Swords & Spells
, published in 1976, was the fifth and final supplement published for the original "white box" Dungeons & Dragons
. It was the only supplement solely authored by Gary Gygax
. The cover featured a magical scroll
being burned away to reveal a picture of two clashing armies.
In some ways Swords & Spells
brought the game full circle. It was a set of miniature rules for conducting large scale combat within the D&D milieu. How exactly would a company of fireball casting wizards take on a legion
s backed up by a brigade
of kobold skirmisher
s? The original Chainmail
rules, of course, were a set of rules to handle medieval miniature warfare. As we all know, a fantasy addendum was added, which begot fantasy role playing as we know it (or "knew it" for the benefit of those who swear they got out of their parents' basement).
Although part of the D&D system, combat in Swords & Spells
took a radical departure from D&D. It didn't use dice for its combat system. Various factors were taken into account, like the attacker's number, weapon type, and how big a unit they were attacking. This was indexed against defender's armor class
. Damage was then assessed without a single dice roll. It was, by most accounts, a quick-and-elegant system and many of the inherent ideas were adopted by the AD&D large scale combat BattleSystem
The major criticism of Swords & Spells
was that it was seemingly written with great haste and loaded with errors.
In terms of value for your gaming dollar, Swords & Spells
was, in theory, more practical than the rather disastrous Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes
. Many gamers bought the supplement, itching for that day their 1st level Fighting Man
became a lord of some realm and commanded armies and had actual bugbear legions attacking him (with the attendant, showy kobold skirmisher brigades, of course) and junk. However, when it came right down to it, if your 1st level Fighting Man became a mighty lord
and had the armies and junk, one then had to go out and purchase (and paint) dozens and dozens of miniatures to conduct the battles as laid out in Swords & Spells
. And who had that kind of time and disposable income
in a stagnant
late '70s early '80s economy? Right, pretty much only people serving in the navy submariner
force but they lacked the table space.
See also for additional supplements:
I - Greyhawk
, II - Blackmoor
, III - Eldritch Wizardry
, IV - Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes