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.



  1. This is gonna be really cool ! Thanks for doing it.

  2. Great start! I'm looking forward to the rest. That guy on the cover really does look like Clint Eastwood.

  3. Awesome...look forward to reading the whole series.

  4. I'm very excited about this series of posts! Arduin blew my early D&D playing mind and led to PC archangels with force fields and laser rifles fighting cybernetic zombies and other bizarre stuff.

  5. FWIW, Paul Reiche III, who created the thri-kreen, claims not to have been directly influenced by the phraints, although he doesn't rule out sub-conscious influence.

  6. Erol Otus did the cover art or the 1977 edition of the Arduin Grimoire. Other then a very different forward I don't recall much being different in the text.

  7. I have the hard-cover and it's pretty nice, with all the text big enough to read and everything. Buying it was pretty much a pure nostalgia move, since I'm not likely to be using anything from it even as inspiration for a game. Or at least I wasn't until I said that...

  8. I am totally looking forward to this. :)

    FWIW, I have a copy of the first edition of the Grimoire. It has an Erol Otus cover and a dedication on the inside to Mr. Otus, reading, "the artwork in this book is the sole effort of a very talented young man named Erol Otus. The years from now I'll be proud to say 'I knew him when...'" This dedication -- and Erol's art -- is missing from the next printing of the book. There's OBVIOUSLY a story there.

    By the way, for those of you who do not erupt into flame at the mention of "Fourth Edition", you might wish to look at:




  9. Gods, I wish you could edit posts after you post them.

    I have my 1st printing to hand (it's in much better shape than my second printing, as the second printing was the one I bought in 1982 "new" and used, endlessly, over the years, while my first printing was found surprisingly cheap on eBay and is in beautiful mint condition.)

  10. Bring it on!

    I'm curious to see how the back cover of your edition "stacks up"...

  11. A "Bolo Mark Nine???" I know Arduin was known for a ton of gonzo goodness, but tell me he didn't have a robotic self-aware futuristic super-tank running around as a Player Character!

  12. @Steelcaress: In "Runes Of Doom", Hargrave describes giving one player "a sword made of mu-mesons".

    In the Arduin Grimoire, the 21st level of hell is noted as being full of "wrecked (H-Bombed) cities".

    So, yeah, Mark IX Bolo doesn't surprise me at all.

    TSR/Gygax/Arneson gonzo:There's a crashed spaceship in Blackmoor and a secretive order of monks control the artifacts.

    Hargrave Gonzo: Han Solo is arm-wrestling a troll while Dorsai and ninjas battle each other in the rafters using Arisian lenses taken from the shadows of Amber in order to secure control of a +7 sword made of monomolecular edged rainbow diamonds carved 100,000 years ago by a still-living elven master swordsmith.

    There's just no comparison. There just isn't.

    @Paladin in Citadel: If you were talking to me, I'll try to get a scan of the back cover up soon.

  13. The phraint may have inspired the head on the giant grasshopper in the interior illustration of said beast inf TMNT's "Mutants In Avalon".


  14. Anonymous3:41 PM

    I like Hargrave's style. I understand that when he was contacted by TSR's legal department, he just (literally) whited-out some text and continued selling the Arduin Grimoire.

  15. @Geoffrey: Which is more or less what Gygax did when contacted by Tolkien's legal department -- you can see in later printings of Original D&D that words like "halfling" and "treant" are in a slightly different font, as they were pasted in over "hobbit" and "ent".

  16. Jon H4:55 PM

    "Han Solo is arm-wrestling a troll while Dorsai and ninjas battle each other in the rafters using Arisian lenses taken from the shadows of Amber in order to secure control of a +7 sword made of monomolecular edged rainbow diamonds carved 100,000 years ago by a still-living elven master swordsmith. "

    That reminds me of "The Adventures of Samurai Cat" gonzo.

  17. Oh man! Awesome!

  18. Can you play a young Bolo?

  19. @IntruderW: Sure. You start with only 3723d6 and your antimatter grenades haven't descended yet.

  20. I asked about the list of adventures in AG1 to the guy who new Hargrave and said the stuff relating to Samug, Sauron and the bolo tank was from an early campaign that centered around gates and nexus portals and Skull Tower played some part in it.