Swords & Spells (which is not Supplement V, for the record) is intended as a replacement for Chainmail. It provides a ruleset intended to simulate large-scale battles that is more compatible with D&D. Where Chainmail and its Fantasy Supplement provided the framework that D&D was built on, Swords & Spells springs from the framework of D&D itself.
I’ve read in certain places that the rules provided here are a little sloppy and not quite complete. I’m in no position to judge, as I’ve never tried them in practice and am not a frequent wargamer to begin with. So I’ll refrain from providing an opinion on that score, and simply note the things that I find interesting in the rules, and how they will impact my campaign. I don’t want to get too deeply into things here, because this is more of a D&D adjunct than a supplement for the game itself. (And because I find wargame rules fairly dull to read.)
The first thing to note is the Turn Sequence. Given that OD&D has no Turn Sequence of its own, I’ve appropriated the one from Chainmail. Swords & Spells provides a similar one, but with provisions made for spells and breath weapons. It also has a bit at the start about ‘Readied Spells’, which can be cast immediately at the start of the round. This is a concept that hasn’t been brought up yet, and that I’ve never seen clarified in the rules, but I have had lots of players try to ‘ready’ spells at the table. It got into the zeitgeist somehow! Mechanically I will allow it from this point, with a caster able to cast the majority of his spell before a combat and release it at the beginning. However, that spell has to be released before any other spell-casting can be done. You readied a Fireball before a potential fight then ended up talking it out? Bad luck sucker, you have to let that baby fly before casting anything else.
Later in the rules there is a list of spells with ranges, durations, and areas of effect. There are cases here where these have been provided for spells that did not have them previously. In those instances I will use the numbers given here. I won’t be using the numbers given for those that already exist. Battlefield magic is different to regular magic, and all the usual handwaving.
As for the rules in general, the major difference from Chainmail lies in the way melee is conducted. Casualties are calculated using D&D stats, which is what makes this game more compatible. The base damage inflicted by each unit is figured out with a formula using size and weapon, then cross-indexed by the level of the attacker and the defender’s Armor Class. The base damage remains fixed throughout the game, so it all seems pretty simple once the initial calculating has been done. But as I said, I’m no wargamer.
Now, as those of you who have been following along will already have figured out, I’ll be replacing Chainmail with Swords & Spells at this point. What this indicates for the campaign is that a much larger variety of creatures and monsters are being incorporated onto the battlefield, and tactics are changing to accommodate that. I may even put a few parties of monster hunters into the dungeons, whose goal is to capture vicious beasties to be trained for warfare. Or perhaps the PCs will be hired for such a task. Either way, from here on in if they get involved in a mass battle I’ll be using Swords & Spells.
Next: We’re nearing the end of the OD&D era, people. Next up is The Dragon #4.