And at the unofficial show and tell that often proceeds our getting down to business, last week Jeff G. brought several recent releases of 'old-school revival' rpgs (thanks Jeff).
One of them had a cover that looked strikingly familiar: THE HERO'S JOURNEY by James Spahn, from Barrel Rider Games:
The artist's name is Michael Herrmann. I'm not otherwise acquainted with his work, but it's pretty clear that his brief was to imitate Tolkien's art as closely as possible. Does this constitute a homage or a rip-off? Your individual answer probably closely correlates to how you feel about Tolk-clones like Terry Brooks and Dennis McKiernan, or indeed fan fiction in general.
For me, it's telling that this game's title is taken directly from Joseph Campbell, its cover art from J. R. R. Tolkien, and most of its contents from Gary Gygax. Its lack of originality is a feature, not a bug: the author wants to re-create first edition AD&D but skewed to his own preferences. This is nothing new: in fact, it's been a steady feature of rpgs since a few months after Gygax & Arneson's first D&D release.
As for the game itself, it's clearly a derivative labor of love. It's primarily based on 1st edition AD&D up through UNEARTHED ARCANA, the last book to have Gygax's stamp on it. But it also goes off on tangents of its own, dropping some of the classic AD&D PH classes and including new ones of the author's own invention.*** This is pretty much the case with most of the book. It's as if, rather than restoring a classic Model A, someone has instead built a hot rod out of pieces of various old cars. Given my druthers I'd rather stick to the classic.
After all, if you want to play an oldschool D&D-style game, why not play the real thing? The 1st ed. PH, MM, & DMG are all readily available at places like Half Price Books, not to mention the internet. After all, who wants to play a chess-like game when they cd just play chess?
today's song: 'Classical Gas' by Mason Wms.
*and in-between we managed to get in the first session of our new CALL OF CTHULHU campaign, Chaosium's first organized-play event; no one died and no one went mad, so it's so far so good.
**check here for a little more information on the game
***hence it includes the seventh stat, Comeliness (under the name 'Appearance'), which debued in UNEARTHED ARCANA, and all three of the U.A. character classes: Cavalier, Barbarian, and (Thief-)Acrobat, but lacks two of the old PH classes (Illusionist and Assassin). Its bard is non-Gygaxian, closer to the nerfed 3e bard than Gygax's uberclass, and it adds two new non-AD&D classes, the Duelist and the Jester.