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Let's face it: rogue-like games are hard. Really, really hard and brazenly inaccessible. That's part of the fun.

But Dwarf Hammer is ridiculously hard and obscenely inaccessible. And part of that is because, as players are fond of reminding each other, Level One Sucks.

We're not talking about Eden, where you find yourself surrounded by massive damage sponges (100 hit points?!) that kill you in a single hit (that blasted Year of the Ram +20 unblockable attack bonus)-- that's technically level zero. And we're not talking about the first level of the Caverns of Creation, which is in its own way even harder.

No, we're talking about experience level one: you've got a puny one-point base attack power, a max of three hit points, four mana points (enough to cast a spell twice), two skills and one spell in your inventory. And you don't even get to pick the spell (the game assigns one of three starting spells, the very useful Horrible Burning, the rare and overpowered Red Ring of Death, or the unreliable Benevolence depending upon your character's Chinese Zodiac sign, which you have no direct control over) or the skills (which are inherited randomly from grandparents in the Mendelian character creation system).

To say that the game is stacked against you until you hit level two isn't precisely true; the game is stacked against you until you're well on your way to level five, at which time it's still stacked against you but you don't have to worry about dying from a single encounter because now you have at most 18 hit points-- as if that's any condolence. The game just gets harder.

Even experienced players who have in the past successfully navigated their way down to the center of the Earth only to be smote by God in the final battle frequently die in these early, uber-stressful stages of the game.

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