Lenard Lakofka has passed away. Lakofka was one of the early figures in the history of Dungeons and Dragons. He was President of the International Federation of Wargamers when it worked with Gary Gygax to host the very first GenCon.
He began play testing the developing Dungeons and Dragons, providing input to Gygax. He created his home campaign, set in the Lendore Isles. His character, Leomund, is a well-known name in D&D history.
He wrote articles on D&D for his own magazine; many of which were reprinted in the new Dragon magazine. He edited, and contributed to, the core Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) books. Then things really began to pick up. In 1979, at the first official AD&D tournament, he finished second and TSR paid him $10,000 to write three modules. He was also given a regular column in Dragon – Leomund’s Tiny Hut.
Those modules had an interesting history. L1 – The Secret of Bone Hill, was the first official module written by a non-TSR employee. And it was based on his own Lendore setting. It was included in the World of Greyhawk, but it was the first setting not developed by Gygax. At the time, Lendore Isle, and the village of Restenford, was the only official campaign setting other than Gygax’ famous village of Hommlet.
Bone Hill is second-level, which meant the Dungeon Master had to come up with something for a first-level party, consistent with this new non-Greyhawk environ. It has some relatively tough monsters, with more maps than was standard in the day. Bone Hill leaves a lot of room for the DM to create motivations and adventure lines. I was 14 back when it came out, and I would have been overwhelmed as a novice DM.
TSR employee Kevin Hendryx was editing Bone Hill, and he created a lizard-man encounter. Lakofka asked that it be removed, and Hendryx began developing it into a full-blown adventure. There was even a cover developed. But Hendryx was sacked during the famous 1981 TSR purge. Douglas Niles took the existing material and turned into N1 – Against the Cult of the Reptile God, which is one of the most popular modules of all time.
Bone Hill came out in 1981, and it was followed two years later by L2 – The Assassin’s Knot. That was an entirely new kind of adventure, in which the Baron of Restenford has been murdered. The characters have to find out who killed him. And if they don’t do it quickly enough, more citizens of the town can die, and there may be an invasion from an aggressive neighbor.
The action takes place in a new town, adding to the Lendore setting. Garrotten has a bad reputation as a dangerous place. And since Lakofka creates an assassin’s guild (a new concept), it’s well-earned. It’s written for 6-10 players, which is certainly unusual by today’s standards.
Murder-mystery modules were unknown at the time, and Lakofka was breaking new ground. We’ve literally seen everything over the past fifty-ish years. It’s hard sometimes, to truly appreciate the groundbreaking stuff (I played Dave Megarry’s Dungon! yet again, over the weekend. What he did was simply astounding). And L2 was innovative and a trail blazer.
L3 – Deep Dwarven Delve, became a famous ‘lost’ module. Gygax lost control of the company to the Blumes and Lorriane Williams. Gygax’ creations, and his friends, became persona non-grata at the company. Lakofka had never become a TSR employee, but he might as well have been hired by Gygax.
Lakofka completed the module, but it was buried somewhere in the TSR vaults (think Raiders of the Lost Ark) and forgotten. It was finally released nearly two decades later in 1999 as part of D&D’s Silver Anniversary. Lakofka has said that version was only 80% of the original TSR revised/edited edition. I don’t have a copy of this one, but I recall that, especially compared to L1 and L2, it’s a straightforward dungeon crawl, where the characters free some dwarves from thralldom.
Lakofka continued the Lendore Isles saga years later. He was an active participant in the Dragonsfoot community, which perpetuated old school D&D versions, including AD&D. L4 – Devilspawn, came out in 2010, for free. Volunteers from the Dragonsfoot community helped edit drafts. The whole project is a pretty neat testament to what’s good about role playing.
Devilspawn is a stand-alone module, though it can also be played as a sequel to L1 – L3. At 137 pages, there’s a lot to play with. Restenford has been attacked by a band of humanoids. Surrounding areas shortly suffer the same fate. There’s a timeline of events to move the players along. Several communities are detailed, adding more to the Lendore world. But you ain’t seen nothing yet!
Lakofka continued developing Lendore material. And in 2013, L5A – The Kroten Campaign Guide was released, free, through Dragonsfoot. It’s a 156 page treasure trove of material to add to your adventures in Lendore.
It’s accompanied by L5B – The Kroten Adventures. This 96 page supplement has five adventures in the Kroten area. L5C – The Kroten Campaign Companion, is a 24 page supplement of rules tweaks, deities, and miscellanea to add to the experience. AND, there’s an L5 Map Pack.
Bear in mind that all of the L5 stuff is completely free. You can get PDFs of L1 through L3 for about $15 total. That’s a TON of inexpensive content from one of Gary Gygax’ contemporaries.
And let me just add a Len quote from a Dragonsfoot Q&A in 2010: “Psionics are a pain in the ass.”
My feelings, exactly!
L1 and L2, combined with L3 through L5, let you build an old-school campaign, with a lot of provided material. It’s similar to what Creighton Broadhurst has done with Raging Swan Press (I’m a BIG fan!).
Here is a two-hour Zoom with Lakofka, from just last year. Put it on the background and listen.
Another of the founding fathers of RPG has passed. We are fortunate that Lakofka continued creating in his style, for well over two decades after leaving TSR.
*Some of this info came from Shannon Appelcline’s Designers & Dragons FB post on Lakofka’s death. Shannon’s page (and books) are must-reads for RPG fans.
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!).
He organized ‘Hither Came Conan,’ as well as Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.
He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes. That’s also the name of his podcast.
He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI and XXI.