what should difficulty level control in rpg/sims ?
The game in question is Caveman, a rpg/sim with 1p & 3p view:
its a game of survival, exploration, resource gathering, learning skills, crafting, and becoming more powerful.
in the original version of the game which did quite well, difficulty level controlled just one thing: rate of healing.
since its a simulation, things like core stats, weapon damage, armor bonuses, hit points, etc don't change. In the real world, weapons do the same damage no matter who wields them - its the skill with which they are wielded that makes the difference. In the real world, an elephant has the same number of hit points, no matter how powerful their opponent. In the real world, your body doesn't magically become able to absorb more damage as you gain combat experience - a head shot or getting gutshot is still the same thing - whether you're Beattle Bailey or Rambo. in the game, such changes come from skill bonuses by earning experience in skills, but things like hit points don't change. How hard you are to kill is how hard you are to kill. Like The SIMs, you can assign points to your basic stats when you start a new character. Its what you're able to accomplish with the stats you choose to start with that counts.
All the weapon damage, animal hit points, etc have been carefully balanced to be as realistic as possible.
For the moment, difficulty level only affects healing rate. And 100% difficulty level requires something like 6 weeks of game time for a PC with average hit points to heal from almost dead back to full hit points. That's 6 weeks of resting and healing while having to find food and water and avoid further injury or damage from combat, exposure, illness, falling accidents, etc.
Its looking like the default starting difficulty level should be something like 20%. I've been testing at 1% difficulty, and now at 10% difficulty.