In a few past blog entries (mainly here and here), I've spent some significant time discussing--let's be honest, reputing--a series of articles by Mike Mearls, made as part of the "Legends and Lore" series on Wizards of the Coast's D&D site.
Well, for those of you that have been following their site, you may have noticed that the column has changed hands. In a somewhat baffling move, WotC has handed this column off to a new/old staffer--Monte Cook.
Unfortunately, Cook's return to WotC has been...well, rough, to say the least.
Cook's first article showed almost a complete lack of understanding of the 4e skill system. While Cook could be excused for this, if he were working on Pathfinder or on a product for his own company--Malhavoc Press--this is the company that wrote 4e! For Cook to actually have the gall (or ignorance) to put forward the idea of "passive perception" as a new concept--which has existed in D&D for the past 4, almost 5 years--shows a lack of understanding of one of the basic skill systems in the game. Further, for something like that to pass by WotC's editorial staff is almost embarrassing. Was no one really aware that he said something like this? That's almost unfathomable...
Unfortunately, Cook's two most recently articles aren't much better in quality. Cook expounds upon the nature of magic items, as well as waxing nostalgic about Gygax's original concepts of a team-based game. But neither article provides many new ideas or innovation; rather, they simply rehash ideas that have been discussed at length again and again, on role-playing blogs, on forums, and even by these authors themselves.
However, all of this raises a greater question: why is Cook back with WotC? What benefit does it bring them to have him back in the fold?
Therein lies the rub. According to currently circulating rumors, Cook was brought on board for a new version of D&D, set to hit playtest in 2012. Margaret Weis apparently thinks so, and it's a little odd for a company like WotC to utterly deny access to a fairly prolific game designer. But, on top of this, WotC's release schedule is currently blank--there are no products on the calendar for 2012 whatsoever. Even WotC's monthly "In the Works" column has been shifting decidedly away from actual previews and more towards subsidiary material--statuettes, comic books, and other paraphernalia.
If this is the case--as I believe it is--I'm going to go ahead and make my prediction here and now:
Cook has been brought on board to write 5th edition, which will be announced at GenCon 2012. This edition will be billed as "D&D Anniversary Edition" and will premier in the summer of 2013--5 years after the debut of 4e.