In his latest blog entry, David Noonan makes some interesting points on watching 4E's arrival. I was going to put it in my blog thread, but as it doesn't actually tell us anything about 4E, I thought it would be more appropriate separately.
David Noonan said:Why 4th Edition Is Like Clouds In The Sky: If you're really excited about 4th edition, it comes out next May. If you're still sitting on the fence, it comes out next May. And if you hate it with fire of a thousand suns, well, it comes out next May.
I'm flattered that some people are going to reinterpret their 3rd edition games for 4th edition, and I'm disappointed that other people are going to stick with 3.5 no matter what. You've got months and months to make what is a pretty important purchasing decision--at least it's important in terms of your hobby game of choice.
(As a side note, I'd sound completely ridiculous if I said something like, "You shouldn't use all those 3.5 books I worked really hard to write." They're good books. Seriously. We just learned a lot while writing them and playing with them, that's all.)
So you've got time. We're going to reveal more and more of the game as time goes on, both here on the wizards site, in the preview books, and at D&D Experience (Feb. 28 to March 3 in DC). But all those individual "reveals" are clouds in the sky. You can admire the clouds' beauty or shake your fists at them, but they're just going to keep moving across the sky anyway.
There's nothing wrong with cloud-watching. If you're a farmer, you need to watch the clouds at least a little. (Maybe DMs are like farmers, but that might be straining the metaphor.) But farmers know that no amount of cloudwatching will bring the rain. (And don't mention cloud-seeding; it messes up the metaphor.)
You can shake your fists at the sky. You can do a rain dance. You can ignore the clouds completely. Given the circumstance you're in as a D&D player right now, those responses are all valid. But none of them move the clouds.
You'll be playing D&D with clouds in the sky until May, so just do that. Watch the clouds if you like, but don't let the threat/promise of rain mess with your ongoing games.
The weird thing is that playing D&D is something that might move the clouds. In fact, it's the thing that got the clouds moving in the first place. In other words, play your D&D game with a critical eye--what's working and what isn't? We've seen a lot more of this already in message board traffic since the 4e announcement; an impending new edition makes everyone think a little more deeply about the game they're already playing.
In a way, you've been playtesting 4e all along by playing 3e and sharing your experiences with us and with others. The more you tell us about your game, the more we understand what's going on. And the game is moving along, but it ain't done yet. We can--and will--make it better before May.