The standard description of my game around my table is, "DF on Hard mode."
That's a pretty fair description. I'm not certain who came up with it first - possibly me, probably my friend Tom, who has played with me for a long time. And keeps coming back for some reason.
I say it's a fair description because:
- the rules as written are the most lenient form events generally take. My own rules tend to be harsher. This can work in your favor, as the harshness mashes down foes, too, but mostly it's mashing you down.
- many things are "one try." Spells, opportunities, fights.
- hints are sparse. They're clear after, not always before. They are hints, not answers.
- you can absolutely drop or sell the quest item and never get it back.
- I err on the side of parsimoniousness, not generosity, when it comes to power handouts.
- the frogurt is also cursed. And the Krusty doll is stuck on "evil."
- I'm ruthless with tactics, and on tactical mistakes. Your own poor choices as a player can damn or kill your paper man.
- you can die perma-death from totally stupid, random things. You have to be able to laugh off the death of a 500+ point guy thanks to some poor choices and move on, or the game really isn't for you.
Most of my games are like this. They aren't stacked against you, per se, but the odds aren't in your favor and I'm inclined to just let the dice have their say and see what happens. I'm not opposed to fudging, because I am the ultimate arbiter of the game, but generally I fudge for real-world reasons (it's late, so I pick an easier-to-run random encounter) not in-game reasons (it's an unfair fight, say.)
I think this shows a lot about my players, too. They persevere. They win over odds that aren't in their character's favor. They earn what they get, good and bad.
It's not a game for everyone. I don't apologize for that because I'm not sorry. I want my players to win, but I can't help but make it really hard to do so. They are a good group for finding a lot of fun in the struggle and not just in the victories.
It's how it is. Hard mode.
All of that said, this came up last session with Dryst's player making a session after a long period of working basically seven days a week for months on end.
Dryst's player would be "DF on Hell mode." A sample comment from last time? If you fail a Survival roll, you're down a limb, roll randomly. And a critical failure? Well, a critical failure means you failed to survive. Better know someone with funds for Resurrection!
I like that in so many ways. Not the least of which is I get to benefit from Stockholm Syndrome. "Peter is so nice, he doesn't have us lose 1d limbs for a failed roll, he only has beholders kill our guys!"