Playing through so many classic published adventures has been very enjoyable. Having a much better understanding of the game than I did when I originally ran the adventures and players that aren't all teen power games has been fun, but there are drawbacks. Some of the adventures really show their tournament origins. I've been playing them as written as much as possible, and as a result you're all over the place. There really is no campaign development and the players don't really establish any relationships or have any attachments to anything. one of the things I enjoy about old campaign stories is the way the PCs become part of the world, the long term relationships they build with NPCs, etc. I'm looking forward to a stretch of more localized play to add that extra layer of depth to the campaign.
Some thoughts on the permanent party style campaign, basically the de facto game for most of my life. Even though I idon'thave any problems with most of the possibilities detailed in the PH and DMG, a lot of them don't work in the perma party campaign. With everybody getting one game session every two weeks or whatever, playing with the same PCs all the time, you really should decide in advance what the party is going to be, and everybody creates their PCs around that. Good and evil PCs together doesn't really make sense. Is the party OK with the restrictions a paladin should put on all of them? Or what having an assassin in the party means? PVP really doesn't work. And as big a proponent of henchmen that I am, in the modern style campaign, henchmen, hirelings, etc. have to be used with care. Their inclusion assumed the original style of play and much of the reason for having them doesn't apply in the party for life game. You shouldn't have to worry about the machinations of rival PCs, or making sure you have a well rounded personal power base. Including them makes immersion in a character harder for players, unless the DM takes on most of the responsibility of running the henchmen during games, which can be a burden when you have a three or four in a party working for different players.
Player character versus player character can be a lot of fun, but is very disruptive and in practice usually blows up the campaign and often leads to actual player gripes. One campaign that Wes ran that everyone still talks about was S4 when he pit many high level player characters against each other by giving them rival goals. But it did lead to some actual hard feelings among players... Eric Bachman and Don Hortert went a long time without talking to each other after that! A lot of it is about expectations and how you frame it as the DM. If you go into with your players and say, "We're going to try things a bit differently this time..." I think it could work. It seems like Arneson and EGG had a lot of different styles in their campaigns ranging from one on one DMing to large parties working together to player versus player events.
In the PC based setup the "party" or parties can form on their own based on the desires of the players. And then backstabbing, PVP, etc is still acceptable if that was the expectation from the beginning. But in the party based game that's built around one party working together session after session. , you are right, that stuff can really kill a campaign. For many players the time they have available for gaming limits them to this option. Also, it's been so common for so long it's the only style they know. If you have the availability, which I think the internet, virtual tabletops, video conferencing, etc help with, the PC based game becomes more of an option. My current campaign is the longest running campaign I've had since the early 80s. It's been party based from the beginning. I've wanted to try on old school PC based game for years, and I think I am ready to add that option to my campaign. I'd really like to see how that plays out over the long term. I would also keep the party based option active. Run one party based game at a time, this would be where I could continue to play through the old modules, or more involved home-brew adventures, but at the same time run PC based sessions for players that are interested in trying out that style of play.
I was talking to Eric after the last game and told him when the player characters get to levels where they can have followers and strongholds I want to play that out and he seemed interested. It is something we've never done when Eric was the DM, other than when my one character Ruger inherited a semi-ruined castle and the party made it their base in the Weinland. I always used to let my players build strongholds and establish themselves as rulers or power players in my campaigns back in the 80's, and I want to do that again. It will change the dynamic once they get to "name level" but I plan to run some scenarios for them to clear and defend their fiefs, get involved in local politics, tabletop battles, etc.
The current group, like many parties I've seen over the years, is carrying over the party mindset to that stage of the campaign as well. They talk about "building our castle" when they get back. Which they can do, but I've already told them that they won't attract followers that way. They'll have to recruit and pay for everybody.
Rob once mentioned that when he was running Kalibruhn he gave every new PC 200 GP so everybody could hire a few men-at-arms if they wanted them. It's a generous solution to solo/small parties starting out, but I think I would stick to the by-the-book starting gold and come up with something else. I have had starting back stories where the PCs are arriving at 'town' having travelled with merchant caravans, and the story is they've convinced a few caravan guards to adventure with them, or I've had a few PCs start out associated with mercnary/bandit/brigand groups and a few agree to come with the PC, but they usually move on after the PC acquires enough gold to really hire some NPCs.