Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: SR5 GM Screen

Man! It's the second coming of Christmas, or maybe it's my birthday come 9 months early. Anyway, hot on the heels of Gun H(e)aven 3 earlier this week, I just received a call that my local game store Games & Gizmos got in my copy of the Shadowrun 5th Edition GM Screen.

Now, I usually don't go for GM screens for a number of reasons. I've never felt the need to hide my dice from my players, and I usually structure my game table in such a way that a player would be unable to casually glance at my notes. For maps, and other items, I have a laptop, which keeps the master view of the map, so there's nothing to hide their either. But, I got talked into the Shadowrun one, mostly because I was curious.

You see, when a company like Catalyst sets the quality bar as high as they did with the Shadowrun 5th Edition Core Rules, you have to wonder if they can find a way to make a GM screen that isn't flimsy paperboard, doomed to be a creased mess inside a few sessions.

Well, I'm proud to say that the quality is superb. The screen itself is made from a hard paperboard, very similar, if not identical to the material used in a hardcover book. This alone makes the screen worth it's price. I cannot fathom damaging this screen enough to render it unusable. The back of the screen is a number of high-quality glossy fluff photos. However, it's the front of the screen that really shines.

I had seen a few promo pictures for the GM screen, and had been worried that the scatter table, for grenades, would be too large, as it seemed to take up nearly a quarter of one of the four panels. As I opened the screen it became quickly obvious that that wouldn't be an issue. While I'm curious about the positioning of some of the tables on the screen, I found that the majority of the data I would need to have to hand was present. All of the applicable modifier tables are there, combat, weather, noise, etc. As well as the weapon range table, which is something I always seem to forget. On top of these are a bunch of utility tables, success thresholds for tests, example test difficulty, and a smattering of other test related tables, all grouped helpfully together.

However, there were two tables that I found odd. First, was the assensing table. While other GM's might find it helpful, this isn't a table I have found much need for. Fortunately it's tucked off in near the bottom of a side panel, and doesn't attract much attention. The only other head-scratcher came in the form of the payout table. This takes up roughly a third of one of the four panels. Maybe it's just me, but I usually plan my payout, plus or minus Negotiation, as part of the run hook, and can't fathom a need for the table in-game. Maybe I'm wrong, but this seemed like a less than optimal use of the space.

However, don't let that dissuade you from picking up the screen. The test modifier tables alone make it well worth the money. I'm going to have it set up to hand for my next session, and I'm sure my players will be shocked when I actually remember to ding them a few dice for the fog and rain that is a Seattle standard.

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