Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview: Len Lakofka (Part II)

This is the second part of my interview with roleplaying pioneer Len Lakofka. In this part, Mr Lakofka answers questions about his writings in both Dragon and for the World of Greyhawk setting. Thanks once again to Allan Grohe for providing some of these questions.

The third and final part of the interview will appear tomorrow.


6. You've been immortalized in D&D as Leomund, after whom several spells are named. Was Leomund your original D&D character?

Yes, I played Leomund for a few years in Chicago. I've published his stats a few times.

7. You once had a long-running series of columns in Dragon entitled "Leomund's Tiny Hut," many of whose articles were highly regarded and much loved. How did that column start and what was its intended focus?

I think it was Tim Kask who approached me to write a regular column for The Dragon, but I'm not 100% certain it was he. In any case, I had already been published in The Dragon by this time, issue 1 and issue 3, which included “Notes on Women & Magic.” I wrote the majority of the "Leomund" spells and they were edited by Gary and appeared in AD&D. I did not create “Leomund's Endless Belaborment,” however. (They paid by the word, so of course I added some detail. Ahem)

8. It's interesting you mention “Notes on Women & Magic,” since it frequently gets mentioned in discussions of the early days of the hobby. Lots of gamers nowadays can't fathom why such an article was written or published, given how much things have changed since the 1970s. Can you provide a little background for the article?

There just wasn't any real mention of women as player characters. The vast majority of the players were males and none of then wanted a female character, especially when it came to the role play part of it. Since it was a vague area, I decided to give it some attention. No more complicated than that. I did have players who were willing to step up and play a female character. I believe that Dave Rogan playing the Magic-User Andrella. One of the Nystuls played her as well. There was a female druid and a cleric but no one tried either a thief or fighter.

9. The Lendore Isles of the World of Greyhawk are largely your handiwork. Were they originally part of a separate campaign world or did you create them specifically for Greyhawk? If the former, how much of your original material was incorporated into the Greyhawk setting?

I did have a campaign world and a section of land where the campaign occured. When Gary was drawing the Greyhawk map he offered to let me have a place on the map for my campaign. Since Loreltarma (not Lo Reltarma -- that was the cartographer's invention, one of the many things she decided to change without asking anyone) was on a peninsula of land, I saw this island in the south east that could conform to my ongoing campaign. (Darlene also moved the whole city from one the northeast corner of the island to the southwest. Needless to say that made my campaign maps worthless!) I picked the Island and named it Lendore Isle.

10. Did the Suel deities also arise out of your campaign?

Gary listed the Suel gods in the World of Greyhawk. I said that, from their migration, that many of the Suloise ended up on my Island. Therefore, the inhabitants of Lendore Isle would have a significant Suel background. When the Suel gods were not fleshed out, I took it upon myself to do it. I did not give them “standard diving powers” but Gary insisted that they have them. He usually read my stuff before it went into Dragon and occasionally made changes. That was his prerogative, of course.

11. I've long been very fond of module L1, The Secret of Bone Hill, since it presents a very flexible "sandbox" framework for a low-level campaign. Does this reflect the style of play of your home campaign or did you write the module in that way for some other purpose?

I had two sets of players do what is now L1; they played L2 and L3 as well. Then they split up and did other things on Lendore Isle. The whole east coast of the island was played by one group while another went north.

I did L1 because I was not seeing many basic towns fleshed out very much. L4 goes three small hamlets and L5 does a town of a few hundred folks, all of whom have stats, names, gods, professions, treasure and weapons (except some of the non adventuring types. I think I did do all of the men-at-arms.

L4 is about a new group that lands on Lendore Isle after the raid on Restenford. They land there as the humanoids leave and a band from the town are chasing them. They have another mission and head toward Kroten but do not arrive there until L5 starts.

L5 is about the town of Kroten which is in the center of the Island.

L4 promises to be in print. Someday. In theory it is in final layout. I'll not hold my breath.

12. You ran convention tournaments at GenCon and other cons over the years (including a version of L3 Deep Dwarven Delve in 1979 at GenCon 12); do others of those tourney scenarios survive, and if so do you have any plans to publish them as part of your Dragonsfoot series of modules?

I made each scenario up for each convention. I did not keep copies. Please don't cringe. I was not a hoarder of paper and, at the time, who knew anyone would give a *&^% 20 years or more later?


  1. I purchased the TSR Silver Anniversary boxed set specifically to get my hands on L3.

  2. The L3 in the boxed set was not the L3 written by Len. WotC lost the manuscript and fabricated a replacement based on the staff's remembrance of the manuscript.

  3. Mr Lakofka talks a bit about this in Part III of the interview.

  4. This has been a very interesting interview, so far. Like you, James, L1 is one of my favorite modules, and I ran it on Lendore Isle in the Lordship of the Isles. That turned into one of the longest running and definitely the favorite AD&D campaign I ran. (And not just because we had a self-inflicted near-total party kill in L1's castle!)

    I had no idea there was an L4 and L5. If Len ever decides to publish those (and the "real" L3) he has a willing customer in me.

  5. Lendore Isle isn't in the Lordship of the Isles :). It's one of the Spindrifts.

  6. See what happens when you try to remember campaign details from 25-30 years ago? Let that be a lesson to you. ;-)

    (Still, it was a whale of a great adventure and campaign. :) )

  7. "The L3 in the boxed set was not the L3 written by Len. WotC lost the manuscript and fabricated a replacement based on the staff's remembrance of the manuscript."

    Information I regrettably did not have when I purchased the set (since I already had the other 6 modules in my collection).

  8. I can personally confirm that L4 is in an advanced stage of the production pipeline. I proofread it and reconciled the other proofreaders' versions about a year ago. It's been in the hands of the layout folks since about February.