Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Random Thoughts & Muses on 'Caliban Arduin Dungeon Number One' 1979 by David A. Hargrave and published by Grimoire Games For Your Old School & OSR Campaigns


"The first in a series of dungeons based on the best selling Arduin Trilogy, Caliban is the "Flying Dutchman" of dungeons. This high-level dungeon is designed for 4 - 8 characters of eighth level or higher. It contains four dungeon levels complete with maps and area descriptions, eight illustrated - fully detailed magic artifact cards, and eight illustrated monster cards with statistics. While designed for the Arduin game system, Caliban is usable with any d20 or other FRPsystem."

So its been one of those days where work & real life dragged me away from the blog today. So let's talk about one of the most dangerous dungeons that claimed a number of my PC's lives. And that's the infamous 'flying Dutchmen of Dungeons' Caliban. Caliban is straight up one very dangerous dungeon. Not only is it a once living thing but it had a god like existence during Arduin's War of the Elves. 

Now all day one thing has been at the back of our minds & that's Dave Hargrave's Caliban..  The infamous dungeon claimed quite a few of our group's characters. Why?! Because it was designed to showcase the system of Arduin as a viable gaming system. According to Caliban wiki entry;"Arduin Dungeon No. 1: Caliban was written by David A. Hargrave, with art by Greg Espinoza, and was published by Grimoire Games in 1979 as a 25-page book with two cardstock sheets.[1]

Shannon Appelcline commented that "Grimoire's first original publication was Arduin Dungeon #1: Caliban (1979), which appeared very early in 1979. It was authored by none other than Dave Hargrave himself. Though he wasn't planning to write any more rules for Arduin, Hargrave was happy to design some adventures that showed how his game worked — and Caliban was the first."" 
Is it a good dungeon!!? Not really in the modern sense of the word, Caliban is a deadly little adventure location.

Its Arduin world  history is notorious & this is a literal dungeon roving the planes that could effectively show up even on Greyhawk. This is the very nature of Caliban itself. And we're not the only one's who noticed this fact. We were surprised to find a favorable review of Caliban from the Multiverse site but what comes across is the nature of the dungeon being one of the deep ends of the pool for the PC's;" For my first introduction to the works of Hargrave’s “Arduin” realm, I was quite pleased with this module. It was a bit surprising for a ‘Number 1’ module to be such a high level challenge, but one could regard it as a ‘Let’s jump into the deep end!’ kind of fun time. The background is an amusing one, over the top in the right way for an exciting game, and something that a Dungeon Master could work into a dark corner of their long running campaign. It strikes a good balance that should please most anyone who would play it; the rooms that are already in place hold ample opportunities for combat and the treasures to reward it well. The traps provide a good challenge, enough to assure that a party will not just wander casually through, once they’ve sprung one or two of them. As I would probably run it through some version of “Dungeons and Dragons”, I can see that it would take some work to convert (or replace) the monsters, but not too much more than I would put in on module preparation anyway." 
Its this very formula that we see time & again with David Hargrave's works, power attracts power, & ideas should be tried on the fly. But this is in keep with his adventures. But as a DM David Hargrave was the opposite. 


People who gamed with Mr. Hargrave  that we've talked with over the years have told me that he was very metituclus dungeon master. So it seems that the spirit of Arduin remains within both the dungeons & the three little brown books of his. This speaks of both the style of the California gaming scene as much as it does the man himself. Caliban takes that essence & distills it into a frothy PC killing formula dungeon. Gotta say that  Greg Espinoza's artwork really sets off the feel of Caliban. 
This isn't the first time that Caliban creeps into the OSR scene, The Direbane blog has quite the love for the venerable dungeon with his 'Arduin Intro to Caliban'.Including another Caliban article titled 'Caliban Annoited'. The blog author even ran Caliban at DunDraCon 43

Do what makes Caliban so good even as a high level dungeon!?! The fact that even though it was published in 1978 it still resonates with many OSR & old school gamers. This is because along with The Arduin Trilogy it shares within the wild & wolly imagination of the Dreamweaver Dave Hargrave. 

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