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New DnD Player’s Handbook aims to actually teach you the game

Details of the new Dungeons and Dragons core book revealed by lead designer Jeremy Crawford suggest a far better on-ramp for new players.

Art from the new DnD player's handbook, a copper dragon with a serpentine neck and large, horned head

The upcoming new and expanded DnD Player’s Handbook was designed “to provide a better experience for people coming to Dungeons and Dragons for the first time”, according to lead designer Jeremy Crawford. Speaking at an exclusive press preview, Crawford set out all the ways the new book has been rethought to help first time players.

The new Player’s Handbook is available to pre-order now and will release on September 17. A brand new starter set is in the works which “ties into these new core books”, but may not be as essential as it was in previous DnD editions. Crawford states that the new Player’s Handbook will start by “teaching you how to play” DnD.

It’s a sensible change. The current Player’s Handbook jumps right into character creation, asking newcomers who may not even know what a roleplaying game is to fill in a DnD character sheet. DnD may be more popular than ever, but the Player’s Handbook is still the first point of contact for many newcomers to the hobby.

Art from the new DnD Player's Handbook  - a split image, the bottom shows five friends playing DnD, the top shows their characters in-game examining the seal on a letter

The art in the How to Play chapter represents the duality of the game, showing players at the table and their DnD characters mimicking their motions and looks. Text examples use a two-column format, with the left of the page used for a dialogue between players during a game, and rules commentary boxes on the right explaining what rules are in play in the example.

This isn’t a revolutionary approach – plenty of tabletop RPGs have used example play scripts, including earlier versions of DnD – but it is good practise, and good to see DnD embrace it fully.

There are other usability features in the book that show a good degree of thought given to the user experience. The illustrations in the DnD weapons section include price listings, so players can use the section like a shopping catalogue.

A two-page spread from the new DnD Player's Handbook with a variety of weapons

Particularly welcome is the decision to separate out the full rules of the game into a comprehensive glossary. While reference chapters on things like spells and classes will be useful from time to time, the rules glossary will be the go-to location to check how rules work while actually playing the game.

Speaking of DnD classes, established players should expect loads of new content. The new book contains 48 subclasses spread across all the DnD classes, three of them never seen before, 12 that were previously published in the DnD books ‘Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything’ and ‘Xanathar’s Guide to Everything’.

Crawford adds that “16 of the returning subclasses have been so heavily redesigned in terms of features and functionality that they are essentially new subclasses”.

A two-page spread from the new player's handbook with the dialogue from an example of play, and boxes explaining the rules implications of what's happening.

There are further changes to character origins. Backgrounds now matter more, providing new Background feats which will be “useful for you for your entire career” as an adventurer. Background is also the source of adjustments to your character ability scores, rather than your DnD race: this time you can either add +1 to three specific DnD stats, or +2 in one stat and +1 in another from the list.

The Player’s Handbook is the first of the new DnD core books coming – check out our guide to the DnD release schedule to learn when you can expect to see the rest.