Monday, July 12, 2021

Advanced Labyrinth Lord errata (unofficial)

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? If you're wondering what I'm been up to, I've mostly been reviewing classic 8 and 16-bit video games over at my other blog Twentieth Century Gamer.

Anyway, these are the substantial errors I've noted in my own print copy of the Advanced Labyrinth Lord rulebook. I've left out trivial typos (misspellings, misplaced commas, etc.) in favor of things that might actually cause confusion or unintended results during play. I hope you find it useful. This is a work in progress and will be periodically updated.

When compiling this information, my decisions regarding what to include were informed by two assumptions:

1. I assumed that the goal was to make every class, spell, monster, and magic item as close in function to the source material as possible. In some cases, it can be difficult (or impossible) to determine if a deviation from the original material is an error or intentional. Any known intentional deviations (such as plate mail armor being more expensive than it is in B/X D&D) were omitted.

2. Whenever a class, spell, monster, or magic item appears in both B/X D&D and AD&D, I checked it against its B/X version, as Labyrinth Lord is primarily based on that edition.

Includes contributions from: Bearbottle0, ken-do-nim.

Latest update: 23 July 2021.

_______________________________________________

Page 5, Introduction: "You've taken the first step on your adventure, but you are still a 0 level human." The concept of 0 level humans is addressed obliquely here (as well as on the Attack Value and Saving Throw table), but it is never clearly defined, as it is in the Basic rulebook's "Normal Human" monster entry. The guidelines for determining a 0 level human's hit points, for example, are not present in ALL.

Page 7, Creating a Character: The Attack Value tables are on page 112. Saving Throws are detailed on page 106.

Page 23, Illusionist Spell Progression: The reference to the spells Find Familiar and Write in the footnote should be replaced with Summon Familiar and Scribe, respectively.

Page 24, Monks: Interestingly, this version of the monk is unique within ALL in that it seems to based primarily not on AD&D, but rather on the older Blackmoor supplement. It's generally quite accurate, although there are a few differences, such as Blackmoor specifying that monks gain access to the Speak with Animals ability before the Speak with Plants ability and never become immune to poison. It's possible that these are intentional changes, however. Additionally, monks may not use potions or scrolls, nor may they employ any retainers or other hirelings before reaching 6th level.

Page 25, Paladin Level Progression: AD&D paladins gain +3 hp per level after level 9, the same as fighters. Since fighters in Labyrinth Lord only gain +2 hp per level after 9th, however, paladins probably should as well in order to reflect the original intent.

Page 26, Rangers: The permissible alignments for rangers could be more clearly explained. AD&D rangers are required to be Good or forfeit their special abilities and permanently become regular fighters (similar to paladins). ALL states, "They adhere to their own sort of morals, such that they might be lawful, chaotic, or neutral with their larger world views, which may not reflect their disposition to other beings." This sounds like a complicated way of saying they can be of any alignment, but what does "their own sort of morals" mean?

Page 30, Exchange Value: Per this chart, 1 platinum piece is equal in value to 10 gold pieces, not 5 as in both B/X and AD&D. This change may or may not be intentional, but be aware that it has the potential to drastically increase the value of platinum treasures found in modules created for those older rule sets.

Page 31, Adventuring Gear and Items: The small silver mirror, small steel mirror, large belt pouch, large sack, small sack, saddle bag, and wine should each weigh 1/2 pound. The empty flask is given a weight of 1 1/2 pounds, but this is somehow more than the 1 pound weights given for flasks full of holy water or oil, so 1/2 pound is likely correct.

Page 32, Food, Drink, Provisions, and Lodging: Bottles of mead, common wine, and good wine should each weigh 1 1/2 pounds.

Page 33, Animals of burden: Despite the carrying capacities here being indicated for "most horses and mules," all horse varieties listed in the monster chapter (page 162) can carry significantly more.

Page 38, Control Weather: The area of effect is 4d4 square miles.

Page 39, Cure Disease: "The victims of this disease cannot be cured of damage from other spells...." The word "from" in the above sentence should be replaced with "by" to convey the correct meaning.

Page 41, Glyph of Warding: The duration is permanent until triggered.

Page 42, Lower Water: The correct area of effect is ten square feet per caster level.

Page 42, Part Water: The range should be 20' per caster level.

Page 44, Resist Fire: The saving throw bonus should be +2, not +3.

Page 47, Commune with Nature: Range is 1/2 mile per level.

Page 53, Snare: Duration is permanent until triggered.

Page 55, Tree Stride: "However, if the nearest oak tree in range is to the west, the caster emerges from that tree instead." The word "nearest" above should be replaced by "only" to preserve the original meaning.

Page 57, Implant Emotion: Duration should be defined as the length of time the caster concentrates on maintaining the spell.

Page 58, Invisibility, Greater: This is a 4th level spell.

Page 58, Major Creation: It should be noted that the caster may create mineral objects with a duration of 6 turns in addition to vegetable objects of 12 turns duration via this spell.

Page 59, Prismatic Wall: The maximum dimensions of the wall are 4' wide and 2' tall per caster level.

Page 62, Antipathy/Sympathy: The maximum area that can be affected is 10 cubic feet per caster level. If cast on an object instead of an area, victims suffer a -2 penalty to their saving throw rolls.

Page 64, Comprehend Languages: The range and duration for this spell are swapped and should be transposed.

Page 64, Cone of Cold: Victims are entitled to a saving throw. Success results in 1/2 damage.

Page 66, Dimension Door: Unwilling targets should receive a saving throw.

Page 68, Explosive Runes: Duration is permanent until triggered.

Page 68, False Trap: The AD&D version of this spell (Leomund's Trap) has a duration of permanent. It is unclear if the ALL duration of 6 turns per level is intended or an error.

Page 69, Fire Trap: Duration is permanent until triggered.

Page 72, Hallucinatory Terrain: The spell should affect up to a 10' x 10' square area per caster level.

Page 77, Mind Blank: Duration should be 1 day.

Page 77, Mnemonic Enhancer: The AD&D version of this spell (Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer) has a duration of 1 day. It is unclear if the ALL duration of 2 turns per level is intended or an error.

Page 79, Phase Door: "If anyone is within the passage when it is dispelled, he is harmlessly ejected just as if he were inside a passwall effect." The description for Passwall on page 78 does not mention any such scenario.

Page 79, Polymorph Other: Duration is permanent until dispelled.

Page 79, Power Word Blind: This spell affects an area 30' in diameter.

Page 80, Prismatic Sphere: The sphere has a 20' diameter. Furthermore, the AD&D version of this spell is largely identical, except that the red and orange globes are negated by Cone of Cold and Gust of Wind, respectively, not Passwall and Fly as in ALL. It's unclear whether or not this change is intentional.

Page 82, Scribe: The -1 penalty for attempting to transcribe a spell three levels or more higher than the writer can cast should increase by one with each spell level beyond that (-2 at four levels higher, -3 at five, etc.).

Page 83, Simulacrum: The Simulacrum spell itself only creates a zombie-like being with 50%+1d10% of the original's hit points and 10%+1d4x10% of the original's class levels (if any). A further Reincarnation spell is required to give the simulacrum a vital force and personality. A Limited Wish spell is required to give it 35%+1d6x5% of the original's memories.

Page 83, Spell Resistance: The last sentence should read, "The caster may affect up to 1 creature per 4 levels of experience, with the duration divided evenly among them."

Page 83, Spider Climb: Unlike their AD&D counterparts, Labyrinth Lord spellcasters do not need to manipulate objects (material components) to cast spells. In light of this, Spider Climb's effect should not prohibit spellcasting.

Page 84, Stinking Cloud: Duration should be 1 round per level.

Page 85, Summon Familiar: Range should be 1 mile per level.

Page 86, Symbol: The cleric spell Restoration may also be used to remove the Symbol of Insanity's effect from a victim.

Page 91, Illusionist Spells: "Astral Spell" should read "Astral Projection."

Page 91, Magic-User Spells: Animal Growth is absent from the 5th level spell list.

Page 119, Aerial Servant: This creature can only be hit by magical weapons.

Page 120, Ankheg: Victims of the creature's acid spray are entitled to a saving throw for 1/2 damage.

Page 124, Boar: The giant boar varies considerably from its AD&D counterpart, which has 7 Hit Dice, a 3d6 damage attack, and a number encountered of 2d4. Furthermore, the AD&D warthog has 3 Hit Dice.

Page 125, Brownie: This creature saves as a 9th level cleric. In addition, the brownie itself also enjoys the same 18 DEX and immunity to surprise that it grants to a magic-user when serving as a familiar.

Page 125, Bulette: One of the monster's claw attacks is mistakenly listed at 2d6 damage instead of the correct 3d6.

Page 130, Babau: Hit Dice should be 7+14, not 7+10. This demon creates darkness in a radius of 5', not 10'.

Page 132, Marilith: Hit Dice should be 7+7, not 7+6.

Page 135, Vrock: This demon creates darkness in a radius of 5', not 10'.

Page 137, Bael: The reference to Alter Self should probably be to Doppelganger, the closest equivalent spell in ALL. Similarly, Produce Fire should be changed to Produce Flame.

Page 138, Erinyes: Hit Dice should be 6+6, not 6+5.

Page 140, Devil, Ice: This creature's mandible attack deals 2d4 damage, not 1d4. It may also use an Ice Storm once per day.

Page 141, Lemure: Damage should be 1d3, not 1d4.

Page 146, Dwarf, Duergar: These creatures are immune to all illusions and phantasms. Also, it is stated that they understand "the gesture language of the drow." There is no mention of this language in the main drow entry on page 149.

Page 150, Eel: The electric eel's bite should deal 1d3 damage, not 1d4. Additionally, this entry appears out of alphabetical order.

Page 154, Ghost: Partially materialized ghosts may only be hit by silver weapons (which deal 50% damage) or magical weapons.

Page 157, Golem, Clay: Once per day, the golem can act as if under the effect of a Haste spell for three rounds.

Page 160, Groaning Spirit (Banshee): This creature can only be hit by +1 or better magic weapons.

Page 162, Homonculus: The creature's bite should cause sleep for 5d6 minutes, not 5d6 turns. Converting this roll into turns multiplies the duration by a factor of ten! Additionally, AD&D states that a Mirror Image spell is required to create a homonculus, while ALL calls for an ESP spell instead.

Page 165, Lamia: Damage should be 1d4, not 1d6.

Page 165, Lammasu: These creatures may become invisible or transport themselves via Dimension Door at will.

Page 166, Lich: Hit Dice should be 11+, not 12+.

Page 172, Naga, Spirit: This creature casts spells as a 5th level magic-user and a 4th level cleric.

Page 172, Neanderthal: Damage should be 2d4 or weapon +1.

Page 173, Night Hag: These creatures are immune to sleep, charm, fear, fire, and cold-based spells, as well as weapons of less than +3 enchantment. They can use Gate to attempt to call a barbed devil or standard order demon with a 50% chance of success.

Page 177, Piercer: These creatures are 95% likely to surprise opponents.

Page 177, Pseudo-dragon: This creature's abilities as a familiar are not provided, despite a reference to such details in the Summon Familiar spell entry.

Page 178, Rakshasa: The reference to the illusionist spell Change Self should be to Doppelganger. Additionally, the creature's vulnerability to blessed crossbow bolts is not mentioned, although this may be a creative choice as opposed to an error.

Page 179, Remorhaz: Touching the creature's hide should result in 10d10 damage, not 1d10×100.

Page 187, Statue, Animate: The iron statue should have an Armor Class of 2, not 4.

Page 187, Stegosaurus: Both the creature's attacks should deal 2d8 damage.

Page 189, Titanothere: Trample damage should be 3d8, not 2d8.

Page 190, Treant: Morale should be 9, not 6.

Page 194, Wind Walker: A Slow spell deals damage to this creature as a Fire Ball.

Page 195, Wyvern: The sting causes 1d6 damage (plus poison), not 2d8.

Page 196, Xorn: These creatures surprise their opponents on a roll of 1-5 out of 6, not 1-3 out of 6. Furthermore, Xorn suffer 1d10+10 damage if a Passwall spell is cast upon them.

Page 196, Yellow Mold: Number encountered should be 1d8 (1d4), not 1d4 (1d8).

Page 206, Dragon Control: The chart used to determine the type of dragon controlled doesn't include the brass, bronze, copper, silver, or sea dragon types, only the ones listed in the Basic rulebook.

Page 206, Extra-Healing: Drinking this entire potion should restore 3d8+3 hp. Drinking 1/3rd of it should restore 1d8 hp.

Page 209, Spell Storing: The exact spells present in this ring initially are the only ones it can ever hold.

Page 209, Telekinesis: Up to 200 pounds of weight can be moved by this ring's power.

Page 209, Scroll of Spells: As written, all spell scrolls contain either magic-user or cleric spells, with no provision made for druids (25% of cleric scrolls in AD&D were druidic) or illusionists (10% of magic-user scrolls in AD&D contained illusionist magic).

Page 212, Wand of Cold: The Cone of Cold deals 6d6 damage, not 3d6.

Page 213, Wand of Fire, Wand of Ice, Wand of Lightning: These wands are all designated as rechargeable. No method for magic item recharging is provided in the rules. This may be a deliberate omission rather than an error.

Page 214, Wand of Summoning: "This effect takes five segments to cast." This sentence should be disregarded altogether, as Labyrinth Lord does not divide its rounds up into segments. Also designated as rechargeable (see above).

Page 218, Cube of Force: The following spells and attacks also drain extra charges from the Cube: Catapult-like missiles (1), Fire Storm (3), Flame Strike (3), Prismatic Spray (7).

Page 221, Feather Token: The whip deals a base 1d6 damage (2-7 with the +1 bonus). It attacks independent of its owner as a 9th level fighter, similar to a dancing sword.

Page 221, Figurines of Wonderous Power: Each of the Ivory Goats may only be used three times before permanently losing its power.

Page 224, Horn of Blasting: The duration of deafness should be 1 turn, not 2d6 rounds.

Page 228, Rope of Strangulation: Victims are entitled to a saving throw versus spells to avoid being strangled.

Page 229, Talisman of Pure Good: A Chaotic cleric touching the talisman should also suffer damage.

Page 231, Sword +1, Flame Tongue: "Immune to fire" in sentence one should read "weak to fire." This error appears to be based on a misunderstanding of the term "inflammable" that appears in the DMG.

Page 232, Disruption Mace +1: Evil characters handling this weapon suffer 5d4 damage.

Page 238, Magic Research: "Spell casting classes may only create magic items usable by their class." This is clearly misleading as written, as it would preclude such commonly accepted practices as magic-users creating enchanted swords. The correct meaning could perhaps be better conveyed as "A spell caster may not create magic items that duplicate spell effects unique to other classes. For example, a magic-user could not create a Staff of Healing, nor a cleric a Wand of Fire Balls."

Page 261, Random Tavern Patron Traits: The second and third columns are swapped and should be transposed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The illustrious Silverglade Woodshadow!

Here are the current Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry Complete stats for my longest-running character, Silverglade Woodshadow, who I created around 1991. He started-out as a "BECMI" Elf as per the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, so this isn't an exact translation, but it's very close. The campaign was Known World/Mystara and the first adventure he ever played in was DDA1 Arena of Thyatis, wherein he killed his first monster (a carrion crawler and no, not singlehandedly), and got his first magic item (a short short +1 that he's since passed on to another PC's henchman). His name is stolen directly from the Cyclopedia, since I've always been terrible at names. He quickly came to be known for his casual and rather goofy demeanor, the polar opposite of your stereotypical aloof, regal elf. This likely explains why he left Alfheim (where he was prince of his minor clan) in order to wander the lands of the humans he often feels more of a kind with. His home is a manor house with small attached stone tower on the outskirts of the town of Melinir in the Thunder Rift mini-setting, which we transplanted into Mystara just north of Darokin. He's frequently encountered with his boon companion, Dunric N'jorld, a Lawful ninth level human fighter hailing from Vestland. While generally goodhearted, Silverglade is also an impulsive, childlike trickster with little in the way of a "filter."

Name: Silverglade Woodshadow
Player: Will Mistretta
System: Labyrinth Lord
Race/Class: Elf
Level: 8
Alignment: Lawful
Sex: Male
Age: 181
Height: 5’4”
Weight: 120 lb
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Green

Ability Scores:

Strength: 13
Dexterity: 18
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 8
Charisma: 11

Combat Details:

Hit Points: 36
Armor Class: 0 (Bracers of Armor, DEX bonus)
Movement Rate: 120'/40'
Encumbrance: 33 lb

Saving Throws:

Breath Attacks: 9
Poison or Death: 8
Petrify or Paralyze: 9
Wands: 9
Spells or Spell-like Devices: 11

Experience: 200,001

Languages Known:

Alignment
Common
Dwarvish
Elvish
Gnoll
Hobgoblin
Orc

Special Abilities:

60’ infravision
Ghoul paralysis immunity
Secret door detection (1-2 on 1d6)

Spells/Level:

1/2/3/4
3/3/2/2

Spells Known:

1st Level:

Charm Person
Detect Magic
Magic Missile
Protection from Evil
Read Languages
Read Magic

2nd Level:

Arcane Lock
Continual Light
Invisibility
Knock
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force

3rd Level:

Dispel Magic
Fire Ball
Fly
Haste
Lightning Bolt*
Water Breathing

4th Level:

Charm Monster
Confusion
Dimension Door
Polymorph Others
Polymorph Self
Remove Curse

Spells Commonly Memorized:

Detect Magic
Magic Missile (x2)
Invisibility
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force
Fly
Lightning Bolt
Charm Monster
Dimension Door

Magic Items Carried/Worn:

Silver longsword +3 ("Quicksilver")
Silver dagger +1
Shortbow +1
Bracers of Armor, AC 3
Amulet of Telepathy (as Helm of Telepathy)
Crystal Ball
Potion of Extra-Healing

Regular Equipment Carried/Worn:

20 silver arrows
Quiver
Backpack
Bedroll
Small steel mirror
Flint and steel
Three day’s trail rations
Waterskin
Large sack
Spell book

Money Carried:

50 gp
Gold ring (10 gp value, worn)

Equipment and Money Elsewhere:

Spare spell book (at home)
5000 gp (at home)
2500 sp (at home)

______________________________

Name: Silverglade Woodshadow
Player: Will Mistretta
System: Swords & Wizardry Complete
Race: Elf
Class: Fighter/Magic-User
Level: 4/8
Alignment: Lawful
Sex: Male
Age: 181
Height: 5’4”
Weight: 120 lb
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Green

Ability Scores:

Strength: 13
Dexterity: 18
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 8
Charisma: 11

Combat Details:

Hit Points: 36
Armor Class: -2 (chain mail +1, Dexterity bonus, fighter parry bonus)
Base Movement Rate: 12
Encumbrance: 58 lb
Saving Throw: 8 (6 versus magic)

Experience:

Fighter: 128,000
Magic-User: 128,000

Languages Known:

Alignment
Common
Dwarven
Elvish
Giantish
Goblin

Special Abilities:

60’ darkvision
Ghoul paralysis immunity
Secret door detection (1-4 on 1d6 active search, 1 on 1d6 passive)

Spells/Level:

1/2/3/4
4/3/3/2

Spells Known:

1st Level:

Charm Person
Detect Magic
Magic Missile
Protection from Evil
Read Languages
Read Magic

2nd Level:

Continual Light
Invisibility
Knock
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force
Wizard Lock

3rd Level:

Dispel Magic
Fireball
Fly
Haste
Lightning Bolt*
Water Breathing

4th Level:

Charm Monster
Confusion
Dimension Door
Polymorph Others
Polymorph Self
Remove Curse

Spells Commonly Memorized:

Detect Magic
Magic Missile (x2)
Protection from Evil
Invisibility
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force
Dispel Magic
Fly
Lightning Bolt
Charm Monster
Dimension Door

Magic Items Carried/Worn:

Silver longsword +3 ("Quicksilver")
Shortbow +2
Silver dagger +1
Chain mail +1
Medallion of ESP (30')
Crystal Ball
Potion of Extra Healing

Regular Equipment Carried/Worn:

20 silver arrows
Backpack
Bedroll
Flint and steel
Small steel mirror
Three day’s trail rations
Waterskin
Large sack
Spare clothes
Spell book

Money Carried:

50 gp
Gold ring (10 gp value, worn)

Equipment and Money Elsewhere:

Spare spell book (at home)
5000 gp (at home)
2500 sp (at home)

______________________________

(* = the referee should feel free to substitute Silverglade's Forcebolt for Lightning Bolt if desired)

(Last updated: 7/22/2021).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Take my Zagyg...Please!

Sad to say, I just moved and I need money for new furniture and other boring things. That means selling my precious Castle Zagyg Upper Works boxed set.

A true tragedy for me, but an opportunity if anyone out there is looking to snag this gem.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My first stab at superheroism!

I've played a lot of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror sessions over the years, but last night was my first foray into the realm of costumed superheroes.

It was quite interesting and very enjoyable. You can read all about it here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Playtesting with Blackrazor!

After an unfortunate real life-driven hiatus, it's nice to be getting my game on again, and with none other than J.B. of OSR blog and "B/X Companion" fame!

Met up last night at the Baranof in Greenwood to try out his new rules-light fantasy/cyberpunk game (mysterious codename "CDF").

Playing a game session at the Baranof was crazy enough. It's a glorious dive that positively oozes history. All you have to do is mentally replace the flat screen tv with an ancient b&w model and it's uncanny how easily you can picture Charles Bukowski perched on the barstool at the end.

The game itself was a blast. My elf sorcerer fireballed six goblins and a rental car. Four were incinerated instantly. Thankfully, the car was among the survivors, otherwise I don't know how we would have made it back in one piece from Goblintown (aka 2050's version of Renton). I didn't get as much chance to get play done as I would have likes, due to character creation, setup, etc, but that's pretty much a given at a first session, is it not?

Finally, this was my first real world meeting with a member of the online OSR community. It's crazy being able to discuss things like my latest Labyrinth Lord purchases and the works of James Raggi using my actual voice instead of my keyboard!

Definitely looking forward to next week. Should be even more awesome. I can't wait to see where this game goes, both at the table and in the larger community once it drops to the public!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A5 OSRIC rocks my ass off!

I've previously owned the OSRIC hardcover, but I just recently invested in the A5 (8.3 x 11 inch) "mini" edition and I can't really remember another case where a game book's form has so improved its function.

Fact is, the hardcover is right about the size and weight of an AD&D PHB and MM combined. The miniature edition is half that size and even less than half that weight. Being able to hold all this gaing goodness in the palm of my hand is heady. And the text is still easy to make out, unlike in those novelty 2 x 3 inch AD&D collectibles that came out around 1999.

Plus, reading something the dimensions and heft of a paperback novel on the bus is much easier than lugging around a full-size "gaming textbook."

I wish more RPG sellers would offer options like this. This new presentation's portability and ease of handling alone has sold me on actually using OSRIC for gaming purposes as opposed to just owning it as a conversation piece. Plus, it's cheeeeap.

Are you listening, Proctor and Finch?


"Click me, fools!"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Film Review: Game of the Year

That's right, it's my first ever film review!

You guys have Kevin Lehnert to thank for this one. He's Director of Marketing over at 88mm Productions and was recently kind enough to send me a complimentary DVD copy of their 2009 movie Game of the Year. So full disclosure: A freebie is what prompted this review. I'm still going to try to be as fair as I can manage, though, as I have in similar reviews for complimentary rulebooks and such both on this blog and at former haunt RPG.Net.

I feel the most useful place to start is by explaining that Game of the Year (GotY, hereafter) is, in essence, a "mockumentary" in the style of Rob Reiner's 1984 classic This Is Spinal Tap, as well as that film's own star Christopher Guest's subsequent similar series of works (Waiting for Guffman, Best of Show, etc). This means that GotY is meant to depict real people being followed around and recorded by a documentary film crew. These sorts of films are actually scripted, of course, but the "raw" seeming camera work and heavy use of improvised dialog encourages the audience to suspend their disbelief on that score.

GotY story centers around DM Richard and his motley crew of D&D gamers as they prepare themselves for a do-or-die audition at a local gaming convention. The audition is for a group spot on the titular "Game of the Year", a reality television show where rival gaming groups compete for the singular prize of running a (fictional) established game company for an entire year.

It's here, in the basic premise, that GotY makes its first and gravest misstep for me. Here, in literally the first minute or two of the movie, the idea of a big budget, televised reality show in the vein of Survivor or The Amazing Race centered around D&D is a huge blow to the realistic atmosphere that the filmmakers spend the entire rest of the production laboring, largely with great success, to achieve. Maybe if reality television existed in the D&D fad days of the early 1980s, sure. But in the 21st century? I swallowed the conceit and pressed on, but it went down hard indeed.

This is a pity, because by the time the credits rolled, I really was quite taken with GotY. Why? Well, one thing that I was on the lookout for before I even pressed play was the lazy overuse of cliche. And my heart did sink a bit when the main characters are introduced playing in...a dingy basement. Are basements really that popular for gaming? Over twenty years now, and I've never rolled dice in one.

Anyway, I digress. Despite that disconcerting start, the cliche beast is kept on a mercifully short leash throughout. There is a bit midway where a (gasp!) girl at the table causes some predictable awkward lust and inter-group strife, but that's really about it. In fact, most of the cliches on display in GotY have more to do with gamers' stereotypes about each other rather than anything outsiders would recognize: John is the solid, man's man military enthusiast into 1970s chit wargames and kicking ass while taking names. Billy is the ADD-afflicted goofball loony who just wants to have fun. "Good" DM Richard's pompous foil Gary Elmore (tee hee!) is an archetypal all talk, no action frustrated novelist/thespian, more interested in telling his epic stories as floridly as possible than in getting any actual gaming done.

In fact, GotY is at its funniest when it's operating in this mode. The scene where no-nonsense John and comic relief Billy find themselves sitting in on a new game where the anal-retentive tyrant DM has elaborate rules governing time limits for combat actions, out-of-character speech, etc, had me practically rolling on the floor. Although I imagine that non-gamers might not have been down there with me. This is definitely a film with a very specific target audience that it homes in on rather single-mindedly.

Thankfully, writer/director/cast member Chris Grega also took care to give the main characters depth beyond their stock types. John also has a troubled marriage, for example, and Gary blames Richard for ruining his life by stealing both his girlfriend and his game ideas in the past. This prevents the characterization and humor from being stunted at a corny "live action Knights of the Dinner Table" level.

How's the actual gaming in GotY? The mechanics are what I like to call "pleasantly vague." Other than a few things like initiative and clerics, there's not much to indicate what flavor of D&D rules are being used at the table. Some 3E rulebooks are glimpsed, but at the same time the referees seem to freely alternate between using DM screens from AD&D 1E, AD&D 2E, Basic D&D, and WotC editions. This is really for the best, I feel. Excessive jargon would be a pointless way to pander to the audience that would detract from the story. And while the game mechanics and such are never the focus specifically, the filmmakers still found plenty of more subtle ways to demonstrate to the target audience that they know their stuff. Characters cleverly sport surnames like Dee, Mohan, Otus, and Martek. Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and Steve Jackson are referenced outright, but overall these are restrained, classy tips of the hat to the grognards out there.

Do Richard and company actually win a spot on the television show? I'm not about to spoil things here, folks, but I will say that the ending is what really made GotY a winner for me. Bittersweet, heartfelt, and fundamentally true-to-life are not terms I thought I'd wind up associating with a film that started off with a premise as dodgy as this one's, but there you go. The aforementioned above-average amount of effort put into the characterization (given the often lazily-handled subject matter) really does pay off when it counts most.

Is GotY really the best gaming movie ever made? By the end, I was convinced. Joke all you want about the bar being set low, but this is an indie comedy that has solid writing, believable acting, real heart, and also happens to be about tabletop RPG gamers. That combination is pretty unprecedented and, frankly, impressive.

If you need numbers, have a 4/5. See this one if you can.