Note: This is the philosophy of Crawl as seen by a (very) frustrated Crawler. To see Crawl's real philosophy, go here.
Crawl in a nutshell
The philosophy of Crawl can be summed up in two words. Fuck You.
Crawl is not a game. It is a middle finger straight to you, the player. There is nothing this game won't do to make your play experience worse.
Let's start with your new character. You spend time considering your character. Cautiously weighing the pros and cons. You run scenarios in your mind. What race/class combinations will work the best. Which god you will worship. You finally decide what character you are going to play. This is going to be fun! Full of hopes, you enter the dungeon.
Then get killed by a rampaging butterfly before you've gone 50 steps. Congratulations. And welcome to Crawl. FUCK YOU!
18 seconds of pure adrenaline!
You're getting better! (But not good enough)
Alright, new game. You've managed to get past that rat, maybe even a goblin or two. You're doing great! You gained a few levels. You've even memorized a useful spell you've been looking forward to using. Your spell success is listed as “Very Good” and there's a jelly! Kill it!
Oh yeah? Well it ain't gonna happen. Because what that “very good” really means is, “very good, except when you actually need to use it”. That spell that you've been using for the past 2000 turns, working perfectly every time, fails at the first site of the lowest level goblin, which then kills you. FUCK YOU!
Get used to seeing the death screen
Enjoy cheap shots? Enjoy terrible dice rolls? Enjoy getting killed by a very out of depth monster? Then you are playing the right game. Because nothing highlights Crawl's “Fuck You” attitude more than the incredible unfairness of the dice generator. There's nothing quite like encountering a three-headed hydra on the 4th level of the dungeon. Or a miscast effect to a level 1 spell that summons Air Titans to swarm around you (A one in a million chance that for some reason, keeps happening). Or maybe you'll just get randomly banished to Pandemonium and get killed by a smoke demon. Whatever it takes to ruin your game.
And if it hasn't happened to you yet, it will. FUCK YOU!
You see here a game of random uselessness
What is the very best way to ensure you will always have a powerful weapon, like say, a Dagger of Holy Wrath? Just play a character that can't use it. Follow one of the good gods? Then watch as evil weapons galore are available to you. If you can't use it, you'll get it. A +12 Vampiric Sword of Draining generated on level 3? Sure, if you can't wield it. FUCK YOU!
Beyond the bad luck, beyond the spell fizzles, beyond the very real chance of encountering an Ancient Lich on level 2, there is another even more insidious enemy. Hunger. Your character needs to eat. But food is scarce. So what do you do? You starve, that's what. Sure you can maybe find the one bland choko generated per level. Maybe. Sure you can butcher corpses, but what do you do when most enemies don't leave corpses? Or you do find a decent corpse, but you don't have a knife. Or the knife you do have is cursed. Or the only ring you find is a Ring of Hunger. And it's cursed too. And your only Scroll of Remove Curse was just incinerated. It goes on and on.
And when you (yet again) see that death screen, this time from starvation, picture the creator of this game, howling with laughter as he says simply, “FUCK YOU!”
Repeat, redo, replay
The really problem with the game though, is not its constant attempts to fuck you over. It's the gameplay. It's the fact that just when you are starting to really enjoy yourself, you die. Just when you have advanced enough to start to really care about your character, you die. Stupidly. Again. All that emotional investment, destroyed.
At some point, this stops being fun, and starts getting frustrating. And even worse, it gets boring.
It's simply boring. It's just plain no fun to see the same first five game levels over and over. To know that next attempt you make, you'll probably only see the same five levels again, and for your next 100 attempts as well.
There's even a name for it. YASD. Yet Another Stupid Death. Think about that. A game that is so unfair- so antagonistic to its players- that not only is the concept of stupid and pointless deaths known, the players even have a name for it! They have a name for something that happens so often, they even have to abbreviate the phrase! What does that tell you? It tells you what it's been telling you since your first meaningless death. And your 12th death. And your hundredth. Your 500th. The same clear, unambiguous, unmistakable message. The same message it's been giving you since you first saw that welcome screen.