It’s easy to argue that Dungeons & Dragons had one of its best years in 2018 since the 1980s. The livestream boom has helped more people try out the game than every before. Third party studios are chugging along making lots of cool things to fill in the gaps. The main line published four hardcover books plus a few other things like accessories and electronic books for its most ambitious year yet. The team in charge of Fifth Edition have hinted that this year will be just as ambitious with three to four books coming to shelves.
We gazed long and hard at the D&D gift set we received for Christmas as our spell focus to see what the future holds for our favorite fantasy game this year. This article combines what we’ve seen hidden in official announcements, what we feel in our fannish hearts, and what we will probably laugh about when we look at this article at the end of this year and see just how wrong we were.
Somebody’s Guide to Something
Each year there’s a magazine-style release that offers a little bit of everything for everyone at the table. Players usually get new options and spells. Dungeon Masters usually get new monsters and rules that expand on the ideas in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Each supplement also seems to tilt about 70/30 towards one side of the table. Last year’s Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes tilted more toward the DM, so it makes sense that this year might bring a book more akin to Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Unearthed Arcana has been working on some new playable classes for a while now, and the debut of the “improved” ranger and the psionicist/mystic are good bets to happen in this year’s book. The book could also expand on spells and magic items for players with crafting rules and magical foes to battle. If this book has this kind of content, Elminster might be the one penning a guide for 2019.
A Big Desert (of Desolation) Module
The past few years have seen D&D shy away from adventures set in the usual temperate climate and medieval European fiefdoms of yore. Tomb of Annihilation plays more like an Indiana Jones movie and while Waterdeep Dragon Heist is set in the beating heart of the Forgotten Realms, the urban adventure offers a chance of pace from the usual borderlands most D&D campaigns reside. Heading to the desert could offer some great changes of pace for the usual adventure crew and there’s already a great collection of adventures that could inspire the development team. The Desert of Desolation series, comprised of Pharoah, Oasis of the White Palm and Lost Tomb of Martek could easily be reimagined like Tomb of Horrors and Tomb of Elemental Evil were for previous campaign books.
A Campaign of the Planes
Now that Fifth Edition is approaching its fifth anniversary, there’s more incentive for support in higher level play. Planeswalking has shown up in the past few releases and is a central theme of last year’s crossover Magic: The Gathering book Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. The developers could probably get away with releasing an updated Manual of The Planes but they seem fairly shy about releasing straight setting material on its own. Better to put out a campaign where high-level characters travel through the planes looking for something or someone, with a small gazetteer of material in the front of the book to get tables new to the idea off on the right foot.
Most official Fifth Edition material has stayed focused on the Forgotten Realms. The Realms are the most popular D&D world and also the easiest for homebrewed worlds to convert for maximum usefulness. The developers have teased Spelljammer for a few years now by including stuff from it in other recent books and offering up ship rules in a recent Unearthed Arcana. Spelljammer fits well with the idea of planar travel and also that ultimate utility to players who might want to visit the Realms from their own homeworld or sample all the different worlds that D&D has to offer. Spelljammer also offers high fantasy and weirdness that have endeared it to many fans over the years who might be looking for a change of pace from typical D&D.
(Although, now that I think of it, psionics and a desert adventure could also be a good set up for the return of Dark Sun. And the development team recently hinted that the first book will have a nautical theme but not be Spelljammer. I can’t believe I wasted a spell slot on this…)
What official D&D books do you want to see this year? Let us know in the comments!
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Images Credits: Wizards of the Coast
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs with the Theatre of the Mind Players here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.