Let's Read the Arduin Grimoire! Volume 1, Part 1

So for many years, the Arduin books have been on the periphery of my awareness. I knew they were out there, knew they comprised significant expansion and modification to the OD&D rules, knew they eventually became their own system of sorts, and knew that there was some controversy regarding Dave Hargrave, but that was about it. I've seen more and more discussion about them recently, so finally I decided that I would take the plunge. I acquired copies of the "Trilogy" on eBay.

My copy of The Arduin Grimoire Volume 1 is a 4th printing; the Volume 2 and Volume 3 books are first printings.


Replica box I made to store the trilogy in. 
 So I guess I'll start a running commentary here as I work through. Again, bear with me as I don't read fast to begin with, and combined with the piles of writing work on my desk and the fact that I can only read a few pages of this tiny text without getting a splitting headache and, well...it's going to take awhile.

I should also note that my edition is a 4th printing, so it may be different than earlier editions.

That being said, here's my basic thoughts so far.



LAYOUT

Something occurs to me about the tiny text here. Given the amount of whtie space at the top and bottom, I'd bet money this was intended to be an 8.5 x 11 document, which was shrunk down to pamphlet size. That means that what was originally (likely) 10- or 12-point font became 5- or 6-point font. Perhaps a factor of economics, or that it was easier to print and staple booklets than it was to get perfect-bound or hardcover full-size books made?

FOREWARD

First: It's FOREward, Dave, not "Forward." He does that a lot, and it drives me insane. Dude could not spell or punctuate to save his life.

There's an odd mixture of false humility and wild arrogance and disrespect here. "This book was meant for sharing," vs. his fake apology to "any other company" who is "offended" by his work.

HOW TO PLAY THE GAME

Some interesting interpretations and observations regarding the OD&D rules for Overland travel. Changing "referee" to "umpire," is mildly amusing. His house rule rolls for monster reactions upon random encounters are workable and in line with general OD&D conventions, so if an "umpire" isn't sure how to handle a sudden random encounter, this basic die roll would work.

POINT SYSTEM

I have always enjoyed alternate experience systems (indeed, in Night Shift we give no fewer than 4 options for doling out XP in your game), and especially ones that are based on role playing, story, and general challenge issues as opposed to just monsters killed and treasure gathered. As such, while his system isn't perfect (and could be abused to hand out shedloads of XP), it's an interesting early effort at alternate forms of doling out XP.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL CHARTS

Just that. Basically in line with OD&D, plus his new classes added. Nice to have them all in one easy-to-reference place.

CHARACTER LIMITATION CHART

Level limits. Again, in line with OD&D, plus his new options added. Interestingly, however, he allows for things like Elf and Dwarf clerics, which are not permitted in OD&D. He also allows significantly higher levels (Elves can go to 10th level as Warriors, and Dwarves to 12th. He also imposes level limits on demihuman thieves. So he departs a bit from OD&D, here. TBH, however, this is not going to affect play in any way whatsoever. I'm on record as never having been a fan of level limits for demihumans, so increasing them doesn't bother me.

After the level limits we see ability score ranges. Here's the first indication that he's splitting off from OD&D, with ratings such as "Ego" and "Agility" as well as "Mechanical Ability" and "Swimming Ability" in addition to the standard OD&D ability scores. He also has both "Constitution"  and "Stamina." He seems, then, to have 12 Ability Scores that he uses in his games:

  • Intelligence
  • Wisdom
  • Charisma
  • Ego
  • Agility
  • Strength
  • Constitution
  • Dexterity
  • Mechanical Ability
  • Swimming Ability
  • Stamina
  • Magic Resistance (which appears to just be a save bonus)

PHYSICAL STATS

Next we have a number of tables for randomly determining heigh, weight, and body type. Fair enough, and I can see where they might come in handy.

NOTES ON FANTASTIC BEINGS

An interesting quick reference chart that has little to do with game mechanics, but offers some notes about the disposition, lifespan, general alignment, etc., of various fantasy creatures. Again, a nice quick reference that I can see coming in handy as a tool.

CHARACTER AND ALIGNMENT OF PLAYERS CHART

This chart gives an interesting take on alignment, especially given the era in which it was published. It's clearly influenced by Gygax's article on the good/evil axis in D&D alignment in The Strategic Review, but takes it several steps further. Hargrave's alignment system is as follows:

  • Lawful Good
  • Moderately Lawful
  • Marginally Lawful
  • Lawful Evil
  • Neutral Good
  • True Neutral
  • Marginally Neutral
  • Neutral Evil
  • Chaotic Good
  • True Chaotic
  • Chaotic Evil
  • Amoral
  • Amoral Evil 
  • Insane

I'll be honest: this is an interesting breakdown of alignments. I'm not sold that the "marginally" steps are necessary, but he does have general notes on what each means. Marginally lawful, for example, represents those who are losing faith in the system. So agree or not, he does, in fact, make a differentiation between chaotic evil and amoral characters. It's interesting that he doesn't have a "Marginally Chaotic" alignment, or a "Marginally Amoral" alignment. I get why there's not a good or lawful Amoral, but anyway, I digress. It's an interesting early attempt to break out alignment beyond the basic broad categories of law and chaos.

SPECIAL ABILITIES CHARTS

I'll be honest: I dig these. Not every ability is great, but the concept is very cool: Pick the table related to your chass, throw percentile dice, and you get a little somethin'-somethin' that sets you apart from everyone else. It could be that your father was an efreet, rendering you immune to fire, or it could be that you have chronic insomnia, giving you +5 vs. sleep effects, but -5 to your charisma (presumedly because you're always moody and on edge due to lack of sleep). Neat stuff, and I might actually be inclined to drop this into my own games.

HARGRAVE'S TRADER (MERCHANT) CLASS

The first of the new character classes in the book. It's very short, which puts it in line with the OD&D classes in Men & Magic. The abilities are defined in a broad and general sense. It's actually a pretty cool class, somewhat bard-like in its combination of fighting-man and thief abilities, and the ability to negotiate, bargain, find direction, equivocate, and the later addition of monk-abilities, could make this a really fun class to play.

The first bit of culture shock was had here as well, though: his characters go to 100TH LEVEL, though this seems to be a weirdly pointless jump, since his "15th level" for this class is quite literally an 11th level, and his 20th, a 12th level. The level advancement otherwise is in line with OD&D. Were it me, I'd ditch the "15th," "20th" etc. level designations and just replace them with a continued linear progression (15 becomes 11, 20 becomes 12, etc.).

PSYCHIC

The Psychic character class is also unique and an interesting take on psionics, with a much more "real world" approach--that is, it's all about ESP, telepathy, empathy, etc. There's no psychic teleportation or mimicking of magical spells. The same weird level jumps exist here, though this one goes linear up to 15, then jumps to 20, 25, 30, 40, and 50 (really being 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20). Weirdly, there are new abilities gained at 5-level points that aren't on the chart (25, 35, and 45, respectively).

As a side note, it's odd that the above two character classes don't have progressions under the earlier experience level charts, but include their progressions in the specific character class descriptions.

THE BARBARIAN 

The Barbarian is VERY, SUSPICIOUSLY similar to that which Gygax later published in Unearthed Arcana, just with an OD&D presentation. They're berserkers, they won't work with mages, they can't use magic items, they are out to destroy all magic... 'nuff said.

RUNE WEAVER

There's a very interesting concept hidden here, that of a mage that uses runes to create powerful ritual magic. Unfortunately, it's not borken out enough to make any kind of actual playable sense. It's only the barest concept of a class, and it relies upon his "mana point" magic system, which we'll get to a bit later (hint: it's poorly detailed at best). They very much appear in practice just to be a more powerful magic user for those who want to amp up spallcasters (or just want to power game their characters).

TECHNO'S

This is one of the dumbest, most pointless character classes I've ever seen, even in a world with super science and technology. Their [i]entire class[/i] is based on the fact that they can "figure out" how to use technology. At higher levels they can do thing slike detecting traps, electronics, radioactivity, etc. And seriously, at 40th (really 14th) level, they can "figure out" NUCLEAR DEVICES. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

MEDICINE MAN

Your basic shaman character class. I actually dig this one. You get hte ability to speak to animals, plants, the spirits of the dead, heal, summon animals, etc. Neat stuff.

WITCH HUNTER

The most interesting thing about this character class is that I once heard Vin Diesel say on Conan O'Brien that his high school D&D character was "a drow witch hunter."

YOU GUYS, VIN DIESEL PLAYED WITH ARDUIN OPTIONS. 

In all seriousness, this is a pretty cool class, though it's EXTREMELY structured with as many drawbacks as advantages. I'd be interested to see how it works in actual play. The get limited spellcasting, the ability to sense undead, immunity to fear, save bonuses, and a form of rage, but cannot retreat from battle with undead and evil clerics, are limited in their mental ability scores, and weapons. They can't detect traps, and refuse to use technology.

Now, here's the strange thing: this is the ONLY character class whose progression table is IDENTICAL to those in OD&D, including hit dice with pips and a fighting capability column.

MULTIVERSAL TRADING COMPANY PRICE LIST

Your basic setting-specific economic costs of basic weapons and equipment chart. For OD&D players it could come in handy just because there are more listings of weapons and equipment than there are in Men & Magic.

That's enough for now. Next I'll start with "MAGIC IN ARDUIN." I'm through there and into the new spells at the moment, but may as well give folks a chance to digest and comment on what I've done so far.

Comments

  1. fyi, Vin Diesel apparently used THE ARCANUM, not Arduin, for a Witch Hunter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your source for that? I'm not denying it--clearly there's a Witch Hunter class IN the Arcanum. I'm just curious as to your source to prove it was Arcanum (which is more obscure) and not Arduin.

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