The world’s most played tabletop roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons, has a new edition on its way; it’s now available for pre-order. This 50th-anniversary edition is wholly compatible with the incredibly popular 5th Edition while also promising to do something new.

The history of D&D is full of revisions; the game is constantly being refined and tinkered with, though the 2024 editions promise to clarify and make the game more balanced and accessible. The future of D&D is incremental change rather than radical shifts; time will tell if that truly does become the future of this iconic game.

The new Player’s Handbook (PHB) has some pretty interesting changes. For a start, it no longer assumes that you know how to play the game. The old model was that the PHB was something you picked up as you got into D&D, either through a friend or through one of the many starter sets. This assumption has been abandoned in favour of the brightly illustrated ‘how to play’ chapter. This isn’t new to RPGs, but it is something we’ve never seen in D&D.

The PHB also revises and changes character creation. Character options are much more flexible. The upshot of this means that players are likelier to pick elf, human or dwarf characters because that’s the story they want to tell rather than for a mechanical advantage. Feats (special abilities) have become tied to your characters background, and are designed

Character classes have also been overhauled. Of the twelve character classes you can play, each has four sub-classes, for a total of 48. This does mean that Wizard and Cleric characters only get four subclasses each, and traditionally those types of characters get a whole laundry list of options. Don’t panic. This new edition is completely compatible with the older iteration of the game, so the multi-class Grave Domain / War Magic character you have planned is still totally doable.

Monk and Ranger classes have been overhauled to be more attractive to players (previously, they were the least popular options), and at least sixteen of the subclasses have been radically changed to be more fun and interesting to play.

They’ve brought in the old ‘shopping catalogue’ style of presenting equipment; this was one of the more interesting bits of the older versions of the game, as you could actually see what the difference between a spear and a javelin was. There are more illustrations throughout the three core books than in the previous version. The Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual all promise to be prettier.

Fans of D&D’s fourth edition will be delighted to hear that the Dungeon Master’s Guide also brings back solid advice on how to run and manage a campaign (something the fourth edition did very well.) In addition, it contains a sample campaign, namely Greyhawk, D&D’s very first setting and the default world for the first edition of the game. It will also contain rules on Bastions; basically a way for characters to build a power base in the game world. This feature was part of the game primarily back in the 1970s and ’80s and is an artefact of D&D’s origins as a wargame. This style of gameplay has been missing from official D&D since the ’00s and it’s reintroduction might offer hints as to what is to come. Is a “diplomacy, politics, trade, construction and war” style game of D&D (such as 1995’s Birthright) on its way? Time will tell.

For now, the new books look like guides, even the Monster Manual, which has 500+ monsters, including 75 new ones.

The new Player’s Handbook comes out on September 17th , the Dungeon Master’s Guide on November 11th, and the Monster Manual on Feb 18th, 2025, keeping another tradition of releasing the big book of bad guys till much later. You can pre-order them now.

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