JB from B/X Blackrazor asks in a comment to my recent Dwimmermount post, "Has your game now switched over to full-blown LL-play thanks to the AEC? Is this something that was purposefully adopted by your group or just your interpretation of where you now stand with 'gradual gaming evolution?'" JB isn't the first person to ask me this, either in comments to my Dwimmermount posts or in private emails. In fact, it's something I've been getting asked a lot lately. Given that, I figured I might as well make a post on the subject and explain myself a bit.
Let me begin by saying that I have been for some time reluctant to make a post like this. The reason is that, as it is, things I post here often get read in the worst possible light by some people and the last thing I want to do was become involved in a dispute about the merits of the various retro-clones, with my decision to switch to Labyrinth Lord being used as "evidence" that I "hate" this game or that one. Laugh if you will but I often worry about such things.
As some of you may remember, when I began the Dwimmermount campaign nearly eighteen months ago, I was using only the LBBs of OD&D. Indeed, that was part of the point in starting the campaign in the first place: to see what it would be like to play with only those three rulebooks. Since none of my players owned the LBBs as I did, I decided to use Swords & Wizardry, as I saw it as the most readily available alternative. This worked very well and I was largely happy with the result. My main frustration was S&W's use of a single saving throw mechanic, which somehow didn't "feel" right to me and that I decided I wanted to change to bring it more in line with OD&D.
As time went on, in response to needs, real or perceived, I also added other house rules and adopted material from the Supplements. This continued to push the campaign more and more into the "proto-AD&D" realm, which I didn't really mind, as, despite my frequent protestations to the contrary, Gygaxian AD&D is in fact what I instinctively think of when I hear the words "Dungeons & Dragons." At the same time, I still find AD&D in its fullness too complex for my liking, which is why I never switched the campaign to those rules (or to OSRIC).
Then, along came the Advanced Edition Companion and I felt like I finally had a way to bridge the gap between the mechanical simplicity of OD&D and the flavorful breadth of AD&D. At first, I didn't intend to adopt Labyrinth Lord in its entirety. I figured I'd just use the AEC as I had the Supplements with S&W. Over time, though, I found myself referring back to LL itself rather than either the LBBs or S&W. And given that I was already dissatisfied with the single saving throw, the shift toward LL was a natural one.
There were a couple of other factors that entered into my thinking too. First, my 10 year-old daughter is playing in my game. She loves reading my old AD&D books, particularly the Monster Manual, which she prefers to any of the later versions I also own. She showed no interest in reading either OD&D or Swords & Wizardry, but she likes Labyrinth Lord. (In a similar vein, Brother Candor's player has a young son and is thinking of one day introducing him to D&D and also finds LL much more congenial for this purpose).
Second, I plan on publishing old school products. My first such product, The Cursed Chateau, is selling very well and is written "generically," which is to say, it doesn't explicitly connect itself to any existing retro-clone, instead adopting a mechanical "Rosetta Stone" approach similar to what Fight On! and Jim Raggi use. I did this in order to make The Cursed Chateau as broadly usable as possible, but, ironically, it is, along with the cover, one of the most criticized elements of that product. Gamers seem to prefer specificity, even when it means having to do some conversion work on their end. Since I have no interest in making my own retro-clone, that means I need to choose an existing one to use for future products and Labyrinth Lord is the best fit. It's got the AEC, multiple saving throws, and descending AC, all of which are great boons in my opinion.
When you tally all these issues up, the arguments in favor of switching to Labyrinth Lord are powerful. My decision is simply that, though: my decision. It shouldn't be read as a rejection of any other retro-clone or of straight OD&D nor is it any kind of veiled condemnation of other preferences. For me and my players and the kind of game I've been running, LL is the best fit. Likewise, LL is the retro-clone with whom I can declare compatibility without any hassles or the inclusion of something I don't like, such as ascending AC. It's really as simple as that.