One of the lesser-known and older (2008) old-school clone variants is the Labyrinth Lord Original Edition Characters (OEC). It is available in a 64-page PDF as a free no-art version or a version with art, and in print. It’s stated purpose is to be an alternate player’s guide for Labyrinth Lord (LL) to give an Original D&D (OD&D) style of play, at least as far as character options. I think it succeeds admirably at this goal, however it should not be construed as a full-fledged OD&D clone, like one would consider Delving Deeper to be.
Most of the changes with respect to core LL revolve around the class tables. Demi-human race-classes are gone, instead we have the original three classes of Fighting Men (FM), Clerics and Magic Users (MU), along with the separate races of Halfling, Elf and Dwarf, each as in OD&D – limited to FM or, in the case of Elves, a FM/MU multi-class (I don’t consider limiting, say, Halflings to only FM as ‘race-as-class’). The racial level limits are present, as is the Cleric’s lack of a spell at first level. Here are a few other things that make this more like OD&D than LL:
- Spells are capped at level 6
- Plate armor costs 55gp
- Ability score bonuses or penalties are limited to +/- 1, or non-existent (no strength bonuses apart from experience adjustment for FM)
- No thief class
I should say, with most of these, more like the original three OD&D booklets. This will be important in a minute. On the other hand, there are a few things not like OD&D:
- Fighting Men can’t attack normal, man-type creatures more than once per round
- Hit dice are not limited to d6 only, but d6 or d8
- Variable weapon damage is listed as an option, as in core LL
- Some racial abilities are missing or different (e.g. no deadly accuracy with missiles)
- Level charts go to level 20
- Monsters with multiple attacks and d8 hit dice (by virtue of the fact that core LL monsters are used)
- Magic missile is a MU spell
I should say, in the case of most of these, not like the original three OD&D booklets. If you include the first OD&D supplement, Greyhawk, you see now that OD&D contains variable hit dice, variable weapon damage, monsters with multiple attacks, a magic missile spell and level charts up to at least level 20. But that supplement also includes spells to level 9, and much larger ability score bonuses. This last point in particular is important – I mentioned in a previous post that I had played LL OEC before, and found it quite deadly. I think this was a combination of monsters with normal (for LL) d8 hit dice, sometimes multiple d8-damage attacks, and lower ability score bonuses. I was a player in that Barrowmaze campaign, but if I had to run an OEC game, I would, at the very least, start by giving all monsters d6 hit dice, and consider adding strength bonuses for Fighting Men and the original Elf and Halfling racial abilities (I sense another house rules document in my near future…sigh).
As far as I can tell, to-hit tables, saving throws, and spell descriptions are identical to core LL. This is not unexpected and makes the Labyrinth Lord’s job a bit easier if she is accustomed to playing core LL.
The art by Steve Zieser is wonderful and gives the book a great, old-school feel. Spending a few extra bucks to get the PDF with art, or the printed version is well worth it.
So in summary, with the OEC free or very low-cost, it is worth grabbing if you want to try something different, LL with an OD&D vibe. It does have a bit of an identity crisis as far as which incarnation of OD&D it aims to emulate, but this is not a show-stopper. I have a LL OEC character sheet and a LL OEC character generator available, and Robert Morris of the Back to the Keep blog has created some useful LL OEC reference sheets. So get playing!