How the hell did D&D fall into the situation it has been in for a couple decades now where many participants are averse to risk of character death?
It has gotten so bad that recent editions are full of things to keep the characters safe, protecting them more and more from the long scythe of Death. Buckets of starting hitpoints, deep negative hit point allowences before death can lay actual claim, death saves (I'm guilty of this one), easier and more readily available healing including the famous wand of healing (which as I recall was prevelant in 3e), healing sugres, and now in the playtest docs for D&D Next, a renamed form of surges along with full hit point recovery after a long rest. Add in the nerfing of level draining, and a few other tid bits, and you have Dungeons and Wussies.
I blame Dungeon Masters.
You heard me right, Dungeon Masters. Plot intensive games where characters are tied so tightly to a plotline that their death in play could wreck an entire campaign are the fault of Dungeon Masters. Setting the campaign plots up to require characters to survive till the end of the campaign and not leaving an "out" in the over-arching story has lead to the creation of more and more safety nets for PCs.
This need for protecting the plot by decreasing the risk of PC death through ever increasing safety net rules has accumulated into many people thinking that is what D&D is supposed to play like. They are suffering from Whiney Gamer Syndrome.
There is a cure. DMs have to stop creating plotlines so important in and of themselves that the death of a character ruins everything. Learn to leave plots open and flexible. Give up on detailed prophesies. Instead make them so vague players will only be able to verify what it means after everything is complete. Stop rail-roading. You can always return to sandbox style play and relieve your weary head of the worry that your precious plot will murder the campaign. And stop coddling the players and their characters. There is a cure.
"But wait" you say, "DMs can't be the only ones at fault?"
You're right. TSR and WotC bear some of the blame. By failing to provide solid DM advice in the DMGs on how to avoid these pitfalls when crafting campaigns, they bear some responsibility for the spreading plague of Whiney Gamer Syndrome.
WotC has an opportunity with the upcoming edition to begin vaccinating the D&D community against this scourge. Take the buckets o'hit points away from starting characters. Get rid of the Everyone is healed fully after a single long rest. Let undead be as nasty as they should be. These things have to be adjusted in the core set of rules. Sure leave some soft options available as modular options, but get back the focus of it being a game with challenges to overcome. Players should have to make some hard decisions and there should be plenty of risk, otherwise you can phone it in or send out an email every week telling the players their xp and treasure without actually playing the game.
So Wizards, are you up for making 5e the edition it should be?
To quote a friend of mine "it wouldn't be called an adventure if it didn't involve risks".