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.