I dunno... I played the paperback before the boxes, basic boxed sets, Adnd, Adnd 2e, 3, 3.5
After accepting that 3.5 wasn't just going to go away, I read the rules and realized that for beginner players 3.5 is a hundred times easier to learn. Plus, 3.5 is DM friendly because of the Challenge Rating system. But hinestly, its better for the simple fact that they fixed all the rolls to all go in the same direction... It is so difficult to explain that the higher the numebr the better, except in the case of AC. Oh and Saves. Oh yeah, and you have to look up all your saves in this giant tedious chart that sometimes makes no sense.
No thanks. Just look up the class, add your stat mod to the number and write it down. Plus, three saves instead of five. Furthermore, I had to go out of my way to track down what a "THAC0" was. And then the math for figuring out how to hit, and as a dm trying to juggle all those numbers... fah. 3.5 is a better system hands down. That comes from a charter DND player, from back before the Boxed set. Heck, I've played Chainmail too.
But that's not the point of this thread.
The most successful character class in all systems hands down is the Ranger 2e. Simply put, its broken. You come out the gate able to use two weapons, by 6th level you have three attacks. You can cast spells. You have animal companions, and can make friends with half the monsters in the book. Don't get et by the bear. Plus with the specialization rules with bows, it was ludicrous.
But favorite? Cleric. Nothing like a little enforced piety. No we can't loot that tomb. Yes, we track down and eradicate all undead. Bringing the light to the darkness, and sometimes you gotta do it with the thief in a headlock. Roleplay is most flavorful with clerics.
Paladins. Their very code of honor demands suicide the moment a lich walks in. You're 3rd level and you bump into a lich, the Paladin shouts "Begone foul dem..."
Shai: I agree. rangers are pretty good and I like the idea of a protector of the wilderness, an animal tamer who can use swords and cleric magic (right?). Still trying to figure out how someone so anti-social actually makes it through a campaign.
Ninja (rogue), I like ninja too. Who doesn't?
Bard (rogue): Haha, the traveling musician. Nice, right? Not a care in the world.
Paladin: Only played one. Had a great time of it. Surprisingly, for somebody of my more lawless tastes, a defender of justice is a blast.
Thief/Rogue: My namesake character, Tek, was a thief. I always enjoyed the sneaky types.
Druid: A lot of fun, when played for RP value. Never cared for them when used solely for their abilities...
Cleric: Though I'm not the most religious type, its pretty easy to pretend to be a zealot and go about preaching the faith to the infidels. Their magics can be loads of fun, too, most particularly their non-combat ones (Though those seemed largely wiped away with the advent of 3e and onwards... 2e Clerics were HUGE fun!)
Probably a Rogue. First character I played, and I found it a lot of fun, always hiding, and coming up when you least expect it.
But Clerics are really fun when they're made the right way, especially when they're brought more into the combat realm.
And then, there's the swordsage. Incredibly fun class from Tome of Battle. If I get the chance to play one, I probably will. Most of the people I play with however, won't allow them, thinking they're "unbalanced"
Currently (and unfortunately) I'm playing 4e. And from that I must say that playing an Avenger has been quite enjoyable, especially with my diety being Bane or Shar XD.
Oh also, in 3.5e Ninja all the way!
I've always enjoyed the Warmage class, nothing quite like spontaneous BOOOOM! and armor to protect ya. Yeah you could get more spells and more utility out of a wizard or sorcerer, but then you're so squishy and the d4 hit die really sucks.
Someone already said this, but I have to second it, the Swordsage is a very fun class, problem is the one time I was allowed to play one the DM decided he hated my character and had one of the other players kill him, and then refused to let me re-roll another 'sage, limited me to the PHB only, even though the rest of the group was some combination of warlock/something else, ninja/something else, or ninja/warlock. Needless to say I left that group after being screwed over like that.
My first character though, and I know this isn't exactly the point of the thread, was a Ranger, and if the game I made him for had lasted more than 1 session (damned scatter-brained DM) I may have enjoyed him a lot more.
A fun fallback when I am limited to PHB classes though is the Rogue, sneaky, versatile, and deadly with a blade...what's not to like? Especially if you can add on the Insectile template from Savage Species.. My Insectile Halfling Rogue single-handedly derailed an entire game once..