Far be it from me to impose some organized thought to this thread about imagination games, but really, shouldn’t a critical analysis of what Cecil said at least contain some accurate, citable background?
For anyone interested in the development of the “Dungeons & Dragons ™” game, there is a reasonably coherent narration of the history of the game in the book “The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer’s Bible” by Sean Patrick Fannon (Prima, 1996) I will not repeat the whole story here (after all, going and looking up and reading about things is part of what Cecil is all about). Suffice it to note that: 1) the idea of a ‘role-playing’ fantasy game did not originate with Gary Gygax (thank, instead, his partner, Dave Arneson, who applied the role-playing military game ideas of Dave Wesely to a fantasy millieu, Blackmoor); 2) Gary Gygax DID develope the first rules for adding medieval and fantasy units to miniatures games (the famous “Chainmail” rules first published by Guidon Games in 1971); and 3) the original “Dungeons & Dragons”, subtitled: “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures” was intended as a supplement to the “Chainmail” rules system (it was the combined effort of Arneson and Gygax). As those of us who still guard our precious, boxed set of the original books (“Men and Magic,” “Monsters and Treasure,” and “The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures”) remember, it was damn-near impossible to run a campaign solely using the original publication, even if you were lucky enough to possess the aforementioned “Chainmail” rules. The whole point was that each ‘dungeon master’ was SUPPOSED to ‘fill in the blanks’ in his or her game. Indeed, as noted in the “Bible,” when the original developers of role-playing miniatures games attempted to impose rules on the barely-organized chaos of the first attempts, they received multiple complaints from the players, who preferred NOT having their actions straight-jacketed (see page 121).
Why, then, is the present incarnation of the game so completely rule-bound? Basically, two reasons exist: 1) Arm-chair attorneys, who LOVE to get involved in such games, and 2) unimaginative would-be Dungeon Masters, who can’t figure out what to do about figuring the experience points of slaying an ancient spell-using red dragon of huge size. One is tempted to point out the obvious: 3) the mercenary tendencies of TSR, Inc., who know a good thing when they see it and make substantial money off selling such important tomes as: “The Complete Paladin’s Handbook” (TSR, Inc., 1994), but truly that was a later development. The metamorphosis of the original D&D from a few, easy to read but hard to understand rules into the monster AD&D with its explosion of hard to read and harder to understand, but way more comprehensive rules occurred between 1978 and 1980, and was, simply put, a response by the TSR owners to the overwhelming demand of DM’s to give them more specific rules for handling the game.
Enjoying D&D is ALWAYS a matter of finding the right people to play with (as is true of all games, including Monopoly™). If you like to look up everything from how often you can cast a fireball spell to the consequences of picking your nose in the presence of the god Thor, play AD&D, 2d Ed. If you prefer a game that depends more on imagination, play a simpler version, or play one of the competing games (who remembers the fun of Tunnels and Trolls?). As for Cecil’s reaction, I think it is understandable. But, then, who would want to take-up Bridge after being handed Goren’s “Complete Bridge?”