An official-looking announcement over at TMP has dropped a few advance hints about fourth edition. Here’s what we can glean.
Wizards has certainly been listening to its players. As I’ve said before, finding groups is much more difficult in D&D than MMOs, and a centralized method of online play is one solution. Wizards is hoping that this new online initiative “lowers the barriers of entry for new players” by offering “a digital game table that lets you play 24/7 on the internet — the perfect option for anyone who can’t find time to get together.” As someone who runs games online this is interesting, although I’m skeptical about the quality of games run online, which compete with MMOs for a hack-and-slash playerbase and tend to run slower than games in real life.
Thankfully, Wizards intends 4th edition to be faster, more streamlined, and easier on the Dungeon Master, again reducing the entry barrier on the role of running a game, which has always been a limiting factor. Another issue with third edition has been that certain rules have been overcomplicated, which thankfully they’re also paying attention to. Quoting Bill Slavicsek: “Fourth Edition streamlines parts of the D&D game that are too complex, while enhancing the overall play experience.”
In other news, Israeli 4e publisher Silver Stars has announced seven books, three of which we already know are the core PHB, MM and DMG. Since the article at TMP talks about core books, miniatures and adventures, we can assume that at least one of the remaining four will be an adventure module. My stray guess is that one of the other books will be a Forgotten Realms hardcover campaign setting book.
My own predictions are that 4e will not ship with Greyhawk’s deities as standard, although the named spells and magic items (Mordenkainen’s, Heward’s et al) will still be there. Rather, a campaign setting will be considered a standard book in any DM’s collection. Eberron and Forgotten Realms will be the launch settings, but Greyhawk will receive a campaign setting book later on if there is sufficient demand.