My initial plan for this post was to talk about Oriental Adventures. However, I'm taking a slight detour to participate in S&W Appreciation Day. So, instead of justifying NWPs or the existance of monks and martial arts, I'm reviewing Ruins and Ronin by Mike Davison. It is available from Lulu at a nominal cost of $1 as a pdf and $11.25 as a softcover. Lulu pdf listing
Ruins and Ronin (hereafter R&R) is designed as a S&W Whitebox product. Therefore, it has a very old school feel as to mechanics: very smooth and easy-to-run without much detail. There are no super samurai. The fighting-man, man of magic, and cleric are all recognizable with name changes; nothing overly different here. Armor Class, however, is treated in a fashion similar to the 1E Oriental Adventures book. The o-yoroi, that is, the complete suit of "samurai" armor, is the ultimate form of armor and is a work of art itself. However, the individual pieces can be bought separately and increase the overall AC value by a factor of 1-2 points. The o-yoroi's AC is better by 1 than the sum of the individual pieces.
The monster section has a few specifically oriental monsters for flavor. But as, far as setting goes, there is nothing. There is also no two page spread of weapons and armor as in the 1E Oriental Adventures. Now, this is in keeping with old school design aesthetics, and it is not 1974, so I won't belabor this point. There are plenty of oriental-themed games to steal ideas and settings from these days: Bushido, Oriental Adventures, Legend of the Five Rings, etc.
Overall, I give this product 4 of 5 polar bears with the caveat that it is not a beginner's game due to the lack of background and setting information. More artwork, notwithstanding old school aesthetics, would have pushed it to 5. The price point is excellent as well. And allow me to add the fact that I purchased the print version.
There are a couple of free resources for R&R at the S&W page. First off, Davison himself put out a pdf titled 100 Bujin. It is a list of 100 bujin and their stats and equipment for use in random encounters or the like. Sean Wills has a 1 page pdf for randomly generating a scenario start using all of the polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20).