I’ve been talking with my old group recently about starting an on-line game of some sort. Naturally, the topic of conversation has largely centered on schedules and game systems.
At the moment, I’m vacillating between Labyrinth Lord and Traveller (the new retro-clone from Mongoose). For the most part, I’m leaning towards Labyrinth Lord for two reasons.
First, it’s fantasy. I’ve had an urge to do something with fantasy lately, as I’ve actually not worked with it much over the last decade. Tied to this is the reality that we’ll likely be dealing with a small group of three or four players, and survival will be easier if there is magic in the game. Not to mention, since the format is likely going to primarily consist of email exchanges, it would be convenient to design small dungeon adventures that work well with the kind of pitter-patter rhythm that naturally develops through this format.
Second, the fantasy urge I have is largely tied to old school mechanics. I’ve been considering all three of the big free systems — Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and Swords & Wizardry — and the former has been winning out because of its well manicured simplicity.
The truly strange part that’s emerged during this process is that I’m not leaning towards OSRIC because of its distinction between class and race, but that I’m leaning towards Labyrinth Lord because it combines them. To be honest, by the time I began playing AD&D back in the 80’s I was thrilled to see the possibilities unfold when you differentiate the two.
Now, I’m looking at the system and seeing it in a slightly different light. Don’t get me wrong, if I had to choose one flavor and never see the other again I’d certain go with the AD&D method. It’s just that I’ve developed an appreciation for the combination of class with race, even beyond the nostalgic underpinnings.
For one thing, it fits a certain J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Brooks idea of non-human races. While it might not be 100% accurate, both of these literary figures, which inspired a lot of my early gaming, treated races in “stereotypical” ways. Dwarves were gruff warriors or Hobbits (excuse me, Halflings) were fun-loving agrarian figures; it wasn’t as if we were seeing a huge pattern of diversity within the races.
While a certain amount of this was merely an attempt to create common traits across an imaginary racial divide, coming back to an old school game that treats races in a similar way is suddenly making a little more sense to me. Even though I understand why people have a problem with it, especially once they’ve played AD&D, I’m feeling much more comfortable entertaining the thought of using Labyrinth Lord with those kinds of examples as the imaginative backdrop.