Lately I have been rereading my second ed books and memories of Lake Geneva came coming back. After getting bored of D&DN in the last packet or 2 I have run a couple of game of it with my players most of all who had 0 or limited second ed experience.
What surprised me was they had fun with it. The other surprise was it got alot of things right that post 2nd ed games have been struggling with. Although try wrapping your head around THACO and 2nd ed saves can be frustrating. Anyway the things that it got right.
1. Optional rules. 2nd ed was full of them and most of the splats made it very clear everything was optional. In 3rd ed this was kind of assumed and in 4th ed they went as far as declearing everything core. The 2nd ed books loved their tables as well and even had them for class abilites such as the Wild Mage. My percentile dice have not got much love since 2000. There has been a heavy shift towards what one may call player entitlement while 1st ed was often percieved as player vs DM. 2nd ed seems to have got the balance right.
2. No wealth by level guidelines. 3.5 and 4th ed both gave magic items a price in gold and RAW they were reasonably easy to make and buy. This lead to builds in both systems due to a reaosnable expectation of getting the stuff you wanted when you wanted it and in some cases was baked into class abilities with 3rd eds item creation feats for the wizard and rituals for the 4ht ed wizard. The DM had alot more ability to say no in 2nd ed or could just make something very difficult to aquire. If you have had things like players getting an keen scimitar in 3rd or abusing the frost cheese combo in 4th you have this to thank for that. You could say no I suppose but the DM would be going against RAW. RAW in 2nd ed most things were optional outside the core books.
3. No assumed magic level. D&D tends to be a high magic game and 3rd and 4th ed gave the PCs alot of it compared to pre 3rd ed games with maybe the exception of magic items. As mentioned ealrier magic items were easy to create but second ed books would go to great lengths discussing low and high magic worlds. In the historical sourcebooks a Rome or Greek based one wizards for example were a banned class or heavily restricted. While one could houserule in in 3rd and 4th ed I can't recall a source book spelling it out like that.
4. No assumed number of players or party composition. The rules kind of assumed the party was alot larger than 3rd and 4th ed. In 3rd ed the defualt assumption was 4, 4th ed it was a 5 member party. As a general rule you would need to have all of the bases covered in terms of party composiiton and 4th ed in particular heavily encouraged 2 defenders, 1 leader/striker/controller. One was not locked into it of course. 2nd ed players option discussed things like all fighter or all wizard parties. An all fighter party would be derided in 3rd and 4th ed but back then they more or less said change the campaigns setting. An all thieves game make it an urban one. All fighters put them in the army or have a war raging etc.
5. Fluff heavy rule books. 2nd ed books are really nice to read even after all these years. By 3rd and 4th ed standards there is not alot of mechanics to them but what mechanics there are are often very useful. The class splatbooks usually had kits for the classes and a few magic items. It cut back on the mechanical bloat alot while still giving you alot of options with your character. In a way kits kind of functioned as a hybrid between paragon paths and prestige classes but you could take them from level 1. Very similar to varient class abilities in 3rd eds Unearthed Arcana and Advanced Players Guide in PF I suppose.
Thats it I suppose. The 2nd ed books leave one with the impression they were wrtten by gamers for gamers. WoTC era have lost a little of that feel with the heavy focucs on spamming mechanical rules made for the sole purpose of selling more books regardless of the impact they have on your game. 2nd ed ha some outright silly stuff in it though but it was usually clear that it was optional ad often it was intentional. Alright now where did I put my Gnome rubber band and giant gerbil powered Spelljammer ship.......