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Dungeons & Dragons 2024 will cram its books full of art, fantasy shopping and the Blob of Annihilation

The core rulebook trio will be the biggest in the tabletop RPG’s history thanks to a maximalist approach.

D&D Players Handbook splash page promotional image from PAX Unplugged 2023
Image credit: Nestor Ossandón/Wizards of the Coast

Four stewards of Dungeons & Dragons recently held a Pax Unplugged panel to discuss the future of the ultra-popular tabletop RPG, specifically discussing the triumvirate of core rulebooks that will shepherd players into the 2024 era. Bigger, better and meaner, these books sound as though they take a maximalist approach to table-side player aides.

Chris Perkins and Jeremy Crawford, trusted faces of the D&D project, joined senior designers Amanda Hammon and James Wyatt on December 1st to host a panel that spent a good chunk of its time discussing the exemplar supplements from the tabletop RPG’s past. D&D is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024, which meant the panellists left plenty of time to dive into its future - namely, what players can expect from the newest Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual.

The audience was constantly assured that next year’s core rulebooks will be the biggest core releases D&D has ever seen, stuffed with more original art and gameplay material. The designers were obviously present as salespeople as much as creative experts, but there are only so many times one can hear “mountains of brand new art” or ballooning page count before wondering if Wizards of the Coast pays all their staff by the word.

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Perkins and Crawford effusively praised how the team laid out the twelve player classes in the new Players Handbook, with each section beginning with new, full-page artwork. The fighter class art portrayed a battle-hardened dwarf, sword and shield in hands, leaping over a barricade in the midst of a pitched skirmish. Each class will contain four subclasses - for a record-setting total of 48, Perkins insisted - that will be graced with their own, albeit smaller, illustrations.

Reworked character backgrounds will also benefit from Wizards of the Coast’s investment in the art budget. These options, chosen when creating a character, will now bestow a special mechanical feat reflecting their time before answering the call to adventure. The team also hopes a stronger visual representation will allow players to feel as though their characters have a distinct and real home, somewhere out there. “What we want you to be able to do is imagine that this is where your character came from, or a place like it,” Crawford said.

D&D’s art bonanza extends to mundane equipment and magical items, all of which will have their own bespoke illustrations in the Players Handbook, according to Crawford and Perkins. These sections should feel like “a fantasy catalogue”, flipping through a department store holiday buy guide except that it's all sharp sticks and cursed amulets instead of chocolate truffles and pyjama sets.

Image credit: Lie Setiawan/Wizards of the Coast

Perkins mentioned that the design teams are currently building the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual, owing to the lack of new information relative to the Players Handbook. That said, he did admit that players “have struggled with the 2014 DMG as far as its usability at the table, so we are taking strides to make it a much more useful and accessible resource and reference book - for new DMs and experienced DMs, alike.”

This fully reorganised book will contain one complete campaign setting and several adventures of various links, according to Wyatt. The team said their goal is to create a book that dungeon masters actively want to use at the table, and not just as reference material between sessions.

Monster Manual fans should prepare themselves for a glut of new information. 2024’s almanac of threats will stuff 500 separate entries between its covers, including more high Challenge Rating monsters for players nearing max level. Two of those include the Arch-Hag and a CR20 ooze creature called the Blob of Annihilation. We don’t know much more than that, but the name alone conjures both fear and hilarity on par with the notorious Gelatinous Ooze.

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All of D&D’s monsters have been “tuned up” in some way, says Wyatt, as the team ensured that each creature brings something distinctive to encounters. Perhaps they’re not a world-ending threat - they might not even survive the first fireball or axe cleave - but they should nonetheless create memorable fights. Parties encountering high-CR monsters will discover they boast a beefier HP pool and can dish out more damage, as D&D’s designers want their nightmare-level threats to feel “more effective at the CRs”, according to Crawford.

Wizards of the Coast hasn’t officially announced a release date for D&D 2024, at least not on purpose. A series of images posted to social media - and then summarily deleted - slotted the three new core books for a May 21st release date, which will kick off a year of new products that include a Vecna-focused campaign adventure and an annotated historical delve into the tabletop RPG’s origins.

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