Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Strategic Review 103 Autumn 1975


  • An editorial by EGG sniping at Arnold Hendricks over a poor review of D&D
  • TSR News: a distinction between the Games Division and the Hobby Division
  • Announcement about the upcoming Empire of the Petal Throne by M. A. R. Barker
  • New monsters: the Yeti, Shambling Mound, Leprechaun, Shrieker, Ghost, Naga, Wind Walker, Piercer, and Lurker Above
  • A ranking of most popular game genres by 42 members of the Strategists Club 
  • Announcement about Boot Hill
  • A tongue-in-cheek bestiary with "Weregamers," "Umpyres," and "Hippygriffs"
  • The Battle of Ebro River, a scenario for 15mm Napoleonics
  • Wargaming World News
  • An article on The Art of Gunfighting
  • A truly dumb poem about unicorns
  • Mapping the Dungeons: a news column about various GMs and their games
  • The Deserted Cities of Mars, by Jim Ward
  • Appearance of the TSR Hobbies lizard man logo

Items of Interest

The Monsters added in each edition are of great interest to me. They represent player behavior in so far as one can suppose they are a direct dungeon/fantasy ecosystem response created by the DM. Another way to say it is that these monsters seem to be partly driven by general interest and partly driven by the need to challenge (punish?) players who are tearing through dungeons! Of course Yetis are carnivorous and "very fond of human flesh." And have a look at Shambling mounds! They have brains that are hidden behind "thick, fibrous, ... difficult to penetrate" layers that are immune to fire. Shamblers are AC0 (I think this is before any monsters showed up with a negative AC), and when you do hit them your weapon does half damage. Lightning makes a Shambler grow. Cold does one-half or no damage. Crushing doesn't do much either, as a Shambler can flatten itself. Leprechauns exist to play tricks and be a general pain in the ass (polymorph non-living objects, make illusions, etc. at will). Shriekers are the alarm system of the dungeon, calling in Shamblers and Purple Worms when hit by torch or spell light. Piercers and Lurkers Above (Lurker Aboves?) are classic trap monsters – very hard to detect, often attacking with surprise.

The Top Four Genres for wargames as ranked by 42 of the 60+ members of The Strategists Club in 1975 were: Fantasy, Ancients, ACW (American Civil War), and WWI. If you had asked 7 years earlier, I suspect you could replace Fantasy and Ancients with Napoleonic games. Also, I'm a bit surprised by the absence of WWII. Of course there were other genres that appeared in the ranks, SR only reported the top 4. 

The Western Genre Didn't Rank, which seems to have been a disappointment to Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, as they were all Set to Release Boot Hill. So much so that they say: "We would not have gone ahead with BOOT HILL based on survey answers, but sometimes the publishers can know more than their market." What a cocky thing to say! If you don't want to hear other answers, don't ask the questions, right? I think Boot Hill is a cool game and a cool idea, but it has never been as popular as other TSR games/genres. I think what we have here are two guys who grew up on cowboy movies not realizing that the market for "Cowboys & Indians" was shrinking.

The Art of Gunfighting article was released under the heading Gallery of Gunfighters: essentially promising more western articles to come. It was a really interesting read for me. The author (uncredited but I'm guessing Gary) dives fairly deep into styles of holstering (or not) guns and the relative merits of each for speed of draw. The basic theme is to debunk a lot of romantic/Hollywood ideas about gunfighting.

Deserted Cities of Mars is a cool city generator for ERB inspired games. I have yet to try it out but I really dig the idea of it and am always happy to see a table-driven idea machine in these early publications.

I love that we see more diversity of genre in this issue of SR. It includes Western, Fantasy, Napoleonics, and Science Fiction (Science Fantasy actually) as well as D&D. On the other hand, I dislike the amount of silly humor. Humor is often relative to its time and doesn't always date well, and this is a prime example. 

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