||If you aren't familiar with OSRIC, it is essentially first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons stripped down to the bare rules and released as open content. The idea is provide a means for publishers to release brand new content for the original AD&D game. The core rules are free so, if this sort of thing interests you, go hunt down a copy and download it.
OSRIC Unearthed is a collection of rules additions for the OSRIC core rules. It is written in the spirit of 1st Edition's Unearthed Arcana and contains everything from new classes and weapons to spells and martial arts. The book uses art and layout clearly suggestive of the AD&D books of the 70s, a style which adds a definite feel of nostalgia to the product.
The PDF begins with a selection of new classes. These range from typical fantasy fare such as the knight, bard, and barbarian to new classes such as the brawler and the noble. Overall, I thought that the classes were well designed. The barbarian's berserk ability, for example, is a very simple but effective take on barbarian rage that works perfectly within the parameters of the OSRIC ruleset. I also liked the rules for improving a knight's warhorse's hit points. Other rules were less appealing to me. For instance, the barbarian flies into a rage anytime he is targeted by a magic-user's spell and makes a successful saving throw. I know this is a Conan the Barbarian inspired hold-over from the original rules, but this rule seems unnecessarily arbitrary. Pity the poor magic-user who casts a beneficial spell on his friend the barbarian.
I thought that the designer showed a good attention to flavor and detail in many of the classes. I particularly like the ninja's ?nine signs? of ninjitsu, a concept lifted directly out of ninja mythology. The yamabushi is an interesting take on the familiar monk class, while the noble would serve a unique support role in a standard adventuring party. In addition, many old-school fans will be interested to see the return of the thief-acrobat.
Following the new classes is a very brief selection of new weapons and then a very large section on martial arts rules. Martial arts include both eastern and western styles (although the former is far more prevalent than the latter) as well as armed and unarmed varieties. Most of these are taken directly from the real world. The majority grant a better base armor class as well as a bonus to certain kinds of attacks. In many ways, the styles work something like feats, with each selected style taking up a weapon proficiency slot. Once a base martial art is learned, the character becomes eligible for maneuvers: special attacks that open up additional combat options. Maneuvers include familiar things like power attack and disarming attack. The styles and manuevers are balance and add quite a few options in combat to a character willing to devote some time and effort into learning them.
The book concludes with a dozen or so new magic items, followed by a short section with advice on using the OSRIC rules to run Arthurian or Oriental campaigns. The latter portion covers only three pages of the book, and contains very little other than a brief description of the campaign concept and a few notes on how each class fits into the setting. The advice is sound, but it's too brief to serve as anything more than a starting point for a GM willing to do a lot or work and research on his own. The addition of a list of suggested reading would have gone a long way to making this short section more useful.
LIKED: OSRIC Unearthed presents a number of well-designed rules in a package that has the right look and feel for a book full of 1E AD&D rules. The new rules strike a great balance of mechanics and flavor, adding to the game's options without dragging things down with too many details.
DISLIKED: I'm afraid that the martial arts rules may not be for everyone. They're well designed, but they add a level of rules-bloat that some OSRIC players may not be willing to deal with. A character who takes karate, for example, suddenly has access to ten combat maneuvers; well beyond the usual array of options available in the OSRIC rules as written. In a game that relies more on GM fiat and less on hard and fast mechanics, this may be too much. Since the bulk of the book deals with these rules, you'll find OSRIC Unearthed less useful if you aren't interested in adding martial arts to your game. Even the class section leans heavily on the martial arts rules, making it hard to justify getting this book if you don't plan to use at least some version of the martial arts rules.
Also, it seems that much of this book is geared toward players interested in adding an oriental feel to their games. There are three classes, three magic items, and about six new weapons with a strong eastern theme. If you don't like to mix your east with your west, OSRIC Unearthed won't be as useful to you.
QUALITY: Very Good
[3 of 5 Stars!]