Do We Want One D&D?

By RJ on 9 January 2023. 

Since writing this article, more has become clear about Wizards of the Coast's intentions with One D&D, monetization, and updated terms with D&D content creators. The rest of this prewritten article explores this, but essentially: refrain from financially supporting Wizards of the Coast. Make your voice heard with money.

Now, onward to the article.

Do We Want One D&D?

As time trudges ever onward and the sixth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, dubbed One D&D, approaches, I've pondered more and more about the necessity of this forever-revamp. Besides Wizards of the Coast, who really desires it?

Generally, the D&D folks who play 5E D&D seemed satisfied with the state of the hobby until WOTC began prepping for One D&D's arrival.

There's a surprising number of people who run older editions as well. The largest group is likely the OSR players. They use a plethora of systems, but all revolve around original or slightly updated D&D.

In the online circles I frequent, not many folks see a need or hold a want for this new ruleset. Again, I've read more opinions of confused, disinterested, or even jaded folk on Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter than people excited for One D&D. Even the One D&D subreddit doesn't seem lively.

At home, the updates puzzle people. Some plan on sticking with 5E D&D. Others already moved to Pathfinder 2E. A few recently became players of the game and are worried everything they purchased and learned will soon become obsolete. Their worry is warranted.

I'm a wanderer myself. Initially, One D&D shocked and excited me. 

Interesting racial abilities? Excellent.

More customization options? Great!

An extremely open development cycle? Lovely.

All appeared positive, but as time has passed, I've grown more skeptical of WOTC's intentions and the system itself.

I'm cautiously pessimistic about One D&D presently.

It's no secret as to why. WOTC has done more than enough to douse my fiery excitement:

  • Driving home the need to monetize D&D for all.
  • Forcing massive mechanical changes.
  • Forcing massive core lore changes or removals.
  • Committing the sin of double speak.

The rest of this article explores each, beginning with the most frightening of all: D&D microtransactions and the unlimited possibilities these will bring.

One D&D and Microtransactions

It's true: the D&D brand and system don't make as much money as they could.

Wizards of the Coast is on the record stating that about 20% of all D&D players are Dungeon Masters. They purchase the most content by far. Non-DM players may pick up one of the player-focused rulebooks like the Player's Handbook, Xanathar's Guide to Everything, or Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, but it's very unlikely they'll buy more.

With a switch to focusing on a virtual experience, this shifts in more ways than one for players and DMs.

There will still be rulebooks, I'm sure, hardcover and PDF, but there will be shiny layers on top. Players will be able to purchase miniatures and cosmetics for them to be used on the virtual tabletop. Perhaps they'll even be able to purchase spell packs that revamp the spell effects. Have you ever wanted an explosion of ice to replace your fireball? How about a big nova of acid? WOTC might sell it. Cosmetics won't be everything a player can get, quite likely. WOTC may venture into selling tiny rules supplements for a low price: new fighter subclasses, a set of new items, a brand-new race or even a slight update or addition to a current one.

Then there's possible further monetization of Dungeon Masters, who usually spend quite a bit already. If everything is built for a virtual tabletop, then the DM will likely need to purchase items to enhance their game. WOTC might sell entire tilesets of cursed crypts, forbidden woods, grave troughs, and dry seas. They could put up monster packs for sale that include virtual miniatures, cool stat block integrations, and ways to manipulate the creatures that wouldn't be possible without buying the pack. Would you like to easily edit a stat block? Here you go, that functionality comes with a monster pack! But worst of all, I think DMs might be subject to a monthly subscription to even access the virtual tabletop. 

Microtransactions and subscriptions, the unholy duo of gaming, especially in the tabletop landscape.

Truly, there's no way to avoid their unceremonious arrival. I also play video games like Path of Exile and Guild Wars 2 and microtransactions make both games a huge sum of money. WOTC would like a slice of the microtransaction pie with One D&D, and I'm certain they'll get it from a certain section of the community.

Others, though, will move on, continue to build their own content, and ignore WOTC's monetization of Dungeons & Dragons.

The Mechanics of One D&D

Initially, I was intrigued by the mechanical updates in the testing phase for One D&D. Not anymore.

The changes are so drastic and untrue to the core of D&D that I've decided to build my own tabletop roleplaying game. If the latest iteration of D&D, something I've always leaped on, isn't something I desire or recognize, why continue following WOTC?

Understand this, though: everything is a playtest right now, nothing is set in stone. I may not like the mechanical changes and additions, but WOTC has not said anything on whether or not they're staying. Now, I'm sure certain aspects are solidified such as the split of classes into four groups (Martial, Mage, Versatile, and Divine), but others like always succeeding on the roll of a 20 and failing on the roll of a 1 are up in the air.

Regardless, between these vast changes and the new language and stance on the lifelong lore established in D&D, you're better off making your own game or finding one that suits your preferences.

Updating or Removing Core D&D Lore

I've read a decent number of articles, blog posts, and threads in addition to about ten videos debating WOTC's current plans for D&D's problematic terms and lore.

It's a large, touchy topic with plenty of intricacies, I understand that. Some pieces of D&D and its world can be removed as the game evolves, of course, but with the constant erratas of the current 5E books, I'm frightened of what might happen with One D&D and the perpetually online nature of the system.

What happens when a few people get upset over a concerning character? Will WOTC remove them from the official product?

Will WOTC defend their vile villains and inane plots? Or will they bend to those offended over them?

How will they react if a group of people claim a particular monster is problematic, then the movement gains steam online? Will they stay or be slain?

All arrows point toward WOTC bending and not defending their game. One idea I point toward is adding the word typical to all monster alignments or changing their alignment entirely in their latest products. Those who use monster books should know each stat block is already of a typical monster, say a red dragon, orc, or flumph, not the red dragon, orc, or flumph. People were quite upset that stat blocks seemed to deem all orcs as evil, even though that's clearly not the case in many settings, including the default D&D setting. Ultimately, it's up to the worldbuilder to form the factions and creatures of their own world: if their orcs are typically evil, that's fine. If their halflings are typically evil, great. If their drow are typically good, sweet! There's no need to be outraged over almost anything in an official WOTC product, but here we are.

If any outrage exists, it grows, WOTC sees it, and it gets changed. This will mount ten times with One D&D, especially if the products exist primarily online.

WOTC and Double Speak

Saying one thing and doing another is a sin committed by many, especially the most powerful in our society. This includes Wizards of the Coast and their parent company, Hasbro.

During the writing of this article, the entire D&D and RPG community imploded due to the leaked release of WOTC's revised open gaming license (OGL) for One D&D and beyond.

For those unaware, the OGL essentially allowed creators to write and sell content for D&D without the need to pay WOTC royalties. It gave people freedom to use ideas like Armor Class and Ability Scores and the quintessential delving into a dungeon to fight a red dragon as a scenario without fear of WOTC coming after them, as the former stewards of D&D, TSR, did so commonly, people often joked that their company's acronym stood for "They Sue Regularly".

With the revised OGL, WOTC and Hasbro seek to disallow creators from making content without the need to pay royalties to the caretakers of the D&D brand by establishing a new, more strict set of rules for One D&D and attempting to nullify the old OGL that has been in place for over two decades.

This all comes after an article released on D&D Beyond by WOTC stating that any change to the OGL only sought to foster D&D creators, prevent corporations from abusing the brand, and create a community more open than ever. This was false, if the leak is true.

Pure double speak.

You can read the leaked OGL and more about it in this Gizmodo article.

In Summary

I'm no longer excited for One D&D. In fact, I've grown quite pessimistic about the next version of D&D. Time to create my own systems and try out other games, methinks. Remember:

  • One D&D will have microtransactions. Do you support this?
  • D&D's core mechanics are likely changing greatly. Change is fine, but how drastic can the changes be before the game is unrecognizable?
  • D&D's lore can be reformed by the community, WOTC bends to anger online. Are you okay with constant errata to books and products?
  • WOTC's and Hasbro's double speak is ridiculous. I won't be patronizing WOTC presently, will you?

Quite the downer article, but it needed to be written. Research for yourself, look around, watch some videos, and think. Do you want One D&D? I don't.

If you enjoyed this article, check out last week's post on keeping your RPG group alive and well.

Here's to greatening your game and world: cheers!

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