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Labyrinth Lord vs. Basic D&D BX
I really want to like Labyrinth Lord, and I've thought on occasion about trying to use it for a game. However, whenever I compare the two I always seem to find some reason to stick with the original. The really nice bit of LL though, is that it's a well organized single book, both freely available as PDF and for sale in print. There are certain things that are easier to find in it than paging through the two volumes of BX, but the last thing I want is to carry around all three books.

So I finally sat down and did a close comparison of the two to find the real differences. While most are minor, I'm still left with the feeling that BX wins out. For those interested, here's the list I came up with of the actual differences:

Prime Requisites -- Bonus/Penalty XP
LL is more lenient than BX here, with -5% and -10% at the low end where BX has -10% and -20%. To be honest, I didn't even realize that BX had more severe XP penalties than bonuses until looking at the ability charts for differences. In practice, I don't think I've ever seen a player choose a class that would leave him with a low enough prime requisite to get an XP penalty. So while there is a difference here, I personally feel it's kind of moot.

Cleric - Spells
The cleric seems to be the most altered class in LL. First off, the spell progression table matches that of the Magic User, with 1 first level spell at first level. BX doesn't start spell progression for clerics until second level, and its spell progression chart then remains one level behind the LL chart throughout. Clearly LL clerics are a little more powerful in terms of spell power. I'm conflicted on this one, as BX is sort of the outlier here in the original editions, as I'm pretty sure 1e gives clerics spells right away at first level. I could go either way on this item.

Cleric - Turning
The BX turning chart names specific monsters on the monster axis (skeleton, zombie, ghoul, etc.) while the LL chart just goes by monster HD. I can see where the LL system scales better when new undead types are introduced to the game. On the other hand, I don't like the idea of telling my player how many HD the undead he's trying to turn have. I sort of like the idea that the player knows just by me telling him what kind of monster it is what his chance of turning it may be, and I also like the fact that by analyzing this chart the player gets a little bit of monster lore: he now knows the power hierarchy of the undead.

One other difference in turning, in BX the progression is 11, 9, 7, T, D. The player jumps straight from having a 50/50 chance to turn to auto-turn. LL progression goes 11,9,7,5,3,T,D. A bit finer grain, also means a reduction in power for the cleric as a LL cleric must be 4th level to auto-turn as skeleton, which a BX cleric can do at 2nd level. Perhaps this is the trade-off for the extra spell power.

Elves -- Bonus XP
A BX elf gains +5% XP if one of his prime reqs is over 13, and +10% if both are above 13. The LL elf requires a STR of 13 and an INT of 16 to get that +10%. Again, a minor change, but I kind of prefer the BX rule here. It's at least the same as the only other class with multiple prime reqs -- the Halfling.

Thief Skills
Thieves in LL get a slight boost at lower levels to Pick Locks and Find/Remove Traps. Pick Locks evens out by level 5, but Find/Remove Traps remains higher in LL (by about 3%) all the way up to level 12. Even so, the 1st level LL thief has a 14% Find/Remove Traps, which still isn't as good as everyone else's 1 in 6 chance to find a trap, so I think I'd continue to ditch the Find portion in my own games. Otherwise, this change seems pretty trivial.

XP Charts -- All Classes
The XP charts for all classes is slightly different, sometimes by as much as 65 XP but more often only off by 1 XP. I assume this is because the XP charts in BX are copyright, so the LL version had to alter them slightly. It doesn't seem like a huge change, but I wonder why LL didn't just stick with being consistently off by 1.

XP for Monsters Defeated
These charts are somewhat different between BX and LL, probably for the same reason as the class level XP charts above. I don't think there different enough to be of any real significance.

Level Cap
The demi-human level caps are the same in both versions, but LL takes the human classes up to 20th level where BX ends at 14th. The largest impact this has is on the spell progression charts, which I'll go over later. As it is, I'm not sure this matters much, as I believe both books provide a formula for human levels past their cap.

Starting Money and Equipment Cost
Starting money is much inflated in LL, giving 3d8x10 gp over BX's 2d6x10 gp. However, this is counter-balanced by the equipment prices. Weapon prices are mostly equal or very slightly altered, though LL has a wider variety (splitting Crossbow to light and heavy, adding dart, flails, lance, morning star, picks, quarter staff, scimitar, triden, and bastard sword). Armor is also expanded in LL, and this is where the real price difference comes in. LL adds banded, padded, scale, splint, and studded to BX's leather, chain, and plate. The prices have been spread out considerably, with chain increasing in cost from 40 to 150, and plate going from 60 to 600.

What this means to the starting character is, that in BX a reasonably good roll on money (8+) would be enough for a starting fighter to have plate and a weapon, possibly a shield as well giving a starting AC of 3 or even 2. A starting out LL character could never afford plate, and would be extremely luck to afford split (AC 4). In fact, he has to roll above average to even get chain (AC 5), and more likely is stuck wearing scale (AC 6). This is a major power hit to the fighting classes.

Honestly, I think I prefer BX here. I like that none of the equipment is really inaccessible to a starting character, and it's more a trade-off of figuring out just how much I'm willing to give up in exchange for the heavy armor. In LL, heavy armor is clearly an advanced option only to experienced adventurers who have made a good amount of money already. This is the beginning of the path down itemization as advancement, and I don't like it. I could live with it, but I wouldn't be terribly happy about it.

Cleric Spells by Level
First off, LL takes cleric spells up to level 7, while BX in contrast only goes up to level 5. The spell lists are identical at the first two levels. LL then seems to make the effort to have 8 spells for every level there-after, where BX scales down to only 6. The added spells in LL are:

3rd level: Animate Dead, Dispel Magic
4th level: Detect Lie, Lower Water
5th level: Cure Critical Wounds, Flame Strike, True Seeing

You'll note the 5th level list has three spells. This is because in LL Create Food and Create Water are joined into a single 4th level spell, while in BX they are separate 4th and 5th level spells respectively.

I don't mind extended the spell levels, and for the most part the additions in LL are OK. I'm not terribly pleased though to see the direct damage spells show up like Flame Strike and Blade Barrier.

Magic User and Elf Spells by Level
LL expands this spell list even further, taking it from BX's level 6 all the way to level 9. Interestingly though, the spell lists are identical for the first six levels, and LL only adds the higher level spells. Also, LL oddly renames a couple spells, eg. Wizard Lock becomes Arcane Lock. I wonder if this is a copyright issue. Anyway, in this case I have no problem with the expansion.

Spell Effects
I didn't want to compare every single spell, so I chose a few that I felt were staples of D&D. For clerics, I looked at Cure Light Wounds and Hold Person. For Magic-Users, I looked at Magic Missile, Sleep, Fly, and Fireball. All six spells were pretty much identical, though LL did specify a bit more detail about collateral damage for Fireball, where BX was a bit less detailed. All in all though, from this sampling it looks like we should expect most if not all spells in LL to be unchanged from their ancestor.

Saving Throw Charts
The saving throw charts in LL follow the same level progressions as BX, but here and there a number is off by 1. Also, the LL tables go to higher levels than BX. Ultimately I'd say the difference is a trivial one, except that it means the two books can't be used side by side. You'll have to choose whether to use the BX or LL tables for saving throws.

Attack Charts
The LL attack tables for players smooths out the level progression. Where BX has fighter levels 1-3 all needing a 19 to hit AC 0 and levels 4-6 requiring 17 to hit AC 0, LL spreads this out requiring a 19 at fighter levels 1-2, 18 at level 3, 17 at level 4, etc. LL appears to make the effort to follow the original charts at key points, and then extrapolate the numbers to be a linear progression over the levels between them. The monster attack charts are identical between versions.

Actually, this is one case where I kind of like the LL rules a little better. It doles out the bonuses more slowly over time, giving the player a little benefit more frequently rather than having to wait to a specific level where you get a big jump. I also like that it makes the advantages of the fighter much more obvious, as he gains a further bonus to hit at almost every level.

July 17th, 2009 - 09:10 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

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