Much as I love elegant simplicity of OD&D and its retro-clone, Swords & Wizardry, I have to admit that one of the greatest attractions of AD&D for me was its seeming complexity to outsiders. And few things concretized that attraction more than the Player Character Record Sheets first released in 1979 and later reprinted with a different colored cover in 1981. Both printings had the terrific Erol Otus artwork, but I'm pretty sure I owned the 1981 printing you see pictured to the left.
If you ever owned these record sheets back in the day, I suspect you'll understand precisely what I mean. These sheets were gloriously cramped, with every nook and cranny filled with lines, boxes, and other areas intended to contain vital information about your AD&D character. "Vital," of course, is a relative word, since, along with things like hit points, armor class (including shieldless and rear AC), and known/prepared spells, there was also room for the percentage of his wealth your cleric tithes to his church, the name of your magic-user's familiar, and what disguises your assassin regularly uses. Now, some may argue that this is precisely why AD&D was such a miserable, tedious, newbie-unfriendly game and I certainly see their point. At the same time, this is precisely why AD&D held such an attraction for me and my friends. Mastering all these minutiae was like being initiated into a secret society and we felt a perverse pride in doing so. I think people often overlook just how appealing esoterica can be.
To this day, I still contend these are the greatest character sheets ever made for any iteration of Dungeons & Dragons, possibly for any RPG. They were eminently usable rather than just being pretty -- though their non-photocopyable goldenrod color did hold a certain charm. The three-hole punching of the sheets pretty much ensured that everyone in my gaming group had a D-ring binder for each of their characters, so they could include the sheet along with other important bits of paper under a single cover, resulting in a kind of "mini-biography" of each PC. You could tell by looking at these binders what adventures a given character had undertaken, how much XP and treasure he'd gained, and lots of other small details from which amusing anecdotes could be spun later. This was true even -- or perhaps especially -- of dead characters, whose sheet and papers were typically removed from a binder and stuck inside a separate folder that served us as our Hall of the Glorious Dead (even though many PCs met their deaths in less than glorious fashions).
If anyone wants to bask in the reflected light of these awesome character sheets, the amazing Mad Irishman has lovingly recreated them as customizable PDFs. They're well worth a look.