Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Strategic Review #7 Part 1

This final issue of The Strategic Review has plenty of material for my D&D campaign, and it occurs to me that once it relaunches as The Dragon it's going to have even more. Whereas in the early days I was covering issues of this mag in one installment, issue #6 took me 4 parts. This one will probably take the same, and things are only going to grow. In other words, I ain't going to run out material any time soon.

First off, a brief mention of the articles that aren't relevant to my campaign. The first of these is relevant to D&D as a whole though – the cancellation of The Strategic Review and its relaunch into two magazines – The Dragon (with a focus on fantasy and sci-fi gaming) and Little Wars (with a focus on wargaming). One survived for a very long time, and the other died very quickly. But this is a massive step for the game, and a real sign of just how far TSR is going.

There's also a hilarious, hilarious editorial by Gary, who has gotten himself embroiled in an argument with Avalon Hill over who has the best convention. I'm giggling even now just thinking about it. It's Gary in absolute top hyperbolic form.

The comic strip Dirt debuts, and it has its own simplistic charm. If anything you've got to admire a strip that's nothing but eyes on a black background.

What Price Gold and Glory? is a short story by Jim Hayes. Now I did include a bit of fiction from last issue, but that was by Robert Kuntz – innovators of the game get a special dispensation. Not so for this piece – sorry Mr Hayes!

The letters page Out on a Limb debuts here – with two letters from Gary!

And now into the meat of things. We start with a lengthy article entitled The Dungeons and Dragons Magic System by Gary. The gist of the article is to properly outline and elucidate the "Vancian" magic system (and yes, this is the first time it it referred to as such). Spells are said to be made up of four components: verbal, somatic, mnemonic and material. So to cast a spell, the magic-user must be free to say the correct words, make the correct movement, and also he must possess the materials necessary to power the spell. There are no concrete rules set down for this just yet, but it's a good indicator of where things will go once AD&D comes around. It does give a good indication of just how effective a Magic-User caught in a Web spell will be, though.

As for the mnemonic part, that's memory. Once again it is stated that a magic-user has to memorise each spell, and once that spell has been cast it is gone until memorised once more. We've heard it before, and here it is again – but at least it's consistent. It seems that many players were misinterpreting things in their favour here.

There's not much else of use in the article, but I'd like to note Gary's assertion that there would never be 10th level spells in D&D. It's an assertion he stuck by, so good on him.

THE FASTEST GUNS THAT NEVER LIVED: It's another Boot Hill article, this time giving stats for a whole host of fictional characters. So when my PCs get to the Old West, they're going to run into the likes of The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, The Rifleman, and others. Especially exciting to me is that we get stats for Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Yul Brynner. Sweet! My bad impressions will be getting a workout.


  1. I missed the Avalon Hill controversy, I was too busy reading about Vancian magic -- which should have been called pseudo-Vancian, because it does *not* accurately simulate Vance's Dying Earth.

    One of my low-priority projects is to collect Gygax's most over-reaching statements. It will be a while before I get to the magazines, because I find a wealth of input in "Role Playing Mastery."

  2. Yeah, the system is only Vancian in a very basic sense.

    And when you get those quotes together, let me know. It'll be the most hilarious RPG-related thing ever.