Wizards Of The Coast has officially announced the forthcoming 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
(Yes, every other gaming blog has already jumped on this. I was out working when the news broke. Not all of us live in front of a computer.)
One of the stated goals by Mike Mearls is to have "a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions". Which sounds nice, but how do you go about doing that? The only way I can visualize it is to have a dead simple core set of rules as the skeletal framework (something no more complicated than the old Moldvay/Cook B/X rules), and then have lots, and I do mean LOTS of optional rules, with multiple options for pretty much every aspect of gameplay. The DM decides which options they want for the game they're running, ignoring everything they don't want.
(This brings up the question of tournament play - I would expect that certain option would be flagged as 'convention standard'.)
If this this is indeed the approach that would be taken - and I'm just guessing here, of course - then that brings up the question of PDF gamebooks. WOTC no longer sells PDFs of any of their games, past or present, a move that helped lead to the rise of the Old School Renaissance. I would personally hope that WOTC would make the 5th edition rules available as a PDF, because such a rulebook could be a bit unwieldy in print format - having lots of optional rules that you aren't using might create a sense of diminished value, if you're ignoring over half of the rules in the books you're using.
But with a well-designed PDF, that might be less of an issue. A customizable PDF that allowed you to put all those rules you aren't going to use anyways on 'ignore', slimming down paragraphs of unused walls of text to a small tab that you could re-open at any time, might cut down a 300+ page document to a much more manageable number, perhaps even half the size of the entire document. Suddenly you have a leaner, less cumbersome rulebook, yet easily customizable to to the different playstyles of different DM's.
At the very least, it seems we'll have plenty of time to figure out if 5th Edition might be geared to our individual tastes. The open playtests would appear to be a good sign (assuming that WOTC actually listens to the playtesters, instead of just looking for justification for decisions that they would make anyways); even if the new rules aren't to your or my taste, we'll probably have a pretty good idea if that's the case by the time 5th Edition hits the stores.