Saturday, June 6, 2009

Labyrinth Lord is not dead! (I promise!)

I was perusing the blogosphere when I came across a couple of troubling statements on this blog. Here are the relevant quotes:

"Labyrinth Lord is pretty much a single product with nothing new on the horizon. Why would I pick it up now when there's just oodles of stuff coming out of every quarter supporting Swords and Wizardry?"

"Labyrinth Lord looks, at first blush, to be a little dead on the vine."

"It's just that I'd like to see a Labyrinth Lord companion or something like that hit the shelves."

Before I comment on these quotes, I want to make it clear I'm not picking on the author in any way. I don't interpret the author as trying to be mean. In truth I've gotten a sense lately that Labyrinth Lord is viewed as sort of the stepchild of the retro-clone games. I think part of the reason for this is that there are many new people to the "Old-School Renaissance" scene, so they don't have any context. A year ago there was a great deal of buzz around Labyrinth Lord, and there continues to be in circles that don't include the usual blogs associated with the OSR. It's true that it has not enjoyed as much recent discussion as it used to, which I attribute to several reasons.

One reason is that interest in OD&D surged after Gary Gygax died. It wasn't long after that when Swords & Wizardry was released, so a lot of the energy emerging for OD&D went to S&W. Combine that with the
emergent popularity of James Maliszewski's blog (he plays and talks about S&W a lot), and S&W is effectively constantly advertised to a fairly large portion of the audience interested in old-school games, and many of those people became interested specifically because of an interest in OD&D.

So I think there are a variety of reasons why Labyrinth Lord might be viewed as less popular. I was out of the country much of last year and the first part of this year, very busy, and wasn't able to maintain the constant presence and pot-stirring needed to keep interest fresh, much less work on many LL projects.

But, no worries, things are picking up. Now to address some factual mistakes. Labyrinth Lord has enjoyed a great deal of professional support from Brave Halfling Publishing, and will continue to do so. We are constantly working to improve the look of Labyrinth Lord, and you will see some big changes starting soon, climaxing this fall. In addition to BHP,
Prime Requisite Games is putting out beautiful material in support of Labyrinth Lord. Goblinoid Games currently publishes the Scribe of Orcus, which contains support for Labyrinth Lord. We've released other support materials, including the Monster Listing, Original Edition Characters, and the Tomb of Sigyfel. Not to mention a German edition of Labyrinth Lord.

In addition, another companion book (besides Original Edition Characters) is in playtest, called Advanced Edition Characters. We have two modules on the way, already received from freelancers and ready for editing. Brave Halfling Publishing has an aggressive release schedule as well. Things are going full speed ahead for 2009/2010, with another "secret" project about 70% written that should see release before the end of 2009. Through one route or another Labyrinth Lord will go back into commercial distribution, probably in the fall, to move forward with our intentions of establishing it in the "real world."

Now, personally, I believe there is always room for great games, which is why I do not perceive Labyrinth Lord to be in competition with Swords & Wizardry. Nonetheless, I'd like to answer the question above, "Why should I pick up Labyrinth Lord...?"

Depending on your interests, here's why:

1) Labyrinth Lord has wide penetration in terms of name recognition, to an audience even outside the typical forums and bloggers. It was in distribution briefly (our agent went out of business) which slowed us down, but we'll get back out there soon.

2) Labyrinth Lord emulates the Moldvay rules, as many people know. So if you are a fan of that rules set, core Labyrinth Lord is for you.

3) Labyrinth Lord + Original Edition Characters (a player's handbook) actually gives you the "feel" and rules emulation of Oe much more accurately than any other retro-clone out there to date.

4) Labyrinth Lord + Advanced Edition Characters (coming out later this summer) will provide the game feel of "advanced" games for people who prefer that style of play.

So in short, you should take a look at Labyrinth Lord because it is currently the most flexible, widely appealing retro-clone out there. It enjoys great support from multiple publishers, which will only increase over the coming months and years. It will be aggressively pushed beyond the internet, thus increasing its use to a wider audience. We have more plans ahead for community building.


Robert Fisher said...

While I’m glad to read of these developments, LL will be alive and dearly appreciated as long as I’m alive.

All it needs to remain alive are a server and someone to download it, print it, and gather some friends.

I give many thanks for it.

Anonymous said...

Whether it was your intention or just circumstances I was impressed that LL seemed to take the time to establish itself as a solid corebook before the supplements and scenarios started rolling out.

Good luck with the new developments!

Dan of Earth said...

Thanks guys. Yes, Sean, I and others spent a LOT of time editing and fixing errata (although it was surprising pretty free of it from the start). The next version I release should be near spotless. Plus as far as supplements go, I was slow at first because it took a long time for sales to increase enough to afford freelancers. I don't generally take art or writing on a donation basis, because I feel if I am going to sell it the contributors are entitled some some compensation, even if it is meager. So...the release schedule is picking up now that I can properly pay writers and artists.

James Maliszewski said...


I absolutely adore Labyrinth Lord and consider it by far to be the most well put together and complete of the retro-clones. Had Original Edition Characters been available before I started planning my Dwimmermount campaign, I'd quite likely have used it instead of S&W. I'm really looking forward to seeing Advanced, since I suspect it'll be very much in line with the way I like to play. And, regardless, I am always happy to plug LL and anything else you have on offer.

John Adams said...

LL is not dead - far from it! While BHP's print sales dipped some during the Mythmere Games' two drives, BHP's Labyrinth Lord pdf modules and supplements continue to sell consistently month after month.

I would venture to say the LL has already expanded beyond the OSR!

BHP will release the first part of a trilogy LL modules in August.

BlUsKrEEm said...

You forgot to mention that LL is compatible with mutant Future. My Allele game (or as I unofficially nicknamed it "Goblinoid Soup) was a blast. I used LL as a core with Mutant Future and Original Edition Characters

I'm planning running a Changeling the Lost game using LL and Advanced Edition Characters when it hits the shelf.

Joseph said...

Dan, please contact me privately. I would like to discuss something with you that is germane to this topic.

Joseph said...

Of all the retro-clones, LL has my vote because it's the one that actually has distribution through the FLGS.

I cannot stress how huge an advantage that is.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how Labyrinth Lord could be seen as failing or dying in any way and the blogger who posted that has seen that this is not the case, but I would point out the blogs and messageboards that support Labyrinth Lord.

I enjoy both S&W and LL (and Mutant Future!) and hope that all of the retro-clones enjoy long and happy lives.

Dan of Earth said...

Thanks for all the support guys. Labyrinth Lord will keep plugging along!

Steve Zieser said...

Preach it, Brother Dan! I am happy to be able to help with LL projects and am excited to see what's in the pipe!

Moritz said...

As long as I write for BHP you can be sure there's going to be shiny new material for LL!

Anonymous said...

I'm very happy to see this post. I haven't checked the usual suspects in the OSR blogosphere lately as it became quite overwhelming. But, I was actually going to note the fact that things had seemed pretty quiet over at the GG Forums and decided to check here first to see if you had made any updates and lo and behold.

I was concerned because, it does seem that LL has drifted a bit out of focus of many (though certainly not ignored or forgotten), and what with S&W making plans for a big distro and ad push, I hoped LL wouldn't get lost in the shuffle.

If any help (extra hands, strained eyes at a computer monitor or whatever) is wanted/needed, then just shout out on the forums and I'll bet you'll have plenty of volunteers. :)

I eagerly await both AEC and the future of LL and GG in general (and obviously of the stout BHP team)!


Dan of Earth said...

I have some ideas I'd like to implement soon. In the mean time the best way people can help out is by talking about LL and posting about it. Go start threads to discuss it at various message boards like Enworld, RPGnet, TheRPGSite, etc. Keep the name of the game out there.

Bobby said...

Based on skimming the various responses to chgowiz's retro-clone poll on various forums, it seems that LL boasts (many) more players than any of the other retro-clones.

Dan of Earth said...

I've seen those polls and a few others like that too, and if they mean anything (maybe they don't) then I think that's true. It's just that many of the people actually playing LL are running in different circles.

Robert Fisher said...

I mentioned this in my original draft of my earlier comment...which got edited down significantly. ^_^

My sense is that there is a substantial contingent for whom B/X will always be their favored baseline D&D. This group doesn’t have as many “squeaky wheels” as the others, though. You see this when it seems not so common in the discussions yet ranks well in the polls.

LL also probably attracts a number of the BE(CM) fans too.

Part of this is may even be in the nature of B/X and LL. Many other editions—I think—more strongly invite tweaking and discussion. B/X and LL fans just make some minor tweaks they like and get to it. Didn’t somebody call it the “sit down and play edition”...or something to that effect.