Myths and Legends 1: Jason and the Argonauts is 80 pages of awesome. When I first got my hands on this book, I thought it was a roleplaying game supplement. I love RPGs, so I was drawn to it. After opening the book, I quickly realized that this was much more than just an RPG supplement. Myths and Legends 1: Jason and the Argonauts is, as the title suggests, about the well-known and oft done mythic legend of Jason and his motley crew of Argonauts.
I know the tale of Jason and the Argonauts well, but this book brought it to life for me in a way I have never experienced it before. Rather than being a Cliff’s Notes version of the story, this is more of a highlights reel with spectacular art. The format of this book reminded me of those amazing books I would covet as a child at the annual book fair: It has a great cover, glossy pages, and wonderful page-sized art that would have made you beg your parents to buy it for you. I love a book or product that dredges up memories like that.
As I flipped through this book, I remember thinking that it was a children’s book and could be an RPG sourcebook on its best day. Boy, was I wrong. The author Neil Smith has degrees in Classics and Medieval History and History, and he shows that his education has paid off big-time in this book. I learned quite a bit about Jason and the Argonauts and the real life history surrounding their mythical journey. The best part is at no point did I feel the burden of learning. I felt like I was reading a finely crafted tale as told by a bard of great renown. This book goes to show that you can place large quantities into 80 pages without it feeling like it was stuffed there.
As an avid player of RPGs, I can say this book is brimming with source material. The encounters, while well known to students of mythology, would still make for an amazing evening of tabletop gaming. I enjoy playing in games where my GM does stuff like that, but uses monsters and beasties from whatever system you are playing in. The artwork alone could easily grace the cover of any large gaming company’s sourcebooks.
This book does so many things right on so many levels. No, it isn’t the messiah of books, but when you combine great original art with historical renderings and top-shelf writing, it is hard to go wrong. The tale of Jason and the Argonauts is a classic for a reason, and the crew over at Osprey Publishing has repackaged it for a modern audience of most ages while maintaining the integrity of the original story.