3/13/2015

Frugal GM Review: The Undercroft #1

Frugal GM Review: The Undercroft #1
As part of the GM's Day sale at DriveThruRPG I picked up a number of items off of my wishlist, including a couple of Zines. Last week I reviewed The Stronghold and this week it is the 1st issue of The Undercroft.

Unlike last week's Zine, this one I got in PDF form and right off the bat I think I'd have liked this better had I gotten it in a physical format. I was quite surprised that this download came in two separate PDFs that combined were 69.2 MB!

"What....what? That can't be right?!"

Well, that is what was going through my mind when I started downloading. The Undercroft is a 26 page PDF Zine with a 4 page PDF cover....all in Black & White and sized for A4 printing. The cover comes in at a whopping 51.3 MB and the Zine itself is "only" 17.9 MB. For that size you'd expect full color at a 1000 DPI or some such. I don't know if it is a problem with the PDF distiller (I'm showing they used Scribus PDF Library 1.4.4), but this was really disappointing. Re-printing at Adobe's "High Quality" settings brought it down to a total of 10 MB and some quick work got it down to 3 MB on "Standard". The PDF was open, thankfully and a quick poke under the hood showed me that the file was printed in full RGB color, which makes black & white take up a LOT more room than it should.

The graphics used could have been cleaned up a bit too, which would help with the files size and the overall look of the Zine. Some of the graphics looked like straight scans of source documents and while I'm sure it'd work in a physical Zine, or at least work better, they don't work so well in a PDF product.

After tweaking my own private PDF copy I was able to go through and give The Undercroft a read. Now I don't play Lamentations of the Flame Princess, so some of my judgments may be a bit biased/uniformed, but I thought the articles could have used some more editing. The two largest articles, one about diseases and the other about trial-by-combat, could have used a bit more work. The diseases article wasn't terrible or anything, just I thought that the new mechanic introduced made the diseases listed just too damned hard to get rid of, even if one was using this with D&D 3.5! The trial-by-combat article was actually pretty good, but the setup left much to be desired. I had to read a couple of pages to understand what the article was even about. The intro paragraph was anything but what I'd expect out of a proper introduction.

I'm a sucker for a d30 table, so bonus points from me on including one.

Frugal GM 3 Star Review: The Undercroft #1
I thought the adventure could use a little more formatting/explanation in parts. There is a table in the middle of the adventure that could have been actually inserted as a table, making it visually more appealing, and overall a little justification would have made it easier on the eyes.

There are two things going for this Zine, the first being is that this is a 1st issue, which comes with all the trials and errors that come with a 1st issue. The second is that there is some good content that could easily be tweaked for use with other RPG systems.

I'll probably pick up a much more recent issue to see how far its come, but for now I have other Zines I need to read & review.