Saturday, August 1, 2020

Swords & Spells

"Swords & Spells" was a set of miniatures wargame rules for use with D&D, written by Gary Gygax, with credit for development shared by Dave Arneson and Robert Kuntz.  Illustrations were by David Sutherland, with editing and a foreword by Tim Kask.

Swords & Spells (August, 1976) by Gary Gygax, with Dave Arneson and Rob Kuntz.  Cover illustration by David Sutherland.

I used Swords & Spells back in 2014 to run a battle for my group's PCs, leading a contingent of troops from the Keep on the Borderlands against a large force of bandits.  You can read about our experience, complete with maps, here.

We didn't even use miniatures.  Once the composition of the various units was determined, troop movements were sketched out on a piece of paper.  The PCs engaged in hand-to-hand combat, and the outcome of the wider battle was influenced by their actions.

Swords & Spells was notable for its diceless combat resolution, although not rolling dice removes an element of chance, and is less fun.  A similar, abbreviated system was incorporated by Merle Rasmussen in XSOLO Lathan's Gold (1984).

The D&D Companion Set, edited by Frank Mentzer, introduced the "War Machine", rules for large-scale, strategic warfare, developed by Douglas Niles and Garry Spiegel, in which resolution was abstract, and miniatures were not required.

The next iteration of miniatures rules for use with D&D was Battlesystem (1985), which I used for running parts of X10 "Red Arrow, Black Shield" back in 1994.  We didn't have an 8' x 4' table, so taped off a section of the floor in the basement, instead.

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