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The D&D 2024 Player's Handbook makes a lot of changes but is still backwards-compatible with 5th Edition

by: Randy -
More On: Dungeons & Dragons

The Dungeons & Dragons 2024 Player's Handbook has been "rebuilt from the ground up," according to Jeremy Crawford, core rulebook designer of D&D 4th Edition, D&D 5th Edition, and now the 2024 don't-call-it-5.5e 5th Edition. This guy has been working in the tabletop role-playing game industry for almost 20 years. I want to believe him when he says, The 2024 Player's Handbook is backwards-compatible with the (2014) 5e Player's Handbook. If these core rulebooks operate, more or less, like supplemental sourcebooks such as Xanathar's Guide to Everything or Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, where you can cherry-pick what you weave into your game and leave out what you don't, then...

Perhaps. But the savvy customer in me knows that publisher Wizards of the Coast wouldn't spend this much money on printing three spankin' new core rulebooks without making it worth my while. 

In other words, you don't just slap on a new coat of paint and jam some fresh artwork into a 385-page sourcebook and expect it'll sell enough copies to keep your Hasbro overlords happy. No, you make revisions, smooth out wrinkles, give players more of what they want, and give dungeon masters running the game more of what they want, too. 

More specifically, you add new subclasses for players, like Path of the World Tree Barbarians, College of Dance Bards, and Circle of the Sea Druids. You'll rework the Way of the Four Elements Monk so much you'll have to now call it the Warrior of the Elements Monk. You'll update the Wild Magic Sorcery Sorcerer's Wild Magic Surge table and, dare I say, make it more "reliable."

You'll revise backgrounds, species (formerly races), and feats. Ability score adjustments are tied to your background instead of your species. Each background comes with an Origin Feat, which is typically only provided during character creation. Sorry, players that take one-level dip into a different class just to game the 1st-level benefits. That's in conjunction with all subclass choices moving to 3rd level, if they weren't there before, to further discourage folks taking a 1st level multiclass dip for all the overpowered bennies of doing so. One of my players is real mad right now at the thought. (Hi, Sean.)

Weapon Mastery is a new thing that allows martial classes—good ol' Fighters especially—to bring more pain. Not to be left out, spellcasters have 100 pages of spells to flip through; nearly 400 of them. If that doesn't indicate how powerful and important magic is to Dungeons & Dragons, then I don't know what does.

My biggest draw is all the new artwork. While you don't judge a book by its cover, doing so certainly drew me into the hobby back in the '80s. I may get tired of my players casting Silvery Barbs to rob me of my natural 20s. I may get tired of monks that throw 30 punches during their turn with Flurry of Blows. I may even get tired of drawing out a 20-foot-radius fireball at the start of every single battle. But I never ever get tired of perusing D&D's artwork. Cover to cover, top to bottom, it's the one thing in D&D—besides playing D&D itself—that I can't get enough of.

The 2024 Player's Handbook is out September 17. Here's a video of designers Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins practically giddy with excitement going over 40 minutes' worth of detailed breakdown. Whether it's all "backwards compatible" remains to be seen. The proof will be in the gelatinous cube.