical books, Wizards simply said they aren’t ready to discuss that just yet.
And there you have it! These are all the major changes confirmed to be coming to the core 5E Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks in 2024. For an extensive look at all the rulebooks coming out later this year, check out our breakdown.
Disclosure: This news story was obtained during a recent Dungeons & Dragons event hosted by Wizard of the Coast. The cost of IGN’s airfare and lodging was paid for by Wizards of the Coast as part of the event.
Travis Northup is a writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @TieGuyTravis and read his games coverage here.
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Author: Travis Northup