10/04/2013

Frugal GM Review: Threshold Magazine

I was pleasantly surprised to find a Google+ link in my feed for a new 'zine and I had to go check it out. Now I fully expect most folks to probably check out this free magazine on their own, but I'll give you a quick, and then more detailed run-down of my observations.

My first impressions of this 'zine from the Vaults of Pandius?
     Holy Crap! Its HUGE!
     Something is just a bit "off"

After spending some time looking at the magazine I was better able to quantify my initial thoughts.


Weighing in at a whopping 182 pages (not counting the cover), this isn't a 'zine....it's a tome. The sheer extent of this offering is actually a bit of a deterrent because there is just so much to wade through. Now please, don't get me wrong...there are some excellent articles to be found in Threshold, but if you look at other gaming magazines, the page count is much more manageable. I think in its heyday Dragon topped out at 124 pages (with cover). Most gaming mags these days range in the 20-70 page range. Cutting this magazine into thirds or even quartering it could have produced the next several issues.

While the layout of Threshold is decent, it could be improved quite a bit in my opinion. There were two things that I noticed right off the bat and as I started to look for it, other layout issues quickly cropped up. The first thing I noticed is that some of the page graphics are obtrusive instead of complimentary. The border at the top and bottom of each page really stands out, as does the way-too-noticeable "watermark" in the center of most every page. I would never want to print this magazine out because I think it would be hard to read a printed copy and the wasted ink!

By my third article I realized that the "standard" set-up was anything but. The column margins, specifically the column gap/width, fluctuated between articles. This made some articles a bit more difficult to read. It wasn't a fatal flaw, but it did catch my eye and take it away from the article. Once I noticed this issue, other minor layout items creeped into my notice.  The article title, in the header of each page, bounces around a bit when you cycle through pages.

The title in the attribution doesn't match with the title on the page.....
"Traladara in the 10th century AC" by Simone Neri

Of course, this made me poke around a bit more. The Threshold PDF is an odd size at 8.29" by 11.69".....really? There is already a ton of border/whitespace which is just made worse by having to shrink the page close to 90% to account for the height....not that I'd want to use up the ink. I don't think this 'zine was designed with printing in mind. There are a lot of hotlinks throughout the body of Threshold which make me think it was produced with a laptop or tablet in mind. This is one feature that I don't think enough PDF 'zines take advantage of. If Threshold isn't intended to be printed, it makes the lack of bookmarks, which is really needed in a  184 page PDF, a huge mistake.
Frugal GM 3 Star Review: Threshold Magazine

Still, even with these problems Threshold is a good gaming resource. Layout can be tweaked and fixed, poor content cannot. There are a good 16 articles in Threshold #1 that are worth looking at. The Demography of Karameikos was a great article, and at 30 pages could have been an issue unto itself. Even if you have no intention of playing with the 2nd Edition AD&D Ruleset, or this campaign setting, there are about a bazillion hooks, adventure seeds, NPCs, items, spells, etc. that you can glean from Threshold #1.