So the Gencon announcement has been made. EN World has the scoop, but you’ll be lucky if you can reach it: both EN World and the Wizards of the Coast have been completely overloaded with unexpected flood of users. This really is the biggest news in years.
When I can get through, here’s what we can glean:
A few particularly big changes have been mentioned. First up, the game will include thirty levels instead of twenty. A big move for D&D, but this might be what epic level fans have been after for a long time. Next, it seems that race will have a much more defining role that it currently has, with characters gaining racial abilities as well as class abilities as they level up. Finally, weapon choice becomes much more interesting, and it looks like the sword-and-shield fullplate fighter will finally become a viable option again.
Covers and preliminary information are out for the core books. Orcus makes an appearance on the 4e Monster Manual, which contains monsters as high as CR30 - I’m going to make an utterly unsubstantiated guess here and say that the tarrasque will be scaled up to the high end too. Each book will come with a registration code which you can use to unlock online web enhancements - I’m not entirely happy that there’s talk of actually charging for this service, but we shall wait and see.
I’ll say it again: I’m optimistic. Ignore the munchkin hordes who run around complaining that their splatbooks. Wizards has had the top people in the industry working on this for two years already, and it’ll be a year of development, playtesting and early releases before the new edition comes into force. Aside from the 3.5 PHB hiccup, players have had a good eight-year run of their current edition, and even so a great deal of old material will likely be convertable over. How many books or videogames have last as long or given as much value for money? Unlike 3.5, all the changes this time around sound like they’re definitely for the better.
If nothing else, at least they have the opportunity to get rid of Mialee.