Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Strategic Review #6

"The Strategic Review" served as "the newsletter of Tactical Studies Rules" and covered topics in military miniatures, games, and swords & sorcery.  Vol 2, No 1 (February, 1976) was released in January, 1976 (16 pages).

The editor is listed as Timothy J. Kask, the AFV editor as Mike Reese, the contributing EPT editor as M.A.R. Barker, and the contributing S&S editor as Steve Marsh.

In The Cauldron:

Three announcements in Tim Kask's column caught my interest, starting with "Classic Warfare" (my son was signed up to play a game, "Fury of the Celts", run by Kevin Maurice, at Gary Con this year, before it got canceled):
CLASSIC WARFARE is now a reality. It has been a project of Gary’s for over seven years, and the finished product shows it.  It is by far the most playable set of rules covering the period available.  It should hold a great deal of interest to those who are not into ancient miniatures, but do have an interest in ancient military history.  The second half of the book “Historical Characteristics” is chock-full of fascinating data and minutiae that is in itself enough to get you bitten by the ancients bug...
There is also an oblique reference to the development of the "Swords & Spells" supplement:
We are pleased to announce that we have reached agreement with MINI-FIGS, LTD., on a brand new line of D&D figures.  The line is being designed by both MINI-FIG and TSR, so finally you will have access to castings that look like the monsters we describe.  In conjunction with that, we are also working on a set of D&D tabletop rules for figures.  They will enable you to do on table top outdoor adventures, as well as army battles, and plan campaigns accordingly.
Finally, there are announcements regarding Dave Arneson and Mike Carr:
TSR continues to expand. Dave Arneson has joined us in Lake Geneva, full time, and has assumed the mantle of Research Director.  Mike Carr, of FIGHT IN THE SKIES fame, will be joining us not long from now.  He will become our controller, and hopefully help us get our act together better.  We are looking forward to the addition of both these talented people to our "family", and it augurs very well, for you, our supporters... 

The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons and Dragons and Their Relationships to Good and Evil:

A seminal article by Gary Gygax, splintering the three-alignment system of original D&D into five alignments, while simultaneously establishing the framework for the nine-alignment system of AD&D, still a couple years away.

Alignment chart from The Strategic Review #6.

Gygax states "had I the opportunity to do D&D over I would have made the whole business very much clearer by differentiating the four categories, and many chaotic creatures would be good, while many lawful creatures would be evil."

In fact, the AD&D Monster Manual (1977) enabled him to do this.  Creatures were assigned one of the five different alignments from this article, in keeping with the rules presented in the Holmes Basic Rulebook (1977) published earlier that year.

The Lawful/Chaotic axis was originally modeled after Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions" (1961) in which Neutrals were "unaligned" (the model used in Chainmail).  Michael Moorcock's idea of Neutrality as seeking balance represents a slight but important nuance.

The Good/Evil axis was apparently suggested to Gygax by Steve Marsh,* according to this article.  This better captured the spirit of heroic fantasy, as represented by J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", and is fittingly perpendicular to Moorcock's cosmology.

*update (May 17, 2020): an excerpt from Marsh's correspondence with Gygax:
Having finished the Hawkmoon/Corum/Erikose/Elric cycle in the old editions, I'm considering reading the new ones (especially the new Elric stories).  A quote from the last of the last books:
... It has sometimes worked for good."

"Chaos is not wholly evil, surely?" said the child. "And neither is Law wholly good. They are primitive divisions, at best - they represent only temperamental differences in individual men and women. There are other elements..."

... "All are primitive," said the child.
And thus we have the last, definitive word on alignments from Michael Moorcock who is responsible for the original set up (tho' not what TSR did with it).  I thought you might like the quote.
Steve Marsh, 1975/76

I find it interesting that "The player-character who continually follows any alignment (save neutrality) to the absolute letter of its definition must eventually move off the chart (Illustration I) and into another plane of existence as indicated."  A paladin could ascend to heaven, in this manner!

The Quest for the Vermillion Volume:

Short fiction in a humorous vein, by Rob Kuntz.  Significant in that it makes references to D&D game mechanics.  I suspect, as with other pieces of short fiction, that its characters and events may have been based on an actual game session.

I found this cartoon interesting, for possibly representing the earliest known depiction of a DM's screen.  A similar cartoon appears in The Strategic Review #7.

War of Wizards:

An update by John W. Berry, with refinements to M.A.R. Barker's "War of Wizards" game, "an extract from...a much longer and more complete compilation of play aids, interpretations, changes and additions to War of Wizards, produced as a result of lengthy conference with Prof. Barker".

There is another article, "War of Wizards Solitaire" by Richard L. Mataka, which provides a system for playing solo games.


The original bard class, by Doug Schwegman, was a combination of the Norse "skald", the Celtic "bard", and the Southern European "minstrel".  A fighter with thief skills (level/2), the ability to cast magic-user spells (level/2), and hit dice, attacks, and saving throws as per clerics.

Special abilities include charm with a chance of mesmerizing any creature that can hear his song (including undead, at a penalty of 10% per hit dice!), and lore (reflecting knowledge of legends, magic, etc.) useful for identifying the properties of magic items and intelligent swords.

Interestingly, Schwegman states "Bards and Druids are closely connected and since they both belong to the same sect each must aid the other if they are in need."

Mighty Magic Miscellany:

A description of barding harps, by Doug Schwegman.  These are named after the various bardic colleges, and include the Fochlucan Harp, Mac-Fuirmidh Harp, Doss Lyre, Canaith Lyre, and Cli Mandolin.

New Game, New Strategy:

Ancient Conquest, Excalibre Games, 1975

A description of the "Ancient Conquest" board game, set from 1500 B.C. to the fall of Assyrian power in 612 B.C., involving the Hittites, Assyrians, Egyptians, and Babylonians, among others.  An in-depth review is posted, here.

Sage Advice:

Theronius (Terry Kuntz) provides corrections for the Greyhawk Supplement, with entries for the Homunculus, Golems (Flesh Golem), Rod of Resurrection, Gem of Seeing, and Gauntlets of Dexterity.

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