I just downloaded Empire of the Petal Throne from Rpgnow. The whole time I've known about this game, I assumed that it was a convoluted, obtuse exercise in linguistics. Not so, no it is seven kinds of awesome.
I can see why it gets lumped together with Talislanta and Skyrealms of Jorune, it is bizarre, no doubt. Seems to be easier to start in though. With Talislanta and Skyrealms you really need the prep the hell out of the players for them to "get" it. In Empire, you just have players show up on boats (which they can sell for extra cash) at the capital city. They are all foreigners, so they don't know the customs, and have no clan or family to rely on. They have to shack up in the flophouses designated for foreigners until a citizen comes by and gives them a job. This continues until third level, wherein they are trusted enough to leave the foreign quarter by them selves. Punishment involves getting impaled on the neighborhood stake.
Its flavor is kinda india/aztec/arabian, more along the lines of Clark Ashton Smith and Lord Dunsay than Tolkien and Moorcock.
The rules are pretty close to original d&d, they would have to be. They were both published by TSR. It even has a forward by Gygax. This was a heady time for gaming, the early years. This gem is written by Professor M.A.R. Barker. Rpg's had professors writing and editing them. Credibility!
The rules differences are pretty strange. Last person to hit a monster and make it die gets all the xp. Rolls are referred to as "shakes", as in shake a twenty sided to hit. Using eyes, which are like wands, causes you to only get half the xp for the monster defeated. As you gain levels, you gain less of a percentage of xp, untill you reach tenth level when you only get 5% of the normal experience, but you still need a quarter of a million to advance. Every time you level up, you reroll your hit points, and take the better of your original score or new roll.
I got so fired up about it I printed the whole thing up, put it in a binder, and made a screen for it outta orange cardstock.