2021’s “The Future of DnD” Panel

If you followed D&D Celebration 2021, the absolute final panel of the annual 3-day event was titled “The Future of DnD”. While we typically see some great announcements at both DnD Live and at DnD Celebration every year, there are some frankly startling announcements.

This post is going to be a combination of a panel review, an unofficial product schedule, and some wild speculation about the future.

The Panel

The panel includes some big names:

  • Elle Ossili-Wood (she/her) – Host. TV and radio presenter. I’m not familiar with her work, but she did a great job running the panel.
  • Chris Perkins (he/him) – Senior Story Designer. Often DMs the Acquisition’s Incorporated games at PAX.
  • Jeremy Crawford (he/him) – D&D’s Lead Rules Designer. His twitter feed appears frequently in my DnD content and lives rent-free in my brain.
  • Liz Schuh (she/her) – Head of Publishing and Licensing for D&D.
  • Ray Winninger (he/him) – Head of Dungeons and Dragons. I am envious of that job title.

The Panel

It’s less than 40 minutes, but it’s dense with information so I’ll break it down below.

Highlights (in chronological order)

  • 3 classic settings have been in the works for a while and were teased in 2020
    • Ravenloft already released
    • The other two are set for release in 2022 in “formats we’ve never published products in before”
  • Minor appearance from another classic DnD setting in 2022
  • Yet another classic setting returning in 2023
  • More adventure anthologies coming (in the vein of Candlekeep Mysteries)
  • WotC still listening to feedback. Big focus on accessibility and on bringing in new players and addressing pain points highlighted by the players
  • The Wild Beyond the Witchlight includes tools to make the adventure more accessible for DMs (we talked about it on the RPGBOT.Podcast) and WotC is looking at new ideas to make content more accessible
  • Blog post coming soon to details (https://dnd.wizards.com/)
  • 50th anniversary of DnD is approaching
  • “Next Evolution of DnD” coming 2024 to celebrate 50th anniversary
    • Work began this year
    • New versions of the core rulebooks
    • The feedback surveys over the past year+ were building feedback for this
    • There will be more surveys
    • More info to come next year
    • New version will be “completely compatible” with existing 5e content
  • New things in the digital arena to be announced in 2022
  • Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse
    • Gift set in January 2022 with Xanathar’s, Tasha’s, Mordenkainen’s Presents Monsters of the Multiverse, and a new DM screen
    • Couldn’t get it out in time for holiday season 2021 due to COVID
    • “All of the expanded rules in once place”
    • New book contains contents from other source books, collected and updated
    • “We’ve rebalanced things”
    • Over 250 monsters
    • Over 30 playable races. “Every setting-agnostic playable race from outside the Player’s Handbook”
    • The theme is “the multiverse”; focus on collecting setting-agnostic content
  • Witchlight, Fizban’s, and Strixhaven all influenced by work on Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse
  • More Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse
    • Preview of pages from the book start at roughly 20:30
    • Lots of new art
    • Updated stat blocks for NPCs and Monsters
    • Stat blocks are reorganized
    • Many monsters/NPCs are rebalanced
    • Monsters are alphabetized rather than grouped by type (ex: demons are broken out of the “demons” section)
    • Monsters/PCs with spellcasting were changed:
      • No longer use a spellcasting trait with spells/spell slots like a PC
      • Now have a “spellcasting action”
      • Spellcasting monsters take too much work to prep and to run in combat
      • Spellcaster creatures no longer use spell slots
      • Rather than using actual spells, spellcaster creatures now have spell-like abilities which work like regular actions but still feel like spells
      • Big emphasis on making it easier to run the creature
      • It was really easy for spellcaster creatures to be less difficult than their CR would indicate if the DM didn’t pick the right spells to cast
  • What should we look forward to?
    • Chris Perkins exists in 2022 and beyond
    • More adventure anthologies
    • A classic setting returns in 2022 (conflicts with what Ray Winninger said at the beginning of the panel?)
    • 2 NEW settings coming. First time since Eberron in 2004
    • New settings are in development
  • More news next month about a new product coming 2022 “that goes into a place that we’ve never been before”
    • “Players are going to be terrified”
  • Boo the Hamster appears on alt cover for an upcoming unannounced product scheduled for 2022

The Product Schedule as We Know It

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons (affiliate link) – October 26, 2021

Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos (affiliate link) – November 16th, 2021

Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse (no amazon page yet, but ask your FLGS)

  • Gift Set January 2022
  • Released as a standalone book “later in the year” according to other sources

If the bit about being released as a standalone book after the gift set is true, I’m not thrilled. Hopefully that’s inaccurate, which it might be since I haven’t heard or read it on official channels. But other sites where I’m reading this are actual journalists so they probably have more information than me.

There’s supposedly going to be more information released next month.

New and Returning Settings

We got some conflicting information from Chris Perkins and Ray Winninger on the subject. We know that they’re going to come in formats which we haven’t seen before, but there’s no indication what that will mean yet. The release dates also aren’t announced, and WotC doesn’t announce things until they’re basically ready to print.

1 or 2 classic settings return in 2022

Wizards of the Coast inherited a lot of cool settings from TSR, and they frequently dive into TSR’s archives to mine for ideas. We haven’t seen many settings return yet, including Birthright, Dark Sun, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer.

Chris Perkins mentioned that there’s a big focus on “the multiverse” right now in order to consolidate setting-agnostic content to support people’s homebrew settings. Spelljammer might be a logical next step, but that’s wild speculation.

2 new settings in 2022

These will be the first new official settings since Eberron released in 2004. Eberron was so novel that it popularized the concept of “Dungeon Punk“. I have no idea what we’re going to get, but I hope that it’s equally novel.

Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse

We know that we’re getting “over 30” races collected and updated from sources outside of the Player’s Handbook, plus updates to published monsters and NPCs, including many monsters from the Monster Manual.

The updates to races are likely going to cause a big shakeup in the character optimization space. I’m still catch up on Tasha’s updates to races, so that’s a somewhat daunting prospect. My expectation is that races will get a treatment similar to the lineages in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and the new races in The Wild Beyond The Witchlight: Everything will get a choice of +2/+1 increases or three +1 increases. We’ll hopefully also see other balance changes, and maybe we’ll see a more official version of races like the Grung and the Locathah.

As far as I know, there won’t be any new races introduced in in the new book.

We’re going to need a good abbreviation for it, too. “Mordenkainen’s” won’t work since we’ve already had one (yes, but what about second Mordenkainen’s?). How about “Mordenkainen’s MoM”? No? Fine. MPMoM it is, then.

But it’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and acronym jokes. This was originally intended to ship before the 2021 holiday season so it could be a Christmas gift option, but it got delayed due to the general COVID-based state of the world.

It’s also being included in a 3-book boxed set with a new DM screen, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. That’s a pretty nice gift set, and the alternate art is honestly gorgeous. But for some reason, MPMoM is available “early as part of the Rules Expansion Gift Set, releasing January 25″.

I responded to that tweet asking why in the friendliest way I could think to ask. I try really not assume other people’s intentions without evidence. If the response was simply “We ordered both, COVID got in the way, and this is the best we could do” I would totally understand, and I think most of the community would too. We still don’t know how early “early” is, so it may not be a huge deal, and it’s entirely possible that we can get it on DnDBeyond the same day without buying the whole bundle, so there’s still hope that people won’t feel the urge to buy the box sets and re-sell the individual books just to get MPMoM early.

We haven’t gotten much information yet. I’m trying to figure things out, but I’d ask that you please not jump to conclusions and shout “cash grab” until we get some more information. The world is weird right now, international shipping is absolute insane, and we don’t have any explicit reason to believe that this was malicious rather than a simple breakdown in the supply chain (you know, like literally every other supply chain worldwide right now).

The Future of DnD – the “New Evolution”

This is where it might get a little scary. We know that the “new evolution” is going to include new core rulebooks. That likely means reworks of the core classes and races, and hopefully updates to pain points in the rules (I will take every opportunity to beat the dead horse that is mounted combat).

The update versions, scheduled for 2024 and the 50th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons, are intended to be fully compatible with existing 5e content. Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse is updating existing stuff to get it ready for the “new evolution”.

I’ve been playing long enough (barely) to remember the transition from 3.0 to 3.5. It was necessary. I remember a ton of things in 3rd edition that were just outright nightmares, and while 3.5 was absolutely not a perfect system, it was considerably better than 3.0. 3.0 released in 2000, and 3.5 released in 2003, and stayed the current edition for just 5 years before the release of 4e in 2008.

The “new evolution” comes in 2024, the year of both 5e’s 10th anniversary and DnD’s 50th anniversary. That means that 5e lasted fully 10 years without a major rules rework, which honestly is very impressive considering the game’s history (though AD&D 1e lasted 12 and 2e lasted 11).

But I don’t expect a huge shakeup like we got with 3.5 where most of the content was officially compatible but practically unusable. I’m optimistic that things really will remain backwards-compatible, and while the new content will hopefully be easier to use, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to mix and match as we see fit.

The catalog of content in 5e is very good, and DnD is more popular right now than it has ever been. WotC isn’t foolish enough to throw out such a successful product only to start fresh. A lot of their people have been around since before the transition to 4th edition, so they still have a working memory of those years. (Jeremy Crawford worked on several supplements late in 3.5 and to the best of my knowledge remained aboard through 4e.)

My advice: stay optimistic. Tasha’s took a hammer to the game as we knew it in a lot of ways, and I think the game is better for it. I’m hoping for similar results.

7 Comments

  1. craftyhr September 28, 2021
  2. Rawmeat September 28, 2021
  3. battlemusic September 29, 2021
  4. sw4ahl September 29, 2021
    • RPGBOT September 29, 2021
  5. Rawmeat October 1, 2021
  6. Jop October 6, 2021

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