In November 2002, Paul Elliott — author of various free roleplaying games including the excellent Zenobia — wrote an article called The Gygax/Arneson Tapes for his Tempus Fugit column on RPGnet. In it, he imaged that Gary Gygax was inspired by Greecian myths instead of Tolkien-esque High Fantasy, and created Mazes and Minotaurs.
Along comes Olivier Legrand, a French game designer, who decides to actually make the fictional game the column describes with three goals:
- 1) Write a complete game in English.
- 2) Write a game with a genuine old-school, 1970s feel, reminiscent of early D&D.
- 3) Write a game that would be totally coherent with Paul's article.
He did, and released it for free!
Check it out here.
This tabletop game has the following Tropes covered:
- Alliteration & Adventurers: It's often titled "Mazes & Minotaurs", as a parody of Dungeons & Dragons.
- Barefisted Monk: The equivalent to D&D's Monk class is the Panktrataist, a boxer or wrestler. They wear gloves, but not a lot else.
- Dumb Muscle: Half-Giants in Vikings & Valkyries get a huge bonus to Might, but take a big penalty to both Wits and Grace.
- Elemental Powers:
- The base game Elementalist must pick two elements from Fire, Air, Earth, and Water, with one being their primary element. However, they cannot pick the opposing combinations of Fire and Water or Earth and Air.
- Mazes & Minotaurs Companion adds Light and Darkness, but they're restricted to secondary elements only.
- The Mage class from The Land of the Sun supplement functions as an Elementalist with Light as the primary element. Their magic is also changed to reflect their devotion to Ahura Mazda.
- Vikings & Valkyries: Elementalists only have three options: Air, Fire, and Ice, but there's no restriction against opposing elementals.
- Fighter, Mage, Thief: Player classes are categorized into three groups: Warriors, Magicians, and Specialists. The Warriors are the toughest with 12 base Hit Points and have combat-related special abilities. The Specialists' abilities are geared toward adventuring more than Warriors' (the exceptions so far are Archer and its variant, Slinger, which have combat oriented abilities but functionally count as Specialists). Only Magicians can use magic.
- Gaiden Game: Vikings & Valkyries, a spin-off based on Norse Mythology instead of Classical Mythology. The sidebar also mentions Fiannas & Fomors based on Celtic Mythology.
- Lampshade Hanging: Lots of quirks of the D&D game are addressed in the pseudo-historical commentaries like the armor class system, the wargamist quarrels, etc.
- One-Gender Race:
- Centaur player characters can only be male, Nymphs can only be female. In the case of centaurs, and half-giants in Vikings and Valkyries, it's specifically mentioned that all adventurers of that race are male. A Dwarf race is available for male Sorcerers, Thieves, and Elementalists in V&V, as well.
- Set up but then subverted in the "Triremes and Tritons" supplement, where tritons are, like centaurs, described as only producing male adventurers. Then the next page shows the female triton class, tritonides, who are noted to be rebels against their society's strict gender roles. And then the next page has the all-male Delphin class, which naturally mentions female Delphins as existing.
- Retraux: The game is styled like the very first tabletop roleplaying games.
- Retroactive Legacy: Given that it's a parody of early D&D, its sourcebook claims it's a rerelease of an original 1972 version.
- Running Gag: There are a few in Creature Compendium's From the Letters Page of Griffin Magazine section.
- There is one person who keeps complaining about how creature naming only goes From Bad to Worse.
- Another person always points out how aerial or aquatic creatures are useless in the absence of detailed rules for aerial/aquatic combat, then starts ranting about their house rules (which, thankfully, is cut short by editors).
- Another person complains about how certain creatures can't be playable, and always ends with the same sentences."This is absurd, especially since [insert name here] are a predominantly player-character class! Could you provide some kind of official ruling on this?"
- Shout-Out: "The three Sea Titans are named Dagon, Kraken and Ktolos."
- The Six Stats: Strength, Dexterity, and Charisma are respectively renamed to Might, Skill, and Grace. Wisdom gets separated into Wits (alertness and cleverness) and Will (resolve and self-discipline). Constitution and Intelligence are replaced by Luck.
- Squishy Wizard: Magicians have base Hit Points of 8 and cannot wear armor, making them far less durable than Warriors or Specialists.
- Weapon Specialization: Warriors and Specialists have Weapon of Choice feature, a type of weapon which the character is really good at. When the character attacks with their Weapon of Choice, the player rolls two D20s and uses the better result.
- What If?: What if G.G. was hooked on a Grecian world instead of a medieval one?