Gen Con Keynote Speech: D&D Next
Wizards of the Coast (WotC) have given a keynote speech at this years Gen Con that outlines where D&D Next is headed. Starting with paying respects to Gary and Dave and then trotting out the current D&D Next design team and notable WotC collaborators. The most notable things to come out of the keynote were importance of player feedback, the Realms as the base setting and previous versions material available in a new digital format.
WotC is very keen on player feedback. Not only are they monitoring the playtest feedback, but polls on Wizards.com about aesthetics and how the game should develop. Next year they will release two adventures and use the outcomes to further shape the game and setting. The default setting will be Forgotten Realms and it will be examined in a way not seen before… probably because the Realms is undergoing another change.
The Sundering is a Forgotten Realms event which coincides with D&D Next that will explain in-game changes to the setting and will be supported by fiction from the likes of Ed Greenwood (Forgotten Realms creator) and R A Salvatore (Drizzt Do-Urden creator). Greenwood has said the new event will not be as clumsy and heavy-handed as previous events to reshape the Realms.
WotC also added the first five levels of Sorcerers and Warlocks to the D&D Next playtest to show magic point and at-will magic as opposed to the Vancian style magic of the current Wizard. Mearls says that D&D Next development will be a two-year process. It better be damn good, because give three years to Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG and Green Ronin’s AGE (Dragon Age RPG) systems seems to be like giving your opponents a 13 mile head start in a marathon.
WotC is also working on a new digital file format to monetize their back catalogue. One can assume they weren’t impressed that all their $5 PDFs ended up on every torrent and locker site. For this new format to work these new files shouldn’t be scanned documents, should work on PCs/tablets/phones and still allow a copy and paste functionality. Right now I suspect to see the worst aspects of PDF and iBooks in a format no one likes or uses. Wait for the always online requirement that requires authentication every time you open it and no cut & paste.
Remember White Wolf revealed a few weeks before Gen Con that they had been developing a new edition of Exalted for over a year and it would be available this December. WotC officially acknowledged D&D Next this January, announced a public beta, had a major designer unexpectedly leave and then says the development will be a two-year process. Meanwhile Pathfinder is the best-selling RPG and doesn’t see any signs of losing its mojo, it is effectively the new D&D. Green Ronin has said there will be a generic AGE-based game based on the Dragon Age RPG. Have a look at the material that started out in Kobold magazine and you can see how a lighter rules dark fantasy game is taking shape.
It really does seem as though WotC is either in a bubble or really just doesn’t know what to do.