Was the unduplicated element in OD&D the fact that so much was determined by mere chance? Does this imply that removing DM control and placing more emphasis on random results would cause any version to have more of the thrill factor?
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Whoa, I better sneak this in before the thread gets closed.
There's a difference between the "out of game" loop and the "in game" loop. To me, it doesn't really matter how complicated character creation is - so long as it doesn't bog down the inner game loop, which is combat. When you've got all these modifiers and stacking/not stacking rules, and keeping track of durations of spell effects, and all this other crap, it can really bog down.
But having a nicely defined skill list and feat selection largely don't affect the in-game loop. Sure, it might make players take a little longer to decide on their action, but I think it does add a lot to the game.
I run, what I consider, to be an "old school" kind of game, but I've managed to do that within the 3.5 ruleset. Specifically, I've found the E6 ruleset, which I think accomplishes this very nicely, and very easily.
Furthermore, a few simple houserules, and the ability to "handwave" a lot of crap can really speed up play.
Lastly, I think "old school" is as much a feeling as it is a mechanic.
If there's one thing I learned over the years it's to play what your players want. Trying to make guys play a game they don't like leads to fail. If they're cool with OD&D, you're golden. If not, expect a lot of frustration on both sides.