Here are some things that I like, dislike, and find interesting about the new Dungeon Master’s Screen.
I think the artwork on the front of the screen looks really good, and it is interesting that the party depicted is a group of four female adventurers and a lone male. It’s the opposite of what one usually sees, and I like it. I also like the landscape design as opposed to portrait; the screen is easy to look over and it still conceals my notes and such. Yet another thing that I like are the charts for NPC traits and the random name generator chart. I can see myself getting a lot of use out of this panel.
I have to say that I’m not too crazy about the “Something Happens!” chart though. In principle I like it, but I feel like most of the results are too specific and would get repetitive quickly. I don’t know what I’d rather have there, but I would prefer something more useful than a chart with results that I’m going to have to re-roll, modify, or ignore most of the time. I have similar feelings about the “Quick Finds” chart, although I think this chart is the more useful of the two. In fact, I’d rather the “Quick Finds” chart have twenty results and the “Something Happens!” chart have only twelve results.
Everything else on the screen is the sort of stuff you’d expect to find like conditions, cover, and encounter distance; useful things that you don’t want to flip through a book looking for all the time. However, I feel like the conditions take up an inordinate amount of space – like the design team couldn’t think of anything else to fill the four panels of the screen with so they made sure that what they did put on there looked nice and filled the space appropriately. Rather than having conditions take up a panel and a half, I’d have been happy with them taking up only a single panel so that extra half-panel could have been devoted to something else. Like maybe the armor table from the PHB and a blurb about getting into and out of armor, or the prices for typical food, drink, and lodging at a typical inn. Those are just two things off the top of my head that would have made for a better use of space than just making something else take up more space than it needed to.
Overall I’m pleased with the screen though, and the inclusion of the NPC tables, especially the random name generator, makes up for the other nit-picks I have with it. Aside from the usefulness of the information, the screen itself is thick and sturdy, and looks capable of standing up to the rigors of many an adventure.