Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Review: Flipping & Turning #4

Flipping & Turning: The Annals of the Grog Empire is the official gaming magazine of the GrogTalk podcast - I was pointed to it when it was pushed on twitter and asked for my view by friend of the blog comrade Kinch. I have no experience with the podcast and have only seen the zine as I tabbed through DriveThruRPG so I am coming to this pretty cold.

Pulling it down off itch.io I find 52 pages of stuff in a pdf, looks like A5 standard zine size, nice cover illustration - so far so good. Apart from the colour covers, everything inside is black and white, mostly line art and there are some great pieces harking back to old White Dwarf and Dragon style internal art. One minor quibble is that for some articles the text size went *tiny* - not sure why some were tiny text crammed onto one page when they could have been made a double. Mysterious. Other than that the layout is good, highly variable from article to article giving it all a very art-house 'zine feel which is nice.

So what have we got in here? All single pages unless otherwise stated, taking the titles and a quick note of what was in it to give a flavour of the variety within the issue.
Wizard in the Marketplace - Editorial
Imperfect Scrolls - Replaces DMG's all or nothing approach to scroll creation
Rules AF! - The Genius of a Dull Blade - On how intelligent swords RAW crush player agency
Terrible Potions! - 2 pages on Potion selection
Annals of the Lower Reaches - talking about demi-humans - on how only humans being able to level explains their survival in a world teeming with monsters
Late Hits - looking at old Grog-talk episodes
Ask the Gibbering Mouther! - 2 pages on rules calls
Lew Pulsipher’s “The Necromancer” - 6 pages of an AD&D class + interesting history of the class, its publication in WD and the controversy that followed
13 Hit Points - Conceptualising hit points
Saul’s Throb & Tingle Magic Emporium - Magical items
Gnome Realms TM — Petty Gods - 2 pages on Gnomish gods
Longhairs & Labyrinths - 2 pages on discussing on how to replicate an "egalitarian, inclusive and cooperative" spirit of early D&D in later editions
Spells of the Future - Spells from future editions, converted for 1e AD&D
The Leomund Files - Flaming cat familiar with gorgeous artwork
lst Edition: Forty Years And Counting - 3 pages on the history of game editions
What Killed Your High Elf Parents? - Magnificent - accounting for how 1 hp high elves most probably met their end
A Flash of Steel! - 2 pages on working through initiative order in combat
The Wolf Never Has To Be Alone - 3 pages of solid advice on getting a second pair of eyes on your cunning plans as a DM
From the Dictionary of E.G.G. - Humour - on Gygax using complex words
Why Not A Spear? - 2 pages arguing in favour of using the spear, highlighting references and advantages
A Touch of Class — Fighters - 3 pages arguing in favour of the fighter, and highlighting their edges and advantages
Where Distance Matters - Crunching the math on getting a single file party into combat
Hack and/or Slash: Swords Compared - 2 pages on stats for swords omitted from PHB, serious high quality crunch
Three Questions - 3 questions of outstanding members of the Grog Empire - on inspirational art in this case
Ye Olde Gruel Hut - a real recipe!
The Orc Trials - 4 pages of an adventure for 4-6 Expert Level characters 3rd-5th level
Random Encounters - how randomly determining encounters really works at the table

As I leaf through I get a couple of impressions - first a strong call back to the 'letters to the editor' culture of Dragon Magazine from last millenium which is nice - there is a strong sense of people who know each other which is refreshing compared to the diffuse para-social nature of 'broadcast to audience' I feel more common today. Second - I find myself thinking 'huh, a bunch of these read like blog-posts' and after pondering what I was expecting that wasn't there, I find myself looking for the equivalent of the Joesky tax - where is the useable table, new class, etc. On the other hand, this all comes at the low, low price of free so beyond a vague sense of 'this is not what I was expecting' I make no objection.

I think the more hard-core AD&D focus passes me by as I'm not playing that edition of game today - but then, that's fine, this is aimed at AD&D gamers. I found the couple of articles that were 'but did you notice that table XX on page YY means you can actually do *this*' an interesting sign of how complex some of these rules were. Having just played original AD&D for a test of Spelljammer in this past week and refreshed my memories of how far things have come in layout terms, I can appreciate the merit of articles that effectively help people navigate through the rule-sets they already own. It was a thing I had forgotten and here it is again.

My particular highlights were - comrade Kinches 'The Wolf Never Has To Be Alone' with solid advice on not carrying the entire creative burden of DM'ing alone; the interesting discussion in Longhairs & Labyrinths by Menion, the joy of finding an actual useable recipe in Ye Olde Gruel Hut and the Real Random Encounters with its "discuss why the monster is a bad choice and this other monster would be better" among other searing truths made me laugh.

Overall there is gold in here and some other pieces that may or may not be your thing depending on your edition and style of play. I am a big fan of having a look around outside ones own particular walled garden to see what might inspire some new thoughts. Go pick it up, see what you think yourself.

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