Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. is back (Part Three)

The new website is mostly operational and is supposed to be fully operational on November 7th, 2021.


Website, Storefront, Orders, and Future…

Hello Fans,

Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. (EmpCho) has updates to share:

•The new online store will be located at

•The new website/store is scheduled to be fully operational on November 7, 2021, for taking pre-orders.

•Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. is an independent company, which produces its own products; we do not have large quantities of stock on hand in between manufacturing runs. Miniatures are often manufactured on demand in house, and printed products need time to be ordered, produced, and delivered to EmpCho. Books and miniatures are then, packed and shipped by EmpCho. Pre-Orders will allow us to determine how much product we need to manufacture and order. We apologize for pre-orders, but we are anticipating a lot of orders. All of Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. products are proudly made in the USA.

•An email will be sent by November 1, 2021, to everyone with past unfilled orders to place their order into the new store. We cannot import the past orders into the new store. Therefore, if you wish to keep your past unfilled order, please place a new order into the store.

•All orders received will be shipped by the end of January 2022. This is due to the large quantity of past orders, time to produce the books, manufacturing of the miniatures, and shipping during the holiday season. If overall production escalates more rapidly, then the timetable will be moved up. Emperors Choice Games and Miniatures Corp. (EmpCho) will work extremely hard to complete all orders as quickly as possible!

•As a Thank You to all our fans, our prices that are 7+ years old will remain in effect for all orders, with only very minor change for very few items. These prices will remain in place until 1/1/2022, at which time an increase will take effect due to increased raw material and/or printing costs. In addition, our 10% discount for all Veterans will remain in effect indefinitely and all customers with a past order will receive an additional 10% off their entire order! This can be combined with the Veteran discount, for a total of 20% off for a Veteran, with a past unfilled order.

•We also wanted to take the opportunity to clarify a bullet from the last post on which was: “There are things in the works besides the new website and storefront. I will be posting news on Arduin as it becomes a reality.” This statement simply means Emperors Choice Games & miniatures Corp. is working on NEW Arduin products for the future, and as things are developed for release, then we will inform everyone.

•Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. looks forward to continuing to bring Arduin to the world. This cannot be done without all your help and support through the years, now and in the future!

In the words of David A. Hargrave:

“To you and yours, I lift a tankard of Rumble Tummy’s ale in respectful salute!”

The awakening continues…


Dave Bukata
Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp.

George De Rosa
Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp.

Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. is back (Part Two)

The new website is mostly operational and is supposed to be fully operational on November 7th, 2021 


It has begun!

Hello Fans,

Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. (EmpCho) has an announcement:

The new online store located at is up and fully operational now!

Our timetable was moved forward with the website/storefront rebuild and we were able to bring everything up ahead of schedule. I want to give a very large shout out to Dave Bukata, President of Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. for his dedication, steadfastness, and tireless weeks of hard work on the site. Without his efforts, the website/storefront would have never been live in such a short amount of time. We still have much to do including gearing up for miniature production, preparing for order fulfillment, organizing vast amounts of material, and drawing up plans for the future of Arduin. As always, we thank you all for your outstanding support!

It has been too many long, long years of tragedy, trials, and hardship. Now the fresh air of the present and future, along with friends old and new have made things much easier!

George De Rosa
Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp.

Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. is back (Part One)


An awakening is under way at Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp….

Hello Fans,

Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp. is in the process of creating a new website and store front!

Here are the details:

• The online store at is no longer active, due to the creation of a new store front.

• The web page is still active for the product pictures, downloads and information until the new site is uploaded.

• All past orders are still with EmpCho and will be addressed! I am very truly sorry for the frustration with orders for Arduin products, but things will be set right!

• There are things in the works besides the new website and storefront. I will be posting news on Arduin as it becomes a reality.

Again, we truly appreciate your patience with all the frustration, years of hibernation, and lack of communication. That is all going to change now! The awakening has begun…

George De Rosa
Emperors Choice Games & Miniatures Corp.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Review of "Dave Arneson's True Genius" from the Internet Archive

I wanted to share this review with you and I am doing so with the permission of the author, Nick Monitto. It is found at this link on the Internet Archive Guest Review Dave Arneson: True Genius. Some of you may have missed it and I wanted you to have a chance to read it. A couple of pictures were not saved by the archive. So I am adding this picture of Dave Arneson and a picture of Rob Kuntz further down the page.

Dave Arneson

 Reprinted with permission from the author.


 Guest Writer: Nick Monitto, July 31, 2017

I would imagine it is a safe presumption that anyone reading this website is a fan of Role-Playing Games.  Given the strong emphasis on here for original old-school and OSR products, it is also probably a good bet that readers will know of the original TSR and its stable of games, led by the well-known “Dungeons & Dragons”.  Ask most gamers about the creation of “D&D” and you will hear repeated mention of Gary Gygax, certainly an important figure in both gaming (in general) and at TSR (in specific).

The name of Dave Arneson is not as well known, though, and that is a shame.  I knew of him, but not as well as I perhaps should have.  For me, he was the creator of the “Blackmoor” realm that I had seen as a supplement for the original “Dungeons & Dragons” game.  Later I found his name on a series of adventure modules that seemed to run the gamut from city to wilderness to some far future setting!

Several books have been written over the years about Gygax, but this is the first I have come across about Arneson.  Technically, this is not a book in the traditional sense.  Rather, it is a series of three essays by Robert J. Kuntz, a name which also should be known to fans of RPGs both past and present.  This is what I would consider a deeply academic work, and I do mean that in a positive way.  The writing is very detailed, with numerous footnotes to give background and definitions.  Its depth seems to speak to Kuntz’s love for the game, and for Arneson himself, urging others to understand just how important his contributions were.

Robert J Kuntz from Three Line Studio

The first essay, entitled “From Vision to Vicissitude: The Rise and Reversal of Arneson’s RPG Concept” is the longest and most detailed of the three.  It begins by quoting Herbert Simon’s explanation of a scientist’s problem-solving path as being like “…a search through a maze”- seemingly appropriate for the subject at hand!  Further down in the quote we find the key parts for Kuntz’s foundation.  Explaining that problem solving involves transformation of current expressions to new ones (and testing them to see if they are reaching the goal), Kuntz uses this as the framework for Arneson taking existing open and closed gaming systems, and transforming them into an entirely new one.  He presents a long list of the leaps in design that were made with his “First Fantasy Campaign” (aka the aforementioned “Blackmoor”) including “World Building”, “The ‘Unending Story’”, and “No ‘right way’ to play”, something which is particularly significant in later matters.

Kuntz then moves ahead to 1974 to discuss the early days of TSR, as the company enjoys dramatic growth and expansion.  The “Dungeons & Dragons” game was a new thing entirely at that time.  For its players, it was not just about buying the products and consuming them for their entertainment.  Now, they were getting something that they could use to create their entertainment for themselves.  While holding on to this philosophy strongly in the early days, TSR’s first products were more like true supplements.  Players were encouraged to take things as catalysts and use them, in part or in whole, to create their own adventures and worlds.  Given the way that some companies operate nowadays, this can seem like a rather odd approach indeed.

Next, we are brought back to the end of Simon’s quote, where “…Indications of progress spur further search in the same direction; lack of progress signals the abandonment of a line of search.”  We see how TSR has started to spread out, offering a wide range of games while still remaining strongly behind “Dungeons & Dragons”.  There were more products being put out, but they were along the lines of mapping aids or charts of monsters & treasure- the kinds of things that still fed into a do-it-yourself approach.

The narrative becomes rather personal at this point, when Kuntz describes a stockholder’s meeting that turns rather contentious.  Arneson felt that he was being overlooked and underused in his time at the company, so he and others thought that an additional member on the board would help to alleviate that.  I will leave the details to your own reading in the essay but spoiler alert:  the discussion turned ugly pretty quickly, and the fallout was fast and furious.  Kuntz himself and Dave Megarry (one of Arneson’s friends) resigned from TSR within a handful of days afterward. Kuntz’s brother Terry and Arneson himself were pushed out shortly thereafter.  This was perhaps the first of several seismic changes the company would eventually see.

The next section starts with several quotes from Gygax, some of which seem quite contradictory, as to whether “Dungeons & Dragons” should be viewed as something where the rules are strict constructionalist, or more loosey-goosey.  We see the game, under Gygax’s hand, move away from that earlier “no ‘right way’ to play” idea and become remade into a more closed system.  Stronger rule sets and the new focus on adventure modules made for a more rigid game; at least as far as the marketers and product makers were concerned.  Kuntz notes that the feeling seemed to be such that “less choice equals less monetary yield”, an idea that he strongly disagrees with, and I find myself largely on his side in that matter.  In fact this idea seems to have grown for quite a long time with the game, and I am not sure if it has really eased off yet.

He concludes by bringing it all together with the meat of Simon’s quote, that TSR made “progress towards the goal” with the use of Arneson’s concept, but that they went on to “diverge” and change in order to “[increase] the market yield”.  Arneson’s original strong idea was taken in and used for a time, but then cut down and sacrificed, losing some of its greatest aspects.

The second essay, “Dimensionality in Design: An Examination of Dave Arneson’s System of Systems Thinking” is perhaps like a bit of engineering, after the first largely conceptual discussion.  The “System of Systems” idea is defined as “viewing independent systems as part of a more complex one”, where you learn about the smaller parts to something in order to understand the bigger thing they make up.

Not simply adapting to what was then the mentality of the market, Arneson kept true to his ideas and sensed out for himself what the next steps forward should be.  He was able to make a number of “dimensional leaps”, going above and beyond what had come before.  Kuntz uses the metaphor of a work table containing thousands of odd parts.  One can start to combine them and see if the desired functionality is achieved.  You keep on adding and subtracting the parts, and each step creates a new situation, a new ‘start’.  But the connection with past steps is irrelevant, only progressing towards the goal.

Kuntz concludes the second essay stating that the dimensionality (defined as complexity joined with diversity) that Arneson started to show in early “Blackmoor” and “Dungeons & Dragons” has still not reached its full potential.  Market pressures, as they did decades ago when Arneson began his writing, continue to fuel stagnation even today.

The final essay, “Debunking the Chainmail/Braunstein ‘Derivation’ Claims” goes after one of the biggest issues, and one of the things that I had heard myself, before reading this work.  The assumed history (helped along by some of Gygax’s quotes) claims that the original “Dungeons & Dragons” game descended from the “Chainmail” and/or “Braunstein” games.  This part is the briefest of the three, diving in quickly and making its case rather effectively.  Arneson had a conceptual model that was tested for two years before it was brought to folks in Lake Geneva.  The model and concept itself was never truly altered, just that subsystems were added on.

This essay feels almost as though it has gained momentum from the previous two: Kuntz presents his case in just seven pages, all of them quite well-used.  For example, nearly two full pages of bullet points list characteristics of Arneson’s system, and in almost every case we are shown that neither of these other games contains those features.  Kuntz concludes with a nice afterword that ties things together and provides a bit of a teaser for a more detailed future book.

For a piece with a relatively small page count, it is definitely a heavy read.  I ended up going through it twice, a few days apart, as I put together this review.  But unlike some things I have encountered, Kuntz’s essays are heavy from a purpose and depth of substance.  I do recommend this as a good piece for anyone who is interested in learning about the method of Arneson’s work.  As I noted in the beginning, we are greatly lacking for writing about the history of Dave Arneson himself and about his side of the creation of “Dungeons & Dragons”.  Let us hope that this is only the beginning, and that more books will be written before too long.

Robert Kuntz’ website can be found at Three Line Studio.


Nick Monitto is a gaming geek who came of age on the classic games of the 1970’s and 80’s.  He is spending some free time now trying to decide on his secret agent code name identity.

Here is a direct link to buy the book, and no I do not get any compensation for this. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

October 1st - Dave Arneson Game Day - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor

Celebrating Dave Arneson Game Day - October 1st - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor.
David "Dave" Lance Arneson - October 1, 1947 – April 7, 2009 would have been 74 years old today; however he prematurely left this world at only 61.

He loved games, all kinds of game, and he loved for everyone to enjoy them. That is what he spent his whole life doing, helping people enjoy their leisure time.
Blackmoor was his creation, also known as The First Fantasy Campaign. Sadly the campaign journal by the same title is out of print and has been for a long time.
Read the following about one fan who is trying to do his part to change that. You can find the story here The First Fantasy Campaign - Digitized.
A couple of months ago I won an eBay auction of the 1977 print edition wherein all illustrations were done by Dave himself. The book cost me $150 -- and yes, it really is that hard to obtain, though it was in rather good condition with both maps present. The books is beautiful and a unique insight into the early days of our hobby. One that I am truly sorry to see people being restricted from by its steep price.
Through the last couple of months I have busied myself with the creation of a digital PDF version of the whole book and have gone to great lengths at creating the best result I possibly could. I will return to this digitizing process below, but before that I would like to present my plans to you.
Please go read the entire thing, no piracy involved, he has a more elegant plan. 
One other thing, were you able to game today? I was not, but I will be gaming tomorrow on Oct 2nd Saturday. I hope you can do that too. Dave would be happy to know people are gaming in honor of his birthday. People having fun, enjoying life while they remember you, now that is a legacy we can all hope to have.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Celebrating Day Seven of Blackmoor Week - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor

Today September 30th is the seventh day of Blackmoor Week 2021.

Over at the The Ruins forum one of our European members now has the book Dave Arneson's True Genius and has made his first blog post on it. His field is Continuum Mechanics and I think you will find his approach to the book to be both interesting and enlightening as he is just getting started. As part of that approach he has provided links to some references in the book for our benefit. Go check out his blog which is titled Troglodynasty and he has only made a few posts before this. I am hoping it will be the beginning of a long run.

Dave Arneson's True Genius - First impressions

Here is another review from back in 2019, that you may not have seen.'

from the blog

On another topic over at the Tower of the Red Archprelate, is a post about dragons that I think Dave Arneson would have enjoyed and have riffed off of.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Celebrating Day Six of Blackmoor Week - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor

Today September 29th is the sixth day of Blackmoor Week 2021.

Today we will link to series of posts from all the way back in 2009. A real blast from the past. Over at the Bat in the Attic blog (Rob Conley) a four part series of posts on The First Fantasy Campaign was done back in April of 2009. 

Into the First Fantasy Campaign Part 1

History remembers Statesmen, Philosophers, Kings, and Conquerors. Dave Arneson was none of those. He merely figured out a cool way to have fun that wasn't seen before. Yet in the last quarter of the 20th century and continued into the 21st century his legacy has impacted millions and ignited fires of imagination that still burns today. And it started in a place that only existed in Dave's mind, a place called Blackmoor.

Into the First Fantasy Campaign Part 2

Into the First Fantasy Campaign Part 3

Into the First Fantasy Campaign Part 4

Next he talks about the Original Blackmoor Magic System. He says it was based on the Formula pattern for most magic. That magic-users were limited because they had to prepared the ingredients before entering the dungeons. Some spell had special ingredients that could only be found by adventuring. A magic-user only gained experienced if he casted spells. The magic-user's constitution also played a role in limiting the number of spells cast.

Spell components in AD&D, the whole idea came from Arneson in early Blackmoor. Think about that and let it sink in. 

When it comes to old school gaming Rob and I have about a 30% field of agreement and a 70% field of disagreement. Our view of things does not have a lot of overlap; nevertheless, he writes a lot of good stuff and has contributed greatly to gaming, you should go read his blog. I just stumbled across this series of posts and read them for the first time today. I thought another look by a third blogger at The First Fantasy Campaign would be a good thing for you all to read.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Celebrating Day Five of Blackmoor Week - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor

Today September 28th is the fifth day of Blackmoor Week 2021.

One of the things that Dave Arneson and Blackmoor contributed to OD&D was the Magic Swords and the process to determine what powers a sword might have. Arneson viewed Magic Swords as creatures.

Magic Swords & Matrix

Dave Arneson said:

Prior to setting up Blackmoor, I spent considerable effort in setting up an entire family of Magical Swords. The Swords, indeed comprise most of the early  magical artifacts. A small table was prepared and the Swords' characteristics set up on cards.

Later on a new Table was formulated and used for generating Swords in other Castles. In The First Fantasy Campaign book,  there is a Magic Swords Personality Matrix 

Values run from "A" to "R" and eleven colors.

Following that is another Matrix and it says The Magic Swords of Mythology are varied creatures that can give great power to their owners, who are sometimes helpless without them. Only Swords have these powerful variations and capabilities. 

Other tables follow this, the entire swords section covers several pages. Much is similar to what ended up in OD&D, but quite a bit is different and it is worth using to spice up your Magic Swords.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Celebrating Day Three of Blackmoor Week - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor

Today September 26th is the third day of Blackmoor Week 2021.

Yesterday I linked back to when I wrote about The First Fantasy Campaign early in 2020. Today I am going to link to where another blogger wrote about The First Fantasy Campaign starting in early September 2020.

The blog is the OSR Grimoire  and The First Fantasy Campaign posts started with this one: JG 37: The First Fantasy Campaign

He concluded his long series of posts in late December with this post: The First Fantasy Campaign: Remastered.

He says: 

Before his passing, Dave Arneson indicated that he wished to re-edit JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign", as reported in First Fantasy Campaign Belongs to Arneson Estate Bledsaw Confirms on Havard's Blackmoor Blog.

Although we can't know exactly what Arneson had in mind, having just completed a review of each section in "The First Fantasy Campaign", I have attempted to reorganize its contents, adopting the OD&D framework:

His suggested organization is pretty interesting, given that this was not a game supplement, but instead a campaign journal. But it begs the question that is the most interesting to me and that is what additional material would have been added? We can only wonder at what might have been added that was probably never committed to paper at any point in time.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Celebrating Day Two of Blackmoor Week - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor

 Today September 25th is the second day of Blackmoor Week 2021.

Last year I wrote about The First Fantasy Campaign aka Blackmoor and there are many more posts that follow the link below:

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Thirty-Six

In response to a question I wrote:

Yes, you are correct. Although it does not happen very often, sometimes the Acaeum does get it wrong and the first print is entirely black and white. On a true first print the black and white image that appears on a title page in the later printings was the cover on the first print.

I provided the following information for the Wikipedia page.

"1st Printing (1977): The Cover and entire booklet are Black and White. The Cover says "The First Fantasy Campaign Playing Aid" with Playing Aid as a subtitle. A large mostly circular picture with Trees in the foreground and a Fire Elemental in the background below which it says "by Dave Arneson" and "Judges Guild". There is no other verbiage on the cover and the price does not appear on the cover. The Back Cover has a product list titled "Booty List" with the highest number being 35 and "New Non-Sub Items" listing product numbers 36-39. It comes with the first printing of the First Fantasy Campaign Maps. This book consists of 92 numbered pages plus the cover, inside cover, back cover and Table of Contents for a total of 96 total pages. The dark red cover was used for the reformatted later printings that used a smaller font and fewer pages."

Since then this correct information has been deleted from the Wikipedia page. However, I have the 1st print from 1977 and the entire book is black and white, it does have a total of 96 pages including the covers and the above image does appear as the cover of the book. If you have any of the dark red covers shown over at the Acaeum, you do not have a 1st print.


Friday, September 24, 2021

Celebrating Day One of Blackmoor Week - 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor

Today September 24th is the first day of Blackmoor Week! Remember Christmas break in December is the 51st Anniversary of Blackmoor as it began in December of 1970. As previously noted several places on the Internet several players testify as to this being when they first played in Blackmoor.

Blackmoor Week runs from September 24th through September 30th every year to celebrate gaming and to honor the first campaign (Blackmoor) and the author of that campaign (Dave Arneson). Blackmoor Week is followed on October 1st by Dave Arneson Game Day, celebrated on David "Dave" Lance Arneson's birthday each year. This year as Oct 1st is a Friday, maybe we can all game on Friday night and lift a toast to Dave Arneson. 

We get an early glimpse of Blackmoor in The Temple of the Frog, the first published adventure. Sadly its legacy is not that of instruction, but of what has become THE ONE TRUE WAY, which is to use published modules exclusively. Dave was showing everyone how it is done, the message was ?here is how you DIY and MIY." Sadly that message has been lost over the years.

So this year, celebrate by doing something you make yourself. It will be better than anything you can buy.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Crimson Escalation

 Crimson Escalation

What if you could speed-up DnD combat while making battles more exciting, realistic, and fun? All that with a minimum of bookkeeping!

Let's help Venger Satanis get this Kickstarter to the Stretch Goal. You only need to kick in $1.00 (or more if you are feeling generous. 516 people have already pledged $733 and he only needs $267 to hit the Stretch Goal. I backed it and I encourage you to do it too. It is only a $1.00 and I want to see that bonus mentioned below at the bottom. Have a little fun and throw in $1.00, you spend more than that on anything and everything these days. $1 menus are gone, but this one is still here. Throw $1.00 in and smile, you did a good thing.

This KS is to fund a standalone PDF, allowing gamers who love D20 fantasy RPGs to have Crimson Escalation at their fingertips.  Sure, you could start using it without throwing in a buck; I don't mind.  But if you want to see something like Crimson Escalation proliferate throughout the hobby, like I do, back this sucker for $1 and let's see what happens.

If you want short, brutal combat that ups the tension every single round - without having to keep track of stuff (besides which round it is), this might be for you!  I've found the majority of combats never go beyond the 4th round using this method (7 rounds max).

Feel free to give it a try before backing this project, just to see if it's as good as promised.  You won't be disappointed.  That's the Venger Satanis guarantee! 

This blog post has all the basic information (including an embedded link to Crimson Dragon Slayer D20):

Here's a direct link to the FREE Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 PDF (page 7, if you want to go right to the mechanic itself):

So, let's talk about this PDF... it's going to have a cover page, a page for Rob and I to give some background on Crimson Escalation, a page covering the basics of the mechanic along with extraneous details (What happens if people join the battle a couple rounds in?  What if a character already has a wider crit range than everyone else?), and a page at the end for credits.

The KS funds will be used to pay for layout (bloodstains on parchment don't just come out with a little soap and water, you know) and the already acquired artwork.

The Stretch Goal of $1,000 is a bonus - the Ten Commandments For Immersion. Who doesn't want their game to be more immersive?

Thursday, September 2, 2021

The Perilous Dreamers First Dungeon (a look back to winter 75-76)

 Over at The Ruins of Murkhill forum I have started a thread about the first dungeon I ever created.  I based the nine areas on nine quotes and then improved from those quotes.

You can find the thread here. I will be commenting more about it once people have had a chance to comment on the forum.

I think you will find some things about the dungeon rather surprising.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Fast Approaching Blackmoor Week and Dave Arneson Game Day

Blackmoor Week, which is celebrated every year September 24th to September 30th followed immediately by Dave Arneson Game Day celebrated on October 1st, the birthday of Dave Arneson, is fast approaching. October 1st is a Friday, so plan on gaming in honor of Dave Arneson on Friday night or the weekend or the previous weekend during Blackmoor Week.

Right now is also a good time to be thinking of writing one or more blog posts or posting on your forum or other social media group to honor Dave Arneson on his birthday and to celebrate this the 51st Anniversary year of Blackmoor which began in December of 1970.

The Night Companion Kickstarter

 The Night Companion Follow the link!

The author says:

This game demystifies old-school style play and lets you run any kind of modern supernatural, horror, or urban fantasy style game you like all with familiar rules and systems! This is the first sourcebook, but you can grab the entire game in the Kickstarter, too...for cheap!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg Has Arrived!!!

The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg book has arrived! This was part of the Secrets of Blackmoor Kickstarter that launched back on November 24, 2018. The delivery of this book has been a long time coming, but I assure you that it has been more than worth the wait.  Aside from the Original Dungeons & Dragons itself published in January of 1974, this is one of a tiny handful of books that are truly relevant and important in the realm of Fantasy Adventure Role Playing Games.

Image from Secrets of Blackmoor backerkit page 

There are two different covers, one is purple and a limited number are teal. As I am color blind I will not know which I have until I have a chance to ask someone. It is going to take quite a while to read through this book and peruse the maps contained within it. It is 156 pages and the print is small enough that I must use my reading glasses, that is to say it is densely packed with information. The page size is 8.5 x 11 of high quality paper in a hard bound book. I am extremely happy with the heft and appearance of the book and look forward to many useful hours.

I have so far only skimmed through the book. There is an (slightly less than 3.5 pages) example of play that is lengthy and detailed enough to get anyone started gaming. There is an excellent Table of Contents, Index and List of Tables. 

In my opinion, everyone who referees any version of D&D and any game that is derived from the original version of D&D should buy this book, read it, study it and putting the advice into practice in their own campaign. Some people will want to play this dungeon. I don't view it that way. I view it was one example (a very good example) of how it is done. My advice is imitate it and then go beyond it. Make it Yourself and Do it Yourself was the original way to play, don't short change yourself and your players, give it a try. This book will help you do that.

Other important books are Dave Arneson's The First Fantasy Campaign, which is a comparable volume to this, only it did not have the production values or editing team. Sadly it is out of print, but hopefully one day that can be changed. Fortunately I have a copy, a first print of that volume.

The Secrets of Blackmoor - The True History of Dungeons & Dragons DVD documentary, part of the Kickstarter that included the Lost Dungeons and Dave Arneson's True Genius, by Robert J. Kuntz complete the list of the five most important and relevant items in the realm of Fantasy Adventure Role Playing Games.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

A Post from the blog "A Land Beyond Beyond"

Over on the blog A Land Beyond Beyond subtitled: A blog mainly about the early role playing games, those from the 1970s and 1980s. Original Dungeons & Dragons, Empire of the Petal Throne, Arduin, Tunnels & Trolls, Skyrealms of Jorune, Traveller, Metamorphosis Alpha and many more, there is a blog post Arduin fans will be interested in.

He says: 
In discussing DAH’s source inspirations for Arduin, I find it convenient to group them into three categories: literary, historical, & personal. The literary category covers fiction—whether written or visual media—and is the subject of this part. The historical taxon and personal influences appear in part two of this article. 

I recommend that you check this out and I eagerly await Part Two. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Dave Hargrave Day - 2021

Today we celebrate Dave Hargrave Day, the birthday of David Allen Hargrave (May 25, 1946 – August 29, 1988) who was known as The Dream Weaver and his world and game Arduin. Dave died an untimely death at the age of only 42 and all that he could have created was lost forever. Sadly there are few pictures available.

David Allen Hargrave

Dave was a military veteran , serving six years on the front lines. He brought that experience to Arduin. Dave had an extraordinary imagination and it was on full display in Arduin. Some called it a "cross-genre" rpg, but truly many of the early homebrew games were "cross-genre."  Blackmoor the original campaign was "cross-genre" and Tékumel was also "cross-genre."  So he was in very good company.

I started playing OD&D in September of 1975, first got our hands on The Arduin Grimoire early in 1978. It was a treasure trove, a veritable gold mine of ideas. As a treasure trove it was the proper kind IMO, the excellent, the good, the average, the bad and the ugly. It was all there. I have heard a lot of people dismiss it and mostly because they think that everything they don't think are good ideas should have been edited out. IMO these kinds of documents tend to suffer greatly from way too much editing. Ideas that one person doesn't like or another wouldn't use nevertheless spurs thinking and that leads to the creation of more ideas.

IMO those of us who are Arduin fans are those who tend to use almost anything as a gateway to more ideas and anything that makes you think, like it or not, is a gateway to more ideas. I for one am very happy that Dave chose to not attempt to separate the dross from the gold, because he might have robbed me of an idea had he done so.

If you want to create your own grab bag of ideas, you could not find a better inspiration than The Arduin Grimoire!

If you have not yet read The Arduin Grimoire I urge you to get a copy without delay. Read it with a non-critical mind and let his ideas take you where they will. Read it a second time with a note pad close at hand. Jot down what you like and make note of how you would do other things differently. You are on your way!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Arduin Week Day Seven 2021

This was posted in the Arduin Grimoire community on the defunct Google+ platform by Matrox Lusch a number of years ago.

From the old group, original source is unknown.

David Hargrave's Thirteen Rules for Survival

1. Nothing is ever what it seems, so always be alert.

Forget this rule at your peril, never assume. Some monsters hide in plain sight, the obvious trap may distract from the real trap. 

2. The Game Master cannot be out-fought, be he can be out-thought.

The best defense the players can muster is to work together and pool their knowledge and talents. 

3. In all melee, battle, or surprise situations, the prime thing to remember is that you must react. Do something, even if it’s wrong. Take action!

The Decision Challenged die! A vital old school ability is to be ready and be decisive, indecision kills. 

He who hesitates is lost. "Swift and resolute action leads to success; self-doubt is a prelude to disaster. The proverb goes back to 'Cato' by English essayist and poet Joseph Addison.

4. The surest way out of any ambush is through the point of maximum resistance. Never ever try to turn around and/or retreat. It’s precisely what they’ve planned for you to try. So hit them hard, fast, and hell bent for blood, because you’ve got nothing to lose anyway!

Again, he who hesitates is lost.

5. Never fight when you can think instead.

In real old school games, murder hobo's die quickly. Those who can think and decisively act with wisdom survive. Fighting everything is suicide. Trying to kill everything is stupid. If you think fighting is always the only option, you are dead before you begin.

6. Beware mixing the three M’s: melees, missiles, and magik. To do so is to court disaster.

Enough said, no need to belabor the obvious. 

7. Remember that for battle you must have preparation; distance between yourself and the target; sufficient delay time in which to wield your maximum firepower, and enough firepower to ensure the absolute destruction of your intended target.

Fight if you must and if you must, fight to win.

8. Always expect the worst in any given situation. Always be prepared for the worst, no matter where you may be, and truly, through practice, become “the worst” so that trouble will strive mightily to avoid you!

There was a reason the Boy Scouts of yesteryear had the motto of "Be Prepared." Be Prepared means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”

9. You must have eyes and ears in all directions at all times.

Are you focused? Or are you talking about non-game things during the game? Are you focused? Or do people have to remind you of what is going on and what they just asked you to do? If so, you are highly subject to being surprised.

10. A closed mouth means silence, which equates to secrecy, which means safety and a surer way to travel. Don’t advertise your destination.

Amazing the loose chatter that comes out of players when they are in taverns or other public venues where who knows who or what is listening. Amazing the things that players volunteer to NPCs without any reason to have done so.

11. Be careful with your weapons - they cut in two directions, and your friends are often more vulnerable than your foes.

More than one PC has fallen from "friendly fire."

12. Every adventurer should be prepared to fight and/or flee at any time with no more than what he is wearing and carrying. And don’t load yourself down with a lot of junk; be selective.

Your kit should contain nothing trivial, every item should have a purpose and be the things that you need the most.

13. The thirteenth, though last, is the most important of all the rules of survival:


Old school players are masters of the art of thinking. They are focused, thoughtful and they develop good memories of things that can save their lives. But beyond this, successful adventurers are creative and can come up with ideas at the drop of a hat. For every obstacle there are solutions. Thinkers mine for solutions all the time.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Arduin Week Day Six 2021

Today I want to take a look at a blog by the name of, he has written several essays about Dave Hargrave and about Arduin.  Let's look at Hargrave’s Old School:

He says:
Reflecting on my re-reading of David Hargrave’s Arduin material, I realise that the “Old School” was never as homogeneous as many in the community would have us believe today. Hargrave was, perhaps, an outlying force in the hobby – contentious and loathed by some – but he was also a force for creativity and variety.

“But Dave was not satisfied with the trilogy, or the five supplements that followed it… For ten years he play-tested and wrote new rules almost continuously, trying to make the FRP experience easier and more accessible for the players…” (Compleat Arduin, Book 1, page iii) 

I will let you read the rest of it yourself, check out his other Arduin essays while you are there.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Arduin Week Day Five 2021

Today I want to highlight a post by DM David (blog) titled Once subversive, the Arduin Grimoire’s influence reaches today’s games.

He says,

Dave Hargrave’s campaign world of Arduin was not built; it was piled. To create Arduin, Hargrave took every fantastic element he dreamed up or fancied and piled them into one work of love. If Tekumal is a museum, with treasures for contemplation, then Arduin is a dragon’s horde, with everything shiny heaped to the walls.

Dragon's Horde is an apt description, as Arduin is filled with riches and to the discerning reader there are still things to be found in Arduin that is found no where else. Gygax commercialized Arneson's creation, but Hargrave fully understood Arneson's creation and built on what Arneson wrought in the same spirit in which Arneson wrought. No disrespect to Gygax, but for me when I sit down at the table, I want to do what Arneson did, what Hargrave did and that is put fun and immersion ahead of all rules. Some people say that "fun" is vague and meaningless to use to describe the game. I say that "fun" is shorthand for several hours of monologue about the game. (I am trying to remember who said that and where I read it.) All I can say is if you don't understand "fun," then you need to play a truly old school game and find out what it is.

In a look back on the trilogy, Ryk Spoor called Arduin “one of the most absolutely concentrated essences of the fun of roleplaying games ever made.”


To us, Hargrave preached bigger imaginary playgrounds. “The very essence of fantasy gaming is its total lack of limitation on the scope of play, both in its content and in its appeal to people of all ages, races, occupations or whatever,” Hargrave wrote. “So don’t limit the game by excluding aliens or any other type of character or monster. If they don’t fit what you feel is what the game is all about, don’t just say ‘NO!,’ whittle on them a bit until they do fit.” (Vol. II, p.99) 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Arduin Week Day Four 2021


I found this image over at Lizard's Gaming Blog. He has 51 Arduin posts that are well worth reading. 

He also posted this 

Dave Hargrave’s Gaming Philosophy. Also, Mine. Also, ‘eleven’, ’embarce’, etc. are as in original. I didn’t want to muck it up with ‘sics’.

And on this page are his reviews/essays on The Arduin Trilogy. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Arduin Week Day Three 2021

 Arduin fans are familiar with the term Arduin, Bloody Arduin.

I ran across this essay by Sarah Newton back in 2017. The really unique thing is that she started her RPG gaming with Arduin. For those that don't know, women have been playing Arduin and D&D from the beginning. I have previously noted that my 1975 OD&D group was 50/50 male/female. 

Arduin, Bloody Arduin – Thinking About How It Could Be Done

If you haven't read this essay I recommend that you do so.

As some of you may know, I’m a big fan of The Arduin Grimoire – the original gonzo fantasy fest RPG which followed hot on the heels of White Box D&D back in the 70s. I was actually an Arduin player before I was a D&D player; back in 1980/81, I got the very first Arduin Grimoire Volume 1 (the one with the Erol Otus Tunch on the front – you remember!), and for the best part of a year I played the game just with that book, before getting hold of White Box and the other 2 Arduin volumes. Yes, Virginia, you can play an entire game with just the first volume of The Arduin Grimoire. You have to wing it a fair bit in places (mostly in how many experience points to award), but it can be done.

Here is her take on how she would write it:

Well, one of the big hurdles the original Arduin Grimoire faced was that it wasn’t allowed to be a complete RPG using the D&D system. There was all kinds of litiginous stuff flying around in the day, and Dave Hargrave tippexed out all mentions of the game in subsequent printings. That left Arduin in the weird situation of not being quite a game, not being quite a supplement, which was always a bit of a shame.
That’s no longer the case. With the open gaming license, the d20SRD, and the whole Old School Renaissance movement, the d20 game system which underpinned Arduin is now available for use — and still wildly popular! So that’s where I’d start.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and it I enjoyed it on the re-read today.



Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Arduin Week Day Two 2021

All of the Arduin books and resources have been out of print for years and not even available by pdf file, but just recently 14 of the Arduin items went back into circulation on DriveThruRPG - Emperors Choice

Arduin Grimoire Trilogy (although not in the boxed set as shown above) 

Arduin Adventure

Compleat Arduin Book 1

Compleat Arduin Book 2

The Black Grimoire aka Compleat Arduin Book 3 (unofficial)

These are a few of the items now listed in pdf format. Currently 24 items are listed and that is almost double what was available yesterday.

It is hoped that much more will soon be available in pdf and that print will also resume.

Some of the items are free. Please go buy something and send the message that Arduin fans are still here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Arduin Week (Day One) 2021

It is that time of year when we remember Dave Hargrave and Arduin (both the game and the campaign world).

It is always odd to me that people thought it was out there or controversial or anything of the sort. From the first time I laid eyes on The Arduin Grimoire (Volume One) 

it always seemed to me that this was a very logical evolution of Dungeons & Dragons.  Arduin started as a D&D campaign and was forced to go beyond those roots and become its own thing due to, IMO, short sightedness on the part of TSR. Me, I would have offered Hargrave a job and have published The Arduin Grimoire as the ultimate grab bag of ideas.Of course I would have down the same thing with Arneson's material. A dozen ways of doing each thing, false starts and all. It would have been a treasure. Fortunately Hargrave was no shrinking violet and The whole nine volume series of the Arduin Grimoires was the result. Volume nine, which I have never seen (YET) was the only volume that was not entirely Hargrave. IIRC both volume eight and nine were posthumous.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Coming Soon! Arduin Week & Dave Hargrave Day 2021

 Coming up in May - Arduin Week (May 18th to May 24th) followed immediately by Dave Hargrave Day on May 25th (his birthday).

David "Dave" Allen Hargrave

The Arduin Grimoire Volume 1 - Original Cover Illustration by Erol Otus