Reading the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion from Goblinoid Games forced upon me a self-revelation: as noted in Part 1 of my review, I’ve never actually played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Ever. Not even once.
All those years I only thought I was playing AD&D, but all along I was actually just using bits and pieces from it to house-rule a game of Basic D&D. And I’m beginning to suspect that a lot of other gamers did exactly the same thing, without ever knowing it.
Knowing this now, accepting it, I can confidently say that the LL Advanced Edition Companion is the perfect tool for anyone who wants to recapture the feeling of the old days, when they, too, thought they were playing 1st Edition, but really weren’t.
Everything you remember is here: the separation of race from class, along with multi-classing rules, that allowed you to make a game where every elf or halfling or dwarf wasn’t identical to every other PC of their race; “new” races like the half-elf and the gnome; “new” classes, too, like the paladin, the ranger, the druid, the illusionist (always my favorite), and the assassin. Expanded equipment lists. A whole bunch of new spells, monsters and magic items. At first glance, the AEC looks like a re-creation of the 1st edition you thought you were playing.
But look closer. There are no elaborately detailed combat rules. No expanded range of Armor Class. No six-segment rounds, no tables for adjudicating weapon type vs. armor type. There are some familiar-looking “options,” though — expanding the alignment concept beyond Law-Neutrality-Chaos to include an axis of Good-Neutrality-Evil; granting fighters a d10 instead of a d8 for Hit Dice. Spells are formatted like the “basic” game, listing only the name, level, duration, range, and effects description. The more attention you pay to detail, the more this looks not like a wholly-different “advanced” version of the game that noobs graduate into, but a supplement of new tools for the basic version. It allows you to keep the rules you had before, and jump right into the fun with the only stuff that really matters: races, classes, monsters, and magic.
When I first skimmed over the AEC, I wondered what distinct twist Goblinoid Games had put on their retro-clone, because it sure looked like a mere rehash of 1e. It was only when I started reading it in detail that I identified its genius, and its great strength: the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion caters to the way people actually used the AD&D core rulebooks, distilling the fun stuff we all loved out from the arcane, obscure, and mostly-ignored war-game fiddly bits most of us ever used. It focuses on what most people loved about the “old-school” experience, and worries not about achieving a by-the-numbers cloning of 1e AD&D.
And that is as it should be, because that’s how I would have used it anyway. Goblinoid Games rolled a natural 20 on this one.