I watched an interesting video from Nerdarchy a while ago. The tile is "D&D Ability Scores: Why are We Still Doing it This Way". While the discussion on ability scores is not new, I think they nailed the true issue:
Needless complexity is gatekeeping.
I'm paraphrasing here but they basically ask:
Are these things the true gatekeepers of D&D? Or: in order to play D&D, do you need to learn all these rules that matter very little or nothing? We are just making math with extra steps at this point...
Anyway, here is the video:
And I completely agree with this idea. Every little rule that is included in the (300+ pages) PHB and doesn't have a clear function is a small obstacle to new players. And every player that I've brought from other editions (or other RPGs) to 5e had a harder time then they should, IMO. The rules often got in the way of the game.
But this is not only for new players. I've been playing 5e for a few years, and D&D for more than three decades. The fact that there are so many rules in 5e often turns me off from playing the game, even though I really like the system as a whole.
Believe ir or not, I'm playing GURPS at the moment and the basis of the system feel somewhat simpler. Probably because each character has a smaller number of special powers (still, too many skills).
don't get me wrong - 5e is decent enough. SOME features are ridiculous, but MOSTLY it is a good system. I just wish they had gone a couple of extra steps: cut repetition, make races a bit simpler and more flexible, a smaller list of spell that you can cast at any level, and remove some features that are only there to give you +1.33 damage (or some other ridiculous amount) per attack.
By the way, I started listening to a new podcast, The GM's Guide, yesterday. Only one episode so far ("Designing Your Own RPG System"), but I really like it. He says something to the effect of "you need to justify every rule you have" - which is exactly what we're saying here.
But, in the end, it's just a matter of taste. I love Moldvay's Basic, for example, but I wanted to add more stuff, so I wrote Dark Fantasy Basic. I think 5e is too complex, but the melee weapons are too simple - so I wrote a couple of PDFs to enhance it. In the end, I'm not without blame...
The solution? I'm not sure. It might be having a lean spine (maybe the "basic" version of 5e but something like Moldvay's Basic might be even better), and building other things (feats, extra spells, subclasses, etc.) ON TOP of it, according to your taste. Character creation at first level should probably be easier - add complexity as you go.
But I guess there is no perfect solution. The best I can do is choose what works best for me.