Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: The Strategic Review #6 (Vol II No.1) Feb 1976

The Strategic Review #6 (Vol II No.1) Feb 1976

(16 Page Zine).

Nothing says Christmas more than World War One fighter aircraft, well maybe with Snoopy flying a Doghouse, but the cover of SR#6 always gets me thinking of the Snoopy and Red Baron song. I liked the cover, and since they were mailing these things it certainly made sense to have a cover, but I'd still have liked having two extra pages of content.

In The Cauldron - editiorial By Tim Kask (Page 2)

Just a quick note on the mini-figs miniatures developed especially for D&D and a set of Empire of the Petal Throne miniatures rules that TSR was getting set to release.

The Meaning of Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons and Their Relationship to Good and Evil
By Gary Gygax (Page 3-5)

This was a real Pandora's Box of an article.

There is no more contentious topic in D&D or AD&D than the alignment system. Presented here is an attempt by the creator of the game to give specific guidelines on determining alignments, explaining what they are and a system of how they are used in the game.

This is definitely worth a read for players of any edition. I was initially shocked and dismayed at the large and very empty graph on the first page of the article. These zines are small and content is limited so I would gladly have exchanged three quarters of the graph's space for more text. But the graph and the filled in example on the following page do illustrate the system that Gygax was introducing. It is an extremely detail oriented system where the DM keeps track of the players actions from session to session and shifts the characters alignment in relation to their actions.

Too much bookkeeping for my more free-form style of gaming but I did like the more general terms related to each alignment rather than specific definitions. While most character classes would not suffer penalties from alignment change those that would such as clerics, paladins, and druids, have such penalties and chances for amends and atonement left entirely up to the DM.

A very interesting article indeed. A major addition to the original game system, and the first bit of kindling to feed the flames of alignment wars for decades to come.

Triumphs & Tragedies
(Pages 5 & 15)

While not containing D&D content in itself, this column is a listing of the various fanzines from the distant past of 34 years ago. It is a bit of treasure map to D&D content. Definitely worth making a list of these zines and tracking them down.

Statistics Regarding Classes: (Additions) - Bards
By Doug Schwegman (Page 11,12)

Easily the most difficult class to roleplay well in any D&D system, this introduction to the bard presents a very different entry into the game than later versions. Here bards simply begin the game as first level characters. They appear to be more than just a jack of all trades (and master of none). Instead this early version of the bard presents a very powerful class with multiple abilities and skills. A magic-using fighter and thief that can charm and use his skill in lore to identify items magical or cursed with devastating effectiveness at higher level.

Players in an OD&D campaign should love this class, and DM's find it to be a bit of a problem, especially at higher levels. Simply rolling dice for the bards many abilities takes the color and depth from this class, but most players are not the jongeleur at heart, able to sing, chant and charm their way through a game session.

This addition to D&D player classes has a much more detailed introduction and discussion of abilities than previous classes such as the ranger and the illusionists. The historical background paragraph alone is twice the length of the entire non-tabular write-up on the ranger. The paragraphs covering abilities is somewhat rambling, and a few charts would have been in order.

(It is worth noting the mention of hobbits in the bard experience level table to show how early a version of the D&D rule system the bard was created for).

Mighty Magic Miscellany
By Doug Schwegman (Page 12)

This is a companion article to the introduction of the Bard class. Five increasingly powerful harps for use by a bard character. These are all quite powerful items and can be used at fairly low level. The first harp usable by bards of levels 2-4 grants spell like powers once per day including a 3rd level spell, protection from evil, a 2nd level shield and a first level continual light. Considering the low level bard has now spells above 1st level this harp is a major increase in abilities. The next harp is even more powerful, including all previous spell abilities, doubling their use from once a day to twice a day, and adding two additional spell-like powers, invisibility and strength.

As the bard begins to rise from low level to mid level to high level the advantage of these harps has a lessened impact. The give the bard a nice low level arsenal of spells, but not the higher level spells that a magic-user would command.

The idea itself is excellent and the harps interesting creations, but they can supercharge a fairly powerful character class, especially at lower levels.

Sage Advice
By Theronius (Page 14)

The first in the long line of Sage Advice articles. This article is a selection of errata from the D&D Greyhawk supplement (a collection of additional game system material for the original D&D not to be confused with the Greyhawk Folio which detailed the Greyhawk setting), It covers two creatures, the Homunculus, with a small paragraph of information, and the Golem with just a small line of information. The last three are magic items, Rod of Resurrection, Gauntlets of Dexterity and the Gem of Seeing. All classic and well used creatures and items that have stayed with the game for decades.

Almost all of the early D&D material presented here is either important additions to an original D&D campaign or primal introductions to D&D that are well worth comparing and harvesting for ideas for a AD&D DM.

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