Lenard "Len" Lakofka (born in 1944) is an American writer of material for the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. He was an influential voice in the development of the game, as well as the author of what has been called one of the greatest D&D adventures ever written. Although he was never a member of the staff at TSR, the company that published the game of Dungeons & Dragons, Lakofka was one of the playtesters of the new game as it was being developed, edited early manuscripts, wrote a widely read monthly magazine column about D&D, and his home campaign setting of the Lendore Isles was incorporated into Gary Gygax's World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting. TSR commissioned three D&D adventures from Lakofka, but only published two of them before Lakofka's friend Gygax was ousted from TSR in 1985. The third module was not released until 1999, after TSR was taken over by Wizards of the Coast. Lakofka continued to write sequels to the first three adventures, and a fourth module in the series was released on-line by Dragonsfoot.org in 2010, with the fifth module planned for an on-line release in 2011.
While living in Chicago in the 1960s, Len Lakofka became involved in wargames, including Avalon Hill's Diplomacy. His increasing interest in Diplomacy led him to join the International Federation of Wargamers, and through the IFW met its vice-president, game designer Gary Gygax. In 1968, Gary Gygax convinced the IFW to organize a one-day convention called Gen Con at the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva WI. Lakofka was by this time president of the IFW, and travelled to Lake Geneva to help set up, run events and clean up. At the end of the day, before taking down his sand table and locking up the Hall, Gygax introduced a new set of miniatures rules to Lakofka and a few others. Those rules would subsequently be published as Chainmail, a precursor to D&D.
Back in Chicago in 1969, Lakofka wrote the first issue of his own "Dippy 'zine"—a fanzine devoted to Diplomacy—titled Liaisons Dangereuses. He would eventually publish 81 issues over the next 8 years. In 1969, he also was the organizer of Gen Con II.
Involvement with Dungeons & Dragons
In 1972, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson began to co-develop a new role-playing game, which eventually led to the formation of Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) and the release of the first boxed sets of Dungeons & Dragons. Lakofka was frequently a playtester as the rules were developed, and advised Gygax on rules he felt were unbalanced. Shortly after D&D was published in 1975, articles about D&D began to appear in his Dippy 'zine Liaisons Dangereuses. Although the names of both Lakofka and Gygax appeared in the articles' bylines, all of the articles were written by Lakofka alone—he added Gygax's name in order to preserve Gygax's copyright on D&D. Some of these articles were almost immediately republished in the new magazine The Dragon. Lakofka started playing D&D in Chicago, using a player character named Leomund. He also created a D&D campaign world called Lendore Isle.
Although Lakofka was not a member of the TSR staff, as the rules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) were being developed, Gygax passed Lakofka copies of the manuscripts for both the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide. Lakofka edited the manuscripts, and also contributed material to both books. After the rule books for AD&D were published, he created additional spells, magic items and monsters, which were subsequently published in Dragon. He also wrote several more articles about AD&D in Dragon, and continued to help organize and run Diplomacy and AD&D events at Gen Con, which was now owned by TSR, Inc.
At the first official AD&D tournament, held in January 1979 at Winter Fantasy, Lakofka was the second-place finisher. Later the same year, Brian Blume of TSR approached Lakofka at a convention in Seattle about writing AD&D adventures, and for $10,500, Lakofka agreed to write three modules. Dragon editor Tim Kask also approached Lakofka about becoming a regular columnist, and in October 1979, Lakofka's monthly feature, Leomund's Tiny Hut, appeared in Issue #30.
In 1980, Lakofka submitted three modules to TSR, taken from adventures he had originally created for his home campaign of Lendore Isle: The Secret of Bone Hill, The Assassin's Knot and Deep Dwarven Delve. Gary Gygax was simultaneously creating his World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting, and Lakofka asked if "Lendore Isle" could be incorporated into Gygax's new world. Gygax agreed, and Lakofka chose the largest island in the Spindrift Isles archipelago as the location of his Lendore Isle adventures.
On top of his written contributions, Lakofka continued to be a high-profile player in the D&D world: in 1980, he was listed as the 6th-ranked player in national D&D standings; and the same year, as a dungeon master, he placed third in the Invitational Dungeon Master's Tournament at Gen Con. (Frank Mentzer was the winner.)
In 1981, Lakofka's first adventure, L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, was published. Reviews were mixed. In Different Worlds, Anders Swenson complained about the randomness of encounters, and that the monsters and townspeople were unrealistically compressed into too small a geographical area. However, White Dwarf's Jim Bambra gave it an 8 out 10, and liked the roleplaying situations the module afforded. James Maliszewski claimed the module was one of his favorites because it created "a very flexible 'sandbox' framework for a low-level campaign". Lendore Island, the home of this adventure, began the inclusion of material from an author other than Gygax or Rob Kuntz to become incorporated into the Greyhawk setting.
In 1983, TSR published Lakofka's second adventure, L2 The Assassin's Knot. Reviews were again mixed. Rick Swan, in The Space Gamer, thought the murder mystery of the plot was "a very pedestrian affair", and the adventure was "just plain dull". Dave Morris in White Dwarf disagreed, calling it "an entertaining murder mystery for AD&D characters" and scoring it 7 out of 10. In 2004, Erik Mona and James Jacobs ranked The Assassin's Knot as the 29th greatest AD&D adventure ever written.
Lakofka also continued to write more articles in Dragon in addition to his monthly column. When Gygax was creating the World of Greyhawk, Lakofka suggested that based on the migration patterns of various Greyawk races as outlined in the campaign setting, that "his" Lendore Isles would have been mainly settled by Suel. When the twelve gods of the Suel pantheon of gods were simply listed in the 1983 edition of the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting, with no details or powers given, Lakofka took it upon himself to flesh out descriptions of each god. In 1984, Lakofka published this information as a major five-part series in Dragon.
Lakofka's third adventure, L3 Deep Dwarven Delve was scheduled to be released in 1986, and Lakofka planned to write two more "L" series adventures. However, in a power struggle at TSR at the end of 1985, Lakofka's long-time friend Gary Gygax was ousted from the company. The new company management did not want to do business with friends of Gygax, and plans to publish Lakofka's third adventure were shelved. Lakofka also stopped writing his Leomund's Tiny Hut column for Dragon; his final column was published in April 1986 (Issue #108).
After this, Lakofka moved from Chicago to California, and wrote no more AD&D material for TSR. It was not until TSR was taken over by Wizards of the Coast in 1997 and the World of Greyhawk setting was revived that Lakofka was approached about finally publishing Deep Dwarven Delve as part of the 25th Anniversary Collector's Boxed Set. Because of changes to the D&D rules over the intervening decade, Lakofka worked with WotC staff to update the adventure. Lakofka states that WotC lost his final rewrite before publication but rather than telling him, someone at WotC inserted new material into an older manuscript before it was published. Lakofka claims as a result that about 20% of the final product is not his own work.
Lakofka continued to work on further adventures in the series, and in 2009, the fourth installment of the Lendore Isles series, "Devilspawn", was released by Dragonsfoot.org as a free download. Lakofka plans to release a fifth module in the series through Dragonsfoot, and has mused about writing up to 4 more installments after that.
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- "National Player Rating System". Dragon (Lake Geneva WI: TSR). IV, No. 9 (35): 23. March 1980.
- "He's the Top Dungeon Mentzer". Dragon (Lake Geneva WI: TSR). V, No. 5 (43): 14. November 1980.
- Swenson, Anders (November 1981). "Review". Different Worlds (review) (Chaosium) (16): 39.
- Bambra, Jim (November 1982). "Open Box: Dungeon Module". White Dwarf (review) (Games Workshop) (35): 14–15. ISSN 0265-8712.
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
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- Morris, Dave (July 1984). "Open Box: Dungeon Modules". White Dwarf (review) (Games Workshop) (55): 18–19. ISSN 0265-8712.
- Mona, Erik; Jacobs, James; Dungeon Design Panel (2004). "The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time". Dungeon (Paizo Publishing, published November 2004) (116): 68–81.
- Maliszewski, James (2009-11-18). "Interview: Len Lakofka (Part 2)". Grognardia: An Exploration of the History and Traditions of the Hobby. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
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- Gygax, Gary. The World of Greyhawk (TSR, 1980).
- Gygax, Gary. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (TSR, 1983).
- Lakofka, Lenard. The Assassin's Knot (TSR, 1983).
- Lakofka, Lenard. Deep Dwarven Delve (TSR, 1999).
- Lakofka, Lenard. The Secret of Bone Hill (TSR, 1981).
- Lakofka, Lenard. The Nystul and Lendore Isle Campaign, Footprints e-zine, 2005, available at www.dragonsfoot.org.
- Lakofka, Lenard. The Clergy of Phaulkon, Footprints e-zine, 2005, available at www.dragonsfoot.org.
- Lakofka, Lenard. The Church of Osprem, Footprints e-zine, 2006 available at www.dragonsfoot.org.