In light of the rather unexpected level of response to my post yesterday about the 4e paladin, I realized that I ought to do a post about what I'd have done if I'd have been given total freedom to create a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I'm a bit busy at the moment and thus unable to write up a comprehensive post just yet, but I did want to offer up one thing I'd do that strikes me as a no-brainer: bring back the Basic and Advanced "brand names."
One of the oddities about D&D naming conventions is that AD&D was created when there was no Basic D&D. Neither OD&D nor the Holmes edition call themselves "Basic." By the time that there was a true Basic D&D, AD&D had been out for several years and the two games, though related, were no longer designed or marketed as being on the same "continuum." There was a family resemblance between the two games, sure, but there was never any formal connection between them, at least as far as TSR was concerned.
As far as the fans were concerned, though, Basic and AD&D were two sources of ideas and adventures and most people who entered the hobby during the period between 1979 and 1984 tended to make little distinction between them. Indeed, I've still never been given a satisfactory answer to exactly why TSR bothered to maintain two separate lines, given the large amount of crossover between the buyers of both.
In the crazy world where I was given total control over D&D, there'd be a Basic D&D game covering levels 1-5 (or thereabouts) that'd come in a box and sell for under $20 in game and toy stores. It'd be aimed at children ages 10 and up (or thereabouts) and would focus primarily on dungeon adventuring. Advanced D&D would be aimed at older kids (14+) and would follow the traditional three-book model. The important part of this plan is that the rules of both Basic and Advanced would be the same, with Basic necessarily being, well, more basic in terms of complexity and presentation, but they'd still be completely compatible with one another. This approach would necessarily mean that the rules would have to be far simpler than either WotC edition, but that's a good thing in my book.
The icing on the cake would be that both versions of the game would be one-shots. That is, there's the boxed set and there are the three books, but that'd be it. There would certainly be adventures and possibly miniatures, but there'd be no supplements or additional rules beyond whatever fans or third parties produced (I'd make the game almost completely open BTW). Every few years, there might be new "editions" with new art and errata integrated into the text, but nothing in the way of changes to the way the game plays, because it's important that when a kid finds his Dad's old copy of the game, he can still play it with his friend who got a shiny new copy for his birthday. That's the way to ensure that the hobby survives and prospers from one generation to the next.
But this is all a pipe dream and further evidence of why I'll never be put in charge of D&D.