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.
Honestly, I think The Sundering is also a sort of “Yeah, we kinda borked up the Realms, we need to reset it to something closer to it’s origins.” Until it actually plays out I don’t have much of an opinion on it.
I don’t really get the “dance monkeys” vibe thing, but I am rather ambivalent about it… it’s not like this remotely gaurentees your game will jive with canon. I’d rather they just not have an advancing meta plot…
At least there isn’t a ccg involved like with L5R, I wasn’t playing either ccg or rpg, but heard a lot of complaints about the rpg metaplot having to mirror the results of ccg tournaments.
I personally liked the 4th ed Realms. The best part about it was that there were 2 books that covered everything. Sure, they released a Neverwinter setting later, but the core two books, one for the DM and one for the player were all you needed. I remember running games in the Realms during 2E and they really did feel like they were much more cohesive, particularly when they started coming out with magical order catalogues that people could buy things from and have the items teleported to them. But the Realms were a big money maker and so it made sense for them to milk them for all they were worth. 3E mainly changed rulesets and brought the Realms farther along a timeline that matched up with the books being sold, but the overall feel of we’re-all-one-big-unhappy-continent-that-shares-a-lot-of-issues-and-enemies was the same as 2E. 4E Realms was meant to be a world divided, a world with less cohesiveness and a lot less 30th level NPCs that the DM had to steer their PCs clear of so that they didn’t go the Elminster or any of the other oodles of Chosen of Mystra and just point at the incoming dragon and say “Zap it please”. It was a kick in the pants if you were a diehard must-stick-to-WotC canon sort of person and suddenly your human characters are all dead and people have to rejig their old characters into a new system… but I think the adage of if-it-ain’t-broke applies. If games were great in 3E, why switch to 4E? If you felt like I did about the 2E and 3E realms, I’d much rather play in the 4E realms, regardless of the system I was running the game in.