The 2012 Dungeons and Dragon Experience (DDXP) ended this past Sunday and as was expected the news coming out of DDXP about DnDNext has spurred a lot of conversation. Besides a long weekend of being able to playtest the new version of the game Wizards held several seminars where the goals and aspirations of the new version were discussed. These sessions included extended Q&A sessions as well, so these sessions weren't just a lecture.
First of all here are the links to detailed summaries of the seminars:
Thursday, Jan 26 - Charting the Course
Friday, Jan 27 - Class Design
Saturday, Jan 28 - Upcoming Products for 2012
Sunday, Jan 29 - Reimagining Skills and Ability Scores
Note: I am not an employee of enworld.org, but they have done a truly stellar job of compiling this data and it just made it easy for me to include a set of common links. I was introduced to enworld.org way, way back when 4E was getting ready to be released and they did a great job then as well of compiling pre-release data and letting their readers know what was getting ready to happen. I thought I had seen transcripts of these seminars somewhere on the Wizards web site, but today when I went back to link to them I saw that they just pointed to the fine folks at enworld.org as well.
Reading through the transcripts it is obvious that the criticism leveled at Wizards in General and 4E in particular had struck a nerve. At some level I suppose some of that comes with any product release whether it be cars, toothpaste, or deodorant. What I think was taken as being particularly hurtful here was the full level "Edition Wars" that emerged post the release of 4E. That's more of a marketing issue though - 4E was clumsily marketed as the end-all and be-all of all DnD versions and oh by the way, here it is, take it or leave it. Many players didn't like that attitude and several companies were able to move in and capitalize on that dissatisfaction. Wizards seems to be conscious of this as well and these seminars and playtests are part of their more inclusive marketing plan this time around.
Of course reading about what the stated goals are and varied discussion points around those goals isn't quite the same as being to actually able play the game and to see the new game mechanic actually being put in place. Unfortunately, as I mentioned previously those that did get to play had to sign an NDA, so I am not expecting to see a detailed play description anytime soon. The comments among those who did play all seem to be generally positive though, although it would have to be considered a bit of a "hand-picked" kind of audience.
I did sign up to receive the playtest material (here), and while no specific release date was given I am still expecting an alpha release sometime in the spring. If an alpha version was to come out in, say March or April, then a beta version in time for Gencon in August would seem reasonable as well. I am also assuming the "Alpha/Beta Handbook" will be distributed electronically as a PDF, with pre-designed character sheets as well. Expect to hear more as plans are firmed up.