The Arduin Grimoire published in 1977 by Dave Hargrave, was a supplement for D&D. We’re talking three books white box D&D. The Arduino Grimoire was the same size as the original three books, and the other other supplements like Greyhawk, and Blackmoor.
The cover above is a boot leg copy someone made for me of the second edition of the book. The first edition has a cover by Erol Otus (below). My original copy is beat, and the cover is missing.
The content of the book comes across as a bunch of gonzo crazy house rules. The book includes new races, classes, spells, magical treasure, random tables, and more. While most of the material is unusable, in a meaningful way, the book is very inspiring. Overall I think the book was meant to be an alternative system to D&D but, you would not get that from reading it, as the organization is so poor. That said, as a source of inspiration the book was great.
The book opens with a section entitled “how to play the game”. It’s really some die rolls for encounters, initiative, and reaction rolls. Followed by an experience point reward chart. It has XP values for things you might do in game. For example:
- 400 points for dying and being revived.
- 375 points for being the sole survivor of an expedition.
Back in the day the way we played you got your experience where you could. This wasn’t the day of everyone leveling up together all the time.
Many of the charts are pointless but, some are pure gold. For example critical hit, and fumble tables. At face value, in todays gaming these would not offer much. in 1977 after having played with Men and Magic, the critical hit and fumble tables added a lot of fun to the game.
Another of my favorite random tables from the book, were the special ability tables. You could start the game with a knack for the rapier, be sired by a demon, or be a young giant! There were also some special abilities that were not so great.
There was also a table for generating random magical weapons. I’m sure I spent hours rolling and writing the results on 3 by 5 cards.
Overall Arduin gives the impression of a very non Tolkien swords and sorcery world rife with lizard men (saurians) in place of orcs and goblins, there was technology, and demons. I have to say it must have been an amazing experience to play in Dave’s campaign.
Speaking of which, around 1978 or 1979 I attended Dundracon at a small hotel on El Camino Real in Hillsdale CA. Taking a burger break with friend, in the attached diner, another conventioneer sat at the counter next to us. Clearly depressed he explained how his character, a Skunkman, just died when the party was attacked by orcs firing German field howitzers. The DM was Dave Hargrave!
What’s important is at that time orcs firing German artillery was acceptable. It was the most natural thing in the world to play a skunk man (what is a skunk man anyway?). The rules were open to interpretation, and the DM had the ability to do anything. This is where the fun in the game is at. When anything can happen, and imagination is the limit, not a rule book, and if a rule book can inspire this type of play it works. For all of it’s flaws Dave Hargrave’s Arduin Grimoire vol 1 inspires.
I think DCC RPG gets a lot of this right. The random tables add some surprise. Spellburn gives characters the opportunity to test fate. Mighty deeds invite you to make up what happens. I think this is the spirit of the game.