The 4th Edition forum at Wizards is already up, but evidently we weren’t meant to find it until the big announcement tomorrow at Gencon. I still have the forum open in my browser, so here’s what I can tell you:
The initials DI, which we had all assumed stood for “Digital Initiative”, seem to refer to D&D Insider, Wizards’ new online brand. D&D Insider includes the former Dragon and Dungeon magazines, as well as software components allowing character generation and advanced internet play (the forum refers to something called D&D Game Table) – looks like this is why they cancelled the d20 licenses on several third-party D&D software products. At a guess, D&D Insider will allow players to officially download adventures and virtual miniatures for their online games. I’m expecting DI to be either a subscription service (like World of Warcraft), a free service allowing DRM-locked electronic product purchases (like Steam), or some combination of both.
Eberron and Forgotten Realms are definitely receiving strong support in fourth edition. However, as in third edition, Wizards are being careful not to fragment the user base too far – the forum rolls all other campaign settings into an “Other Settings” category. At first it might seem that Greyhawk and Planescape fans are out of luck, but it’s feasible that limited support could be provided via Wizards’ online system.
It’s too early to tell, but it’s possible that Wizards will release some or all of 4th edition under some version of the Open Gaming License – there’s a thread on the forum entitled “OGL/d20 license”. However, this is no guarantee. I expect Wizards are abandoning the D20 brand (which does not fare well for my blog title…), but it’s entirely feasible that 4th ed will remain closed to avoid the mess of poor-quality PDFs and allow Wizards to sell licenses to selected third parties. I’ve been expecting this edition to be closed, but we’ll have to see how it goes.
Building on third edition’s “all monks and paladins are women”, Wizards is making specific effort to have this edition appeal to women gamers. We can also expect that they’ll move to capture a more gamesy group, the sort of people who prefer World of Warcraft style hack and slash adventure and who lack the qualities required of a talented dungeon master. D&D has always suffered from a lack of dungeon masters, and lowering the bar to run the game should be a priority for Wizards.
There’s an EN World thread which is better suited to discussion than my comments page. Feel free use the thread to cover the points I’ve raised.