I went into this one expecting to like what I saw, and I came away initially with a slightly unsatisfied feeling – it took me a while to understand why. I'll explain later...
Physically (I picked up the paperback version from Lulu), the book is well-presented, well-laid out, and a good match for the revised edition Labyrinth Lord in terms of style. Everything seems to be in good shape; my one niggle is that there is no index, though there is a substantial table of contents.
The book opens with character creation, and here we have the usual races you would expect from 1st Ed, as well as the additional classes – new races Half-Orc, Half-Elf, and Gnome, new classes Paladin, Ranger, Illusionist, Assassin, Druid. As promised, this book allows characters to be created that match 1st Edition standards, without a lot of the clutter. I was pleased that proficiencies were left out, but that the 'Secondary Skill' table, providing characters with some background skill from their past, was included.
Frankly, it was at the part of the review that I hit a stumbling block. Suffice to say that this book contains most of the 'missing content' that 1st Edition had that B/X did not, but written as if it was a later book in the B/X product line – I'd almost say that this is the 'Companion' book we've been waiting for all these years.
This is my point – there is nothing here that we haven't seen before. That's what initially left me somewhat unsatisfied, but I rapidly came to see that this was the greatest strength of the book. In one 156-page book, all the elements of 1st Edition that I like have been provided here in a distilled format, and pretty much everything I dislike has been left out. I'm going to put it another way – this isn't the 'Companion' – this is what 2nd Edition should have been like.
Is this book a new, amazing read? No. But then it doesn't promise to be. Is this book good inspiration for games – yes. Is this book actually useful at the table? Definitely yes. I have a running debate with a friend of mine over sourcebooks that are 'cool and revolutionary' over ones that are 'actually useful at the table'. The former I will read an enjoy, and they will sit on my shelf unused. The latter I will read through, and then carry to every session and eventfully wear out through use – though on first read it didn't hit me as hard. This definitely falls into the latter category, folks. If you're looking to run a 1st-Edition style game, you could do a lot worse than pick this up. If you want a good 'sourcebook of stuff' for your B/X game, this is pretty much essential.
Will I use all of this? Probably not; I'd rather run a more B/X style game, racial class and all. Will I grab monsters, spells, magic items from this? Absolutely. Recommended buy.
Buy at Lulu