|Adventurer, Erol Otus, B/X Basic Rules.|
But with most of the games as written, the rules mean that you're probably going to see a lot of low-level PC death. Some have remarked on the enhanced characterization that this gives the survivors, and there have been oodles of posts about why PC death-as-stakes (or just death) is interesting and intriguing.
I just saw an article on NPR discussing the intersection of (video) gaming and learning, where author Greg Toppo touches upon the utility of repeated failures in engagement and learning (bolds mine):
I guess I look at myself as a learner and see value not much in the ability to fail but what happens next. That is, you do something, you fail at it and you are able to try again with essentially no comment on it. A good game doesn't say, "That's the 34th time you're trying. You really sure about this?" Nothing transpires except your next chance. For me the most vivid experience of this is playing a motorcycle racing game once. I was so bad at it. I kept hitting the reset button again and again and again. And at one point I went back and looked how many times I'd restarted this level and it was something like 1,800 times! So it's not so much failure but the lack of comment around the failure and what you do afterwards.
This sounds remarkably like the experience that roguelikes and Dark Souls tap into: progress, but a lack of comment on failure and an encouragement to keep trying, generates significant engagement with the material.
In some videogames, like Mario or the motorcycle racing game that Toppo mentions, the engagement and learning generates a familiarity with the map and the level progression ("OK, I have to hit jump HERE to make it past this pit, and then there's an invisible block THERE that lets me get up high..."). In roguelikes, there's more of a focus on learning how to play -- while obviously you learn about Mario's speed and jump capability and can gauge things better in the fixed-level games, the roguelikes keep hitting you with a fresh new environment each time.
|Again with the Great Heap, guys?|
You don't wanna check out some of
the other caves...?
The other component of Toppo's statement I found interesting is the idea that it's a lack of comment around the failure that fosters continued experimentation. This bit has been touched upon by other folks elsewhere (noting the difference in character generation times between earlier and later editions of D&D, serving as a strong disincentive for risky / exploratory play, since the tedium in generating a new character serves as an implicit 'comment').