If the game master described it right, you didn’t know what kind of sword it was, save that it was magical. Maybe you had to swing it around a bit, or go into combat for the first time, to determine that +1 bonus.
Spells like Identify took the fun out of testing magic items. But in D&D 3rd Edition the spellcaster had to swallow a 100 GP pearl. The AD&D Second Edition version had even more drawbacks (the spellcaster lost 8 constitution points and had to rest to regain them), but you could identify multiple items.
Finding that Sword +1 was cool… until you came across a Sword +2.
At some point the magic kind of wore off. And then, particularly with D&D Third Edition, finding that Sword +1 became expected by a given level. If your fighter didn’t have a Sword +1 by 3rd level, something was wrong with the campaign.
To add flair to the standard Sword +1, I’d give the sword a history or some other minor power (+1 to a given saving throw). And that seemed to help.
But it can be hard to make those “generic” items seem special in worlds of high magic.
But then, at some point, I came across this passage in “Monsters and Treasure” in the brown booklets from the original D&D boxed set, page 27.
“Swords: Among magic weaponry swords alone possess certain human (and super-human) attributes. Swords have an alignment (Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic), and intelligence factor, and an egoism rating (as well as an optional determination of their origin/purpose.”
The rules mention nothing about the chance of given sword having these properties.
Does this mean that in the original rules, all magic swords, even the lowly +1 blade have special powers?
If so, that would be a game changer.
That would make the sword +1 cool again.