The Future of Dungeons and Dragons Outlined at Gen Con Keynote

Iconic D&D art displayed on-screen during Gen Con's keynote address

So far, 2012 has been a year packed with Dungeons & Dragons news, and Gen Con 2012 was no different. Wizards of the Coast led off the year with the announcement of D&D Next, a new version of the popular roleplaying game that would replace D&D 4th Edition, and for that matter, all editions that came before it.

Through an expansive public playtest system and a modular rules set that allows players to customize D&D Next with their favorite signature mechanics from past editions, Wizards of the Coast is aiming to create a unified system and bolster their community in the process. Several months into the playtesting, though, that community has plenty of unanswered questions regarding the path forward for D&D Next. To answer them D&D design staff Mike Mearls, Ed Greenwood, and Jon Schindehette took to the Gen Con stage.

Right off the bat, players were greeted with the news that the D&D Next playtest has been a huge success. Over 75,000 fans have accessed playtest materials via the official D&D Next playtest page, where anyone can sign up to try out the new system. Mearls went on to say that several changes to D&D Next's rules can be attributed directly to playtester notes, solidifying the venture's worth.

An expanded scope for D&D Next's playtest kit was also detailed. A new playtest packet has already been released, and soon to come will be support for the Sorcerer and Warlock classes, each with content taking them from levels 1-5. Going into a bit of detail as to how D&D Next is taking shape, Mearls cited magic as the perfect example of the systems modularity, as it will support three distinct rules sets, each inspired by a past D&D implementation of magic.

Honey Badger ain't got nothin' on this Owlbear

As for Wizards of the Coast's plans to turn D&D Next into a full retail product, those are starting to take shape. Mearls told the Gen Con audience that he expects the playtest period to last a minimum of two years, which means we can expect continued 4th Edition support from the publisher.

To that end, 2013 will serve as host to two new Forgotten Realms adventures, thematically taking place following The Sundering, a major 6-novel series designed "to set the realms right" according to Ed Greenwood. The series will be penned by six different authors, and in the words of Greenwood, there will be war. It all serves as set-up for a Forgotten Realms that DMs can easily use as host to their own stories.

Unrelated to the upcoming 4th Edition and D&D Next products, it was also revealed that Wizards of the Coast will be adopting an aggressive digital product release strategy. The publisher will have many more digital book releases in 2013, and although they did not list specific titles, they did go so far as to state that their eventual plan is to have every D&D book ever published ported over to a digital format.