With Goblinoid Games (make of the retro-clone Labyrinth Lord and the excellent Mutant Future) giving their website a face lift and getting ready to send Labyrinth Lord Revised into distribution channels, I thought it would be a good time to have their own Daniel Proctor answer a few questions. Dan, thank you:
1) What is Labyrinth Lord Revised going to have that plain ol' Labyrinth Lord didn't? Anything being taken out?
DP: The main thing Labyrinth Lord: Revised Edition has that the old version didn't is all new and original art by Steve Zieser. When I first wrote Labyrinth Lord, the whole “retro thing” was still pretty new. OSRIC had been out less than a year. I wasn't sure how well LL would be received, and had almost zero budget, so I relied a lot on public domain art and commercial stock art. I think most people like the look of the old version just fine, but I was limited in my presentation and never really was able to give LL its own look or feel. I followed a different path than other retro games in that I knew from the start I'd want to get it into game stores, so I didn't want to rely on free art from the community. I'd much rather pay for the art, and finally sales have gone up enough to fund it.
Other than that, I've just fixed errata and a few editing issues with the help of the Goblinoid Games forum community over the last couple of years.
2) Can you talk about the move of Labyrinth Lord to stores? What's the process been like for you? When or how can folks see you on the shelf at their local gaming store?
DP: Sure thing, it's been a journey! This is actually my second attempt at getting into distribution. I held a distribution drive sale in the spring of 2008 in which I sold a small number of limited edition LL hard covers to fund my first print run. That went well and I signed up with the consolidator Key20. It was actually going better than I expected for a few months; I sold half the print run in a short time, but then the economy tanked and Key20 went out of business.
At the time I was overseas so I had half the print run to store somewhere until I could get back to the US. Once I got back I managed to sell most of the remaining print run direct from my website, so I recovered the funds from the original distribution drive and am ready for another go.
So in other words, it's been a frustrating but educational process. I'm now going to be working with a different company for distribution, and I feel good about things as we go into 2010. The book should start showing up in game stores in November, but people may see it sooner in some places because I'm also building a program to deal direct with retailers.
3) What does Labyrinth Lord Revised mean for your pdfs? Will there still be a free version?
DP: There is a free PDF version without art and it's up right now also. I took this approach because it's important to me to have the game free for everyone, but I also have to recoup operation costs.
4) According to your website, the Advanced Edition Companion is coming out for LL in late Fall 2009. What sort of options will this book add to LL? How long has it been in planning?
DP: The idea for this book has actually been a kernel in my mind since I was writing Labyrinth Lord back in 2007. Most people played first edition in a way that was essentially like the old Moldvay classic game but using all the extra monsters, magic items, classes and races. So Advanced Edition Companion takes those 1e options and reinterprets them to fit right into the standard Labyrinth Lord rules and options. Essentially you get the benefit of all the advanced options without the compatibility hiccups. You can keep playing the classic race/classes if you want, right alongside a half-orc assassin.
5) What about Mutant Future? How's been the response to that from a commercial standpoint compared to Labyrinth Lord? Anything new coming down the pipe for MF, or do you see it as a mainly complete product (just awaiting user tinkering)?
DP: Labyrinth Lord is a bigger seller, no doubt about that. Still, the response has been great and I think many people are using the free PDF as a source of extra options for their LL games. The game style of Mutant Future has always had a smaller audience if you look at the games it draws inspiration from. I think this is partly because the genre of all-out radioactive apocalypse wackiness appeals to some people more than others.
I definitely see Mutant Future as a complete product (but then so is Labyrinth Lord). There is of course a lot of room for expansion and tweaking. My main focus for Mutant Future will be to get modules out over the coming year. I hope to see more publishers like Skirmisher Publishing expand on Mutant Future, and I'd love to see someone create an expansion of more options for a Mutants & Mazes mash up.
6) This may be hard for you to gauge, but what seems to be the breakdown of Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future players/purchasers demographically? Is it a lot of older gamers buying it for compatibility and ease of use, or is it a mix of older and newer gamers?
DP: I have no hard data but my gut feeling over the last few years is that we have a mix. In the beginning I think it was mainly people who were familiar with older editions. There is a crowd who wants to preserve their older books and save them from the ravages of spilled soda and greasy potato chip fingers. Labyrinth Lord is great for that because it's in print and you can abuse it all you want. There is another crowd that seems to be growing which is not familiar with anything earlier than D&D 3.0, but the flavor of older editions appeals to them and the ease of play beckons. Labyrinth Lord is a great game to just sit down and play without as much wrestling with stat blocks. There are people who like that sort of system complexity and there are people who can go both ways, but in general I think many people who come back to this style of game miss the feeling of playing that you lose if you spend too large a percentage of your limited game time crunching numbers.
7) OK, someone comes along, and is totally perplexed by the entire idea of a bunch of guys playing and celebrating a late-70s/early-80s role playing game. What's your pitch to them as to what these classic and neoclassic games offer a gamer or game master?
DP: The key thing here is to pick up Labyrinth Lord and judge it on its own terms. Don't worry about the hype surrounding different editions and what they are supposed to mean as far as “evolution” or “advancement” of game design goes. I think if you can approach Labyrinth Lord in this context it is a great way to start. The game offers simple but not simplistic rules, fast combat resolution, and an entirely different style of play. I'd describe it as “traditional fantasy.” I think the most productive view is to see Labyrinth Lord and similar games as entirely different games from more recent editions. They offer a different game experience. I'm not saying a better experience, that's up to personal preference, but there is no reason a game like Labyrinth Lord couldn't be another enjoyable game at the table right alongside a group's other 3rd or 4th edition sessions. This isn't an either/or situation, and I think if people see it that way they're missing out on some great gaming no matter which edition they lean toward.