Hardcore mode is a fun way to play the game.
But it has no bearing on how SC should be designed.
As you say, pretty much any death penalties in SC would be insignificant compared to HC. They simply are not comparable.
Sacred and Sacred 2: Fallen Angel have an "attribute" called "survival bonus" that affects just about everything from damage to experience bonus. Die and you lose it all.
Yeah. I kinda liked that death penalty on a conceptual level.
Although it was way too severe to be reasonable, especially in Diablo 3. It nearly turned SC into HC. Sacred 2 just happened to be really easy to survive in, which isn't very fun either.
In Sacred 2 over time you build up, what basically was a never-ending stack of Nephalem Valor. It didnt specifically give MF, but rather it gave a little bit of many stats.
More importantly, the higher stack the higher lvl of the enemies. Pretty much auto-scaling MonsterPower. Which in turn meant higher lvl drops too.
So when you died, you lost this stack totally. Which meant you lost the stat benefit (not that important), you lost access to the higher level enemies and their drops, but the game also became easier again because of this, helping the player who might have struggled at the higher "monster power".
Death was very meaningful, and the longer you lived the more benefits, but also the more danger.
The survival bonus was build up with diminishing return, so even after a few hours after a death you could have regained a lot of the lost benefits/dangers, but getting all of it back could take much
It was an interesting dynamic.
But also had its own issues as mentioned before.