Here’s the full video of the D&D keynote from Gen Con. Sounds largely positive. They are taking the Domino’s route of owning up to screwing up. Mike Mearls says that D&D R&D went astray and started to prescribe certain playstyles and they want to move back to empowering all styles and making it “your” game. And that it’s not the rules that are important, made to be broken, a minor part of the shared gaming experience, there’s freedom to do whatever you imagine, etc. They’ve put the rules and designers first lately and that makes in “their” game not our game. It’s nice to hear it said out loud, but they have to put their money where their mouth is.
The one thing they did do to back it up was to announce all the D&D backlist will be made available electronically! They didn’t say “PDF,” it may end up being some crappy device-tied DRM in an unusable format, but it’s a start.
On the bad side, they’re doing yet another major Forgotten Realms shakeup, “The Sundering.” This is why I hate the Realms, its continuity is almost as bad as the comic Earth’s (DC or Marvel, your choice). When challenged on this Mearls says “Oh sure but AFTER the sundering it’ll all become normal and the stories are yours.” Of course this new era only lasts until they decide to do a shakeup or have a D&D After Next, says the cynic in me. They’re also going to have people send in results from published adventures with majority results to decide “what happens to the game world,” which has always been gimmicky when done before. This is less “you shape the Realms” and more “dance for me my little monkeys” IMO.