Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #5 Dec 1975

The Strategic Review #5 Dec 1975

(16 Page Zine)

SR almost crosses from zine to very small magazine with this issue. The first to have a cover and a cover illustration. The illustration is a darkly drawn ink rendition of a wizard or shaman. Surreal and rorschach-like, at first glance it always appears to me to be something of a dark cloud, then I catch the face and the upraised hands. Definitely usable as a game handout. The players see a dark amorphous shape at the edge of their vision (give them a quick glance at this illustration then take it away and let them puzzle at what they saw).

Rather than just going page by page it is now best to review these article by article. With The Dragon fast approaching and the greater amount of more in depth D&D and AD&D content it is no longer possible to do a quick scan of the pages and spot each relevant bit of information that is being referred to in the review.

1). In The Cauldron,(page 2 continued on page .
Editorial By Tim Kask

This issue begins with an editorial by Tim Kask. All ancient history but exciting history waiting for each of the supplements to be released. And more important glimpses of the past are the short autobiographical blurbs from E.Gary Gygax, Robert Kuntz, Tim Kask, Theron Kuntz, and Brian Blume.

2). Sturmgeshutz & Sorcery
How Effective is a Panzerfaust Against a Troll, Heinz? (Page 3-6)
By E. Gary Gygax

The great thing about D&D is that it can go in any direction. It is limited only by the imagination. Maybe it was the wargamer inside many of the early players of D&D, but fighting Nazi's seemed a perfect addition to the game. Whatever the reason this mix of history and fantasy, or one like it, can be immensely fun to play.

The article gives the composition of a motorized SS platoon and rules regarding the fighter level equivalent of the troops and a conversion of the weapons used into D&D terms. There is also an unarmed combat table. Weapons range and movement speeds of vehicles are not included (these were taken from the TRACTICS rule set and it is unlikely the will be available to most DMs today). The vehicles themselves are not defined in terms of hit points or armor class, or damage they could inflict if used to run down opponents. Someone recreating an original campaign should have little trouble adding this type of scenario to their game, and information about WWII vehicles and the range of weapons is readily available in books or online. The main questions to answer about the vehicles are simply how fast and about the weapons, how far. Conversion to 1st edition might require more work, but if the concept as presented appeals to a DM then the work will be worth the effort. Such an encounter can be treated as a bizarre sidetrack in a regular fantasy campaign or the start of a beautiful friendship merging fantasy with history.

D&D is a set of guidelines that a DM uses to create a world of his imagination. Sturmgeshultz & Sorcery shows that the game is not bound to any one setting. From its earliest inception D&D made it clear that anything was possible.

3). Mapping The Dungeons (Page 7)

Just a touch of history, back when a list of Dungeon Masters was a possibility in something smaller than an encyclopedia. It is, who was playing, what was going on briefly in the world of D&D roleplaying, supplements to be released and supplements that could be worked on. A seminar at Gencon IX hosted by Gygax, Arneson & Kuntz. That would have been something to tape.

4). Mighty Magic Miscellany (Page 7)

Two magic items introduced to the game which quickly became classics.

Robe of Scintallating Colors.
A massively powerful item in this incarnation giving users an eventual 100% chance not to be hit and also to hypnotize opponents. No time length for the duration of the hypnotism is given or restrictions on commands to the hypnotized. It would definitely make for a tricky game trying to take down an NPC with this on. The original D&D is more about workable guidelines than rules set in stone. The expectation is that DMs will alter any rule, any monster or any item to fit their campaign and style of play. It does make it a little harder for a DM to pick up and play, or just grab an item, monster or spell and instantly drop them into a campaign.

Prayer Beads.
A fairly powerful set of items lacking a few definitions of use. How often can the beads be used? Can they be used more than once a day? Are they destroyed on use like charges on a staff or wand? The beads of atonement, for example, give an 80% chance to reverse an alignment transgression. It would seem that this should only be used once per transgression, otherwise a player could simply keep using the bead to beat any transgression

They are at the very least a great idea for a clerical magic item. The small list could easily be expanded. Beads that worked like scrolls or potions, healing, taking the place of spells, adding protection or enhancements. The concept of the beads inspires a DM to take them further, to define their use, and of course to make the item his own to fit into his campaign.

5) Creature Features (Page 14)

In this final D&D related article The Rakshasa, The Slithering Tracker and The Trapper are introduced and added to the game.

Though not of the greatest HD (only 7) the Rakshasa was incredibly powerful. Negative 4 armor class, needing +3 or better weapons to hit and immune to spells under 8th level as well as possessing ESP and the ability to appear as a friendly creature to their opponents, Rakshasa's were truly high level monsters but one with an Achille's heel. A crossbow bolt blessed by a cleric will kill them. An interesting combination of incredible power and fatal weakness.

The Slithering Tracker is powerful in its own way. Commonplace HD and AC, but its invisibility and paralyzation make it a dangerous opponent. It is a bit all or nothing though. The creature can be extremely deadly, or if the paralyzation is resisted, fairly easily killed and no damage is listed against an unparalyzed target.

The Trapper is very similar to the Slithering Tracker. Dangerous but with relatively commonplace HD and AC. They are both rather amorphous creatures, both depend mainly on holding their victims helpless though the Trapper does immediate physical damage.

These three monsters add more of the sense of fantasy to the game. They force the players to think in terms of a world filled with invisible, amorphous, illusionary opponents. The Rakshasa with its not-quite invulnerability and its use of extraordinary abilities. The Slithering Tracker and The Trapper adding an unnatural danger to the lives of the PCs. Not just an orc or goblin, ogre or giant, to confront in a face to face fight, but monsters that require thought and caution to counter.

D&D began as a small change to historical miniatures wargaming but with each new supplement and each new issue of The Strategic Review we see it growing into something limitless and ever more fantastic.

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