Yesterday my older daughter's nameless, 1st level fighter was struck down by a nasty orc chief (4 Hit Dice!), making him the 20th PC casualty she has suffered since first delving into the grim corridors of Michael Curtis's Stonehell: Down Night-Haunted Halls a couple months ago.
That may sound like quite a few, but it isn't due to any tactical shortcomings on her part (she's got six years of B/X under her belt) so much as an unforgiving application of Basic D&D rules.
This was her 13th foray into level one (she's mapped about half of its chambers) and, her torchlight having been spotted from afar by orc sentries, she chose to stand her ground rather than pursue into a possible ambush.
The party kept a clear line of retreat through the northwestern door, deployed oil to deny the enemy the southwest tunnel, readied a Sleep spell, and formed a concave line at the southeastern door where four PCs could rain blows on orcs approaching through that choke point.
As predicted, the crafty orcs attempted a flanking maneuver, but flaming oil held the western group at bay while the tribal chieftain himself joined five warriors and one of his lieutenants in a thrust from the east. The Sleep spell broke their charge, but didn't fell the chief who passed his morale test easily and began kicking his underlings awake and sending them back into the fray.
The melee developed right in the threshold of the southeastern door, with several orcs falling before their boss forced his way through, an arrow already in his shoulder, and entered hand-to-hand. With a vicious spear-thrust, the great brute hit for 4 points of damage, slaying the plate-armored fighter (we use d6 for all hit dice & damage and a strict dead at 0 hit points rule) and flushing 1080 hard-earned xp down the drain!
The chieftain struck again, his +4 attack bonus reflecting his ferocity, but the blow was turned on a shield and the party settled the score with three hits in rapid succession (the last a 20), smiting the wicked creature down.
The remaining orcs fled shrieking into the darkness--the battle was won!
Tempting as it was to probe ahead and scatter the routing orcs in hopes of seizing whatever treasure they had amassed, my daughter chose discretion instead. The group's one spell had been cast, one of the retainers was wounded, and the party had been reduced to only four members, so they looted the dead, stripped their fallen comrade of his armor (I price platemail in the 400-600gp range and this was the very first set they have acquired), and left the rest for the kobolds to scavenge.
Success is hard-won in the dungeon! In fact, we decided at the outset that characters only get a name once they reach 2nd level ...
Here's a list of the party's casualties to date:
1. fighter: decapitated by a skeleton, session 1, room 2 (the skeletons had surprise)
2. fighter: skeletons got him too before initiative was ever rolled
3. fighter: clubbed to death by mad former inmates while trying to escape level 1
4. fighter: inmates got him in the same fight
5. fighter: blinded by spitting cobra near the stairs to the surface--retired
6. fighter: also blinded by a cobra in the same encounter
7. fighter: torn to bits by inmates in the party's 3rd trip to level 1
8. elf: hit by an orcish axe
9. cleric: the original party leader, orcs cut him down on expedition 3
10. fighter: slain by the toxic breath of a stone fish ... shouldn't have messed with it
11. elf: died of crab spider venom at the whistling well (it dropped on his head)
12. fighter: fell in a stupid pit trap during 6th expedition
13. elf: fell in the same pit ... had 1320xp ... ouch
14. cleric: slain by skeletons in a level 1 crypt ... had 18 Strength so was on door duty
15. fighter: skeletons got him too ... should have brought more holy water
16. cleric: skeletons ... losing initiative can be rough
17. elf: killed by orcs when the party was flanked
18. fighter: killed in the same fight
19. cleric: went down in the same orc-ambush
20. fighter: almost lived long enough to see the score settled