There’s often a lot of shade thrown at Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition from OSR folks and fans of earlier editions like 1st, 2nd, and Basic. I bow to no one in my love of 1st Edition AD&D, but I’ve played 5th edition as well, and I think there are some 5E things that would work fine in a 1E or 2E game. Here are my choices.
3. Skill Checks. This is something that Judges Guild experimented with back in the 70’s, albeit not in quite as finished a form as you see it in 5E. This is actually something I included in Adventures Dark and Deep™, and it’s really handy. It’s no different than a DM saying “roll a d20” when a player wants to do something wacky, except you try to roll under the relevant statistic, and the DM can apply some broadly applicable modifiers. I suggest -10 for a simple task, -5 for a hard one, and no modifier for a really hard one.
2. Legendary Actions. Giving special advantages to certain monsters in their home territory is a rather obvious notion, and it’s odd that it hasn’t been more widely applied before 5th edition. Big, special monsters in 1E, like liches and ancient dragons, deserve a little buffing like this. 5E might go a little overboard with the power level (as it usually does), but the principle is a sound one. I could especially see this sort of thing for treants and unicorns in sylvan woodlands, cloud giants in their cloud castles, and so forth.
1. Advantage/Disadvantage. As a mechanic, this is a pretty simple thing for a DM to apply, and it would work exactly the same in 1st or 2nd edition as it does in 5th edition. The question is when to apply it; earlier editions rely on plus and minus modifiers to a d20 roll. At what point does that modifier equate, more or less, to the probability changes incurred by rolling two dice? Fortunately other folks have already done the math; advantage is roughly equivalent to +4 on a d20 (and thus disadvantage is equal to -4). When you stack up the bonuses from strength, magic weapons, and situations, it at least gives the DM a framework to use it. If someone would normally have a +4 to hit (not unusual for mid- to higher levels), they can get advantage and not mess the math up too much.
What about you? Is there anything from 5E you’ve used in your earlier-edition games?