Since I play with both kinds of players, this got me thinking about ways to update this characteristic of 1e so as to be able to scratch the character build itch without affecting either the streamlined nature of old school play or the ability to let the dice roll and play whatever comes up.
In order for this to work, every characteristic needs to have a combat bonus/penalty associated with it. I postulated something along these lines here. These, of course, would affect all classes.
Then, there would be a series of feat-like bonuses attached to each characteristic depending upon class. Players would be able to pick one or two of these feats, the effectiveness of which would be tied to the characteristic. Thus, they can only be taken advantage of if the characteristic has a bonus.
For example, here is a rough draft for feat-like abilities that can be associated with the B/X; LL magic-user:
- Str = 1, 2 or 3 spells cast per day by the magic user have their durations doubled.
- Dex = 1, 2 or 3 spells cast per day by the magic-user with an area effect have that area doubled.
- Con = The magic-user may use 1, 2 or 3 weapons or armor chosen at character creation that they are not normally able to use. In the case of armor, leather must be chosen first and chainmail is the heaviest armor a magic-user can wear and be able to cast spells.
- Int = 1, 2 or 3 spells per day with variable effects cast by the magic user have maximum effect.
- Wis = The magic-user can store 1, 2 or 3 spells that can be spontaneously cast in place of a memorized spell of equal or greater spell level per day.
- Cha = 1, 2 or 3 spells per day cast by the magic user require two successful saving throws to save versus the spell.
This could be done with every class. Assuming that a typical character has two characteristics with bonuses, there is a huge range of options combining combat bonuses with feat-like abilities, thus offering plenty of different character builds per class for those that like to scratch that itch. It also gives more variety of surprise for those who like their characters to be random. Finally, these feat-like abilities can be tailored to campaign-worlds if Referee so desires.