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Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition is an edition of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game rules first published by Wizards of the Coast in 2014. As of 2020, it is the most recent edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules. It succeeded Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-2013), and was preceded by a D&D 5e open playtest known as D&D Next (2012-2014).

D&D 5e was highly successful after release, with sales growing year-on-year. By the end of 2019, it was the most popular roleplaying game played on virtual tabletop system Roll20.[1][2]

Features

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Development

Main article: Development of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition

D&D 5th edition's predecessor, Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, had initially been met with optimism, with high pre-orders at its release in 2008. Over time, 4th edition came under criticism for diverging from traditional D&D lore and gameplay mechanics, slow combat, reliance on miniatures and digital tools, and a perceived dumbing down of the game to appeal to videogamers.

Following departure of several of the edition's lead staff from Wizards of the Coast, Mike Mearls was given the role of Group Manager for D&D 5th edition. On February 15, 2011, he posted the first article in a web column called Legends & Lore, analyzing seeking feedback to resolve the rift which some felt had grown between Wizards of the Coast and its players. In mid-2011, Mearls distributed a thesis statement to the R&D team on design principles for a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which would go on to be known as D&D Next and then Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

Core goals behind the design of D&D 5th edition included reunifying the D&D playerbase, which had become divided between various editions and spinoffs of the D&D rules; making the game more accessible to smaller groups as well as new and casual players; to incorporate traditional D&D concepts and focus on the strengths of the tabletop format; and to support a variety of play styles.[3]

In September 2011, it was announced that Monte Cook, one of three lead designers on the earlier D&D 3rd edition, had joined Wizards of the Coast as a contractor on D&D Next. Cook envisioned a modular D&D system where complexity and edition-specific features like feats would be optional systems, allowing players of past editions a familiar experience. This would influence the final release, although Cook's departure in April 2012 would be taken by some traditionalists as a bad omen.[4]

After a period of internal playtesting, a public playtest of the D&D Next rules began on May 24, 2012. The design team used a two-week "scrum" cycle to rapidly iterate based on player feedback. The initial development team consisted of Bruce Cordell, Rob Schwalb, Jeremy Crawford, Rodney Thompson, Miranda Horner, and Tom LaPille, with Mike Mearls as D&D R&D Manager. Playtesting and feedback continued through to the release of the core rulebooks in 2014, and ultimately involved around 175,000 players.

Announcement and release

Early speculation

On February 28, 2011, blogger Newbie DM speculated that Wizards of the Coast was already planning a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons for release in 2014. His basis included a slow in D&D 4th edition print products, the cancellation of the D&D Miniatures product line, the establishment of Mike Mearls as D&D brand manager, reports of Wizards of the Coast staff playing classic AD&D, and the fortituous timing of D&D's upcoming 40th anniversary.[5]

Rumors spread that the new edition would be announced in August at Gen Con 2011, though ultimately no announcement was made. The decision by Wizards of the Coast to hire D&D third edition core rulebook author Monte Cook, announced in September 2011, likewise lent weight to the idea that a new edition of the game was on the way.[6][7]

Official announcement

A new edition of Dungeons & Dragons was officially announced to the public on Jan 9, 2012. In an article titled Charting the Course for D&D, lead designer Mike Mearls revealed that a limited internal playtest on the new rules had already begun, with open playtests on the new edition scheduled to start in Spring 2012. Mearls described a vision of working closely with the wider D&D community, and an intent to use this new edition to draw disparate players from all eras of D&D together.[8]

The announcement came at a low point for D&D 4th edition, where Paizo Publishing's rival Pathfinder RPG had been the number one selling RPG for two quarters.[6]

Release

See also: Category:D&D 5th edition publications, List of Dungeons & Dragons books

A small number of official products were released that included a version of the D&D Next rules, prior to the official release of D&D 5th edition. These included Murder in Baldur's Gate (2013) and Legacy of the Crystal Shard (2014).

A free set of entry-level D&D 5th edition Basic Rules was announced on May 27, 2014, and released on July 3, 2014. Initially, this contained rules for the four main character classes (fighter, wizard, cleric, and rogue) and and advancement to level 20. In August, they were updated to add monsters, magic items, and DMing rules, which were not yet complete in January when the Player's Handbook went to the printers.[9]

The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (5e) (2014) was released on July 15, 2014, featuring a 32-page rulebook, five pre-generated characters, and rules for playing those characters up to level 5.

The three core rulebooks were released later that year, with the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014) on August 19; Monster Manual (5e) (2014) on September 30; and Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014) on December 9.

The first official release for D&D 5th edition was the Starter Set (5e) (2014), followed by the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition core rulebooks: Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), Monster Manual (5e) (2014), and Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014).

Supplementary sourcebooks for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition were released at a less rapid pace than had been the norm for most of the game's history. Major releases have included adventure modules, primarily set in the Forgotten Realms; and later campaign setting sourcebooks, including for Eberron, Magic: The Gathering, Ravnica, Theranos, and Exandria from the Critical Role web series. Most sourcebooks are full-color hardback releases, although a number of digital-only releases have been made, primarily through the Dungeon Masters Guild.

Dragon Magazine was revived as a digital publication, Dragon+, in 2015.

Reception and influence

Uptake and growth

D&D 5th edition was a major success at launch, and continued to grow year-on-year thereafter.

In Q4 2014, D&D 5th edition accounted for 20.06% of all campaigns played on virtual tabletop Roll20, the second most popular after Paizo's Pathfinder RPG (23.86%), but beating all earlier editions of D&D including D&D 3.5 (15.81%) and D&D 4e (8.32%).[10] D&D 5e's share continued to grow, increasing to 31.39% in Q4 2015, 47.54% in Q4 2019, and 52.90% in Q4 2020.[11][2][12]

Awards

The initial releases of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition won several 2015 ENNie Awards. The Player's Handbook (5e) (2014) won Gold for Product of the Year, Best Game, and Best Rules, and a Silver for Writing. The Monster Manual (5e) (2014) won Gold for Best Interior Art and best Monster/Adversary. The Basic Rules won Gold for Best Electronic Book and Free Product. Wizards of the Coast won Fan's Choice for Best Publisher.

At the 2015 Origins Awards, the Player's Handbook won Best Role Playing Game and Fan Favorite for Best Role Playing Game, while the Monster Manual won Best Role Playing Supplement and Fan Favorite for Best Role Playing Game.

At the 2014 Golden Geek Awards, chosen by users of the BoardGameGeek, RPGGeek, and VideoGameGeek websites, Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition won Game of the Year, while the Player's Handbook won Best Artwork and Presentation.

Praise

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Criticism

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See also

References

  1. 2019 was the biggest year for Dungeons & Dragons in the RPG's almost 50-year history, says Wizards of the Coast. Dicebreaker, Apr 23, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Orr Group Industry Report: Q4 2019
  3. D&D Next Design Considerations. Mike Mearls, Legends and Lore, Wizards.com. Apr 9, 2012.
  4. Uniting the Editions, Part 2. Monte Cook, Wizards.com, Feb 6, 2012.
  5. Where's D&D Going? Newbie DM, Feb 28, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 5th Edition D&D Is in Development -- Should We Care? Wired, Jan 9, 2012.
  7. DM Rules and Exciting News. Sept 20, 2011. Mike Mearls, Legends and Lore, Wizards.com.
  8. Charting the Course for D&D. Jan 9, 2012. Mike Mearls, Legends and Lore, Wizards.com.
  9. [1]. May 27, 2014. Mike Mearls, Legends & Lore, Wizards.com.
  10. The Orr Group Industry Report, Q4 2014
  11. The Orr Group Industry Report: Q4 2015
  12. The Orr Group Industry Report: Q4 2020
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