Monday, February 28, 2011

Arduin Grimoire, final installment

So we've made it to the end of the first volume of the Arduin Grimoire.  Page 94 comes with a little note "THE OVERLAND AND DUNGEON MAPS ON THE NEXT TWO PAGES ARE PROVIDED FOR YOUR INTEREST AND ENJOYMENT" followed by Mr. Hargrave's signature.  His middle initial is A and the way Dave forms it makes the letter look like a 5-pointed start, as if the dude is so metal he has a pentagram right in his name.

The wilderness map on page 93 is a nicely drawn little realm, centered on a lake surrounded by mountains and forests.  Eight little villages and five cities or castles dot the map.  One of the mountains is an erupting volcano.  You know I approve of that.  Overall I like this map but I've got two beefs.  First is a lack of scale.  That's not a dealbreaker but it would be nice to know what Michio (the artist) had in mind when it was drawn.  The second problem is that the southern edge of the lake hold quite a few islands and then south of the shore are what appears to be four smaller lakes.  Without coloring the map it's hard to tell at a glance which little outlined blob is land and which is water.

Here's the dungeon map on the following page:

Like most of Hargrave's maps, the sheer quantity of secret doors and oddly-shaped rooms makes my butt hurt.  I could use this map, but I wouldn't enjoy it as much as less crazy-go-nuts layout.

The inside back cover features a table of contents.  You know, that thing that normal people expect in the front of the book.  Underneath the TOC is a listing of products that Grimoire Games of San Diego, CA will be happy to sell you.  You can buy the three volumes of the Arduin Grimoires separately or save a couple bucks by getting all three at once.  Grimoire Games also sells 24 Arduin character sheets, a high level overland & dungeon adventure called DEATHEART and The HOWLINGTOWER, which is described as "Dungeon #2, levels 1-4".  These products'll cost you $6.50 apiece.   I've run the Howling Tower for a few sessions.  Sending in 1st level D&D types seems like a massacre waiting to happen.  Also advertised is the Arduin Adventure, which you can buy as boxed game or rulebook only.  No explanation is given about the Arduin Adventure's relationship to the Grimoires.

Finally, we get to the back cover.  You remember the front cover, with an amazon, a bug guy and Clint Eastwood fighting lizardmen in front of a mysterious door?  The back cover shows that same trio, from the same perspective, after the fight:

It's a nice effect.  I like the malevolent glimmer in the eyes of the face carved above the doorway.  I'm left wondering if in the original version of this art maybe the adventuress was topless.  There's at least one topless lass inside one of the Grimoires.  More to the point, the way the collarbone can be seen through the fabric of the top can be a tell, indicating what some comics fans refer to as "editorial swimwear".

So that's Dave Hargrave's The Arduin Grimoire: Volume 1.  There's lots of stuff in this book that can be cherry-picked to add a little high octane gas to your campaign.  That's how I've been using the first three Grimoires for years.  Another perfectly valid use of this material is as a particularly elaborate example of how one enthusiastic, energetic referee took OD&D and made it distinctly his.   In this way I like to read the Arduin Grimoire much the same way I do Empire of the Petal Throne and Holmes Basic or even Tunnels & Trolls or Runequest: as a demonstration of the process of bending the rules to your own campaign.


  1. The Arduin Adventure is, if you will, a "retro-clone" of Original D&D.

    Since the Arduin Grimoire was originally written as if it were supplements to white box D&D, and then had to rebrand itself as an original RPG, it was left missing all the basic stuff that it was once a supplement to. The Arduin Adventure restores that stuff, so there is something for the Grimoires to be supplements to without buying White Box D&D.

  2. I agree with you completely Ed. The Fact is though the Arduin Grimoire is sort of like the side seasoning to a great dish. To much & it spoils the effect. Not enough & its just not right. The the Arduin Grimoire on its own isn't enough. There's too many bits & hints of things in the background. There has to be a bit more to hang itself on. Empire of The Petal Throne & even AD&D 1st edition allow more to be done. Personally I love this but Jeff we need some examples of blending. If you could talk about that in an upcoming blog entry. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts.

  3. All truly magnificent dungeons have Great Cavarns, Alters and Illusory Walls.

  4. If you get the Arduin Adventure, I would also get the two Complete Arduin books as well as all three really complement one another.

  5. Jeff, a quick question: I am only familiar with the first 3 Arduin supps, and have shied away from purchasing the latter ones, like the "Lost Grimoire", any word on the quality of these?
    I love the first 3 Books and use them all the time in my games to add that secret spice, but do I need these?

  6. Well, I can tell you personally If you like Hargrave's world, then I recommend them all except for the last one titled Endwar. Other then the title it was written by other people and not at all good.

  7. Arduin grimmore: the missing hooters.

    Yes, indeed the original version was topless. It was a very early change, I think -my original but unkown printing from 1976(ish) has the bikini, whereas my friends equally ancient copy does not. I think it was the same on the cover, too.

    Probably to get it into distribution and game/hobby stores, all of which which were then still pretty G-rated.

  8. I'd also add that back in the day, it was more regarded as a rip-off, rather than a retroclone...;)

    It had great appeal to the gonzo-death metal-bad boy crowd.....of gaming nerds.

  9. Oh--and Jeff's intuition is right. the first printing of the woman on the back( who face has an uncanny appearance of actress Barbara Bain from "Space 1999") was indeed topless in the first printing.

  10. My D&D group has been meeting off and on since 1979. We still generally play 1st Ed. with house rules, many adapted from Arduin. We especially consult the fumble and critical hit tables to add insult to injury.