I wrote a little piece today in response to the often-revisionist commentary that Gary Gygax invented a bunch of stuff just to “put players in their place.” He sort of did, but that’s not the thing you should take away from observations on Rust Monsters and save-or-die traps. There was a kind of spirit of fun in the “adversarialism” (pretty sure that’s not a word, but maybe it should be) of early D&D. There was an arms race between the skills of the players and the DM – Who could imagine and/or logic out the best stuff within the framework of the evolving D&D world? From the DM perspective wasn’t about punishing players, but about challenging them. (Maybe I should say it wasn’t “just” about punishing them, because sometimes it was. But punishment was more about players who overtly tried to break things, perhaps, and challenging was more about getting play to the next level, or exploring just how good players could get.) Anyway, if you are interested in my full thoughts, they are here and they begin with a joke.
I’m curious as to your thoughts on this topic and any examples you want to bring up.