Tabletop Review: Dungeons and Dragon’s Fifth Edition Dungeon Master’s Screen

coverDungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Screen Fifth Edition
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Cost: $14.95
Page Count: N/A
Release Date: 01/20/2015 (Physical)
Get it Here: Amazon.com

So what do you do with a successful launch of the latest iteration of one of the most successful role-playing games in history? Give you players and game runners more options of course! The only thing I had for Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons beyond the three core rulebooks and the free PDFs was the Starter Set, so when I came home from work last Friday I was pleasantly surprised to find that my son had gone out and got me the Fifth Edition Dungeon Master’s Screen. I don’t usually have to hide my die rolls from my player’s but I do like having quick and easy references which is more why I buy these things anyway, but I do have to give them some kudos on the design of this one, it’s made with the idea that not all dungeon master’s are insanely tall.

The screen itself is folded over so that if basically is about the same size as the core rulebooks, but instead of leaving the screen stacked that way when you set it up, they’ve landscaped it to that you can still his die rolls but if you’re not a giant of a human being, you don’t have to sit way up on your chair or stand up to talk to your players. That right there was a nice sell for me. While I love DM/GM screens in general, I’m also tall so it doesn’t affect me as much, but I still have to be careful as often end up talking into the screen instead of over it leaving my players confused as to whether I’m role-playing being secretive or if I’m just screwing with them so they can barely understand me.

openWhen unfolded the screen is about 43 inches wide and only 8 and a half inches tall. Bear in mind that’s laying it flat to measure it out. They’ve got a nice splash of a group fighting a red dragon who’s got some Kobold allies. One of the nice things is that the group is actually balanced and everyone is actually wearing practical armor and it looks phenomenal. While I did love the Pathfinder one for including their iconic characters on the side facing the players, this is far more dynamic and sets the tone right away. Included with the screen is a poster ad that serves as the dustcover for the actual screen. It’s basically the cover for the Dungeon Master’s Guide and works as an ad for their organized ongoing campaigns at the stores, but hey, I look at it as free artwork.

posterOn the DM’s side of things, the screen is broken up into three usable sections. Instead of rules clarifications, they’ve gone a very different route and set up the DM’s screen for the creative and role-playing end of things. There are a few charts to be sure, but this is all about keeping the game moving without you opening a book and most of what’s here is figured up with a die roll. First up is what I’m calling the NPC section. This whole side is set up to create a new NPC with a little depth with a minimum of fuss and a few die rolls. Everything but stats can be figured up for your NPC needs including names, bonds, flaws, characteristics and ideals. Need a character on the fly? Seven dice rolls and you’ve got the make-up of the character enough to roleplay them and give them a full unique name. Boom. Done. I really like that kind of on the fly. My players do some weird things some times and that will help quite a bit.

interior artAside from making up NPCs on the fly, the next section deals with something I always have trouble remembering, and that’s different conditions and what they can do to a character and how that effects rolls and stats. This actually saves quite a bit of time looking these up and the quick summaries for each of them are to the point to keep things moving. The last section of the screen is a bit more stat heavy and has more reminders in it for DMs. They cover challenge difficulties, cover and benefits, light and how far you should be able to see depending on what vision you’ve got, skills and the associated ability, travel pace, encounters and distances, and damage and severity of what you’re taking. The last two charts though are less information dumps and charts and are more to help with a quick loot or discovery with a quick find chart and then a chart to help move things along titled simply “Something Happens!” where you roll a D20 and pick the result.

While this isn’t stat heavy and lists NPC blocks or BAB charts or damage and weapon types or any number of things that a DM might need but can probably remember and woudln’t need in a given session anyway, what it does give you is more than enough to keep a Fifth Edition game of Dungeons and Dragons moving along at a brisk pace without you having to crack open a rulebook and lets you be a little more creative without letting your players know too much how you’re fudging things to make the session more exciting or that you didn’t adequately prepare for them to go and take your plans and turn them sideways like they often do. This is a great Dungeon Master’s Screen that works well with the Fifth Edition rules set and I look forward to using it often.

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