When I was 12 years old, I had already played ‘Warlock of Firetop Mountain‘ and the other first half dozen Fighting Fantasy books. A year later I would be clutching the purplish box of ‘Middle Earth Role Playing‘ having thoroughly enjoyed several months of D&Ding at school. In that moment, in 1984, I discovered something a bit different… I discovered ‘Maelstrom‘.
I’m not entirely sure whether I would have seen ‘Excalibur‘ at this point or similar fantasy movies that stepped on the boundaries of magic without losing sight of the real world, but that was ‘Maelstrom‘ in a way. The game provided mechanics and a setting that took medieval England and swirled in a touch of magic. Not much… just enough to suit the perceptions of the time that magic existed and was to be feared. The Maelstrom swirled outside of reality, and from there those in the know could harness enough power to bend the world to do their bidding.
The game was simple enough, percentiles mainly with point-allocated character creation. The bulk of the book explained character professions, mechanics of combat, advanced developments, and a solo adventure to guide you through the basics. The book also included a 19-page herbal, which some say went on to influence other games that followed. I certainly referred to it many times over the years when running other fantasy games. All this in a 300-or-so page paperback volume that you could virtually slide into your pocket. Perfect fodder for a quick game with your friends on a rainy afternoon.
Now, 24 years later, ‘Maelstrom‘ has returned. Published by Arion Games under license from Puffin Books, the whole thing can now be yours as a PDF from DriveThruRPG. As if that wasn’t enough, Arion Games also intends to publish adventures and support material, including the entirely free adventure ‘Strange Days in Nayland‘.
Well worth a look… and with the return of ‘Dragon Warriors’ it almost seems like my childhood has returned once more.