Friday, May 19, 2017
I've had the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GM Screen for years, long before I actually started playing Pathfinder regularly. The purpose of a screen, of course, is so the GM can hide their notes from pesky players, assemble miniatures of diabolical villains without being seen, roll dice ominously, and, most importantly, remind themselves of key rules so the game doesn't have to stop so everyone can flip open their 500+ page rulebooks. This four-panel screen is certainly a durable product, as it's survived (quite literally) more than a hundred sessions and still looks brand new. It's made of quite sturdy stuff, unlike many other screens I've seen, and won't easily tip over.
The exterior side facing the PCs is a line-up of the most iconic images of the Pathfinder Iconics: the embodiment of each character class. I once found the art style a bit over-the-top and cartoony, but I've really warmed to it now and quite like it. I can't say what it's like to stare at the characters for hours, but there's so many little details on each character that the eye shouldn't get bored quickly! (Note there are two alternate screens available with different characters, but I don't own either of those). I've found it quite handy to use paperclips to hold pics of NPCs the party is talking too, monsters they're fighting, etc.
The interior side facing the DM is, of course, what matters!
Two full panels are depicted to summaries of various skills: Acrobatics, Bluff, Climb, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Fly, Heal, Knowledge, Perception, Ride, Spellcraft, Survival, and Swim. Not every skill is represented, and one could argue that some of the missing skills (like Stealth, Intimidate, and Use Magic Device are used more often than some of the skills that are represented like Swim). Still, the skills that are included are broken down into very handy, easy-to-read lists of activities, modifiers, and DCs. It's a very attractive, smart presentation.
The third panel is devoted to combat, and the top half of the panel has five sections: Attack roll modifiers, armor class modifiers, combat maneuvers, two-weapon fighting penalties, and concentration checks. With the possible exception of two-weapon fighting penalties (which a player should have figured out well ahead of time), all of these things are extremely important things to have available for easy reference. The bottom half of the panel is a summary of the effects of common conditions, which is again quite handy--it's annoying to have to stop and look up what the effects of being stunned or nauseated are every time it happens.
The fourth panel is a bunch of miscellaneous stuff, and it's here that I think there was room for improvement. The left half of the panel is all devoted to listing the hardness and hit points of weapons, armor, common objects, and various materials. I don't mind this much, because even though this information is needed rarely, when it's needed it's usually important (like whether a sundered weapon is going to break). Still, I wouldn't have devoted so much space to it considering how much other stuff in the game is probably more important. The right half of the panel lists experience point awards by CR and treasure values per encounter. To my mind, this is the least essential information to be on the screen, as most groups handle this either between sessions or at least after a session, when an extra minute to flip open a book is no big deal. Because most monster entries already list XP and treasure, this is the only part of the screen that I never use.
So on the whole, that's 3 to 3 1/2 panels of a 4 panel GM screen that are
extremely useful! My biggest problem is actually remembering what's on the screen, as often I look something up in a book only to realize later that it was on the screen the whole time. Anyway, while a screen like this is not strictly essential, it's about as close as it gets. A session will run faster and smoother if the GM has one of these, and it's worth the money.