Friday, August 19, 2022

One D&D, Character Origins

 As part of their announcement yesterday, Wizards of the Coast released the first playtest document for One DnD, Character Origins.

One Dnd Playtest

The bulk of the document is about how they are going to handle Character Races and Backgrounds in the next version of DnD. Interestingly they include snippets of other sections of the rules to give some context for the other mechanics they mentioned in the section about Origins.

Rob's Notes: So folks understand where I am coming from I care far more that the mechanics reflect the nuances of a setting or genre than "game balance. I am a strong proponent that having a consistent view of the genre or setting is more important. As opposed to making Option A, B, and C have equal weight in the campaign. 

Character Origins

It looks like they want to bind Character Race and Background more tightly in One DnD. Emphasize roleplaying more by giving background equal weight to character weight. In core 5e, background is almost an afterthought. Later Adventures in Middle Earth ditched the idea that the two are separate and combined them into cultures. For example, a dwarf of the Lonely Mountain has some things in common with a Dwarf of the Blue Mountain and some things are different. Each has its own section in the AiME books.

Controversially they shifted some of the benefits around race and background. A character race still grants distinct special abilities but now the attribute bonuses are determined by the background the player chooses. For example, picking the Guard background will get you +2 strength and +1 wisdom in addition to a set of skill proficiencies, tool proficiencies, an additional language, and what they calling a 1st level Feat. 

I think this was a poor creative choice. In DnD fantasy it is well established that elves are more dexterous, dwarves are hardier, and so on. This change doesn't feel very DnDish to me. But my choice would have been to split the bonuses between race and background. Just like in AiME a dwarven guard would have of some the same bonuses as a Dwarven Pilgrim and some that were different.

My final analysis is that in comparison to 5e core, characters are going to get a tad bit more with Character Origins. Like AiME there is more emphasis on the roleplaying details. That the difference between the 5e Core and One DnD is small and incremental in this area of the rules.

Starting Languages

One DnD Character will know common, a language from their background, and a language from the list of Standard Langauge: Common, Common Sign Language, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Gnomish, Goblin, Halfling, and Orc.

I find the addition of Sign Language interesting and plan to do some research into the historical use of sign language and incorporate that as an option for my Majestic Fantasy RPG. I also watched the movie Prey and the protagonists of the film, Comanches, also used a type of sign language.

Feat Description.

In my 5e campaigns, I didn't often use feats having a negative experience with the mechanic as a result of 3.X. But 5e's take on feat is far more laid back overall so sometimes when a player makes a good case that a particular feat fit his character background, I will allow the pick.

However when it came to AiME, they recast the feat mechanic as virtues. And it worked rather well and really enhances the feel of the system as a Middle Earth RPG.

This section includes feats like Alert, Crafter, Lucky, Magic Initiate, Musician, Savage Attacker, Skilled, Tavern Brawler and Tough. I find it to be a varied mix of combat and non-combat options that are somewhat laid back overall like the core 5e feats. Some like skilled may have to be tested in actual play to see if they are too generous or not. Skilled give three proficiencies in skills. 

Given the limited of 5e skills that could be overkill or maybe it is just right. I would judge this on the basis of "Does this make sense for the DnD fantasy genre that a character starting out to be proficient in this many skills?" compared to the overall skill list.

Feats also have a level requirement baked in as part of the standard description. Will have to see the full description of feats before making a call on whether this works out or not. 

Rules Glossary

The author explains some of the mechanics they referenced in the preceding sections.

Types of Magic

There are not three instead of two types of magic. Primal joins Arcane and Divine. Could be a good roleplaying flavor.

Tool Proficiency

They list Artisan's Tools, Gaming Set, Musical Instrument, and notes on Tool Proficiencies in general. Some observations.  

  • If you have proficiency in a relevant tool and skill you gain an advantage on the d20 roll
  • It appears One DnD is simplifying the price list and acquisition of equipment. 
  • Their attempt at terminology to avoid naming editions is to say "see 2014, Player's Handbook".

Creature Types

Like the 2014 rule books, there are creature types and certain ability may work differently for a specific type of creature.

D20 Test

One DnD will introduce D20 Test as a term to describe any use of the 1d20 high mechanics. Ability Checks,  Saving Throws, To-Hit Rolls, etc. It appears to be a way of consolidating the die rolling mechanics under a single header.


  • Rolling a 1 on anything a D20 Test is a failure
  • Rolling a 20 on anything grants inspiration.
  • Critical Hits rolling a 20 on a weapon or unarmed attack will double the damage dice. 
There is currently a lot of controversy over whether the last this applies to monsters or not. Ever since I have been involved with later editions of DnD starting with 3.0 in 2000. There have been two broad camps regarding the system. One side believes that X can happen only if it is explicitly allowed. The other side believes that unless it is specifically not allowed  X can happen. I happened to be part of the latter camp. 

The text in question says

As you can have NPCs with class and level taking this literally will lead to logical inconsistencies as to how the genre and setting are depicted. 

Grappled Condition
I think it is written up better in One DnD than in the 2014 rules. Speed is zero, attacks on anybody but the grappler are at a disadvantage, you can be moved except the grappler is considered slowed, and the escape conditions are expanded and explained better.

Incapacitated Condition
The original 2014 rule is intact and the following has been added; concentration is automatically broken, can't speak, and if you have to roll initiative while incapacitated then you roll at a disadvantage. 

Mentioning concentration is probably wise, while it stated in concentration that you lose it if you are incapacitated it makes the rulebook more user-friendly to mention it in the condition as well.

The can't speak part is stating the obvious in my opinion. 

I can see a point in mentioning the last. Combat can ensue when the character is already incapacitated and the 2014 rules taken literally would mean that the character makes a normal init roll.

Many aspects of Inspiration are the same as the 2014 rules. Spending it grants advantage on what is now called a D20 Test. It still can be awarded as a result of good roleplaying. You can only have one. There are now additional opportunities to gain Inspiration like the crit roll.  However, now you lose any Inspiration when you take a long rest.

Inspiration was a controversial part of 5e from the start. My view of this take it is that more akin to luck mechanics or system that give you some type of ongoing benefit as a result of a critical.

I used Inspiration occasionally as part of my 5e campaign. I don't see any particular issue incorporating this as an additional crit result. 

Long Rest
The same with a new addition that if you are interrupted over an hour in, you get the benefits of a short rest.

Slowed Condition
One DnD adds a new condition Slowed. 
  • spend 1 extra foot of movement for every foot you move using your Speed.
  • Attackers have advantage on you
  • Disadvantage on Dex Saves
A new sense has been added. Basically you can locate (but not see) anybody in a radius around you as long as they are in contact with the same surface as you are on.

Unarmed Strike
They combined the 2014 version of Unarmed strike, grappling, and Shove into a single ability with three choices for when you make a successful attack. Also to escape a Grapple is DC 8 + strength mod + proficiency bonus. Not the opposed skill check of the 2014 rules.

New Spell Lists
Take the cantrips and 1st level spells from the 2014 rules and divides them into the three categories of Arcane, Divine, and Primal.

Wrapping it Up
So far it looks like pretty much still 5e. If I had to guess I bet for most of you reading this it reads like somebody's list of house rules or even your own house rules. A bunch of tweaks and reformatted sections to suit the author's sensibilities. Still seems like 5e to me and more importantly doesn't alter how easy it is to hack or tweak 5e into the system you want to use. Plus some of it makes sense and would be useful like the Slowed Condition and the grappling changes. 

Next are some thoughts on DnD Digital.


emarsk said...

So, they are effectively making non-humans just humans with some permanent make-up.

I can obviously see where it's coming from, but I think that this crusade against any kind of racial mechanical impact is a bit silly.

Whether you consider them species, races, or ethnicities, it seems just factual to me that cheetahs are faster than domestic cats, Rottweilers are stronger than Chihuahuas, and Kenyans are on average pretty darn good at marathons compared to other people.

Xathos said...

Looks like they are making a junior version of Pathfinder Second Edition.