Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules PDF Released!

By Ken Wai Lau

It is finally here – the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules PDF were released early this month (on 3rd July, to be exact) and can be downloaded for free.

It’s a good thing, since it allows new (or old) players to try the game out without any commitment to buy and it is possible to get many years worth of adventuring just from this free booklet alone.

Differences From The Playtest

Everything looks pretty similar to the D&D Next playtest at first glance – which isn’t surprising given the latest version of the playtest was pretty much the pre-final release.

That said, the changes are quite numerous, though the fundamental mechanics remain largely unchanged.

It has also been fleshed out a lot and includes many other rules/considerations that were not present in the playtest.

I will probably do a review of the game at some point, either on this site or on a separate website I may launch in the future.

For now, feel free to use the following as a quick reference guide as to what has changed from the final and most recent playtest.

Word of warning – It’s Long!


Four races are included in D&D Basic. Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human. They differ from the D&D Next playtest as follows:


  • Dwarves speak, read and write Dwarvish and Common.
  • Constitution is increased by 2.
  • Stonecunning doubles your proficiency bonus on Intelligence (History) checks instead of granting advantage.
  • Gain one Tool proficiency from: Brewer’s Supplies, Mason’s Tools or Smith’s Tools.

Hill Dwarf

  • Wisdom, instead of Strength, is increased by 1.

Mountain Dwarf

  • Strength is increased by 2. Wisdom increase is removed.


  • Elves speak, read and write Elvish and Common.
  • Dexterity is increased by 2.
  • Low Light Vision is replaced by Darkvision.
  • Keen Senses grants proficiency in Wisdom (Perception) checks instead of advantage.


  • Halflings speak, read and write Common and Halfling.
  • Dexterity is increased by 2.


Four classes are included in D&D Basic: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. They differ from the D&D Next playtest as follows:

General Spellcaster

  • Spellcasting Foci are used in lieu of Material Components, unless the component costs 1gp or more.
  • Proficiency Bonuses are automatically applied to all spell DCs and attack rolls.
  • You must prepare all spells at once after a long rest.
  • Spellcasters gain a new Cantrip at certain levels (up to 5 in total).

General Warrior

  • The Archery style gives you +2 to attack rolls instead of +1.
  • The Great Weapon Fighting style no longer hits automatically. Instead, damage die rolls coming up as 1s or 2s are rerolled and the second roll taken (even if it’s lower).
  • A new fighting style, Dueling (one handed weapon combat), is introduced.
  • The protection fighting style only works when you are using a shield.

Starting equipment is pre-determined, alternatively, you can choose to start with a sum of gold instead


  • All clerics gain proficiency with the Shield.
  • Proficiency with Healer’s Kit is removed.
  • History added as a class skill.
  • Turn Undead is now less powerful. At best, only a CR 4 creature can be destroyed with Turn Undead. The range is 30 feet instead of 25 feet.
  • If Divine Intervention fails, you can recover the ability after a long rest instead of 7 days.
  • Divine Intervention automatically succeeds at level 20.
  • Clerics no longer gain Divine Strike by default (see Life Domain below).

Life Domain

  • Gain Revivify instead of Prayer as a domain spell at level 3.
  • Channel Divinity: Preserve Life feature now has a range of 30 feet and can only restore up to half maximum of a creature’s hit points.
  • Two new features are introduced into the Life Domain: Blessed Healer and Divine Strike.


  • No longer proficient with Mounts (land).
  • Animal Handling, History, Insight, Perception and Survival added as class skills.
  • Second Wind restores 1d10 + (fighter level) hit points instead of granting temporary hit points.
  • Defy Death class feature is removed.
  • Indomitable, which is gained at level 9, can only be used once per long rest
  • Also, Indomitable no longer grants advantage, merely allowing re-rolls (second roll must be taken).

Martial Archetype: Champion

The ‘Path of the Warrior‘ martial path (now called ‘Martial Archetypes‘) is renamed ‘Champion‘.

  • Devastating Critical is removed and replaced by Superior Critical.
  • A new path feature called Remarkable Athlete is gained at level 7.


  • Hit die is now 1d8 instead of 1d6.
  • Proficient with Medium Armour as well as Light Armour.
  • Light Crossbow removed from list of weapon proficiencies.
  • Proficient with Intelligence Saving Throws.
  • Investigation added as a class skill.
  • Expertise feature no longer grants a flat +5 bonus to proficiencies selected for this feature.
  • Expertise allows you to select two skills (or Thieves Tools + skill) to start with, plus another two skills at level 6.
  • Sneak Attacks can only be made with Finesse or Ranged weapons.
  • Sneak Attacks won’t apply if attacks are made at disadvantage.
  • Sneak Attack damage increases to 10d6 at level 20.
  • Cunning Action now grants Bonus Actions and you can Dash instead of Hustle.
  • Thieve’s Cant is now gained at 1st level.
  • Uncanny Dodge is now Evasion and Evasion is now Uncanny Dodge (as it should be…).
  • Evasion, which allows you to dodge area effects is now gained at level 7 rather than level 8.
  • Blindsense is gained at level 14 instead of level 12.
  • Ace in the Hole has now been renamed Stroke of Luck.

Thief Rogue Archetype

Formerly called Thievery Rogue Style, this is the only rogue path available in D&D Basic. The changes are as follows:

  • Second Story Work (formerly Burglary), uses Dexterity modifier to determine distance jumped rather than a flat figure of 5-10.
  • Second Story Work allows you to climb without expending an extra movement.
  • Thieves Reflexes is gained at level 17, not level 16.
  • Decipher Script has been removed.


  • Insight, Investigation and Medicine are added as class skills.
  • Wizards get two skills instead of one at first level.
  • Wizards start with 6 1st level spells at level 1.
  • Spell Mastery is unchanged, except casting the spells using higher level slots uses up those slots as normal.
  • Signature Spells added as a level 20 class feature.

Evocation Wizard Tradition

  • Evocation Savant added as a tradition feature at level 2.
  • Potent Cantrip gained at level 6 instead of level 5.
  • Empowered Evocation is gained at level 10 instead of level 12.
  • Overchannel gained at level 14 instead of level 8.
  • Overchannel now affects spells lower than 5th level rather than 3rd level.
  • Using Overchannel a second time before a long rest now does 2d12 necrotic damage per spell level. This damage per level increases with each additional use of the ability after that. This damage ignores immunities and resistances.


  • Copying a spell now takes 2 hours instead of 1 hour per spell level. Cost is unchanged.
  • Making a copy of your spell book costs 1 hour and 10gp per spell level for each spell copied.



There is a new background called Criminal which appears to be a replacement for the Guild Thief background and possibly the Spy backgrounds in D&D Next.

Though it was briefly touched upon in the playtest, there are now detailed rules for creating personality traits, ideals, bonds, flaws, etc., plus rules for rewarding players who stay true to their character personality while roleplaying.

Each background now has a list of personality traits that you can choose from.

The background traits remain largely unchanged, but the equipment lists have changed slightly.

Acolyte (formerly Priest)

  • History has been removed.


  • Search has been removed.
  • Three bonus languages instead of two.
  • Each Sage has a specialty selected or determined randomly from a list of eight specialties.


  • Survival has been removed.
  • Each soldier has a specialty selected or determined randomly from a list of eight specialties.

Many of the other backgrounds appear to be omitted from D&D Basic, though I am assuming that is because more will be released with the Dungeons & Dragons core rulebooks.



  • Wearing Heavy Armour will not reduce your movement speed, unless you fail to meet a Strength pre-requisite.
  • Donning and removing armour is unchanged, except a shield requires an action to equip/unequip.
  • Cannot cast spells in armour that you are not proficient in.
  • Studded Leather Armour has been moved to the Light Armour category.
  • Chain Shirt, Breastplate and Half Plate have been added to the Medium Armour category.
  • Banded Mail has been removed from the Heavy Armour category.
  • Buckler has been removed from the Shield category.

Aside from the changes mentioned above, some of the prices and armour weight has been changed.

Armours made from special materials such as Mithril Plate appears to have been removed from the D&D Basic. It’s not yet known if they will appear as part of the core rulebooks.


Simple Weapons

  • The Javelin is now a melee weapon that has the Thrown property.
  • The weight values of some weapons have been changed.

Martial Weapons

  • The Mounted property is removed and the description now falls under Special.
  • The Pike now has the Heavy property.
  • The Whip is given the Finesse property to replace the rule where Dexterity modifies attack rolls only.
  • The Bolas has been removed from the game.
  • The Net targets only one large or smaller creature and you can only make one attack with it per round, regardless of how many attacks you have.
  • The weight values of some weapons have been changed.
  • The price values of some weapons have been changed.

Weapon Properties

  • Finesse now states that the same modifier (Strength or Dexterity) must be used for both attack and damage rolls.
  • Thrown weapons that have the Finesse property can also use the Dexterity modifier for attack and damage rolls.

Adventuring Gear

  • The Adventuring Gear table has been divided in two, so that the Tools are kept separate.
  • There are new tables for Mounts and Vehicles, Trade Goods and Food and Lodging.
  • There are new sections on Normal Services and Spellcasting Services.
  • There are numerous changes to the equipment available with new additions/omissions.
  • There are many new additions to the new Tools table which are too numerous to mention here.
  • There is a large table of Trinkets that can be used for character creation or to fill an NPC’s pockets.

Character Customisation

This is a small section on Multiclassing (ability score pre-requisites, class features) and Feats, but most of this information refers to the Player’s Handbook.

  • When Multiclassing, you gain some, but not all, proficiencies.

Playing The Game

The information in this section is very detailed when compared to the playtest. There are now rules for group checks and various other things. Changes from the playtest are listed below:

Ability Scores

  • You can use the Help action only when you are normally able to accomplish the action alone or if it makes sense.


  • Your carrying capacity is now your Strength score x 15.
  • You can push, drag or lift weight equal to twice your maximum carrying capacity.


  • Sleight of Hand, the sentence ‘You can also draw small weapons without alerting anyone…‘ has been removed.


  • Investigation appears to be a substitute for the Search skill (which has been removed).

Saving Throws

Each class gets two saving throws.

Exploration and Adventuring



  • A DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check is required to avoid hitting obstacles no taller than a quarter of your Long Jump distance (in feet).
  • A DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check is required if you land on difficult terrain.
  • Standing High Jump checks are now limited to your Strength modifier instead of being halved.


Order of Combat

  • There is a new type of action called a Bonus Action.

Movement and Position

Being Prone

  • Dropping Prone does not require any movement speed at all to accomplish.
  • Standing up takes half your walking speed rather than your whole move action.

Variant: Playing in a Grid

  • You cannot move diagonally through corners.

Actions in Combat

  • Hustle is renamed Dash.
  • Charge is removed.
  • Coup de Grace is removed. Taking damage when unconscious now results in one failed death roll (two on a Critical Hit).
  • Movement made as part of the Disengage action is no longer halved.
  • Can only Dodge attacks from opponents that you can see.

Making An Attack

The Attack Roll

  • Attacking with a weapon you lack Proficiency with no longer imposes disadvantage to your roll.

Ranged Attacks

  • Attacking an opponent within 5 feet of you with a ranged weapon imposes disadvantage to your roll.

Melee Attacks

  • The off-hand attack from Two Weapon Fighting is made using a Bonus Action.
  • You can make as many Grapple attacks as you have normal attacks.
  • Grapple is determined using opposed Strength (Athletics) (or Strength (Athletics) vs. Dexterity (Acrobatics)) rolls.

Damage Rolls

Critical Hits

  • You roll all your damage dice twice on a Critical Hit and add apply any modifiers to damage once.


  • Exhausted, Grappled, Incapacitated and Poisoned have been added to the list of conditions.
  • Incorporeal and Intoxicated have been removed from the list of conditions.


  • Paralyzed creatures are Incapacitated and cannot take actions.
  • You don’t fall prone when Paralyzed.
  • Attacks made against Paralyzed creatures within 5 feet are automatically Critical Hits.


  • Attacks made against a Prone creature within 5 feet is made at advantage.


  • Stunned creatures are Incapacitated and cannot take actions other than ‘speak falteringly’.


  • Attacks made against Unconscious creatures within 5 feet are automatically Critical Hits.


Casting a Spell

Casting Time

  • Spells cast swiftly now use a Bonus Action and cannot be combined with another spell on the same turn unless it is a Cantrip. It is assumed that you can also activate Magic Items.
  • The Constitution Saving Throw made when taking damage now has a minimum DC of 10.


Many of the spells from the playtest appear to have been omitted from the Basic Rules PDF. It is unknown if these spells will appear in the Player’s Handbook.

For more details, refer to the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules PDF.

These are the changes from the D&D Next playtest that I’ve gleaned up to now. If I’ve missed anything out, feel free to chime in.

1 comment

  1. Anonymous August 1, 2014 9:06 am  Reply

    Very useful!It loook not too different from the D&D Next playtest at first look, but clearly there are lots of changes.

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