So I posted this reply to a blog post...
"It's an understatement to say that Gary Gygax was disingenuous in acknowledging the debt Dungeons & Dragons owed to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth tales."
This I think, by itself makes any deconstruction of intent of flavor or ethos impossible. Even if some sources may have been in-mind at some points in the creation of D&D, others were in-mind at others. That doesn't make one "The core ethos" of D&D any more than the other. They were a factor...included...that is all. It has no bearing at all on "how D&D is/ was to be played.
There is NO "as intended" on style of play as it was left for the DM and players to decide. People stating that D&D was intended to be played a certain way is all opinion.
"It's all too easy to forget that D&D is a game and its early design was shaped by the demands of regular play rather than by some abstract theory."
Completely accurate IMO.
"regarding The Hobbit, IIRC Bilbo gets browbeaten into adventuring by Gandalf and pricked into it by foolish pride: he's a classic reluctant hero, like Luke Skywalker, for instance, which places him ina very long literary tradition but makes him fundamentally different from almost any PC."
That's a huge assumption on PC motivation from a limited point of view. Not everyone plays or has played PCs that are Conan-style mercenaries.
I think Gary Gygax fought against Tolkien as an influence publicly because his ideas were hardly original. He used the ideas and resources of others and cobbled them together in to a game...and when questioned about the obvious tolkien-esque similarities, he distanced himself from it as much as possible.
I'm not saying EGG was a bad person, not at all.
The history of D&D is full of debates on who created what, who was the influence and who gets credit (and who gets screwed over credit) and I think THAT is a more telling view of what the influences were.
Yes, EGG loved a lot of Pulp Fantasy. I believe those made their way in to D&D. Clearly so. Tolkien did as well. Clearly. As far as an "intent" on play, or "intent" on what D&D was supposed to be like, played like and "felt" like...we are left with a bunch of biased personal opinions from our own preferences and points of view...and the often contradictory statements of EGG, who regularly changed his mind.
We end up left with a game system that tells us to do what we want, how we want to. PC motivations are up to the PCs. The rest is a matter of conjecture. Likely will be forever.
Now, in retrospect, I shouldn't have bothered.
Here's one of my biggest failings:
I see something IMO wrong. In this case opinions disguised as "fact". I just HAVE to try and say something. Like that while what they are saying is nice and all...but ultimately it's opinion. It's their point of view. Not the only POV, and as such, no more valid or invalid than anyone else's.
Why do I do it? Because it's arrogance on their behalf and it does an injustice to the silent others who believe otherwise.
Why do I do it? Because of my own arrogance in trying to show a different POV to opinionated people, hoping they see that their own opinion is just that...opinion.
I'm just as guilty as the next guy.