One of the main features of modern versions of D&D seem to be complex character builds that delight min-maxers and lead to players who do not optimize their characters being looked down on in some player groups. Old school D&D manages to avoid this problem for the most part by having very simple character design systems that stress the random elements and really have very few choices to optimize — at least compared to post Player Options versions of D&D.
Reading over CondorDM’s Sessions journals reminded me that there is a middle ground. Second Edition AD&D had kits, for example. And while I remember reading a few that looked either way too weak or way too strong, most seemed to provide mechanical variety in characters without leading to the extremes of character optimization I read about in 3rd and 4th editions.
This makes the game designer in me wonder how much (and what types) of mechanical variety for characters one can add to the basics of “old-school” D&D before min-maxing and character builds suck all the fun out of the game for those not into such things? Is it one thing (say feats) or a combination of things (say skills, feats, and ease of multiclassing) or…. I have no practical need to know the answer, but I’m suddenly curious enough to think about it — and to wonder what others think on the subject?