Back in October of last year, Wizards of the Coast announced that in 2024, for the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, that they would create the next “evolution” of the game, which I, and many others, have started calling 5.5e. Well, just like before 5e came out, the playtest was called D&DNext, this time for 5.5e it’s called One D&D. However, unlike this time, the idea is that this is the “final” edition of the game, they believe they have landed on the best version of D&D. Whether or not I agree with that idea, I thought I’d go through what they’ve released for One D&D, and give my thoughts. So far, they’ve only released the character creation for the game.
It seems that the balance between Race and Background has been shifted. Before, Race was incredibly important, and Background added flavor, and a couple of features, but was more to inspire backstory and roleplay. Now, they’ve taken some stat bonuses that were given to your Race, and are now attributing it to your Background, as your individual skill should be based on the life you’ve led, not on your genetic heritage. I like this idea.
Two major changes right off the bat. First, Half-Orc has been replaced with just an Orc. Also, they’ve removed Half-Elf, and replaced it with Ardling, which seems to be the antithesis to the Tiefling, but instead of demonic it’s angelic.
Humans can now choose to be Medium or Small, to reflect the reality that some people in the real world are Small, those with real world Dwarfism, or just people that are shorter than average. You get Inspiration every day, which has also changed, more on that below.
Ardling, a demi-human, like Tieflings, but from an Upper Plane. This is very interesting, as it makes Tieflings less extreme, as they are one of two planar demi-humans. I don’t know that we’ll see Ardlings as common as we do Tieflings, and definitely not as common as Half-Elves. The animal heads of Ardlings is very reminiscent of Egyptian mythological gods, which can be a fun vibe to characters, but I don’t know that I’ll want to be a cat-headed Ardling as much as I’ll just want to be a Tabaxi. Also, some people are surprised that they went to make a new Race entirely, instead of just promoting Aasimar, which were already Demi-Angels.
Dragonborn seem fairly standard, except that they still don’t acknowledge or deny Dragonborn tails. I want a big tail like Sully from Monsters Inc., and the oversight to comment on it hurts more than saying they don’t have one at all.
With Dwarves, I’m starting to notice that things that aren’t inherently genetic, like languages, tool proficiencies, or spellcasting, have become “gifts from the racial gods” which can be tough in certain settings. In my homebrew world of Emirace, the gods didn’t create the races, so blessing an entire race with a specific skill or knowledge doesn’t fit. You could easily just add the other language or proficiency based on your cultural background, say it’s because of the town/settlement you grew up in. Also, Dwarves have lost their subraces, as they were essentially just cultural backgrounds anyway.
Elves are pretty much the same, except they have made Drow just another subrace, and the subraces depend on how magical their surroundings are where they are from.
Gnomes have been given Diet-Artificer powers, where they create a Tiny clockwork devise that can be used to replicate the Prestidigitation spell.
Halflings have a really powerful racial ability, where they can always reroll Nat1s. A lot of races have more powerful abilities than in 5e, and really gives a stronger mechanical reason to choose a race, when the stat bonuses were removed. I also noticed in the descriptions, that Eberron is continually used as a setting, just as much as Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms. These seem to be the core three settings of 5.5e, instead of just Forgotten Realms, or just Nentir Vale for 4e.
Instead of Half-Orcs, we have just Orcs. There is a comment above that you can choose to be half of any two races, but only for flavor. Whatever you choose, you can only get the mechanical benefit from one of those two. You can only mix and match the visual characteristics.
Tieflings have now three subraces, to match the three of the Ardling. If your planar heritage comes from a Lawful, Chaotic, or Neutral aspect of the Lower Plane. Otherwise, it seems pretty similar to 5e.
Backgrounds were intended in 5e to be inspiration to building your backstory. You had a long list of professions, all usually travel-based, and when you chose one, it came with a few features, usually a place to sleep for free and some kind of proficiency. If you didn’t like any of them, there was a comment on how to create your own. Now, in 5.5e, it is still to inspire backstory, but you are encouraged to create your own, with a list of examples following. The Background is how you get those ability bonuses, skill proficiencies, tool proficiencies, and languages, which often before came from your Race.
It’s interesting, they kept most of the Backgrounds, but dropped Folk Hero and Outlander. Outlander basically became Guide, but there’s not really anything like Folk Hero, so I have to wonder what percentage of DnDBeyond characters used Folk Hero, as that’s their primary source of stats on how people play the game.
They did add some really interesting Backgrounds, like Farmer, Laborer, and Pilgrim, which is great for the “Everyman” character. Then, we also get Guard, which I love, Gladiator, which was previously an alternate of Entertainer, and Cultist! Cultist would be perfect for a Warlock, and I think that would be a fun backstory element.
So in 5e, Feats were actually optional, but it seems they really wanted to go all in. Some of the 5.5e Feats have multiple aspects to them, and each Background comes with an appropriate Feat. So this game is definitely Feat heavy, and I wonder how the Level progression will match that.
There are a couple of rules that are defined, if they are talked about in the Playtest material and different from 5e. First, instead of Spell Lists being broken down by each class, it seems that Spellcasting comes from one of three sources, either Arcane (Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard), Divine (Cleric, Paladin), or Primal (Druid, Ranger). So you are then restricted to that source of magic, meaning there is more overlap between classes.
Now, Attack Rolls, Skill Checks, and Saving Throws are all called a D20 Test. Any Nat20 or Nat1 on a D20 Test is an automatic success/failure respectively.
Inspiration has taken a big change, where now you get an Inspiration anytime you roll a Nat20, in addition to other cool actions as a reward from your DM. You can only have a single Inspiration at a time, and if you don’t use it by the end of the day, it’s gone. Also, as I said above, Humans get a free Inspiration at the beginning of every day. By taking it away at the end of the day, they really want to encourage you to use it. The game wants you to have Advantage often.
The pdf ends with the three spell lists, for Cantrips and 1st Level Spells, so you can get an idea of how they are different. I don’t immediately notice any new spells, but I certainly have not memorized every spell in the book.
Anyway, there’s a lot going on here, and I’m not sure I like all of it, but I definitely am a fan of some, like the focus on Backgrounds as well as Race.