A is for ARDUIN

1 Apr

A is for ARDUIN

I am doing the A-Z Blogging challenge in April. (see link on my sidebar)

So, beginning with “A”, I start out with the earliest campaign setting/alternative rules set that I played: that of the original Arduin Grimoire trilogy by Dave Hargrave.

Arduin, bloody Arduin!

Vroat vs Phraint

Arduin is a bit of an anomaly in early Roleplaying. It is simultaneously attempting to be OD&D/Holmes supplements, a rule system evolving to stand on its own and a campaign world setting.  It is also part of the hack ‘n’ slash/gonzo/highly experimental time of the late 70’s and early 80’s when everything was new. The nation of Arduin on the world of Khaas was a rough and chaotic place, just like the landscape of gaming was at the time. Beware the Doom Guard that keeps watch over the ancient temple beneath the capital city, Talismonde! The magickal items are the wildest and most arcane, the races are weird and numerous because they come from all points of the Multiverse, the characters are faced with mysteries at every step – this is Arduin!

Many of the races, classes and concepts found in Arduin have been commonly adopted into roleplaying without many people knowing their origin. The reason why Black Hobbits keeping Kobolds as “pets” in the Judges Guild’s Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor is found in the Arduin books as “Kobbits”.  TSR later adapted some Arduin creations silently back into official AD&D publications. One very blatant example is the Thri-kreen insect race of the 1983 MMII, which was an obvious copy of the Phraint of the 1977 Arduin Grimoire vol I. To be honest, that doesn’t bother me, because practically everything in gaming is a reinterpretation of something that came before from somewhere. I just gave the examples to show that Arduin has been more influential than it gets credit for.

The monsters and environments of Arduin do not lend to longevity of characters. If a one does survive for long in an Arduin-style campaign, it is a testament to the luck and resourcefulness of the player. Those that do survive to higher levels end up with some very odd and powerful skills. The classes such as Slaver, Tekno, Star-Powered Mage, etc. are a testimony of the wide-open nature of Arduin, when many of these were completely new to the RPG scene. It is actually very easy to be inspired to create new classes when you play Arduin, because it is meant to be mutable according to the wishes of the GM.

click for larger image

I still have my original copies of the AG Trilogy, which I purchased in ’79 and ’80. They are well worn with use as you can see. I have librarians tape on the spine of two of the volumes because the covers were getting worn through at the edges because I used them so much! In many ways I feel Arduin took D&D to the worlds I imagined myself. On the cover of vol 1, the Clint Eastwood-inspired guy, the Amazon and the Phraint insect warrior are gutting Saurigs. Those reptile creatures are tough, so these characters must be pretty tough themselves! The cover artwork by Greg Espinoza fascinated me when I first saw it and it still does!

Recently, I purchased the reprint of the Trilogy as a single, hardbound volume from the publisher, Emperor’s Choice. The 554 pp of the Arduin Vols I-III material is presented in a very nicely printed, easily legible modern format (unlike the hand-typed, photocopy look of the originals). All in all a great deal and a useful resource any player or Gamemaster would enjoy having. Emperor’s Choice is keeping the Arduin dream of David Hargrave, the Dream Weaver, alive and the organized presentation of Mr. Hargrave’s vision is wonderful!

My upcoming campaign will reflect the experience of raw danger and the unknown that Arduin brings. Many prefabricated adventures and new game systems today are trying to create the feel that Arduin has always had. In some ways, it is still unparalleled to this day. For that reason alone it is worth investigation. The Arduin material is adaptable to many types of campaigns. It’s flavor is a lot of what OSR systems are going for, so you will find that much of Arduin can be easily used with popular Old School/Retro Clone games, such as Swords & Wizardry , Labyrinth Lord or the like.

There is so much that could be written on it, no one article can do Arduin’s content or its history justice, so I will be blogging more installments about certain aspects later.

-Jeff
“Retro”

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