Before engaging upon an exploration of The Arduin Adventure, it is necessary to understand the beginnings of Arduin.
In 1977, prior to the release of the Advanced D&D books, Archive Miniatures published Dave Hargrave's The Arduin Grimoire. This work was followed by several other volumes and adventures, but those later books are not the subject of this post. In the “Forward,” Hargrave presented the book as an amateur effort with no intention “to replace or denigrate any other fantasy role playing supplement or game, either professional or amateur.” There was an unstated presumption that the Grimoire required the Dungeons & Dragons rules as a foundation. In terms of appearance, the Grimoire was quite amateurish and doubtless was a seminal influence on the ambiance of Encounter Critical. However, to its credit, the Grimoire featured the early artwork of Erol Otus.
As a supplement, The Arduin Grimoire included new classes, new spells, new magic items, new player character races, new monsters, and an assortment of other new rules. The advertisement reproduced below appeared in issue #6 of The Dragon (April 1977). Counting its covers, the Grimoire indeed spanned one hundred pages. There was something on every page, even if only artwork, but we must indulge “jam-packed” as an article of hyperbole. In your humble host's salad days, photocopies of the special abilities charts and the critical and fumble tables made the rounds and were accorded “official” status without quite knowing their provenance. The special abilities charts had titles like “Special Abilities Chart for Thieves, Monks, Ninja, Highwaymen, Corsairs, Assassins, Traders, Slavers, and All of Those with a More or Less "Secret" Nature” and included results such as “+1 to all character attributes but –2 versus all magic (even clerical)” and “Woodsman, +1 dexterity, +3 with all missile weapons, hide like angels.” The critical table included effects like “Forehead...Gashed, blood in eyes, can't see” and the fumble table had results like “twist ankle...lose first attack, and one half of agility/5 min.”
The Arduin oeuvre is unabashedly 'gonzo'. One of Hargrave's goals was to provide options and inspiration beyond the standard “Tolkeinian” [sic] paradigm. In a section of the Grimoire titled “Notes on Player Character Types,” Hargrave lectured readers about limiting themselves to “classical” character tropes:
Never will you hear the complaints of Brownie infantry squad as they whine about that stupid half-ogres cheshire cat that keeps looking at them and licking his chops. And never is such a lonely word. Don't be lonely, take a troll to lunch. The world is a small place but is even smaller still in relationship to the myriad worlds of the entire Alternity (alternate eternities). Do not be a small player from a small world, embrace the whole Alternity and give the different types a chance. I think you will find that the world your game is in will become a lot more fun if you do.