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Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #4 Winter 1975

The Strategic Review #4 Winter 1975

(12 Page Zine)

With issue #4 SR leaps to 12 pages. The D&D content is still not overwhelming though it is the main thrust of the zine. The connection to wargaming and historical miniatures is very strong with TSR and the zine reflects this. But beyond the history of TSR and D&D are mentions of other sources in the development of D&D in independent zines and obscure newsletters such as The Great Plains Game Players Newsletter, Liasons Dangereus, Urf-Durfal, Kranor-Rill and the better known Alarums & Excursions.

Back to D&D and Chainmail combat rules, Gary Gygax expands on his article about polearms, providing a few more illustrations and a small weapons table for the Jo Stick, the Bo Stick and the Quarter staff. Dry and familiar stuff to a gamer who has sifted through various published arcana; great additions for someone recreating an original D&D campaign or someone just discovering D&D for the first time. And for a gamer interested in reading what the creator of the game had to say and add about D&D from its earliest beginnings, articles such as this are gems.

The next article is a major addition to the campaign; The introduction of the Illusionist class. I've always found the Illusionist to be one of the most roleplaying oriented of classes. So many of their spells have non-direct applications and used well they can be of amazing versatility and effect. The description is brief, with a short level advancement table and spell list going to 5th level spells, but the following page is dedicated to a description of Illusionist spells. Many are small alterations on magic-user spells from the published set, but some are new spells available only to Illusionists.

What follows is a very long (for SR) article by M.A.R. Barker on the development of the Tsolyani language for his Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, and a detailed table for generating Tsolayni names as well as a translation table for the symbols of the Tsolayni alphabet. This is a goldmine for any detail oriented campaign, but even if a DM is only looking for an intricate new alphabet they can use the lovingly scripted cursive letters of Barker's design.

Finally there are two short article, the creature feature column and the introduction of a new magic item.

The clay golem is introduced, very briefly described, but more than enough information is provided to drop the monster into an established D&D campaign that needs to face a fairly powerful new challenge. The cost and level requirements for creating the clay monster are listed, but any particulars regarding its construction are undetailed ( and thereby left to the DMs discretion). The monster itself is not listed in the standard form but instead its abilities are described in a short paragraph. No illustration is provided.

The last article introduces the Ioun stone to the game and credits the Jack Vance short story "Morreion" for their origin. This short story is a definite must read for D&D gamers and DMs (It can be found in several old anthologies such as Flashing Blades #1, and hopefully in other more accessible locations online). It provides a picture of the D&D magic system (extremely high level magic and magic-users) and is itself an excellent story by a talented fantasy writer. The SR article provides a table of various types of Ioun stones (expanded from those created by Jack Vance with his permission) and a brief description of their use.

With this 4th issue of SR the announcement of Dragon Magazine is foreshadowed (announced only as The Dragon is coming without explanation or details that it is a magazine at all). The Strategic Review is past its halfway point as a series and already the growth and development of D&D is requiring longer articles that demand more and more space within the zine. A full size magazine for the D&D game cannot come too soon.

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