Guest Author - Jay Shaffstall
Labyrinths & Lycanthropes is a role playing game about dungeon crawls.
You can put a backstory to it, but the basic idea is to kill monsters and take their stuff. These sorts of games normally use a lot of tactical complexity...keeping track of whether you've moved five feet or more, who gets an attack of opportunity on you, etc.
L&L abstracts that out nicely, leaving the feel of tactical combat without all the complexity. But first, let's give you a feel for the game.
You start out with cooperative world building. You take a sheet of paper, and the players start drawing the world map. The only really important bits are the main city, where they'll go to sell stuff, and the labyrinths, where they'll go to get stuff. Everyone gets to contribute to the map, because as you'll see, everyone ends up being the Labyrinth Lord.
Everyone also creates NPCs for the party to encounter in the labyrinths. This is a game that requires no preparation, because everyone cooperates in creating what is needed before play begins.
Once world building is done (or before, it's your game), everyone creates their PCs. You start at level 3, and have three classes to choose from: Fighter, Ninja, or Mage. You can split the levels however you like among the classes. No complexities with multi-classing here. Each class has three skills you can put points into. Fighters have two attack and one defense skill, Ninjas have one attack and two defense skills, and Mages have one attack and two magic skills.
PCs also get 2 levels of Items. You get to make up what that means. If you want a better Parry (a fighter skill), you could take a Helm of Parrying +2 as your 2 levels of Items. None of this business of the Labyrinth Lord making up the treasure. You always get exactly what your character needs.
PCs also get a couple motivations, and a gimmick. Working these into encounters is worth extra points for them.
The Goal Of The Game
In some role playing games, there are no winners or losers, it's all about enjoying the game. Not so in Labyrinths & Lycanthropes. In this game, you win if your character is the highest level of all the PCs when the final labyrinth is cleared.
The mechanism for this is very nicely done. When you're being the Labyrinth Lord, your PC is back in town taking it easy. If you manage to defeat the entire party in your labyrinth, your PC charges in to rescue them and gains a level. If they defeat your labyrinth, they'll gain levels.
The game uses regular playing cards for resolving actions. You draw a number of cards equal to your PC's level in the appropriate class and level in the appropriate skill. So a level 2 Fighter with a 3 in Hack & Slash would draw 5 cards to attack a beastie. The beastie would draw a number of cards based on its level. High card wins.
Flair points can be used to draw bonus cards. Anyone can award you Flair points for nearly any reason. Typically because you made them snort water out their nose, or you did something especially cool, or because you used a never before used alliteration of L&L (e.g. "this tastes worse than licorice and lice").
Combat in the game is abstracted, but still tactical. Everyone in the combat is at some range from each other. The ranges are Close, Medium, and Long. Whoever wins initiative in the combat decides what range the combat starts at. Different attacks can take place at different ranges, and one possible action during combat is to move from one range to another.
There are different combat manoeuvres that can be done, such as a Ninja rigging a trap or making a sneak attack. Learning the combat manoeuvres for your classes is the key to mastering combat in this game.
This is not a game heavy on role playing, but it is a fun time for an evening when you have nothing else planned or want something lite. After the party finishes (or is finished by) the Labyrinth Lord's labyrinth, another player becomes the Labyrinth Lord for the next labyrinth.
Labyrinths & Lycanthropes is published by Prince of Darkness Games.