My first experience with D&D was the Eric Holmes version of D&D Basic. While I soon moved on to Moldvay and to AD&D 1st Ed, the Holmes edition holds a warm and fuzzy place in my gaming recollections. I know I am not the only one that feels this way. So anything that is done as an homage to Holmes I pay attention too.
First things first, obviously the name of the game is a nod to John Eric Holmes' book "The Maze of Peril" and I can respect that. If you are going to do a Holmes' homage or pastiche then that is a perfect name really.
Secondly, some others have complained about the art. I rather like it to be honest. The cover is very cool and the interior is no worse than what you would have seen in Holmes.
Taken as a retro-clone by itself it is not much different than Labyrinth Lord or Basic Fantasy RPG.
The rules are simple, as befits the times it is emulating. There is some missing information in some areas (or not easy to find, which is just as bad really). There are tables for STR, INT, CON and DEX but not for WIS or CHA. This is an artifact of Holmes, but M&P expands STR into the AD&D1 numbers, but still does not include these other tables.Some other oddities are the XP levels for Cleric and Magic User. Some of the monster text is awkward to read. There are various grammar errors that even I noticed, and I am terrible at that.
Taken as a "Holmes clone" it certainly does that, even to the point that they are little too similar in some respects. There are some spots of the text that are nearly identical, including some text that is more similar to Holmes than OGC text that is essentially the same in LL and BFRPG.
This is certainly a labor of love on the part of the author. And as a Holmes fan myself I can respect that.
But I am left feeling that this is too close to the source material. It even shares some of the shortcomings of the Holmes book. I understand the desire, but to mimic the style, even to the point where some sections are not very clear, is not a good idea. This is one of the reasons the Moldvay book was made, Holmes was a transitional project.
Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition also introduces two new magic-using classes, the Enchanter and the Shaman. They join the classic Cleric and Magic-User. There is a design choice here to keep the Magic-User over the more widely accepted wizard and I am 100% cool with that. If you know any version of Basic D&D (Holmes in particular) you know what the MU is all about. The XP progression tables are lesser for this MU compared to their Holmes, B/X, AD&D counterparts.
The max spell level in 5th, but that is not a big deal since the max character level in most cases is 12th.
The first new class is the Enchanter. The enchanter follows a similar level progression and the same spell progression as does the Magic-User.
They also learn their spells differently from a MU with a chance of a non-enchanter going insane after reading their spell books. I like the idea of the enchanter and I would certainly play one. I think though I would do something to make them a bit more different than the Magic-User. Given the mental nature of their spells I might make their prime stat Charisma or even Wisdom. They have some really interesting spells here and I think a lot can be done with this class. Just give it a little more to separate it from the MU.
Next up is the Shaman. Now the Shaman is a real treat. First it is a "primitive" type of spell caster, so their spells reflect that.
They also have Atonement and Spirit Guardian abilities. Atonement gives them the ability to spiritually link to a weapon. I have to admit the first thought I had was of Rafiki the baboon shaman from The Lion King. Trust me, this is a good thing. My only "house rule" I would add to this is that the Shaman's weapon acts as a magical weapon for purposes of hiting undead creatures. Not a +1 but more like a "+0".
The spirit guardian is a very interesting ability. I don't think it would be game breaking if the spirit animal could attack as a 1HD monster, but it is a guardian afterall. As a DM I would love to do a lot of cool things with this animal. Hell, it would make for a great "patronus" like spell. Also I would have the shaman need to go on a "vision quest" to find their spirit animal. Get all new-agey with it.
The shaman fills the same niche as does the druid in other OSR/D&D games, but is not really 100% the same thing. This is good, a game could be run that has both druids and shamen in it and still be plenty for them both to do.
Which class to play will often be determined I think by their spell lists. If I were to play the Enchanter I might want to supplement some of his spells. Maybe grab a few illusionist spells some more Enchantment spells from the 3.x SRD. The Shaman works great out of the box.
I would play both to be honest.
If you want to get a simple "Basic" system for a grittier style play then M&P is a good choice.
[4 of 5 Stars!]