Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #2 Summer 1975

The Strategic Review #2 Summer 1975

(8 Page Zine)

There is history in every issue of The Strategic Review, sometimes just talk about the people who made up the gaming world, of designers, of players, and as with this issue, those who passed away (the ranks of which that have sadly increased, especially in the last year). Some of the history is simply about games. New rules for old games, new games rising in an ever increasing tide with articles on errata and addendum, reviews and advertisements. I do not intend to do more in my own reviews than occasionally point to an odd bit of history now and again but instead try to concentrate on only what relates to D&D or AD&D, what may be useful or of interest. But it would be a shame to ignore the history of the world of gaming. D&D did not develop alone spontaneously out of nothing. D&D was part of the other games, springing clothed and armed from the minds of those who designed these other games, who played them and wrote of them in these early issues.

The first article directed at D&D begins on page 3 of the zine. Here we have the first FAQ for D&D. Like all the articles in this tiny periodical it is brief and to the point. More questions would come, and longer answers but the shaping and definition of the D&D game system is in progress. Combat is the central theme and it is certainly the part of D&D involving the most game mechanics. The article provides examples of monsters attempting to overpower a character, group attack, shield facing, and a fighters multiple attacks versus 1HD monsters, all in progression of combat rounds. Such things as savings throws and morale are given their own paragraphs for explanation, while experience and spells are underlined as sub-headings and given a greater amount of space and detail.

The next article is the zine's featured monster, the Roper. A short description and small amount of game information is provided but sadly no illustration.

Following the featured monster is the introduction to a new character class, the Ranger. These early issues were seeded with additions to the original D&D set which soon became well-loved standards in all versions of the game. This first genesis of the Ranger set the form of what it was to become in AD&D. The article mainly consists of tables and lists of the Rangers special abilities and attributes, well worth comparing to the Ranger as AD&D character from the PHB.

Finally we have an article by Gary Gygax on examples of medieval polearms (thankfully illustrated). Brief but invaluable to a DM who has no idea what these odd sounding weapons look like (and pre-internet DMs could be especially thankful since the voulge, bardiche, guisarme, glaive, fauchard, partisan, spetum, ranseur and lucern hammer were not part of most junior high's vocabulary lists or explanations of their use). This is a quick study of polearms and any players or DM today who hasn't sought out examples can get a good idea here.

The issue closes with advertisements for Origins I and Gencon VIII, and a call to the imagination to step back in time when gaming was young.

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