Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Arduin Grimoire cover to cover, part 1

Okay, let's do this like Brutus.  The Arduin Grimoire is one of the seminal books of the early gonzo D&D period and by the time this series is done you'll know more about it than you probably want to.

Pictured to the right is the cover from my own copy of this gem.  I pick "cheap and crappy but legible" over "mint condition" pretty much every time and my copy is pretty dang crudulated.  Still, the awesomeness of Greg Espinoza's cover art comes shining through.  Clint Eastwood, Dungeoneer, and a dual-wielding bug dude and a lady adventurer with Gamora/Marionette style facepaint are throwing down with some serious lizard dudes.  Later we'll learn that the bug dude is called a Phraint, one of the mainstays of the Arduin universe and quite possibly the inspiration for the Thri'Kreen and/or Vrusk.  Click on the pic to see a bigger version.  The detail work is worth a closer look-see even with my sorry-ass copy.

A lot of game books have acknowledgment or dedication pages that mention PCs in the author's home campaigns.  The gang at ICE we're always good for this, but Hargave's dedication page here contains one of the best such lists I've ever seen:
Koryu, leader of the forty-seven ronin; Elric the Hell-Lost; Daniel the True Defender of the Dreaming Isles; Jothar, Champion of the House of the Rising Sun and Baron of the Realm; Kazamon, the Ring Bearer, hobbit and changeling; Benk the Benighted; Hamal Assad's Twelfth Lancers; Mithrom, bandit turned demon; Mogadore the drunken dwarf; Zorella, amazon leader of the doomed Hell Raid; Lasuli, elven and unafraid; Fredrick the Bold, slayer of Smaug and Sauron; Bolo Mark Nine, destroyer of a dungeon and near slayer of an entire world; the Seven Spartans and their never broken shield wall; Talso the grim mage; all of you are forever graven in the iron legends that will forever follow your steps through allternity.  To you and the shades of near four hundred dead I lift a tankard of Rumble Tummy's ale in respectful salute.
So by 1977 in Hargrave's game Sauron had been iced, Hell itself invaded and almost 400 characters killed in campaigning.  That, my friends, is hard effin' core.  On the other hand, in the foreward Hargrave makes a point of apologizing to anyone his work offends.  Which leaves me with the distinct impression that Mr. Hargrave will readily kill your PC but he tries to be a nice guy about it.

Anyhoo, I should take a moment to talk about the publishing history of this book.  The first edition was self-published in 1977 and featured different cover art and maybe slightly different content.  I've seen a copy of it floating around the internet for download.  Scribd.com or mediafire or someplace like that.  But I'm not sure I kept a copy because I already have a fully functioning print edition.  The second edition published by garage band Grimoire Games is copyright 1979 which is what I've got.  Almost.  There's at least three only vaguely documented changes made along the way in these earliest printings besides the cover art.  First, the inside front cover on my copy is dated 1980 (pictured left).  Second, at some point TSR got grumpy about some of the text, leading to a couple of obvious changes that are hilariously similar to the kind of slapdash editing the game wizards themselves had to do when the Tolkien estate got all huffy.  Mentions of D&D by name get genericized and a mechanic or two are renamed to remove the word 'fuck' from the grimoire texts.  You can't call a fumble a fuck-up without incurring the wrath of TSR circa 1980 apparently.  Thirdly, my eye for such things tells me that the back cover of my copy involves some editorial swimwear to cover up the amazon's vast tracks of land.  But I'm not going to show you what I'm talking about until the last post in this series, since that involves the end of the book.  And also I'm a jerk.

The original Grimoire saw at least two further editions.  Emperor's Choice, the official keeper's of the Arduin flame, have put out over the years an Arduin Trilogy boxed set and more recently an Arduin Trilogy hardcover which is still available.  Both contain the text of the first three Grimoires but I've not seen the insides.

Next installement of this here series we'll get serious and dive into the rules.  Following Hargrave's lead we'll start with the only logical place to begin a collection of crazy OD&D houserules: outdoor encounters.