Russ Nicholson, it's yet more evidence of the imagination and versatility that makes him Britain's premier fantasy illustrator. This one has a special place in our hearts, for it was one of the first Russ drew for me (in my 1985 gamebook The Eye of the Dragon) and the original is framed on the wall of Jamie's study and watches him as he creates modern masterworks like the Dirk Lloyd books - or skives off to play a couple of hours of Skyrim, more like.
I got to thinking about it a while back when I was preparing a seasonal RPG special. Our gaming group meets every fortnight (on a Thursday, since you asked) but we also try to have four all-day Sunday specials to mark the solstices and equinoxes. This autumn I drew the referee's straw and needed to come up with a storyline in a hurry. The snag was, I was also in the middle of prepping Frankenstein for epub3. Spare time had become a highly theoretical concept. So I did what any of us might do in the circumstances, and reached for a classic adventure novel to plunder for ideas.
I'd never read She before. It's certainly packed with great scenes and ideas. As a novel it feels a little flat because it is just a "this happened, and then this, and then this" kind of story. Nothing is made of the potential emotional and moral challenges that would make us sit up and take notice today. Not that I'm complaining. If it had been a really thrilling read, I'd have worried about spoiling it for those of my gamers (all of them, I'm betting) who haven't yet read it. But, bereft as it is of the character stuff that makes a story really grip, you're free to rip it off as an epic adventure scenario - and by those terms it certainly does the business.
There's no point in me posting the adventure here. It relates to the characters in my own campaign, who were coming to Ayesha's (that's pronounced "Asha", by the way) kingdom from 9th century Baghdad, not 19th century Cambridge. And they had specific campaign reasons for going. And the system we use is GURPS 4e. And my Ayesha was more of a sci-fantasy boffin than H Rider Haggard's psychic beauty. But you don't need my notes anyway. Haggard's book is one big RPG scenario pack, complete with suggested episodes to keep the action going. Thanks to the wonderful Project Gutenberg, it's right there for everyone to read, so why not try it out on your players?