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)
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.