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One D&D makes your character’s background more important than race

An early Unearthed Arcana reveals how character creation works in One D&D, with a major shakeup to the effects of race and background.

One D&D - an image of the dark elf drizzt holding a sword.

The first chunk of Unearthed Arcana playtest material for the just-announced new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, One D&D, is here already, available for D&D Beyond subscribers. It deals with character creation, and brings sweeping changes to the way that background and race affect your D&D character.

Continuing D&D’s recent trend of decoupling the ‘crunchier’ elements of gameplay from the game’s races, ability scores in One D&D are tied to characters’ DnD backgrounds, while each race gets a handful of special powers that make them stand out. For instance, Dwarfs no longer enjoy a +2 bonus to their constitution stat, unless they were a farmer or labourer before they went off exploring. But they do keep plenty of their old traits, like poison resistance, and get a brand new ability – tremorsense.

“We’ve been looking at not only maintaining continuity with what the general silhouette of what that race is in the 2014 players’ handbook,” said D&D designer Jeremey Crawford, who discussed the new material with content consultant Todd Kendreck in an hour-long video uploaded to the Dungeons and Dragons YouTube channel on Thursday. “But also bringing some new elements to the foreground, giving you some new fun things that you’ll be able to do during play.”

Meanwhile, backgrounds, Kendreck and Crawford explain, have never been more important, or more customisable. In One D&D, backgrounds not only determine which ability scores you’ll increase on character creation, they also determine additional languages, skill, and tool proficiencies, and grant you a 1st-level feat (oh, D&D feats have levels now). Ex-cultists have Magic Initiate, for instance.

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While the playtest material provides plenty of background options, Crawford stresses that the default option is to create your own from scratch.

There is plenty more worth perusing in the new Character Details Unearthed Arcana. We can’t cover it all here, or we’d be here all day, but here are a couple more highlights:

Tieflings have been expanded. Their fiendish legacy can now be tied to various different Lower Planes, which means they can be infernal, abyssal, or chthonic, and look more bestial, or even corpselike. There’s also a brand new race that will be in the next D&D edition’s Player’s Handbook. The Ardlings are kind of Tieflings in reverse. They have a celestial ancestry, which gives them resistance to radiant damage, limited flight, oh and the head of an animal. Obviously.

One D&D’s designers want to get views from fans on the new content, and a feedback survey on this Unearthed Arcana opens on September 1. Game designer Chris Perkins explained on August 18 that there’s going to be “a steady release of playtest packages where you’ll be able to engage with key aspects of the game and provide us with feedback we will then process, interpret, analyse, and then act upon”.

We recently got a look at the DnD 2023 release schedule, which is certainly worth checking out if you haven’t. And here’s all we know currently about D&D 6e (or One D&D. Sorry, confusing name).