Arduin is a fictional universe and fantasy role-playing system created in the mid 1970s by David A. Hargrave. It was perhaps the first "cross-genre" fantasy RPG, with everything from interstellar wars to horror and historical drama, although it was based primarily in the medieval fantasy genre.

Brief historyEdit

Arduin was one of the earliest challengers to TSR's Dungeons & Dragons. It began as a personal project Hargrave created to share with friends, but became so popular that he was inspired to publish the material.[1]

The original Arduin suite of supplements, dungeon modules, and gaming aids were initially self-published, but were then later produced by Grimoire Games. Dragon Tree Press produced four further Arduin supplements before the Arduin rights and properties were purchased by Emperor's Choice Games and Miniatures.

Although the Arduin books did not explicitly claim to be a Dungeons & Dragons supplement, they were treated as such by most users.

The Arduin TrilogyEdit

The first three Arduin tomes are known as The Arduin Trilogy. They are, in order, The Arduin Grimoire, Welcome to Skull Tower, and The Runes Of Doom.

The Arduin Trilogy contained unique new spells and character classes, new monsters, new treasures, maps, storylines, extensive demonography, and all sorts of charts and lists which detailed the Arduin "multiverse".

Arduin partial bibliographyEdit


  • The Arduin Grimoire (Arduin Grimoire Vol. I), 1977. At least two different editions of this volume exist. These editions differ via cover artwork and some internal artwork (p. 79, among others).
  • Welcome to Skull Tower (Arduin Grimoire Vol. II), 1978.
  • The Runes of Doom (Arduin Grimoire Vol. III), 1978. The first printings of the first three books were self published by Dave Hargrave.
  • The Arduin Trilogy is a box set containing the first three Arduin Grimoires and published by Grimoire Games.
  • The Arduin Adventure, 1980. Arduin introductory boxed set. Contained the Arduin Adventure book (which was also available separately), a few sheets of magic items, three character sheets, and two 20-sided die.
  • Revised Arduin: A Primer, 1984. A short (11 page) booklet outlining the "battle factor" system featured in Compleat Arduin.
  • The Lost Grimoire (Arduin Grimoire Vol. IV), 1984
  • Dark Dreams (Arduin Grimoire Vol. V), 1985
  • The House of the Rising Sun (Arduin Grimoire Vol. VI), 1986
  • Shadow Lands (Arduin Grimoire Vol. VII), 1987
  • Winds of Chance (Arduin Grimoire Vol. VIII), 1988
  • Compleat Arduin, Book One: The Rules, 1992
  • Compleat Arduin, Book Two: Resources, 1992
  • End War (Arduin Grimoire Vol. IX), 2002

Cardstock itemsEdit

  • Monsters from Arduin (24 monster cards)
  • Magic Weapons from Arduin (24 weapon cards)
  • Magic Artifacts from Arduin (24 Artifact cards)
  • Arduin Character Pak (illustrated character sheets; listed elsewhere as Arduin Character Sheets Combined Pack) This is a set of 24 character sheets for different Arduin races/character classes. Each sheet has a unique illustration.
  • Arduin Treasure Pack (a combination of the three items above).

Dungeon modulesEdit

Later releasesEdit

  • The Map of Arduin; A 2' x 3' four color poster-sized map of the Country of Arduin printed on parchment complete with legend and scale.
  • World Book of Khaas: The Legendary Lands of Arduin; A world guide to the country of Arduin and the world and continent upon which it rests. 865 pages of world/campaign material. Unique for size and the absence of any game mechanics.
  • Swords and Dragons Fantasy Card Game; Fantasy themed card game from the world of Arduin.
  • Vaults of the Weaver A compilation of the 4 Arduin Dungeons along with Hive Home (the only example of a Phraint Hive ever completed by their creator David A. Hargrave) and the 13 part Heart of Darkness campaign, both never before published.
  • The Black Grimoire All of Dave Hargrave's published RPG spells etc.

Controversy and criticismEdit

The TSR legal issueEdit

David Hargrave was served with a cease and desist order from the offices of TSR when it was found that the original publications of the Arduin books contained direct references to the Dungeons & Dragons gaming system. Hargrave's method of handling the controversy was to simply use white-out and typing correction tape to mask the disputed references, and then the volumes were reprinted exactly that way. In some versions of the Arduin printings, these so-called "corrections" are clearly visible.


Upon their publication in 1979, White Dwarf magazine reviewer Don Turnbull gave the Trilogy a 4 out of 10 rating, stating that was perplexed as to whether the books were supposed to be a supplement to Dungeons & Dragons or a standalone game.[1] In later years, however, RPGnet gave the Trilogy a 6.72 out of 10.[2]

Arduin mechanicsEdit

There was also contention in the RPG world that the Arduin system lacked cohesion. It was only with the publication of The Arduin Adventure that a true standalone system began to evolve, where other systems were not needed to adequately run a game.

Much criticism was made of Hargrave's combat mechanics, to the point where many Game Masters simply used either their own versions, or those of TSR.

Greg Stafford and ChaosiumEdit

While David Hargrave was considered one of the best of the best of Game Masters, he was also known for having a somewhat volatile personality. The original Role-playing community at large was split between love and mere tolerance of Hargrave's passions, and his infamous falling-out with Greg Stafford, which resulted in Hargrave naming an Arduin spell after him as revenge, is one such example[3]. The spell was called Stafford's Star Bridge (The Arduin Grimoire, Volume 1, Page 4):

Stafford's Star Bridge is a 9th Level Mage (Magic-User) spell. It produces a rainbow-hued bridge of coruscating light that is 5' (1.52m) wide and 20' (6.1m) long per level of the caster over the level needed for use. The bridge will carry any weight, and it cannot be hit by non-magical things. The bridge can also be "keyed" to support any single type (or more), letting all others fall through selectively.

Hargrave wrongfully felt that Stafford had betrayed him over a Chaosium publishing deal, thus "falling through selectively". According to Stafford, Hargrave was later very upset with himself for having created this spell and for his behavior in the situation.

One-of-a-kind Arduin itemsEdit

Hargrave's death in 1988 left many Arduin items unpublished and incomplete. A few items he created on a whim for those he especially liked or was close to. Among all these are the following:

The Book of the Shining LandEdit

Created December/January, 1980-81. Dedication and signature inside front cover. This is a complete campaign area, designed as a generic adventure campaign suitable for insertion into any RPG, written by David for his friend, writer Paul Mosher. The Book of the Shining Land comprises 118 handwritten pages of 10 1/4 x 7 7/8 quad ruled paper in a composition style notebook. It includes a Master Map of the area (approximately 100 miles square) and 59 "keyed" adventure area maps all cross-referenced off of the Master Map.

The Book of Dreams of Lost SardathEdit

Created October, 1981. Similar in size and concept to The Book of the Shining Land, this work comprises 158 handwritten pages of 10 x 7 7/8 quad ruled paper in a composition style notebook. Includes a Master Map of an area approximately 100 miles square. This work was written by David for his friend, writer Paul Mosher. It comprises a "lost" island kingdom containing 136 villages/towns/cities cross referenced off the Master Map as well as 79 adventure area maps, of which 31 are "keyed".

Lancer's RestEdit

Created October 1987. One of the last game-related items created by David A. Hargrave before his death in August 1988, Lancer's Rest was Lance Mazmanian's personal burial chamber, a very large single-level dungeon adventure which included a Hell Spiral and a 3000' (914 meter) pool where Mazmanian's corpse was entombed. Created by Hargrave as a tongue-in-cheek tribute, the adventure itself was essentially a quest to gain life-prolonging treasure while avoiding Mazmanian's wandering avatar, an extremely powerful Lich-like entity who would either attack or help a party on random percentage roll[4].

Illustrators (partial listing)Edit

Several illustrators worked on Arduin materials at various times over the years, including the following:

Erol OtusEdit


Phraint vs. Vroat (1979) by Erol Otus (from The Howling Tower)

The first printings of The Arduin Grimoire (specifically, The Arduin Trilogy, Vol. 1) contained artwork by Erol Otus, an artist who would later become known for his illustrations appearing on and in TSR's Dungeons & Dragons publications [5].

Otus' artwork was later removed from subsequent printings of The Arduin Grimoire.

Greg EspinozaEdit

Greg Espinoza contributed many of the Arduin covers and interior illustrations (close to 80 pieces) from approximately 1978 to 1981. He drew many of the monster and artifact cards for several of the standalone dungeon modules, and also painted the box art (with airbrushing by Anthony Delgado) for Grimoire Games' The Arduin Adventure.

Brad SchenckEdit

Brad Schenck (also known as Morno) contributed the cover of Welcome to Skull Tower (AG II). His is also the original design for the Arduin "Shield" now featured by Emperor's Choice Games and Miniatures as their trademark. He also did the cover for The Arduin Adventure rule book.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Turnbull D (April/May 1979). Open Box. In Livingstone I. "Arduin Grimoire I-III". White Dwarf (12): p13. 
  2. RPGnet RPG Game Index: The Arduin Trilogy Listing
  3. Q&A with Greg Stafford
  4. David A. Hargrave: Lancer's Rest
  5. Erol Otus :: Pen & Paper RPG Database

External linksEdit

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