24 January 2014

For love of Arduin

Mm, I know, I've had a couple months off.  First it was the holidays and the burnout from my extreme rehearsal/concert schedule towards the end of the year, then I was quite seriously ill for a month, and haven't yet really recovered.  Still, 'tis time to get back on track.

At the dawn of RPGs, White Box D&D was so seriously and obviously broken that pretty much fifteen minutes after it was published, a bunch of people came out with sourcebooks of new classes, races, plug-in systems and other material to juice it up.

Happily, I started GMing a couple years after that, enough time for some of those people to get their stuff into print.  There was the seminal APAzine Alarums & Excursions, where dozens of people from around the world sent in contributions and discussions, back in the pre-Internet forum days.  (It’s still being published, too.)  There was Judges Guild, an outfit that created the first large scale setting and the first published RPG city.  I was a contributor to A&E for a few years, and came upon a lot of rules that made it into my VD&D campaign, as well as made a number of contacts.  The JG City State of the Invincible Overlord was my first campaign setting, and my game world still is based off of the original JG “Wilderlands” maps.

Then there was the Arduin Grimoire.

The work of Dave Hargrave, a Vietnam vet living in the San Francisco area, the Arduin campaign was an artifact of the West Coast gaming scene in the 70s -- that gonzo, very high-entropy era of the multiverses, where characters hopped from one VD&D campaign to another and no one worried about system incompatibility, and 70th level characters weren't self-evidently ridiculous.  Hargrave was the first known GM to do cross-genre runs – light sabers and blasters and wizards and demons and all.  Self-published, in tiny print, and with the quasi-amateurish illos common to RPGs of the time, the three original books of the Grimoire had a disproportionate impact in the pre-AD&D era ... not only in rules, but in setting detail that no one up until then had attempted.

The only contact I had with Hargrave himself was in the pages of A&E (I still have a warm glow from him calling me a clever guy), but like many another gamer in the seventies, I mined Arduin like I was strip mining silver.

The calendar.  The moons.  Star-powered mages.  Deodanths.  Phraints.  "Flesh tastes bad to monsters."  Special abilities charts in general.  Rune weavers. Prismatic walls.  Spell Of The Red Death.  Blaze Of Glory.  The ever-popular Curse Of Tindalos!  The very concept of modifiers for facing.  The dreaded critical hit #37-38 (genitals torn off).  Weather tables.  Air sharks.  Kill Kittens!  The optional appearance chart.  All those lovely variant classes.  "A core hit is like a shell going off between your legs."  Multiversal's extensive price lists.  The Red Shiva Society ("Red Death to all!").  Owned and inherited equipment at startup. The revised hit point system. Aphrodisiac Aura.  The Shadow Assassin. Tamra Shadowfire walks my world, as does the Trinity, and though she has never yet been encountered, the mere rumor of Shardra the Castrator has send decades worth of parties a-tremble.

I've run GURPS for nearly thirty years now – and, alas, Dave Hargrave passed away not long after I started – but it is surprising in retrospect how much of Arduin still colors my gameworld.

1 comment:

  1. My own setting is chock full of Arduin influences as well. It was a HUGE influence on my gaming tastes... and probably why I like genre crossover stuff so much.