I'm a sucker for historical fantasy, especially if it's presented in a "realistic" way, that is, if it attempts to ground the fantasy in the history it's presenting. So, for example, I love fantasies set in the ancient world that make use of the ancient worldview about, say, oracles or divine intervention in order to present a story that nevertheless conforms to history as we know it. I'm willing to extend a wide latitude here, which is why I adore Richard Tierney's "Simon of Gitta" stories, even though they include a lot of Lovecraft-inspired swashbuckling action (those are a few words you probably don't see conjoined very often!) at odds with real history. After all, historical fantasy is fantasy and even someone as stodgy as I must be willing to make allowances for the sake of a good story.
My love for historical fantasy is a deep one, going back to my youth. That's probably why, when Yaquinto Publications released its RPG Man, Myth & Magic back in 1982, I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to buy it myself, I should note, but intrigued enough that I egged a friend on to buy it and then set out to try and run a campaign using it. Unfortunately, Man, Myth & Magic wasn't quite the game I was hoping it was. Though it can be charitably called a historical fantasy, it's somewhat unclear exactly what history it's meant to represent. As written, it's supposed to cover 5000 years of history, from 4000 B.C. to 1000 A.D. Its geographical scope is similarly broad, covering much of the Old World, from Europe to Asia to Africa, albeit with a strong focus on the classical Mediterranean world. This breadth, while admirable in its ambition, prevented the game from having anything approximating a focus and adventures were inevitably an odd mishmash of times, places, and cultures, like an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, only less credible.
This ambitious breadth was reflected in the character generation rules too, which used random rolls to determine a character's culture and profession. Consequently, a typical party might consist of a Roman legionnaire, an African witchdoctor, an Irish leprechaun, a Siberian shaman, and an Egyptian priest. Certainly one could forgo the random rolls to create a more coherent party of adventurers but there was little benefit to doing so, as the game's adventures were a crazy quilt of elements -- the characters journeying all over the world to face opponents from a wide variety of places and time periods. I won't deny that there's a whimsical sort of fun to be had in suck a motley assortment of characters one week fighting side by side with Julius Caesar in Gaul and the next week foiling a plot by evil mummies to overthrow Akhenaten. However, it's not the sort of fun I was looking for at the time and my friends and I happily ceased trying to play it.
What's intriguing is that the game's author, James Herbert "Herbie" Brennan, is a writer of fantasy fiction and books on New Age and occult topics. This makes me wonder if perhaps the incoherence I saw in the game was a deliberate choice in some way connected to his personal interests in outré philosophies. I don't recall any overt New Age evangelizing in the game, but then I was 12 years-old at the time and not particularly good at noticing such things (assuming they were even there). I did, however, notice that Man, Myth & Magic was a disappointing game, one whose general outlines could have been made into a compelling RPG in the hands of a more capable designer, which is a shame. A well-done historical fantasy game in the ancient world is something I'd love to see; odds are good that, even if it fell short of my expectations, I'd still like it more than I did Man, Myth & Magic.