The Arduin Grimoire (1978)

It took me a long time to put together a set of David Hargrave’s Arduin Grimoire books but holy wow, was it worth the wait. This is the first, The Arduin Grimoire. Originally self-published in 1977 with different art, this edition is part of a three-pack “Trilogy” issued by Dragon Tree Press around 1984 (last pic). The project was born out of Hargrave’s heavily house ruled Dungeons & Dragons campaign. 

Because these books are named after Hargrave’s fantasy world, I kind of expected a primitive sort of sourcebook, but no, they are just a collection of house rules. While they are organized around how they work in Hargrave’s world, and there are many things implied by the rules (the Techno class, for instance, and their use of sci fi technology), we don’t ever get a clear picture of the lands of Arduin in the Grimoires (not unlike the Greyhawk supplement, honestly). But that’s OK, because the rules? Pure gold. 

While the book never explicitly says so (for legal reasons, obviously), the rules are intended as modular expansions to the original white box D&D. Even knowing that, though, doesn’t make parsing them very easy – Hargrave is constantly referring to a mountain of material, only portion of which is in any given book. The “How to Play the Game” section is largely devoted to the mechanics of overland travel. I needed to get through all three volumes of the Trilogy before I had a handle on things to the point I could probably incorporate them into a game. 

There is so much, I don’t really know where to start. How about new classes? We’ve got Merchant, Psychic, Barbarian, Rune Weaver, Techno, Medicine Man and Witch Hunter. We’ve got piles of new treasures, monsters and spells. We’ve got musings on alignment, modified approaches to character creation and combat and a gloss of the 21 layers of hell. And charts! So many random charts! For mist generation, for fumbles, for character special abilities (some good – natural mechanic! – some bad – bad liar!), for traps. 

If Arduin Grimoire isn’t the clear precedent for the idea of OSR rules hacking, I don’t know what is. 

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