12/12/2014

Frugal GM Review: Side Treks The Village Vol. 1

Frugal GM Review: Side Treks The Village Vol. 1
I'm still in the middle of reviewing a slew of items I recently bought off of my DriveThruRPG wishlist. This week I'm going through the Side Treks: The Village Vol.1 from Chubby Monster Game's Matt Jackson.

Now in the honest of fairness, I like Matt and have been buddying up with him on a new project (i.e. Somehow I manged to shoehorn my way into something fun & exciting). Matt's blog is listed in my +12 Links of Helpfulness and you would have every reason to assume I'm biased going into this review.

You'd be right, but you might want to actually read what I'm typing here because the real bias comes from choosing what I want to buy and review, not the rating I choose to give. Granted if I thought this product blew chunks I'd probably not be reviewing it and instead spending some time asking Matt something along the line of WTFO?! He'd get what the "O" stands for, or at least I'd hope so.

There was really only two things that jumped out at me as less-than-optimal on this product offering so I'll get them out of the way. 1st was the fact that I got two downloads for this product: a 2.6 MB "Hi Res" PDF and a 1.5 MB "Lo-Res" PDF. There wasn't an explanation for the two versions so any reasoning is pure speculation on my part, so I'll assume the low-res is for tablet viewing? The other is that the PDF was rendered using LibreOffice 4.0, which I'm not a huge fan of.

Now I LOVE the fact that this is not a locked-down PDF which means that I can extract pages and even pull the maps out for some quick editing for VTT use. Anyone who has read a few of my reviews knows this is a free star in my book. Now this took me some time to figure out (i.e. You might save yourself some grief here...) but LibreOffice doesn't do "something" right when distilling PDFs. It probably reads just fine, but when you try to open a LibreOffice PDF, which is an Adobe file format, in something like Adobe Photoshop, your program will crash. It took me a while to learn to simply re-print the PDF to another PDF using Adobe Acrobat and then play with that second PDF file.

Both of this "issues" are minor points in my book and even if they were enough to ding a star, the open PDF would cancel this out.

Side Treks: The Village Vol.1 contains five drop-in establishments with "full color" maps. The maps have more of a brown-scale thing going on, but there are bits of grey and even some green here and there. The maps are replicated in a larger greyscale at the the end of the PDF. Now that I think of it I do wish that Matt had used the uncolored line art, but I know that is a personal preference. Since the PDFs are open I could easily lighten up the maps as needed.

Each establishment has a small, but good back-story and a barely crunchy in-game element you can choose to use. The text doesn't bog the reader down with minutia, but still gives a great sense of what a GM needs to know to run the main NPC for each location. Ideas for possible story hooks practically jump off the page. Without going into spoilers there was one business that had some creatures that I didn't know what the heck they were. I'm sure if I dove into some of my old Monster Manuals I might find what I needed, but realistically it wouldn't be a big deal because there was enough information there to get what I'd need to use them as-is.

While highly detailed adventure supplements can be great, the products I tend to value most are those that give me just enough to insert into what I'm already doing without having to change a ton of stuff, make a bunch of notes, or even have to do too much reading. Each entry takes up two pages and there is a single extra page of............

Frugal GM 5 Star Review: Side Treks The Village Vol. 1
.......I had basically a couple of choice words for Matt that were a bit misplaced because my copy was missing one of the full-page maps. I vaguely remembering seeing this issue before, probably with a preview, and thought it had been corrected. For some reason, and I have to blame DriveThruRPG, the recent copy I purchased off of my wish-list wasn't the updated copy. I did a double-check and the copy available online now is the correct one. I don't know quite what went on there....

...anyway this is a great product and well-worth the current sale price of $2.50.