I don’t think that any of what you’re saying is wrong. However, the limitations you are describing are, first of all, very consciously chosen, and, second, something the group is really enjoying. There’s nothing wrong with trying out a game “by the book” and enjoying what it has to offer, particularly in contrast to other games. I think one of the cool things about a good OSR ruleset and module is how much fun it is to simply run through the procedures, and that’s what this group has been discovering. That’s remarkable, and worth celebrating.
This is not the first account I’ve seen which had the same experience, and I think it’s likely pretty typical of anyone encountering OSR-style play “cold”. Celebrating the fun inherent in the barebones play available here is not a bad thing at all!
Their play is limited, compared to many more “typical” OSR campaigns by their choices - specifically, no real “outside the dungeon” play, and the use of randomly generated dungeons. That means less character development, less world development, and an entirely missing strategic layer to the game, which makes their play a fairly “primitive” version of what the game is capable of.
However, that’s one of the reasons I love this actual play report. Not only is it amazing how much fun and investment results from such a barebones report, but we can see the group develop and explore as they go along. As they play, page by page, there is greater interest, increased character investment and development, more variety or encounters, storylines, and developments, more skillful and less random play by the players, more strategic approach to the game overall, and so forth. They explore the game and the genre and start to discover more and more. They explore the rules and the system, they start hiring henchmen, they carefully consider how XP awards, Morale rules and other bits fit together, and so forth. Eventually they start using published modules, as well (like Caves of Chaos), which enriches their game further.
I think that’s part of what is so special about this account: for someone unfamiliar with OSR play, it’s a good introduction to the playstyle, one step at a time. These people aren’t skilled and experienced D&D-heads playing in a familiar way; no, they are exploring new territory somewhat naively and discovering all kinds of exciting new toys to play with, spending a great deal of time with each one, and then moving on the next. That is what makes this account so interesting to read, to me.
I don’t read their excitement at things like high character lethality as a parody or tongue-in-cheek, ironic enjoyment of a trope, as you do (perhaps), but as a genuine process of joy and discovery: “Hey, this is a lot of fun! Let’s keep playing. What’s going to happen next?” I don’t think they would have stuck with this game for as long as they did, or delved into it as deeply as they did, if they enjoyment wasn’t genuine.
One can well imagine this group eventually ending up with well-established, three-dimensional, high-level characters who build strongholds, a fleshed-out campaign setting, and other “long form” trappings of successful D&D play. Watching that in progress is really cool, I think! I’d imagine that most people encountering D&D “out of the blue” (like people picking up the game back in the 70’s) would graduate through a similar learning sequence, and, so, in that sense the thread has great educational value. D&D is one of the few games that you can start playing in a rather “silly” or “arcade-like” mode and then graduate slowly to more meaningful and in-depth play, and that is, to me, one of its unique, main selling points (when compared with other games). This play account showcases that very nicely.
(I also found the mention of Dungeon World - you’re quite right about that!)