Dungeons & Dragons finally has an official virtual tabletop in the works, which will allow players to run sessions of the RPG online in a digital playspace.
One D&D, the evolution of the 5th edition, will see the release of new versions of the game’s core books in 2024 to mark both the 10th anniversary of the 5th edition and the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. One D&D has released an official trailer.
The virtual tabletop is called D&D Digital and it was announced on August 18th, 2022 as part of the Wizards Presents stream.
The software provides practical tools to help with play, including in-software dice rolls, health bars and moving characters using a ruler to measure distance. There’s also a tilt-shift effect on the in-software camera to make it all look suitably like a model world you’re tinkering with.
“We have deconstructed the game’s rules, examined them through the lens of the playtest feedback we’ve received on D&D over the last decade, and looked for ways that we can enhance fun by bringing in new options and brand new pieces of content that the game hasn’t had before,” D&D game design architect Jeremy Crawford said. “We’re reconstructing it with all those elements in place, ensuring that it still feels like the game we’ve been loving and playing since 2014, but it also feels ready for the next ten years.”
The D&D digital play experience is being developed in Unreal Engine 5. Among other reasons, this was chosen as the engine to help “make it look dope,” according to designer Kale Stutzman in a video about One D&D, which is what Wizards is calling “the next generation of Dungeons & Dragons.”
The virtual playspaces are meant to look like sets for miniatures, not like natural spaces. The currently untitled platform referred to as a “D&D digital play experience” looks to be a rival to the likes of Roll20 and other virtual tabletops that aim to translate the feeling of playing in person to an online app.
“The tilt-shift camera was really chosen so that people understood that this wasn’t a videogame, but it is a digital experience,” said Wizards.
This isn’t the first time Wizards of the Coast has attempted an online service, subscription, and digital toolset for D&D. The ill-fated D&D Insider, tools that used Microsoft Silverlight, and D&D Virtual Table were developed during the 4th Edition era, but after four years of teasers, Virtual Table was canceled before public release. That was partly due to low subscription numbers, but the number of active D&D players has grown by orders of magnitude in the 5th Edition era and shows no signs of stopping.
Players will be able to create and customize miniatures by changing their features and “robust tools” for building custom levels are also planned. Wizards itself will release pre-built environments and campaigns in the form of playsets, from which players will be able to take apart and reuse parts such as terrain and NPCs in their creations. These tools will be designed to be easy to pick up and use, Wizards said, intending to “take care of the lazy DM”.
The first playtest is available now. Nothing in the playtest will be considered final, and Wizards will use surveys to solicit player feedback on the changes. Dicemakers did a deep dive video on it, pretty much outlining everything you need to know.