Again, I'd argue they're not necessarily easier, just more familiar, that way. Is it really that difficult to conclude who wins a fight (a fight in an heroic fantasy story, no less - the hero usually wins, unless his loss advances the plot somehow, no?), and narrate how, vs both the DM and player getting deeply enough into the minds & emotions of a character & NPC to accurately simulate a tense or high-stakes negotiation, between those two imaginary individuals, with their knowledge, talents, skills and agendas?I disagree very strongly. It isn't just about the stakes. It is about how difficult it is to adjudicate something as physically unpredictable and dynamic as combat fairly without a resolution system. With social situations, it is much easier to adjudicate based on the NPC personality in question and the reasonableness of what players are proposing.
Well, a GM isn't just a referee/judge, even if they did get called the latter back in the day, but also a player just one with a very different role in the game, and a sort of narrator or storyteller, and a sort of author...I will toss out there, for folks to chew on, whether the GM is adjudicating when they are not referring to any rules. A referee or game judge's job is to mediate between the players and the rules. If there aren't rules, are they really acting in that capacity?
...even so, when adjudicating in the absence of rules, the GM is still mediating between the players and the rules, just in the abject case of the rules.
since the game appeared in 1974, well within living memory, it clearly came first. Of course, it was preceded by Chainmail & other wargames, which carried with them an expectation of being combat simulators - but, for the most part, that wasn't /our expectations/ as Roleplayers, because we didn't exist as a community until after D&D came on the scene.I do think that it's a bit of a chicken or egg thing.....is the game combat heavy and that's flavored our expectations, or have our expectations influenced the rules design? It's a bit of both, for sure, I'd say.
There are reasons a game /could/ be more focused on combat, like it's a combat simulator, or the stakes of combat are life-and-death or combat is always there as a last resort - negotiations break down, exploration triggers hostility, whatever. But no reasons it must or should be, and reasons it might not be: combat could be out of the scope of the genre, or instance, or a (comparatively) minor part of it. In a murder mystery genre, for instance, violence is actually pretty rare, overall in what would correspond to play - there's /a/ murder, which is viewed as a terrible thing, but generally happens 'off stage,' anyway, and the murderer rarely fights his accusers (more often confesses, gives up, flees or dies trying), and it'd be an odd twist if he got away with it by resorting to violence.I don't think that there's any reason a game cannot be focused on non-combat more than combat, or that there must be more rules for combat. I think this is simply the general trend, which reinforces long standing play expectations.