Hey folks, Evelyn here back again with more news from the kitchen table (or wherever it is you play your tabletops). To help differentiate my two segments of GYGO, you can think of this one as primarily focused on TTRPGs, with D&D at the forefront, while my other segment will focus on tabletops outside the realm of TTRPGS—Root, Wingspan, Catan, and so on.

Palestine is still in the middle of an ethnic cleansing, if not a full-out genocide. With over 22,000 dead total, over 7,000 still missing, nearly 10,000 dead children, and roughly 2 million displaced people, silence is complicity. For those of us in the United States, check out the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights’ toolkit. Doctors without Borders, or MSF, has maintained a presence in Gaza and the West Bank since 1989. The organization is one of very few international organizations to keep a meaningful presence in occupied Palestine. If you have the ability to do so, consider a small donation to MSF.

The State of D&D in 2024

With a new year, and the 50th anniversary plans for D&D unveiled at PAX Unplugged 2023, there’s a lot in store for the behemoth TTRPG this year.

One D&D is dead. Sort of. In a rather confusing twist, the name One D&D seems to have been dropped in favor of referring to Fifth Edition material along a 2014/2024 split. New, revised versions of the core three rulebooks—The Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual—are slated for some time in 2024. We’re still in Fifth Edition, but there will be a distinct split between the original 2014 core rulebooks and the upcoming 2024 core rulebooks, yet all of this material will be purportedly fully backwards compatible. For example, 2014 Curse of Strahd will be fully playable with the 2024 core rulebooks, with no hiccups, according to Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins, the public faces of the brand and design team. Presumably, this will also apply in the other direction—2024 modules will be easily playable with the 2014 core rulebooks.

Ostensibly, the decision to not create a new edition was made to not confuse new players—yet I cannot help but easily imagine a new player, who doesn’t know the difference between a d10 and d12, sitting down at a table for the first time where seasoned players talk about the differences in 2014/2024 material (are we playing with 2014 or 2024 Ranger, a class that already has a schism within 2014 Fifth Edition?), where versions of the core rulebooks from each year are floating around with different calls and slightly different rules, where this new player must consult the ever-obtuse online errata of Wizards to determine which ruling overrules which. Rather than, say, buying Sixth Edition material to get into the game with a clean break from the past. “Less confusing” indeed.

As for the contents of the core rulebooks, the team has been rather silent. What we have heard amounts to little more than marketing PR: more illustrations! Full-page art for characters! Higher page counts! More beefy monsters (admittedly, the Blob of Annihilation does sound cool based on name alone)! More art for every! Single! Magic item!

And modules! The meatgrinders of the past return, and old villains arise once more for the 50th anniversary. In the vein of Tales from the Yawning Portal, Quests from the Infinite Staircase promises to string together several classic D&D adventures, some condensed down to one-shots, in a loose storyline. Vecna: Eve of Ruin will takes players from levels 1 to 20 battling the wizard-turned-undead-deity Vecna himself.

With the release of these 2024 core rulebooks right around the corner, I find it concerning that we have heard nothing on the design ethos, nor any hint of confirmed mechanics beyond public playtest material. It’s all well and good that each character class is introduced with full-page splash art (how does this help me play the game?), but what, if anything, is changing about these classes? We know each class will have four subclasses in the 2024 Player’s Handbook, one more than each class got in the 2014 edition. Beyond “more stuff,” information is scarce. Fifth Edition is built on a core design ethos of three distinct pillars of play—combat, social encounters, and exploration. Rather infamously, Fifth Edition mechanics often neglect the last two pillars in favor of the first—nearly every single character feature gained on leveling up is exclusively combat oriented, for example. The 2014 Dungeon Master’s Guide, a core rulebook that has been frequently cited as the least useful Fifth Edition core rulebook by Dungeon Masters, is at least promised to get a facelift, according to Perkins and Crawford, and become a useful resource for Dungeon Masters in 2024 with campaign setting material.

With the confirmation of no serious paradigm shift or course-correcting in design ethos that usually accompanies a new edition, the best-case scenario is that these new materials close the gap between 2014 Fifth Edition and the plethora of confusing, and often contradictory, Unearthed Arcana and errata floating around the internet. If nothing else, a Dungeon Master’s Guide that actually helps me run my games or fleshes out the default setting of Fifth Edition, the Sword Coast, would be leaps and bounds more useful than the 2014 Dungeon Master’s Guide currently collecting dust on my shelf.

If these materials are too distinct from the 2014 rulebooks, they risk confusing and alienating new players; if they are too similar, why bother purchasing them as a veteran player? If the new books are too streamlined and contain too much content from the scattered and multitudinous source books, players won’t be incentivized to buy Wizards’ rather pricey 2014 source books like the Mordenkainen or Bigby Presents series of sourcebooks. D&D 2024 has a very fine line to straddle—one I’m not sure exists, leaving me rather reserved. At the very least, the one-shot meatgrinders of the past will be a fun break in my years-long Dungeon of the Mad Mage campaign, and who doesn’t love a catalogue of shiny new magic items?

D&D Postage Stamps

I’m old, decrepit, and apparently a 75-year-old grandmother trapped in a 26-year-old woman’s body: I’ve recently begun seriously birding, keeping a tally of all the species I see; I’ve begun crocheting; and now, I’m apparently a stamp collector. The U.S. Postal Service has announced Dungeons & Dragons stamps will be released in 2024, in celebration of the game’s 50th anniversary. A date of release for these stamps has yet to be announced—when they do drop, I’ll be buying multiple sets.

Wizards AI Art Debacle, Part Three

Wizards of the Coast has been caught for the third time within a six-month period using AI generated art. Wizards previously accepted obviously AI generated art from an artist for the D&D sourcebook Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants! and in promotional materials for the Tomb Raider: Secret Lair Magic the Gathering drop.  This is, again, after promises to not use AI art after the Bigby Presents debacle in August of last year. In this newest situation, Wizards has once again used AI generated art in the background of promotional material for Magic. Unlike the previous times, Wizards has outright denied that this art was made by a computer and insists it was human-made—countering these claims, a Magic artist, Dave Rapoza, has publicly resigned from working with Wizards over this newest situation. Despite the art bearing the obvious tell-tale hallmarks of AI generation pointed out by fans on social media and Rapoza’s resignation, Wizards maintains its position on this art.

[Editor update: as of 1:02pm EST on January 7th, Wizards has acknowledged that AI-generated assets were used in the creation of the recent ad artwork. While they continue to assert that the image as a whole was compiled by a human, stock photos used in the image were themselves AI-generated.]

The Year Ahead

As our own Joan Dark pointed out in a recent GYGO, Hasbro has axed over 1,000 employees recently, with many among the Magic and D&D teams, despite the roaring success of Baldur’s Gate 3 and the ever-present money-making cardboard gambling schemes of Magic. These layoffs taken together with the computer-generated art, and my perhaps subjective concerns about Fifth Edition 2024 material, present a worrying picture of the future of the game: D&D’s design ethos feels directionless, taking a back seat to the spectacle of shiny new images, mired in a decade-old system that Wizards of the Coast seems keen on milking for the foreseeable future while cashing in on nostalgia on the 50th anniversary (though, admittedly, I am excited about another level 1–20 module that I’ll never realistically finish). When even marketing material is riddled with computer-generated content, how are we to trust that all these promises of “More Art!” will be genuine, human-made art, particularly with so many layoffs? With the cuts to the core design teams—the team that helped make Baldur’s Gate 3 a phenomenal game that’s devoured my life—and the rampant computer-generated art, I cannot help but look at the year ahead for Dungeons & Dragons with reservations and pessimism. But hey, at least the community continues to cook up phenomenal homebrew rules, addendums, and classes, and will always continue to do so even if the official channels of the game become a trash fire. Might I suggest one of my favorite community contributions, The Angry GM’s Tension Pool system?

In other news…

Speaking of the D&D community doing very cool things, Enchanted Emporiums over on Kickstarter promises to fill one of the most confusing holes in D&D rules—how the hell do magic items get made?—while providing a smorgasbord of new magic items, markets with their own customs and encounters, and ready-made shops so Dungeon Masters aren’t left scrambling when the shopping session comes around.

Do you love Metro 2033 and its sequels as much as I do? RAD might be the TTRPG for you. This rules-lite, Mausritter-inspired game proves to be just as fast and brutal as all the post-apocalyptic games that inspired it. Much like Metro, bullets are a precious resource—both money and a tool to defend your party from the nasties lurking in the wastes.

You Awaken in a Strange Place is perhaps my favorite TTRPG to fill the void when more structured play falls through. This ad-lib game sees the whole table contributing to a nonsense adventure cooked up on the fly. The recently released Tabletop Gone Mad seems to provide a more extensive, yet still light, version of this concept in a d20 system, wedding structure to a choose-your-adventure style of collaborative storytelling.

Free League is producing another TTRPG based on the works of Simon Stålenhag, The Electric State. What if Neuromancer took place in a dilapidated 1997 Americana post-apocalyptic landscape? American society has collapsed and you and yours are on a road trip across the consumerist trash wasteland, utilizing Hope as a resource. Players will balance spending Hope to live through an encounter with having enough Hope to carry on in their journey.

Dimension 20 is back for another series of Fantasy High, which first aired in 2018. This series follows the “Bad Kids” through various hijinks at the Aguefort Adventuring Academy.

The co-creator of Warhammer, Bryan Ansell, has died at the age of 68. Ansell’s death comes at a time when Warhammer, both The Old World and 40K seem to be experiencing a revival in the mainstream, as Amazon has acquired the rights to produce a “series, film, and more” set in the Warhammer world, purportedly starring Henry Cavill.