As you may have gathered from the above screen shot, I've been dying quite a bit while playing The Game of Dungeons. Like all the PLATO RPGs, death in this game is irreversible, but at this stage it's not such a major setback. I'm currently mapping level 3 of Whisenwood Dungeon, which requires a character of about 5th or 6th level to explore in reasonable safety. Reaching 6th level can be done quite quickly with a bit of grinding on the entry level of Whisenwood, so exploration has not been much curtailed by my frequent deaths.
Let's examine some of the ways that I've been dying. The screenshot above is an extreme example of my own stupidity. I had been exploring level 3 of the dungeon, when I was attacked by a level 5 Spectre (there are a limited variety of monsters in the game, but they get stronger the deeper you explore). I decided to hit it with a fireball spell, but the spell backfired on me (regular readers may recall that fireball and lightning bolt are the two most powerful spells in the game, but have a tendency to damage the caster). Not only was I reduced to 18 hit points, I was also blinded. While I sat waiting for the blindness to wear off, I was attacked by another monster. Because I was blind I had no idea what type of monster was attacking me, so I decided to chance using the fireball again, as I wanted to make sure of killing it. It backfired again, and killed me, resulting in the embarrassing screen shown above. It was my best character so far, done in by a series of bungles and misfortune. Such is life and death in the unforgiving RPGs of the 1970s.
I've had a few deaths caused by monsters, but not too many; a decent knowledge of the spells, and the addition of the ability to charm monsters, has served me well. Most of my deaths have come from other sources: explosive runes from trying to read magic books, drinking potions of degeneration that drain hit points with every step, falling down chutes to lower dungeon levels and running out of spells. It's a lot of the same stuff that was killing me in the previous version of the game, to be honest, but I would say that v8 is a bit less deadly on the whole.
The last thing I wanted to talk about was character progression. In the version of The Game of Dungeons that I played before, character progression is constant. So long as you survive your dungeon trips, you'll gain more hit points and items, and will steadily grow more powerful. Version 8 is different. There are Vampires that drain your experience points, Slimes that eat your boots, Shadows that drain your Strength, Mind Flayers that drain your IQ, and Eyes of Thieving that steal your magic items. It's inevitable that these monsters will get you at some point, so the progress of your character won't always be upwards. I spent a while building one character up to level 7, only to be drained by a Vampire and swarmed by Eyes of Thieving. I escaped the dungeon, but I was back at level 5 and all of my magic items were gone. It's frustrating, but there's nothing to be done about it but head back into the dungeon. What else am I going to do, stop playing?
I don't mind these setbacks, because the game is fun. The constant threat of losing things permanently, with no safety net, is a big part of the appeal of these games. If you don't like the idea of playing without a saved game, then the PLATO RPGs probably aren't for you.