The last few months I managed to find some time alongside my long-running AD&D campaign to start playing Labyrinth Lord with a small group, using the free PDFs. It went well enough to get me really excited about switching over to LL core rules (with the Advanced Edition Companion) for my next long term campaign, so I ordered hard copies. I own the B/X box set and I was already thing of importing B/X elements into AD&D, but having the Labyrinth Lord books as base makes that much easier, especially now that I have the books on the table as a player reference. I still see the game as D&D, whether you’re playing an official D&D product, Labyrinth Lord, Swords and Wizardry, Pathfinder or whatever. D&D is a genre, not a specific ruleset.
Going forward, here’s what won me over to Labyrinth Lord:
- B/X style attribute system strikes me as much more elegant and balanced than AD&D’s, and gives more of an impact to attributes in the 10-15 and doing away with the tacked-on subsystem of exceptional strength.
- Most importantly, the books emulate Moldvay’s clear and concise writing style and logical layout, making reading through them and looking up rules much easier on the eyes and head.
- Simpler and clearer initiative rules.
- More balanced demi-humans, with options to use them with classes or race-as-class.
- System is built with plenty of options to turn the dial up to be more like AD&D, or down to B/X style.
- All the options of core AD&D, no Unearthed Arcana style classes with their own clunky unique subsystems.
- Generally trims the fat and presents a version of D&D that cleaves more to actual play, where some of the fiddlier or less clear aspects of the advanced game go discarded or house-ruled.
- LL comes with less ‘baggage’ than D&D, and the players will have fewer ‘BTB D&D’ expectations.
- Pretty cool illustrations that reminded me of punk/metal posters and zines.
Some not so nice things to say about LL:
- Could’ve done with some more proofreading, in some cases there’s a typo or omission in something that could seriously affect gameplay. For example, Confusion has no save to negate. Other stuff is more minor, like warhammers needing 2 hands to use, or having 2 Monster Summoning VI spells. This isn’t so bad for the experienced DM but is disappointing for a book that otherwise was so good as to inspire me to make it the main rules doc at the table.
- I would have loved to buy a compiled hard copy version with the core rules and advanced rules together, to avoid redundancy and make it easier to reference. Goblinoid Games’s rather quiet forums attest to a demand for it, but there’s no clear indications that it’ll happen anytime soon.
- LL would be my ideal ‘players handbook’ if it cut out the monster stats and cursed items. I like the players to be able to look up all the information they need to run their characters, including how their items work, but it’s kind of annoying that they can check out all the monster details in the same book.
- The seams show up a bit when Advanced Edition Companion introduces 9 point alignment, but none of the monsters or items from the first book are accounted for.
However, my AD&D books will still see use at the table:
- I love my 1E DMG in all it’s high Gygaxian genius and mess, and I can’t imagine retiring it. It’ll always be by my side and used liberally.
- Use of AD&D Monster Manuals will keep players on their toes, even if they study the monsters in the LL books.
- Some Unearthed Arcana spells and items may find their way in to the campaign. I’ve always had a soft spot at least for the ritual magic from the Demonomicon.
Things I want to tinker with:
- Combat…getting rid of ‘to hit’ tables and replacing it with a quick algorithm, probably based on Delta’s system.
- Weapons. I want weapon choice to mean more than it does in LL without getting into the over-complicated and not very sensible Weapon vs AC modifiers of AD&D.
- Fighters. I think they’re badass but since we won’t be having exceptional strength or weapon specialisation, I do want to work on them a little to give them some mechanical tweaks for expressing their badassery, but don’t slow down or over-complicated combat.
- Encumbrance and equipment. I feel like a want an alternative system, maybe slot based. Something that’ll get the resource management point of encumbrance across without too much fiddly book-keeping.