When I was seven, the first book I remember reading cover to cover was the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. It was beautifully illustrated and filled with the bonkers stories of the Greek myths. I fell in love. I never forgot the majesty I felt as I read stories of Gods, Heroes and Monsters.
Those same emotions are evoked when I read Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze by Joshua A.C. Newman. It is a role-playing game for two to four players, and it is set loosely in a bronze age of Names and Gods. Players take on the roles of legendary Heroes, or legendary Tricksters/Magicians/Wisemen. Everything comes down to your relationships with Gods, spirits and sometimes, geographical locations. Like I said, it is mythical.
The engine is more story-based than simulationist like Dungeons and Dragons. I admit that my old-school sensibilities took a while to get my head around the rules but once it clicked, oh my Goddess, it was like the burning bush was speaking to me.
For example, there is no gamemaster or referee. There are players and sometimes you feel the need to Speak for the characters that are not controlled by players. This lets you contribute to the story in a free form way that I really like. It takes the pressure off one person to create everything and opens it to the group. If Sally, Hunter of Star-Beasts, has a cool idea for a problem to confront Brad, Priest of the silent, then Sally can take control of the narrative as needed and throw a few problems Brad’s way. It works really well.
When it comes time to determine the result of something interesting, dice are rolled. The system is so straight forward, that giving any examples would give away the rules, so just know that it is really easy to pick up and really flexible for anything you need.
I bought the game expecting to play Gilgamesh type characters, but the NameDealer class is a work of genius. You know the Names of things, letting you communicate and make deals. So you can be making deals with rivers, the sun, the Queen of Lions or whatever else you encounter. It is part holy man and part swindler. It essentially lets you play Moses or Merlin, and holy crap, is that the kind of characters I want to sink my teeth in.
The book is crammed with examples in the form of fiction. Each story is something that can happen in play. My only niggle is that I wish there was a sidebar breaking down what happened in the story into how it might play out with dice and players. It might have been a space issue, but it would have been nice to see.
Speaking of fiction, this is one of the friendliest LBQT rpgs I have seen in awhile. Some people use semi-historical settings as an excuse to go pure cisgender but not this book. There is much diversity in the fiction that feels wonderfully inclusive. Myths are for everyone.
The other thing this book has is art. The D’Aulaires’ books were an art inspiration and it was executed perfectly. This feels like a loss book from the D’Aulaires’ series and I can’t think of a higher compliment.
So yeah, even if you don’t have a gaming group, I highly recommend this book. It is a masterpiece of concept and a wonderful expression of theme.