The mistake of abandoning personality via One D&D

Due to the massive scale of the two playtests that have come out for the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons reviewing them seems impractical. Unlike Unearthed Arcana they are dozens of pages, with some mechanical changes that make the game a bit easier, some that are hefty.

Overall One D&D’s tabletop test is backwards compatible so far. A current character could be converted and on a level playing field just by selecting a 1st level Feat.

In a surprising turn, the Backgrounds available via the One D&D playtest “origins” remove story elements. That’s the first time during the current popularity of D&D that Wizards of the Coast has made a story reduction rather than expansion. No longer are there any personality suggestions, nor personality associated with Backgrounds or Races. That is coupled with changing Inspiration away from rewarding role play to rewarding roll play. The second One D&D playtest also removes Inspiration as a role-play reward and just shoves it to rolling a 1 on a d20.

This is a mistake.

Every other change in 5e has been about expanding the stories that are told while expanding how they can be told using our silly dice and paper game.

Removing Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws is a reduction of story content, a reduction of the style of play which surged D&D into the mainstream. It’s a damn shame.

Personality isn’t just part of the social pillar. These tiny tools available via backgrounds aren’t locked away from combat scenes. Story and dice should co-exist in modern Dungeons & Dragons. That’s what we see in various livestreams and podcast actual plays. It is one of the grand differentiators from video gaming and board gaming.

The rules of D&D should include character personality beyond alignment. TIBF expands on alignment and can even replace it, as a better and simpler system with story power.

No, the TIBF system isn’t perfect. But it’s better than it not existing.

Fixing Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws

  • Reduce them from the one to two sentence structure to a one to three word phrase.
  • Consolidate the Traits, Ideals and Bonds into a single section and pick two or three there.
  • Have a main list of suggestions rather than have them directly tied to specific Backgrounds, with examples at the Background.
  • Continue to reward role play at the table — my suggestion is to have a specific d20 (I use gold).
  • Have Inspiration dice capped at proficiency bonus uses per long rest, rather than just a cap of one available. People are more likely to use something that they have more than one use of – the potion problem.

As a lover of backgrounds, I want them to succeed. I want more of them, a lot more. The addition of minor Feats to Backgrounds is glorious (I’m in the process of adding the most common first level Feats to each of my released backgrounds)

Custom Backgrounds for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons

And yes, every response to every playtest survey has me saying this. I don’t expect it to change, and it’s sad that the guidance towards story will be reduced in the 2024 version of the ruleset.

4 thoughts on “The mistake of abandoning personality via One D&D

      • Beliefs and flaws aren’t necessarily strengths or weaknesses. And the flaws don’t have to be crippling-phobia issues. Sure, one character’s flaw was hydrophobia; mostly he was just “stinky”, but that one time the party was attacked by a water elemental really sucked. And another had a fear of being alone, which meant she always sided with any plan that involved the group staying together (even against her own desires). Currently, one PC has a flaw of being unable to agree with his brother (another PC), while the ranger is a borderline klepto. But other flaws have been “always thinks the best of people the first time… but never gives a second chance”. Which is generally how adventurers play anyway, but really affected how this character approached a recurring character in the campaign. And whether it’s written and “official” not, none of my character like spiders… no reason. 😉

        Beliefs, likewise can be serious or silly. Believing nobles really are better than average folk, or the world is riding on the back of a giant turtle. One character believed that there should only be the five colors in the rainbow, and anything else was blasphemy (yes, I know there are 7, and all shades in-between… not the point). A belief that “animals are nicer than people” could be a serious flaw…

        In our Planescape campaign, the DM had us pick beliefs that intentionally could be taken to extremes and become flaws!

        Anyway, I’m not proposing it as a rule. Just the observation that spending time thinking about what your character values, stands against, and would compromise about goes a long way towards making them feel more “real” and distinct.

        (Another similar idea – short of one DM’s 3-page questionnaire! – was “3 Likes, 3 Dislikes, 1 Principle, and 1 Flaw”. My previous character liked fine living, flirting, and fame; he disliked mud (especially walking in mud), bullies, and slavery. He believed in the principle of Self-Improvement (improving your mind, body, class, or circumstance all counted)… but he had two Flaws, one that he would do anything to become a noble, and two that he prioritized revenge over other goals. When he retired, he had become a Baron, and dedicated himself to protecting his lands and people – and after nearly losing all of it seeking revenge against one enemy, he managed to let go of his grudge against an earlier foe, instead choosing marriage and retirement. His story arc ended, despite the campaign continuing, because it made sense for the defined character I had created.)


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