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New DnD Player’s Handbook cover shows how the game has changed

Wizards of the Coast has chosen a very different cover for the new, upcoming version of the DnD Player's Handbook - what does that tell us?

The front cover of the upcoming DnD Player’s Handbook has been revealed, showing us exactly what the book will look like when it hits store shelves on September, 17, 2024.

Revealed by Game Informer on May 14, the Player’s Handbook art by freelance illustrator Taylor Jacobson features a lot of what makes Dungeons and Dragons great. It has classic DnD monsters, two DnD dragons, and a party of interesting looking characters chomping at the bit for adventure.

Jacobson told Game Informer that the piece for the Player’s Handbook was designed to communicate the experience of the players as best as possible. Which inspired us to have a look at the original and compare the two. Can the changes in artwork tell us something about how DnD itself has changed, as we transition into the new One DnD age?

We think so, yes. While both covers feature classic fantasy action scenes, the original 5e PHB art depicts a single character (DnD class unclear) leaping into battle against a humongous fire giant. Meanwhile, the 2024 Player’s Handbook art has a group of players all fighting together. On the back cover, they’re not even fighting, just traveling about, clearly having a good time.

Now, obviously, that’s not something that’s any more common now than it was then – DnD has required working together as a group since time immemorial. But it is interesting that Wizards clearly found it important to showcase that group dynamic in the recent cover, whereas that wasn’t such a priority in 2014.

The old cover is an obvious power fantasy: look how powerful you can become and the cool things you can fight. The new cover seems to have a slightly different message: look at the variety of DnD races and classes you can play, and the cool people you’ll be hanging out with.

Big Actual Play shows with fun, diverse, engaging actor-player-characters like the Dimension 20 and Critical Role cast have become the face of Dungeons and Dragons in the past decade, and that’s obviously changed the way people play. People maybe think a bit more about their backstory in character creation than they used to, they might be a bit more willing to roleplay.

It’s obvious Wizards of the Coast wanted to champion diversity in its new front cover, and make the point that DnD is for everyone. But, to us, it feels like this cover reflects something else that’s changed in the tabletop RPG as well – a greater focus on inter-character dynamics, community, and just hanging out.