Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Torchbearer GM Screen

GM screens are always one of the more trickier products to produce. While all accomplish the basic task of offering the GM's notes some much needed concealment, few are more than folded cardboard wrapped in some cool (or not) art. All of the good screens double as quick reference documents. I'm happy to say that the Torchbearer GM screen is one of the good ones.

The art depicts a sprawling dungeon in the typical light fantasy fare we've seen in all of the other Torchbearer products. At the upper levels are the archetypal fantasy creatures most people are familiar with: orcs, goblins, and the like. The lower levels are filled with dragons, demons, and other abominations. I particularly like this illustration because it reinforces the notion that you don't need to travel far and wide to find adventure, you just need to keep digging deeper.

This screen is smaller than the ones you normally find for use with the world's most popular roleplaying game. This is a good thing! Maybe I'm just short or need to better match my chairs to my gaming table, but I always feel like I'm straining to see over the top of those screens to make eye contact with the players. This screen provides adequate coverage without being obstructive.

One thing that did strike me as odd is that only two of three player-facing panels have art on them. The other one has the rules for conflicts printed on it. It's not an issue for me because I like the size of the screen and the art is really the least important part of this product, but I have a feeling that some may wonder if they couldn't have made a larger screen and put all of the rules on one side.

The hardest and most important part of designing a good GM screen is deciding which rules to include. Torchbearer is among the best as it includes rules for the Grind, Camp, Town, Light, Equipment (how much space they take up, how much they cost), Conflicts, and Loot tables, among other things. In short, there is not a session that goes by that almost all of the rules included do not get used, and having a quick reference to them will drastically cut down on the time spent flipping through the rulebook.

I think it speaks volumes that the only real criticism I can muster is that there is too much useful information included on the Torchbearer GM screen. Some may take issue with the size, but its utility for quick rules-reference far outweighs any form factor gripes. This product joins the Torchbearer Player's Deck as an essential play aid.

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