Advanced Search

Swords & Spells (0e)Click to magnify
Quick Preview
Full‑size Preview

Swords & Spells (0e)

Selected Option:

Welcome to the GM's Day sale! From now through March 10th, this title has been marked down by up to 40%! For more values, visit our GM's Day sale page.

Rules for large-scale miniatures battles based on the game Dungeons & Dragons.

Product History

"Swords & Spells" (1976), by Gary Gygax with Dave Arneson & Rob Kuntz, is supplement for OD&D. It was published in August 1976.

Origins (I): A Fifth Supplement. "Swords & Spells" is the fifth supplement for OD&D, published in same format as "Supplement I: Greyhawk" (1974), "Supplement II: Blackmoor" (1975), "Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry" (1976), and "Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes" (1976). However, old-school fans are adamant: you shouldn't call it "Supplement V". Most notably, it doesn't have "Supplement V" marked on the cover; more generally, it's a complementary game that carries over OD&D ideas, not a supplement per se.

There are actually many contenders for the role of OD&D's Supplement V. "Swords & Spells" is the only one that was published by TSR in the appropriate era. Steve Marsh submitted a "'Greyhawk' style set of materials" including "monsters, character classes, [and] treasures". Meanwhile, Rob Kuntz submitted his own "Supplement V: Kalibruhn" which included poison rules, a new wizardly class, and more. Neither was accepted. Marsh kept corresponding with Gary Gygax afterward (and would even intern with TSR in the summer of 1980), but TSR employee Rob Kuntz would leave in 1977, primarily due to his inability to move over to the creative side of the company.

In more recent years, OSR fans have produced their own supplemental OD&D books, such as Geoffrey McKinney's Supplement V: Carcosa (2008), Robert Conley's Supplement VI: The Majestic Wilderlands (2009), Jason Vey's Supplement VI: Forbidden Lore (2009), Robert C. Pinnell's Supplement VII: Lost Lore (2012), and a few others that weren't numbered.

Origins (II): A Revised Chainmail. Tim Kask probably offers the most accurate description of "Swords & Spells" in the Foreword. He calls it the "grandson of Chainmail". OD&D (1974) was the son of Chainmail (1971): a fantasy roleplaying game that grew out of the "fantasy supplement" for Chainmail, and which quickly became its own game. "Swords & Spells" was the next step: a Chainmail-like game that derived from OD&D.

Origins (III): A Fantasy Supplements. "Swords & Spells" squared the circle in another way: whereas Chainmail was a medieval miniatures game with a fantasy supplement, "Swords & Spells" was fantasy to the core, as was reflected in its name. However, "Swords & Spells" didn't precisely match D&D's fantasy themes: it moved out of the dungeons that were at the time the core of D&D play and instead offered rules for battles in wilderness terrains.

The combination of nebulous fantasy with rigid miniatures rules was a somewhat uncomfortable one, as Kask revealed in his introduction where he said: "If something is unclear as to how or why it works that way, remember that it is all fantasy. Fantasy is not bound to rigid rules and rationales. Fantasy is imaginative."

Origins (IV): A Lost Cause. Given his background in miniatures, it seems likely that "Swords & Spells" was a dream project for Gygax. However, all the contradictions in the project suggest that it might have been doomed from the start. Where OD&D found innovation by moving to a man-to-man scale and exploring dungeons, "Swords & Spells" moved back to an strategic scale (1:10) and traveled above the ground. It seems likely these contradictions were based on a disconnect between the wargamers who ran TSR and the young, new players who were flocking to D&D.

But, "Swords & Spells" also ran right into the face of TSR's next big thing. Not only was OD&D on it way out, but the new AD&D system (1977-1979) would directly contradict Kask's suggestions here that GMs could do as they pleased. This change from OD&D to AD&D would largely doom "Swords & Spells", though there is a single reference to it in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) section on charging rules.

Otherwise, "Swords & Spells" faded quickly, and is today one of the least remembered supplements from TSR's early period of publication. Mind you, it was still successful enough at the time. It ran through at least six printings, and like the whole OD&D line was kept in print at least through the end of the '70s. It also had clear successors, as the grognards of TSR tried again and again to match their fantasy roleplaying game with more classic wargaming systems. Battlesystem (1985) would be the next one to follow at this army-level scale.

Expanding D&D. "Swords & Spells" is a new mass-combat system that's compatible with D&D. Along the way, it rather surprisingly adds some content that was missing from OD&D.

One of the biggest additions is a massive spell chart, which runs from page 12-15. Not only is it the most comprehensive spell list for the OD&D game (minus a few spells like read magic and read languages that weren't useful for mass-combat), but it also includes some data that was missing from the OD&D game itself … like a duration for Sleep!

Another big addition is (surprisingly) a turn sequence, which carefully lays out when bow fire, movement, missile fire, and melee occurs. Finally, "Swords & Spells" adds the idea of readying spells, as spells have to be prepared on rounds before they're cast. Turn sequences of course made their way into the much more comprehensive AD&D rules, but the idea of readying spells was never heard from again.

Expanding Chainmail. Otherwise, "Swords & Spells" is a clear descendent of "Chainmail", with some sections such as movements and formations looking like they were wholesale copied from the original. The biggest change from "Chainmail" is that "Sword & Spells" has diceless combat resolution.

Casualties are determined by cross-referencing damage, level (or HD), and AC, multiplied by the number of units. As the rules says, "Once the appropriate base damage is determined, simply cross index the level of attacker against the armor class of the defender to find the number of hit points of damage scored upon the defender." Units are then destroyed when they take their average hit points in damage.

This diceless combat resolution was considered quite innovative, as was the fact that the game mixes the normal 1:10 scale units with 1:1 scale D&D characters.

About the Creators. Gygax was of course the co-creator of the OD&D game. This was his final major contribution to OD&D, but he'd soon be working on the AD&D books (1977-1979).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to Thanks to the Acaeum for careful research on Monster Manual printings.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (6)
Discussions (7)
Customer avatar
charles B March 28, 2023 11:05 am UTC
What is up with wizards?
Customer avatar
Edward A November 04, 2021 10:06 pm UTC
How would these rules hold up in one of the newer OSR games? I know it's not known as a tactics, mini game. But I wonder if it would work in say Dark Dungeons.
Customer avatar
Edward A November 04, 2021 10:19 pm UTC
Dark Dungeons does have some rules that kinda does this. I was looking at another option.
Customer avatar
Stacy B August 31, 2017 5:06 pm UTC
Okay, page 7 is now good, unfortunately page 36 is the wrong way around on the PDF, hope this will get sorted sooner than later, otherwise, a good ole 'lil book
Customer avatar
George F May 02, 2017 5:19 pm UTC
Will this be cleaned up and 'remastered' like the rest of the series?
Customer avatar
Hayri A April 19, 2017 6:24 pm UTC
I did not know about page 7. However, I can confirm that page 36 (the battle map for the play through) is missing/blank. Compared to my original.
Customer avatar
David W April 12, 2017 3:05 pm UTC
Adding to Nathan J's report: not only is page 7 is blank, but so is page 36.
(referring to the version updated "2017-04-09 09:36:03")

Thank you in advance, and please let us know when the corrected PDF is available.

Customer avatar
Nathan G Jennings J April 12, 2017 2:22 pm UTC
Hey folks out there! We have reports that a page is missing. Page 7!

Would you please update the PDF and inform us when the update is available?

Many thanks.
Narrow Results
$ to $
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!
 Recent History

Product Information
Platinum seller
Rules Edition(s)
Publisher Stock #
TSR 2007
File Size:
7.44 MB
Scanned image Click for more information
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF Click for more information
Watermarked PDF

These PDF files are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the PDF containing your name and the order number of your purchase.

Warning: If any files bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked title:

File Last Updated:
August 31, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on April 11, 2017.