This is my next post in the series looking at the 10th Anniversary next edition of D&D, which Wizards are playtesting bit by bit. As I said in my first post, their aim is evolution rather than revolution, and to remain compatible with fifth edition, at least to the point where you can mix and match old and new publications. (At least, that’s my understanding.) On the other hand, they are now definitely saying things will change:
There will be many fundamental updates to D&D that we will collect your feedback on. In the upcoming Unearthed Arcana playtest content, you’ll see proposed updates to character backgrounds, races, classes, feats, information presentation, and more. Ultimately, the answer to what will change depends on what we hear from you throughout One D&D playtests.
As before, you can sign up to the playtest via D&D Beyond and download the new proposals, and the feedback on playtest 2 is now open, running until 10th November 2022. And again as before, they are marked as Unearthed Arcana, so “aren’t officially part of the game and aren’t permitted in D&D Adventurers League events, nor are they available for use on D&D Beyond.”
The first playtest covered the first parts of character creation – races and backgrounds – plus various rules (mostly) associated with that. The second playtest moves on to the next step – the first set of classes. I have already looked at the new expert classes (bard, ranger, rogue), and in this post I will look at the rules tweaks from both playtests, including changes between the two playtests.
In each playtest, along with the new content, they have a Rules Glossary which
includes game terms that have new or revised meaning in this playtest document, as well as terms, such as Creature Type, that aren’t defined in the 2014 Player’s Handbook. The terms are organized alphabetically.
Looking at the second playtest packet, it’s now clear they are trying various changes to rules to see how we react, and then tweaking in subsequent playtests. They call this out at the start of the second document:
If you do combine this article with the previous one, use only the rules glossary found here. In the One D&D Unearthed Arcana series, the rules glossary of each article supersedes the glossary of any previous article.
If a term doesn’t appear here, use its definition in the 2014 Player’s Handbook, and when playtesting this document, do not use the rules glossary of any other Unearthed Arcana article.
Some of the rules changes were introduced in the first playtest and some were added in the second. I’ll indicate which is which with (PT1) for rules introduced in the first playtest, (PT2) for rules introduced in the second playtest, and (PT1/PT2) for rules introduced in the first playtest and modified in the second.
(PT1/PT2) The d20 Test was introduced in the first playtest and modified in the second. In the first playtest they proposed the common house rule of automatic success and automatic failure on all d20 tests:
The term d20 Test encompasses the three main d20 rolls of the game: ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws. If something in the game affects d20 Tests, it affects all three of those rolls.
ROLLING A 1
If you roll a 1 on the d20, the d20 Test automatically fails, regardless of any modifiers to the roll.
ROLLING A 20
If you roll a 20 on the d20, the d20 Test automatically succeeds, regardless of any modifiers to the roll. A player character also gains Inspiration when rolling the 20, thanks to the remarkable success.
Rolling a 20 doesn’t bypass limitations on the test, such as range and line of sight. The 20 bypasses only bonuses and penalties to the roll.
This seems extremely dangerous to me, and I said so in my feedback. It encourages the anti-pattern of a 20 giving magical powers – see my post Skills Aren’t Magic for my thoughts on that.
In the second playtest, I am pleased to see they have reverted this:
The term d20 Test encompasses the three main d20 rolls of the game: Ability Checks, Attack Rolls, and Saving Throws. If something in the game affects d20 Tests, it affects all three of these rolls.
Whenever a player character rolls a 1 for a d20 Test, that character gains Heroic Inspiration.
The DM determines whether a d20 Test is warranted in any given circumstance.
The Attack Roll is one of three types of d20 Tests. This Unearthed Arcana article uses the rules for attack rolls and critical hits found in the 2014 Player’s Handbook.
So it looks like they thought it worth testing the water with this house rule, and now they are either reverting it while they look at the feedback (still trying inspiration, but this time on a 1 instead of a 20), or they took the feedback on board and have reverted it. We’ll need to see what happens with this in subsequent play tests.
(PT2) Ability Checks calls out that (unless the DM decides otherwise) an Ability Check requires an action. It also gives an example of “Strength Check (Acrobatics or Athletics)”, making it explicit that some cases might have multiple proficiencies appropriate. I’ve done this in the past, but I’ve always felt a bit unsure about it; it’s good to have it explicit. The other thing I notice is the explicit comment “it is rarely worth calling for an Ability Check if the DC is as low as 5, unless the failure is narratively interesting.” Nice! Just adjudicate and move on if it’s obviously going to work or fail.
(PT1/PT2) Armour Training (added to the glossary in PT2, but referenced in PT1) is the new name for Armour Proficiency. A syntactic change but it does make it clear that it is a different beast to the other proficiencies since it doesn’t have anything to do with your proficiency bonus. You still have disadvantage on Attacks, Saving Throws and Ability Checks if you wear armour you lack training with (it takes advantage of the new generic term “d20 test”), but it also now adds that you don’t get any benefit from a shield if you don’t have Training with it.
(PT2) Blindsight sees anything not behind Total Cover, now explicitly including anything Hidden or Invisible.
(PT1) Creature Type is a list of creature types which other rules can cross-reference – see Action – Study below for an example.
(PT2) Expertise. This is a codification of the former Rogue “double proficiency” which, as the earlier parts of this playtest show, have now been used elsewhere.
(PT1/PT2) Heroic Inspiration is mainly a renaming of Inspiration, although it repeats the fact you gain it when you roll a natural 1 on a d20 check (in PT1 it was if you rolled a natural 20).
(PT1) Tools: Artisan’s Tools, Gaming Set, Musical Instrument these are specifically called out tool types, and each one has the price updated so all tools within a category are the same price (15gp, 1gp and 20gp respectively).
(PT1) Tool Proficiency now explicitly stacks with Skill proficiency, so if you have both a Tool Proficiency and Proficiency in the Skill you get Advantage.
(PT2) Movement. As noted below under Attack, you can move between attacks if you have more than one. You can now only use one type of movement per Move, although if you have some action splitting your Moves, each Move can be different. It makes it clear that a speed of zero (e.g. from Grappling) affects all your movement types.
(PT2) Difficult Terrain now lists a longer set of terrains, including ice, liquid between shin and waist deep (deeper requires swimming), a narrow opening, a pit or other small gap of 2-5’, and slopes of 20 degrees or more. Undergrowth needs to be heavy to count.
(PT2) A Climb Speed no longer talks about difficult climbing surfaces, but also mentions Spider Climb trait as being required to be able to climb on the underside of horizontal surfaces.
(PT2) With a Fly Speed, you now fall if Incapacitated or Restrained (unless you can Hover). There is now no mention of being knocked Prone making you fall – is this deliberate or an oversight? I can see that maybe “prone” doesn’t really make much sense while flying.
At first I also thought that having your speed reduced to 0 was also omitted as a cause of falling, but I see the wording is “while you have a Fly Speed” so presumably your Fly Speed being reduced to 0 means you no longer have a Fly Speed and hence will fall. However, I think it would be worth calling this out explicitly.
(PT2) Light [Weapon Property] is explicitly called a weapon property. As before you can make a second attack if you are using two light weapons in different hands, but while you no longer get a bonus from your attack modifier on the second weapon, it appears you also no longer get a penalty, which feels like it must be an oversight!
(PT1/PT2) On a Long Rest in PT1, if the Long Rest is interrupted but was at least 1 hour, you gain the benefit of a Short Rest instead. On the other hand, you must have at least 1 hit point at the start of the rest to gain any benefit.
In PT2, the character now regains all spent Hit Dice instead of half, and restores lost Hit Point maximum and any reduced ability scores. As I have said, I already find the Long Rest rules too superpowered – how can a sleep be enough to completely restore you? This is heading even further in the wrong direction for me.
(PT2) A shortsword has been made into a simple weapon instead of martial. This seems like a very natural correction.
(PT2) Teleportation has become called out specifically. It explicitly doesn’t expend movement unless stated otherwise, and never provokes Opportunity Attacks. All the equipment you are wearing and carrying teleports with you, but not a creature you are touching unless the effect explicitly says so. You can’t teleport to a space occupied by a creature or blocked by a solid obstacle.
(PT1) Tremorsense was added for the dwarves in playtest 1, and allows the pinpointing of the location of creatures and moving objects where both the creature and the thing it’s detecting are in contact with the same surface or liquid. Note that, while it can always detect creatures, objects have to be moving.
There are various actions listed here, with some changes. This is an interesting change, extending the action to explicitly cover the different types of knowledge-style Ability Check.
(PT2) Action – Attack. This is now explicitly “with a Weapon or an Unarmed Strike”. If you have Extra Attacks, you can now equip or unequip a weapon as part of any attack (so you can change weapons between attacks if you have an Extra Attack), and use some of your movement between attacks as well as before and after.
(PT2) Action – Dash. This is just reworded as “a bonus Move”, which makes it nicely more succinct.
(PT2) Action – Help. This makes clear that you have to have proficiency and be near enough in order to assist an ability check. Common sense, but not included in the PHB. It is also reworded to call out the two different types of Help: Assist Ability Check (the one everyone remembers) and Assist Attack Roll (which I had missed – checking back, it is there in the PHB, but the new wording makes it more obvious.
(PT2) Action – Hide. The Stealth Check is now explicitly DC15, and requires both being either Heavily Obscured or behind at least Three-Quarters Cover and being out of any visible enemy’s line of sight. It now grants you the new Hidden Condition (see below). The check’s total is still the DC for a Perception check to find you again.
(PT2) Action – Influence. This is interesting. This pulls together several strands – the creature’s attitude (Friendly, Indifferent or Hostile), the interaction you make, and the Ability Check. It also pulls together all the Charisma Checks – Animal Handling, Deception, Intimidation and Persuasion – under this one umbrella. It’s really a conversion of the Resolving Interactions section of the DMG (pp244-245), but by making it an action, I think it will encourages players to call it and leave the decision of the particular Ability Check to the DM. Nice! Changes from the DMG: it no longer lists the DC0 response (which again encourages not rolling if the answer is obvious), and it adds Animal Handling, although specifically for Beasts and Monstrosities.
(PT2) Action – Jump. This now requires a DC10 Strength (Acrobatics or Athletics) check to jump more than 5’, with Disadvantage if you don’t take a 10’ run-up. The check’s total determines how far you can clear horizontally (half that vertically) rather than your Strength score. A jump is now explicitly an Action and doesn’t use your movement, but you can’t jump more than your speed. There is now nothing about jumping over obstacles or needing a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to land in difficult terrain.
(PT2) Action – Magic. This pulls together casting spells and using a magic item. Otherwise it is as under Casting A Spell in the PHB (skipping the Bonus Action/Reaction sections), including the requirement to continue to take the Magic action and maintain concentration throughout for longer casting durations.
(PT2) Action – Search. This pulls together the different types of Wisdom check where you are trying to discern something which isn’t obvious into an Action – Insight for a state of mind, Medicine for an ailment, Perception for something concealed or Survival for tracks or food.
(PT2) Action – Study. This pulls together the different types of Intelligence check, and gives useful checklists for when to use which check:
- Arcana for spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, planes of existence, and Aberrations, Constructs, Elementals, Fey and Monstrosities
- History for history events and people, ancient civilisations, wars, and Giants and Humanoids
- Investigation for traps, ciphers, riddles and gadgetry
- Nature for terrain, flora, weather, and Beats, Dragons, Oozes and Plants
- Religion for deities, religious hierarchies and rites, holy symbols, cults, and Celestials, Fiends and Undead
Useful! I always struggle to know which of these checks is the most appropriate.
(PT1) Unarmed Strike is a type of Attack, and now encompasses the three options of inflicting damage, grappling or shoving.
Here are the Conditions listed in this playtest.
(PT2) Condition – Exhausted. The new name for Exhaustion, and it’s quite significantly changed. It’s still cumulative, but you can now have up to 10 levels before death, and the only effect is that your exhaustion level is subtracted from your d20 tests and Spell Save DCs of spells you cast. There are no
(PT2) Condition – Hidden. This is new, although in some ways it is a codification of things which were implicit before. It explicitly calls out that you can’t be affected by anything which requires its target to be seen. Attacks against you have Disadvantage, and your attack rolls have Advantage. It also updates Surprise – see below. A whisper is explicitly not enough to stop you being hidden, but no longer being behind cover always is (this is a change from the PHB, which allows extenuating circumstances if the creature is distracted), as is an Attack Roll or casting a spell with a verbal component, and as soon as one creature “finds” you, you appear to no longer be hidden for anyone – this last one doesn’t make sense to me.
(PT2) Condition – Invisible. Like Hidden, this explicitly calls out that you can’t be affected by anything which requires its target to be seen. It also now makes it explicit equipment you are wearing or carrying is also invisible. As before, attacks against you have Disadvantage, and your attack rolls have Advantage. It also updates Surprise in the same way as Hidden – see below. Since the mechanical effects are identical to being Hidden, there is no longer any comment about “being able to Hide”.
(PT1) Condition – Grappled imposes Disadvantage on attacks against any target except the grappler, and adds that the grappler can carry or drag you but becomes slowed unless you are two or more sizes smaller. It also lists how to escape as part of the condition.
(PT1) Condition – Incapacitated. This has been extended. In the PHB it just prevents you taking Actions or Reactions. The fact that your Concentration is broken is listed under the condition, which is handy, although not actually a change. What is a change is that you now can’t speak, and you have Disadvantage on an Initiative roll (i.e. you are automatically Surprised). Since many things which would make you Incapacitated happen during combat, this is probably less of a change than it feels, but it’s a bit odd that it would affect your whole combat even if you lose the condition.
(PT2) Surprise is now part of Hidden, Invisible and Incapacitated. It gives you Advantage on the Initiative roll rather than preventing a Surprised creature from acting. Implicit in this is that you either have Surprise or you don’t – you can’t surprise some opponents while others aren’t surprised. In some ways I like the effect – it isn’t quite as much of an imposition, but it really doesn’t make sense to me that it’s all-or-nothing.
(PT1) Condition – Slowed. This is a half-strength Incapacitation. Movement costs an extra foot per foot, Attacks against you have Advantage and you have Disadvantage on Dexterity Saving Throws. This is a good half-way house that doesn’t take the player completely out of the game while still imposing a penalty.
(PT2) Ritual Casting no longer needs a special feature.
There are some modified spells listed:
(PT2) Barkskin is now a Bonus Action, and rather than improving AC, it gives the target a pool of temporary hit points at the start of each turn. It can also be cast at a higher level, targeting an additional creature for each spell slot above second.
(PT2) Guidance is now cast as a Reaction when a character within 30’ fails an Ability Check, rather than being a buff that a character can take and use when they choose (within 1 minute). On the plus side, it no longer takes concentration. On the minus side – well, see this Hipsters and Dragons post. It’s like Bardic Inspiration – if these effects now are reactions in response to known failure, it’s revising history. In some ways I like that it’s a reaction, but my inclination would be you have to call your reaction before you know whether it actually succeeded or failed.
(PT1/PT2) Spells are now classified as Arcane Spells (for Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards), Divine Spells (for Clerics and Paladins), and Primal Spells (for Druids and Rangers). Playtest 1 gives a partial list including Cantrips and level 1 spells; playtest 2 extends this to level 9, lists the spell school (changing a few), and indicates whether a spell can be cast as a ritual. Note some spells are in multiple lists, like Light.
It’s interesting that they’re explicitly making more things Actions – all the Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma Skill Checks in particular. I can’t make up my mind whether this is good or not. I can see that it might help if players say “I try to Influence XXX” rather than “I try to persuade” but they still need to say how they’re trying to do the influence so it probably ends up being the same. It seems they’re making the whole interaction guidelines explicit for the players now rather than leaving it as DM’s special knowledge. Are they trying to make us redundant? Is this to support their online environment?
I really like the lists of what the different “Study” Skills checks cover – that will be really useful, though I find it a bit strange that creature types specifically fall into one or the other.
I’m glad they’ve pulled back from the Critical Success on Skills Checks. As I’ve said already that strikes me as just encouraging bad player behaviour. Skills aren’t magic, so there shouldn’t be any suggestion they can automatically succeed.
The introduction of Slowed as a half-way house to Incapacitated is a very good introduction.
Like Duncan (Hipsters and Dragons) I’m not convinced by the new changes which make buffs a Reaction applied by the caster when something fails. I do like them being a reaction, but I would be inclined to rule they have to react after the roll, but before they know whether it succeeds or fails.
Being able to get the benefit of a Short Rest if you got at least an hour of a failed Long Rest makes sense. But otherwise, long rests are already overpowered, and the changes in playtest 2 just make them even more so.
I really don’t like the way surprise is now something a creature/character has or doesn’t have, or that a creature is either Hidden for everything or nothing. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Both of those reflect the relationship between two creatures, so it should be perfectly possible to be hidden from one creature but not from another. Also, the original way where the creature is surprised (and their more alert compatriots might not be) makes much more sense to me. I can see what they’re trying to do – make it have less impact, and I can see that rolling it into Initiative would be less of an impact while still having some effect, but it just feels completely wrong to me, forced by the mechanism they’re trying to use. Maybe it would be better to give a surprised creature an initiative penalty (maybe -10), but I think it should be on the first round only.
The Exhaustion changes seem a mixed bag to me. I can see that Exhaustion in the PHB gets pretty harsh pretty quickly, and I have hesitated to impose Exhaustion because of this, so having more levels, finer-grained, would be useful. However, I now feel the penalties aren’t harsh enough. One level of exhaustion just makes d20 checks 1 point tougher (although it does apply to attack rolls and saving throws as well from level 1), and exhaustion never impacts speed. Also, the previous level 4 impact of the hit point maximum being cut in half nicely encapsulates not being able to survive as much combat, and I’d like to see something which replicates this.
They tweaked things between playtest 1 and playtest 2. Let’s see what changes in playtest 3.