Duel Arcane (1980)

My first exposure to Gamelords was Duel Arcane, a little RPG zine from 1980 that I randomly stumbled across…somewhere. Truly, how could you ignore that cover? The hot dog stand colors, the bad/good art, it’s perfect 1980 RPG Aesthetic.

Gamelords was a small RPG publisher from Maryland. Near as I can tell, Duel Arcane was their first publication and they operated for about four years, primarily putting out stuff for their Thieves’ Guild line (more on that tomorrow) and stuff supporting Traveller. I kind of love all their stuff I have been able to lay my hands on. It has a good look and smart ideas.

Duel Arcane reminds me a lot of the Droids RPG (a little zine-sized RPG about…droids) in that it is designed as a stand-alone game and in that, it functions rather poorly. As a modular expansion for an existing RPG, Duel Arcana would be fantastic. And you can get it there with a bit of work.

In essence, you know that scene in The Sword in the Stone (1963) when Merlin has a duel with Madame Mim in which they both change into the shape of a range of animals? That’s basically this, though you only get one animal form. It winds up being sort of a mini-tactics game, a bit in line with Melee or Wizard, rather than a full fledge game. There is lots of potential here for more though, should an enterprising designer wish to pick up the torch.

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