I asked Chatty what he meant by “player psychology-driven controlled encounters “ and he replied:
I meant encounters designed to hit the motivations of each of the players in your group. My group has a strong butt kicking streak, so I need to put in combats. I have a few Tacticians so I need to let them plan in some encounters instead of having them react all the time. There are strong Storytellers so encounters need to make sense in the world around the PCs and so forth.
I don’t think old school dungeons were designed like that. Although I clearly recall reading about Gygax and Kuntz designing part of their respective dungeons to specifically challenge their players.
I do know that the infamous Tomb of Horrors was designed to thwart common strategies and certain kick-in-the-door-and-whack-everything-that-moves proclivities that seemed to be cropping up in the game at that time. Beyond that, I couldn't say. What I can speak to is the flexibility of dungeons from those days of yore. My favorite example is Shrine of the Kuo-toa. Every encounter, from the mad boatman to the svirfneblin to the shrine itself can go any of a number of ways. Does the party draw swords and charge in with spells flying? Do they attempt stealth? Or do they negotiate their way through the encounter? A smart, observant, and lucky party can pass through the entire module without ever having to fight, and emerge out the other side with extra treasures in their packs and maybe even some allies that might prove very useful in tackling the Vault of the Drow.
This flexibility is a bit of a challenge to reproduce in 4e. In the latest iteration of D&D, encounters are designed from the start as combat or skill challenges or whatever. But older versions didn't have this separation. Any encounter could be a duel to the death, or a tense negotiation, or something else entirely. This is why it mattered that kobolds hated their orc neighbors, or that the ogre had a toothache, or that the owlbear hadn't eaten in days. This is why 3e statblocks are such monsters; if the PCs might negotiate with a creature, it's important to know the necessary stats, skills, and feats that might apply to such an attempt. 4e attempts to thread that needle by making the DM decide ahead of time how the PCs will deal with the challenge, so you only need to worry about it as either a combat challenge or a skill challenge, and then you apply the appropriate rules, and only those you need.
That said, I'm sure a skillful 4e DM can swing one way or the other adroitly, without the players ever the wiser. I think it's a bit easier with Labyrinth Lord, but that likely says more about my personal preferences and strengths than it does about the games. I do know that this flexibility in older editions made it easier for the players to mold the game into the sort of thing they preferred. If they wanted to kick down doors and wade in, that was an option. If, instead, they enjoyed more a game of politics and shifting alliances, the game easily accommodated that sort of play. Players who were all about battle mats and miniatures could acquire hirelings and henchmen before entering the dungeon, marshaling their mercenaries to wage tunnel warfare against the dungeon. Granted, some encounters could better be tackled with certain strategies. In the Villa of the Poyma, there are a few encounters that are very tough for a straight-up, mano-y-mandible fight. Trickery or truce would work better in those situations. But I'm not dictating anything, and whatever method my players chose, I will give them whatever odds seem most just according to the situation.