Early Arduin game materials are rightfully viewed as hacks of Dungeons and Dragons, and The Arduin Adventure boxed set is no exception.
Similarities between The Arduin Adventure, David Hargrave's foray into the boxed introductory rpg set market, and the earlier-published J. Eric Holmes Dungeons and Dragons boxed set abound.
Beyond the obvious, with both being boxed sets, both role playing games include a basic rule book, provide a "complete" set of rules designed for low-level play, dice, and an introductory adventure. Each rule book cover also features a Dragon confronted by a pair of adventurers.
The Arduin Adventure rule book is 64 pages, while the Holmes blue book is only 48, but The Arduin Adventure does not really provide an additional 16 pages of content,as it includes (within its covers) a 9-page introductory adventure, The Forgotten Tower of Kharkorum the Black.
By comparison, the Holmes basic set booklet includes a 5-page Tower of Zenopus adventure, and modules B1 or B2 as stand-alone products.
|The back cover of The Arduin Adventure, complete with an Illustration of The Forgotten Tower of Kharkorum the Black|
Arduin Adventure is not a particularly well-constructed rpg rule set. Then again, neither is the Holmes blue book. The difference, of course, is 3 years. The Holmes blue book was published in 1977, while The Arduin Adventure was published in 1980. You would have expected that the intervening three years would have provided time for Hargrave to fine-tune his own competing offering.
This post is not intended review The Arduin Adventure rules themselves. If you want to read a rather unflattering review of The Arduin Adventure rules, you can find that here. No, the purpose of this post is to highlight the art of Arduin Adventure.
If David Trampier, Tom Wham and Dave Sutherland defined the visual style, and therefore "feel", of Holmes Basic DnD, then Greg Espinoza, Brad Schenck, Michio Okamura and Roland Brown do the same for The Arduin Adventure.
Greg Espinoza supplies the Unicorn and Pegasus illustrations found early in the rule book. These are competent fantasy illustrations, although not true rpg illustrations, as they fail to reveal any particular feature of role-playing.
Brad Schenck does a better job, providing the cover illustration to The Arduin Adventure, and two tableaus featuring the various classes and races.
If you consider several other Brad Schenck illustrations, appearing in various Arduin products, you will see that he understands rpg illustration. His art pieces reveal the environment within which the characters operate, whether it be preparing to enter a dungeon, a surprise encounter with a monster, or looting a treasure hoard after a battle.
Michio Okamura also provides several illustrations, like the Dwarf, above, wielding a combined morningstar/battleaxe weapon, and the hobbit, below, finishing off a dragon.
It's unclear who provides the illustration, below, although it appears to be an Espinoza piece.
I'm guessing that the illustration of a combat, below, is by Roland Brown, as it very different from the Schenck, Espinoza and Okimura styles.
The battle between this Dragon and an adventuring party is my favorite illustration from The Arduin Adventure. You poor bastards: you poor, flaming bastards.
Late edit: And just so there is no ambiguity ... skeletons are included.