Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Arduin Education

As I admitted years ago, I long held an unthinking prejudice against Dave Hargrave's Arduin books, a prejudice I still haven't wholly overcome, even if I've made great strides in that regard. Even if, ultimately, Arduin "isn't for me," I have started to appreciate it in its own right and have found that, despite the stolidity of my imagination, little bits of Hargravian has seeped in over the last couple of years.

I own the first three volumes of the Arduin Grimoire series and nothing more. What I'd like to hear -- from fans of Arduin, not its detractors -- is whether there are any subsequent volumes or related products that you think might be helpful to me as I continue my education. Are volumes IV-IX worth owning? What about Hargrave's dungeons? The modern Arduin books by later authors? Let me know what you think.



  1. Define "useful."
    There's a lot of . . . interesting . . . thigns in Arduin.  All over the place.  Some of it is more than a little mad, some of it's downright banal nowadays, and some of it is so opaque that even fans of the system today are left scratching their heads.
    Personally, I love the setting, and like the older systems well enough that I've pondered putting together a campaign from time to time, and I find that there's lots of stuff to be inspired by, chuckle at, and just goggle at in all the work.
    Breaking it down:
    *The modules are sort of worth having if only to see some of the thought patterns that came out of the guy's head.  They were, largely at times, a long series of only tenuously related rooms with traps, tricks, monters, and absurd treasures in them, but to be honest, they are so unique that you kind of overlook that and just marvel at some of the creativity that went into them.  Some very inspiring stuff in them.  Also, the backstory to a few is kind of nifty.  Plus, they were all recently reprinted in a single volume with a new adventure in it from Emperor's Choice (I believe defunct . . .).
    *The rest of the Grimoire are definately worth getting if you ever want to just mine through them to pick up ideas to import to your own game.  They have some cool stuff in them from monsters to items to ideas that are worth the few bucks you'll spend.  Plus, again, recently reprinted up nice and lovely for your collecting needs.
    *If you can grab hold of the DragonTree Press stuff, which was Arduin in all but name, I really recommend getting your hands on them.  I have them, love them, and want to work them into something useable.
    *Compleat Arduin is . . . not really for you, I don't think.  It's an attempt to clean up and recodify the game with its own system rather than a Frankenstein's Monster version of 0D&D.  Me?  I like them.  I really do.  But most people, including fans, will say they are objectively bad.  There are a few saving graces, but I'm not sure, for your purposes, that they're worth the expenditure unless you get them cheap.
    *Arduin Eternal.  Well, first, look for my name in the playtesters credits.  But this is a very different animal from everything else.  So different that it's almost otherworldly.  Looks like a very cool system, but almost instantly becomes bogged down in so much that you can barely make it go at all.  But loaded to the gills with some very inspiring stuff.  Buy it ONLY if you have a free $100 to spend on something you'll probably not be able to incorporate much of into a D&D type system setting.
    * The absolute #1 thing I'd recommend to you out of all Arduin product is "The World Book of Khass."  Also known as "The World of Arduin" in places.  Mostly systemless (as in, maybe, 1 page worth out of a thousand with even a hint of rules on it), and just filled to overflowing with very inspiring campaign setting notes.  Tons and tons and tons of stuff.  Worth it if you never play an actual Arduin game ever.

  2. I have Arduin I-IX, and the Arduin Eternal Bestiary & Treasures book. Unless you are really hardcore into Arduin, I don't think there's a ton of value in the others.  There are a lot of cool items, spells, and monsters, but you can kind of get the gist of it from the first 3 volumes. In a lot of ways the later volumes feel like more of the same.

  3. James -

    All the Arduin Grimoires have some stuff worth getting in them, but there is a bit of 'diminishing returns' as you go on farther and farther. The best overall after the first three is the fourth, "The Lost Grimoire", which also came out in the mid-eighties when some of the initial 1e enthusiasm was starting to wane, and it made my group at least very glad to hear from Hargrave again after he had been 'out' for a while. The fifth is maybe a little better than the rest and then 6-9. They all have interesting stuff, there's just not as much somehow.

    That would be my top recommendation to you. I think you also would like the World Book of Khaas - probably more than I do given my sense of our different tastes, although I do like it. I may still have an extra copy so drop me a line if you have trouble buying it through regular channels.

    The dungeons are a big mess - they have fantastic monster and treasure cards and some great ideas in them, but they are incomplete and the layouts are wild. They are definitely 'old school' and for research purposes you should probably take a look at them. They are more like 30% gold instead of the 60% gold you get in the Grimoires though. Erol Otus art in some of them, though, and the Howling Tower in particular was a big fan favorite down in the day, I saw people playing that at hobby stores in the late seventies many times and even got a couple of my own characters killed in it in pickup games.

    I really like the Arduin map that EmpCho put out based on the notes and it's hanging on my basement wall.

    It's a shame they took down Beardfoot's old Arduin site, Dave's players had posted a lot of their stuff there.

    Those are off the cuff reactions. I have owned almost everything at some point. The Arduin Adventure that Hargrave put out was a great set of basic rules, definitely worth owning; Compleat Arduin is a great resource and has a version of Dave's later rules that is interesting but to me they are along the same lines as SenZar and D&D 3.x with a d100 system - more complexity and some interesting innovations but not a way I choose to go.

    Even the stuff that is less than the best can be a great idea mine, though.

  4.  The World Book of Khaas has long been an object of fascination for me, but, at $70, I'm not sure I can justify buying it, especially since it'd just be for "research purposes." I saw a copy last August at OSRCon and was impressed with it, but not enough that I'm going to plunk down that kind of cash for it.

  5. Fair enough. I think though with your avowed historical interests you probably should track down The Howling Tower, the more I think about it the more I think that it would give you another useful angle on 'the early' days. It would be better to track down the original since it will have the right formatting feel, but since this will cost you $ I guess I'll point out that empcho has collected all four of the originals plus three 'posthumous discovery' adventures in the "Vaults of the Weaver" volume for 30 bones:

    I have no idea if their re-released version is identical to the original or not, I've never owned this particular product.

  6. I think the modules are a blast.  There seems no way they're even vaguely survivable, but they're charming and there will be things you can loot from them for your own designs.

  7. +1. He said it better than I did.

  8. The  s0-called newly discovered dungeons were all  created by Hargrave and never published before except for  "The  Tomb of De'hara" which was published in a early 80's  zine called "Abyss Magazine". 

  9. Yes, that's right. The source is Paul Mosher and from what I can tell he's generally a very solid source for Arduin stuff.

  10. The Arduin dungeons were always a kick for our gaming group back in 79-81 or so because of the awesome magic item and monster cards that came with them. We never played "pure" anything which resulted in a lot of cross-pollination between Arduin, Judges Guild, and TSR. When a character would pull out something from Arduin, the DM was usually like "What?!" then the player would pull out this parchment card with a drawing and description of what he picked up in the Arduin dungeon.

    Sadly, the Vaults of the Weaver has the artwork & stats of the monsters & items from the original card, but not in the "card" format.

    The original individual prints of Arduin dungeons #1 through #4 contain the cards printed on parchment card stock, but are fairly expensive. Emperor's Choice did some reprints of the dungeons in the original format, so perhaps those might be more reasonable if you can find them.

    But what you CAN get from Emperor's Choice for a very reasonable $9.99 Arduin Fantasy Card Collection of 72 cards on the sheets of parchment card stock.

    The originals from the late 70's were 3 sets of 24 cards each for monsters, magic items, and artifacts. Unlike the cards from the dungeons, there are no stats for the magic items or artifacts - you make them up yourself - but you still get awesome art for everything and stats for the 24 Arduin monsters.

    Anyhow, it's a real score if you can lay in some copies of the original format dungeons if for nothing else than the monster & items cards, but the separate card collection from Emperor's Choice is still an interesting addition to a gaming toolkit.

  11.  Here are some of the original edition cards on eBay that have some nive pictures...



    (Didn't find any of the monster cards)

  12. I think as an Arduin scholar, the Trilogy is a good start. However, there are bits and pieces in subsequent volumes of the grimoires, too. Looking at the Compleat Arduin then, it is as if they finally fulfilled the promise on a standalone game, rather than on a collection of houserules. I really have to stress the fact, that CA is a sadly underrated gem. It is Hargrave's AD&D so to say.
    Arduin Eternal and The World Book of Khaas are both absolutely worth their money, if you buy from Noble Knight that is, where you can get them at a better price usually.

  13. I grew up playing the Arduin game system even before I started playing 1st edition D&D.  After I had played both systems I marveled at how intensely creative was the Arduin world . . it felt more inspired by Robert Howard than D&D did and was "edgy" in a way that I found fascinating.  Everything about that system felt perilous and the Dungeon Crawl moduels were nothing short of mercilous.  I'd buy the modules just for the "Tomb of Horrors" experience of it . .. but that IS what you'd be getting.

  14.  I've always felt there's a really strong Moorcockian influence in Arduin, with all its multiversal stuff.

  15. I bought all of it except the last one and I found all if it worth the money.  Shadowlands is my favorite and the ideas in it and in the "Great Wurm Road" are really wonderful.

    Arduin turns on my imagination and shakes me out of thinking things have to be a certain way.

  16.  Just wanted to note for you that the "Monster" cards in the set does include stats for 24 strange and deadly Arduin creatures in an OD&D format.

  17. Great Wurm Road is absolutely fantastic, it goes through most of my campaign worlds now as well. I wonder if the later Grimoires feel like there is less to me sometimes just because the print is larger and so there is less of a MASS of new material.

  18.  I also liked the Shadowlands and want to use them as well. The special armor and metals types is also a great idea. Hargrave provided a lot of hooks and interesting little ideas that can be expanaded upon. I'm not always thrilled about the idea of the "megadungeon" but the GWR seems to me like the perfect approach not just to one megadungeon but an entire underground campaign that is a lot more like a wilderness campaign.

  19. I might . . . [i]might[/i] . . . have an extra laying around the house.  If I do, maybe I can send it in your direction?

  20. if you know how to use bittorrent, you'll find several handy-dandy arduin torrents out there containing *all* the grimoires. judge for yourself, trouble-free!

  21. If you'd like, sure. It's a very intriguing-looking volume.

  22. Years ago one of Dave's old players wrote an account of  their adventure that took place in the GWR and posted in on-line.  Sounded like a blast of a game from they way the guy described it.

  23. personally i love the dungeons. caliban is awesome. death heart is awesome. he did megadungeon-like maps that fill the whole page but only have a handful of the rooms keyed