What I Expect From Dungeons & Dragons 5.5e

At D&D Celebration 2021 last week, the final panel of the event was called The Future of D&D, where they announced that in 2024 there will be an “Evolution” in D&D that will be “backwards-compatible” with 5e (Fifth Edition, the current version of the game). While fans have been wondering if they were going to announce a Sixth Edition, their specific phrasing leads many to believe that this is going to be more of an update to the existing rules, rather than a new system. Personally, I’m making my 6e Wishlist already, but I’ll hold onto that for a few more years it seems.

Before we talk about 5.5, let’s take a look at 3.5. In 2000, the 3rd Edition was released, and it was fairly popular, but three years later, it got a slight update, and 3.5 was released. This was the most popular version of the game there had ever been (before 5e), and it brought D&D into the 21st Century. Classes got stat changes, updated spell lists, and ability adjustments. No new classes were added, nor races. Some spells were removed, and new ones added. Unnecessary specifications were removed, like Wilderness Lore into Survival. This slight update gave D&D the platform to become huge.

D&D 3E/3.5 - Jonathan Tweet: Streamlining Third Edition | EN World |  Dungeons & Dragons | Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Now, we are in 2021. D&D 5e is the single most popular the game has ever been, and TtRPGs are rising with the tide. A non-insignificant reason for the success has to do with Live Streaming and Actual Play shows, such as Critical Role, and the hundreds of followers. This has done something truly significant for Wizards of the Coast, the company that makes D&D. They can see, in real time, how people are playing this game. What parts do they like, what do they skip over, what stories are they most interested in telling? They are able to get the best Market Research, straight from their customers.

One of the things that has been on our minds for several years now, as a result of the popularity of streamed games combined actually with the tidal wave of new people coming to D&D, is the need to have bite-size adventure content.

So you’ll notice that around the time we came out with the Essentials Kit and then continued on with a lot of our adventure content—even when it’s a large, epic campaign, like last year’s Rime of the Frostmaiden—they’re much easier to divide up into digestible segments that where … if the DM wants to just read a part of this big book, or just run one of these little quests, we’re making that easier to do. Not only to make things less arduous for a brand new Dungeon Master, and with new groups of players coming to D&D for the first time, but also because of that format of play, also suits streamed games better.

Jeremy Crawford, Principal Designer of D&D 5e

So there are probably some design elements that are going to change.

However, D&D, along with literally every other major community in the US, has been put under the spotlight in the past two years, asking whether or not things are socially acceptable still, or “woke.” A lot of things back in 1974, when the game was originally released, were different. Calling Dwarves and Elves “races” made sense, because they weren’t the “Human Race.” Having trans-inclusivity, or even gender equality, were not part of the conversation. The idea of intentionally having your character be disabled went against the traditional idea of the Power Fantasy that D&D is catering to. Now, we are in 2021, and these ideas are not only being talked about, but D&D attracts traditionally marginalized groups, who want to have their own Power Fantasy, that isn’t cishet white male non-disabled neurotypical.

So the game can refer to people as “they” instead of the assumed “he,” or even progressive “she.” Changing “Races” to “Ancestry” keeps the same idea, without the real world implications of “Race War.” Also, in 5e, if you play a Dwarf you have a +2 to your Constitution, whereas Elves get a +2 to Dexterity, making broad generalizations about an entire demographic. While it makes sense where these ideas came from, in the modern day saying “those people are tough” is just uncomfortable. So instead, we can give these ability score improvements based on your Background, how you were raised before you became an adventurer.

Let’s see what the 5e expansion books say, that we can potentially pull into the new 5.5!

Current Rules Expansions

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

  • More Races
  • More Subclasses
  • More Backgrounds
Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide | Dungeons & Dragons

Curse of Strahd

  • More Backgrounds
  • Gothic Trinkets
Curse of Strahd | Dungeons & Dragons

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

  • Subclasses for every Class
  • This Is Your Life
    • This takes the idea of a background, and amplifies it. You know more about your family, your life before adventuring, including crimes or major life events, which could be used to give you specific Proficiencies.
  • Racial Feats
  • More Spells
Xanathar's Guide to Everything | Dungeons & Dragons

Tomb of Annihilation

  • More Backgrounds
Tomb of Annihilation | Dungeons & Dragons

Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica

  • More Races
  • More Subclasses
Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica | Dungeons & Dragons

Eberron: Rising from the Last War

  • More Races
  • More Classes
  • Group Patrons
    • The idea here is that you have someone more powerful than the group, who is a continual quest giver, or job picker. You work for someone else, and it helps tie individual adventures into a campaign. It also can be inspiration for the types of jobs you get.
  • New Background
  • Character Debts and Regrets
    • This is in addition to the Personality Traits, Ideal, Bonds, and Flaws, where now you have more negative aspects of your character, things you wish weren’t present, which gives the DM more angles to create storylines that you’ll be personally invested in.
  • Language Restriction
    • In previous versions of the game, you automatically spoke the language of your race (all Dwarves speak Dwarvish, etc). However, realizing that just because you are a Dwarf, doesn’t mean you were raised in a Dwarvish culture. You can now pick languages based on your backstory, and what makes sense to you.
Eberron: Rising from the Last War Review | Cannibal Halfling Gaming

Ghosts of Saltmarsh

  • More Backgrounds
Ghosts of Saltmarsh | Dungeons & Dragons

Descent into Avernus

  • Diabolical Deals with Devils
    • At some point you might have made a deal with a devil (perhaps causing you to be a Warlock in the first place), and it has narrative and mechanical affects on your character.
Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus | Dungeons & Dragons

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

  • More Subclasses
  • More Group Patrons
Tasha's Cauldron of Everything | Dungeons & Dragons

Mythic Odysseys of Theros

  • More Races
  • More Subclasses
  • New Background
  • Supernatural Gifts
    • Adventurers are a special type of people, and those people might have a specific ability that isn’t because of who they are, but how they are treated by the gods or fate.
  • Character Secrets
    • Your character has something that they’d rather the party not know, but it will almost certainly put you in a position where you have to make a decision you’d rather not make.
Mythic Odysseys of Theros | Dungeons & Dragons

Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

  • New Lineages
    • First of all, this is the first time we use a word other than Race to refer to your physical makeup.
    • Also, instead of these Lineages automatically changing your Ability Scores, you are instead told you can increase any one by 2 points, and another by 1 point. You decide what you’re good at, not your biology.
  • Dark Gifts
    • Similar to Diabolical Deals or Supernatural Gifts, these are specialty abilities based on your history.
  • More Subclasses
  • More Backgrounds
  • More Horror Trinkets
Save 40% on Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, the brand-new Dungeons &  Dragons book | GamesRadar+

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

  • More Races
  • More Backgrounds
  • Feywild Trinkets
Download!! Ebook — PDF [The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: A Feywild Adventure  (Dungeons & Dragons Book)] [AudioBook][Epub][Kindle]*[In English] | by  Pmajid Hd | Sep, 2021 | Medium

There is also the upcoming Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos, which will probably give you more Student of Magic type backgrounds and subclasses.

Any of this is in addition to the obvious changing of spells, removing rarely used abilities, amplifying under-designed mechanics, and more.

What do you want to see in 5.5e? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Better Balance. I know the Ranger is bad enough, but pair that with the Druid’s OP abilities and you’ve already solved a major issue with the game. Try to balance the game more than make new cool rules that unbalance the rule system.

    Liked by 1 person

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