This post comes by way of an ongoing reading of a 1st edition TSR supplement - "Dungeon Master's Design Kit", an ongoing slow education into miniature wargaming and some various blog readings, this post by Rob Conley at "Bat in the Attic": Into the First Fantasy Campaign Part 1.
James over at Grognardia focuses a lot of his attention on the pulp aspect of the hobby, and rightly so, as the pulp fiction that Arneson, Gygax and others grew up with definitely influenced the hobby. That's why we have "fire and forget" magic, fantastic monsters, paladins and many other little idiosyncrasies that pervade our hobby. I think, at times, we tend to focus on that too much and forget that there's another leg of the stool to D&D - wargaming.
I've learned a lot from reading Grognardia and other posts about how the hobby changed during the 1980s. At the time, I really didn't give it much thought. I didn't buy/play the modules so much, and our games were more of the "Heavy Metal" type than the plot driven type. I didn't play Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk or any of the 2nd edition settings. We weren't caught up in the movement from sandboxes to stories to railroads. It's only later, by looking back at the whole picture and reading some of the books and modules that I can see the movement from where OD&D had it's roots to where the game is today.
The Design Kit, written in 1988, is a perfect case in point. I intend on reviewing this accessory later, as a study for myself so I can write one for a sandbox, so I won't get too deep into it. It is, however, demonstrates the emphasis in the mid/late 80s onward of plot, story and three acts - intro, drama, conclusion. I find this book particularly useless in helping me in my sandboxes.
Contrast that to wargames, at least wargaming as I understand it. When I play a wargame, it's usually based on a scenario. I have a tactical (or strategic) goal, usually involving battling for territory or objectives, resources to use or obtain, terrain to deal with. The focus is small (usually) in scale.
When I read OD&D/AD&D/Holmes, I can see that lineage. When I read how the games were conducted, I can feel that direct influence. Dungeons were seen as the scenarios. Towns and NPCs provided resources. The clearing of the land and obtaining of treasure was a means to an end (holding territory) and a desirable objective so that one could move to up direct wargame scenarios. After all, why have a castle if you're not going to have followers and soldiers? Why have soldiers if you're not going to campaign on a vast scale.
This may be why OD&D's end-game (the castle/keep and the army) faded in importance. Allow me to speculate for a bit. As D&D got bigger in the 80s, people didn't want to go from adventuring to army wargaming. Although for some of us, that would have been fun, for most of the kids I played D&D with, wargaming was the domain of creepy, boring old men who cited from mysterious historical tomes and pushed cardboard counters around with the seriousness of life/death struggles. No, most of my friends wanted either more, more, more story/adventure and they wanted their person to matter to the world. Enter Dragonlance and the plot/story driven module and the rest is history.
As I play my current sandboxes, I can see the differences very clearly. My two campaigns are focused on area/territory adventuring, with player driven plots. This follows nicely of what I understand from wargaming - when I sit down to re-enact the Battle of Stalingrad, for example (you can see my Squad Leader leanings now...) it might be the Germans that win. And if we were conducting a campaign where my victory influenced the future battles of Stalingrad, well, I've just driven the "plot" of the wargame.
Maybe I'm just really as uneducated as I joke - probably most of you are nodding your heads and saying "Well, duh..." because now it does seem obvious. I think I'm going to be thinking a lot more about the wargaming roots and how they influenced the history of D&D.
In the meantime, if you see me at my FLGS picking up a few packs of 15mm miniatures and lugging around Chainmail or Horde of the Things books, don't be alarmed -- unless you want to play in my sandbox.