Game: Modern GM Screen
Publisher: Green Ronin
Series: D20 Modern
Review Dated: 19th, September 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 5
Average Score: 5.00
Let’s look at this GM screen. $20 is too much for a three paged screen, with misaligned tables and an adventure based around an ill cow.
That’s some other GM screen though, one I reviewed just a few weeks ago. I’m not going to link to that review, that would be rubbing salt into the wounds.
The Modern GM Screen is an entirely different animal. For a start, it’s only $14.95. For a second, it has a four paged screen. For a third it comes with an adventure with scary zombies.
What a comparison. I haven’t even mentioned that the Modern GM Screen carries the Green Ronin logo. It’s rare to see such a difference between so similar products. I suppose I should point out that the $20 screen wasn’t d20..
It’s not all peaches and cream though. I really don’t like the illustration on the front. It’s too easy to recognise video game characters, movie heroes, TV show heroines and I really don’t want that. It reminds me of school days – school! We really don’t want d20 modern players basing their character off an already cliched TV character. I’d ban my players from doing so. No, you can’t play Lara Croft, no you can’t play Commando and you must do something original. On the other hand, I’ll go for the macho women with big guns without too much quibbling.
There are two columns of tables on the first of the four pages, on the GM’s side. The first lists d20 modern skills, the ability associated with them, whether they can be used untrained and their action cost. The second column begins with Purchase DCs – ie, how hard it is to buy items of a certain cost, then moves on to sample opposed DC checks and finally some suggested items for skills – climbing gear for climbing. Hmm. Okay. A little obscure those last two.
The second screen is a single column of two tables and lots of logos. Sit back and admire the Green Ronin logo, the The Game Mechanics, the Modern GM Screen an the d20 logo. Lovely. The first table lists possible action in combat, you know; charging, crawling, coup de grace and climbing. (Don’t forget the climbing gear!). The second table is the condensed grapple rules! Wow. Condensed grapple rules. Just what every GM needs… oh, I suppose they’ll be handy if you’re playing a cop game and end up wrestling lots of criminals into handcuffs.
The third page is chock full of tables. From the top; concealment rules, cover (because they’re different in d20), attack role modifiers, defensive modifiers, size modifiers, size and defence of objects, light sources, object hardness and hit points. That’s quite a lot but to the GM’s screen credit it’s all nicely spaced out, easy to find and presented.
The last page, the one on the extreme right, is perhaps the most useful. We’ve a short list of driver options, vehicle speeds and modifiers, collision damage, damage to occupants, vehicle sizes and collision direction. So why is this more useful than the other tables? I don’t know these rules off by heart. I barely need to check the rest. There are four diagrams on this page too; the chase scale fire arcs. They’re a bit repetitive but once again they’re the sort of thing a GM doesn’t want to pause an important scene to check and unlike damage rules they are the sort of rule that might cause a stoppage.
Just when I was beginning to think that no one would support the boringly bland Urban Arcana setting from Wizards of the Coast, the coverless adventure that comes with the screen assumes the players are working for Department-7. It offers help if you really want to avoid this option though. I don’t blame you. It’s a dungeon crawl. Go kill the zombies. At least, it would be a dungeon crawl in a fantasy setting. In d20 modern where no one believes in zombies and you can’t tell anyone what you’re up to, the adventure at least has that spin to it, something to think about between rolling dice.
The Modern GM Screen does what’s required of it. It’s an effective barrier between players and GM! Doh. It’s not horribly expensive if you rule out taping cardboard sheets together as being too tacky. The rules are a good mix; I’m sure the standard mechanics will appeal to one set of players and the more obscure driving rules will appeal to another.