Nostalgia can be a powerful thing but BITD I liked AD&D. Over the last few weeks I have been running a few one off games of AD&D with d20 era players to see what they think. Overall they liked it and I have house ruled things like level limits and racial restrictions away and they have noticed things like Halfling do not suck, Fighters were nerfed in 3rd ed and the Druid was not a broken abomination.
While it is entertaining to watch the 3rd and 4th ed crowds fight it out I still like AD&D both 1st and 2nd ed and I still like BECM as well even if overall I prefer 3rd ed slightly. While I cannot stand bounded accuracy as implemented I do like how D&DN seems to be going back to AD&D expectations on things like magic items. Wondrous items need to be wondrous and not just a gp value you pick up in the nearest city once you accumulate enough gold or have an hour spare and a ritual.
Balance at least in the way a modern d20 would understand it need to be thrown out the window. The main appeal of AD&D is that it is more balanced than 3rd ed and doesn't have the problems of 4th ed- long combats, inflated hit points, magic item/inherent bonus treadmill and it is easy to run. The major downsides are things like THACO and counter intuitive mechanics like initiative and ability checks. Higher is not always better in 2nd ed. Things like level limits and racial restrictions do not need to be brought back and they seemed t be on their way out in 2nd ed material anyway and gamers seemed to hate them anyway. Where possible I have translated AD&D mechanics into modern terms in regards to things like ability checks, saves, THACO etc.
Anyway things I think one can consider from AD&D.
Character class deign for classes such as the Druid. We all know the problems the 3rd ed Druid had, the 4th ed Druid while mechanically fine did not feel like a Druid. The difference between 2nd ed 3rd ed polymorph broke the class along with the animal companion which in 2nd ed was more of a familiar than a pseudo pocket fighter. THe fighter was also a good class even at higher levels. While one doesn't need to balance D&DN liek 4th ed was balanced I do not think one needs to aim for 3.5 levels of CoDzilla either. One could also look at things like Clerics and Druid really requiring level 8 and 9 spells as that was the trade off in AD&D for better armor, weapons and class features.
Bounded Accuracy. This is not a D&DN concept and it predates 3rd ed. AD&D had it as ACs for example topped out at 32 (-12 in AD&D), ability checks were really DC 20, saving throws were DC 20, and Fighters gained +19 to hit over 20 levels. Ability scores were capped at 25. One could easily recycle this into D&DN as stats have been capped at 20 (a good move IMHO) and you can tweak ACs to somewhere between 30-35 (40 at the most). BA as implemented has created some problems in regards to armor and a sense of class progression. Mearls apparently likes 2nd ed, he can't seem to figure out why we liked it. One would need to narrow the to hit ranges between fighters and everyone else and 3rd ed and SWSE achieved this without going to the extent 4th ed did by giving everyone the same numbers to hit with. If warriors gain +20 to hit by level 20 everyone else could have +15 +18. +5 is in D&DN is lame.
Different xp tables.
3rd ed unified the xp tables. In effect this buffed the spell casters as in AD&D classes progressed at different rates. A thief(rogue) would hit level 20 while a wizard would be level 16. I don't think I would resurrect that as even back then the tables were a bit wonky as wizards hit level 9 before fighters and Druids rocketed to level 9 and then hit a wall at level 12 or so. Pathfinder however does have a fast/medium/slow progression table where one can choose how fast to level the PCs. I don't think anyone yet has worked out one can use medium xp progression for the tier 3 classes, slow advancement for the tier 1/2 classes and fast advancement for the weak classes. Having that as an option could also prevent problems further down the track should inevitable power creep break something (probably a spell caster).
The d20 mechanic was the most modular version mechanically of D&D ever and the OGL has more or less proved this. 2nd ed was the most modular version in terms of play styles. The rules would quite frankly discuss the pros and cons of changing various mechanical aspects. Speed factor for example was an optional initiative rule that kind of nerfed spell casters which could cause problems later on. Proficiency's were optional, level limits could be broken with optional rules. High and low magic worlds were discussed along with banning certain classes to make something fit as a concept. Tech levels also ranged from the stone age through to about the 16th century AD/CE. One could play a historical game, a mythical game with some magical elements, a default game or magitech tech level etc. There was a basic assumed default but the DMG presented other options. With no wealth by level guideline or assumed magical bonus required from magic items it was no big deal. Being modular did not mean anything goes either as some things like Darksun for example Gnomes did not exist as they were wiped out in a genocidal war which was mirrored in real life events with the ethnic cleansing in the Balkens in the 1990's. The settings were a large reason that TSR folded and were bought up by WoTC, so there is a balance they could try and find. A stone axe was not meant to be baanced vs a steel axe but if the PCs were a stone age culture and the fantasy equivilent of the Spanish turn up it was tough luck. The idea was to have fun and sucking up a minus 1 or 2 here and there was not a big deal.
In conclusion I think AD&D has a lot to offer D&DN even if some of it dates from the 1970's. If you get something right the 1st time do not change it. One does not have to hold AD&D as a perfect ideal however and there are large parts of it that can stay buried such as gender and racial limits, level limits, THACO etc. It was not perfect by any means but neither was it universally awful. AD&D is still fun and we have another game schduled for Sunday and it is almost a new system after a 12 year absence.
Fear is the Mind Killer