Wednesday, February 21, 2018

An Arduin Table

As a lad, I saved up some money and visited a local and quite remarkable used bookstore. It was in the RPG section that I noticed several small yellow stapled booklets with intriguing artwork on the covers. I only had enough lawn-mowing money for three. So, I bought the first, second, and third of what I would later understand to be the Arduin Grimoires.

At the time I was only truly familiar with the most rudimentary basics of D&D as provided by the Holmes Blue Book. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of these new and strange booklets, which seemed to be inherently similar to the D&D I was familiar with, but chock full of completely different terminology and new exotic flavors.

Since complete compatibility between this new information and the ruleset I was already using would have been a daunting task for someone at my tender age, I did whatever any sane young DM would: I started cherry picking things that I found useful and/or interesting to me.

What I had never counted on, was that one table in particular would prove so interesting to my players. Page 7, of Book II “Welcome to Skull Tower.”

My players positively loved rolling on this for new characters and old. Even going so far as to roll on it for NPCs they encountered. Something about the level of additional, occasionally gonzo detail this added really seemed to resonate with them. Even I still have fond memories of the 1st level Bald Magic-User with No belly button and Cyan eyes, that we unanimously decided must have been some kind of vat-created homunculus, or how matching Tree birthmarks made an Elf and Human character implausible “siblings” in a way that would take nearly an entire campaign to flesh out.

I think about this table from time to time. Nowadays, things like eye-color/hair-color and pigmentation are largely left up to the choice of the players, with some more modern PbtA games like Dungeon World going as far as providing a few choices in playbooks for the character’s mien and appearance. Carcosa offers players the option of choosing one of the unfortunately difficult to randomize 13 pigmentations.

I think I’ll bring back the Arduin OPTIONAL CHARACTER APPEARANCE CHART. What’s a few extra d20 rolls during character creation? Maybe I’ll even allow direct rolls on the SPECIAL CHART for what players tend to consider as “Hopeless” characters. Heck, I might even keep it handy on my screen. The results of d20 attack rolls could easily be used to give opponents that one thing that makes them stand-out/memorable. “I’m going to swing my sword again at the Silver Eyed Goblin” etc.

This post would be remiss if it didn’t also address one of Arduin’s more terrible tables from the same volume: pg. 4’s FEMALE ATTRIBUTES CHART. To me, it’s a silly vestigial remnant of a thankfully different time, and never really saw any use at my tables. Even now, I tend to point to it as an example of how unpleasant and unnecessarily repellent the hobby could be in it’s nascency.

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