If you’re a GM then there’s a good chance you hide behind a GM screen on a regular basis. But let me ask you this, when was the last time you actually used it? I’m not talking about hiding notes and dice rolls behind it but the game specific rules and information it supplies. I expect for many GMs the answer is “don’t know” or “I used that little bit recently.” My answer tends towards the latter, I’ll maybe use one or two aspects of a GM screen (such as skill lists or called shot details) while ignoring the majority.
It was with this thinking that I recently picked up the Savage Worlds Customisable GM Screen by Pinnacle Entertainment (don’t worry, you can use it with more than just Savage Worlds). What makes it customisable? Each of the three panels has clear plastic pockets on both sides in which you can place information of your choosing.
Into each pocket can go pretty much any info you want available, for any system or adventure. My current plans for the GM panels are:
1) Rules / tables I always forget
2) PC info such as names, important stats, advantages / disadvantages
3) Session / campaign notes
Of course with front facing pockets there is also the option of presenting information to the players, which is especially useful when running new games. Knowing my usual players I’ll probably put a single page cheat sheet in the edge panels (so everybody at the table can see it) while the central panel will have character / player names so everybody remembers who’s who.
So in terms of the options made available the screen scores highly. Construction wise the screen also comes across well, the panels are are sturdy, made of that thick cardboard covered by plastic (think like a clipboard back) and the join between them appears strong. I’m a little unsure about how well the plastic pockets will hold up, as while they appear strong now I know from similar products that this is often a weak point. Only time will tell there. Unusually in my experience the panels are connected in a length wise format, which means the scene will take up slightly more space than the typical portrait screen.
My only real complaint is the size of the pockets, as they’re too small to fit an A4 piece of paper. I suspect this is a localisation problem, with the screen designed with the US letter sized paper, which is slightly shorter than A4. While I can work around the problem easily enough it is annoying as it would have required only a slight increase in panel size to make the screen compatible with A4.
Overall I think the customisable approach to the screen is exactly what I was looking for, the pockets give me flexibility on both sides without the cluttered try to fit everything on approach of most GM screens. Based on my limited (to date) use of the screen I’d certainly recommend it to other GMs, especially those running long campaigns where there is a build up of information both players and GM need to keep track of.
Oh and the screen hides my dice pretty well too.