Mazes & Minotaurs sits aside Encounter Critical as a sort of proto-OSR game, at least in terms of its presentation. Its seed comes from an essay by Paul Elliott on RPG.net, playfully speculating on how the RPG hobby might have developed differently had the first published RPG taken Greek mythology (as viewed through the prism of Ray Harryhausen spectacles and other “sword and sandal” movies) as the main inspiration instead of sword & sorcery in the Robert E. Howard/Fritz Leiber mode. Inspired by the article, French RPG fan Olivier Legrand decided to produce a free RPG based on the concept – a game which would have two fictional layers, the first being the actual fiction of the game presented and the second being the invented history of the game as the “first RPG” in a parallel version of the hobby.
To everyone’s surprise, the concept actually caught on – to the point where not only did a range of supplements come out for the “original 1972” rules as initially presented, but actually an entire “revised Mazes & Minotaurs” new edition came out to tidy everything up and present it all with an eye to seeing actual play. Unlike yet another OSR reinvention of D&D, of the sort which the OSR has produced dozens and which tend to boil down to “my D&D house rules”, the design of Mazes & Minotaurs not only involves genuine originality but also increasingly feels like a game which sees actual play. After all, the type of concept explored here hasn’t exactly been exhaustively mined in tabletop RPGs, despite the fact that it actually fits the format remarkably well, and Mazes & Minotaurs, as a game line, would seem to fill a niche which commercial publishers have failed to exploit (in part, perhaps, because the public domain nature of Greek myth may put them off compared to invented IPs which they can own outright).