Thursday, June 24, 2010

REVIEW: Advanced Labyrinth Lord Screen

Back in the day, you weren't really a referee if you didn't use a screen of some sort to hide your maps, notes, and sometimes dice rolls from the players in your game. Consequently, I owned a lot of such screens, my favorite being the Dave Trampier-illustrated Dungeon Master's Screen published by TSR. When I started up my Dwimmermount campaign in early 2009, despite my willingness to draw heavily upon my own gaming beginnings, I never once seriously considered using a referee's screen. Part of it was simple practicality: referee's screens traditionally take up a lot of space, space I didn't have to spare at my dining room table, especially when I laid out the dungeon in Hirst Arts blocks. Another part of it was philosophical, for lack of a better word; my refereeing style these days is much more conversational, so a screen between me and the players would be an impediment rather than an aid.

Still, I took great interest in the appearance of the Advanced Labyrinth Lord Screen designed by Shane Mangus. One of the really fascinating things about the old school renaissance is the way that older "technologies," of which the referee's screen is certainly a prime example, are being embraced again and improved upon. I may not use referee's screens myself but that didn't mean I wasn't interested in seeing how someone approached the concept in 2010. You can see what Shane did below, thanks to this cool little embedded Scribd application.

As you can see, Mangus has packed a lot of useful information onto three 8½" by 11" pages. Pretty much all of the tables and charts you'd need in play can be found here, along with others that are helpful but hardly essential. That's something previous screens have done too, but what I like about this one is how easy it is on my aging eyes. I don't find the charts difficult to read and their arrangement is quite logical, so that, for example, all the combat charts are on a single page. It's a small thing, admittedly, but small things are important when considering aids for running a roleplaying game.

The Advanced Labyrinth Lord Screen is, of course, intended for use by referees running Labyrinth Lord campaigns that make use of the Advanced Edition Companion, but it'd work just as well in campaigns that don't make use of the AEC. It's available as a free downloadable PDF (the link is above), so you'll need to print it out for yourself onto sheets of cardboard to use of it as a screen. Of course, you could do like I have and simply print the pages off onto paper and keep them handy as a reference sheets for use at the table. I'm still unlikely to use a referee's screen at my table, but I always have a use for well-done reference sheets and Shane Mangus has produced some of the best I've seen for use with Labyrinth Lord. I'd love to see him make some follow-ups that use a similar format but include things like spell lists or quick monster stats -- a kind of modern day Ready Ref Sheets.

Not that I want to pressure him or anything ...

Presentation: 9 out of 10
Creativity: 7 out of 10
Utility: 7 out of 10

Get This If: You play Labyrinth Lord and want to cut down on the time spent looking for charts while playing.
Don't Get This If: You don't play Labyrinth Lord or possess a photographic memory.

11 comments:

  1. One of the best GM screens I ever used was the Keeper's Screen from Chaosium for CoC. But, like you, I never really used them as screens since they took up too much space at the table. I just kept them nearby and used them as hand-held reference sheets.

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  2. Screens are useful as references for charts and tables, but I agree, not much else on balance. My favourite reference summaries like this:

    • The AH-RQ "booklet" that came in the boxed version of the game; in the tpb version of the game later printed, the pages were at least gathered in the back (I seem to remember, but I'm not sure, that other Chaosium products of the time that came in boxes, also game with a similar "reference booklet" of saddle-stitched pages)

    • An independently produced pair of "reference sheets" for HERO that used a teeny-weeny little font, but summarized, essentially, all the reference information you could usefully have at your finger-tips during character creation and during play

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  3. "Another part of it was philosophical, for lack of a better word; my refereeing style these days is much more conversational, so a screen between me and the players would be an impediment rather than an aid."

    This is why I love my AD&D screens (there were two) so. They effectively communicate: "Hey, everyone, you're on your own. I'm not here to help you or harm you. In fact, just forget "I'm" here at all and play.

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  4. This is why I love my AD&D screens (there were two) so. They effectively communicate: "Hey, everyone, you're on your own. I'm not here to help you or harm you. In fact, just forget "I'm" here at all and play.

    That's cool and I certainly see value in that sort of visual signpost, as I've noted in the past. Right now, though, that's not quite the way I run my game, so a referee's screen isn't really needed, but I can imagine its having uses in other circumstances.

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  5. The PDF is setup for landscape which is great. I found using the landscape oriented D&D 4e GM screen a lot less intrusive then the portrait setup.

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  6. GG is not facilitated to publish screens, so it is left up to the fans to make their own. When Mutant Future came out, I had to make my own Mutant Master Screen (find it here or here - the fist link has instructions). This 3-panel screen is double-sided, with Player info on the outside, and GM info in the inside. It is a bit cluttered, but the charts are easy to read.

    I have been trying to update it so there is a 4th panel with a page index for the mutations (so MLs can quickly reference the monster's mutations - I personally keep the mutations listed on a booklet), and to make a landscape version by request from the folks at the GG forum.

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  7. Shane put together a fantastic screen. I had the pleasure of seeing it early and helping edit it. Definitely going to replace my own cut and past screen for LL.

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  8. James,

    Thanks for the positive feedback! This screen was a labor of love, and I hope the LL community appreciates it. I will consider adding additional screens to the total package. Lets see how much time I have in the coming weeks for such a project.

    Thanks again,

    Shane

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  9. Oh yeah... for those who complain about having to sign up for Scribd to download the screen I also have it available at MediaFire:

    http://www.mediafire.com/?jtyx1zwz2c2

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  10. Some minor corrections were made to the screen this morning and v1.03 is now available from Scribd and MediaFire:

    http://www.mediafire.com/?5qtzmwj3zzt

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  11. I'd Love to see Goblinoid put out an officialGM screen with Sean Berg's covers.

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