Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beasts. Men & Gods

For some time now, Matteo over at Chateau des Sortilèges has been attempting to convince Bill Underwood to re-release his 1980 fantasy game Beasts, Men & Gods. His efforts have born fruit and, as of now, you can purchase a copy of the 158-page second revised edition here for $19.95. An extensive preview of the book can be found here.

As you can see, if you look at the preview, this is a seriously old school RPG. The layout and artwork have not been updated since it last appeared in print, which, frankly, gives it a much greater appeal. I'll probably grab a copy at some point in the future, because I'd never even heard of this game before, let alone read it and I love new opportunities to expand my knowledge of the first decade of the hobby.

 Here's hoping we start to see more old school games currently unavailable reappear like Beasts, Men & Gods. And many thanks to Matteo for making it happen.

23 comments:

  1. With an introduction that ends:

    Although Beasts, Men & Gods is a complete system designed to be played by itself, I strongly encourage players to NOT remain 100% faithful. Once again, reality is NOT just one game company’s opinion, not even The Game
    Masters’ opinion. I urge you to go forth and draw concepts and ideas from any other game or piece of fiction that you see, and build your own creative concept of "reality" in a fantasy world.


    I think we're encountering something that truly embraces what the OSR is trying to recover.

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  2. My bank account is now $20 lighter.

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  3. That's a pretty sweet system. Me likey.

    And I think the artwork's fully acceptable amateur stuff. Very lively.

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  4. James, I fail to see (probably because I have to squint) how one can declare that the primitive layout has "much greater appeal" unless one is a masochist or determined to reinforce one's grognard credentials at all costs. To me this is the other side of ye Renfair coin--"in my day we rolled dice by picking chits out of a cup and went blind from trying to read our rpg leaflets, and LIKED it!"

    If any significant percentage of the OSR is enamored of more Luddite than thou posturing, the movement has jumped the shark.

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  5. Thanks for the heads-up on this one!

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  6. I'm with James regarding the layout. It isn't that the layout was intentionally "primitivized," rather that the author released the product with its original layout. I want the full retro feel to the product and not a partial retro feel. It's kind of like buying a classic car. Do you want a classic car to look like a modern car? No.

    This is for collectors, not for some "high minded" purist who believes that one form of play is better than another. I love old school, middle school, and new school games. I love gamist and narrative games. I also like what I have seen of this product, as well as what I have seen from numerous OSR publishers. Not every product needs to have the graphic design of Lamentations or Pathfinder.

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  7. I'm with James regarding the layout. It isn't that the layout was intentionally "primitivized," rather that the author released the product with its original layout.

    This is precisely what I meant by my comment, nothing more.

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  8. Bah, my comment was harsher than necessary in either case. Apologies.

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  9. "Do you want a classic car to look like a modern car? No."

    I would rather my classic car not resemble something hastily bolted together by an amateur mechanic in a darkened garage. ;)

    With all due respect to the author, the game hasn't been established as a classic, unless you simply mean that it's over 25 years old.

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  10. I still have my original copy of the 2nd printing, although it's held together with duct tape. I haven't played BMG in over 25 years, but I remember it fondly.

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  11. Old School Tipoff: Calling them "FRP Games" instead of "RPGs."

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  12. I have been hearing about an old, obscure rule system, that was mentioned on an old game review, from an old gaming magazine, that was posted on someone's game blog, and advertised on some old-school game forums, so I checked-out the preview.

    The game seems to be based on the frame-work of D&D, but with extensive rule-revisions to make the game feel somewhat original. Even if one dose not what to play the system outright, it is full of neat rules and ideas, that can be incorporated into one's old-school games. For example, I like the way it have Magic-Users knock 50sp (this game uses the silver standard) off their starting funds, to account for the the cost of spell components and possibly tuition. This makes sense, as MUs tend to have a surplus of starting funds, because they dont need to buy much weapons or any armor.

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  13. Even if one dose not what to play the system outright, it is full of neat rules and ideas, that can be incorporated into one's old-school games.

    I liked the paired attribute generation so you don't wind up with strength of 18 and constitution of 3. It's a very different, but just as interesting, approach from the one Runequest took with strength, size, and constitution.

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  14. I would rather my classic car not resemble something hastily bolted together by an amateur mechanic in a darkened garage. ;)

    A classic FRP Game (circa 1980) pretty much did look like that, though. Even the "professional" layouts of RQ, AD&D, Traveller, and TFT were pretty amateur by even standards of the time. The only two games I can think of that were professional even in the contemporary sense in 1982 were the two SPI games: DragonQuest and Universe.

    TSR's first games that were, IMHO, truly professional layout quality were BECMI and the other mid-80s boxed sets (Marvel, Star Frontiers, Gangbusters, etc).

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  15. Good point. The Blue Box layout is pretty sad, now that I look at it--and despite some quirky art, the Big Three hardbacks from 1e aren't winning any medals either.

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  16. Old School Tipoff: Calling them "FRP Games" instead of "RPGs."

    Yep. I don't think it was until sometime in the mid-80s that the acronym "RPG" took off and replaced "FRP" as the standard.

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  17. I remember having checked out that book from my university library, back in my halcyon college days (we're talking 20+ years ago). They not only had stuff by Midkemia press, but also Beasts, Men and Gods, and a lot of The Fantasy Trip books. My intro to those retro games by dint of merely perusing the Roleplaying section.

    The thing I didn't quite like about B, M & G was that the spellcasters hated each other IIRC, the Priest and Wizard (I forget what they're actually called) having theological differences as to where their spells come from. That being said, I think I'm going to buy it anyway, just to have a copy.

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  18. The art preceding the description of the warrior and thief classes on page 14 or so... that guy with the sword is traced from a Frazetta painting. Avalon Hill used a tracing of that same piece in Powers & Perils.

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  19. Having owned an original version for a couple of years it never seemed to me to be more than one of the endless & bland D&D clones of time... Anyone with happy memories out there?

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    1. > Anyone with happy memories out there?

      Sure. We had tons of fun playing with Bill and Jason back in the day (1979-1981). I still have my signed, first edition BMG next to my original D&D rules from the Brown Box.

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  20. thanks James for spreading the news :) my copy is on its journey *by airmail to me.

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  21. I played BMG with a group in western Washington State in the early 90s.  I bought a copy online and was delighted to see it back in print.  Mr. Underwood is making a mistake not releasing in in PDF form (note I have already purchased a physical copy).  If it were to become widely pirated, this would actually be a good thing for Bill.  Right now not enough people know about BMG, so zealous guarding an intellectual property that has dubious value is a poor marketing decision.  It's pretty clear that the only people buying it are collectors.  Well, I'm not one of those.  I remember the game fondly.  It is not "just another D&D clone."  It has the best combat system of any fantasy RPG I've ever played, and it's not a darned thing like D&D.  The magic system is less wonderfully unique, but still has enough change from D&D I find it insulting to call it a clone.  Free advice for Bill Underwood:  you want people playing the game, not just collecting it.  Get it out in PDF, if it becomes widely pirated, that's actually a good thing.  Put out some decent looking character sheets for people who are actually playing it (I have a friend working on a design now).  Hire a writer to clean up the copy and modernize some things here and there.  A rough sketch of the incomplete setting you have clearly in mind would also help.  In any case, love the game, and I'm starting a group to play it as we speak.

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  22. I played BMG for years in junior high and highschool in the late 80s and early 90s. We treasured the few original copies we had and mostly subsisted on photocopies made late at night on an unknowing business' photocopier.


    We had a great time and many different campaigns. We made up different character sheet formats, some custom rules, etc.


    It was great.


    I played all the way into college in the mid 90's, still on those photocopies.


    I'll order a copy for my childhood memories, if nothing else.

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