Chainmail and Early D&D
Len Lakofka was living in Chicago during the 1960s and was an avid wargamer. He was so interested in Avalon Hill's Diplomacy that he joined the International Federation of Wargamers. In 1968 Gary Gygax had talked the IFW into organizing a one-day wargame convention at the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva. By then Len was President. This would be the very first Gen Con. So he traveled to Lake Geneva to set up, run events, and clean up. After the convention ended Gary introduced a new set of miniatures rules to a few people including Lakofka. This game would later be published as Chainmail. Lakofka play-tested and gave advice on balancing the rules.
In 1975 he was introduced to the new game developed by Gygax and Dave Arneson called Dungeons & Dragons. As a frequent play tester for both the original version and Advanced Dungeons & Dragon, he was very involved with the creation of the three core books for AD&D. He edited the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. The Leomund's spells were his because of course, Leomund was his character. There were other spells as well.
He contributed so much to the early days of the hobby but was never actually a TSR employee. All of his work was as a freelancer.
LD#44 - 18 May 1973, 4th Anniversary Issue, dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien with a Smaug cover illustrationIn 1969 he began writing his own 'zine, called Liaisons Dangereuses. His fanzine was largely devoted to Diplomacy but contained some content for miniatures games and after 1975, Dungeons & Dragons. All of the D&D articles in Liaisons Dangereuses had Gary Gygax's name in the byline, even though he had nothing to do with the 'zine or the articles. Lakofka did this to protect Gygax's copyright. Some of these articles were published in early editions of Dragon Magazine as well.
Dragon MagazineBack in the olden times, we would get a fantastic gift in the mail each month, Dragon Magazine! One of my favorite features was Leomund’s Tiny Hut. This was a series of articles by Len Lakofka written between October 1979 and April 1986.
The first article in Issue #1 was Len Lakofka’s Fantasy Miniature Rules. “GenCon IX is featuring a knock-down, no-holds-barred, 64 man elimination tournament for fantasy miniatures enthusiasts. It promises to be one of the highlights of the convention. Len Lakofka, long time DIPLOMACY player, judge, publisher, et al, will be the judge. Many thanks to Mr. Lakofka for submitting not one, but two copies, and not making your kindly editor grovel any more than he did. The rules for this tourney published herein, are of his invention, and are fiendishly good. For want of a better name, we’ll call them: Len Lakofka’s Fantasy Miniature Rules.”
What follows are five pages tightly packed with everything you need to know about miniatures combat. Morale, armor classes, the effect of spells, and an insanity chart. Apparently reading a foreign language, casting detect magic, or casting healing spells can make one insane. Depending on the roll the insane person may attack their own units, or go catatonic. This insanity may not be cured, but in some cases may wear off after time. The last page is a sample roster to help you create your army.
One of my all-time favorites was the Leomund's Hut article in Dragon Magazine #80 called “New Charts, Using the 5 % Principle” which fixed the “to hit” and “saving throw” charts. Before this most folks had to wait 2 or more levels before gaining pluses. This wonderful chart was copied and always present at our table.
The “L” modules
TSR bought the rights to the L series of modules L1 Bone Hill, L2 Assassin's Knot, and L3 Deep Dwarven Delve in 1980. Lakofka asked to place the setting for these three adventures in Greyhawk since it was The setting for AD&D at the time. He was given the Lendor Isles.
He reasoned that taking the patterns of human migration in the Flannes during the Baklunish-Suloise Wars into account, The Isles had a large segment of Suloise in their population. Of course they would be needing a fully fleshed out pantheon of gods. These were published in a series of articles in Dragon Magazine in 1984. Some folks consider them Greyhawk cannon.
A number of people cut their gaming teeth on Bone hill and used the town of Restenford as a home base for their early adventures. I will say that every copy I have seen shows signs of being well loved and used a lot.
L3 Deep Dwarven Delve
A lot has been written about how L3 Deep Dwarven Delve wasn’t published
after L2 The Assassin’s Knot. Here is what he remembers. (from the
Grognardia interview. See the links at the bottom of the post) . “They
edited L1 and L2 and we talked back and forth. Then the dark days came
and L3 went into a bottom drawer to rot for 20 years.
AD&D had evolved significantly in 20 years. So I went through the
laid-out material and updated it. (I don’t recall my editor’s name…
sorry). We were on the same page. Then someone lost the whole thing.
They did not tell me they lost it of course. So it went to print and
someone else edited it and put stuff in. I had no input. Could I tell
you what was put in? I don’t think so. I don’t think I have the original
layout and the changed material either.”
When WOTC/TSR published the Silver Anniversary box set in 2000, they included this module, along with several others 1st edition adventures.
In 2018 Lakofka found this pre-publication copy at his home. He posted it to a Facebook group. He later said that he was working on a comparison document between the two versions, but had put it aside when he moved. It was never completed. He did say that "TSR decided to change the final encounter in the Delve (along with a few minor changes in other encounters)" Otherwise it was very similar to the original adventure.
As you can see in the image, it originally stated that it was part of a four-part series. It was supposed to be followed by another adventure, but TSR never addressed it, probably because they wanted to bring the series to a close. This information comes to us from Zenopus Archives Blog.
The fourth adventure was L4 Devilspawn, and Lakofka also wrote a fifth module called L5 The Kroten Campaign. These were published by Dragonsfoot around 2009.
One might think that these would be the last Lakofka adventure we would see, but he was kind enough to leave his archive of material to some interested folks in the hobby, so we now have several more Lakofka adventures to enjoy.
The great folks at Dragonsfoot UK have been working on some of his material since 2003, you can find those items including L4 and L5 at: https://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=22865&editionid=26208
Currently available at Anna B. Meyers page are two more adventures:
LA1The Lighthouse and LA2Devil's Dung
Hopefully we will continue to see more great Lakofka content in the future.
What were your favorite memories of Len Lakofka's work? Did you eagerly await the arrival of Dragon Magazine?
Many of the quotes and information in this post come from a fantastic interview he gave James Maliszewski for Grognardia in 2009. If you haven't been there you 're in for a treat. One of my favorite old-school blogs! You can use the search in the upper right corner to find the rest of the interview. https://grognardia.blogspot.com/2009/11/interview-len-lakofka-part-i.html
Here is an index of the D&D works of Lenard "Leomund's Tiny Hut" Lakofka From Kuroth's Quill - grodog's AD&D blog https://grodog.blogspot.com/2020/11/an-index-of-the-dungeons-and-dragons-works-of-lenard-lakofka.html
More information at Wikepedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Len_Lakofka