15 years means you started with...3.5e? 4e?
Either way, your starting expectations as to how the game is played would of course have been largely set by the environment you started in, and the 3.5e/4e environment and generally expected playstyle was vastly different than that of early 80's 1e.
I hate to remind you that you are old Lanefan, but how many people in their 30's do you think have been playing since the 80's? Sure, maybe a few people in their 50's started playing in the eighties, but you are really looking at people in their 60's or older who started playing in the eighties.
The vast majority of DnD players currently playing have only really played 3.5, 4e or 5e. And a lot of people who have been playing over the last decade have only known 5e. Our expectations and how we approach the game ARE changed by that, but that doesn't mean they are wrong or dangerous.
Perhaps. There's also the issue of player knowledge vs character knowledge; if I'm off in [faux-Rome] doing stuff while most everyone else is either at our base or in the field, those characters might not know what I'm doing and thus neither should their players.
But yes, I'm willing to bet that most if not all of the other players aren't interested in sitting through X going through all sorts of political machinations. Can't say I blame 'em.
Who cares if they know? Character vs Player knowledge can matter, but in terms of "what are my teammates doing" it really shouldn't unless you are intentionally hiding it. And if you are.... then it doesn't matter how you deal with the downtime.
Hoo boy, are you reading a different set of tea leaves!
Dear friends? Well, sometimes, yes; even progressing to lovers on occasion and spouses on rarer occasion; but they're also sometimes rivals, enemies, or simply workmates who when the day (or adventure) is done go home to their other lives and forget about work until tomorrow.
They could be, but that's not the norm. Heck, I try to be very careful about not having players make characters who will be enemies, because they are going to have to be interacting for hours on hours on hours.
And frankly, workmates don't risk their lives to save the lives of others. Which can lead to hard feelings at the table if you end up with an attitude of "Yeah, I don't really care about you people or your needs." I'm sure your group of long-term players who have known each other for multiple years don't have that problem, but when I bring people together who have known each other for less than an hour? I have no desire to risk the fun of the game by opening that potential. Hard enough to keep a group from imploding as it is.
Just because I play on a hockey team* doesn't mean I have to spend any time with the guys after the game or practice.
* - hypothetical only; my complete lack of skating prowess did any such thoughts in by the time I was 10.
And you are the only person I have ever talked to who treats a DnD adventuring party like a hockey team. Everyone else treats them closer to a military squad. They bunk together, they eat together, they are major parts of each others lives even when not in the field.
Perhaps it will come as no surprise, then, that I'm a big fan of Rogue-likes; and in some ways see D&D - particularly at very low level - as being a multi-player version of the same thing.
No, that doesn't surprise me. But most DnD players don't share your opinion and that is fine.
The game will be fine.
Without going into great anecdotal detail, I'll just say I've a long run of experience that begs to differ.
If you have a great deal of expeirence with solo DnD, feel free. But don't act like DnD isn't marketed as a team game.
Yes, TPKs are a different thing entirely. They're also damn hard to pull off if one is being fair about it - in nearly 40 years of DMing I've had exactly one - as parties are IME shockingly resilient beasts. All it takes is for there to be one survivor and the party can continue.
Can, but it won't for many many people.
I've been in games where a single party member died, or two people left the game, and it disrupted everything that was being built. If any of the games I was in involved a single survivor, most people would want to start a new game. Because none of the old plot points would work any more without a huge amount of effort that is far less than just starting a new game.
A game where characters died or left regularly? It would put a huge strain on my ability to care about the game, because none of our stories actually matter.
What about the 1e MMs and their complexity level?
The only major flaw in RAW 1e monster design in general IMO is there's too many glass cannons - most of them need about half again as many hit points to keep up with the advances in damage-dealing given to PCs as time went on.
Never read it, but I don't imagine it is actually that complex. Most poisons were "save or die". That isn't complex, it is very simple. Negative levels? Not actually complex conceptually, just a pain to deal with unless you make your character a spread sheet. Again, it is less about being complex to implement, and more about being harsh.
That's because your focus is (or appears to be) strictly on your own character at the time, rather than on the story of the party as a whole. If I start out with Falstaffe the Fighter who dies to an Orc three combats in, then come back with Jelessa the Mage who lasts until the adventure's 3/4 done then gets squashed by a trap, I'd want to come back with a third character just so I could see how the adventure turned out and what happened next.
I understand that's what you would do. You are in the minority. Most people I've played with wouldn't care what happens in the adventure, because the hook that got them involved with that adventure was Falstaffe's quest, and now they are on a third person who only exists so they can finish the game the DM made. It has no personal significance, and it can't have significance because they can't invest any story into a character who is going to die.
They stop planning. They stop making a backstory. They stop caring
beyond "well, I'm playing DnD so I have to have a mechanical character to play."
There was ve-ery little if any risk of a true TPK, if for no other reason than several characters have what I call "getaway cars" (means of fast long-distance escape e.g. teleport or flight devices) had things really turned south.
But my own character doesn't have a getaway car, is the lowest level member of the party, and in her very first session lost all her magic to a Deck card (she's been running on what she can borrow and-or nick since then). Sending her out there was, in my eyes going in, likely to end as a perhaps-heroic attempt followed by a quick death; and that she not only survived but succeeded beyond any hopes I-as-player had - yeah, there's an accomplishment there.
Which is odd, as she's not even that heroic of a character most of the time. Her background is a scavenger (think Rey at the start of Force Awakens) who goes into dungeons after other parties have cleared them out and scoops up whatever treasures or valuables they might have missed or ignored; and her alignment ain't exactly Good.
One against four with no real means of escape from foes who weren't there to take prisoners - yeah, failure pretty much meant death; with the only question being how long it would take.
Right, and this is where the differences in our styles end up incredibly stark.
The ability to run away and leave your friends behind? No one takes that route, unless the group demands it because running away is winning. If your thief had been spotted, then after getting beaten down by the Boss, he would have demanded the rest of the group surrender or he would kill her. And since the party CARES about her surviving, that would be a legitimate threat they would consider. They would plan "how do we rescue her from that", maybe using some of those teleportation abilities to get her away from the BBEG. And if they surrendered, then they would end up in the dungeons and have a chance to turn things around.
But, I imagine in your game, threatening to kill her would have gotten a lot of even "Good" characters shrugging. They don't CARE if she dies, because you don't care if she dies. Her death doesn't matter to the group, because you've all lost a dozen characters and they are just pieces on the board. Interchangeable.
And this is why even though I may play a game with low-death, it isn't like there is no challenge. Because in a low-death game, the threat of inevitable death matters. And they wouldn't call the bluff, because I'd tell them there is no bluff. I'm very open about making sure the player's know the score. I'd straight tell them they can surrender, be imprisoned, and have a difficult adventure trying to escape, or they can keep fighting, I'll make two coup-de-grace attacks, and that character will be permanently dead unless they have resurrection magic.
Whether or not your character died isn't a measure of how risky the choice was, nor the sense of accomplishment from succeeding.
The individual character matters for as long as it lasts, with how long it lasts being an unknown quantity.
After that, it's next Dwarf up.
Exactly. It doesn't matter to you. But it does matter to us. And, again, that is fine. The game is fine, has been fine, and will continue to be fine with us caring about individual characters instead of rooting for "Team Adventuring Party" regardless of who is on it.