Product Review: Labyrinth Lord RPG

Labyrinth Lord RPG:
Classical Fantasy Roleplaying Game of Labyrinths, Magic and Monsters

Author: Daniel Proctor
Artist: Steve Zieser
Publisher: Goblinoid Games
Page Count: 136
Binding:  Perfect Bound (softcover), Hardcover
Available Formats: PDF, Softcover and Hardcover
Cost: PDF (artless) – Free, Hardcover  – $31.95,
Softcover – $21.95 and Softcover (Braun Cover [purple cover]) – $21.95
Company Website: http://www.goblinoidgames.com/labyrinthlord.html

 PREMISE
Labyrinth Lord RPG is the quintessential Old School Retro-Clone. The game is a re-envisioning  of the Moldvay-Cook, Basic and Expert rules that were published in the late 1970s. The rules provide an introductory and yet, a rather complete entry point for anyone wanting to experience what the old days of fantasy RPG gaming was like. The rules provide all the structure needed for both the player and the GM alike to play or run the game. The rules are presented in this one complete book. The book covers everything from character creation to a small bestiary for the GM to populate his or her favorite dungeon. Welcome to an affordable doorway to fantasy greatness.

PHYSICAL QUALITY
The product comes in various formats, but I have only used the PDF and the softcover (standard cover). First and foremost, the presentation of the material to include layout, font and pitch are superior. The book layout is logical and easy to read. The art quality is perfect for this retro clone; it embodies the era it is recreating!

The PDF is free, but that’s because it does not contain any art pieces. Not a bad a deal if you want to play for free and are not a fan of art. For me, the art helps bring it alive. I own the softcover book and the binding is as strong as an ox. I use my book regularly and at local conventions; it it is holding up nicely.  This is a credit to the POD publisher Lulu.com through which physcial copies are ordered.

MECHANICAL OVERVIEW
With this being an all encompassing rule system meant to recreate an existing version of Dungeon and Dragons it will be impossible to summarize the rules as a whole, but I will try identify where it is different. This game, like its parent game is d20 based, but unlike later version of D&D and its variants, Labyrinth Lord does not use the modern d20 system even though it falls under the OGL. The game is true to its roots in all the rules. For example, Armor Class is descending (some will not like this). There is no “spot  check” rules like modern iterations of the D&D, instead the classic d6 roll is used to determine if a character spots something of note like a secret door or trap. The author has done some minor tweaking with things like the number of experience points needed to gain a level so as not to be an exact reprint of the original copyrighted work.

I would also like to point out that for those that have never ventured into the realm of Old School Renaissance (OSR) you will find things very different from  say Pathfinder or even the new D&D 5e. The last oddity I want to point out is that like many of the OSR fantasy games out there, race is class. There are no Dwarven Priests, just Dwarves and Elves and Halflings oh my!

PROS
This game system has a lot going for it. It is built on a tried and true mechanical platform that is solid! It maintains the feel the original game and provides a new entry point into this era of gaming for a fraction of the cost. One of the best things it has going for it is the fact that it is a self contained game in one small book. The game is deadly and combats will likely not be balanced nor will they all be matched to the party’s level of experience. I love the idea that not all combats are a sure bet. Running away is a time honored tradition in classic fantasy games!

For those that would like to enhance their Labyrinth Lord experience and upgrade the basic game to something more akin to 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the Advanced Companion will allow you to do just that. In essence the this basic game is expandable if a GM so chooses.

Labyrinth Lord is compatible will all previously published early D&D modules and there are a wide variety of recent OSR modules that are compatible with Labyrinth Lord. In essence, there are hundreds of modules out there for the GM to choose from.

CONS
The most notable cons for some will be the descending armor class system and the race as class. This game does not provide all the hyper-customizations of characters that games like Pathfinder do. Many will snub their noses at this idea, but they will forget that this game is based on a game that was published before most of them were even born. When super customization was even in the gaming parlance. The game is deadly and combats will likely not be balance nor will they all be matched to the party’s level of experience. This will annoy more modern gamers whom have come to expect everything to be an even match for their collective party level.

PARTING SHOTS
The OSR is not for every gamer, but if you want to get that early D&D feel without breaking the bank, this is a great inexpensive game to buy or at least play. With hundreds of existing modules to choose from that run the gamut in terms of theme, level and price there’s a modules for every budget or a crafty GM can always create their own.

Labyrinth Lord is by far one of my favorite retro-clones. The price of admission (Free) is well worth it! having grown up in the 80s and cut my teeth on the Mentzer Red Box, I can’t enough of the old school feel in my fantasy games! So, head on over to the company link at the top of this review and grab yourself the free PDF and have a look at what a solid retro-clone looks like.

Want to play some Labyrinth Lord games? Visit our companion G+ community, Boxcar Nation. I am looking for players for future VoIP game sessions as I have lots of Labyrinth Lord compatible modules I am going to be reviewing.

~ Modoc

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