Ah, Maelstrom. As a youngster I loved this game. At the time I was into the Fighting Fantasy books and, as this looked similar, and also included a solo adventure, I picked it up. Now, Arion Games have bought it back in electronic format. Kudos!
Maelstrom is a percentile based system set in 16th century England. It is a historical game rather than a fantastical one, though some elements of fantasy (such as magic) do creep in. The first section explains how to create a character using nine attributes: Attack Skill, Defence Skill, Endurance, Speed, Agility, Will, Persuasion, Knowledge and Perception. These stats begin at 30. Then its on to choosing a living for your character. All sorts of livings are listed, from nobles, mercenaries and mages all the way down to beggars, labourers and even fruiterers. The game mechanics come next, explaining combat and other areas.
Next up is a section describing what life is like in 16th century England, a handy reference for those of us not alive during that time! It then goes on to explain a little bit about how magic works and is viewed during this period.
A solo adventure in the style of the old Fighting Fantasy books follows. In this you play as an assassin.
Advanced rules is next. The level of detail here is amazing, and is in someways detrimental to the game. Although very realistic, it certainly gets bogged down in minutiae. The Wound system is a good example, where you track every wound you take, and each one heals separately
We then have a section for referees (Maelstrom's Games Master equivalent). Advice on how to run the game and the other normal stuff is included here.
We then come to a group adventure set on the road from St. Albans to London. Quite a nice little introductory adventure.
Finally we have an appendix on herbs. This appendix is probably the most famous thing about Maelstrom, and has often been used as a reference in many other RPGs. The author went to a lot of pains in his research on the herbs listed and it shows.
All in all, as good as I remember it, even if some of the rules are clunky (though realistic) in design. I absolutely love the magic system in Maelstrom, and am glad Arion Games has bought it back.