So what if you avidly play D&D 3.5 and decide you don't want to go to 4.0? Perhaps you bought the new books and it didn't work out for you. Even if you gave it a chance, maybe the flavor just isn't what you're looking for. Maybe the artwork gives you convulsions. Perhaps you see your 3.5 books as an investment and not part of an ongoing hobby and you refuse to obsolete them with a new version. For those of you who use the word investment, let me point out that a Player's Handbook for any version of D&D older than 3.5 is worth about five bucks, far less than the cover price. Feel free to write your name in it or color in the artwork. Regardless of why you won't go to 4.o, your options are to stay with what you're playing or try something new.
Staying with 3.5 is an option. 3.5 books will be around for some time to come. I own a store and I want nothing more than everyone to go to 4.0, but there will still be a strong market for 3.5, a market that will quickly turn to "pre-owned" products. New books will disappear rapidly, probably gone completely from stores within a year. However, the used 3.5 market is likely to remain large, both in-store and the "secondary" market, meaning eBay and PDF. Imagine if 10% of 3.5 players refuse to commit to version 4. Some will eventually give in. Perhaps they'll just buy the PHB and never buy another book again. What if they still want 3.5 material? Well, that 10% is still as big a market as those who play White Wolf, Shadowrun, or any of the other "top" RPG's that comprise what's left of the RPG pie after D&D takes it's giant helping. The market consists of several million people at least. With a strong secondary market, staying with 3.5 is viable for both players and store owners.
What if you've prepared yourself and your group for something different, but 4.0 wasn't it? That's where I might be, and I've let my group know. I expect D&D 4 to work for me, but how can I be sure? I may sell 4.0, but I'm not such a robot as to play it just because it's new. So if you've attempted 4.0, and you've prepared everyone for a transition that just didn't work, perhaps trying something different is in order. Different doesn't mean a different game, but a variant of what you play now. You could certainly tweak your D&D 3.5 experience with such excellent supplements as Unearthed Arcana, but two additional new options have emerged recently, options that take 3.5 to the next level, assuming you aren't ready for whole numbers.
The first option is Monte Cook's Book of Experimental Might. It's being hailed as D&D 3.75. These are essentially Monte Cook's "house rules," and many rules sound like the logical changes we'll be seeing in 4.0, but without the jarring "reboot." Monte Cook is largely responsible for D&D 3.0, if you were wondering who he was. This is a one-shot PDF only product without follow-up support, but it might be the shot in the arm your group needs to continue playing 3.5 for years to come.
The second option from Paizo is an OGL compliant role-playing game called Pathfinder RPG. This is a new rule set based on 3.5 D&D, kind of like you may have seen with Conan or Arcana Unearthed. You get to keep the familiar game mechanics of 3.5, while playing new and interesting variant characters, using different races, classes and more. You can download a free alpha version right now. All Pathfinder materials will be made to work with Pathfinder RPG when it's officially released in August 2009. Will it work? How many of you play D20 Conan or Arcana Unearthed now?
As players, we need to do what's right for us and our group. I see these Plan B options as last resorts, but it's nice to know there are options. This is the fruit that the D20/OGL licenses have produced, for good or ill. As players, perhaps knowing there's a safety net makes getting out on that 4.0 tightrope a little less scary. Then again, other store owners have argued that it's just an excuse not to even try.