Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Review: One D&D pt. 1

This is not going to be one of my traditional reviews but I did not know where else to place it but it is a review of sorts. Regardless, I have now had time to read through the play test materials presented as One D&D under Wizards usual Unearthed Arcana release. For all intents and purposes, it looks these are going to be the building block of a new edition on 5th Edition Revised which may just be called One D&D as the title says. '

But I digress, the initial document release is called Character Origins and it clocks in at 21 pages. It covers Race, Backgrounds, and languages for creating characters. I will list the major changes and then o through the sections. 

The major core changes are:

  • Ability modifiers have been removed from Races
  • Backgrounds provide a +2 and a +1 ability bonus
  • Feats have a required level that a character must be before the qualify for it 
  • Backgrounds provide a 1st level feat 
  • Magic is no plot into three area - Arcane, Divine, and Primal 

Races: Humans (they get a bonus 1st level feat), Ardlings (are a race with animal heads that can fly for short periods of time and get some other options depending on legacy), Dragonborn, Dwarf, Elf (they gain different options depending on their lineage of Drow/High Elf/Wood Elf), Gnome (they gain different options based on lineage chosen Forest/Rock), Halfling, Orc, and Tiefling (they gain different options based on legacy Abyssal/Chthonic/Infernal).

These are the races that are being slated for the core Players Handbook. I really like the concept of the Ardlings and I am glad they are bringing some Egyptian flare into the core book. I am also happy that they  are including Orcs/Drow as a core race and makes these choices even better, is the Sunlight Sensitivity has been removed! It makes them playable and viable options (I explained my outlook about this more when I discussed The Darkness of the Drow.

Half Races are discussed in a sidebar. Basically, the player chooses two different core races as their parents and the player decides which parent decided their characters game traits (size, speed, special traits) and then the player can mix and match how their character looks from both parents. Finally, the player averages out both parents life spans. I think this is really a great idea as it opens up all kinds of character options in a simple way. 

Backgrounds: All backgrounds provide an +2 and a +1 ability bonus, two skill proficiencies, one tool proficiencies, have one language from a standard list and one from a rare list, pms 1st level feat, and 50gp to spend on starting equipment. Before the example Backgrounds are listed, there are rules to create your own background following the steps above. 

The backgrounds provided are Acolyte, Artisan, Charlatan, Criminal, Cultist, Entertainer, Farmer, Gladiator, Guard, Guide, Hermit, Laborer, Noble, Pilgrim, Sage, Sailor, Soldier, and Urchin. These example backgrounds provide a wide net but I hope more backgrounds are included such as the alternate backgrounds like Pirate and some from other official online supplements. 

Backgrounds also interact with language in a unique way where a non Rogue or non Druid player may possible know Thieves’ Cant or the Druidic Language depending on the background chosen. 

Languages: Languages are split into two different “trees” of Standard Languages and Rare Languages. The standard languages have nine options that include SIGN LANGUAGE, Common, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Gnomish, Goblin, Halfling, and Orc. The Rare tree includes Abyssal, Celestial, Deep Speech, Draconic, Druidic, Infernal, Primordial, Sylvan, Thieves’ Cant, and Undercommon. 

Feats: All feats have a level requirement, prerequisites (if any), and if they are repeatable or not. The sample level 1 feats are Alert, Crafter, Healer, Lucky, Magic Initiate, Musician, Savage Attacker, Skilled, Tavern Brawler, and Tough. 

All of the feats presented appear to be balanced and they all appear to be useful. Though the level 1 options are limited in this document. To create more customizable options, there will need to be more 1st level feat options as long as they are all useful and it I snot feat bloat for the sake of feat bloat. 

Due to the level requirements of feats, I can make an educated guess that feat trees will be making a comeback. So, feats will build off of each other. This idea opens up more options and synergy for characters and their backgrounds. I can only hope that Wizards avoids the old pitfalls of 3.x of the famous pointless feat tax. For enlightening purposes, feat tax where prerequisite feats that were useless and rarely saw any play but were required to progress or start a feat tree. 

Rules Glossary: Below are core changes;
  • The spell lists are divided into three lists (Arcane, Divine, and Primordial)
  • Artisan tools cost 15gp regardless of what tool it is 
  • 15 creature types that include Aberration, Beast, Celestial, Construct, Dragon, Elemental, Fey, Fiend, Giant, Humanoid, Monstrosity, Ooze, Plant, and Undead. These types do not have rules themselves but can affect interactions
  • Gaming Sets (tools) all cost 1g
  • Musical Instruments (tools) all cot 20gp
D20 Test:
  • Rolling a 1: Regardless of modifiers, it is an automatic failure
  • Rolling a 20: Regardless of modifiers, it is an automatic success. Though it does not surpass limitations of line of sight, etc. 
  • Critical Hits: Weapons and Unarmed Strikes cause a critical hit when a natural 20 is rolled on a d20 test. The damage dice is doubled rolled. If the weapon or unarmed strike has no damage dice, no additional dice is added/rolled
Conditions: The conditions listed are Grappled, Incapacitated, and slowed. The conditions have been cleaned up and more straightforward. 

Inspiration: The main way a character gains inspiration is from rolled a natural 20 on a d20 test. The DM can also award Inspiration when a character does something awesome. A character can only possess one point of Inspiration at a time and the player can spend it to gain advantage on the roll in question. 

Though, it is odd to note that the character loses the Inspiration if they begin a long rest with it. 

Long Rest: About 8 hours of peaceful rest/sleep At the end of a Long Rest, the creature regains all lost Hit Points and regains spent hit dice equal to half of the creatures total rounded down. If the rest is interrupted by one hour of activity, the benefits are list but if the rest had an hour before the interruption happened, the creature gains the benefits of a short rest. 

Tool Proficiency: If the character has proficiency with a tool, that add their proficiency bonus. If the the character posses proficiency in the tool and the skill being used, the roll is made with advantage. 

Unarmed Strike: When you successfully hit with an unarmed strike, you can choose one of the following options:
  1. Deal bludgeoning damage of 1 + STR modifier.
  2. Grapple: Target is grappled and the escape DC is 8 + STR Modifier + Proficiency Bonus. It is possible to grab a creature one size category larger if there is a hand free. 
  3. Shove: You either push the target 5 ft. Away or knock the target prone. The shove is possible only if the target is no more then one size category larger then you. 

Final Thoughts: Most of the changes are positive and create more options and bring the focus into background and other roleplaying options. I also love the idea of how you can have to players playing the same class but have different backgrounds that actually have some game impacts. Also, I cannot stress enough how happy it makes me to see Orcs and Drow included without the sunlight sensitivity. Once again, the way half races are handled is a big improvement because of how many options it opens up. Finally, these change help smooth out some of the common issues that come up in 5e and integrate all the changes that have came up in the recent releases glom 5e.

Though, with that being said there are some Major problems.

  1. Skills Auto Succeeding on a Natural 20: If skill succeed on a natural 20 then why even have skills? This implies that so long as a player can take long enough to take 20, they can succeed at anything untrained. This also severely handicaps the Rogue (and makes them basically pointless as well) as everyone has a 5% chance of picking the lock on Orcus’s Wand chest. This is in addition to making DC’s arbitrary. Finally, it makes the already weak teamwork rules worse as teamwork gives you advantage and then it is capped out. 
  2. Inspiration: Inspiration should be gained on the result of a natural “1” instead of a “20” as it is more thematic for characters to find inspiration out of failure then an already successful task. Though the real issue with this is that characters lose inspiration - that makes zero sense and will fuel player to participate in more dice focused actions to gain it back and that there is no limit on how man times characters can benefit from inspiration from the result of the d20. If it is unlimited as implied, it takes away the drive for players to be creative or roleplay for the chance to be rewarded inspiration. Shooting from the hip, 3x per day would be fair. 
  3. Wording on Criticals: The way it is worded, it can be interpreted one of two ways. The first way is that only player characters can crit with weapons or unarmed strikes and the second way is NPC’s can crit as well. Why this is such an issue with me no really grind my gears is that 5e was slated to be written in very clear and common language but required Sage Advice blogs and one of the designers Twitter accounts to clarify rules/situations. This is a huge issue and does Dungeons and Dragons and any other system a galactic disservice. Now, I understand that there is a lot of people that have issues with taking away crits from spells (and other non weapon/natural weapon/unarmed strikes) but it does not bother me at all. This change makes sense to me as I have always viewed cites as hitting a vital spot and brings a throwback feel of death and dismemberment tables (*grognard mumble noises*). It also helps balance out the space between martials and casters as doubling damage dice from spells (especially at higher levels) can get ridiculous. Plus spells already have large advantages over swinging a sword of using a bow. 

Now, outside of the major problems, there are somethings that need to be watched so they do not become a new major problem. 
  1. Grapple: Grapple has been weakened as it is now a DC check to break free based on the formula of the aggressors 8 + STR Modifier + proficiency bonus instead of a contested skill check. For grapple to stay relevant there will need to be more systematic support. 
  2. Exotic Races: These were not presented in this document but since the release of the the Monsters of the Multiverse a lot of the exotic races unique abilities have been remove such as the Kobold’s pact tactics, etc. This has caused a lot of contention and the feeling of races being watered down (“sameness”).
  3. The backgrounds presented did not have the story element tables included. This would be a disservice is that do not make an appearance.
  4. The backgrounds missing their story element abilities like how the Pirate would not be reported for minor crimes and so forth. I do not know if these are meant to be removed or were not included to keep the document short. This is under this section because of how much flavor they add to the backgrounds instead of just mechanical bonuses and a jumping off point for character background stories.  
A lot of the other issues I have seen discussed online and from my own personal conversations with people come from a misunderstanding of the basic rules in the 5e rule book. Though, I will say it is difficult to stay on top of all of the sage advice and twitter posts. Which again, I must reiterate how this is a galactic failing of the writing and other processes to produce a final product (on top of being a ridiculous expectation for the player base). 


These are ideas or changes are what I hope will come out of all of the play test material and will make it into the final products. 
  • Straightforward translation guide for the 5e books
  • Point system to be able to build races akin to what was found in the Advanced Race Guide from Pathfinder 1e
  • For the love of all that is holy or unholy get rid of challenge ratings and all the mathematical gymnastics that goes along with it for encounters. Use Hit Dice modified by special abilities!
  • Action Economy needs to be fixed on the class level or how players use/have access to actions. There are a lot of classes that do not have consistent uses for bonus actions/reactions currently
  • Keep the focus on story and less on the tactical side
  • Keep archetypes unique, flavorful, relevant, and have their own focus. The archetypes should not feel bland or one should not completely outshine the other options on the mechanically side
  • Wizards actually stay interactive and open in the play test process and consider/play test feedback

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