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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Arduin Adventure vs. Holmes Basic

Logo from the cover of The Arduin Adventure rulebook
     The original Arduin trilogy of booklets ("Grimoires", 1977-78) were written by Dave Hargrave as supplements to the original D&D game. The Arduin Adventure, published in 1980 by Grimoire Games, was the first product to present Arduin as a stand-alone game, in an introductory format seemingly inspired by the Holmes Basic Set. According to Gygax, the Holmes Basic Set was selling 12,000 copies a month by mid-1980, so it was natural that other game designers would follow suit. Thus, The Arduin Adventure box set ($9.95) included a 64-page rulebook with all of the necessary rules, three character sheets, two sheets of magic item cards, and two 20-sided dice. The rulebook was also available separately ($7.95), with cover art by Greg Espinoza.

Photo of the contents of The Arduin Adventure box set from a current Ebay auction

     Much like Basic D&D distilled the original D&D rules, The Arduin Adventure simplifies the Arduin trilogy to six races (elf, dwarf, hobbitt, human, amazon and half orc), five classes (warrior, thief, priest, mage and forester), twelve statistics (dexterity, agility, strength, intelligence, ego, wisdom, charisma, hit points, armor class, mana and experience level), combat rules, four levels of spells for priests and mages, a short list of magic items, and about 30 monsters.

The Forgotten Tower as depicted on the back cover of The Arduin Adventure.
Artwork by Brad Schenck (Morno)

     The rulebook also contains a nine-page introductory scenario, The Forgotten Tower, set in a lost wizard's tower (rather than beneath a destroyed one as in the Holmes Sample Dungeon). It has 45 rooms including eight in the dungeon that are to be keyed by the DM (ala B1 In Search of the Unknown). A picture of the Forgotten Tower was included on the back cover of the rulebook, with art by Brad Schenck (Morno), known for his work on Wee Warriors products, such as the cover and maps for the first D&D module, Palace of Vampire Queen.

     The Arduin combat rules use Dexterity scores for initiative. This goes back to the first Arduin Grimoire and predates the use in the Holmes Basic Set. In The Arduin Adventure, the "Monster" section gives typical Dex scores for each creature, and a few monsters in The Forgotten Tower also have Dex scores listed.

Skorpadillo by Erol Otus, from The Howling Tower.
Scan grabbed from Jeff's Gameblog.

     One "Basic" level dungeon module was also published for Arduin: The Howling Tower (Arduin Dungeon #2, 1979), for character levels 1-4. All of the monsters in The Howling Tower are provided with Dex scores (example: Skorpadillo, "dext. 16"). Erol Otus (also a Holmes Basic artist for B2) provided the interior artwork for The Howling Tower (two quarter page illustrations, including the one above). 

See also:
Detailed review at RPGnet

Discussion thread at Original D&D Discussion


  1. I had both of these items - just the rule book for the Arduin Adventure - and nothing screams role playing nostalgia like seeing these side by side on the shelf. Unfortunately, my Holmes Basic and Arduin Adventure were "borrowed" many years ago never to be returned.

  2. That's crazy, I don't ever remember seeing this box set anywhere on the shelf at my local game shop back then. It's possible by that time we had moved on to other games; Top Secret, Champions and just totally missed it.

  3. Wow, I'd never heard of this. I love the idea of magic item cards and try to do the equivalent in my game with public domain images, and I loooove the idea of a module with empty spaces for the DM. I guess it is counter to the idea of a module being about saving the DM work, but I like the idea of a module helping a DM make their own stuff. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  4. @karnak: The rulebook shows up on Ebay every few months, for $10-20. There aren't many who are interested. The box set is much rarer.

    The rulebook was reprinted by Emperor's Choice in the early 00's. It's a fascimile identical to the original except for some title page info mentioning EC.

    @bliss_infinite: I wouldn't be surprised if it suffered from poor distribution.

    @Telecanter: You are welcome.

  5. @Zenopus: That's great to hear. I would want the boxed set but I would definitely take just the rulebook.