Oh I loved the special charts. So did everyone else it seemed. They were every where when I was playing Arduin and in just about any other game. It not DH's charts is was someone's homegrown ones or mishmash from several games. We all love them.
What's important, at least from the AE perspective was why.
That answer is what led us to break them apart and treat them in a completely different way. The answer was manifold one. People loved them because it made them different, not only from each other but from their previous character that was a fighter and used a sword and killed stuff. Not only mechanically but many of them had implied role playing dimensions that they RP styled players used. Of course, they also gave you some kind of power, some bump or bonus that made you a little stronger, smarter, faster, tougher or skilled. And people love that. Love it to death.
So I took the idea and adopted it into AE but with a few twists. One, I wanted more than a vanilla this or that race. In fact, I wanted players to be able to tailor (tool box approach, remember?) out of the gate. So into each race went a set of options that a player could choose to tailor or make them different from the norm. That was the first step.
The next was to adopt this same idea and allow their environment and nurturing (covered in cultures) to influence them, giving even more options to make their player a little different. Following it was even more options under their profession (fighter, mage, trader, herbalist, etc) so they could tailor it even more. What came out the end was a means to really show how one warrior was very different from the other even if they both had selected the same profession. It put teeth and mechanics to people's back story in a way they had control over and could see in game adjustments.
Did it allow for metagaming? Oh to be sure. Not its intended function but surely. And why not? They like to play too and if a GM will have them then turn them loose! Symmetry was a core function and allowing for equal RP and power gaming fit right in.
The options fit the same two reasons people loved the special tables. They made it fun, they made it different and it game them the sensation of power.