Dungeons & Dragons Explains How New Player's Handbook Rules Works With Old 5E Characters

Dungeons & Dragons provided some clarification on how to use the 2024 Player's Handbook with older material.

Dungeons & Dragons players can still use their old characters in campaigns that use an upcoming rules revisions, but there are some limits to how much "mixing and matching" they can do between rules. Yesterday, the new Core Rulebooks for Dungeons & Dragons officially went on pre-sale. As part of the pre-order rollout, Wizards of the Coast released a slew of information about the new Core Rulebooks along with how they would be compatible with current 5th edition rules. 

Since the launch of the One D&D playtest back in 2022, the D&D Design team has noted that the 2024 Core Rulebooks would be "backwards compatible" with material released for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. However, there's been some confusion as to what "backwards compatibility" has meant, although the D&D design team has tried to clarify what it means several times.

In a recent video, the D&D design team explained that the 2024 Core Rulebooks are meant to "override" the 2014 rules when applicable, but players can still use characters made using the older 2014 Player's Handbook. So – a campaign can be played with a party made up of characters made using characters made with the 2014 Player's Handbook rules or the 2024 Player's Handbook rule. However, if a game has a character made with the 2024 Player's Handbook, the DM and players should use the 2024 Core Rulebooks.

"We have designed the new Player's Handbook so that characters built with it can be played with characters created with the 2014 Player's Handbook," D&D lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford said in a recent video. "If you are playing a 2014 character with 2024 characters, we have designed things so that 2024 rules should be used in that situation. Those rules can handle a 2014 character being present, but the 2014 version of the rules will grind in a few places with a 2024 characters." 

Additionally, players will still be able to use existing 5E adventures with 2024 characters without issues. Again, players should use the 2024 rules if a 2024 character is present, but adventures themselves should be compatible with the new rules with little to no issues. 

The D&D design team also provided some clarification about how to use older content within the new character creation rules. For instance, the new 2024 Player's Handbook will have guidance on how to use older races (now called species in the 2024 rules) and backgrounds for characters made with the 2024 rules. 

However, it's currently unclear whether a player can use a subclass that did not receive an update (such as the many subclasses from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything or Xanathar's Guide to Everything) with the 2024 character creation rules. More recent playtests indicated that some classes in the 2024 Player's Handbook would have subclass features activate at different levels than in the 2014 Player's Handbook, which may make older subclasses incompatible without changes. ComicBook has reached out to Wizards of the Coast for clarification on this point. UPDATE: Yes, older subclasses can be used with the 2024 character creation rules, including the 2024 revisions to classes.