At this year's PAX Unplugged—a special edition of PAX dedicated to tabletop games—Wizards of the Coast's designers presented a panel celebrating the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. At the end of that panel they looked ahead to 2024 and the upcoming Revised editions of the core rulebooks, previously codenamed OneD&D.
The focus was on the first of the three, the Player's Handbook. "This Player's Handbook will be the biggest Player's Handbook that D&D has ever had," said game design architect Jeremy Crawford. "Not only is it the biggest in terms of number of pages, it will have more subclasses than Player's Handbooks have ever had. It has new spells, new feats, new weapon rules—including the weapon mastery options that many of you have playtested in Unearthed Arcana. And also mountains of brand new art."
The Revised Player's Handbook will have 48 subclasses, with four for each of the 12 classes. Each will get their own illustration this time, as will each of the backgrounds players can choose from. The art for those is a series of literal backgrounds representing places you might have come from, with the mock-up page shown depicting a carnival for the charlatan, a temple topped with a giant sun disc for the acolyte, a peaceful valley for the hermit, and a workshop for the artisan.
Those four backgrounds show off some more of the rules changes. "It's now your background that affects your character's starting ability scores," Crawford said, "and also your background gives you a special feat at first level that gives you a mechanical benefit that will remind you of where you came from as a character throughout your adventuring career. So if you have felt in the past, 'My background is cool from a backstory perspective, but it sort of feels like when I get to higher level it's not making much of an impact on my character any more,' we have addressed that."
These replace the previous abilities backgrounds gave, which while flavorsome only rarely saw any use at the table. Like all the additions in the Revised rulebooks, they're designed to be backwards-compatible too. "You are going to get a host of new options in this book, all of which you can use with the fifth edition material you already have," Crawford said. "We are carefully designing the material in this Player's Handbook so that you can build a character with it and play through your copy of Curse of Strahd, play through your copy of Shattered Obelisk, or any other adventure product you have for fifth edition. We are also making it so that a character built with the Revised Player's Handbook can coexist at the table with a character built with the 2014 Player's Handbook, so if people still love the character they've been playing for years, you can keep playing that character."
The other two core rulebooks will also receive Revised editions in 2024, though we found out less about what they'll contain. The Revised Dungeon Master's Guide will apparently have "a complete campaign setting as well as several adventures" according to senior designer James Wyatt, and the Revised Monster Manual will have more than 500 monsters.
Among those are new creatures with higher Challenge Ratings like the Blob of Annihilation. "If you have ever wondered what a CR 20 or higher ooze looks like, the new Monster Manual has you covered," Crawford said. "But you do not want to be covered by this Blob." There are also returning monsters, albeit tweaked versions of them. "This has also been a chance for us to revisit every monster in that book and give it a tuneup," Crawford said, "so you're going to see familiar friends and foes that work the way you expect in some ways, but also work in ways that are entirely new. We are going through to make sure that each creature has something distinctive about it so that the DM really feels like when that monster shows up something distinctive is going to occur at the table."
The panel included a look at some of the other D&D books coming out in 2024 too. Several classic dungeon crawls are being updated and remixed into one-shots, beginning with Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, while other classic adventures will be collected in an anthology called Quests from the Infinite Staircase. Meanwhile, Vecna: Eve of Ruin is all-new, while bringing back the famous old school villain. "This is an adventure campaign that goes up to 20th-level and involves a thrilling face-off against Vecna," said senior designer Amanda Hamon. "We've also got a tour of the multiverse and a chance to meet some very famous people from D&D's history in this one."
All these books are expected in 2024, which is both the 50th anniversary of D&D's publication and the Year of the Dragon.