On May 27, Dungeons and Dragons research and design manager Mike Mearls announced that Wizards of the Coast, the company which owns the D&D brand, would be publishing a selection of the rules for the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons for free.
Called “Basic D&D,” these rules will be available as a free PDF download from Wizards of the Coast’s website. They will cover a selection of character creation options, and include rules for taking those characters “from levels 1 to 20.” The first Basic D&D PDF will be available at the launch of the D&D Starter Set, on July 15, and it will receive updates as additional D&D products are released.
According to Mearls, “With just the Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules, you can play D&D for years.”
Aren’t the 5e / “D&D Next” rules already available online?
A “playtest packet,” for what Wizards of the Coast was calling D&D Next at the time and is now just called 5th edition, was available on its website up until December 15 last year. It was for playtesting purposes only; to access the packet, you had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
The Basic D&D rules will not be as comprehensive (or as unpolished) as the playtest packets were. According to Mearls, it will cover “the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each.” Humans, elves, dwarves, and halflings will be the playable races.
Will Basic D&D be like the old System Reference Document?
No. The 3.5 edition’s SRD presented a stripped-down, bare-bones version of the D&D rules, which did not include character creation rules and was meant to help game designers write rulebooks compatible with Dungeons and Dragons.
The intent behind Basic D&D is “to put D&D in as many hands as possible.” And while the boxed, $20 Starter Set will only include premade characters, Basic D&D will allow players to create their own characters for use with it, or even with the full game once the hardcover rulebooks are released.
Will Basic D&D be the only way to create a character?
It will for about a month, until the 5th edition Player’s Handbook comes out on August 19. At that point, D&D players will be able to get the full set of character creation options from it, and the Basic D&D rules “will expand to include the essential monsters, magic items, and DM rules needed to run the game.”
In essence, Basic D&D will act as both a free sample and a stopgap. Until the Player’s Handbook comes out, it will be the place to go to create a character; until the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide launch on September 30 and November 18, respectively, it will be the place to go to learn how to play as the DM and control the monsters in the game.
Basic D&D will apparently continue to be available afterwards, as a free resource for new Dungeons and Dragons players. Free PDFs will also be released, to allow Dungeon Masters to run the scenarios in published adventures like the upcoming Tyranny of Dragons storyline using just Basic D&D rules.