risk. Noun: a situation involving exposure to danger; the possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen; a person or thing regarded as likely to turn out well or badly, as specified, in a particular context or respect; a person or thing regarded as a threat or likely source of danger. Verb: expose someone or something valued to danger, harm or loss; act or fail to act in such a way as to bring about the possibility of an unpleasant or unwelcome event; incur the chance of unfortunate consequences by engaging in an action. Synonyms: endanger, imperil, jeopardize, hazard, gamble, gamble with, chance.
As D&D was originally conceived, the payoff for the game would result in the players taking a risk; the risk was that they would put themselves in a situation where dice would be rolled to determine the outcome, so that as the player chose to take a given risk (attack a group of monsters), the dice would then enable the DM and the player to resolve the context by seeing if the risk resulted in something that turned out well or something that turned out badly.
Adventure design, therefore, hinged on placed players in situations where a die would need to be thrown: a combat, an attempt to deactivate a trap, a situation where the player might be surprised or not, the chance of a player taking full damage from a dragon's breath or less. And the payoff worked in kind: if the player lived, the player received experience, treasure, opportunity, recognition and increased power through magic and other upgrades.
It is natural that, faced with this, a player would try to mitigate the risk. If the same payoff could be gained with less risk, then like any good laboratory rat the player would logically pursue a course of less risk.
If the player learned that by leaning upon and manipulating a DM, the risk could be mitigated even more satisfactorily and the payoff yet received, then naturally the player began to "play" the DM, as a means of mitigating risk.
In turn, if the DM personally felt impressed by a player's ability to cleverly sidestep risk, and decided that a payoff ought to awarded for cleverness, it then follows that the player should begin to recognize that the game has been reshaped so as not to reward risk, but to reward cleverness.
Finally, the next logical step in the pattern is to redesign the game, steadily, to ensure that cleverness in avoiding risk is rewarded, so that risk itself becomes an wholly impractical course of action, since the payoff for both risk and the avoidance of it is made the same.
Does the reader follow? As a community, we award cleverness and not risk. And that's where everything has gone wrong from the beginning.
If you break down any discussion about the awarding of experience, the use of saving throws, the save or die principle, the employment of wandering monsters, the invention of feats, the increase in clerical healing or healing of all sorts, the increase in opportunism in how many die rolls a player can make before having to submit to being killed, "role-playing" vs. "roll-playing", the wide-spread use of fudging, experience levels gained for "good play," the argument that a backstory is the most important part of role-playing and so on, at the core of all those arguments is a steady drum-beat that argues we ought to reward cleverness and not risk.
Because risk is "bad." Risk means that the player might lose. That would lower D&D to the status of every other game that exists, where losing is a reality that must be managed and accepted by the individual, regardless of the hurt or the disappointment that might bring. Losing is the challenge, not winning. Losing is the pain that is felt, that encourages the participant to re-evaluate themselves and their game play, that demands recognition of limitations and in turn demands the individual effect a change to those limitations.
Losing is not "bad." Through losing, we overcome our fear, we recognize our humanity, we find reasons to feel empathy with others, we address our shortcomings and we become better people through seeing ourselves not as gods, but as mortals.
But failing to be clever obtains none of this. Failing to be clever only incites participants to attempt greater and wider attempts to be clever, desperate attempts to be clever, needy attempts to be clever, frustrated and argumentative attempts to be clever, the certainty that if the right string of words can be pounded together, then we will BE clever and the game will be given to us free and clear. Cleverness, both in its success and its failure, has the habit of convincing us that we are gods, swelling us with hubris until the moment comes when we learn all that arrogance, conceit and egotism won us, in the end, only the proof of our cherished flaws.