The Elegance of Arduin

As a followup to yesterday’s post on race and class

The Arduin Grimoire is a series of three books functioning primarily as a supplement to 1974 Dungeons & Dragons. Although it makes some noises about being a complete roleplaying game, it’s really not playable unless you at least understand the concepts of D&D. A few ideas from The Dragon also seem to have made their way in.

Read today, Arduin‘s a lot like reading an old school D&D blog, or Philotomy’s D&D musings… thirty years after the fact. There are a lot of strange little insights into the way David Hargrave and his friends played D&D, as well as unique wonders like the infamous Arduin critical tables.

The reason I bring up Arduin, though, is that it takes an elegant and unique approach to race and class. In Arduin, the main component of a race is a set of unique saving throws. (Human saving throws are set by class.)

Since Arduin follows the classic Dungeons & Dragons divide of using AC to defend against martial threats and saving throws to defend against magical ones, that means that race is principally a matter of how dangerous certain types of magic are.

D&D’s saving throw matrices generally follow a simple better or worse pattern, with a character having strong, medium or weak saves. This is, doubtless, why Swords & Wizardry gives each class only a single saving throw number.

Arduin gets a little clever with that, though. For example, dwarves are better at resisting paralysis than elves, but elves are better at resisting poison. There’s a real sense of variation in the Arduin scheme, rather than a feeling of “I’m X, so my saves suck.”

I find this system simultaneously elegant and varied. I probably won’t use the Arduin saves for the next D&D game I’m planning, since simplicity will be key there, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for future gaming and design.

Next: Tunnels & Trolls

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