2020 was another huge year for Wizards of the Coast’s flagship tabletop roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons. With the vast majority of us being confined to our homes, many people were clamouring for new and more interesting ways to keep in touch with their friends and spice up their Zoom calls.
Easily playable over a video call, given that all you really need is a pen, paper, and a few dice, D&D has seen a massive spike in popularity, having also boasted a sizeable slate of new releases in 2020. Namely three major additions to the core game rules. First up there was ‘Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount’ – an additional ruleset penned largely by Critical Role’s Matt Mercer. Then we had ‘Mythic Odysseys of Theros’ – providing a few new subclasses and player races, followed by ‘Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything’ – the largest overhaul and revision of 5E’s rules for several years.
Dungeons & Dragons 2021 – new releases
With all of this, D&D has been going from strength to strength, the once-niche hobby bigger than it’s ever been, but what comes next? What offerings have Wizards teased us with so far for the king of RPGs, and what releases can we expect throughout the year? Let’s dive in, and have a look at what new excitements are in store for adventurers and DMs alike in 2021.
First off, what have we seen so far this year? An exciting addition to Unearthed Arcana (Wizards’ sandbox for playtest material) released in January. Gothic Lineages served up three new playable ‘Lineages’, all with, funnily enough, a gothic horror flavour. These Lineages replace the player’s choice of a race for their character, representing a creature either being touched by dark powers, or inheriting a curse from their bloodline. While a player choosing one of these Lineages may once have been an ordinary Halfling for example, they would no longer benefit from the racial traits that come from choosing a Halfling, instead only taking the racial traits of their Lineage. All three Lineages come with flexible ability score increases – any one ability score increases by 2, and any other score increases by 1 – allowing these races to work well with any class, and allowing the flavour of the character’s mortal past to be reflected in their stats. A Gothic character with a high strength score may have once been a Half-Orc or a Goliath, for example.
Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Lineages
First of all, we have the Dhampir, a Gothic Lineages character still clinging onto life while struggling with the hunger of a vampire. This grants the player Darkvision of 60 feet, a climb speed equal to their walking speed, and a Vampiric Bite attack. Of course the main feature of this Lineage is its bite, providing an improved unarmed attack (1d4 piercing damage) that also empowers the Dhampir, offering either hit point recovery or a bonus to an upcoming roll equal to the damage dealt.
Second, the Hexblood, a character touched by eldritch magic or strange witchcraft. With this Lineage, you gain 60 foot Darkvision, as well as Fey Resilience (advantage on saving throws against the Charm status effect), and Hex Magic. Hex Magic gives the Hexblood access to the Disguise Self and Hex spells either to be cast once per day, or using any available spell slots. The Hexblood also gains the Magic Token ability, allowing them to grotesquely remove a part of their body (a tooth or fingernail for instance), and imbue it with magic, allowing them to send a message through the token, or enter a trance where they can see and hear from the token’s position. An interesting opportunity for some low-level scrying.
Finally, we have the Reborn, a reanimated corpse or Frankenstein-esque construct. The Reborn benefits from 60 foot Darkvision as well as the other two, and boasts a Deathless Nature, which bears some similarities to the Warforged race. Deathless Nature gives the Reborn resistance to, and advantage against, poison and disease, advantage on death saving throws, and no need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep – allowing them to finish a long rest in four hours instead of the usual eight. The Reborn also has Knowledge of a Past Life, which gives them flashes of their previous existence, giving the DM a great opportunity to inject story hooks and extra flavour into the Reborn’s journey.
While of course these three Gothic Lineages are currently playtest material, and therefore potentially a little unbalanced, they do seem like well thought out additions that would feel right at home in a gothic horror themed campaign like Curse of Strahd. And in fact it seems as though that’s just how they’re intended, with the announcement of the new book, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, in which these Lineages will become official material (perhaps after some revisions).
So far, this has been the only Unearthed Arcana addition of the year, but we will no doubt have plenty more to look forward to. As for what’s to come later in 2021, there have been a couple of announcements thus-far including a new campaign book – Candlekeep Mysteries, due to release on March 16th, 2021. The books of Candlekeep Library each hold long-forgotten secrets and could open the door to new and mysterious adventures. Candlekeep promises seventeen short mystery stories, balanced for characters ranging between level 1 and 16. Each mystery begins with the discovery of a book in Candlekeep Library, and can be run as a one-shot adventure, or added into an ongoing campaign. The book also promises a poster map of the library fortress and detailed descriptions of Candlekeep and its inhabitants, to aid DMs with their prep. While not quite a landmark release, Candlekeep will be a great addition to the library of D&D campaigns, and give DMs some excellent tools to run one-shot campaigns, or add side adventures to their long-running campaigns.
Richten’s Guide To Ravenloft
As well as Candlekeep, we had an exciting announcement this week from Wizards in Van Richten’s Guide To Ravenloft. Being a big fan of the Ravenloft setting in D&D, I am particularly excited to see how this source book will expand the setting and provide new opportunities to explore the land of gothic horror. As well as expansions to the setting, Van Richten’s Guide will treat players to several new character customisation options, the aforementioned Gothic Lineages, as well as a couple of new subclasses – the College of Spirits for Bards and the Undead pact for Warlocks – both of which were teased in Unearthed Arcana back in August 2020. There will also be ‘Dark Gifts’, additional character options to give a Gothic flavour to your character. DMs will also have plenty to play with, with an expanded bestiary of horror-themed monsters, and a whole new campaign set within the Ravenloft setting. Having been playing an incredibly engaging Curse of Strahd campaign over the last few months myself, this book has me extremely excited to revisit the lands of Ravenloft with my party in the future and see what new horrors we can uncover.
Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is due to be released on May 18th 2021.
What do you think? What are you most excited to explore with your own parties in 2021? Let us know what you’d most like to see from Wizards of the Coast as they keep updating D&D 5e!