When the original trailer for Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves arrived in July 2022, fans were pleasantly surprised at how light-hearted it looked, especially the sequence where one of the characters shapeshifted into a feathered white monstrosity called an owlbear to kick ass. However, lawyers for the rules complained, since fifth edition of D&D, as written, would never have allowed for that particular transformation. Now a new set of official playtest materials aims to reconfigure that continuity issue, and it’s doing it in the most player-focused way possible.
One D&D is the working name for the next version of Dungeons & Dragons, set to be released in 2024 for the game’s 50th anniversary. Over the past few months, the developers at Wizards of the Coast have been publicly testing new rules to see how they work. These test materials are called Unearthed Arcana, and a new set released on wednesday. Inside are the first playtest proposed changes to the Druid class, and it’s a massive redesign of existing systems.
Why is Wizards proposing this change to the druid class? The answer is simple, says lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford. The druid is currently the least played class in D&D, and Wizards is bound to do something about it. Recently, the designers delved into the 2014 text published in the Player’s Handbook and determined the mechanical failure of the druid. Since druids can use their iconic Wild Shape power to turn themselves into any beast with a challenge rating of one or less, that means their options stretch across many, many different books, including obscure titles like incorporated acquisitions.
Instead of sending druid wannabes to the library every time they want to cast Wild Shape, which Crawford calls an “iconic” part of the modern druid class, they’ve kept things simple. The new trial materials offer the druid three stat blocks to choose from: Land Animal, Sea Animal, and Sky Animal. Now, instead of taking on the stats of the animal they want to transform into, druids simply choose one of three stat blocks and use the defensive stats and offensive abilities listed. But, in this paradigm, it’s up to the druids to choose how they look.
So can you look like an owl bear, like the Sophia Lillis character? “Absolutely!” Crawford said in a YouTube video posted in conjunction with the release. Or, at least, in an owl/bear… thing:
Because we even put in this new version that his form can be a hybrid form that has characteristics of different animals, like an owl and a bear. ‘Cause we’ve seen through the years too […] there are druid players who want to shapeshift, but have one thing they want to shapeshift into. They want to be a bear, or they want to be a squirrel, and maybe once in a while something else, and they don’t want to feel like they have to pick a form because it happens to have an attractive stat block. Instead, you now have stat blocks tailored to you, as a druid, and you decide what the creature looks like.
Does your small creature, say an opossum or squirrel, have the same stat block as a big one? At the moment, yes… yes it does. But this is a playtest, gang, and if that drives you up the wall, we encourage you to leave some feedback up front. March 20when playtest opens for fan feedback.
Of course, longtime D&D fans may remember just how absurd this all is. Strange and unique creatures like the rusty monster and the owlbear look like this because, in all likelihood, Dave Arneson or Gary Gygax went to a drug store and bought a bag of funny looking plastic dinosaurs in the 1970s.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hits theaters on March 31.