Saturday, November 5, 2016

RPG REVIEW: Labyrinth Lord
I can’t imagine an RPG more “Indie,” than Labyrinth Lord. Goblinoid Games (site) has done their part, featuring a complimentary artless version of Labyrinth Lord, as well as the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion, as an absolutely free PDF download on their website. For the purpose of this review these two books shall be abbreviated henceforth as LL & LL (AEC). If free doesn’t encourage you to blast over to Goblinoid’s website or and give the appropriate letter icons a couple of button mashing clicks, then I’m not certain what will. Print & Hardcover as well as full PDF B&W (illustrated) versions of the LL core books are available for $ sale.
Disclosure: Links to product pages include my affiliate identification. I receive token % in compensation if you purchase something on the landing page. This review is property of Kenzer and Company, republished here with permission, and may have been modified by the author.

If you want to check it out the artless (free) versions of Labyrinth Lord, as well as the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion click on the title links of this very sentence.

Something worth mention is that there isn’t a large stable of writers at Goblinoid Games to produce content for LL. Goblinoid uses an open game license and anyone can create game material. This encourages freelance writers/publishers to create adventures and setting supplements, of which there are quite a number of both.
LL is known as a retro clone of original Dungeons and Dragons, one of many games which embrace Old School Roleplaying (OSR). To say it simply, OSR games have that old school feel or are in fact, old school. Typically this equates to games which feature simple rules and game mechanics, and are usually an offshoot of D&D.

Though I’d love to get into a Doc Brown time machine or deeply contemplate what gaming was like in that obscure dimension known as the early to mid, 1980s; as well as use this platform to pepper you with colorful eighties analogies… Who wouldn’t love that? I’m going to try and avoid comparisons between LL and D&D as much as possible.  
Why? Well first, I was born in 1978 and I didn’t slay my first dragon until 1991. Ignorance is bliss and that much applies to this reviewer. I was never cognizant of a world without pen and paper RPGs, that’s my reality. I did indeed play and Dungeon Master, D&D all the way through second edition (many years ago) but, I’m not a sage of D&D and have no desire to pretend otherwise. Or matter of point; make this review about obscure/subtle rule differences between the two RPGs (yawn). As I said, the game is absolutely free, so if you want a comparison, mash some buttons and it will be yours.

Old School RPGs - Available Now @

Second, I don’t desire for this review to come off as an English 102 Compare and Contrast paper. Enough said? These games are so close that once I started down that path I’d most likely be trapped in reviewer hell forever… Ever… er… r
Like I was in a labyrinth… Oh yeah, Labyrinth Lord 

So, Labyrinth Lord as much as humanly possible on its own merit? Let us begin…
LL features a simple and easy to learn RPG system. This is a good thing. Some games get a bit lost in what I like to call, “fiddly bits,” otherwise known as game mechanics. LL does not do this. Character creation is crisp and simple to complete. Sections for the Labyrinth Lord (or GM/DM) are well organized, present basic concepts and have tons of useful reference tables. No adventure hooks or plots are included but the ideas presented are adequate enough to get a game of LL going. The monster and spell sections boast the highest page counts of the entire book. And this also, is a good thing.
The author’s tone in LL and LL (AEC) does a sufficient job of emphasizing role playing. LL is a ruleset, minus emphasis on complicated mechanics. That’s not to say the writing is missing something or that there is not a good deal of rules contained therein, to the contrary. For the most part both books are decently written; and rules? I would estimate that +90% of the content of each book is either a rule or guideline in how play should proceed. The mechanics of the game are just straight forward, result A = outcome B, type of stuff. 
As you might guess based on the title, LL (AEC) expands on the rules of LL and makes things a little crunchier while offering additional rules and player options. For example, in LL dwarves, elves and halflings are both a race and a class while in LL (AEC) these races are able to choose a class, though there are some restrictions. There are also additional demi-human races added to the pool of potential player characters such as the half-orc, half-elf and gnome. For those acquainted to fantasy games and editions, this will be very familiar. Additionally, LL (AEC) introduces a decent amount of new spells, monsters and animals.
The games Tolkien style medieval fantasy setting is more implied than specifically written. In a bubble, this is not such a good thing, but most likely players that have interest in this game are familiar with what’s expected, or at least conceptually understood, to a certain degree. I’m aware that my own personal preference clouds my judgment in this regard, but even just a short section about a setting would be better than nothing. How about just a generalized paragraph?

Well then, I will write it myself!

“The world is a place of enchantment and mythical beings… Dark labyrinths and horseflies the size of mountain trolls-that poop magic and eat characters for brunch…    
Seriously though, I really didn’t find much of anything; but there was this in the Adventure Section:

“Many adventures the characters undertake will take place in monster-filled labyrinths, in the wilderness, or in a town.”
Completely by accident, but something other than content is wrong with that sentence.

Back to point, I get it and the game doesn’t boast a setting. The setting is implied and it’s the Labyrinth Lord’s (GM/DM) job is to create one, such as I did. I just would have liked to see more hints at a setting. Being a gamer I get a lot of ideas from fluff and I know it sounds corny. How could you not love fluff? That’s the stuff pillows are made of!
Even minus the fluffy stuff, LL & LL (AEC) weigh in at 140 and 160 pages. Each book’s cover art and interior illustrations are pure old school excellence. Titles and section headers are presented in a bold black Calligraphic font with regular text in a simple, easy to read double column format. Tables are plentiful, listed in the table of contents and easy to discern the relevant information from.

One omission I noticed in LL is that the Spell List Table is (I presume) missing from the Table of Contents (PG 42). There are many tables shown on the Table of Contents so I’m not entirely sure whether what’s missing is an actual mistake or if the Spell List Table is just not considered a table? Well, I think it should be.
I also noticed one game mechanic that I didn’t entirely agree with or I should say, upon deep consideration, found to be out of order. The mechanic involves the thief class’s ability to find and remove traps. I don’t claim (ahem!) savant-ism regarding labyrinth traps but dungeon traps, I think I’ve come up with some pretty deadly (at least I hope they were) trappings for KoDT.

Okay, stop me if you heard this one (dramatic pause) but a fighter, a dwarf and a thief walk into a labyrinth. Sounds pretty ominous, I know. At the very first passage there’s a trap. All characters involved are first level and if the Labyrinth Lord consults the rulebook he finds that…   
The fighter has a little better than a 16% chance (rolling a 1 on a D6) of finding the trap.

The dwarf has a little better 33% chance (roll of 1 or 2 on a D6). Not too shabby.
However, the thief? The one character class who has Find and Remove traps listed as one of his special abilities. The thief, has the exactly a 14% chance (D100 roll) to find the trap. Wait-Huh!?!

I’ll try and keep my rant brief but having every other character type with a better percentage chance to succeed at an ability the thief is supposed to be skilled at is; putting it politely-completely off. I even went back over to the LL (AEC) to see if the mechanics were had been put right. They hadn’t. *Shrug* 
I guess that’s about it. I waited until now to say this (and patting myself on the back for making it this far) but this game feels very-very much like the old school D&D I knew and loved. Being fair, there were also some things I really despised about D&D too, but not to be outdone; Labyrinth Lord has some of that as well… Such as it should.

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