[Attention conservation notice: This is only about D&D, and if you don't care about the game then you absolutely will not care about this post. Luckily it is short.]
I get tired of hearing 'old school renaissance' gamers spout off about the 'true nature' of the game - not just because that kind of talk is always tiresome in itself, but because of a nagging sense that the OSR's consensus vision of 70's/80's gaming culture is historically inaccurate. Here's the creator of D&D saying some things that might surprise devotees of the 'old ways':
The "critical hit" or "double damage" on a "to hit" die roll of 20 is particularly offensive to the precepts of the D&D game. Two reciprocal rules which go with such a system are seldom, if ever, mentioned: 1) opponents scoring a natural 20 will likewise cause a double-damage hit or critical hit upon player characters; and 2) as a 20 indicates a perfect hit, a 1 must indicate a perfect miss, so that any time a 1 is rolled on the "to hit" die, the attacker must roll to find if he or she has broken his or her weapon, dropped it, or missed so badly as to strike an ally nearby. When these additions are suggested, the matter is usually dropped, but the point must be made that the whole game system is perverted, and the game possibly ruined, by the inclusion of "instant death" rules, be they aimed at monsters or characters. In the former case, they imbalance the play and move the challenge which has been carefully placed into the D&D system. In the latter, "instant death" no longer allows participants to use judgement when playing. Certainly so monsters are capable of delivering death at a single stroke, but players know these monsters and can take precautions. If everything that is faced has an excellent chance to kill characters, they will surely die before long. Then the game loses its continuity and appeal, for lasting character identification cannot be developed.
--Gary Gygax, The Dragon #16, July 1978
Now, I've long maintained that Gygax had no idea what the hell he was doing when he designed D&D. When the game took off, his knack for self-promotion and self-mythologizing kicked in, and you get pieces like the one quoted above. It's an amazingly bad bit of writing and thinking: Gygax manages to simultaneously mischaracterize the workings of what has since become the standard D&D combat system, disparage play styles he himself had previously advocated, grossly mischaracterize his own game ('that challenge which has been carefully placed' is a rich way of talking about a combat/exploration game that relies so heavily on random monster charts), and whine like a child about how mechanics other than his own 'pervert' and 'ruin' not just the 'to hit' roll but 'the whole game system' - even though the threat of instant death is now considered, and indeed has historically been, one of the central characteristic features of the 'low fantasy' generic D&D setting.
He also mentions the interesting topic of 'lasting character identification,' which raises the point that Gygax's thinking about the game surely deepened between 1974 and 1978 - yet another reason to discard silly essentialist/primitivist views of the game's (and the hobby's) history. Fascinating that he identifies the game's 'appeal' with character identification. Even allowing for iconic rather than dramatic characters, that's a bit of a break from his early conception by the sound of things.
Look. Gygax struck gold with the D&D design, no doubt, but pretty much every beloved feature of his creation has been done more skillfully and evocatively in subsequent roleplaying games. You can honour the act of creation without inventing silly fictions about the artifacts that remain.