The product is cleanly laid out and easy to read. I encountered no obvious editorial or layout issues, although I was a bit baffled by the extensive table of contents, when an index would probably have been more immediately useful. The layout itself is reminscent of OSRIC's own without being a direct copy of it. OSRIC Unearthed is illustrated through the use of black and white clip art that varies in quality and appropriateness, with the best pieces reminding me of artwork from the early Silver Age of D&D, which only seems fitting given how much inspiration this product draws from TSR products of that era, such as Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures. The end result is sober and workmanlike rather than inspired.
The first part of OSRIC Unearthed (pages 2-22) consists of eight new character classes. They're a mixed bag in my opinion, with some being quite excellent and others fairly banal. They are:
- Barbarian: This class is a nice marriage of the ideas behind the AD&D barbarian (fear/hatred of magic, commanding a horde, etc.) with those of more recent vintage (berserker rage), without all the infelicities of either one. It's not perfect by any means, but it's better than either of its inspirations.
- Bard: This is an interesting take on the class, being much more closely focused on using music to achieve quasi-magical effects than was its AD&D counterpart, yet without explicit spellcasting. It also has the benefit of being a complete class unto itself rather than a proto-prestige class.
- Brawler: An intriguing class, this one is a Western-style "martial artist," an expert in unarmed combat. My main beef with it is that it pretty much demands the use of the new martial arts rules (about which I'll talk shortly).
- Knight: A less egregious version of the AD&D cavalier, it's nevertheless not a class that I see a great need for. That said, for referees who do, it's a well-done option.
- Ninja: The first of several new Oriental character classes, the ninja is a thief/assassin with a dash of illusionist thrown in. This is a class I was prepared to dislike on principle, but its presentation won me over.
- Noble: Like the bard, the noble has the ability to inspire others as its primary class abilities. I'm not at all convinced anyone would want to play such a class nor do I see much need for it.
- Samurai: This class comes across as just a variant of the knight, which I suppose it is.
- Thief-Acrobat: I never much cared for this class in AD&D (another proto-prestige class) and this version, which is a fairly straight translation of it, didn't change my mind about it.
- Yamabushi: This is a modified version of the traditional monk placed within its Oriental context.
The remainder of the book consists of a handful of new magic items and suggestions for how to run OSRIC campaigns with either an Arthurian or Oriental flavor -- no surprise given that its author D20 campaign rules for both from RPGObjects.
Mechanically, OSRIC Unearthed is superb. I have absolutely no qualms with its new rules, all of which feel continuous with the approach of OSRIC itself. In this respect, I'd call it "Unearthed Arcana done right," but then I generally feel that the Gygaxian original felt like a break with what had come before it rather than a logical extension. Content-wise, OSRIC Unearthed is a bit less sound, not because its ideas are bad ones -- they are not -- but because so many are focused on Oriental-style D&D that they may not be of use to referees who run straight-up Western campaigns. Of course, some of its contents, like the ninja, as I noted, are good enough that they almost demand "re-tooling" outside an Asian setting. I respect that the author made the martial arts rules useful even in non-Asian settings, but it's also clear that they work best in that campaign context.
Consequently, OSRIC Unearthed has a high quotient of "outré" material that won't be useful to everyone. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it will limit this product's appeal, which is a pity given how well done it is. I'd love to see more OSRIC material from Charles Rice in the future; here's hoping his next product might be more "traditional" in its content so that it will attract the attention it deserves.
Presentation: 7 out of 10
Creativity: 9 out of 10
Utility: 6 out of 10
Buy This If: You're interested in adding new classes and martial arts to your games and aren't put off by a lot of Asian-themed content
Don't Buy This If: You have no interest in Asian-themed fantasy and/or see no need for secondary and tertiary character classes, like the barbarian or the knight.